5 Best Sign-up Bonuses for Airline Miles Credit Cards
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They say that if an offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Therefore, one could be forgiven for dismissing some generous credit card sign-up bonuses on that basis, as many do. Nevertheless, travel credit cards really do offer some amazing bonuses that allow my family and I to travel extensively. When handled responsibly, these offers are legitimate ways to earn points and miles while giving banks the chance to compete for your business. (See also: 6 Ways My Family Scores Free Travel with Credit Cards)
How to Find Outstanding Credit Card Offers
At first, finding a great credit card sign-up bonus may seem like luck, but there is actually a good deal of skill involved. The first order of the day is research. Many of the offers below do not apply to everyone who fills out an application, and you have to spend some time looking for the best deal and applying online from the link that is promoting it. Once you have learned what the most competitive offers are, the next strategy is patience. Banks love to promote their best deals over and over again as limited time offers, so if the right deal isn’t currently on the market, just wait a month or two and check again. The final key is to strike while the deal is hot; any of the offers below can disappear tomorrow. While many of them will come back, there is no guarantee. If you think that you are seeing a great deal now, don’t tell yourself that it will probably be available next month when you get around to filling out an application.
The Current Top Five Sign-Up Bonuses
In my research, these are the top bonuses available at the moment.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
Citi has revamped their Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which now has a sign up bonus of 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Other benefits include first checked bag free, Group 1 boarding, 25% savings on in-flight purchases, and earn 10% of your redeemed miles back — up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year. You also get 2x AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases. The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® offers 40,000 miles when you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days -- this is enough to redeem a $400 travel statement credit. This is also a great travel rewards credit card in general, as it gives you 2x miles on all purchases -- miles don't expire as long as your account stays open, active, and in good standing. Your miles can be redeemed for travel statement credits. Redemptions start at 2,500 miles for $25 toward travel purchases made in the last 120 days. Plus get 10% miles back to use towards your next redemption when you redeem travel statement credits.
Annual Fee: $89, waived for the first year
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
This card is currently being offered with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months — that's $500 in travel rewards through their Ultimate Rewards portal. You can also transfer those points on a 1:1 value to participating frequent travel programs, including British Airways, Korean Air, Southweat, United, Virgin, and more.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
The Gold Delta SkyMiles® card is offering 30,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months, plus you can also get a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Get travel benefits like first bag free and Priority Boarding. Rewards benefits of the card include 2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles for all other eligible dollars spent.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
- Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months.
- Earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
- Earn As You Spend: Get 2X miles on Delta purchases and 1X miles for all other eligible dollars spent.
- Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
- Settle in sooner with Priority Boarding.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Terms and Restrictions Apply.
Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®
I mentioned the Arrival Plus card above, but the Arrival World MasterCard also has an attractive bonus offer but with no annual fee. You get 20,000 miles when you spend $1000 the first 90 days (enough to redeem a $200 travel credit). An additional sign-up benefit is 0% intro APR for the first 12 months on each balance transfer completed within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR applies (currently 14.99% or 18.99%, depending on your creditworthiness). You also get 10% miles back every time you redeem statement credits. It's a great card with a great sign-up offer for those who are wary about cards with annual fees.
Annual Fee: none.
CapitalOne® VentureOne® Rewards
Another card with no annual fee with an attractive sign-up offer, VentureOne Rewards gets you 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months as well as a low intro APR on purchases until February 2016 (11.9%-19.9% variable APR after that). You also get unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, and 0% foreign transaction fee, which makes this a great card to take with you on your international travels.
Annnual Fee: none
Responsible consumers are right to question whether or not they can truly fly for free by taking advantage of sign-up bonuses offered by travel credit cards. The truth is that the travel is never free. Customers will still be responsible for taxes and possibly annual fees and fuel surcharges. These costs are relatively minor costs compared to the expense of purchasing international tickets in Business and First Class. My experiences and those of others prove without a doubt that you really can enjoy a world of highly discounted award travel merely by earning credit card sign-up bonuses while giving the banks and the airlines an opportunity to earn your business.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.