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Earning credit card rewards points for your everyday spending is easy, especially with cards offering bonus earning on things like dining or at supermarkets.
However, the fastest and easiest way to earn a lot of points quickly — whether you’re planning a big trip but don’t have enough points yet, or you’re just looking to build up your stores — is to open a new credit card that offers a lucrative welcome bonus.
Credit card issuers like Chase and Amex offer huge bonuses to attract customers, and while each card may have different eligibility requirements, in most cases if you haven’t had that card before, you’re good to go.
You can read more about earning new cardmember bonuses and how that will affect your credit score here, or scroll down to find some of the best offers available this month.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.
When you’re working to earn credit card rewards, it’s important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.
1. Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Welcome offer: 70,000 Delta SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) (after spending $4,000 in the first three months). *Ends September 19.
The Delta Platinum SkyMiles card is one of my personal favorites, because even though it has a $195 annual fee, it pays for itself. The first year, you can earn a welcome bonus — right now it’s 70,000 SkyMiles when you meet the spending requirement, as opposed to the normal 35,000 miles — which more than makes up for the year.
Every year after that, on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll get a companion pass good for a domestic round-trip flight in economy (or “Main Cabin” as Delta calls it). The companion pass is essentially a “buy-one-get-one-free” certificate. When you book an economy-class flight for yourself anywhere within the continental US, you can get a second flight for free, other than minimal taxes and fees.
For me, the value of the pass at least cancels out the annual fee, and in some cases offers enough value to mean I’m making a profit. Although I’ve heard from a few readers who felt the companion pass’ terms were too restrictive, I respectfully disagree, at least in my experience (for what it’s worth, I live near a Delta hub). For instance, I just used the companion pass to book a flight for my wife and I — the tickets were about $225 each, but when I redeemed the pass, we only had to pay $24 of taxes and fees for her ticket.
The card also offers plenty of perks for Delta flyers, including one free checked bag for each person on the card holder’s reservation; priority boarding so that you can settle in sooner and snag space in the overhead compartments; discounted access to Delta Sky Club lounges; a 20% discount in the form of a statement credit on Delta in-flight purchases; and no foreign-transaction fees.
The welcome offers on these two cards are tied for the highest-ever made publicly available, in terms of SkyMiles. Sometimes in the past, the cards have offered statement credits as well, although there’s no way to know if that will ever be available again during a future offer.
2. Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Welcome offer: 60,000 Delta SkyMiles (after spending $3,000 in the first four months). *Ends September 19.
If you aren’t interested in the companion pass that comes with the Platinum Delta card, you can also consider the Gold version of the card instead. The card offers similar benefits to the Platinum version, except for the MQM offer for new cardholders and the companion pass, and only has a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year. Its limited-time welcome offer is 60,000 SkyMiles when you spend $3,000 in four months — also ending September 19.
Even if you’ve had one of the two personal Delta cards before, you can still earn the bonus on the other — Amex considers them completely different products. Just make sure that you’re applying for a new card, rather than upgrading or downgrading your existing one
3. The Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card
Welcome offer: 100,000 Marriott/Starwood points (after spending $5,000 in the first three months). *Ends October 31.
This April, Marriott and Starwood announced that they would be merging their loyalty programs and introducing a consistent set of benefits across them — nearly two years after Marriott International acquired Starwood. The loyalty merger happened last month, and while a few kinks are still being worked out, the new normal is settling in.
As part of the merger, American Express, which issued Starwood’s credit cards before the merger, and Chase, which previously issued Marriott’s credit cards, agreed to keep issuing credit cards under those brands, even though the cards’ benefits would apply across both of the brands’ hotels.
Late last month, Amex introduced its first new product since the merger, the SPG Luxury card. It’s also offering a limited-time new member bonus of 100,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months when you open a card before October 31 — although if you opened a Chase-issued Marriott card in the past two years, you won’t be eligible for the new bonus.
Although the new card has a $450 annual fee, it comes with a decent set of perks and benefits to make up for that.
Each year, cardmembers can get up to $300 in statement credits for purchases at Starwood and Marriott hotels, which can apply to room charges. That effectively brings the fee down to just $150.
Additionally, each year on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll get a free night award that can be redeemed at any hotel that costs 50,000 points a night or less — that should cover a wide selection of properties.
You’ll also get complimentary Gold elite status, and you can earn Platinum status if you spend $75,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.
The card will earn 6x points at Starwood and Marriott hotels, 3x points at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with the airline, and 2x points on everything else.
4. The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Sign-up bonus: 75,000 AAdvantage miles (after spending $7,500 on the card in the first three months) for a limited time.
Citi and American Airlines issue two main co-branded credit cards. The Executive card is the more premium of the two, and it’s offering a nicely increased sign-up bonus for a limited time.
The card’s biggest appeal is that it offers a complimentary Admiral’s Club membership to cardholders and authorized users. That means that you can access the more than 50 American Airlines Admirals Club airport lounges around the world. If you find yourself in airports often, and tend to stick with American, this can be incredibly useful.
As a huge added bonus, you can add up to 10 authorized users without any additional fee — and they’ll all get Admirals Club access as well whenever they’re traveling. While the card has a hefty $450 annual fee, that can be worth it if you value lounge access.
The card earns 2x miles for every dollar spent with American Airlines, and 1x mile on everything else. The card also offers priority check-in, screening, and boarding at participating airports, free checked bags, a statement credit to cover enrollment in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every five years, and you’ll earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after you spend $40,000 in purchases within any single year.
If you’re interested in an American Airlines card but don’t want to pay the $450 annual fee, you can look at the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select card instead. That one has a $99 annual fee, which is waived the first year, and offers 50,000 AAdvantage miles when you spend $2,500 in the first three months. You can learn more about the difference between the two cards here.
5. Citi ThankYou Premier Card
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 Citi ThankYou points when you spend $4,000 during the first three months. For a limited time.
It’s rare for most credit card companies to increase the public sign-up bonus on their flagship credit cards, but that’s exactly what Citi is doing.
For a limited time, Citi’s ThankYou Premier card offers the highest-ever bonus of 60,000 miles when you spend $4,000 during the first three months.
The card earns 3x points per dollar spent on all travel, including including gas stations, parking, tolls, taxis, subways, flights, hotels, and more — the Sapphire Preferred only offers 2x points on that category, and excludes gas stations. The ThankYou Premier also earns 2x points on all dining and entertainment — dining includes everything from bars to restaurants, while entertainment includes concert and movie tickets, museum admission, and more — and 1x point on everything else.
Points can be redeemed for flights through Citi travel, gift cards, or, most valuable, transferred to one of 15 airline transfer partners.
Read our full article to learn more about the card. Citi hasn’t shared how long the increased bonus will be around, so if you’re interested, it might be worth acting quickly.
6. Platinum Card® from American Express
Welcome Offer: 60,000 points (after spending $5,000 in the first three months).
The American Express Platinum card has one of the highest annual fees of any consumer credit or charge card — $550 — but as Amex’s flagship product, this premium credit card offers a tremendous amount of value to offset that fee. For example, I got more than $2,000 worth of value in my first year with the card.
The card earns Membership Rewards points, the currency in Amex’s loyalty program, which can be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book travel through Amex’s travel website, or, to get the most value, transferred to any of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners (transferable points are among the best). Travel website The Points Guy lists a valuation of 1.9¢ per Membership Rewards point; based on that, the welcome offer is worth around $1,140.
The Platinum Card earns an incredible 5x points on airfare purchased directly from the airline, and offers a $200 airline fee credit each calendar year, and up to $200 in Uber credits each cardmember year. It also grants the cardholder access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world, including Delta Sky Clubs and Amex’s own Centurion Lounges. Other benefits include automatic gold elite status at Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton hotels, a statement credit to cover enrollment in Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, concierge service, and much more.
7. Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Sign-up bonus: 30,000 Go Far points (after spending $3,000 in the first three months).
This new card from Wells Fargo has one of the more attractive rewards programs you’ll find from a no-annual-fee card. The new Propel card is actually a re-launch of an old product — Wells Fargo stopped accepting applications for the old card back in February, before announcing the new product and reopening applications this month.
The card earns 3x points on all travel, dining, and select streaming services (and 1x point on everything else). If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost the same as the popular Chase Sapphire Reserve (scroll down for more on that card).
There are some key differences between the cards. The Propel lets you redeem points for 1¢ each toward cash back, merchandise, travel, or more, while the Sapphire Reserve offers a range of more valuable redemption options — it’s easy to get at least 50% more value for Chase points. Plus, the Sapphire Reserve offers a number of premium perks that the Propel doesn’t, like airport lounge access, a $300 annual travel credit travel delay insurance, and more.
Of course, the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a $450 annual fee, while the Wells Fargo Propel doesn’t have a fee. Between the new member offer, and the solid earning rate on popular spend categories, the Propel makes a decent option for those who don’t travel often, or who aren’t comfortable floating a large annual fee.
8. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 miles (after spending $5,000 in the first three months).
Earlier this year, Barclays closed applications for one of its most popular credit cards, before relaunching the card this month with a new all-time highest sign-up bonus.
In addition to the high sign-up bonus, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus earns double miles on every dollar spent.
Miles earned from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus can be redeemed for one cent each on travel purchases (applied as a statement credit to negate the cost of that purchase), or a half-cent each for cash back or gift cards. Best of all, you’ll earn 5% of your miles back every time you make a redemption.
Effectively, that means that the sign-up bonus is worth $600 toward travel, plus an extra $100 from the miles you’ll earn meeting the spending requirement.
The card comes equipped with Chip-and-PIN service, which, combined with the fact that the card has no foreign transaction fees, makes it a great option when traveling internationally.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus has an annual fee of $89. Depending on your spending habits, it is easy to get more value from the card than what you pay for the annual fee, thanks to the 2x earning rate on all purchases. Of course, the sign-up bonus alone will cover the annual fee for more than seven years.
9. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
The Sapphire Preferred is one of the most popular all-around rewards credit cards, and it’s easy to see why. This card earns 2x points per dollar spent on just about all travel and dining purchases, and 1x point on everything else. It also comes with a ton of travel and purchase protections, such as rental car insurance, trip delay coverage, and extended warranty.
The sign-up bonus — 50,000 UR points — is worth, at the very least, $500 as cash back or gift cards. However, if you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and use points to pay, you’ll get a 25% bonus, making points worth 1.25 cents each. That means that the sign-up bonus would be worth $625.
Even more lucrative — the Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you transfer your UR points to a few different frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs. This comes in handy because, in many cases, it costs fewer points to book a trip if you go through one of those programs, as opposed to using the points as cash. You can read more about why transferring points to frequent flyer programs gets you more value here.
This all comes for a fairly standard annual fee of $95, which is waived the first year.
10. Chase Sapphire Reserve
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
The Sapphire Reserve is basically a beefier version of the Preferred. While the card comes with the same sign-up bonus, it earns points on everyday spending faster, nabbing a higher 3x points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases, and 1x on everything else. It also offers similar, though in many cases, enhanced travel and purchase protections.
Unlike the Preferred, the Sapphire Reserve comes with a Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you and any travel companions free access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world.
You can use points from the Reserve the same ways as with the Preferred, except that you’ll get a 50% bonus when booking travel through Chase, making your points worth 1.5¢ each.
The card carries a higher annual fee than the Preferred: $450. However, it also comes with a $300 travel credit each cardmember year. Each year, you’ll get statement credits for the first $300 in travel-related purchases you make, including things like subway fare, taxis, parking, and tolls, as well as airfare and hotels. When you subtract this credit from the annual fee, the card is effectively only $150 each year.
If you’re not sure whether the Preferred or Reserve is the better card for you, take a look at this breakdown. Also keep in mind that you can typically only earn the sign-up bonus for one Sapphire-branded card every two years.
11. Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Sign-up Bonus: 80,000 points (after spending $5,000 in the first three months).
The Ink Preferred is an excellent rewards credit card — the bad news is that it’s only available for small business owners. The good news is that a lot of things you might not expect actually count as small businesses, including freelancing, side gigs, and even selling things on eBay.
The card, which has a $95 annual fee, earns 3x points per dollar on the first $150,000 you spend each cardmember year in a few categories, including travel, shipping, internet/cable/phone, and advertising on social media sites or with search engines, such as Google Ads. Purchases after you reach $150,000, or in any other category, earn 1x point per dollar. Unless you operate a small business that’s on the larger side, chances are you won’t hit that cap.
Like with the Sapphire Preferred, you’ll get a 25% bonus when using points earned with the Ink Preferred to book travel directly with Chase. Of course, if you pool them on your Sapphire Reserve card, that bonus will be 50% instead.
The card comes with a handful of other perks, many of which overlap with the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, such as trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary car rental loss/damage coverage, and various purchase protections. It also comes with cell phone insurance when you use the card to pay your phone bill, offering up to $600 for each covered claim.
* This content is not provided by card issuers. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the card issuer.