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Rewards Card Sign-up Bonus, Welcome Offer Trends to Watch in 2019

Rewards Card Sign-up Bonus, Welcome Offer Trends to Watch in 2019

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This article was last updated Apr 10, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

While credit card companies are still offering lucrative sign-up bonuses and welcome offers on travel-branded credit cards to attract new customers, a recent report in the Wall Street Journal stated that banks are starting to pump the brakes as they struggle to hold down costs.

For now, the higher bonuses and offers are still available, with some cards — such as the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card — dangling tempting offers designed to draw in new customers. Other cards continue to bump up bonuses, but require you to spend more money on the cards to get them.

On the cashback rewards front, credit cards eschew splashy sign-up bonuses for the chance to earn higher rewards in top categories on a rotating basis. These cards use tactics such as broader high-reward categories, the opportunity to choose more than one spending category or offering the ability to pick a cash-back spending category every month rather than quarterly changes.

The credit card rewards arms race has been really expensive for banks, said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards.com. “Many of them are wary of the impact that it has had on the bottom line. The trouble is that many folks who come for the sign-up bonus leave after a year or so,” he said. “Banks would obviously prefer them to stick around longer.”

To find new cardholders, some banks are effectively shrinking the pond they’re fishing in, said Schulz. “Instead of presenting the headline-grabbing sign-up bonus that rewards junkies love so much, banks are instead offering deals to folks who are already their customers,” he said.

“For example, Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card gives you a bigger reward rate if you have a checking or savings account with BofA and are also a Preferred Rewards client,” said Schulz. “That means that the bank is not just finding new creditworthy cardholders, they’re also giving added value to highly prized customers.”

Also, card issuers continue to put a premium on experiences rather than things, said Schulz. “Cards offer the chance to redeem points for entertainment such as tickets to concerts and ballgames. They allow cardholders to trade in points for private dinners with Michelin-starred chefs,” he said.

But as tempting as these offers are, you have to ask if the spending required to get them is worth it in the long term, especially if you don’t have a plan for paying off the card immediately after earning the bonus. We’ll take a look at the cards currently offering the top sign-up bonuses and welcome offers.

Top travel credit card sign-up bonuses/welcome offers

Cards in this category lure in new cardholders by offering them enough bonus points to redeem for airline tickets, hotels and other travel. While the points are nice, take a hard look at the spending required to earn them before pulling out the card.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

New cardmembers Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. That adds up to a $700 credit that can be redeemed for travel. The card has an annual fee of $89 (waived first year).

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

This card, with its $95 annual fee, comes with the most generous offer among the ones reviewed here. New cardholders receive a Earn 60,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the annual fee in full in the first 90 days.2 Offer ends 10/31/19. That means if you buy something as small as a chocolate bar and pay the card’s annual fee, the sign-up bonus is good enough for a MileSAAver roundtrip business class ticket to the Caribbean.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

The big draw of this card, with its $95 annual fee, is Earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios. Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 on your purchases within your first year of account opening. But do note the spending required to get the full sign-up bonus, though. But even so, those bonus Avios are more than enough to book a flight for a family of three from New York to Orlando.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. The card has a $95 annual fee. Use those bonus points to book a mid-February weekend stay at the DoubleTree Resort & Spa by Hilton Hotel Ocean Point – North Miami Beach.

  • Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

  • Up to 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases

  • Earn Hilton Honors Diamond status

Highlights
  • Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

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IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

New cardmembers Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Book a mid-February weekend stay at the Crowne Plaza San Diego-Mission Valley with the bonus points on this card.

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card

New cardmembers Earn 75,000 Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the new Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card! You’ll pay a $95 annual fee. Use your bonus points to book a two-day stay at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz., a Category 5 hotel.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.

  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • All points earned count towards Companion Pass.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events, and more.

See additional details for Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

More Info

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events, and more.

See additional details for Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

More Info

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

See additional details for Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

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The carrier is known for its popular Companion Pass, which allows you to bring along a travel companion for free on flights for a year. You can typically earn this benefit in one of two ways: fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. After you’ve earned the pass, you can bring one companion for free (not including taxes and fees) every time you purchase or redeem points for a Southwest flight.  Cardmembers Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Annual fees for the three cards are $69, $99 and $149, respectively.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Earn 75,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. That bonus is enough for a three-night winter getaway in mid-March for a stay at the Aloft Sarasota in Florida.

Top cashback credit card sign-up bonuses/welcome offers

These cards allow cardholders to earn to higher points in rotating quarterly categories, with some even in more than one. The sign-up cash bonuses tend to be low, but you do earn higher cash back every quarter in popular spending categories.

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

  • 0% for 15 months

  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com

  • 14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)

Highlights
  • The Citi Rewards+℠Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

See additional details for Citi Rewards+℠ Card

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This new Citi card, launched in January 2019, offers new cardmembers Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com. You earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases. And in an interesting twist, all purchases round up to the nearest 10 points.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer

  • 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

  • 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Highlights
  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase

See additional details for Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer

More Info

New cardmembers earn $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. Earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases In January 2019, Bank of America boosted the cash back given on spending in six categories: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, and home improvement and furnishings. Cashback for grocery stores and wholesale clubs remained the same. Another big change with this card is you can now change categories every month for higher rewards, rather than every quarter.

For a card with a $0 annual fee, the spending required to get the cashback bonus is pretty reasonable.

Discover it® Cash Back

  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically*

  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate*

  • Any amount, any time. Cash back rewards never expire*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Cash Back

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Discover will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.* The annual fee is $0. The rotating categories for 2019 are:

  • January-March: Groceries
  • April-June: Gas stations, Uber and Lyft
  • July-September: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October-December: Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart.com

The 5% is limited to $1500 spending per quarter, 1% after that, and activation is required.

Huntington Voice Credit Card®

Although this card doesn’t come with a cashback sign-up bonus, it does offer cardmembers 3X points in one of 10 categories (up to $2,000 per quarter or 6,000 points), and all other purchases earn 1X points. It covers the usual popular categories, including gas stations, travel and entertainment, restaurants and grocery stores. However, it also covers discount and warehouse stores; utilities and office supply stores; electronics, computer and camera stores; department, apparel and sporting goods stores; auto parts and service stores; and home improvement stores — all at an annual fee of $0.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

You get two great benefits with this card. One, cardmembers earn $150 after you spend $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. Two, earn 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases ($100 per quarter) on two categories you choose. That adds up to $400 cash back!

Categories covered under 5% cash back are home utilities, ground transportation, select clothing stores, cell phone providers, electronics stores, car rentals, gyms and fitness centers, fast food, sporting goods stores, department stores, furniture stores and movie theaters.

Top business credit card sign-up bonuses/welcome offers

Companies earn points on their cards and plow them back into their businesses. Plus there’s the chance to rack them up if a business chooses to add employee credit cards on the account. With multiple cards, it’s not too hard to hit the spending needed to earn the sign-up bonus or welcome offer.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

  • Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points*

  • Complimentary access to over 1000+ airport lounges*

  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more*

Highlights
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases made on your Business Platinum Card® within your first 3 months of Card Membership.†
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's an extra half point per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when flight is booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

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The card’s welcome offer allows new cardmembers to earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases on your Business Platinum Card® within your first 3 months of Card Membership.† The points add up to a $750 credit that can be used in Membership Rewards for travel, gift cards, shopping, entertainment, a statement credit or donated to charity.

This may be a big spend to earn all the welcome offer points, but could be more achievable if you add employee cards, which also earn Membership Rewards points on your account. Adding employees with a Business Green Rewards Card from American Express has no additional fees. It’s $300 for each additional The Business Platinum® Card from American Express and $45 for additional American Express® Gold Card.

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points

  • Earn 3 points per $1 in select business categories

  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Highlights
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee

See additional details for Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

More Info

New cardmembers Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That adds up to $1,000 that can be used for travel at the Chase Ultimate Rewards® website. A great benefit with this card is that the points you earn are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel — including airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages — at Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus you can get employee cards for free, with the points earned on those cards going into the cardmember’s account.

The bottom line

What’s happening is that banks are trying to grow the lifetime value of each of their customers, according to Schulz — “All things being equal, a bank makes more money on you the longer you stick around, so they’re offering more and more incentives for you to do just that.”

The economy will play a huge role in the future of sign-up bonuses, Schulz said. “When a new recession arrives, more people will struggle to make payments and banks will want to reduce their risk,” he explained. That means less-showy sign-up bonuses, and the ones that are offered are likely to only be available to those with tip-top credit.”

“Barring a quick and major economic downturn, I don’t think sign-up bonuses will look too different a year from now,” said Schulz. “Unforeseen events can always change things, but I would bet that in early 2020, we’ll still see plenty of attractive sign-up bonuses out there.”

Read What Credit Card Should You Get?

The information related to the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card,  Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information. These offers and/or promotions may have since changed, expired, or are no longer available.


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