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How to Snag a Great Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus

Jason Steele

Credit card users in the U.S. are pretty lucky to live in a time and place where banks are fiercely competing to earn our business. Amazingly, this competition results in rewards bonuses that we can earn just for receiving a new card and meeting a minimum spending requirement. These rewards can be in the form of cash back or other more valuable points, miles or even more valuable free nights at luxury hotels.

What to Look For & What to Avoid

When finding the top sign-up bonuses, look for the most value that can be returned from the promised reward. While some cash back offers are for at least $100 in cash, there are many other cards that feature tens of thousands of points or miles worth far more.

While many of these credit card sign-up bonuses are not too good to be true, some of the claims out there can be quite misleading. Be wary of offers of “up to” a certain number of points or miles. Some of these offers include rewards that are only granted if an expensive balance transfer is completed, or rewards that are only received after a year of card membership. Another gotcha is the miles required for a so-called free flight. In some situations, airlines make so few seats available at the lowest mileage levels, that customers are almost sure to be disappointed. USA Today recently interviewed fliers who found Delta’s program to be especially egregious.

And finally, always carefully scrutinize any minimum spending requirement necessary to receive a sign-up bonus. If this requirement is outside of your normal spending habits, it is probably best to decline the offer rather than tempt yourself to spend more money than usual.

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So before you apply for a credit card, check out these three top offers that can each be worth more than $1,000.

Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold Business Cards. New applicants receive 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months. Chase Ultimate Rewards points from these cards can be redeemed for $500 cash back or $625 toward any travel booked through Chase. In addition, points can be transferred to the loyalty programs of a dozen different hotels, airlines and even Amtrak. Used wisely, these points can be redeemed for some very valuable rewards. There is a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year.

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Starwood Preferred Guest Card From American Express. This card offer new applicants 10,000 Starpoints after their first purchase, and another 15,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first six months of card membership. Starpoints can be redeemed for free nights starting at just 2,000 points a night. Additionally, points can be transferred to miles with more than 30 different airlines. There is a $65 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.

Chase Hyatt Visa. Rather than offering points or miles, this card’s sign-up bonus features two free nights at any Hyatt hotel worldwide. How valuable is that? Consider that one night at a property like the Park Hyatt in Paris and Milan normally sells for more than $1,000 a night. Better yet, Platinum members of Hyatt’s Gold Passport program also earn two free suite upgrades from paid stays and Diamond members’ free nights are confirmed to be in a suite.

By understanding both the benefits and dangers of the best sign-up bonuses, applicants can choose the most rewarding credit card for their needs.

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