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- Alyssa Powell/Business Insider
- When you sign up for a new rewards credit card, you can often get a big new member bonus – tons of points or cash back.
- Sometimes, credit card issuers will offer higher-than-normal bonuses to try and attract new customers. By taking advantage of offers when they’re at their highest, you can rack up points, miles, or bonus cash quickly.
- This May, there are a few big limited-time offers, including on every Southwest Airlines personal credit card. Hurry, though – some of these aren’t around for the whole month.
The fastest way to earn rewards points, cash back, and frequent-flyer miles is to open a new credit card and earn its sign-up or welcome bonus.
Credit card issuers offer huge bonuses to attract customers, while designing card features with long-term, continuing value in an effort to keep them. This offers consumers a chance to take advantage of these bonuses, perks, and features.
You can read more about earning new card-member 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 credit 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.
Sign-up bonus:60,000 Rapid Rewards points (after spending $2,000 in the first three months). Ends June 10.
Earlier this year, Southwest offered an unprecedented sign-up bonus for its consumer credit cards: 30,000 points and a Companion Pass if you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. A Companion Pass is essentially an unlimited buy-one-get-one pass for airfare.
While that deal ended in February – and we don’t know if it will ever be offered again – Southwest is back with a newly increased credit card sign-up offer that can actually help you get the full companion pass.
When you open any of the three personal cards, you can earn 60,000 Rapid Reward points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months. The usual bonus is only 40,000 points after meeting minimum spend requirements. This offer is only available for a limited time.
Those points can be used for flights anywhere in Southwest’s network, including on its recently launched flights to Hawaii.
In addition to using the points for flights, they can also help contribute towards earning a Companion Pass for this yearand all of 2020.
To earn the Companion Pass, one has to earn 110,000 qualifying points with Southwest within a calendar year. The pass will then be valid for the remainder of that calendar year, as well as the entirety of the following one.
Points earned from a Southwest credit card count – including sign-up bonuses. If you open a card during the current deal, you’ll already have 62,000 points (including points earned from spending), so you’ll only need to earn 48,000 more through flights or other qualifying activities.
There are three Southwest consumer cards, but our choice for the best one is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. That’s because, unlike the other cards, it comes with enough tangible benefits to cancel out the cost of its annual fee.
Plus, if you have a small business or side gig, you can open a personal card and a small business card – the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card– and earn an additional 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Between the two bonuses, you’ll earn more than enough points to automatically get the Companion Pass.
You can learn more about the Companion Pass and the three Southwest cards here.
Click here to learn more about the Southwest Priority card from Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Southwest Plus card from Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Southwest Premier card from Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy.
- American Express
Welcome offer: $200 statement credit (after spending $1,000 in the first three months)
If you’re less excited about earning Membership Rewards points – which can be valuable, but also tricky to redeem – and want to stick with cash back, the Blue Cash Preferred is the best option, despite its $95 annual fee.
AmEx recently announced a refresh to the card on May 9. Starting then, new and existing cardholders earn 6% cash back on US streaming services and 3% back on all transit. That’s in addition to the existing categories of 6% cash back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (and 1% after that), 3% back at US gas stations, and 1% cash back on everything else.
The card previously offered 3% back at some US department stores. That won’t be available for anyone who applies on or after May 9. For existing cardholders, it will stick around through the end of July.
Like the EveryDay cards, the Blue Cash Preferred offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months, before switching to a variable 15.24-26.24% APR.
The Blue Cash Preferred comes with a handful of travel and purchase protections as well. Cash back comes in the form of a statement credit, so effectively you can use it to “erase” purchases.
Click here to learn more about the Blue Cash Preferred from Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy.
Sign-up bonus: 60,000 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 card’s sign-up bonus was recently increased for the first time since 2015– it’s now 60,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. That’s worth, at the very least, $600 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 $750.
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 not waived the first year.
Click here to learn more about the Sapphire Preferred from Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy.
- American Express
Welcome offer: 35,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
Right now, the AmEx Gold Card is arguably the best card available for dining, unless you’re only interested in cash back, rather than potentially more valuable rewards points, and unless you find yourself abroad at restaurants often – if that’s the case, you should go with the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card (scroll down to the next card).
The Gold Card earns 4x points at US restaurants and on up to $25,000 per year at US supermarkets (and 1x point after that), 3x points on flights booked directly with the airline, and 1x point on everything else. Based on the fact that you can easily redeem Membership Rewards points for more than 1¢ of value each, that makes this the highest-earning card for everything food-related.
The Gold Card offers up to a $100 airline fee credit each calendar year, and adds up to $120 of dining credits – split into $10 each month – at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Steak House, or participating Shake Shack locations.
While it’s difficult to assign an exact value to Membership Rewards points, The Points Guy subjectively estimates each point as worth 2¢. That makes the welcome bonus worth $700. Even without factoring in the annual credit benefits, that’s more than enough to make up for the card’s $250 annual fee.
Check out our full review for more details.
Keep in mind that it’s possible to be targeted for a higher welcome bonus.
Sign-up bonus: $500 (after spending $3,000 in the first three months).
The card earns unlimited 4% cash back on all dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores, and 1% on everything else. Plus, the card offers a whopping $500 sign-up bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
The Savor carries a lower annual fee than the AmEx Gold – $95, waived the first year. The earning rate will make up for the fee in many cases, based on normal spending, but if that’s too high for you, there’s an alternative: the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card.
The SavorOne card has no annual fee, and offers a slightly lower – but still valuable – earning rate of 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores, and 1% on everything else. It offers a lower sign-up bonus of $150 when you spend $500 in the first three months.
Click here to learn more about the Capital One Savor card from Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy.
Click here to learn more about the Capital One SavorOne card from Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy.
- The Points Guy
Welcome offer: 30,000 Go Far points (after spending $3,000 in the first three months).
This card from Wells Fargo has one of the more attractive rewards offerings you’ll find from a no-annual-fee card. The current Propel card is a relaunch of an old product – Wells Fargo stopped accepting applications for the old card a year ago, before announcing the new product and reopening applications this summer.
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.
There are 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.
We named the Propel the best no-fee card of 2018.
Click here to learn more about the Wells Fargo Propel card from Business Insider’s partner, The Points Guy.
- David Slotnick/Business Insider
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 2¢ per membership rewards point; based on that, the welcome offer is worth about $1,200.
The Platinum Card earns an incredible 5x points on airfare purchased directly from the airline, and offers an airline fee credit of up to $200 each calendar year, and up to $200 in Uber credits each card member year.
It also grants the cardholder access to more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world, including Delta Sky Clubs and AmEx’s own Centurion Lounges.
Other benefits include automatic Gold elite status in the Marriott and Hilton loyalty programs, a statement credit up to $100 to cover enrollment in Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, concierge service, access to exclusive events, and much more.
If you’re an active military servicemember, you can get the AmEx Platinum Card’s fee waived.