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Credit Card Sign-On Bonuses: Flights, Hotel Stays, Cash
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Credit Card Applications » Research » Studies » New Card Bonuses » Get Cash, Airline Tickets, and Free Hotel Rooms with Credit Card Sign-On Bonuses in 2014

Get Cash, Airline Tickets, and Free Hotel Rooms with Credit Card Sign-On Bonuses in 2014


Updated: October 17, 2014
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2014 Credit Card Sign-On Bonus Survey

Do you have great credit? If so, you're in demand.

These days, banks fight for customers with excellent credit. Sure, you may have heard that banks are issuing more credit cards to sub-prime borrowers lately, but the customers they compete for are the ones with credit scores in the high 700s and 800s - and those are the ones who get advantageous offers.

To tempt those customers, banks offer sign-on bonuses for opening a new account. These bonuses come in several forms - they can be cash rewards, points, or miles. When comparing offers, it's hard to know how 10,000 points stack up next to 50,000 miles. What can you redeem the points for? Do the miles work with the frequent flyer program you use the most? These questions can be confusing to answer.

When you don't know the value of different sign-on bonuses, comparing different credit card offers is like comparing apples and oranges. looked at some of the biggest sign-on bonus offers out there today and found out exactly what those deals are worth, so you can compare offers and decide for yourself: Which sign-on bonus is best for you?

What's the Value?

Our research showed that although the most popular sign-on bonus is cash, the highest-value rewards are free airline tickets and hotel stays. Cash is great - some say cash is king! - but if you're looking to get the most bang for your buck, travel rewards are the best value.

Here's a handy infographic that shows how different sign-on bonuses stack up next to each other:

How Credit Card Sign-On Bonus Values Stack Up

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We looked at eight different credit cards that offer sign-on bonuses and showed the value of each one - two of them are redeemable for air travel, two are hotel rewards, and four can be redeemed for cash back or gift cards.

Airfare Rewards

Free flights are one of the best credit card perks around, and offer a great value. The best thing is when you get bonus miles just for signing up and using the card - and these cards give you just that. Get creative with your itinerary and stay flexible with travel dates, and you can squeeze the most value out of your bonus miles. Many airlines are members of alliances, so you can use your miles to book travel on partner airlines when available, opening up the whole sky to you. Sign up and start packing!

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Spend: $1,000
Get: 30,000 bonus points, can be worth as much as $800 in airfare redemption, add here $50 after you make a Delta purchase with the card.
Annual Fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
Card Highlights: - $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $95;
- Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles ;
- Low 15.24% - 19.24% APR on Purchases.

When you spend $1,000 in the first three months you have this card, you'll earn 30,000 bonus miles, which can be redeemed for a free flight from Delta or any of their 15 SkyTeam partners. And if you make a Delta purchase within first 3 months, you will be given a $50 Statement Credit.

Delta has three price point brackets for their reward flights - low, medium, and high - which are determined according to where and when you are flying. A round-trip economy flight in the lowest price bracket costs 25,000 and customers can book travel within the continental United States when dates are available in this category. Round-trip flights between major travel hubs like New York and Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle, or Houston and Cincinnati can cost as little as $300 or as much as $800, depending on when you want to fly, how far ahead you book, and other mysterious factors known only to the airlines. Here are the average fares for flights to and from these airlines, serviced by Delta:

  • Cincinnati, Ohio: $526
  • Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota: $454
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas: $449

Keep in mind that Delta and its SkyTeam alliance partners serve hundreds of airports across the globe, and average fares can easily double depending on the season. Save up miles and cash them in for trips that would have otherwise cost the most, and you'll get the best value for those miles.

Bonus miles are worth about one cent each when redeemed with Delta's Pay with Points program. Using Pay with Points, cardholders can pay for airfares directly, using points at an exchange rate of 10,000 points for $100. However, this isn't the best way to maximize the value of these points.

Delta SkyMiles can be used to redeem flights with Delta's SkyTeam partners - such as Air France or Alitalia - you can get much more value from your points. Getting creative with routes and itineraries can make your miles worth more than one cent per mile, especially if your travel plans are flexible.

Spend: $3,000
Get: 40,000 bonus miles, can be worth as much as $400 in air travel rewards
Annual Fee: $89, waived first year
Card Highlights: - Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that´s enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit.;
- Earn 2X Miles on all purchases.;
- 0% introductory APR for 12 months for each Balance Transfer made within 45 days of account opening..

Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months you have the card. You can redeem miles for travel statement credits, cash back, gift cards or merchandise. Travel statement credit redemptions start at 2,500 miles.

Travel statement credit gives the best value – you will get $25 for 2,500 miles. The same amount of miles will bring you $12.50 in cash back. Gift card redemptions start at 5,000 miles for $25. When you redeem for merchandise, your redemption value will vary based on what you are redeeming for.

Hotel Rewards

Another great value in sign-on bonuses is free hotel stays. With bonus points just for signing up, you can choose to stay a few free nights at a more basic hotel, or one night at a super-luxurious hotel. These points are even transferrable to friends and family, if you want to give the gift of a getaway. These cards give nice fat sign-on bonuses, so check them out if hotel rewards are up your alley.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Spend: $5,000
Get: 25,000 points, worth up to $700
Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65
Card Highlights: - Redeem Starpoints on over 350 airlines with SPG Flights;
- Earn up to 25,000 Bonus Points;
- $0 Introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $65.

You can get a sign-on bonus of 25,000 Starpoints with this American Express card - 10,000 after the first purchase, and 15,000 when you spend $5,000 within the first six months. Free nights at Starwood properties start at just 2,000 points for the lowest-tier hotels, and go up to 35,000 for the most elite hotels and resorts. That means your 25,000 bonus points can get you a free night at a luxurious category six property, or several nights at a lower-category hotel.

The Sheraton Sand Key Resort, a category four hotel in Clearwater Beach, Florida, costs 10,000 Starwood points per night, so your sign-on bonus can get you four free nights there - a value of about $700.

American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card
Spend: $2,000
Get: 25,000 points, worth up to $650
Annual Fee: Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $175
Card Highlights: - 25,000 Bonus Points when you spend $2,000 in 3 Months;
- Gold Card Events;
- The Membership Rewards Program.

Get 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. American Express Membership Rewards points can be used to get free hotel stays, cruises and flights. Pay with Points to get access to exclusive packages and offers.

Spend: $1,000
Get: 40,000 bonus points, worth about $500
Annual Fee: None
Card Highlights: - Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 within 4 Months of Account Opening.26 ;
- No Annual Fee.26 ;
- Earn 6 HHonors Bonus Points for each $1 spent at any Participating Hotel within the Hilton Portfolio.26 .

Get 40,000 Hilton HHonors Bonus Points when you spend just $1,000 in the first four months of card membership. HHonors points can be used to get free hotel stays at any Hilton property, where reward nights cost between 7,500 and 80,000 points. Hilton properties are divided into seven categories, with the most luxurious properties starting at 50,000 points-per-night in category seven, and economy hotels available for 7,500 per night in the first category.

With 40,000 points, you can have a free night's stay at a category six hotel, like the Hampton Inn Manhattan in the swanky SoHo area, where overnight stays average around $500 a night, or four nights at a category one hotel, like the Hampton Inn Orlando-North/Altamonte Springs, where rooms go for around $100 per night.

You'll get a $100 check or statement credit when you spend just $500 on this card in the first three months you have it.

Gift Cards

These cards from Citi give sign-on bonuses in the form of ThankYou points, which can be redeemed for gift cards from over 600 merchants through the Citi ThankYou Mall. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, GAP, Banana Republic, Sephora, and Zappos are just a few of the more popular stores that partner with Citi, and gift cards can often be sent straight to your email inbox, so you can redeem your reward instantly.

Spend: $1,500
Get: $200 worth of gift cards
Annual Fee: $026
Card Highlights: - Earn 20,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $1,500 in card purchases within 3 months of account opening - redeemable for $200 in gift cards or other great rewards!;
- 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 12 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99%-22.99% based upon your creditworthiness.26 ;
- No Annual Fee.26.

The ThankYou Preferred card from Citi gives members 20,000 bonus points when they spend $1,500 in the first three months. That's enough for $200 in gift cards, which can be redeemed in increments of $25, $50, or $100. Split your bonus between stores to receive up to four different gift cards from your favorite shopping spots.

Spend: $650 (and sign up for paperless statements)
Get: $100 worth of gift cards
Annual Fee: $026
Card Highlights: - No Annual Fee.26;
- 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfer for 12 months.26;
- 5 Points for every $1 spent at Restaurants and on Books, Movies and Music..

This card gives a sign-on bonus of 10,000 ThankYou points after spending $650 in the first three months and signing up for paperless statements - a 15 percent return on your money when you redeem the points for $100 worth of gift cards through the ThankYou Rewards Mall

Apply Today for the Most Value

Sign-on bonus offers change frequently, so if one of these cards looks right for you, don't hesitate. Apply now and take advantage of the best travel, hotel, cash and gift card sign-on bonuses available right now. Sign-on bonuses are like getting something for nothing - just think of them as your reward for having great credit. Enjoy!

26 See the Citi card terms and conditions online.

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