10 best credit card sign-up bonuses for October

In the interest of full disclosure, One Mile At A Time earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers that we have found for each card. Please check out our advertiser policy for further details about the partners we work with. Thanks for your support!

Update: Many of these offers are expired or outdated. Please check out the current list of the best travel credit cards.

Every month I make a post with what I consider to be the best credit card sign-up bonuses of the month. While there are several excellent long standing credit card offers, the specifics of the best offers are constantly changing (be it the annual fee, minimum spend requirement, or even amount of the sign-up bonus). If you read my blog on a daily basis then by all means skip this post, but for me it’s a useful, “current” place to refer people that ask about which cards they should sign-up for, a question I get a daily basis.

With that in mind, here are what I consider to be the 10 best credit card sign-up bonuses right now:

1. Ink Bold® Business Charge Card and Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

Current offer: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Why it’s a great offer: This remains the single best credit card sign-up bonus out there. Ultimate Rewards points are one of the most valuable points currencies given that they can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to United, Hyatt, and many other programs. The cards are also great for everyday spend given that they offer 5x points at office supply stores, and on cell phones, internet, and cable TV, and double points on gas and hotels. So this is a card that’s good for both for the sign-up bonus and for everyday spend. I value Ultimate Rewards points at 1.8 cents each, so to me these points are worth a whopping $900.

2. The Enhanced Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN

Current offer: 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months
Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175

Why it’s a great offer: While there’s a fairly high annual fee it’s waived for the first year, and at the very least has some good short term potential for earning points given that it offers triple points on airfare, double points on gas, shipping, and advertising, and one point per dollar spent on everything. I value Membership Rewards points at 1.8 cents each, so to me the sign-up bonus is worth $900. Furthermore there are often transfer bonuses from Membership Rewards to their partner programs, potentially making these points even more valuable.

3. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Current offer: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within three months
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Why it’s a great offer: American miles are extremely valuable for OneWorld travel, and offer some of the best premium cabin redemptions out there, like first class between the US and Asia on Cathay Pacific for 67,500 miles one-way. I value American miles at 1.8 cents each, so this sign-up bonus is worth $900 to me.

The “catch” is that as of a couple of months ago you typically won’t get approved for a second card if you already have another version of the card. In other words, in the past it was possible to earn the sign-up bonuses on both the Visa and the Mastercard, though at the moment that doesn’t seem to be possible.

4. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Current offer: 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months, plus an additional 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you add an authorized user to the card that makes a purchase within three months.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Why it’s a great offer: Ultimate Rewards points are one of the most valuable points currencies given that they can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to United, Hyatt, and many other programs. The cards are also great for everyday spend given that it offers double points on dining and travel. I value the sign-up bonus on this card at $720.

5. British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Current offer: 50,000 Avios after spending $2,000 within three months (offer is only available to applicants that haven’t had the card in the last 24 months)
Annual fee:  $0 Intro Annual Fee The First Year, Then $95

Why it’s a great offer: British Airways has a distance based award chart which is extremely lucrative for shorthaul travel, as awards start at just 4,500 Avios one-way. Given that short flights are often disproportionately expensive when paying cash, I’ve found Avios to be invaluable. I value British Airways Avios at 1.3 cents each, so to me the sign up bonus is worth ~$650.

6. US Airways Barclays Mastercard

Current offer: 35,000 Dividend Miles after the first purchase
Annual fee: $85, waived the first year

Why it’s a great offer: Regardless of whether or not the merger with American actually goes through, either American or US Airways miles are extremely valuable. It’s an easy 35,000 Dividend Miles given that you get the miles after the first purchase. I value US Airways miles at 1.6 cents each, so this sign-up bonus is worth ~$560.

It’s worth noting that while the above link seems to work as of now, I can’t guarantee for how long it’ll continue to work. Last time I posted a similar link the application continued to work though people started getting automatically rejected since the offer wasn’t intended to be publicly available. The only offer on which I can guarantee the bonus is my affiliate link, which only offers 30,000 Dividend Miles after the first purchase and doesn’t have the first year annual fee waived.

7. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express

Current offer: The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers 25,000 bonus Starpoints after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express offers 10,000 Starpoints after the first purchase, and 15,000 additional Starpoints after spending $5,000 within six months.
Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65

Why it’s a great offer: Starpoints remain the most valuable points currency out there to me, and are a great value for both hotel redemptions and airline mileage transfers. I value Starpoints at 2.2 cents each, so this sign-up bonus is worth $550 to me. Terms apply.

8. Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Current offer: 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $2,000 within three months
Annual fee: $99

Why it’s a great offer: While this is not the card for everyone, I do think this is a great option for domestic travel, given that you earn two free roundtrips with the sign-up bonus, and the 6,000 points you receive each anniversary more than justify the annual fee.

Also keep in mind that if you rack up 110,000 points in a year you’ll earn Companion Pass with Southwest, which allows someone else to travel with you for the entire year. For domestic travel that’s a value that’s tough to beat.

9. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card

Current offer: 50,000 points after the first purchase, and an additional 35,000 points after spending $2,500 on the card within 90 days.
Annual fee: $75

Why it’s a great offer: As I’ve written about in this post, the Club Carlson card has a ton of value, including 85,000 points after completing the minimum spend, a 40,000 point anniversary bonus, Gold status for as long as you have the card, and most importantly, the second night of any award redemption is free, potentially doubling the value of your points.

You earn 5x points per dollar spent on the card, so once you’ve spent $3,000 on the card you’ll have 100,000 points. Club Carlson’s top category hotels cost 50,000 points per night, so that’s enough points for two sets of two nights at some of Club Carlson’s top properties.

10. Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

Current offer: Two free weekend nights at most Hilton family properties after spending $2,500 within four months of account opening
Annual fee: $95

Why it’s a great offer: In late March Hilton substantially devalued their award chart, making some properties as expensive as 95,000 HHonors points per night. These free night certificates are redeemable all the way up to category 10 properties, potentially making this sign-up bonus worth the equivalent of 190,000 HHonors points. So in terms of buying power, the value of these certificates has hugely increased over the past week compared to the buying power of HHonors points. Furthermore you get HHonors Gold status for as long as you have the card, which gets you free breakfast and internet. As far as I’m concerned those are the two most useful hotel elite benefits, and you get that all for the low annual fee on the card.

The Chase Hyatt Visa Card and Fairmont Visa Signature Card also offer similar sign-up bonuses of two free nights after completing the minimum spend, though I’d say the thing that gives the Citi Reserve Card the “edge” is that it gets you their mid-tier status as well, which is extremely valuable.

Anyway, those are my top 10 cards based on sign-up bonuses this month. If you have any questions or other cards you think have great sign-up bonuses, let me know in the comments section!

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  1. “the specifics of the best offers are constantly changing”

    I don’t think there is a single card in this post that’s changed since last month

    Also, the Southwest card isn’t the best offer anymore – since the 6000 points will no longer cover the annual fee, there is no reason not to get the $69 version if you don’t plan on keeping it anyways past year 1 (and you shouldn’t)

  2. I already have two Barclays cards (opened in 10/12 and 1/13) and got the Sapphire Preferred three weeks ago. In your experience, is it too soon and/or too much to apply for the Club Carlson card now?

  3. @ mangoceviche — How many other cards did you apply for in the past two years? If you’ve just recently gotten those three cards you should be fine, given that the Club Carlson Card is issued by a different bank than the other cards.

  4. OK. I am an idiot. I thought the Club Carlson card was issued by Barclays which is why I mentioned the two that I currently hold. I’ve applied for 12 credit cards in the last two years (four in the last six months, incl the Sapphire) and 100% approval rate. Other than a Northwest Visa from many moons ago, I never held any other US Bank card.

  5. @mangoceviche If you apply for the Carlson card, make it the next card you apply for. Then wait to be approved, or not, before you apply for anything else.

    It would have been better to apply for the Carlson card first before the Sapphire,
    then the Sapphire later that day, but nothing you can do about that now.

    US would be happier with your app if you waited 95 days from the date of your app for the Sapphire before applying for the Carlson, but we do get impatient don’t we? I haven’t heard anything about the Carlson deal going away, but sadly that’s no guarantee. So there’s a risk either way.

    Next time, wait 100 days from your last app, then apply for everything you might possibly want in the near future on the same day.

    Starting with the most difficult banks 1} US 2} Barclays 3} probably Citi, since they have a limit of 6 hard inquires from any ONE credit bureau per 6 months. And if you are like me, you have no idea who did inquiries where.

    Everything I’ve said above is “educated hearsay”, so YMMV.

    Good Luck

  6. @Robert Hanson – thank you for the detailed response. 100 days is long time in the credit app world 🙂 but like you said, the Sapphire app can’t be undone, so I guess I’ll make the Club Carlson card my 1st 2014 app

  7. When you first started applying for cards, not student ones, were there specific criteria you looked out for?

  8. @ Kevin — When I started applying for credit cards I stuck to American Express charge cards and Citi cards, because anecdotally I found them easiest to get approved for. In my experience Chase cards are toughest to be approved for if you don’t have much of a credit history, so I avoided those until I had established my credit more.

  9. @ E — Nope, you can absolutely have the Personal Platinum and still get the bonus on the Business Gold Rewards Card.

  10. Two questions:

    Can you try for two chase cards in the same churn? I have 4 chase cards, up am prepared to close a few (reconsideration line).

    I have an open citi AA visa. It was opened 2+ years ago. Will I be successful with the Mastercard? Do I need to close it? Or should I just go for the business cards?

  11. @ Twig — So for both of these questions it seems to vary on a case by case basis. With Chase I generally don’t recommend applying for two cards at once unless one is a personal and one is a business card, in which case you should be fine. But I generally recommend waiting 30 days between personal applications.

    As far as Citi goes, reports are all over the place as to what their “new” policy is, but generally speaking if you’ve had an AAdvantage Visa open for two years you should be fine applying for the Mastercard. General consensus is that you’ll be fine as long as you haven’t been approved for another Citi AAdvantage Card in the last 18 months.

  12. @ E — Whoops, sorry about that, I misread. This is another case where experiences seem to vary. The MB Platinum Card recently added the restriction that you can’t get the bonus on it if you have the Platinum Card. Whether that extends down to the Premier Rewards Gold Card I’m not positive of, unfortunately.

  13. E – I have both the Mercedes Plat and regular Plat and received sign-on bonuses for both. I had called AMEX and spoken with several different reps before applying for the regular Plat. All the reps gave the same answer: the Mercedes Plat belongs to a different product family. the regular plat belongs to the same product family as the gold card. this was early 2013 when AMEX ran the 100K promo on the regular plat card. not sure if the rules have changed.

  14. @mangoceviche Yes, 100 days is a long time. But in my case, I have a several decades long credit history, and solid relationships with Citi, Chase, B of A, and AMEX. So I usually get 5 cards per churn, which means 20 cards in 13 months. Knowing this makes the waiting a little easier for me.

    Oh, and I have been known to break the rules, but only when necessary. When the AMEX PRG short time offer came out, at a double bonus of 50K and half the minimum spend, I jumped on it just before it expired, even though I was only around 50 days. I only do that when I would miss a too good to be missed deal, and never more than twice a year.

    So if you hear the Carlson card is going away, or the bonus is being cut in half, etc. I’d go ahead and apply right away.

  15. Do we get the $200 airline credit on both the personal and business amex platinum cards? Or do we need a separate mr account?

  16. @ E — Yep, you can get it for each card even if they’re linked to the same Membership Rewards account.

  17. Has there ever been a bump in the Sapphire Preferred sign up bonus? Or is it such a good card all-around, they don’t need it?

  18. @ Peter — I tend to think the latter. It used to have a 50,000 point sign-up bonus, but my guess is that won’t come back anytime soon given how well the card is doing. You never know, though.

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