10 Best Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses For January

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Update: Many of these offers are expired or outdated.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. For reference, here is my list of the best credit card sign up bonuses for December.

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

1. 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. American miles haven’t been devalued yet either, unlike Delta and United miles.

The “catch” is that as of a few 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.

2. Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and Ink Bold® Business Charge 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: There’s no doubt the value of Ultimate Rewards points has gone down a bit recently due to the devaluation of Hyatt, Southwest, and United points. That being said, there’s still a lot of value to be had from cards that accrue Ultimate Rewards points due to the big sign-up bonus and generous category bonuses, including 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 1.5 cents each, so to me these points are worth $750.

I’m actually quite excited about transferring most of my Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt Gold Passport going forward, given the excellent redemption values for Points + Cash stays as a Diamond member.

3. Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Current offer: 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $2,000 within three months, provided you haven’t received the bonus on this card in the past 24 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. Rapid Rewards points can be redeemed ~1.43 cents each towards the cost of “Wanna Get Away” fares.

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. I value Southwest Rapid Rewards points at roughly 1.4 cents each, so to me these points are worth $700.

4. British Airways Visa Signature® Card – (Update: This offer is now expired)

Current offer: 50,000 Avios after spending $2,000 within three months, 25,000 additional Avios after spending $10,000 within a year, and an additional 25,000 Avios after spending an additional $10,000 within a year
Annual fee: $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 incredibly useful. I value British Airways Avios at 1.3 cents each, so to me the “basic” 50,000 point sign up bonus is worth ~$650. Whether or not it makes sense to spend an extra $17,000 to get the additional $50,000 Avios depends entirely on how big of a credit card spender you are, but it has the potential to be a very good value.

5. 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 can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to Korean Air, United, Hyatt, and many other programs. The card is 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 $600.

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: Now that the merger with American is underway, chances are that this card will be discontinued at some point. 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 when you submit the above application you’ll receive an error message, which is normal. Don’t worry, your application has still been submitted.

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. 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 previously, 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 award redemptions are 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.

9. Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

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

Why it’s a great offer: Last 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 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.

10. Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard®

Current offer: 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 within first 90 days
Annual fee: $89, waived the first year

Why it’s a great offer: Each point can be redeemed for one cent towards the cost of travel, and you get a 10% refund of redeemed miles, making each point worth 1.1 cents. This sign-up bonus is therefore worth $440, and you can earn a pretty great 2.2% cash back towards travel for every dollar spent on the card.

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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Comments

  1. I received this offer from Virgin America today:

    • 20,000 bonus miles after your first purchase*
    • 25,000 additional bonus miles after you spend at least $2,500
    in qualifying purchases in the first 90 days*
    • Up to 15,000 Anniversary bonus miles after qualifying purchases*

    Plus
    • 5,000 bonus miles after you add two additional Cardholders**

    Everyday, you’ll earn:
    • 3 miles per $1 spent directly on Virgin Atlantic purchases.
    • 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Tier points that help you ascend to or maintain Silver or Gold status.***

    What are your thoughts on it?

  2. Is the BA 100k offer still alive? I can still see the webpage but it clearly says “Apply for the offer by December 31, 2013 to start earning this additional 100,000 bonus”.

  3. Dear

    I have opened Citi AA Plat Visa (personal) and Citi AA world master (Biz) back in August 2013, did I wait long enough for Citi AA World master personal?

    Thank you

  4. Lucky, per the terms on https://www.accountonline.com/ACQ/DisplayTerms?sc=62HZ13539FC3111111W&app=UNSOL&siteId=HHONORS&langId=EN&BUS_TYP_CD=CONSUMER&DOWNSELL_LEVEL=0&BALCON_SC=&B=S&DOWNSELL_BRANDS=&t=&d=&uc=&AMEX_PID_AF_CODE=&AAPID=

    it states “One Anniversary Bonus Weekend Night Certificate

    At the end of each Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card account membership year (your membership year begins the date you became a Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve cardmember and resets each year on that date), if you have made $10,000 in eligible purchases on the card during that membership year, you will earn one (1) Weekend Night certificate as an anniversary bonus. Please allow 6 to 8 weeks from your membership anniversary date to receive your certificate.”

    Do you interpret this to account for the first membership year? Meaning if you spend $10,000 during the first membership year, you will also receive 1 free weekend night certificate on your anniversary?

  5. @ Al — Correct, so once the second annual fee hits you’d get the free weekend night certificate if you spent $10,000 on the card.

  6. @ Luke — Thanks. Neither are my affiliate links for what it’s worth, but the difference is that the annual fee isn’t waived on the 40,000 mile version. So you’re paying $89 for 5,000 miles, which I don’t consider to be a great deal for the average person.

  7. Ben, FWIW, I have the AAdvantage Visa card and recently applied for the AA Mastercard and got approved instantly.

    Also, what is the best way to search for Cathay Pacific award flights?

  8. @ Luis — Happy to hear you got approved. Best place to search for Cathay Pacific award space is either the BA or Qantas website.

  9. Lucky, you say the arrival card can be redeemed for travel. What qualifies as travel? Can I charge the card on hotel/food/entertainment during a trip and use the points to pay off the charges on the card?

  10. @ mike — Barclay defines it as follows: “A travel purchase and redemption is defined as: Airlines, Travel Agencies & Tour Operators, Hotels, Motels & Resorts, Cruise Lines, Passenger Railways and Car Rental Agencies as defined by the merchant category code. Purchases made at merchants that do not process transactions under these terms or that use incorrect Mastercard merchant category codes will not qualify. Barclaycard is not responsible for incorrectly coded purchases.”

  11. Can the Hilton reserve anniversary free night work similar to the Amex plat in the sense that one can receive the free night certificate after the 2nd annual fee hits, redeem it, then cancel the card which would get the 2nd fee refunded?

  12. Asking because it is ranked #9 in your list, but if it is indeed the case, maybe it should be on the top end of the list. You are essentially getting 3 free weekend nights + ~30k Hilton pts after spending $10k in the first year, and paying only 1 annual fee if you cancel the card within 30 days of getting hit with the 2nd annual fee.

  13. @ Tao — You can only get the bonus on the card once. Last year Chase changed the Ink Cards from Mastercards to Visas, so they’re now considered a new product for the purposes of signing up.

  14. @lucky, thanks. Now I have a personal Plat. with Amex, will I be able to get a Biz Plat. when the personal one is still open and get the sign-up bonus?

  15. The Barclaycard Arrival is really useful for this purpose: Defraying taxes, fees and fuel surcharges for award redemptions. A lot of people who follow these blogs really hate fuel surcharges and are averse to paying them. Always having a bank of 20,000 or so points on an Arrival card really increases your travel flexibility as it allows you to book award tickets with surchages using no out of pocket money. For example I find Avios + Barclaycard Arrival to be a really effective combo (redeem Avios, pay surcharges with Barclaycard).

  16. Ben, to receive the benefits (group 1 boarding, free first check bag) of AAdvantage card, do I have to use the card when purchasing the ticket? That is, if I use non AAdvantage card, do I still get the benefit? Thanks.

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