Signing up for a credit card can come with all kinds of benefits, from earning rewards—such as cash back—to perks such as access to airline lounges. But as banks increasingly compete for new customers there's another benefit: great sign-up bonuses.

A growing number of credit card offers come from rewards cards that are offering attractive sign-up bonuses in addition to their standard cash-back rewards. 

As long as you pay off your bill in full each month, the sign-up bonuses and the ongoing rewards can help lessen the impact of your holiday spending.


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Currently, some credit card offers include hefty cash-back bonuses for spending as little as $500 over three months, something that isn’t hard to do during the holiday season. That could mean an effective discount of up to 30 percent, on top of any other deals you find. 

“This is probably the best time in the history of the credit card business for sign-up bonuses,” says Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com

As banks try to provide all kinds of incentives to maintain customers and bring in new ones, they are likely to also be more willing to waive a fee or reduce an interest rate.

Generous credit card offers such as sign-up bonuses won't be of much use to you unless you pay your balance in full. Otherwise, interest, penalties, and fees could surpass the bonus amount.

“If you’re somebody who isn’t able to keep track of several cards or is having trouble making payments on the cards you have, then getting another card probably isn’t smart,” Schulz says.

But if you do pay on time and can handle another credit card, a cash-back card is the best kind of card to get. You can find out the best cash-back credit cards for you based on your spending patterns using our Credit Card Adviser Comparison Tool.

The cards listed below charge no fee and offer great bonuses with small spending requirements. 

Sign-Up Bonuses for Rewards Cards

Rewards Credit Card

Sign-Up Bonus Offer

Chase Freedom

$150 in cash back after you spend $500 in the first 3 months.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

$150 in cash back after you spend $500 in the first 3 months.

CapitalOne Quicksilver$100 in cash back after you spend $500 in the first 3 months.
Bank of America BankAmericard Cash Rewards $100 in cash back after you spend $500 in the first 3 months.
American Express Blue Cash Everyday$100 in cash back after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus 10% back at Amazon, up to $200, in the first 6 months.

Here are a few other things to consider before you apply for a new rewards credit card:

Find the best bonus. To qualify for the sign-up bonus, you’ll have to spend a certain dollar amount first. Some cards require only a few hundred dollars, and others can run you a few thousand. “One of the worst things you can do with a credit card is overspend just to get rewards,” Schulz advises. Do the math beforehand, and make sure you can afford (and pay off) the amount required to earn the bonus.

Get the offer you're after. Credit card offers with sign-up bonuses are essentially marketing tactics, and certain sites might advertise different deals. If you’re interested in a specific bonus, make sure the application you use confirms the details of the offer. When in doubt, call the card issuer directly.

Consider your financial goals. Before chasing a sign-up bonus, think through your upcoming financial priorities. “If you know you’re going to be doing a refinance or applying for a mortgage, opening up new credit cards can impact that, so be aware of the bigger picture,” says Douglas Wells, a financial planner and partner at Albion Financial Group in Salt Lake City.

Beware of annual fees. Not all credit cards charge an annual fee, but the ones that do typically waive it for the first year. Though canceling a card can ding your credit score, if you sign up for a card because of an enticing sign-up bonus but don’t plan to use it going forward, you’re better off closing it than continuing to pay an annual fee.

“Make a note on your calendar to cancel it when you’ve had the card for 10 or 11 months, so you don’t hold onto it long enough to get hit with an annual fee,” Schulz says. “If there’s no annual fee, then you may as well just stash it in a desk or cut it up, but don’t cancel it.”

Set up autopay. No matter how organized you are, life can get busy and credit card payments can be overlooked. Even just one late payment can drag down your credit score. Make the payments on all of your cards automatic so that you’re not at risk of missing one.

Credit Card Adviser Comparison Tool