Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
The easiest way to earn lots of miles and points for your next vacation is credit card sign-up bonuses. But there are so many great cards and the offers are constantly changing.
I’ll tell you my top picks!
New to This Hobby?
The fastest way to earn miles and points for Big Travel with Small Money is from credit card sign-up bonuses and spending. But you should keep these tips in mind before you start applying for credit cards:
- Read the 5 Dangers of Applying for Credit Cards – The hobby isn’t for everyone, so make sure you know the risks.
- Start Out Slow – I recommend folks who are new to this sign-up for 1 or 2 cards, until they’re comfortable. This will give you time to see how your credit is impacted and if you’re able to pay your bills on time.
- Have a Plan Before You Start Applying for Cards – Some folks sign-up for multiple cards each quarter and others prefer to wait for the big sign-up bonuses.
- Set Your Travel Goals – Where and how do you want to travel? Then figure out which miles or points will get you there. Otherwise, you may wind up with points that aren’t useful to you.
- Make Sure You Can Meet Minimum Spending Requirements – See my post on 40+ Ways to Meet Minimum Spending for tips.
My Favorite New & Limited Time Offers
Several cards have increased their sign-up bonuses lately and some of these deals are ending soon. Here’s a look at my top 5 picks:
1. AMEX Starwood
Link: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Link: Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
The AMEX Starwood personal and small business cards both currently offer an increased bonus of 30,000 Starwood points when you complete the minimum spending.
This deal is 5,000 Starwood points more than the usual sign-up bonus and has only come around once a year for the past 4 years. The extra points can be worth ~$200 or more in hotel stays. So this is an excellent deal!
Aside from increasing the sign-up bonus, there are new perks (Boingo internet, NO foreign transaction fees, & more) that make the AMEX Starwood cards a better deal than they were before.
But this is the last day to sign-up and earn the increased bonus, because this deal ends September 14, 2015, (tomorrow)!
I like earning Starwood points because you can transfer them to ~30+ airline partners, like American Airlines or British Airways.
Plus, you get 5,000 bonus points for every 20,000 points you convert to airline miles. This makes putting your everyday spending on the AMEX Starwood personal or small business card a better option than using an airline branded card.
2. Citi Hilton Visa Signature
What I like about this card is it has NO annual fee, so you never have to cancel. And 75,000 Hilton points is enough for up to 20 award nights at Hilton category 1 hotels or up to 10 award nights at Hilton category 2 hotels.
You can also use your Hilton points for more luxurious stays. See my list of 10 hotel suggestions.
3. AMEX Simply Cash
This offer is set to end September 21, 2015. The expiration date on this deal has been extended a few times, but I don’t know if that will happen again.
What I like about this card is there’s NO annual fee and you can earn 5% cash back at US office supply stores (and on US cell phone service).
Office supply stores like Staples carry gift cards to other stores like Amazon, movie theaters, and restaurants. So you can earn 5% cash back in even more categories!
4. Chase Southwest Cards
Link: Chase Southwest Premier
It’s now easier to earn the Southwest Companion Pass (a friend can fly with you for up to 2 years)! That’s because you can earn 50,000 Southwest points with both the Chase Southwest Premier personal and small business cards when you complete the minimum spending.
The $99 annual fee on each card is NOT waived.
We don’t earn a commission on the Chase Southwest Premier small business card, but we’ll always tell you about the best deals!
5. Citi AAdvantage Executive
This card does come with a $450 annual fee. But 75,000 American Airlines miles can be worth much more than that! For example, you could use the miles for a 1-way First Class flight to Europe. Or 2 round-trip (off-peak) coach ticket to Hawaii!
Plus, you’ll get access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges (free drinks, snacks, and Wi-Fi).
This card will also save you money each time you fly American Airlines and US Airways, because you’ll get the 1st checked bag free for you and up to 8 travel companions on the same reservation.
4 Cards That Are Still Great Deals!
These offers have been around for a while now, but they’re still some of the best deals out there!
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
It’s no secret that the Chase Sapphire Preferred is 1 of my favorite cards. That’s because you can earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining, both categories where I do a lot of spending!
You can earn 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the 1st 3 months of opening your Chase Sapphire Preferred account. And the $95 annual fee is waived the 1st year.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are very flexible. With airline, hotel, and rail partners you have lots of options when it comes to using your points.
I prefer to transfer my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to partners like United Airlines and Hyatt.
2. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
With the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card, you can earn 2 weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) nights at almost any Hilton hotel when you complete the minimum spending. That’s why it’s my favorite Hilton hotel card!
Plus, you can now earn a $100 statement credit after you spend $100 or more on your 1st stay at a Hilton Hotel within the 1st 3 months of opening your account.
This more than covers the $95 annual fee, which is NOT waived for the 1st year.
To get this deal, make a test reservation at Hilton.com and the offer should appear in a banner on the page. Emily and I don’t earn a commission on this offer, but we’ll always tell you about the best sign-up bonuses.
My series on the top Hilton hotels to use your 2 weekend nights, may give you some ideas on where to stay!
3. Citi Prestige
Link: Citi Prestige Card
You can use 50,000 Citi ThankYou points with transfer partners like Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Or use them to book up to $800 in American Airlines flights through the Citi Travel Portal through July 23, 2017!
And even through this card comes with a hefty $450 annual fee that’s NOT waived the 1st year, you can come out $50 ahead with the statement credits alone!
That’s because you’ll earn:
- $250 airline statement credit (good towards airfare and other airline fees) in 2015
- Another $250 airline statement credit in 2016 before you have to pay your next annual fee
Plus, you’ll get other perks like a $100 credit for your Global Entry application, lounge access, and more!
So this is a fantastic deal!
4. Citi ThankYou Premier
The $95 annual fee is waived for the 1st year.
You can redeem the 50,000 Citi ThankYou points for $625 worth of airfare booked through the Citi Travel Center. And if you have the Citi Prestige card, they can be worth up to $800 in flights on American Airlines through July 23, 2017!
Or you can transfer your points to partners like Virgin Atlantic for award flights to Hawaii or Flying Blue for good deals on award flights to Europe!
Cards like the AMEX Starwood personal and small business and AMEX SimplyCash increased sign-up bonuses are ending soon. (Tomorrow is the last day for the AMEX Starwood cards!)
You can always find a list of the latest offers in the Hot Deals page. Which are your favorites?