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These are the travel cards with the best bonuses

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These are the travel cards with the best bonuses

Million Mile SecretsThese are the travel cards with the best bonusesMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Rewards credit card welcome bonuses are the fastest way, hands down, to accumulate points and jump-start your next free adventure. So naturally, a common question is which bonus is the biggest or the best.

First, it’s important to understand that not all miles and points are created equal – 150,000 points offered by one travel credit card may not be nearly as valuable as 80,000 points offered by another.

Credit cards with the best welcome bonuses:

Let’s take a look at each.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Current bonus:  Up to 100,000 Delta miles

Through April 1, 2020, the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card has a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 miles: Earn 80,000 miles after spending $3,000 on your card in the first three months and earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after your first account anniversary.

The welcome bonus alone is worth at least $1,000 when using Delta’s Pay With Miles feature.

You’ll also earn 3x Delta miles per dollar spent on eligible Delta purchases, 3x Delta miles per dollar on purchases made directly with hotels, 2x Delta miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and 1 Delta mile per dollar spent on everything else. Plus, each year when you renew the card, you will receive a companion certificate that allows you to add another passenger to a domestic round-trip flight reservation for only the cost of taxes and fees, among other card benefits like free checked bags.

Annual fee

The Amex Delta SkyMiles Platinum annual fee is. $250 (see rates and fees).

The welcome offer from this one card can have you flying in style in no time. (Photo courtesy of Delta)

Why it’s worth it

If you fly even a small handful of times with Delta, you can get incredible value from this card. The value of the welcome bonus alone makes the annual fee worthwhile, not to mention other perks like the annual companion certificate and free checked bags. Inflight savings and discounted Delta Sky Club access give you plenty of opportunities to get tons of value out of the card, too.

If this particular Delta card doesn’t fit your needs, don’t forget, all of the Amex SkyMiles Delta cards are offering increased welcome bonuses through April 1, 2020.

Current bonus: 150,000 Hilton points

The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express currently comes with 150,000 Hilton points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. We estimate the value of Hilton points to be 0.5 cents each on average. With this gigantic bonus, you should have no trouble receiving at least $750 in value when staying at Hilton hotels — and it’s possible to receive way, way more.

For example, you can book Hilton’s most inexpensive hotels for between 5,000 and 10,000 points per night. Using your points for these hotels nearly guarantees you’ll receive more value for your points than just 0.5 cents. And although most of these low-cost hotels are uninspiring, there are some exceptions.

The Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort is a five-star property in Egypt, bookable for just 5,000 Hilton points. Room rates can be $140 per night, meaning you’ll receive a value of 2.8 cents per point at this hotel. If you were to use your welcome bonus here, you could book 30 nights and save $4,200.

You can find plenty of other amazing (and closer to home) deals in the Hilton portfolio, as well. The five-star Waldorf Astoria collection of hotels is a Hilton hotel brand, and they’re often a good use of points.

The Amex Hilton Aspire is amazing in its bonus and benefits. (Photo by Wyatt Smith)

Annual fee

$450 (see rates and fees)

Why it’s worth it

One of the biggest upsides of this card is the complimentary Diamond Hilton status you receive just for having the card. You get perks like:

  • 100% bonus Hilton points (20 total points per dollar at most hotels)
  • Free space-available room upgrade (up to one-bedroom suite)
  • Complimentary breakfast at all hotels

The card also comes with one annual weekend night free at nearly any Hilton hotel, up to $500+ in statement credits annually for various travel purchases, unlimited access to 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide, and much more. Read our full Hilton Aspire review for all the details or the perks and benefits guide for a deep dive into all the extras that come with the card, including a $250 airline fee credit card $250 Hilton resort credit.

Current bonus: 75,000 Amex Membership Rewards points

We estimate that the value of Amex points is generally two cents each, though they can be worth much less or much more depending on how you use them. Redeeming them through Amex transfer partners is the best way to use Amex points, and you may find yourself receiving a return of seven cents per point in some cases.

For example, you can transfer 110,000 Amex Membership Rewards points to Air Canada for a round-trip business-class flight to Paris. That same seat costs $5,000+, meaning you received a value of 4.5 cents each ($5,000 ticket price/110,000 points).

You should get your Air Canada boarding pass when you check in for a United flight on the same itinerary.
A transatlantic business class flight aboard an Air Canada 777-300. (Photo by Zach Honig)

Read our American Express points review for more details of how you can use Membership Rewards.

Annual fee

$595 (see rates and fees)

Why it’s worth it

Amex only allows you to receive the welcome bonus on each of their cards one time, so it’s imperative that you apply when the bonus is large and we’ve seen 100,000 point offers in the past. Granted, the minimum spending requirement is usually higher.

The card comes with perks like up to $400 in various statement credits each year, mid-tier hotel and rental car elite status, an unparalleled airport lounge access benefit, and much more. Read our review of the American Express Business Platinum.

Current bonus: 100,000 United Airlines miles

The value of United miles value is a tricky calculation. This is, in part, because United doesn’t use an award chart. They charge whatever they want, based on route, date, availability and plenty of other unknown factors.

In general, you can bank on receiving 1.3 cents in value when redeeming for free flights. That makes this gigantic bonus worth $1,300 in free flights. Again, to understand the miles you’ll need for your desired travel, you’ll have to check that particular flight.

I priced a random route between my hometown of Cincinnati and Oslo, Norway. This ticket can easily cost $1,000+ — but it only costs 60,000 United miles. By the time you’ve met minimum spending requirements on this card, you’ll have enough for two round-trip coach flights to Norway.

Use 120,000 United miles to book two round-trip coach flights to visit Lofoten Island, Norway. (Photo by Luke Wait/Shutterstock)

Annual fee

$95

Why it’s worth it

The 100,000-mile bonus is unprecedented for a United Airlines credit card. Most United cards come with a 40,000-mile intro offer. Even if you haven’t previously considered this card but are able to spend $10,000 in three months, this is a card to jump on. For more details on the card and the perks it offers, read our United Explorer Business card review.

Current bonus: 100,000 Chase points

The best way to use Chase points is by transferring them to valuable Chase transfer partners, like Hyatt, Southwest, Iberia and Singapore Airlines. You can accomplish just about any travel goal with Chase points by transferring. For example, with this bonus you can transfer 35,000 points to Singapore Airlines for a round-trip coach flight to Hawaii. You can then transfer 40,000 points to Hyatt for two free nights at the stunning Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort, only steps away from the beach.

At the Hyatt Regency Waikiki I used points for the hotel and points for the flight. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secretes)

Annual fee

$95

Why it’s worth it

If you’re in the miles and points hobby, you need to be collecting Chase points (read our Chase Ultimate Rewards review). They’re quite possibly the most valuable of all points currencies, and they’re super-easy to earn. For example, the Ink Business Preferred earns 3 points per dollar spent on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines (up to a maximum of $150,000 in combined purchases per account anniversary year). If you’re a small business owner with any of those expenses, you’ll make out like a bandit.

Read our Ink Business Preferred review for full details, the card also includes perks like cellphone insurance and purchase protection.

Current bonus: Up to 100,000 Southwest points

This is by far the largest current Southwest bonus. But the best part is that it’ll get you well over halfway to the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to bring a travel buddy with you every time you fly Southwest for just the cost of taxes and fees. You need to amass 125,000 qualifying Southwest points to earn it. This is your most effective move if a Companion Pass is your goal.

My wife and I saved $900+ by using the Companion Pass that we earned with points from Southwest credit cards. (Photo by Wyatt Smith)

Annual fee

$199

Why it’s worth it

The card also comes with the best Southwest benefits of any card. You’ll receive:

  • Four upgraded boardings each year (between A1 and A15)
  • Up to 365 credits each year worth $8 toward inflight Wi-Fi
  • 9,000 anniversary points (worth $135 in flights)
  • 3 Southwest points per dollar on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car purchases
  • Statement credit of up to $100 for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee

If you’re a frequent Southwest flyer, this is the biggest no-brainer you’ll find. Read our Southwest Performance Business credit card review for the full details and our perks and benefits guides for an in-depth look at the rewarding extras the card comes with.

Current bonus: 65,000 American Airlines miles

  • Miami to Los Angeles for 5,000 miles each way
  • San Francisco to New York for 5,000 miles each way
  • Boston to Los Angeles for 5,000 miles each way
  • Los Angeles to New Zealand for 5,000 miles each way

American Airlines miles are becoming one of the best miles to have in reserve. Just keep them until a wild deal pops up.

Annual fee

$99 (waived for the first 12 months)

Why it’s worth it

This is a nice bonus for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select. The card also comes with the ability to receive up to a 7,500-mile discount whenever you book American Airlines’ reduced mileage awards. You’ll also receive perks like priority boarding and the first checked bag free for you and up to four companions on the same reservation. This can save you $60 per person, per round-trip.

Check out our CitiBusiness AAdvantage review.

Current bonus: 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points

The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Again, we find that the value of Chase points hovers around 2 cents per point (though they can be worth much more). That makes this welcome bonus worth $1,200 in travel.

If you utilize Chase transfer partners like Iberia, Flying Blue or Singapore Airlines, you can potentially receive unthinkable value for your points. For example, you can transfer 34,000 Chase points to Iberia for a one-way, lie-flat business-class seat to Madrid from Chicago. That exact seat costs $7,000+ (though it should be noted that you can find non-Iberia business-class flights for less money). This means you’re receiving a value of 20 cents per point ($7,000 seat / 34,000 points)!

I’ve used Iberia Avios points to book two transatlantic business-class flights. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to find availability considering it’s such an award sweet spot.

Iberia business-class seats are a steal at 34,000 points each way. (Photo by Benji Stawski)

Annual fee

$95

Why it’s worth it

This is one of the best Chase credit cards available. You can redeem the points you earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred for 1.25 cents each when you use them to pay for travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal. You can even transfer the Chase points you earn from other no-annual-fee Chase cards to this card and they are instantly worth 1.25 cents each through the Chase Portal.

This card has a long list of valuable benefits, such as primary rental car insurance (which can easily save $15+ per day when you rent a car) and high-end trip delay and baggage delay insurance (sure to save you hundreds if you travel with any frequency).

Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred review for the full details.

How we choose the best bonuses

The bonus itself

Even though not all points are created equal, the number of points you earn from each bonus is still important. Sometimes the value of the bonus itself can offset the cost of the annual fee for a decade. So if the bonus was big enough and the points valuable enough, it made this list.

Flexibility of Rewards

The more flexibility you have when redeeming your points, the more valuable they are. That’s why we mostly listed cards with transferrable points since having more options is always better. For instance, if you have Amex points and want to fly to Europe, you can transfer to a number partners each which are in a different airline alliance, meaning you’re not boxed into a few airlines. It can also allow you to take advantage of different sweet spots in each airline’s award chart.

For airline co-branded cards, you can use their miles for big value on a multitude of partners (other than Southwest, but they don’t have blackout dates).

Bottom line

All of these cards have annual fees (some are significantly high), so make sure you like the card’s ongoing benefits or you’ll find yourself canceling the card after ~11 months to avoid paying the fee. And if you want to do more card comparisons, check out our our list of best business credit cards and best travel cards. Let me know what your next card is on this list! And subscribe to our newsletter for more credit card miles and points analysis like this.

Some bonus valuations based on MMS valuations and not provided by issuer.

For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, please click here.

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases – with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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