Which credit cards to get for the signup bonus

August 8, 2015

by — Posted in Guide to Credit Hacking

Straightforward post today. Hopefully I’ll be able to flesh this out later if necessary, but in Lithuania right now, it’s 10:47PM on Saturday, and I owe $10 to my wife if I don’t get this out tonight, so let’s do it!

Question: Which credit cards should I get for the signup bonus?

Fantastic question! Answer: Get cards with really high signup bonuses – ideally, around their maximum bonus ever offered as per “When to apply for a credit card“, and with other bonuses for the first year, such as a waived annual fee and other goodies.

Typically, the cards with what are classically perceived as ‘high signup bonuses’ are airline rewards cards, such as the Citibank AAdvantage Card (50,000 miles or better), or the Chase United MileagePlus card (50-60,000 miles or better), or the Chase Southwest Premier cards (50,000 miles or better).

However, that’s certainly not the only kind of signup bonus you can get, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, the AMEX Ameriprise certainly falls into the category of an incredible card you should probably get, despite the fact that the signup points bonus in of itself is rather low – 25,000 miles after $3000 spend, versus the typical 50,000 or more you should be aiming for per card. This is because you get a host of other signup benefits along with the points bonus: the typical annual fee of $450 is waived for the first year, you have full Priority Pass and Centurion airport lounge access and more (I’ve visited lounges more than 10 times already on the card I got in April, which by itself at retail cost of $50 per visit would come out to more than $500 in value, not even taking into account all the guests I’ve brought with me), you have full Boingo global hotspot access, you get your $100 Global Entry fee reimbursed, and so on, and so on.

I would consider all of these benefits signup bonuses, and consequently it pays to look at the big picture holistically. What are they offering you above and beyond the simple bonus miles?

Another example is the Southwest Companion Pass: when you earn 110,000 or more miles in one year, including miles earned through credit cards, on Southwest, you receive a Companion Pass good until the end of next year, allowing one companion to travel for free with you on every single Southwest flight you take – effectively halving the price of all your reward redemptions and cash ticket purchases. This is hands down the best deal in airlines available, and one of the easiest ‘ultimate perks’ to get: all you have to do is open two Southwest credit cards at the same time when both are offering a signup bonus of 50,000 miles each, and manufacture $10,000 of spend on the cards, and you’ve got yourself a companion pass good for up to potentially 2 years.

Taking this into account, the signup bonus on these cards is far greater than first appears at face value.

Hope these examples shed some light on how to comprehensively appraise the true value of a given credit card’s ‘signup bonus’, and consequently whether or not you should take the deal and get that card.

Till next time! Happy Christmas!


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