You don’t have to get a personal credit card that’s part of a major rewards program to get a big sign-up bonus. There are a number of co-branded airline cards and business rewards cards out there that offer 50,000 miles or more to first-time cardholders.
In another post, we covered the best sign-up bonuses you can get in the Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and American Express Membership Rewards personal card lineups. For this post, we’ve put together a list of business and airline cards with the biggest bonuses. Consider adding them to your wallet for a quick boost to your miles or points balance.
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The Co-Branded Airline Credit Cards With the Biggest Bonuses
Three airlines offer cards with high sign-up bonuses: American, British Airways and Lufthansa.
|Sign-Up Bonus||Minimum Spend||Annual Fee|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®||50,000 miles||$5,000||$450|
|British Airways Visa Signature® Card||50,000 Avios||$3,000||$95|
|Miles & More® World Elite MasterCard®||50,000 miles||$5,000||$89|
Because it’s offered by a major U.S. carrier, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard will probably be the most useful card of the three. It’s also American Airlines’ premium offering, which means that it comes with a hefty annual fee and loads of perks.
For a $450 annual fee, you’ll get Admirals Club access, reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and 10,000 elite-qualifying miles annually. You also get the standard airline card perks, including a free checked bag, priority boarding and in-flight discounts. If you often fly on American, it could be worth the price.
You’ll have a lot of redemption options on American with just the sign-up bonus. You can book a round-trip domestic flight for 25,000 miles, or short-haul flights for just 7,500 miles each way. For 30,000 miles, you can fly roundtrip to the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America, and for 45,000, you can get to Hawaii and back. If you can be flexible with your travel dates and fly off peak, you can get roundtrip tickets between the U.S. to Europe for only 45,000 miles.
The British Airways Visa Signature card has the biggest bonus of all the airline cards, though you won’t get it all in the first three months. Earn up to 100,000 Avios: earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 on your purchases within your first year of account opening. On top of that, you’ll get 3X miles for British Airways purchases. Very few airline cards offer that level of earning.
British Airways may be infamous for adding hefty fuel surcharges and fees to their long-haul flights, but Avios are valuable for short flights, even after the recent devaluation. You can still get some short-haul routes outside the U.S. for 4,500 Avios one-way, but flights that originate or terminate in the U.S. now cost 7,500 Avios. While that’s a notable hike from 9,000 to 15,000 Avios roundtrip, those redemptions can still be a good deal, particularly for last-minute bookings.
In addition to a nice sign-up bonus, Lufthansa’s Miles & More card comes with a couple of excellent perks. You’ll get an annual companion pass, which allows a friend or family member to join you on a trip for only the cost of taxes and fees. The pass is good for flights from the U.S. to Europe, the Middle East, Africa or the Far East. That benefit alone could be worth hundreds of dollars. The card also comes with two free lounge passes annually.
In addition to being the frequent flyer program for Lufthansa, Miles & More miles can also be earned and redeemed on Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines and SWISS. Lufthansa offers excellent first class service between the U.S. and Europe.
While the cost of a first class transatlantic flight is 120,000 miles more than the sign-up bonus, it might be worth saving for. Booking a premium cabin award aboard Lufthansa through a partner airline is very difficult since the carrier reserves most those seats for its own frequent flyer program members.
If you’d rather not spend that much, Miles & More has great deals on domestic round-trip business class award tickets. You can fly from coast to coast for only 35,000 miles.
Other Airline Cards to Consider
If you’re thinking about getting a co-branded airline card, you’re likely to go with a carrier that you often fly on. That makes sense because the miles you earn cannot be transferred to other airlines. Plus, the added perks, like free checked bags and discounts, only apply to that airline.
If American, British Airways or Lufthansa aren’t carriers you often use, consider one of the cards below. None of them currently offer the biggest bonuses, but 30,000 miles isn’t bad. And sometimes airlines will run promotions that bump sign-up bonus to 50,000 miles, so it’s worth keeping an eye on them.
|Welcome Bonus||Minimum Spend||Annual Fee|
|Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card||50,000 miles||$3,000||$195|
|Chase United℠Explorer Credit Card||60,000 miles||$8,000||$0 first year $95 after that|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®||50,000 miles||$2,500||$99, waived for first 12 months|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express||30,000 miles||$1,000||$0 intro fee, then $95|
|Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card||30,000 miles||$1,000||$75|
It’s worth noting that the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature includes an annual companion fare which allows you to take a friend or family member along with you on any Alaska flight for $99 plus taxes and fees. You also get 3 points for Alaska tickets. That makes this card more valuable than many midlevel airline cards
Another card on this list with notable perks is the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express card. In addition to the standard bonus miles, you can also earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMS), which count toward elite status. Not many cards offer that, particularly for a midrange annual fee. It can be a valuable benefit if you’re chasing status.
If you’re a small business owner or an independent contractor, you can qualify for a business credit card. That’s good news because you can get the excellent Chase Ink Plus Business card which has the largest sign-up bonus currently offered. To get the 60,000-point bonus, you’ll have to spend $5,000 in the first 3 months, which works out to about $1,667 a month.
|Sign-Up Bonus||Minimum Spend||Annual Fee|
|Ink Plus® Business Credit Card||60,000 points||$5,000||$95 annual fee|
|Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business||50,000 miles||$4,500||$0 intro for first year; $95 after that|
|The Business Platinum Card from American Express||75,000 points||$20,000||$595|
In addition to having the best sign-up bonus, the Ink Plus card also has fantastic earning potential. You get quintuple points for office supplies, cell phones, landlines, internet and cable, and double points for gas and hotels. Bonus points for recurring bills, like phones, internet and gas, can add up fast.
Unlike the Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cards, Ink Plus gives you full access the Ultimate Rewards program. That means you can transfer those bonus points to any of the program’s six airline partners.
The Capital One Spark Miles Business card has the second largest bonus of the business cards, but it doesn’t allow you to transfer those miles to any airlines. Instead, you redeem miles for statement credits toward travel purchases. That’s fine, but you won’t get the most value for your points with this card.
The Amex Business Platinum card, like the personal Platinum card, comes with the largest sign-up bonus offered by American Express, plus it has a lot of perks. Unfortunately, it also comes with a steep $450 annual fee.
Sometimes American Express offers an impressive 75,000-point sign-up bonus with this card, but it typically comes with a huge minimum spend that you have to reach in the first three months of having the card. If you think you can make that goal, it might be worth holding out for that offer.
Personal Cards With Nontransferable Points
In general, cards that allow you transfer your points to airlines are best because you’ll typically get more value for your points by redeeming directly through a frequent flyer program. That’s applies to both co-branded airline cards and rewards cards with transfer points, such as the Sapphire Preferred and Amex Platinum.
If, on the other hand, you just want a travel card that works like a cash back card, giving you statement credits towards travel purchases, you should consider the Capital One Venture Rewards or Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite card. You won’t always get the most value for your miles, but these programs are very flexible and easy to use.
|Sign-Up Bonus||Minimum Spend||Annual Fee|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®||70,000 miles||$5,000||$89(waived first year)|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||50,000 miles||$3,000||$0 intro for first year; $95 after that|
The cards come with 70,000 miles and 50,000 miles sign-up bonuses and with reasonable annual fees.
Which Card Should You Get?
The Chase Ink Plus Business card is a great rewards card if you qualify for it. As part of the Ultimate Rewards program, you have a lot of redemption options, plus it has great earning potential, offering 5x points in several categories of purchases.
If you’re looking for a co-branded airline card, you should definitely go with an airline you frequently fly on. Miles and benefits are useless unless you use them. That said, I like both the Miles & More World Elite MasterCard and the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card because they have reasonable annual fees and they offer annual companion tickets. That perk can be worth hundreds of dollars if you use it wisely.