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Introductory bonuses offered by many rewards credit cards allow cardholders the chance to earn a substantial number of rewards points or cash back for making purchases with their new card. Some of the best credit cards offer lucrative intro bonuses that can help offset the cost of future travel and other purchases. Here are our top picks for the best intro bonuses right now, and why you might want to apply for each.
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Chase Freedom Flex℠
Intro bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. New cardholders can also take advantage of 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months, then 19.24% to 27.99% variable. For ongoing balance transfers, cardholders will pay a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Annual fee: $0
Reasons to get it: This card is a fantastic all-around earner since it accrues cash back at the following rates:
- 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in designated bonus categories each quarter when you activate
- 5% when making travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 3% on dining, including purchases at restaurants, takeout and orders from eligible delivery services
- 3% on purchases from drugstores
- 1% on other eligible purchases
Drawbacks: Although you can combine the points you earn on this card with transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards® points you earn with a more upscale counterpart, if you only have the Chase Freedom Flex℠, your rewards are best redeemed as simple cash back.Read full review
Chase Freedom Flex℠
19.24% - 27.99% Variable
5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter! Plus, earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
5% Cash Back on Travel purchased through Chase
3% Cash Back on Dining
1% Cash Back on All Other Purchases
Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening!
- Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
- 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
- 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
- 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 19.24% - 27.99%.
- No annual fee - You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Flex℠ card
- Keep tabs on your credit health - Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Intro bonus: Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's worth $750 when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Annual fee: $95
Reasons to get it: This card provides ample ways to earn rewards and excellent travel and other benefits for a moderate annual fee. It earns 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 points per dollar on dining, 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases and 1 point on everything else. Chase points are useful when redeemed for travel through the Chase portal, and can also be transferred to Chase airline and hotel partners. The card offers some great travel protections including primary auto rental insurance and trip interruption and cancellation coverage.
Drawbacks: Its $95 annual fee is something to consider, and you might not get the most out of the card if travel and dining aren't two of your major expenses. The $4,000 spending requirement for its intro bonus is another major consideration.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
20.24% - 27.24% Variable
Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
3x Points on Dining
2x Points on Other Travel
1x Points on All Other Purchases
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
How to Earn an Intro Bonus
Earning an intro bonus is straightforward.
- Apply for a new credit card. The first thing you'll need to do is find a new credit card that meets your needs and for which you qualify. Then make sure it's offering a decent introductory bonus, or you might want to hold off since intro bonuses often change.
- Use your card to make purchases. Most intro bonuses carry spending requirements. Verify the terms of any new cards you open so that you hit any dollar thresholds needed to earn the intro bonus. The easiest way of doing this is by using your new card for all of your purchases until you meet that spending requirement.
- Watch the clock. Those spending requirements often come with time limits, such as three or six months. Keep an eye on the calendar and make sure you complete all the spending necessary within the prescribed window.
Credit Card Bonus Caveats
There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to earn an intro bonus.
- Don't overspend in pursuit of an intro bonus. No matter how big or attractive an intro bonus is, it's not worth overspending and carrying long-term debt. Doing so will rack up interest charges that negate the value of any rewards you earn.
- Double-check eligibility requirements. Credit cards often publish eligibility requirements. These sometimes have to do with whether you've previously carried the same card that you're applying for now, or even if you've had another card from the same issuer recently. Go over the rules before applying.
- Only purchases count toward spending requirements. Some credit cards require you to pay their annual fee as soon as you open the card, and it might seem logical to think the fee counts toward the intro bonus spending requirement. However, only purchases (not annual fees or balance transfers) count toward that dollar minimum.
Best Ways to Redeem Bonus Rewards
Before you even apply for a new credit card, you should think about the ways you might want to redeem the rewards from its intro bonus.
Based on which card you apply for, you might earn cash back, transferable points, airline miles or hotel points. So how you redeem them will depend on the specific card you carry.
Maximize Your Value
The best ways to redeem various rewards points are usually right in their name.
- Cash back: One of the best things about cash back rewards is how easy they are to earn and redeem. Each point is usually worth 1 cent apiece, and then you can typically redeem them directly for credits toward purchases on your monthly statement. This makes it simple to ensure you're getting a good rate of return on everyday spending.
- Travel rewards: Although you can redeem some types of travel rewards, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards® and Capital One Miles, for non-travel options, in general, you should save these points for travel bookings. You tend to get more value from them this way. Make sure that each point you redeem from a travel rewards program is getting you at least 1 cent in value. If you're not hitting that mark, it might be worth waiting until another option (or a future trip where you can use rewards) arises.
Avoid Low-Value Redemptions
If you earn rewards such as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards®, stick to travel redemptions and stay away from the following.
- Merchandise: Forget the online malls that some rewards programs field; you won't get the best value from cashing in your points this way.
- Statement credits: Although cash back rewards are great for statement credits toward purchases, with travel rewards, you often get a lower rate of return on travel rewards redeemed this way, so steer clear.
- Pay with points: You can also use some types of credit card points to pay for new purchases, such as using Amex points at checkout with certain merchants or via PayPal. Like the other options here, though, this tends to be a poor value.
Earning a new credit card's intro bonus is a fast way to rake in hundreds or even thousands of dollars in travel or other rewards. While you do have to be approved, and then meet any spending requirements necessary, doing so is often easy and well worth it. Before you apply, though, make sure that you will not be stretching yourself financially, and that you have some clear ideas for how to use the rewards you'll earn. That way, you can ensure you get the most value possible from your intro bonus. Take a look at current credit card offers and find products personalized to your profile via Experian CreditMatch™.