Those whopping credit card sign-up bonuses get a lot of attention, but often those cards come with sky-high annual fees. That’s not always the case, though. A big sign-up bonus can simply mean a large return for your money.
In other words, sometimes cards offer a bounty of points and perks just for using the card for everyday purchases.
Here are four credit cards that are at the top of my mind for their extraordinary sign-up bonuses and other perks:
Chase Sapphire Reserve
This credit card with an eye-popping 100,000-points sign-up bonus and $450 annual fee proved so popular that Chase ran out of the metal cards and was issuing plastic substitutes.
What has made this card a runaway hit? That bonus, with an estimated value of around $1,500, has helped win over millennials, an age group that had been thought to be credit averse. Three millennials I spoke with this month already have big travel plans for that huge haul of points.
The downside? To get those 100,000 points, cardholders must spend $4,000 in the first three months. Oh, and sign up for the Reserve soon. That 100,000 sign-up bonus will shrink to 50,000 points if you apply for the card online after Jan. 12. If you apply in person at a Chase branch, you can still get that 100,000 points bonus before March 12.
Beyond the bonus, though, Reserve offers a cornucopia of benefits for travelers, including a $300 annual travel credit, $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, no foreign transaction fees and access to more than 900 airport lounges.
If I were more of a jet-setter and didn’t worry that I might not spend $4,000 in three months, this card would be perfect for me. And I’d be sure to get those 100,000 points while I still can.
Blue Cash for Business from American Express
The no-annual-fee Blue Cash for Business Credit Card from American Express has a sign-up bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points. That’s a swell bonus for a no annual fee card. Maybe more notable than the sign-up bonus is how the cardholder is showered with points for everyday spending.
For example, Blue Cash for Business cardholders can earn 10x points at U.S. restaurants for the first six months, 2x points on all qualifying purchases on the first $50,000 for the first year, and a 30 percent annual bonus based on the cardholder’s spending.
For example, if a cardholder spends $50,000 in the first year, that would be a bonus of 15,000 points.
The card also has a 0 percent interest rate for the first 12 months, then a variable rate based on creditworthiness at the account opening.
The fine print: The 10x points at U.S. restaurants is good on up to $2,000 in purchases, and the offer expires Feb. 2, 2017.
Note that you don’t have to be a business owner to get a business card. But there are differences between consumer cards and business cards, the biggest likely is that business cards don’t have the same consumer protections.
As often as I eat out, this might be a good fit for me.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
For a traveler who would rather not pay a sky-high annual fee, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard has a lofty sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles for a more down-to-Earth $89 annual fee that’s waived the first year.
How much is 50,000 bonus miles worth? That’s enough to redeem for a $500 statement credit.
Everyday purchases earn 2x miles, and there are no foreign transaction fees, which can save a cardholder traveling abroad.
If only I traveled more! But then again, maybe this card’s sign-up bonus miles could help pay for my next vacation…
Amazon.com Rewards Visa
This is the card I most recently added to my own wallet. Why? The Amazon.com Rewards Visa sign-up bonus is a $50 Amazon gift card that’s loaded on your Amazon account. That’s nothing in comparison to many other offers, but big is in the eye of the cardholder.
I’m increasingly using Amazon to buy books and even our dog’s Greenies treats (it’s cheaper to order them online and have them delivered than to buy them in pet stores), so why not get a bonus for getting the card and rewards on my spending?
The no-annual-fee Amazon card’s rewards include 3 percent back at Amazon; 2 percent back at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores; and 1 percent back on all other purchases. And I like that when I order something on Amazon, at checkout I’m asked if I want to apply my rewards to that new purchase. No fuss with redeeming points or miles.
For me, that $50 Amazon gift card meant about $100 for books for my summer reading and a birthday present cost me half of that.
But maybe it’s time for me to add yet another card to my wallet. There are vacations to take in the months ahead. If I can save on some of the costs with a travel card’s sign-up bonus, that just makes sense.
See related: Guide: How to choose the right credit card