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What is a credit card sign-up offer?

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    A credit card sign-up offer (also known as a sign-up bonus) is an incentive or bonus for you to sign-up for a credit card and make purchases with the card. Many credit cards offer you a bonus for spending money over a certain period, where rewards points, cash back or airline miles may be offered to get you to apply.

    How a credit card sign-up offer works

    Most sign-up offers involve spending a required sum of money within a defined time that can range over a couple of months to several months. Once you meet the bonus requirements you will receive the sign-up bonus, which can be anything from points to cash back. If you receive points, you can save them up over time and redeem your points for various rewards that may include travel deals, gift cards, cash, and merchandise.

    Credit card sign-up offer: Benefits

    A credit card sign-up offer may help you earn reward points at an accelerated rate along with the reward points you may earn with everyday spending.

    To make the most of your credit card sign-up offer, make sure you meet the purchase requirements within the specified amount of time, for example spending $2,000 within three months. You should also make sure to pay your balance in full to avoid interest charges and late payment penalties on your spending.

    How to earn a sign-up bonus offer

    The simplest way to find a sign-up bonus offer that meets your qualifications is to look through your pre-qualified offers, which can be found either in your mail or by checking online with your credit card issuer's available offers.

    If you are just looking for attractive sign-up bonus offers and applying without pre-qualification, you should know that:

    • your credit score and factors of your income will be used to evaluate your application and
    • each application you make will require a "hard inquiry," where multiple hard inquiries over a short time period may hurt your credit score.

    If your credit card application is approved, keep track of what the sign-up offer requires, including how much you need to spend and the time you have to spend it, and manage your spending accordingly to make sure you get the bonus.

    Sign-up bonus offers: Purchase requirements

    Spending requirements for credit card sign-up offers can vary. Depending on the size of your sign-up bonus offer, you might have to spend anywhere from $500 to $15,000 in purchases.

    When you have a big purchase coming up, look through your available offers to help you find a card with the best sign-up bonus offer so you can get the most value from your big spend.

    Sign-up bonus offers: Spending time frames

    After signing up for your credit card, the time frame you have to meet the spending requirements can range from a few months to the first year of opening your new card. Check the terms and conditions of your sign-up bonus offer to understand how long you will have to make the purchases that allow you to earn the bonus.

    How a sign-up bonus offer lands on your card

    Once you have spent the required amount during the initial bonus period, your sign-up bonus will appear on your rewards balance after a few billing cycles.

    When this is cash back, you can often request that the cash be sent as a check or it can be applied to your existing account.

    When your sign-up bonus includes reward points, the points will accumulate with the rest of your points balance, allowing you to redeem through the credit card rewards program.

    How do you know which sign-up offer is right for you?

    When searching for a credit card with a sign-up offer, you should find the best sign-up bonus for you by looking for:

    • an offer that matches your reward preferences, and
    • an offer where you can meet the sign-up bonus spending requirements.

    Are the bonus rewards right for you?

    If you like to travel, look for an offer with incentives such as hotel stays or airline miles. Since the offer will require you to spend a certain amount of money over a period of time, you should choose an incentive that makes use of your current spending habits.

    Can you repay the amount you spend?

    Before committing to earning a sign-up bonus for a credit card, be sure that you are able to pay your balance as quickly as you can. Otherwise, your account may start to accrue interest. If the reason you want to sign-up is to get the rewards, make sure that the sign-up offer won't cause you to accumulate more debt in the process.

    How to redeem your bonus reward points

    The bonus points or miles you earn on your credit card can be redeemed for rewards. Depending on the credit card, you can choose between rewards such as travel deals, cash back, airline miles, and merchandise. Choose which credit card you want to use based on the sign-up offer you think will benefit you the most. If the spending requirements match your budget and you will easily be able to pay back how much you owe, you can earn cash back or great rewards as you spend on your new card.

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