The Best Credit Card Sign-up Bonuses of 2021

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With the global economy reopening after a COVID-induced shutdown, many credit card companies are offering enticing sign-up bonuses.

While thousands of bonus points and introductory cashback offers are often the go-to bonuses credit card companies offer, some companies are breaking new ground by offering eco-friendly incentives and paving the way to a greener future for all of us.

Sign-up bonuses

We’ve all seen them—sign-up bonus offers from a sea of credit card issuers, promising bonus reward points, travel miles, or lucrative cash-back offers for the first 12 months.

But not all sign-up offers are created equal. With hundreds of seemingly perfect bonuses up for grabs, it can be tough to try and sift through to find the right card for you. 

Here’s why sign-up bonuses matter

Most card issuers offer the same basic type of sign-up bonus to their future cardholders – usually some kind of financial, points-based reward. Whether this means travel miles or points that you can accumulate and later cash-in for hotel stays and concert tickets, there’s an ideal sign-up bonus for everyone.

Some sign-up bonuses, however, come with a catch, so it’s important to read the fine print. 

For example, it may appear that a company is offering you 100,000 bonus points/$1250 for simply signing up, but when you read the fine print, you might discover that you only receive those points after you charge $4k on your card within the first three months of opening your account.

To make sure you sign up for the card that ticks all of your financial (and ethical) boxes, we’ve broken down the types of bonuses that might appeal to you.

Different types of bonuses 

Here are the most popular bonuses that credit card companies tend to offer new members:

Travel miles

With the travel industry reopening post-lockdown, it’s perhaps not surprising that countless people are experiencing travel fever! From Rome to Bangkok to San Francisco, travel miles are a hot commodity, (and a welcome invitation) back to our pre-COVID travel days. 

Not to mention the additional perks that can come with travel miles – priority boarding, access to VIP airside lounges, first-class upgrades, and so much more.

A promise of 60k-100k travel miles can be pretty tempting – and it could be a very good deal! However, it’s usually a good idea to be sure to read the fine print, as this type of reward is often tied to how much you spend within a certain time frame from opening your credit card

Cash-back rewards

For every dollar you spend, many credit card companies will credit your account and put money right back into your pocket. And a welcome bonus of 5% cashback for a limited amount of time is the perfect way to bring a new cardholder on board.

As an incentive for doing your normal shopping or paying your bills, card issuers will return a percentage to you—often anywhere between 0.5% and 5%, cashback. Providing you don’t use this as an excuse to overspend, cashback can be a great perk to a new credit card.  

Reward points for hotel stays, dining, events, and more

50,000 reward points to be used on anything from a 3-night stay in a luxury hotel in Paris, to a five-course dining experience at a Michelin-star restaurant in downtown Chicago – sounds pretty good, right?

Many credit card issuers cast this type of bait into the sea of card applicants, hoping to snag as many new clients as possible. One thing to keep in mind when faced with such an appealing offer is that there may be a limited-time spending minimum to get that reward. 

As always with sign-up offers, be sure to read the fine print. If you’d likely spend that amount within the time period regardless, then this could be a great deal to take advantage of. 

Free access to your credit report and/or score

A useful first step towards financial responsibility for many is being able to access their credit score.

Some credit card issuers offer free access to your credit score and reports across all three credit bureaus. For example, the Capital One Quicksilver One credit card offers access to CreditWise, which allows you to view your credit score and all beneficial or damaging factors impacting your credit. 

Ready for the best part? Even if you don’t get approved for the Quicksilver One (or decide not to sign-up at all), the good news is that CreditWise is available to the public, regardless of whether you’re a Capital One cardholder.

Eco-incentives

What if your new card issuer offered a more meaningful incentive? For example, simply for joining the waiting list for their Aspiration Zero credit card, the neobank Aspiration will plant ten trees in your honor. And, as an added bonus, for anyone who also joins with your personalized referral link, Aspiration will plant an additional ten trees – now that’s a perk!

Introducing the eco-friendly credit card

Financial rewards and incentives are always enticing, and they can improve our daily lives in a variety of ways. However, there are a whole range of other incentives available to the sustainably-minded consumer. 

Some card issuers, like Aspiration, offer eco-friendly credit cards and some of their perks include being able to track your carbon footprint every month on a free app (not to mention the carbon footprint of the merchants you buy from). 

Not only will you learn to shop smarter and greener, but, for every purchase you make, a tree will be planted to offset that purchase. Sometimes, the best rewards come in green packages.

Best sign-up bonuses in 2021

If you’re struggling to wade through the sea of credit card offers and sign-up perks, here are the top 5 sign-up bonuses available in 2021:

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card

Perks: Gain 60,000 bonus points when you sign-up.

The fine print: To earn those 60k bonus points, you must spend at least $4k in the first 90 days of opening your account.

Also, it’s worth noting that this card has a $550 annual fee. If you’re a frequent traveler, this may be worth it, but it’s worth doing the math here!

The Citi Rewards+ card

Perks: Gain 20,000 bonus points (approximately $200) when you spend $1000 within the first three months of opening your account, which can be exchanged for a variety of gift cards. Earn double points with the ThankYou® Points program​​ to use at a range of restaurants. What’s more, this card has no annual fee. 

The fine print: For the first 15 months, you’ll get 0% APR. After this – depending on your credit rating – your variable APR could be anywhere from 13.49%-23.49%.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Perks: Gain 100,000 Membership Rewards Points if you spend $6000 in the first six months of opening your account. If you book your flights directly with an airline carrier (or with the help of American Express Travel) you’ll get 5x the number of Membership Rewards points.

The fine print: The annual fee of $695 is higher than most cards, but if you’re a frequent traveler, you may be able to justify this cost when you consider the list of awards and exclusive member benefits available to you.

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Perks: Marriott is also offering free, three-night hotel stays (worth over $1300) if you spend at least $3000 within the first three months of opening your card account.

You could also earn 10x the bonus points for every dollar you spend at the gas pump or grocery store in the first six months of opening your account. Also, for all of you globe-trotters, there are no foreign transaction fees, so you can use this card without the added worry of racking up fees abroad. 

The fine print: There is a limit of $2500 for the 10x bonus points program, and these offers also aren’t available to any current or previous cardholder.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card

Perks: Unlimited 1.5% cashback on all purchases without any limits, and a $200 rewards bonus if you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account. This card also does not charge an annual fee.

The fine print: There is only 0% APR for the first 15 billing statements. After that –  depending on your credit rating – your APR will be anywhere from 13.99% to 26.99%.

Aspiration Zero offers the best sign-up bonus you can get

Unlike other credit card issuers that are tied to “big banks” or the fossil fuel industry, Aspiration Zero is breaking new ground with its eco-friendly credit card. Here are some of the perks:

  • Aspiration will plant a tree for every purchase you make, allowing you to minimize your carbon footprint.
  • You can choose to round up any purchase to the next whole dollar amount – and Aspiration will use the difference to plant another tree.
  • Aspiration’s free, innovative app lets you track your spending and see the carbon footprint of your purchases so that you can make more environmentally responsible purchases in the future.
  • For every month you are carbon-neutral, Aspiration will give you 1% cashback.

Fighting climate change one swipe at a time

While it may be tempting to sign-up for a credit card that offers thousands of bonus travel miles or a high, cash-back percent incentive, the Aspiration Zero is focused on the bigger, greener picture. 

By signing up for an Aspiration Zero credit card, you will join the effort to combat climate change and lessen your carbon footprint once and for all. 

No matter which card you choose, some bonuses are bigger and more meaningful than others. To find out more about sustainable financing – or to sign up for the Aspiration Zero – visit us at Aspiration today.

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