[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — United MileagePlus Explorer Card from Chase, AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard from Citi, and the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
Would you like a bunch of frequent flyer miles to book an award ticket? If you are into earning frequent flyer miles, then you can get a head start on your next big award trip by signing up for the right credit card and earning a sign-up bonus.
How Sign-Up Bonuses Work
The credit card industry is intensely competitive, and credit card issuers are willing to go to great lengths to attract new customers. What banks have learned over the years is that there are few incentives that are as attractive as large sums of frequent flyer miles that can be redeemed for award travel.
To receive one of these large sign-up bonuses, you have to apply for a new credit card and be approved. Then, most credit cards require you to complete a minimum spending requirement within a specified period of time, often three months. In most cases, once you’ve completed the minimum spending requirements, and your next statement is generated, then you should receive your sign-up bonus within a day or two.
Many people worry that applying for a new credit card and receiving a sign-up bonus will hurt their credit score. Although there are many factors that make up your credit score, including new applications, applying for a single credit card should have a negligible effect on your credit score and it may even improve it slightly as your credit history is extended.
Here are four airline credit cards that are currently offering big sign-up bonuses.
1. American Airlines AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard from Citi
This card is currently offering 50,000 bonus miles after new applicants make $5,000 in purchases within three months of account opening, which is enough for two round-trip domestic award tickets in economy class, or a single first class ticket. (Full Disclosure: Citibank as well as Chase and American Express advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) Other benefits include membership in the American Airlines Admiral’s Club airport lounge program for yourself and all authorized cardholders. You also receive priority service at check-in, airport screening and boarding. In addition, you receive your first bag checked free and a $100 statement credit towards the Global Entry application fee. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
2. British Airways Visa Signature Card from Chase
This card is offering new applicants 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases within three months of account opening, plus an additional 25,000 miles after spending a total of $15,000 within a calendar year. Other benefits include 3x miles for British Airways purchases, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. Finally, those who spend $30,000 in a calendar year can earn a Travel Together Ticket good for a companion ticket on a British Airways award flight, although you do have to pay any tax, fees and carrier charges imposed by British Airways. There is a $95 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
3. United MileagePlus Explorer Card from Chase
This card is offering new applicants 30,000 bonus miles after spending just $1,000 within three months of account opening. In addition, you can also receive an additional 5,000 bonus miles after you add an authorized user who makes a purchase within three months of account opening. Finally, you can earn 10,000 bonus miles every calendar year you spend at least $25,000 in net purchases on your card. Other benefits include a free checked bag for yourself and a companion when you purchase tickets on United using this card. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
4. The Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express
This card (you can see a full review here) is offering new applicants a $50 statement credit after their first purchase and 30,000 bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. Other benefits include priority boarding, a 20% discount on in-flight purchases, and a free checked bag for up to four people traveling on the same reservation. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
All of these cards require applicants to have excellent credit. If you’re not sure of your credit standing, you may want to check your credit before you apply. You can view two of your scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.
If your credit standing doesn’t yet meet the card issuer’s requirements, there are steps you can take to improve your credit score, and apply once you do.
At publishing time, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card from Chase, AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard from Citi, and the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.