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Best credit card sign-up bonuses of December 2019

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Credit card welcome bonus offers are an easy way to earn extra rewards during the first few months after you open an account. You typically need to meet spending requirements that range from $500 to $5,000, within the first three months after opening your account in order to earn the bonus.

Cash-back cards tend to have the lowest spending requirements with the best return rates, while travel rewards cards usually offer larger bonuses after you reach higher spending requirements. You should consider your budget before you sign up for a card with a good bonus offer and only take advantage of one if you're able to pay off your balance on time and in full. You don't want to pay big interest charges on your balance just because you were hoping to earn some extra bonus points.

The good news: There are a few cards that waive spending requirements altogether and reward you with a bonus following account approval or after you make your first purchase.

CNBC Select analyzed 105 cards that offer welcome bonuses and rounded up the best deals that can earn you up to $750, if you meet the requirements.

Here are CNBC Select's picks for the top credit card welcome bonuses:

Winner: TD Cash Credit Card

  • Rewards

    3% cash back on dining, 2% on groceries and 1% on everything else

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn $200 cash back when you spend $500 within 90 days after account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers

  • Variable APR

    14.74% to 24.74%

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year

    $536*

  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years

    $1,880

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Low spending requirement to earn the welcome bonus
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • No special financing on new purchases
  • Few additional cardholder perks beyond rewards

Who's this for? The TD Cash Credit Card has the best welcome bonus of all the cards we reviewed: Earn $200 cash back when you spend $500 within 90 days after account opening. This is worth an effective 40% cash back. The spending requirement is significantly lower than other cards that may require you to spend up to $5,000 to earn the same bonus.

This card's cash-back program is geared towards foodies, with 3% cash back on dining, 2% on groceries and 1% on everything else.

Who's this for? The TD Cash Credit Card has the best welcome bonus of all the cards we reviewed: Earn $200 cash back when you spend $500 within 90 days after account opening. This is worth an effective 40% cash back. The spending requirement is significantly lower than other cards that may require you to spend up to $5,000 to earn the same bonus.

This card's cash-back program is geared towards foodies, with 3% cash back on dining, 2% on groceries and 1% on everything else.

Beyond rewards, the TD Cash Credit Card is pretty basic. You won't receive any noteworthy additional perks like some of the other cards on this list, but you can benefit from no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.

Rewards can be redeemed for a statement credit or direct deposit into a checking or savings account once you accumulate at least $25.

*First year rewards total incorporates the points earned from the welcome bonus

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Information about the TD Cash Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Best for Travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Rewards

    3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $450

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Variable APR

    18.49% to 25.49%, based on your credit score

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year

    $1,193*

  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years

    $2,567

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 50% bonus on points redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3X points earned on travel and dining purchases
  • $300 annual statement credit to reimburse travel purchases
  • $100 reimbursement toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee
  • Access to over 1,000 airport lounges with complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • $450 annual fee, plus $75 for each authorized user
  • No introductory APR period

Who's this for? The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a loyal following among travelers looking for a generous rewards program and premium perks. This card also has one of the most generous welcome bonus offers: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The bonus is worth $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The rewards program offers 3X points on dining and travel purchases and 1X points on all other purchases. Points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, which is a great way to get more value from the rewards program.

Who's this for? The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a loyal following among travelers looking for a generous rewards program and premium perks. This card also has one of the most generous welcome bonus offers: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The bonus is worth $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The rewards program offers 3X points on dining and travel purchases and 1X points on all other purchases. Points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, which is a great way to get more value from the rewards program.

Beyond rewards, this card comes with a number of luxe benefits, such as a $300 annual statement credit for travel expenses, $100 statement credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees (every four years) and no foreign transaction fees. Plus, you can enroll in a complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership with access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide and receive hotel discounts and perks with The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® does have a hefty $450 annual fee, but the many statement credits and benefits help to offset the costs. If you don't want to pay a steep annual fee, but you're still looking for a travel credit card with a big welcome bonus, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred®. This card has a $95 annual fee and a welcome bonus You can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, which is worth $750 when redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® has a $95 annual fee. (Read more about the Sapphire Preferred vs. the Reserve.)

*First year rewards total incorporates the points earned from the welcome bonus

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Information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Best for Cash Back: Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Variable APR

    15.74% to 25.74%

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated cash back earned after 1 year

    $550*

  • Estimated cash back earned after 5 years

    $2,152

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • 3% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases and 2% at grocery stores
  • Ability to redeem rewards at any amount, unlike some other cards with $25 minimums
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • No special financing offer on balance transfers
  • Only consumers with excellent credit typically qualify

Who's this for? The best cash-back credit cards have some of the simplest welcome bonus offers that provide great rewards with minimum spending requirements. The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. That's like earning 30% cash back.

Foodies and entertainment gurus will be pleased that this card earns 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, as well as 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Cash back can be redeemed at any time and for any amount.

Who's this for? The best cash-back credit cards have some of the simplest welcome bonus offers that provide great rewards with minimum spending requirements. The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. That's like earning 30% cash back.

Foodies and entertainment gurus will be pleased that this card earns 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, as well as 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Cash back can be redeemed at any time and for any amount.

There is no annual fee or foreign transaction fee associated with this card, and you can benefit from no interest on purchases for the first nine months your account is open. After, there's a 15.74% to 25.74% variable APR.

This card also comes with numerous added perks, such as access to exclusive entertainment events (concerts, food experiences, sporting events), extended warranty protection and travel accident insurance.

*First year rewards total incorporates the points earned from the welcome bonus

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Information about the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Best for No Annual Fee: Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    1.5% cash back on every purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Variable APR

    15.74% to 25.74%

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year

    $478*

  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years

    $1,789

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Low spending requirement for the welcome bonus
  • Redeem cash back for any amount at any time
  • 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • 3% balance transfer fee during the first 15 months your account is open
  • No bonus rewards categories

Who's this for? The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great choice for consumers looking for a no-annual-fee credit card that has a generous welcome bonus. Cardholders earn a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within three months from account opening. Just like the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card mentioned above, the Quicksilver card's bonus provides a 30% return.

This card has a straightforward cash-back program where you can earn 1.5% cash back on everything you buy. Cash back can be conveniently redeemed at any time and for any amount.

Who's this for? The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great choice for consumers looking for a no-annual-fee credit card that has a generous welcome bonus. Cardholders earn a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within three months from account opening. Just like the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card mentioned above, the Quicksilver card's bonus provides a 30% return.

This card has a straightforward cash-back program where you can earn 1.5% cash back on everything you buy. Cash back can be conveniently redeemed at any time and for any amount.

In addition to rewards, you can finance new purchases or transfer debt with a 0% APR for the first 15 months from account opening (then 15.74% to 25.74% variable APR).

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card has no foreign transaction fee and provides travel accident insurance, 24-hour travel assistance, extended warranty protection and access to premier culinary, entertainment and sports event experiences.

*First year rewards total incorporates the points earned from the welcome bonus

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Information about the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Best for No Spending Required: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

  • Rewards

    5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1% back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval

  • Annual fee

    $0 (but Prime membership is required)

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Variable APR

    15.74% to 23.74%

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year

    $506*

  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years

    $2,253

  • See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • $70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval, with no spending requirements
  • 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • Prime membership is required
  • No introductory APR period

Who's this for? The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, issued by Chase, is one of few cards that awards a welcome bonus automatically after account approval. If you're approved for this card, you'll instantly receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card. This welcome bonus is a great way to fund an Amazon purchase or offset the cost of your Prime membership, which is required to open this card and currently costs $119 annually or $12.99 a month.

This card doesn't have an annual fee (except for the Prime membership requirement) and also has no foreign transaction fees.

Who's this for? The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, issued by Chase, is one of few cards that awards a welcome bonus automatically after account approval. If you're approved for this card, you'll instantly receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card. This welcome bonus is a great way to fund an Amazon purchase or offset the cost of your Prime membership, which is required to open this card and currently costs $119 annually or $12.99 a month.

This card doesn't have an annual fee (except for the Prime membership requirement) and also has no foreign transaction fees.

The rewards program is great for loyal Amazon shoppers and people who like to grocery shop at Whole Foods: Earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1% back on all other purchases.

*First year rewards total incorporates the points earned from the welcome bonus

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Information about the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Our methodology

To determine which cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed 105 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. that are open to anyone and offer welcome bonuses. We compared each card on a range of features, including cash-back rewards, annual fee, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2018 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $21,852 in retail spending. This budget is comprised of the most common spending categories, including groceries ($5,019), gas ($2,394), dining out ($3,365), travel ($2,154), utilities ($4,959) and general purchases ($3,961). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming cash back for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)

Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it's generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.

Best credit card sign-up bonus offers

Category Credit Card
WinnerTD Cash Credit Card
Best for travelChase Sapphire Reserve®
Best for cash backCapital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for no annual feeCapital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Best for no spending requiredAmazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.