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 117 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:
3% cash back on dining, 2% on groceries and 1% on everything else
Earn $150 cash back when you spend $500 within 90 days after account opening
0% for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers; N/A for purchases
14.74% to 24.74% variable on purchases and balance transfers
3%, $5 minimum
Who's this for? The TD Cash Credit Card has the best welcome bonus of all the cards we reviewed: Earn $150 cash back when you spend $500 within 90 days after account opening. This is worth an effective 30% 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.
10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 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
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®
16.99% to 23.99% variable
5%, minimum $5
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 $550 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.)
3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
0% introductory APR for the first 15 months that your account is open
15.49% to 25.49% variable
3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR
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 15.49% to 25.49% 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.
1.5% cash back on every purchase
Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
15.49% to 25.49% variable
3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR
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 15.49% to 25.49% 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.
5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1% back on all other purchases
$70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval
$0 (but Prime membership is required)
15.74% to 23.74% variable
5%, $5 minimum
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.
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 2019 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 $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). 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.