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Average Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus in America Today
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That’s what LendingTree found in the latest monthly review of the sign-up bonus offers for every credit card available on the websites of 11 of the nation’s biggest credit card issuers: American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Discover, Navy Federal Credit Union, U.S. Bank, USAA and Wells Fargo. (Note: In December 2021, we expanded our review to include these 11 banks and credit unions. Previously, we’d review the nation’s six biggest issuers.)
After reviewing the offers, we included averages and medians for specific types of points and miles cards.
Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus Averages and Medians: May 2022
|Points and miles||51,027||45,000|
|General-purpose points and miles||41,304||45,000|
Source: LendingTree review of consumer credit cards available on 11 issuers’ public websites. Data accurate as of May 9, 2022.
Cash back bonuses may not be as simple as you think
Most Americans prefer cash back rewards to points and miles rewards. Part of the reason is simplicity — points and miles valuations can be convoluted and tricky, while a dollar is a dollar.
Most cash back bonuses are straightforward, too — spend a set amount during a given period and you’ll get a specific dollar amount back. Getting $200 for spending $1,000 on a card in 90 days is among the most common arrangements.
They’re not all that simple, though. The cash back reward may:
- Come in the form of a flight credit or companion voucher
- Come instantly on approval or after a specific number of purchases rather than a set amount of spending
- Require that some of the spending happen at a specific retailer rather than treating all spending equally
- Require you to meet the minimum spend in anywhere from one to six months
These criteria make it essential that you understand the details of the offer before you apply. That’s true with any financial transaction. However, when the sign-up bonus is such a big reason when deciding to apply for the card, the last thing you want to have happen is to miss out on that bonus because you didn’t pay attention to the details.
Not all points and miles cards are created equal
Variety isn’t limited to cash back cards, however.
This report clearly shows there’s often a big difference in bonus offers among different types of points and miles cards.
Hotel cards are offering the highest average points per bonus, offering at least 30,000 points more on average than any other type of rewards card. However, hotel points traditionally lag behind airline miles and general-purpose points and miles, so that huge bonus may not go quite as far as you might think. For example, we estimate Hilton Honors points to be worth about 0.5 cents per point, while Chase Ultimate Rewards points are generally worth 1 cent per point but can be worth significantly more depending on how they are redeemed.
Airline cards were second-highest, though a distant second. General-purpose cards — those cards without any airline or hotel co-branding and with points or miles that are typically issued by the bank itself — come with lower average bonuses than the previous two types of cards.
How to choose the best sign-up bonus credit card for you
With sometimes more than 140 options to choose from among just 11 major credit card issuers, knowing which card is best for you can be tricky. However, with a little bit of forethought and introspection, you can find the card that best fits your lifestyle.
Here are some tips for finding the best sign-up bonus credit card for you:
- Remember that different points have different values: A 100,000-point bonus from one credit card likely isn’t worth the same as a 100,000-point bonus from a different card. It’s easy to get blinded by those big numbers, but your best move is to try to understand what those 100,000 points can get you from each company. Card issuer websites will often give examples of the points’ value with the offer, whether in terms of actual dollar value or perhaps the amount of hotel nights for which the points could be exchanged. Doing your homework to see which bonus gives you the most bang for your rewards can go a long way in ensuring you get the best card for you.
- Focus on your lifestyle and habits: The ideal card for you is the one that best fits your lifestyle. No matter how lucrative the sign-up bonus, it won’t do you much good if it doesn’t fit with where you go, what you do and how you spend. For example, a 50,000-point sign-up bonus on your favorite airline or hotel’s credit card will likely be much more impactful for you than a 100,000-point bonus with an airline you never fly or a hotel chain that you don’t enjoy. Or if you’re not interested in travel at all, no airline or hotel bonus will likely serve you as well as a simple cash back bonus.
- Don’t forget the fees: It takes a little bit of math to figure out which card is really the most valuable overall, and the annual fee is a vital part of that equation. For example, a no-annual-fee credit card offering a 25,000-point bonus could theoretically be more valuable in the long run than a card with a 50,000-point bonus and a $50 annual fee. Or a card that earns 1.5% cash back with an annual fee may be less lucrative than one that gives 1% back with no annual fee.
- Take your time: People tend to make bad choices when they rush into things, and that is certainly true with credit cards. Before you apply, always take the time to understand at least the basics associated with the card — interest rates, fees, rewards, earnings rates and spending requirements — because what you don’t know can cost you. That means that no matter how much you love those bonus miles that come with the card the flight attendant talked about on the plane, you shouldn’t jump right in until you’ve done your homework. The same applies to the cards you get offered at the retail checkout counter, the airport, the hotel or anywhere. The more informed the decision you make, the better it’s likely to be.
LendingTree reviewed more than 140 consumer credit card offers on the public-facing websites for 11 credit card issuers — American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Discover, Navy Federal Credit Union, USAA, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo — on May 9, 2022. The sign-up bonus offers were compiled and then LendingTree calculated the average and median offers as shown above. (Note: Though Discover’s cards were reviewed, Discover doesn’t offer sign-up bonus rewards of specific point values or dollar values. They only offer to match all cash back or points earned in the first year with the card. Since those totals would vary based on individual spending, Discover’s card wasn’t included in the averages in this report.)