Which Signup Bonuses to Get First (2019)

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  HomeCredit Card Signup Bonuses: The Easiest Path to Free Airplane Tickets and Hotel Nights

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There are dozens of cards that have valuable signup bonuses. Which ones should you get first?

Unfortunately, the same list doesn't work for everyone. It depends on the promotional offers the banks make available, the types of points you find valuable, how easily you can meet spending requirements, and which cards you want to quickly obtain so you can start to take advantage of their unique travel benefits. Your priorities may also change based on the type of points you want for an upcoming trip.

But, even though there isn't a fixed list to follow, there are some useful guidelines.


Get Chase cards first

You won't get approved for any new credit cards from Chase, once you've hit the limit of 5 new personal credit cards (from any bank) over the previous 24 months. Since you are about to signup for a bunch of new cards, you are going to quickly hit this limit. Dealing with the Chase 5/24 Rule.

  • You need to make sure to get any cards that are important to you before you hit the 5 card limit. Depending on your plans, that may mean a Sapphire Card (Reserve or Preferred), an Unlimited card (Freedom or Ink), a Southwest Airlines card (Priority or Performance Business), a United card (personal or business), the Hyatt card, and perhaps the IHG or Marriott card.
  • Collect additional Chase signup bonuses (before you hit the 5/24 limit). Once you're sure you have room to get any critical cards before hitting the limit, fill in any remaining slots with the Chase cards that have the most attractive signup bonuses. If you are sticking to only personal cards, fill in any remaining 5/24 slots.If you are willing and able to get business cards, you'll need to decide how many total Chase cards you are comfortable with (see the Chase 5/24 guide) and make sure to get get any remaining business or personal cards before you go over the limit of 5 personal cards (from all banks). You can signup for a maximum of 2 personal cards and 1 business card per month. But, we recommend limiting yourself to only one new Chase card every two months.
  • You can mix in business cards from other banks while you are under 5/24. With the exception of Capital One and Discover, none of the major banks list your business cards on your personal credit report, so they won't be counted against your 5 card limit. You can get non-Chase business cards at any time, without affecting your ability to get Chase cards later. Just don't get any personal credit cards from another bank unless you are willing to give up one of your 5 slots. And make sure to get any Chase business cards you want before you hit the 5/24 limit (you can get business cards from other banks either before or after you hit 5/24).

Other guidelines

  • You want to get the clock started on any Citibank and Bank of America cards.
    • Citibank limits generally limits you to one signup bonus per family every two years. More precisely, to qualify for a bonus, you may not have opened or cancelled a card in the same family in the last 24 months. Personal and business cards are tracked separately. American Airlines cards are handled differently—you can get the signup bonus for each version once every four years. It is useful to apply for a ThankYou rewards card quickly, to start the clock till your next bonus. You are limited to one card every 8 days, two personal cards every 65 days, and one business card every 95 days.
    • Bank of America limits you to a total of four personal cards every two years. The sooner you apply for your first one or two cards, the sooner you can get more. You want to get on a pace of about two new Bank of America cards per year. Choose the Bank of America cards that are most valuable for your individual circumstances. With Bank of America, you can even get multiple copies of the same card (except for the Premium Rewards and the personal version of the Alaska Airlines cards). You are limited to 2 personal cards in a two month period, 3 cards in a year, and 4 cards every two years.
  • Then, get your favorite cards from other major banks (except Amex). Since Capital One, Barclays, and US Bank are more likely to deny your application due to "too many cards or inquiries", you've got a better chance of approval if you apply earlier in the process. But, there are no guarantees either way.
  • With less popular credit card issuers, there are no hard and fast rules. Some are reluctant to approve you if you've been actively collecting signup bonuses, some don't care.

  • Save most American Express cards until later—unless you you can take advantage of a great promotional offer. Amex is relatively indifferent to the total number of cards you have or applied for. Since you can only receive each American Express bonus once per lifetime, there is no rush. But, if a great promotional offer is available, or one of their cards is being discontinued, you'll want to fit it into your plans, rather than waiting. There also isn't much reason to hesitate to get a card that you need for other reasons, such as a Delta Airlines card for the baggage benefit.
  • Keep in mind that you can only have 4-6 Amex credit cards at one time, but the different flavors of their Platinum, Gold and Green cards are "charge" cards and don't count against that limit; and you can only two new credit cards every 90 days.

  • Prioritize earning the points you need. Despite any other advice, if you need a certain type of points for an upcoming trip, prioritize any associated signup bonuses. Don't forget that you may be able to covert Membership Rewards or other transferable points to the points you need.
  • Don't hesitate to prioritize cards to start taking advantage of their ongoing benefits. If some card has a benefit that you want to start using, such as the Alaska Airlines companion certificate or the Hilton card's free breakfast benefit, you'll want to get it more quickly, so you can take advantage of the benefit sooner.
  • Take advantage of good promotional offers when they are available. We will try to keep you updated on our best offers page.
The Amex Platinum Card

The Amex Platinum card has valuable benefits, including gold status at Hilton, access to Amex's Centurion Lounges, and the Fine Hotels and Resort Program; but has a high annual fee.

The good news is that there are several different versions of the card, and by the terms of Amex's "Once per lifetime" policy, you can earn the signup bonus on every one.

If you apply for one card per year, you can maintain nearly continuous access to Amex's Platinum benefits, while earning a series of signup bonuses that offset the expensive annual fees. Since the offer on the regular and business versions of the cards can vary, you should ideally wait to signup for these versions until a good promotional offer becomes available.

A sample list (personal cards only)

Here is a possible list of cards to get, assuming you AREN'T willing and able to get business cards and are happy to earn points that can only be effectively used for frequent flyer tickets. It necessarily ignores the availability of any promotional offers.

Our list of signup offers provides up-to-date information on the cards with the highest "net signup value".

If you have room to get all your critical Chase cards before hitting the 5/24 limit, think about getting:

  • The Altitude Reserve Card first, even before you get the Chase cards. It can be hard to get later, and it offers a valuable 4.5% reward rate on purchases made with mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay.

Before you hit the Chase 5/24 limit, get any Chase cards that you really want. The order can be shuffled around as desired, as long as you get the most important cards before you hit the limit:

  • If you really want the Southwest Companion Pass, and you can earn the extra Southwest points you need through credit card spending, flying, or hotel reservations, you'll want the Southwest Priority Card.
  • If you frequently fly on United, you'll want the United Explorer Credit Card.
  • If you are plan on following our standard advice for everyday spending (once you move on from collecting lots of signup bonuses), you'll want both the Sapphire Reserve Card and Freedom Unlimited Card.If you don't need its airport lounge privileges, you can collect a slightly higher signup bonus with Sapphire Preferred Card at first, and then potentially change it to a Sapphire Reserve after the first year.
  • If you can take advantage of the extra elite status credits, you'll want the Hyatt Credit Card

Fill in any remaining Chase cards until you've hit the 5 card limit (of any new credit cards in the last two years:

  • The Sapphire Preferred Card is usually the most valuable signup bonus, if you haven't signed up for either version of the Sapphire card.
  • The Hyatt Credit Card is a great choice, not only do you get the signup bonus, you get a valuable free night certificate each year (and the ability to earn another one with $15,000 in spending).
  • The signup bonuses on the United and Southwest cards are usually more valuable than the ones on the IHG and Marriott ones, but promotional offers change frequently, and you may be able to make better use of some of these types of points over others.

Then get the:

Start mixing in additional Amex cards:

Keep going

A sample list (with business cards)

Most people who plan to collect signup bonuses can and should be able to get both personal and small business cards. Unlock Extra Reward Points with Business Credit Cards.

Make sure to get any critical Chase cards, and the desired total number of Chase cards, before you hit the Chase 5/24 limit (5 personal cards in the past 24 months from any bank). If you get too many total cards from Chase you risk getting shut down. You need to balance that against a desire to collect as many of Chase's valuable signup bonuses as possible. We suggest getting eight total cards from Chase before moving on. Bear in mind, you might be able to get more, and you might get shut down from less. The order of these cards isn't important, except to make sure you don't get too many personal cards and hit the 5/24 limit before you are done.

  • If you are aiming for the Companion Pass, you'll want the Southwest Performance Business Card (try to time time your applications for December).
  • If you frequently fly on United, you'll want the United Explorer Business Card.
  • If you are plan on following our standard advice for everyday spending (once you move on from collecting lots of signup bonuses), you need at least one personal Ultimate Rewards card and one business Ultimate Rewards card. If you are interested in airport lounge access and other benefits, the personal card should be the Sapphire Reserve Card. Otherwise, you can collect a slightly higher signup bonus with Sapphire Preferred Card at first, and then potentially change it to a Sapphire Reserve after the first year.
  • If you can take advantage of the annual free night certificate and extra elite status credits, you'll want the Hyatt Credit Card.
  • You might want to prioritize the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card, IHG Select Card, or one of the Avios credit cards, but most people are better off collecting additional Ultimate Rewards signup bonuses instead.
  • Leaving room for the critical cards above, fill out your desired number of Chase credit cards with the cards that have the most valuable signup bonuses.
    • Keep signing up for the Ink Preferred Card until you are denied. Use an EIN for your first application and a SSN for the second application. 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points is usually the most valuable Chase signup bonus. You can convert the Ink Preferred to no-annual-fee Ink Unlimited and Ink Cash cards after the first year.
    • If you have room, keep going with the 50,000 Ultimate Rewards point bonuses on the Ink Cash Card and Ink Unlimited Card. You might be able to get multiple versions of these cards.
    • Some people might find the bonus on the Southwest Performance Business Card or one of the Avios cards to be more valuable, and can signup for these instead.

While you are collecting Chase cards, mix in other business credit cards. You want to spread your Chase applications out by at least 2 months between cards. Don't get Capital One or Discover business cards or business cards from smaller banks (without researching them first), to make sure they won't show up on your personal credit report.

If you have room to get all your critical Chase cards before hitting the 5/24 limit, get

Once you've hit the 5/24 limit you can start getting additional personal cards

Once you've gotten these personal cards, you can start adding in additional business credit cards that you didn't get during the initial phase. Focus on the ones with the highest signup offers.

and start mixing in additional Amex cards:

Keep going




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