The past year was one of the best we’ve seen in credit card introductory bonuses, second only to the blockbuster 100,000-point rollout of the Chase Sapphire Reserve in 2016. American Express offered 100,000-point bonuses on its suite of Platinum Card products multiple times. American Airlines has had introductory bonuses on its combined suite of cards exceeding 200,000 miles at some points, and Capital One turned its two mile-earning cards into ultra-competitive offerings, for the first time.
Everything runs its course, however, and many of the best intro bonus offers are subject to change in the coming days and weeks as we ring in a new year.
Here at Point Me To The Plane, we focus on long-haul luxury travel booked free using points and miles, and all of these cards are positioned to help get you to a dream destination in 2019.
United MileagePlus Explorer Card – 65,000 Miles
Through the end of the year, United is matching its most generous offer ever on its staple MileagePlus Explorer Card – 65,000 introductory bonus miles. The literature I’ve received in the mail states this offer will end in the second week of January.
The first 40,000 miles come after new cardholders spend $3,000 in the first three months. Another 25,000 bonus miles come after new cardholders surpass $10,000 in the first six months.
Some targeted MileagePlus members may be eligible to score the full 65,000-mile bonus after hitting $3,000 in spending, based on some reader accounts.
The Explorer Card is perennially one of my favorite airline card options. In addition to double points on United, the card earns double points on dining and comes with four United Club passes, a benefit unmatched by American, Alaska, and Delta.
A reasonable $95-per-year fee is waived the first year.
The New Gold Card from Amex – 50,000 miles (targeted)
American Express overhauled one of its most venerable staples this fall. The Gold Card, which is a charge card, not a credit card, includes new bonus categories that are top-of-class. The advertised intro bonus on the new card is 25,000 miles after new cardholders spend $2,000 in three months, but we have confirmed accounts of existing American Express customers enjoying a targeted 50,000-mile offer.
You’ll have to click through to the application to find out if you’re targeted. Even if you don’t see the bonus, it might be worth logging into your online Amex account or even calling American Express to inquire.
Gold Card holders now net four valuable Membership Rewards Points per dollar spent at restaurants and grocery stores, and triple points on airfare purchased through Amex, or with your airline of choice.
In addition to travel basics like collision coverage, roadside assistance, lost baggage and trip protection, The Gold Card also comes with perks exclusive to Amex, like access to Global Assist, the travel concierge service and Amex Travel.
A $250 annual fee is reasonable considering benefits that include a $100 airline fee credit and $120 yearly dining credit.
British Airways Signature Visa Card – 100,000 Avios
British Airways continues to offer the highest introductory bonus of any airline credit card — 100,000 Avios — on its Signature Visa card. It’s the highest airline card introductory bonus we’ve seen in recent history, and it’s been active for some time. There are no promises on whether or not this offer will continue to run well into 2019.
It will take some spend, $20,000 in the first year to be exact, to score the full 100,000 bonus, but there’s a graduated 50,000-point bonus after the first $3,000 in spending during the first three months. That first bonus alone makes this card attractive. Another 25,000 Avios comes after new cardholders put $10,000 on the card in the first year, and the final 25,000 Avios come at the $20,000 mark.
British Airways doesn’t charge for bags on its U.S. flights, so there isn’t as much value to be had in the way of bag fee waivers, but I love the versatility of the Avios currency, which can be transferred directly to Iberia Plus or Aer Lingus AerClub. While British Airways charges a boatload in fees on business and first class awards redeemed on BA flights, several of the airline’s international partners, including American Airlines, don’t impose any surcharge fares.
British Airways Executive Club program is one of the most versatile out there, accepting additional points transfers from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi Thank You Rewards.
Bonus – Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Cards – Up to 60,000 points
All three of Southwest’s unique credit card products currently offer 60,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points after new cardholders spend $3,000 in three months. These bonuses have been running pretty much ever since Southwest launched the new Priority card this summer, and aren’t likely to last much longer into the New Year.
Be mindful that anyone who has held any of the Southwest cards is not eligible for the intro bonus, but anyone who travels and doesn’t have a Rapid Rewards card should think of getting one, for a few reasons.
First, Rapid Rewards points are among the easiest points currencies to use. They can be redeemed on any Southwest Flight that tickets are available on. Unlike major airlines, Rapid Rewards awards are based on fare price. When Southwest fares are low, cross-country and even international flights can be had for fewer than 10,000 points one-way.
Second, the Premier and Priority cards come with built-in status perks. Big spenders can earn A-List elite status just by spending enough. Hit 100,000 points on any of the three cards in a year (intro bonuses count!) and enjoy Southwest’s venerable Companion Pass, a free pass to bring someone with you on any Southwest flight and pay just your fare plus taxes.
Chase Ink Business Preferred Card – 80,000 points
The Ink Business Preferred is a business card, but that doesn’t mean you have to own a shop or pay employees to qualify. Anyone with self-employment income, whether it be through a consulting business, a side-gig, or even contract work like Uber or Lyft, can apply.
The Ink Business Preferred carries one of the longest-running 80,000-plus-point offers we’ve seen, and it’s getting somewhat long in the tooth. I haven’t seen any data on if or when this bonus might end, but hey, there’s never harm in gettin’ while the gettin’ is good.
Business cards are an excellent option for those who have maxed out bonus options on Chase’s consumer cards, as the 5/24 rule that limits introductory bonuses for other Chase cards does not include Ink products.
At $95 per year, the Ink Business Preferred offers many of the same perks as the $450-per-year Sapphire Reserve, including triple points earning on a broad range of travel spending, including all airline purchases, hotels, ground transportation, and even public transit. The card also has a triple points category for some business-related spending, including shipping, internet services, and business services.