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Best Credit Card Intro Bonuses of 2021

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Introductory bonuses offered by many rewards credit cards allow cardholders the chance to earn a substantial number of rewards points or cash back for making purchases with their new card. Some of the best credit cards offer lucrative intro bonuses that can help offset the cost of future travel and other purchases. Here are our top picks for the best intro bonuses right now, and why you might want to apply for each.

3 Partner Offers


Our Picks for the Best Card Intro Bonuses
Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

No annual fee

Chase Freedom Unlimited<sup>®</sup>

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

No annual fee

American Express® Gold Card

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 6 months of card membership.

$250 annual fee

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Intro bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Currently, Chase is also offering 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. New cardholders can also take advantage of 0% APR on purchases for the first 15 months, then 14.99% to 23.74% variable.

Annual fee: $0

Reasons to get it: This card is a fantastic all-around earner since it accrues cash back at the following rates:

  • 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in designated bonus categories each quarter when you activate
  • 5% when making travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022
  • 3% on dining, including purchases at restaurants, takeout and orders from eligible delivery services
  • 3% on purchases from drugstores
  • 1% on other eligible purchases

If you use this card to pay your cellphone bill and your cellphone is stolen or damaged, you can get up to $1,000 in annual coverage ($800 maximum per claim, up to two claims each year, with a $50 deductible per claim).

Drawbacks: Although you can combine the points you earn on this card with transferable Ultimate Rewards points you earn with a more upscale counterpart, if you only have the Chase Freedom Flex℠, your rewards are best redeemed as simple cash back.

Read full review
Apply

on Chase's website

Good - Exceptional

APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Intro APR

0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Rewards

5% cash back on Rotating Categories

5% cash back on Travel

3% cash back on Dining

1% cash back on All Other Purchases

Intro Bonus

Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Annual Fee

$0

Card Details
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Intro bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Currently, Chase is also offering 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. New cardholders can also take advantage of 0% APR on purchases for the first 15 months, which then becomes 14.99% to 23.74% variable.

Annual fee: $0

Reasons to get it: Among this card's major selling points are its earning rates. Here's what you can expect:

  • 5% back when making travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022
  • 3% on dining, including purchases at restaurants, takeout and orders from eligible delivery services
  • 3% on purchases from drugstores
  • 1.5% on other eligible purchases

Rather than having to contend with rotating bonus categories, you can relax and earn a solid 1.5% back on most purchases, which makes this card an easy one to maximize.

Drawbacks: The usefulness of your points is limited to cash back unless you have a more premium Chase card you can transfer points to. Unlike the Chase Freedom Flex℠, this one does not offer cellphone protection.

Read full review
Apply

on Chase's website

Good - Exceptional

APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Intro APR

0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Rewards

5% cash back on Travel

3% cash back on Dining & Drugstores

1.5% cash back on All Other Purchases

Intro Bonus

Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Annual Fee

$0

Card Details
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.

American Express® Gold Card

Intro bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 6 months of card membership.

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Reasons to get it: This card earns bonus points in many bonus categories:

  • 4 points per dollar on dining at restaurants, including takeout and delivery
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year (1 point per dollar after that)
  • 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com
  • 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases

Cardholders can add the Gold Card to their Uber account to receive $10 automatically each month (up to $120 per year) in Uber Cash toward Uber Eats orders or rides in the U.S. They'll also receive up to $120 in dining credits when using the card to pay at Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed and other participating partners. Amex Membership Rewards points are most useful when transferred to one of the program's many airline or hotel partners including Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, Hilton or Marriott.

Drawbacks: This card charges a hefty annual fee (see rates and fees), so you've got to ensure you're maximizing its other benefits year after year to make carrying it worthwhile.

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How to Earn an Intro Bonus

Earning an intro bonus is straightforward.

  1. Apply for a new credit card. The first thing you'll need to do is find a new credit card that meets your needs and for which you qualify. Then make sure it's offering a decent introductory bonus, or you might want to hold off since intro bonuses often change.
  2. Use your card to make purchases. Most intro bonuses carry spending requirements. Verify the terms of any new cards you open so that you hit any dollar thresholds needed to earn the intro bonus. The easiest way of doing this is by using your new card for all of your purchases until you meet that spending requirement.
  3. Watch the clock. Those spending requirements often come with time limits, such as three or six months. Keep an eye on the calendar and make sure you complete all the spending necessary within the prescribed window.

Credit Card Bonus Caveats

There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to earn an intro bonus.

  1. Don't overspend in pursuit of an intro bonus. No matter how big or attractive an intro bonus is, it's not worth overspending and carrying long-term debt. Doing so will rack up interest charges that negate the value of any rewards you earn.
  2. Double-check eligibility requirements. Credit cards often publish eligibility requirements. These sometimes have to do with whether you've previously carried the same card that you're applying for now, or even if you've had another card from the same issuer recently. Go over the rules before applying.
  3. Only purchases count toward spending requirements. Some credit cards require you to pay their annual fee as soon as you open the card, and it might seem logical to think the fee counts toward the intro bonus spending requirement. However, only purchases (not annual fees or balance transfers) count toward that dollar minimum.

Best Ways to Redeem Bonus Rewards

Before you even apply for a new credit card, you should think about the ways you might want to redeem the rewards from its intro bonus.

Based on which card you apply for, you might earn cash back, transferable points, airline miles or hotel points. So how you redeem them will depend on the specific card you carry.

Maximize Your Value

The best ways to redeem various rewards points are usually right in their name.

  • Cash back: One of the best things about cash back rewards is how easy they are to earn and redeem. Each point is usually worth 1 cent apiece, and then you can typically redeem them directly for credits toward purchases on your monthly statement. This makes it simple to ensure you're getting a good rate of return on everyday spending.
  • Travel rewards: Although you can redeem some types of travel rewards, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Capital One Miles, for non-travel options, in general, you should save these points for travel bookings. You tend to get more value from them this way. Make sure that each point you redeem from a travel rewards program is getting you at least 1 cent in value. If you're not hitting that mark, it might be worth waiting until another option (or a future trip where you can use rewards) arises.

Avoid Low-Value Redemptions

If you earn rewards such as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards, stick to travel redemptions and stay away from the following.

  • Merchandise: Forget the online malls that some rewards programs field; you won't get the best value from cashing in your points this way.
  • Statement credits: Although cash back rewards are great for statement credits toward purchases, with travel rewards, you often get a lower rate of return on travel rewards redeemed this way, so steer clear.
  • Pay with points: You can also use some types of credit card points to pay for new purchases, such as using Amex points at checkout with certain merchants or via PayPal. Like the other options here, though, this tends to be a poor value.

Earning a new credit card's intro bonus is a fast way to rake in hundreds or even thousands of dollars in travel or other rewards. While you do have to be approved, and then meet any spending requirements necessary, doing so is often easy and well worth it. Before you apply, though, make sure that you will not be stretching yourself financially, and that you have some clear ideas for how to use the rewards you'll earn. That way, you can ensure you get the most value possible from your intro bonus. Take a look at current credit card offers and find products personalized to your profile via Experian CreditMatch™.