Credit card sign up bonuses

Use a credit card with a sign up bonus to boost your rewards points balance or get additional cash back.

By   |   Verified by Yvonne Taylor   |   Updated 15 Feb 2024

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Comparing credit card sign up bonuses

American Express Cobalt Card

On website

Featured

American Express Cobalt Card

Rewards program

American Express Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

15,000 points

Annual fee

$155.88 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 15,000 Membership Rewards points. In your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember, you can earn 1,250 Membership Rewards® points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $750 in purchases on your Card.
  • Earn 5X the points on eligible eats & drinks, 2X the points on eligible travel & transit, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
  • Enjoy perks, bonus rewards, and access to great events as an American Express Cobalt Cardmember.

Pros

  • Earn up to 15,000 points when you meet the criteria.
  • Earn 3X the points on eligible streaming subscriptions.
  • No fees when you get additional cards.
  • Enjoy benefits at over 600 participating hotels and resorts in over 30 countries.

Cons

  • $155.88 is slightly higher than the average annual fee.
  • If you miss payments, the applicable rates for your account will be 25.99% - 28.99%
American Express Platinum Card

On website

American Express Platinum Card

Rewards program

American Express Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

70,000 points

Annual fee

$799.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards points. Get 70,000 welcome bonus points when you charge $10,000 in purchases to your Card in the first three months of Cardmembership. Earn an additional 30,000 points when you make a purchase between 14 and 17 months of Cardmembership. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible dining in Canada, 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible travel, and 1 point for every $1 in all other Card purchases.
  • Enjoy a $200 annual Travel Credit. Terms and conditions apply.

Pros

  • Earn up to 100,000 points when you meet the criteria.
  • Enjoy complimentary benefits that offer an average value of $750 CAD at over 1,300 extraordinary properties worldwide when you book Fine Hotels + Resorts.
  • Enjoy a $200 Annual Dining Credit at some of Canada’s best restaurants.
  • Includes travel and shopping coverage.

Cons

  • The $799 p.a. annual fee.
American Express Gold Rewards Card

On website

American Express Gold Rewards Card

Rewards program

American Express Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

60,000 points

Annual fee

$250.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 60,000 Membership Rewards points. New American Express Gold Rewards Cardmembers, earn 5,000 Membership Rewards points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $1,000 in net purchases on your Card.
  • 1 free additional Gold Rewards Card ($50 annual fee for Additional Gold Rewards Cards).
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 in Card purchases for eligible travel purchases, gas stations, grocery stores, and drugstores. Earn 1 point for every $1 in Card purchases everywhere else.

Pros

  • Earn up to 60,000 points when you meet the criteria.
  • Earn bonus points while you spend.
  • Includes 9 complimentary insurances.

Cons

  • The $250 p.a. annual fee.
  • If you miss payments, the applicable rates for your account will be 25.99% and/or 28.99%
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card

Apply by May 6, 2024

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

75,000 points

Annual fee

$150.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Get up to 90,000 points. Earn 75,000 Welcome Bonus Marriott Bonvoy® points after you charge $6,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership. Plus, earn an additional 2 points for a total of 5 points on every $1 spent on eligible gas, dining and travel purchases in your first 6 months (up to 15,000 points). Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Earn 3 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible gas, dining, and travel, 5 points for every $1 in Card purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties, and 2 points for every $1 on all other purchases charged to the Card.
  • Get a free night stay on each anniversary of your card.

Pros

  • Earn up to 90,000 Welcome Bonus points when you meet the criteria.
  • Enjoy an automatic upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status when you reach $30,000 in purchases on your Card each year including business and travel insurance benefits and services.
  • The $150 annual fee may be tax deductible while getting the flexibility to pay balances in full or over time.
  • Includes Travel Accident Insurance, Flight Delay Insurance, Baggage Delay Insurance, and more.

Cons

  • The $150 p.a. annual fee.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

On website

Apply by May 6, 2024

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

Rewards program

American Express Rewards

Points per $1 spent

2 points

Sign up bonus

65,000 points

Annual fee

$120.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Get up to 80,000 Points. Earn 65,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after you charge $3,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership. Plus, earn an additional 3 points for a total of 5 points on every $1 spent on eligible travel and gas purchases in your first 6 months (up to 15,000 points). Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points for every $1 of eligible Marriott Bonvoy purchases and 2 points on other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy an Annual Free Night Award after your Card anniversary each year.

Pros

  • Earn up to 80,000 Welcome Bonus points when you meet the criteria.
  • Earn 5X the points on Marriott purchases.
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 in all other eligible card purchases.
  • Receive 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
  • No annual fee on additional cards.

Cons

  • The $120 p.a. annual fee.
American Express Business Platinum Card

American Express Business Platinum Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1.25 points

Sign up bonus

80,000 points

Annual fee

$799.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 120,000 Membership Rewards points. Get 80,000 welcome bonus points when you charge $15,000 in purchases to your Card in the first three months of Cardmembership. Earn an additional 40,000 points when you make a purchase between 14 and 17 months of Cardmembership. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Earn 1.25x points on eligible purchases.
  • There is no pre-set spending limit.

Pros

  • Earn up to 120,000 points when you meet the criteria.
  • Enjoy 55 interest-free days on purchases.
  • Includes business and travel coverage.

Cons

  • The $799 p.a. annual fee.
American Express Business Edge Card

American Express Business Edge Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

67,000 points

Annual fee

$99.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 67,000 points. Earn 45,000 Membership Rewards points after you charge $5,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership. Earn an additional 1,000 Membership Rewards points for each monthly billing period when you charge $3,000 in purchases on your Card in the first 12 months. Plus earn 10x points for every $1 spent on eligible business essentials within 6 months of cardmembership. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • The $99 annual fee may be tax deductible while getting the flexibility to pay balances in full or over time.
  • When the welcome offer ends, you can still earn 3 points for every $1 in Card purchases on eligible office supplies & electronics, rides &gas, and eats & drinks.

Pros

  • Get an additional card at no extra cost.
  • Includes Business, Travel, and Purchase coverage.
  • Earn 1x point for every $1 spent.

Cons

  • Other cards offer a higher signup bonus.
American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card

American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1.25 points

Sign up bonus

95,000 points

Annual fee

$599.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 95,000 points. Earn 5,000 points for each Employee Aeroplan Business Reserve Card (maximum of 2) with an annual fee added to your account at the time of application. Get an additional 7,500 Aeroplan points after each billing period in which you spend $3,000 in net purchases on your Card for the first six months of Cardmembership. Plus earn 40,000 Aeroplan points when you spend $9,000 in net purchases between 13 and 16 months of Cardmembership. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Earn 3x Aeroplan points on eligible direct purchases with Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations.
  • Earn 2x Aeroplan points on eligible hotel and car rentals.

Pros

  • Earn up to 95,000 points when you meet the criteria
  • Earn 1.25x Aeroplan points on other eligible transactions.
  • Includes Business, Travel, and Purchase coverage.

Cons

  • The $599 p.a. annual fee.
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

70,000 points

Annual fee

$199.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 110,000 points. Earn a welcome bonus of 70,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of Cardmembership. Plus earn an additional 10,000 points when you charge $20,000 in net purchases to your Card account each calendar quarter. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Earn 1x points on eligible purchases.
  • There is no pre-set spending limit.

Pros

  • Earn 110,000 points when you meet the criteria.
  • Enjoy 55 interest-free days on purchases.
  • Includes business, travel, and purchase coverage.

Cons

  • High spend requirement to get bonus points.
Scotiabank SCENE+ Visa Card

Apply by February 29, 2024

Scotiabank SCENE+ Visa Card

Rewards program

SCENE Points

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

5,000 points

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn 5,000 bonus SCENE+ points when you spend $750 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • No annual fee.
  • Earn 1 SCENE point for every $1 you spend on your everyday credit card purchases.

Pros

  • Earn 5,000 bonus SCENE points when you meet the criteria.
  • Earn 5 Scene+ points for every $1 you spend on credit card purchases at Cineplex theatres or at cineplex.com.
  • Save on car rentals.
  • $0 p.a. annual fee.

Cons

  • There is no special balance transfer rate for this card.
HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

Rewards program

HSBC World Elite Rewards

Points per $1 spent

2 points

Sign up bonus

Earn 20,000 points when you make your first spend.

Annual fee

$149.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn 20,000 Points PLUS receive a $100 annual travel enhancement credit. Conditions Apply.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Earn 3% in travel rewards on all eligible travel purchases (6 points per $1) and 1.5% in travel rewards on all other eligible purchases (3 points per $1).

Pros

  • Earn 20,000 points when you meet the criteria.
  • You can receive a $100 annual travel enhancement credit.
  • Get extensive insurance coverage.

Cons

  • The annual fee of $149 p.a.
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Apply by July 1, 2024

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Rewards program

Scotia Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

20,000 points

Annual fee

$120.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 40,000 bonus Scene+ points. Get 20,000 bonus Scene+ points when you spend at least $1,000 in everyday eligible purchases in your first 3 months. Plus an additional 20,000 Scene+ point bonus when you spend at least $7,500 in everyday eligible purchases in your first year. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Earn 6 Scene+ points on every $1 CAD you spend in Canada at Sobeys, Safeway, FreshCo, Foodland, and more.

Pros

  • Earn up to $650 in value and 40,000 bonus Scene+ points when you meet the criteria.
  • Earn 5 Scene+ points for every $1 CAD you spend in Canada on Dining, Food Delivery, and other eligible grocery stores.
  • Includes complimentary concierge service and airport lounge access.
  • Earn 1 Scene+ point for every $1 spent on every other purchase.

Cons

  • The $120 p.a. annual fee.
CIBC Aventura Gold Visa Card

CIBC Aventura Gold Visa Card

Rewards program

CIBC Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

35,000 points

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Earn up to 35,000 Aventura points. Get 20,000 points when you make your first purchase. Plus an additional 15,000 Aventura points when you spend $1,000 or more on each monthly statement during the first year. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Save $139 with a first-year annual fee rebate.
  • Earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent at eligible gas stations, grocery stores, and drug stores.

Pros

  • The $0 annual fee for the first year.
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel purchased through the CIBC Rewards Centre.
  • Comes with valuable insurance coverage.

Cons

  • The annual fee reverts to $139 p.a. after the initial year.
TD Platinum Travel Visa Card

Apply by September 3, 2024

TD Platinum Travel Visa Card

Rewards program

TD Rewards

Points per $1 spent

2 points

Sign up bonus

50,000 points

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Earn up to 50,000 TD points. Get 15,000 welcome points after your first purchase. Receive an additional 35,000 points when you spend at least $1,000 in net purchases within 90 days of account opening. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • $0 annual fee for primary and additional cardholders in the first year. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Get a free 6-month Uber One membership (valued at $60).

Pros

  • Earn 6 TD points for every $1 you spend when you book online through Expedia.
  • Earn 4.5 TD Points for every $1 you spend on grocery, restaurant, and fast food purchases.
  • Earn 3 TD Points on regularly recurring bill payments.
  • Includes 6 travel-related insurances.
  • Earn 50% more TD points at Starbucks.

Cons

  • There is a $15,000 annual spending cap on Bill Payments, Groceries, and Restaurants.
  • The annual fee reverts to $89 p.a. after the initial year.
TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card

Apply by March 4, 2024

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card

Rewards program

TD Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

115,000 points

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Earn up to 135,000 TD points. Get 20,000 welcome points after your first purchase. Receive an additional 115,000 points when you spend at least $5,000 in net purchases within 180 days of account opening. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • $0 annual fee for primary and additional cardholders in the first year. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Earn 3 TD Points for every $1 you spend on purchases.

Pros

  • You can earn a Birthday Bonus of up to 10,000 TD Rewards Points.
  • Earn 8 TD points for every $1 you spend when you book online through Expedia.
  • Includes 7 travel-related insurances.
  • Earn 50% more TD points at Starbucks.

Cons

  • The annual fee reverts to $139 p.a. after the initial year.
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

Apply by March 4, 2024

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

Rewards program

TD Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

20,000 points

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Earn up to 40,000 Aeroplan points. Get 10,000 welcome points after your first purchase. Receive an additional 20,000 points when you spend at least $5,000 in net purchases within 180 days of account opening. Plus another 10,000 points when you keep your account active for 12 months and make $7,500 in net purchases. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent on eligible gas, grocery, and direct through Air Canada purchases.
  • Get an annual fee rebate for the first year (that is a $139 savings). Terms and Conditions apply.

Pros

  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Includes travel insurance.
  • Get a NEXUS application fee rebate.
  • Compatible with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.

Cons

  • The annual fee reverts to $139 p.a. after the initial year.
CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card

CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card

Rewards program

CIBC Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1 point

Sign up bonus

20,000 points

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Earn up to 35,000 Aventura points. Get 20,000 points when you make your first purchase. Plus an additional 15,000 Aventura points when you spend $1,000 or more on each monthly statement during the first year. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Save $139 with a first-year annual fee rebate.
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel purchased through the CIBC Rewards Centre.

Pros

  • Earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores, and drug stores (Accelerate your savings with 10 cents off per litre on gas).
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.
  • Get access to 1,300+ airport lounges – worth over $200. Enjoy a Priority Pass Membership and 4 complimentary airport lounge visits per year.

Cons

  • The annual fee reverts to $139 p.a. after the initial year.
CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card

CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card

Rewards program

CIBC Rewards

Points per $1 spent

1.25 points

Sign up bonus

75,000 points

Annual fee

$599.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 75,000 Aeroplan points. Get 20,000 points when you make your first purchase. Plus 25,000 Aeroplan points when you spend $4,000 or more during the first 4 monthly statement periods. Then an additional 30,000 Aeroplan points when you spend $2,000 or more on each monthly statement in your first year. Terms and Conditions apply.
  • Earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent at eligible gas stations, grocery stores, and drug stores.
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 you spend with Air Canada directly, including through Air Canada Vacations.

Pros

  • Earn 1.25 points for every $1 you spend on all other purchases
  • Enjoy a free first-checked bag on an Air Canada flight in the first year.
  • Enjoy Maple Leaf Lounge access.
  • Earn points twice at over 150 Aeroplan partners and more than 170 online retailers through the Aeroplan eStore.
  • Comes with valuable insurance coverage.

Cons

  • The annual fee of $599 p.a
  • The additional cardholder is $149 p.a.

One of the best reasons to start comparing credit cards is the bonuses that come with a new account. For the simple act of getting approved and meeting certain spending requirements, you can get an influx of points that can help you save money on your next flight, hotel stay, or even build up cash back towards whatever you may want.

But how to do you find the best credit card with bonus points to help you get closer to your financial goals? Are credit card sign up offers too good to be true, or is there true value to be found?

Before you apply for another credit card, it's important to evaluate all of your options, to find a credit card that rewards you for your everyday spending. Get all the answers about credit card offers and how they work to extend your budget right here at Finty.

How credit card sign up bonuses work

A credit card sign up offer is a promotion offering bonus points for new cardholders. Upon account approval, the account holder will qualify to earn a bonus once they achieve a minimum spending target.

In some cases, the bonus could be unlocked with the first use of the card, while others require cardholders to spend a specified amount within the first 90 days of opening their account. When complete, the bonus offer of airline miles, hotel points, flexible bank rewards points or cash back will usually be deposited into your associated account in four to six weeks.

Airline miles, hotel points or cash back: which is best?

Although credit card bonus points offer a great reason to open a new account, its only valuable if you can use them. While one card offers 50,000 miles, another offers 40,000 hotel points, and yet another offers $250 cash back. Is one better than the other? It's all a matter of which program works the best for you.

If you are loyal to one airline or hotel chain, then airline miles or hotel points can offer the most value, because they can get you closer to your next vacation by picking up additional points or miles in their loyalty program. But if you don't travel very often and want the flexibility to choose your own rewards, flexible bank rewards points or cash back offer easy-to-understand rewards with no expiration date.

Double-dip with points malls and cash back portals

Your favorite sign up bonus cards can also offer you a boost when you go shopping online. Use airline and hotel online malls to pick up extra miles on top of those you earn with the card, or pair a cash back rewards card with a cash back website to earn cash on top of cash.

Credit card churning for sign up bonuses

Applying for multiple sign up bonus credit cards in succession is a common practice. New cards are kept only long enough to secure the sign up bonus, then cancelled in favour of a new promotional offer from a competing card. This appears to be encouraged by the absence of a first-year annual fee in many cases. But credit card churning is fraught with danger, so you need to be very careful.

For a start, you could end up with points or miles in a large number of different programs, far less useful than if you concentrate on a single program, or just a couple, unless you can convert points from one program into another.

Secondly, card issuers dislike churning for obvious reasons, and may insert a once-only-in-a-lifetime clause for sign up bonuses. This will be in the small print, so check carefully before you apply.

Furthermore, every time you apply for a new card, the lender makes a hard credit check on your credit history file. The check is recorded and will reduce your score slightly each time. Too many hard checks in a short period can damage your score.

Finally, juggling too many cards could see you missing the sign up bonus spending target on some of them, defeating the purpose of applying for the card. You may even miss some monthly payment dates, with resulting interest charges and possible further damage to your credit score.

In short, if you plan to churn, make sure you are aware of the potential drawbacks.

Learn about credit card sign up bonuses

Confused about how credit card sign up bonuses work? Get the answers to your questions here.

  • FAQs

  • Pros & cons

  • Tips

What is a "sign up bonus"?

A "sign up bonus" is an offer available to qualified new account holders as an incentive for them to open a new credit card account. Upon account approval, the cardholder will be given a challenge to earn a lump sum of rewards for spending a specified amount of money on the card within a limited period of time. The spending thresholds vary from card to card. Some unlock the sign up bonus with the first spend, while others require the cardholder to spend $3,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening the account.

Do cards with a sign up bonus come with an annual fee?

Most rewards credit cards with a sign up bonus come with an annual fee. The typical annual fee can range from $49 to $199, or more for premium cards. Moreover, some cards will waive the fee in the first year, but charge it on the cardholder's first anniversary of opening the account. Be sure to read the fine print to understand how the annual fee will be applied to your card.

Can I get more than one credit card bonus?

Most banks and financial institutions have rules on how often you can get a credit card bonus. Most require new account holders to not have received a sign up bonus from the card they are applying for in the past 24 months. Be sure to read the fine print to understand how you may be affected by different bank rules.

When can I get a new credit card bonus?

If you have never held a particular credit card, you may qualify for the sign up bonus upon account approval. But if you have held the card within the past 24 months, the bank or financial institution may not allow you to collect a new bonus. Be sure to read the rules of the sign up bonus to make sure you qualify.

What happens if I can't make the minimum spending requirement?

If you can't meet the minimum spending requirement for the sign up bonus, then you won't receive it. For example: If your sign up bonus requires you to spend $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening to earn the bonus, but you only spend $2,000, you won't get the bonus. Additionally, because you successfully opened the card, you may have to wait another two years to qualify for a new bonus offer.

If I'm denied for a credit card, can I reapply and still get a bonus?

It all depends on the credit card. Most cards have a minimum wait period before you can reapply for the card and qualify for a new sign up bonus, while others may stipulate you wait 24 months before trying again. The card terms and conditions will help you navigate when you can earn a sign up bonus if you get denied for the card.

Can I stack credit card bonuses?

It depends on the situation. As an example, let's say you get approved for an airline credit card that has a 30,000-mile sign up bonus. Three days later, the bank announces a higher sign up bonus of 50,000 miles. The bank will only let you have one sign up bonus — and it's usually the one you were approved for.

However, you can stack your credit card spending with shopping portals to maximize your earning potential. If you have an Air Canada credit card, and you use it to spend in the Aeroplan shopping portal, you can earn additional Aeroplan miles on top of the offers in the shopping portal, letting you successfully stack promotions.

How long do I need to keep credit card accounts open to keep the bonus?

Almost every credit card requires you to keep your account open for a period of time to keep your sign up bonus. As a smart credit management rule, you should keep your credit card accounts open for at least the first year to maximize your earning potential. After the first year is up and the annual fee hits, you can either cancel the credit card, or try to negotiate a bonus offer to keep the card open.

Big sign up bonuses for applying

Arguably, the biggest positive of a credit card sign up bonus are the points, miles, or cash back that come with meeting the minimum spend. The influx of rewards points or cash back can help you get closer to your next big purchase in the first year of account opening — be it a vacation, a big purchase, or anything of your choosing.

Regular rewards for everyday spending

While the sign up bonus offers a lot of value upfront, it's not the only reason to get one. Rewards cards also give you points or cash back for every spend. Depending on which card you have, bonus categories can give you even more points, miles or cash back when you use it with your favorite travel or household brands.

Other benefits available

Chances are the sign up bonus is not the only benefit on a potential new credit card. As well as ongoing regular points earning or cash back, there may be other complimentary perks, like free insurance, roadside assistance, travel credits and hotel discounts.

The annual fee is due on your anniversary every year

Although it's often waived in the first year, most credit cards with a sign up bonus will charge an annual fee starting on the first anniversary of opening your account. The annual fees can cost anywhere from $49 to over $199 per year. Before you apply for a card, be sure to check the fine print to understand the annual fee, and make sure the points or cash back you earn is in excess of the annual fee.

Sign up bonus cards come with high interest rates

While the big sign up bonus is a welcome boost for your rewards strategy, it can also come back to haunt you when carrying a credit card balance. Rewards credit cards often come with interest rates between 15.99% and 21.99%. Unless you can pay off your credit card each month, you may be paying more than the rewards you are earning are worth.

Some sign up bonuses are only available once in a lifetime

To discourage credit card churning, some credit card bonuses are only available if you have not held the card and received the promotional offer in the last 24 months, while others are only available once per lifetime. Before applying for a card, be sure to read the fine print to understand the terms and conditions that come with your application.

Finding the best credit card bonuses

There's no shortage of credit card promotions out there available to Canadians with good credit. But how can you really find the best credit card promotions to fit your lifestyle?

First, make sure your credit is in top shape before you apply. Many cards offering bonuses in the first year are only available to those with excellent credit. Next, be sure to shop around. Banks and financial institutions are always looking for new cardholders, and change credit card bonuses based on a number of internal factors. Finally, do your research on historical credit card bonus offers. If a bank offered a bigger bonus in the past, there are good odds they will offer it again.

Shop around to find the right sign up bonus card

Sign up offers can differ, depending on where you look. Some credit card intro offers are higher when you take an application from a hotel or airplane, while some come in the mail. Be sure to search online, and listen to what others are saying about their best sign up bonus offers. The first offer you come across may not be the best.

Budget around the sign up bonus offer requirements

Most sign up bonus credit cards require you to spend a certain amount within the first 90 days from the account opening, while others offer you rolling sign up bonuses in the first year. This requires budgeting so that you can meet the spending requirement, without leaving a large balance on your credit card. If you can't make the minimum spend without leaving a balance, the card might not be right for you.

Don't apply for a lot of sign up bonuses at once

When you apply for a lot of credit cards at one time, banks and financial institutions may get suspicious about your activity, leading to application denials. Other banks have a "5/24" rule, meaning you can't get approved for a new credit card if you've opened five accounts within a 24-month period. Each credit card application you make also results in a hard credit inquiry by the lender, resulting in a temporary dip in your credit score. Be selective about which credit cards you open, and make sure that you can use the points or miles once you've earned them.

Read the fine print on how many bonuses you can earn

With most rewards credit cards, you can only earn a sign up bonus if you have not held the credit card within a 24-month period. Other credit cards only allow you to collect one sign up bonus per lifetime. Before applying for any credit card, be sure to read the fine print to make sure you qualify for the sign up bonus. Otherwise, it may be a wasted credit card application.

Balancing high APRs and annual fees

While there are a lot of positives to credit card bonuses, there are also some pitfalls everyone should know about. Those rewards credit cards can come with high interest rates and annual fees.

With many cards, the annual fee is waived for the first year. But starting in year two, you will be charged an annual fee anywhere between $49 and $300 or more, depending on which card you have. In addition, the interest rate on many of these cards usually sit between 15.99% and 21.99%. If you carry a balance on most of your credit cards, or can't get value from your card in excess of the annual fee, a rewards card with a sign up bonus may not be best for you.