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 18th January 2022

Comparing credit card sign up bonuses

Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card

Scotiabank SCENE Visa Card

Rewards program

SCENE Points

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

2,500 points

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn 2,500 bonus SCENE points with your first $500 in everyday purchases in first 3 months.
  • No annual fee.
  • Earn 1 SCENE point for every $1 you spend on your everyday credit card purchases.
HSBC World Elite Mastercard

HSBC World Elite Mastercard

Rewards program

HSBC Rewards

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

70,000 points

Annual fee

$149.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 70,000 Points PLUS a full annual fee rebate for the Primary Cardholder for the first year. Must apply by 27 September 2021. 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).
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Scotiabank Gold American Express Card

Rewards program

Scotia Rewards

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

20,000 points

Annual fee

$120.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn 30,000 bonus Scotia Rewards points by making at least $1,000 in everyday eligible purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Plus, for a limited time, you are eligible to earn a 10,000 Scotia Rewards point bonus when you spend at least $7,500 in everyday eligible purchases in your first year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
American Express Cobalt Card

American Express Cobalt Card

Rewards program

N/A

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$120.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn 5X the points on eligible eats & drinks, 2X the points on eligible travel & transit, 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
  • Earn up to 30,000 Bonus Points in your first year as a new Cobalt Card member. Plus, you can earn a Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend a total of $3,000 in net purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Terms and conditions apply.
  • Enjoy perks, bonus rewards, and access to great events as an American Express Cobalt Card member.
American Express Gold Rewards Card

American Express Gold Rewards Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$150.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • 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.
  • Earn 1 additional Membership Rewards point for every $1 charged to your Card on eligible hotel or car rental bookings made with American Express Travel.
  • Enjoy Travel-Related and Shopping Insurance Coverage.

Bank promo

  • Earn a Welcome Bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership.
American Express Platinum Card

American Express Platinum Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$150.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn 2,500 Membership Rewards points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in purchases on your Card. Plus, you can earn a Welcome Bonus of 20,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend a total of $3,000 in net purchases on your Card in your first 3 months of Cardmembership. Terms and conditions apply.
  • Earn 3 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.
  • Earn 1 additional Membership Rewards point for every $1 charged to your Card on eligible hotel or car rental bookings made with American Express Travel.

Bank promo

  • Earn a Welcome Bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $1,500 in purchases to your Card in your first 3 months of card membership.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

Rewards program

Membership Rewards

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

N/A

Annual fee

$150.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points for every $1 of eligible Marriott Bonvoy purchases and 2 points on other eligible purchases.
  • Receive complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status with an automatic upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status when you reach $30,000 in purchases charged to the Card each year, including 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
  • Enjoy Travel-Related and Shopping Insurance Coverage.

Bank promo

  • Earn a Welcome Bonus of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points1 + $120 statement credit. Terms and conditions apply.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

Rewards program

HSBC Rewards

Points per $1 spent

N/A

Sign up bonus

100,000 points

Annual fee

$149.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Earn up to 100,000 Points PLUS a full annual fee rebate for the Primary Cardholder for the first year. Must apply by 31 January 2022. 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).
  • Primary Cardholder Annual Fee: $149 (as an HSBC Premier client, the Account will be eligible for a $50 rebate of the annual fee).

Overview

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.

  • Pros & cons

  • Tips

  • FAQs

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.