For a time, it was almost a given that with each new year, credit card users would see new and more lucrative offers of sign up bonuses. Over time, the implicit message of these offers was that the card itself didn’t matter, so long as the sign up bonus enticed customers into completing an application. As sign up bonuses level off or decline, credit card users are returning to evaluating the ongoing merits of each product rather than just the initial offer.
In recent years, the Sapphire Preferred card from Chase has emerged as one of the leading premium reward cards. Yet applicants could overlook that fact in the face of a sign up bonus as large as 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Card holders could redeem points for gift cards, statement credits, travel experiences or frequent flier miles. This year their offer has shrunk to 40,000 points, but many still see the value in this card. Chase has continued to enhance opportunities to earn bonus miles from spending and redeem them at an ever increasing list of travel partners.
Another premium rewards card is the American Express Platinum. Although its sign up bonus has decreased from 50,000 Membership Rewards points to a mere 25,000, it still continues to offer outstanding value. For example, American Express offers cardholders an annual $200 credit towards any ancillary airline charges. In addition, it now offers complimentary membership in the Global Entry program and PreCheck. Global Entry is the expedited clearance process run by the United States Customs and Border Patrol while PreCheck is the trusted traveler program operated by the TSA. Each normally requires a one-time fee of $100, but American Express will reimburse Platinum card holders for these expenses. Finally, American Express has also enhanced their Platinum card by waiving its foreign transaction fee of 2.7%. This fee, which still applies to its other cards, can add up quite quickly when taking long vacations or just going on shopping trips across the border.
A sign up bonus is designed to reward customers for giving a bank the opportunity to earn their business. For some time, these offers were so large, that they overwhelmed customers and dissuaded them from considering the other benefits of the card. Although sign up bonuses have reached their peak and some have started to be reduced, customers are still finding increased rewards built in to these products that will provide value long after their initial sign up bonus has been forgotten.