Just in time for the holidays: Credit card bonuses

Highway sign with the words Rewards-Next Exit

How would you like $500 in gift cards?

That's just one of the perks available right now from credit card issuers who are competing heavily to offer the best incentives and gain new customers.

After all, credit cards are looking more lucrative to banks stung by the Oct. 1 cap lawmakers placed on debit card swipe fees.

That's the fee card companies charge retailers every time you swipe your debit card at the register. The legislation didn't impact credit cards.

Today's sign-up incentives might be bigger, but they also require more of the cardholder.

We've seen a lot of offers this year that require a pretty significant spending threshold in order to receive the bonus.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card requires you to spend $3,000 within three months of opening your account to get a 50,000-point bonus.

Those points are worth $500 in gift cards or $625 toward a hotel stay or airfare.

American Express still offers an easy 10,000 points after making a single purchase on its Starwood Preferred Guest card.

These points are worth at least $100 in gift cards, possibly more if you use the points for a hotel stay.

If you want to get an additional 15,000 points, worth another $150, you’ll have to spend $5,000 within 6 months of opening the account.

In some cases, an annual fee reduces the value of the sign-up bonus.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has no annual fee for the first year, but there's a $95 annual fee in subsequent years. That fee will eat away at your bonus and isn’t really worth it for most consumers since most of the card’s perks are comparable to those offered by cards that charge no annual fee.

The Starwood card also has no annual fee the first year but a $65 fee in subsequent years.

Compare these deals with the credit card offers in our extensive database.

Other sign-up offers in our database include:

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