Now is the time to load up your wallet.
Several airline and hotel companies are offering unusually big bonuses on credit-card signups this spring. You can get 80,000 Marriott Rewards by signing up for its Visa card--enough for two free nights at a luxury property. With the new JetBlue Plus Mastercard, you can score sufficient points for two round-trip tickets to Puerto Rico. Use your cards wisely, and you can quickly accumulate enough rewards for an extended vacation.
Like so many great deals, most of these offers are only available for a limited time. Here are the ones to consider before they expire.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
The Offer: 80,000 Marriot Rewards points if you spend $3,000 in the first three months. The usual signup bonus is 50,000 points after spending $2,000.
The Fee: $85 a year
Who Should Get It: Marriott loyalists who have been waiting for a big bonus. Leisure travelers looking to redeem points at a wide range of properties.
What It's Worth: 80,000 points is enough for two free nights at a Category 8 hotel, such as the new J.W. Marriott in Venice, Italy, where rooms start at around $450 per night in September. Or you could get four nights (and an automatic fifth night free thanks to a card benefit) at a Category 4 hotel such as the Artisan D.C. Hotel, part of Marriott's Autograph Collection. Rates are around $235 per night in May and June, making your bonus worth $1,175.
Other Big Perks: Five points per dollar at Marriott properties, and two points per dollar spent with airlines, car rental agencies, and restaurants. The card also gives you 15 nights of elite credit per year, enough for Silver status, with benefits such as 20% bonus points on stays and priority late checkout.
Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express
The Offer: 100,000 Hilton points when you spend $3,000 within three months of account opening--the highest sign-up bonus ever offered for this card. The promotion expires May 4.
The Fee: $75 a year
Who Should Get It: Hilton loyalists who want the credit card that will earn them the most points on hotel stays, and give them a shortcut to elite status.
What It's Worth: One free night at a top-tier property like the Conrad Maldives (where a villa costs $900), or two free nights at a mid-tier property like the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii, which would otherwise be $249 per night.
Other Big Perks: You get 12 points per dollar on Hilton purchases; six points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations; and three points per dollar on everything else. The card also confers automatic Hilton HHonors Gold elite status, with perks like 25% bonus points on hotel stays and free breakfast; if you $40,000 in a calendar year, you receive top-tier Diamond status.
IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
The Offer: 70,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months, plus 5,000 points for adding a user who makes a purchase in the same time frame.
The Fee: $49, waived the first year
Who Should Get It: Folks who will maximize its annual free night benefit, and want to be able to redeem at some 5,000 properties around the world, from high-end InterContinentals to standard Holiday Inns.
What It's Worth: 75,000 points is enough for four free nights at a Category 3 hotel like the Hotel Indigo San Antonio Downtown-Alamo, where rates are $145 per night. A Category 7 property like the InterContinental Resort and Spa in French Polynesia runs 40,000 points (or $315) per night.
Other Big Perks: This card confers IHG platinum elite status, with benefits including as a 50% points bonus on stays, complimentary room upgrades, and a 10% refund on points redemptions. But perhaps the single most valuable benefit is the free night you get every year at any IHG hotel.
Hilton HHonors Card from American Express
The Offer: 75,000 Hilton points (versus the usual 40,000) when you spend $1,000 within three months of account opening. The offer expires May 4.
The Fee: None
Who Should Get It: Travelers who already have Hilton's premium cards and want to accumulate points without a high minimum spending requirement .
What It's Worth: Two nights at a lower-tier property like the Hilton Miami Downtown (30,000 points each, or around $159 a night). The bonus is nearly enough for a night this summer at the Hilton Paris Opera, which is priced around $550 a night or 80,000 points.
Other Big Perks: Cardholders receive Hilton HHonors silver elite status, which gets you a fifth night free on award stays; you can reach gold status with $20,000 in spending in a calendar year.
JetBlue Plus MasterCard
The Offer: 30,000 TrueBlue points when you spend $3,000 within three months of account opening. The offer is good indefinitely (at least for now).
The Fee: $99
Who Should Get It: JetBlue fliers who want to juice up their points earning.
What It's Worth: TrueBlue points are usually worth around 1.3-1.7 cents toward redemptions, so 30,000 points can be worth up to about $510 in airfare. In three months you should have more than enough points for two round-trip award tickets from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Other Big Perks: This card earns six bonus points per dollar on JetBlue purchases (in addition to the six points you earn booking JetBlue tickets online). You get a 5,000-point bonus every year, and a 10% refund on points you redeem for award tickets, plus elite benefits including free checked bags and waived change and cancellation fees for the first year you have the card.
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--By Eric Rosen