It’s been nearly 5 years since I last wrote a thorough update on my journey with credit card and bank account sign-up bonuses (check out that article here) and almost 6 years since my first article on it (click here for that one).
Much has changed since I wrote those. I have continued to sign up for new credit cards and bank accounts for the bonuses, but at a much slower rate than when I first started 8 years ago. There are a few reasons for this.
First, in 2018 Whitney and I semi-retired and started taking extended trips around the world. Since then, we were out of the country for 5 months in 2018, 4 months in 2019, 0 months in 2020 (Covid), 2 months in 2021, and 5 months in 2022. Between those international trips, we also did several extended road trips around the US each year ranging from 2 to 8 weeks at a time. We also spent the summer of 2021 in Hawaii, and the summer of 2022 in Alaska. It’s been a whirlwind of traveling and growing our online business since 2018. On those trips, we were very busy to say the least, and I found it difficult and much more logistically challenging to be signing up for and meeting requirements on a bunch of new accounts.
Second, after opening so many new accounts in a short three year span, I had a surplus of points and felt that continuing to rack up massive amounts with no clear use didn’t make much sense. I even cashed out a ton of Chase points in 2020 when it was unclear when we’d be traveling again.
Third, keeping track of so many new accounts started to become daunting, even with very good record keeping. I wanted to slow down a little and make things more manageable for the long term.
Even with slowing down the pace of opening new accounts, I was able to continue to earn a significant amount of money and points each year from sign-up bonuses. I’ve averaged about $460/month from sign-up bonuses since 2015 and also gotten thousands of dollars worth of free travel each year using points for flights and hotels. Not bad for a side hustle that I only put a couple of hours a week of effort into in recent years.
New Account Sign-ups
Alright, let’s get into the spreadsheet and numbers. These are screenshots of a spreadsheet I made tracking all of my credit card, bank account, and brokerage account bonuses over the past 8 years:
In total this is:
- 51 new credit cards
- 50 new bank accounts
- 5 new brokerage accounts
in the past 8 years that I’ve opened to get sign-up bonuses!
If that sounds crazy to you, I completely understand. When I look at it and consider that more than half of those were in the first three years, it sounds pretty crazy to me too. The value that I’ve gotten from the bonuses has definitely made the hassle worth it though.
Rewards From Sign-Up Offers
From the numbers at the bottom of the spreadsheet above, you can see that I earned a total of:
- 1,880,000 miles/points
- 9 free hotel nights
- $17,078 in cash bonuses (this is with fees that I paid over the years already being subtracted out)
Using these rewards for free international and domestic flights has saved us a ton on travel over the years, but we’ve probably gotten even more value from free hotel nights all over the world.
We stayed 26 nights for free at hotels all over Europe in 2019 on just one of our international trips. In total we’ve stayed more than 110 nights for free at hotels since 2015 (Note: this includes both “free night” certificates and hotel points).
Many of our free nights have been at upscale hotels in places like London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, Amsterdam, Brussels, Santorini, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Sydney, Quebec, Montego Bay (all-inclusive), Denver, Dallas, Washington D.C., New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Miami! At an average price of $200/night (a very conservative estimate of the average cash price for these hotels) 110 free nights would be worth roughly $22,000 alone.
One thing that I didn’t include in the totals this time is credit card referral bonuses. When I wrote these updates in the past, referral bonuses were pretty rare for me. Fortunately, they’re much less rare these days. I get referral bonuses often from friends and family asking for help with credit card rewards after writing so many articles about them, and also lots of referral bonuses from a credit card recommendation page that I keep updated on the Travel Therapy Mentor website. I don’t feel that including those referral bonuses, which aren’t reproducible for most people, in the numbers adds any value to readers who want to follow a similar path to me when it comes to sign-up bonuses.
Conservatively, I estimate that I’ve averaged about $7,500/year between cash and free travel over the past 8 years from these bonuses, with much of that value being TAX FREE!
And honestly, that doesn’t even tell the whole story of the value. I’ve also earned extra cash and points from things like:
- various promotional offers on cards I already have
- 0% purchase APR periods on some of the various new credit cards above
- AMEX offers on my American Express cards
- credit card funding of various bank accounts leading to extra cash back with no actual spending
- buy one get one free flights with the Southwest Companion Pass
- and the biggest of all, a minimum of 2% cashback (or the point equivalent) on nearly every dollar I’ve spent for 8 years just by putting the purchases on a credit card
There are also some less tangible benefits that have saved me money over the years from credit cards including:
- free airport lounge access (we’ve gotten more than 100 free lounge visits all over the world many of which would have cost $20+/person)
- free checked bags
- extended warranties on large purchases
- free travel insurance
- free rental car insurance
- and free cell phone insurance
These extras have been worth at least an extra $2,500/year for me.
The summary of points and rewards here only includes the accounts that I’ve signed up for in the last 8 years. I have not tracked Whitney’s accounts as meticulously, but she has signed up for probably about 75% of the same cards and accounts as I have above, earning her own rewards, points, and free nights which we’ve used toward free travel.
If you include all of the cash and points that Whitney has earned on her own credit card and bank account bonuses, then we must be very close to $100,000 in total value from sign-up bonuses combined over the past 8 years! That’s mind blowing to me!
Impact on Credit Score
At this point, you’re probably saying, “but what about your credit score?!“
Most people think that opening a lot of new cards like this would have a very negative impact on credit score, but that fear is massively overblown. In fact, my credit score is now 40 points higher than when I started signing up for all of these new accounts 8 years ago. If you don’t believe me, here’s a screenshot of my current credit score (806).
Advice for Others
If you haven’t started pursuing sign-up bonuses, I strongly encourage you do so. These bonuses can lead to serious value, even if you don’t go as extreme as I have over the years. With just one new credit card and bank account bonus each quarter, it’s realistic to earn a few thousand each year in cash and free travel with minimal effort and hassle. Not bad at all for a side hustle you can do from home.
A great place to help you get started is this credit card sign-up bonuses recommendation page. I also recommend reading this article discussing the basics of credit card sign-up bonuses so you can learn how to do this effectively, and most importantly be sure not to pay any interest or fees.
Are you already using credit card and bank account sign up bonuses to earn rewards and free travel? Let me know in the comments!
Have questions about all of this? Leave those in the comments as well!
Thanks for reading!