In this study, we examined the relative effectiveness of prestige-based incentives (vaccination of an expert scientist/president/politician/celebrity/religious leader), conformist incentives (vaccination of friends and family) and risk-based incentives (witnessing death or illness of a person from the disease) for increasing participants' chances of getting vaccinated with respect to their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine intention. We conducted a cross-cultural survey using demographically representative samples from the UK (n = 1533), USA (n = 1550) and Turkey (n = 1567). The most effective incentives in all three countries were vaccination of an expert scientist, followed by vaccination of friends and family members and knowing someone dying from the disease. Vaccination of an expert scientist was significantly more effective at increasing vaccine intention than any other incentive. Vaccine incentives, regardless of the incentive type, were much less effective for those who originally refused the COVID-19 vaccine than for those who were hesitant to receive the vaccine. Although the percentage of vaccine-hesitant participants was highest in Turkey, the mean effectiveness scores of incentives were also the highest in Turkey, suggesting that an informed vaccine promotion strategy can be successful in this country. Our findings have policy applicability and suggest that positive vaccination messages delivered by expert scientists, vaccination of friends and family and risk-based incentives can be effective at increasing vaccine uptake.