American Express

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Hotel cards offer a variety of perks like free night, hotel points (that can be used for free nights), hotel status, and increasingly other benefits like statement credits.

There are tons of hotel cards out there, but I think you can focus on these five cards first.

#5 the 75,000 bonus point Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card drops its bonus on Wednesday (8/31/16)

#1 Chase Sapphire Reserve

While not strictly a hotel card, this is still the clear #1 hotel card because the 100,000 bonus points can transfer to 100,000 Hyatt points, which are worth 3-20 free nights in Hyatts depending on category or 2-12 nights in suites.

Plus the $600 in travel credits you can get in the first 12 months of having the card can be used to offset another $600 in hotel stays.

  • Sign Up Bonus: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in spending in the first three months, can transfer to four types of hotel points
  • Statement Credits: First $300 in travel purchases each calendar year are offset; $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Precheck Credit
  • Category Bonuses: 3x on travel and restaurants
  • Value of Ultimate Rewards: Worth 1.5 cents toward the cash booking of any hotel OR can be transferred to seven airlines and four hotels for higher value
  • Lounge Access: Priority Pass Select Membership means free access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide
  • Global Acceptance: Visa, chip technology, and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Eligibility: Chase 5/24 Rule
  • Full MileValue Analysis of Chase Sapphire Reserve

Apply: Chase Sapphire Reserve

#2 Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card

This is another card with a mega annual fee and mega benefits. (Don’t worry cards #3-#4 have low annual fees, and #5 has no annual fee.)

The Ritz-Carlton offers three free nights at Tier 1-4 properties after spending $5,000. There are only five tiers, so you can stay in some very fancy hotels that go for $500+ per night.

Adding an authorized user and meeting the minimum spending requirement gets you at least halfway to another free night.

The statement credits are not nearly as valuable as those offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

  • Sign Up Bonus: Three free nights at Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carltons after $5,000 in spending in the first three months
  • Authorized User Bonus: Get 10,000 bonus points for adding one when signing up for the card
  • Statement Credits: First $300 in spending on “airline lounge day pass, or towards a yearly lounge membership of your choice; airline seat upgrades; airline baggage fees; in-flight Internet/entertainment; in-flight meals” are offset each calendar year; $100 Global Entry Credit
  • Category Bonuses: 5x at Ritz-Carlton; 2x on airlines, car rentals, and restaurants
  • Value of Ritz-Carlton Points: Need 30k to 70k for a free night
  • Lounge Access: Priority Pass Select Membership means free access to 900+ airport lounges worldwide
  • Discounted Flights: $100 discount on domestic flight bookings for 2+ passengers
  • Global Acceptance: Visa, chip technology, and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • EligibilityChase 5/24 Rule

Apply: Ritz-Carlton Card

#3 Starwood Preferred Guest Card

This has a sign up bonus more valuable than other hotel cards, but I’d still hold off for the once or twice per year increase of the bonus to 30,000 or 35,000 Starpoints, since American Express only lets you get one bonus per product. That means if you get a 25,000 point bonus now, you can never get the bonus again, even if it increases to 30,000 or 35,000 points.

Apply: SPG Card

#4 Hilton Reserve

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is the best card for giving you free luxury hotel nights. The card comes with two free weekend nights at Hiltons worldwide after spending $2,500 in the first four months. The free nights are best spent at top-tier Hiltons and Conrads that can go for $1,000 or more per night.

This card is perfect to get aspirational stays at top tier properties like the Conrad Koh Samui that goes for 95,000 Hilton points per night and costs more than $1k per night.

The card also comes with Hilton Gold Status, so you can enjoy free internet and breakfast on those free stays.

The card earns 10x points on Hilton stays, 5x on airlines and car rentals, and 3x on all other purchases.

There card has no foreign transaction fee. The annual fee is $95.

  • Sign Up Bonus: Two free weekend nights at Hiltons worldwide after $2,500 in spending in the first four months
  • Annual Spending Bonus: One free weekend night any calendar year you spend $10,000
  • Category Bonuses: 10x at Hiltons, 5x at airlines and car rental agencies, 3x on everyday spending
  • Value of Hilton Points: Worth 0.4 cents to me. Should be used at Category 1-3 Hiltons for free nights from 5,000 to 20,000 points per night instead of Category 10 Hiltons which cost 95,000 points per night
  • Automatic Status: Hilton Gold Status as long as you hold the card
  • Global Acceptance: Visa, chip technology, and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Eligibility: You can get the bonus again as long as your last Citi Hilton has been closed for 24 months.
  • Where to use free night certificates

Apply: Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card

#5 75,000 Point Hilton No Annual Fee Card (Expires Wed)

Until Wednesday August 31, 2016, the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card comes with 75,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months, automatic Hilton Silver status, and no annual fee.

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This is a huge sign up bonus for a card with no annual fee.

The card offers 6x points at Hilton hotels; 3x at supermarkets, drugstores, and gas stations; and 2x on all other purchases. Plus any year you spend $1,000 at Hiltons, you get 10,000 bonus points.

Free night awards start at 5,000 points per night and because the card gives you free Silver status, cardholders get the fifth night free on all awards.

Spending $2,500 on the card (of which at least $2,000 is in the first three months) will give you 80,000 Hilton points, enough for 4 five-night stays at Category 1 hotels, 20 total nights!

  • Sign Up Bonus: 75,000 Bonus Hilton Points after spending $2,000 in the first three months
  • Spending Bonus: Any year you spend $1,000 at Hiltons, you get 10,000 bonus points
  • Category Bonuses: 6x at Hiltons; 3x at supermarkets, drugstores, and gas stations; 2x on everyday spending
  • Value of Hilton Points: Worth 0.4 cents to me, but you can get a lot more value. Should be used for five night stays at Category 1-3 Hiltons to take advantage of cheap award prices and the fifth night free. 80,000 Hilton points = 20 free nights at Category 1, 10 at Category 2, and five at Category 3
  • Automatic Status: Hilton Silver Status as long as you hold the card
  • Global Acceptance: Visa, chip technology, but 3% foreign transaction fee. Do not use abroad
  • Annual Fee: none
  • Eligibility: You can get the bonus again as long as your last Citi Hilton has been closed for 24 months.
  • Full card breakdown and analysis

Apply: Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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This limited time offer EXPIRES TOMORROW June 22, 2016. Apply today to qualify for the 75,000 Membership Reward bonus! 

Through June 22, 2016, there is a publicly available offer for 75,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 on the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz. Despite the name, the card is available to everyone, not just Mercedes-Benz customers.

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I value those points at about $1,500.

Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, Singapore, and British Airways.

The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status.

For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card.

Eligibility

If you have ever had the Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum, you are ineligible to get the bonus again because Amex now has a strict one-bonus-per-lifetime rule for each card. However this card is a separate product from the “regular” Amex Platinum personal and business cards, so having had either of those cards before won’t stop you from getting this card and its bonus.

Post your application results in the comments.

Hat Tip Reddit

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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I get questions all the time like this:

Hi, I have a million American Express Membership Rewards/Chase Ultimate Rewards/Citi ThankYou Points, what is the best transfer partner to go from [here] to [there.]

There are basically two ways to answer the question:

  1. Look at award charts of all the points’ transfer partners and then look for award space using the cheapest miles. I used this method to suggest to my friend that he transfer his Membership Rewards to Flying Blue miles to get from Denver to Tel Aviv. I covered this method extensively in Best Way to Get to Israel with Miles, which is a much broader post than the title suggests.
  2. Look for award space on all airlines that fly from [here] to [there], then figure out the cheapest way to fly the itinerary you most like. I’ll cover this second method in this post.

My friend messaged me last week saying that she had access to a few hundred thousand American Express Membership Rewards and wanted to fly from Buenos Aires to New York on June 3 or June 6.

Since she had such specific dates and not that many airlines fly from Buenos Aires to New York, I thought the best strategy was to search award space, then figure out which transfer partner to use to book what I found.

The airlines to search were:

  • American
  • United
  • Delta
  • AeroMexico
  • Copa
  • Avianca
  • LATAM
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Air Canada

The cool thing is that all these airlines can be searched on three sites:

  1. United.com shows United, Copa, Air Canada, and Avianca award space
  2. Delta.com shows Delta, AeroMexico, and Aerolineas Argentinas award space
  3. BA.com shows American Airlines and LATAM award space

If you search those three sites (without signing into united.com) and find Saver award space on any of the airlines, it should be bookable with any type of miles that can book that airlines’ award space. That’s just another way of saying that airlines usually release all their Saver award space equally to all partners.

So I went to search (except I cheated and subbed aa.com for ba.com because I didn’t expect to find good LATAM award space, so going to ba.com would just be slower.)

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aa.com search
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delta.com search
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united.com search

Search Results

AA.com

On aa.com, I hit the jackpot–direct Business Class award space in a flat bed from Buenos Aires to New York on American Airlines at the Saver level.

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American charges 57,500 miles one way for that space, but that is irrelevant because American Airlines is not a partner of Amex. We’d have to transfer to a partner of American’s to book the space, and different programs charge different prices for the same awards.

Amex has four partners that could book the flight:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • British Airways Avios
  • Iberia Avios
  • Etihad Guest Miles (added April 2016)

The oneworld partners are distance-based programs, and unfortunately this is quite a long flight at over 5,200 miles flown. British Airways and Iberia charge an insane 150,000 Avios one way for the flight in Business Class. Cathay Pacific Asia miles charges 70,000 miles one way.

Etihad is a region-based program that is not a member of any alliance but has American Airlines as a partner. Amazingly Etihad uses American Airlines’ pre-devAAluation award chart for American Airlines flights, so this flight would be only 50,000 Etihad miles.

Unfortunately, my friend was looking to fly within the week, and Etihad Guest’s terms say:

9.3.5. Redemption travel on Partner airline flights must be booked no less than 14 working days prior to the date of travel via the Etihad Guest Service Centre only.

Delta.com

The results on delta.com were not very good. She could book an economy award on Delta for 47,500 Delta miles or Business Class for 147,500 miles. (These would not be bookable with Delta partners’ miles because this is not Saver award space.)

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 7.47.16 PMDelta.com pulled up no Aerolineas Argentinas or AeroMexico award space.

United.com

United pulled up Saver Business Class award space on Copa on June 3 with one stop in Panama.
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It also found Saver economy award space on United on June 6, and Saver economy and Business space on Air Canada/United for June 6.Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 7.48.04 PM Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 7.59.53 PM

This Star Alliance award space is bookable with the following Membership Rewards partners:

  • ANA Mileage Club
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Singapore KrisFlyer

ANA requires roundtrip tickets, and she was only booking one way. For one way awards, Singapore charges 50,000 miles in Business Class from Argentina to the USA; Aeroplan charges 55,000.

The clear best option in her opinion was to book Business Class on Copa on June 3 with 50,000 Singapore miles. (By the way, here’s a Copa Business Class trip report from when I flew the airline in January to Chile.)

What She Needs to Do

The Amex points she’ll use are not in her account. That adds an extra step, the redemption nominee form step.

  1. Open a Singapore KrisFlyer account in name of the person who has the Amex points. This is important because the owner of the Amex points cannot transfer them to an airline account in my friend’s name.
  2. Fill out a “redemption nominee form” in that KrisFyler account with my friend’s information. This is important because while all American airline programs allow an account owner to redeem awards for anyone, Singapore only allows you to redeem for people who you have listed as nominees first. This process is really simple and I detailed my experience with it here.
  3. Transfer 50,000 points from her friend’s Amex account to her friend’s new Singapore account.
  4. Wait. It will take 12-36 hours for points to arrive as Singapore miles. In this time, the award space could disappear. (It probably won’t, but it could.) In that case, my friend would be stuck with one of the other options from united.com.
  5. When the miles arrive, call Singapore Airlines at 800-742-3333 and tell the agent the dates, cabins, and flight numbers of those Copa flights. Here’s my experience booking awards with Singapore miles. She should do this immediately when the miles post because you must book Singapore partner awards at least three days before departure.

Bottom Line

There is usually no way to answer the best transfer partner from [here] to [there] without researching. The two main research ways are to check charts first and then find award space or check award space first and then figure out the best way to book it.

In general, I’d use the charts first method from my other friend’s Israel trip if you have more date flexibility and if more airlines fly the route. I’d use this award space first method if you have less date flexibility and there are are fewer award search engines you’d need to search.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Award taxes and airfare add up for everyone reading this blog, especially if you book yourself reimbursable tickets for work. What credit card should you use to pay the airfare and award taxes for your travel?

Bonus Spending

Many cards offer bonus points for “airfare” or “travel” purchases. In practice, these bonus any spending that an airline processes, which includes:

  • airfare
  • award taxes
  • fuel surcharges on awards
  • fees (seat selection, upgrade, cancellation, baggage, etc)
  • onboard food

It also sometimes includes mileage purchases. American Airlines and LifeMiles, for instance, process their own mileage sales, so buying miles counts as an “airfare” or “travel” purchase with cards that offer those bonus categories. United and Alaska use points.com to process mileage sales, so purchases of those miles do not count as an “airfare” or “travel” purchase.

Three Best Cards for Airfare Spending

The three best cards to pay an airline are the American Express Gold cards, Citi Prestige® Card, and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. All four cards offer three points per dollar on airfare spending (the business Gold only earns 3x if you designate it as your biggest spending category), and I value points from all three similarly.Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 9.02.13 PM

All four cards offer no foreign transaction fees, which is very important for airfare and award taxes, since you probably book with a lot of foreign airlines.

What About Online Travel Agencies?

If you are booking with an online travel agency–like Orbitz, Expedia, or Priceline–use your Citi Prestige® Card or Citi ThankYou® Premier Card. They earn 3x points per dollar when booking airfare through an online travel agency.

The AMEX Gold cards only earn 3x points when booking directly with an airline.

Airline Specific Cards

‘The AMEX Gold cards only earn 3x points when booking directly with an airline.

Most co-branded airline cards offer 2x miles on purchases with that airline. For instance, the United Explorer card offers 2x miles on United purchases. The American Express Gold cards, Citi Prestige® Card, and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card always offer a better return than 2x airline cards.

There are airline cards that offer 3x though:

  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card offers 3x points on Alaska purchases
  • British Airways Visa Signature Card offers 3x points on airfare British Airways purchases
  • Virgin America Visa Signature Credit Cards offers 3x points on Virgin America purchases

Virgin American points are worth over 2 cents each, so if you fly Virgin America and have its credit card, use it for Virgin America purchases. You also earn 5x points on top of that for being a member of Virgin America Elevate, their frequent flyer program, although the 5x bonus is only on the base fair of plane tickets flying actual Virgin America flights (not any of their partners).

Alaska miles are a close call. It just depends on whether you value Alaska miles, Membership Rewards, or ThankYou Points the most.

Avios are definitely worth less than ThankYou Points and Membership Rewards in general, but if you want to build an Avios balance, earning them at 3x can make sense, especially since Membership Rewards-to-Avios transfers devalued October 1, 2015.

While I can not directly link to the current Alaska Airlines or British Airways offers, you may find them by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Let Me Preempt Your Questions about Other Cards

Other than 3x airline cards when purchasing from that airline, yes, the the American Express Gold cards, Citi Prestige® Card, and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card are the best cards to purchase airfare, pay award taxes, or pay airline fees.

They are better than the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which earns 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar, worth about 2 cents each.

They are better than the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, which earns 5 Hilton points per dollar on airfare and car rentals, because Hilton points are only worth 0.4 cents each to me.

Bottom Line

The American Express Gold cards, Citi Prestige® Card, and Citi ThankYou® Premier Card are the best cards to purchase airfare, pay award taxes, or pay airline fees. All earn 3x points per dollar on those purchases. The American Express Gold cards do NOT earn bonus points if you book through an online travel agency, but the Citi cards do.

When not purchasing British Airways, Virgin America, or Alaska Airlines airfare, you should be using one of these three cards. Which one exactly depends on whether you value ThankYou Points or Membership Rewards more. (Here’s How ThankYou Points Work.)

Right now, the Citi Prestige® Card offers 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months. You can read my review of the Citi Prestige card here. The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card does not have a publicly available sign up bonus right now, but there is currently a link out there offering 40,000 ThankYou Points for spending $3,000 in three months. The Premier Rewards Gold is offering 25,000 Membership Rewards for a $2,000 minimum spending requirement within three months (although this often rises to 50,000). The Business Gold offer is 50,000 Membership Rewards for a $5,000 minimum spending requirement within three months.

Application Links:

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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This offer is now dead. The link below had a 100,000 Membership Reward sign-up bonus offer live for less than 24 hours. If you didn’t get it this time, next time don’t hesitate. 

There is a publicly available offer for 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 on the American Express Platinum at this link. I value those points at about $2,000. Jump on this offer now because it will not last.

A few months ago I was approved for a similar offer before it was pulled offline in less than two days.

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The card’s $450 annual fee doesn’t bother me. I will get $200 in airline gift cards this year, $200 in airline gift cards in early 2016, and lounge access to Delta SkyClubs and American Express Centurion lounges for a year for that price. Plus the 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards are worth about $2,000 to me because I will transfer them to partners for one or several high value awards.

See Get the Most out of Your American Express Platinum Card for a rundown of the benefits.

Eligibility

If you have ever had an American Express Platinum personal card, you are ineligible to get the bonus again. The American Express Platinum Mercedes-Benz personal card and American Express Business card are considered separate products.

Post your application results in the comments.

Hat Tip Reddit

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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If you’re just getting into the miles hobby or coming back after a break, it’s important to realize that there is an order in which to apply for credit cards that can help you maximize your award earning potential. Applying at random not only slows your award earning efficiency but can also result in unnecessary denials (and wastes of hard credit inquiries that affect your credit score), thanks to bank rules and sign-up bonus conditions.

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Where I’ve been through May 2016. You can do it too if you collect awards wisely!

There are numerous institutions that issue travel credit cards, but I’m going to talk about five them, as they issue the majority of cards that are worth signing up for:

  • Chase
  • Citibank
  • American Express
  • Barclaycard
  • Bank of America

This is the order I suggest applying for credit cards in:

  1. Look at all the cards offered by Chase, and pick up to five that you want.
  2. If there are five that interest you, get them all.
  3. If there are less than five Chase cards you want (we’ll call the number of Chase cards you want “X”), apply for 5-X Citi cards that interest you, and then X Chase cards.
  4. Over the course of time, apply for other Citi cards, Barclaycards, and Bank of America cards. At the same time, keep an eye out for the highest sign-up bonuses available from American Express cards and apply for them when you see them.
  5. Consider stopping or slowing down for 24+ months in order to re-up on Chase cards at some point.

The Best Order for Card Applications Step-by-Step

1. Look at all the cards offered by Chase, and pick up to five that you want. 

Chase has some of the best travel cards out there with incredible sign-up offers. If you have gotten any five credit cards total from any banks within the last 24 months, all Chase cards will be off limits to you– this is called the Chase 5/24 Rule.

The rule previously only applied to Chase branded cards specifically (like the Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, Slate) but now it also applies to their co-branded and business cards (United Explorer, British Airways, Ink Plus).

2. If there are five Chase cards that interest you, get them all.

You can be approved for multiple Chase cards on the same day. I know people who have been approved for two personal and one business card from Chase on their first-ever credit card applications.

3. If there are less than five Chase cards you want (we’ll call the number of Chase cards you want “X”), apply for 5-X Citi cards that interest you, and then apply for X Chase cards. 

Citi has a rule that sign-up bonuses on their cards are not available for a second time until 24 months after the original card was either opened or closed. By applying for the Citi cards you want first (ONLY if you want less than five Chase cards) you will start that 24 month clock sooner, therefore allowing you to get these Citi cards for a second time more quickly than you otherwise could. I would pick the ones you most want to repeat with the highest sign-up bonuses.

Citi’s rule is as follows: You can be approved for no more than one card in a week or two Citi cards in a 65-day period. If you want three Citi cards, get them on Days 1, 9, and 66. This is the timeline that has worked best for other people.

Say you want two Citi and three Chase cards, get one Citi and three Chase cards on Day 1 and one Citi card on Day 9.

4. Over the course of time, apply for other Citi cards, Barclaycards, and Bank of America cards. At the same time, keep an eye out for the highest sign-up bonuses available for American Express cards and apply for them when you see them.

Here are American Express’ rules to consider:

  • You can only get the bonus on a American Express personal card or business card once per lifetime (with the exception of a possible targeted offer). This is why you should choose which offer you sign up with carefully. The American Express Platinum personal card and American Express Platinum Card Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz are separate cards, so you can get the bonus on each.
  • You are limited to holding four American Express credit cards. Both personal and business count toward this limit (Amex Gold, Everyday, Delta, and SPG are credit cards.)
  • Separately, you are limited to holding four American Express charge cards. Both personal and business count toward this limit. (Amex Platinum is a charge card).

Here are Barclaycard’s rules and other tips to consider:

  • Applicants with zero Barclaycards may be able to get several at once.
  • Applicants who have a Barclaycard will not be approved for another for at least six months since the last Barclaycard application.
  • Barclaycard will deny people for having too many Barclaycards, not enough spending on existing Barclaycards, too much credit with Barclaycard, or too many accounts with other banks.

Here are Bank of America’s rules and other tips to consider:

  • As for the Alaska Airlines personal and business cards (the only Bank of America cards worth getting), you can get as many as you’d like at one time.
  • I usually get one of each every 91 days, but people have gotten multiple at once or waited less time between applications.

Putting these rules together, it is important to snipe Amex offers. You should always be on the lookout for very short term offers with huge bonuses like the 100,000 point offer on the Amex Platinum that lasted just hours. When these bonuses appear, jump on them. When Amex cards have their “normal” bonuses, skip them in favor of normal or elevated bonuses from Bank of America and Barclaycard.

5. Consider stopping or slowing down for 24+ months in order to re-up on Chase cards at some point.

Remember that pesky Chase 5/24 Rule? If you stop collecting cards for a 24 month period, then it stops applying to you. However there is another Chase rule that comes into play here if you want to open a repeat Chase card: You can only get the bonus on the same Chase card once every 24 months, and this 24-month clock starts when you received the last bonus (which may be several months after you opened the account). So the actual waiting period before you can get a repeat sign-up bonus is 24 months plus the amount of time it took you get the bonus the previous time.

Whether you should stop getting new cards to reset your Chase clock is just a math problem. How many points in future sign up bonuses will stopping unlock for you (and how much are they worth?) versus how many are you giving up during your hiatus (and how much are they worth?)

Which Travel Credit Cards are the Best Right Now?

Listed below are the top three cards out of my top 10 choices for travel credit cards at the moment. Note that I update this post monthly, so these are my top three choices as of May 2016.

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Chase Ink Plus card

Until May 15, 2016, the Ink Plus is a business card that offers 70,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.

The Ink Plus earns 5x points on internet, phone, and cell phone bills; 5x points on purchases at office supply stores; 2x points on hotels and gas; and 1x points on everything else.

The annual fee is $95, and it is NOT waived for the first year during this 70,000 point promotion.

Unfortunately you can only apply for the 70,000 point offer in a Chase branch. There is a similar offer with a 60,000 bonus point offer you can apply for online.

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Platinum Card from American Express

Until June 22, 2016, the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 75,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, Singapore, and British Airways.

The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status.

For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card.

Landing Page: Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz

The “regular” Platinum card is worse than this offer because it has a smaller sign-up bonus and only a $25 lower annual fee.

Citi Prestige Card

For a limited time, the Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Read my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

Resources for Beginners

Bottom Line

Choose the order in which you apply for travel credit cards carefully as it makes a serious impact on your award earning potential over the course of a lifetime. Apply for five Chase cards if there are five that interest you. If you want less than five Chase cards, apply for Citi cards first, but not so many that it would put you over a total of five cards when counting your desired Chase cards. Then move on to collecting other Citi, Barclaycard, Bank of America, and American Express cards, remembering to cherry pick the highest sign-bonuses for American Express since, publicly, you can only get one sign-up bonus per American Express card per lifetime.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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In 2014, American Express made it so you could get the bonus only once per lifetime on personal cards, and in February 2016 that rule was extended to business cards.

But there might be a targeted exception. Reader g passes along a targeted offer he got for the American Express Platinum Card.

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The offer is to open the American Express Platinum Card with 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. The offer is addressed to him and has unique offer codes to apply online or by phone.

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What’s interesting is that g has had the Platinum Card before and gotten its bonus, which should mean that he is ineligible for a new bonus. All the online Amex offers have language like this, which limit the bonus to new applicants. For instance, here’s the language on the public 40k Amex Platinum offer page:

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But his offer doesn’t have that language.

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Because he was targeted for the offer and the language excluding people who had had the Platinum Card was absent, g called the number in the targeted offer to ask if he could get the card and bonus even though he had the card and bonus before.

[The Amex rep] said my prior status did not affect my ability to tap into the MR bonus again! She did not speculate why the offer is being extended; however, the offer makes mention of the fact that I am also an EveryDay cardholder, which could mean that having/getting the EveryDay card (the no fee card I use to protect my MR points) is a prerequisite to accessing the offer. My guess is that the Citi Prestige with its greater club access, unrestricted travel credit and bonus point opportunities has really cut into AmEx’s premium card membership.

My Take

Phone reps can be wrong. I think there is a decent chance that if he applied for the card, he would not get the bonus automatically. But I’m not sure how he could be kept from getting it eventually when a phone rep said he was eligible and the application page doesn’t mention that previous cardholders are ineligible for the bonus.

I asked g to let us know what happens if he applies for the card.

Has anyone else recently been targeted for an Amex offer for a card they’ve previously had?

This would be huge news if the once-per-lifetime rule had an exception.

Also see: Issuing Banks’ Rules for Approvals and New Bonuses

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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American Express is offering a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic through May 31, 2016. For the next four weeks, 1,000 Membership Rewards will transfer to 1,300 Etihad Guest Miles.

 

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This is huge news because there is also currently a 30% discount on Virgin Atlantic economy awards through May 11, 2016. Combining this transfer bonus with that sale means you can book awards from the Eastern United United States to London for 10,000 Membership Rewards plus $135 with great availability for the next 11 months if you act right now. From other parts of the country, you’ll pay only a few more miles.

On some routes, award space is WIDE OPEN year round, including the heart of summer 2016. Here is the award space for July 2016 from New York to London. Days with a red line underneath have award space that can be booked for 10,000 Membership Rewards one way.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 3.26.05 PMVirgin Atlantic Awards

Virgin Atlantic flies to the UK from 12 US cities and offers great prices for award tickets in economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class.

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The normal prices are only:

  • 17,500+ miles in economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 27,500+ miles in Premium Economy to London, depending on starting city
  • 40,000+ miles in flat bed Upper Class to London, depending on starting city

Two Week Sale on Economy and Premium Economy Awards

Until May 11, 2016, Virgin Atlantic is discounting the miles price of economy awards between North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia and the UK by 30%. Neither Premium Economy nor Upper Class awards are discounted during this sale. Discounted award prices (one ways bookable for half the miles price) originating in the US:

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Book now to lock in the rate; you can book travel through April 3, 2017 at the discounted prices.

Transfer Bonuses

ThankYou Points and Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer parters of Virgin Atlantic) have both offered transfer bonuses of 25% to 35% to Virgin Atlantic miles in the past.

This is the first time we have see a concurrent transfer bonus and award sale.

Right now you can transfer 10,000 Membership Rewards to 13,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. The Membership Rewards will instantly appear as Virgin Atlantic miles, and you can use 12,250 to book a one way award from Boston, Newark, New York, DC, Atlanta, Detroit, or Chicago to London.

You’d only need 12,000 Membership Rewards for a one way from Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to Newark.

There are similar deals to Manchester and Glasgow.

Out-of-Pocket Price

Virgin Atlantic awards have fuel surcharges. You cannot avoid them.

Virgin Atlantic roundtrip awards will feature a departure from Great Britain, which will incur exorbitant taxes. You can easily avoid them by using this sale to book one way awards to London only. Then use a different type of miles to return from a low tax city in Europe. You see more of Europe for very few miles and very low out of pocket expense.

For instance, a one way award from New York, Boston, DC, Atlanta, Detroit, or Chicago to London will cost 12,250 miles + $135 in economy, even over the heart of summer.

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That is a manageable out-of-pocket price that is very much worth paying to save a ton of miles over awards using other miles.

But let’s look at a return from London to the United States. Now a one way in economy is 12,250 miles + a ridiculous $257.Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.22.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-26 at 5.31.37 PM

Strategy to Lower or Eliminate Out-of-Pocket Price

To reiterate, just book the eastbound to London during this transfer bonus and sale. Book the westbound return from somewhere cheaper in Europe with a different type of miles, perhaps United or American. (Get between London and Europe on a train or a low cost carrier.)

You can even eliminate the out-of-pocket cash needed by paying for the Virgin Atlantic Award with your Citi Prestige® Card.

The Citi Prestige® Card offer a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year that offsets your first $250 in spending on airlines with the card. Taxes and fuel surcharges on an award ticket definitely count. If your taxes and fuel surcharges are less than $250, the entire amount will be credited back on your statement. If they are more than $250, $250 will be credited back.

The card also comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which can be transferred to Flying Blue miles.

Application LinkCiti Prestige® Card

Is This The Best Deal to Europe?

Other than WOW Air’s $99 fares from Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to Iceland, yes.

Here are some almost-as-good deals (copied from my list of the best awards between all regions):

Upper Class?

Luxury lovers will want to know about the prices in Upper Class to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, since Upper Class is a fantastic business class product.

Unfortunately the current 30% discount does not apply to Upper Class, so the fuel surcharges and miles required to fly Upper Class are about triple economy. At those prices, I don’t think Upper Class is a great deal unless you are miles poor and cash rich at the moment. For instance, New York to London is 40k miles (31,000 Membership Rewards) + $420, and Los Angeles to London one way is 50k miles (39,000 Membership Rewards) + $458 in Upper Class.

Searching for and Booking the Award

You can search award space one month at a time right on the Virgin Atlantic home page. You don’t even need to be a member of the Flying Club to search. Just fill in the search form and select “Spend your miles.”

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Whatever space you find this way is bookable with Flying Club miles, there are no blackout dates for this sale. You can also book right on virginatlantic.com.

Results look like this. At the bottom of each date are colors that signify award space.

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Red is economy, white is Premium Economy, and purple is Upper Class.

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Bottom Line

Europe is within reach for as little as 12,250 miles one way if you book in the next week for trips for the next 11 months. Membership Rewards has a concurrent 30% transfer bonus. That means you can book awards to Europe for 10,000 points + $135 one way. Where will you go this summer?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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5

American Express added Etihad Guest miles as its 17th airlines transfer today.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 7.29.18 PMYou can send Membership Rewards in increments of 1,000 points to Etihad miles at a 1:1 rate.
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Etihad Guest is already a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points. In November 2015, we saw a 25% transfer bonus from many programs including Citi ThankYou Points to Etihad Guest miles. I expect if we see a future transfer bonus like that, American Express Membership Rewards would be included.

Uses of Etihad Miles

Etihad Guest miles are NOT good for booking Etihad flights. Here is my post on Sweet Spots of the Etihad Guest Program.

I think the best current awards are to fly American Airlines flights with Etihad miles at prices identical to the old pre-devaluation American Airlines award chart. For instance, you can fly AA flights to Europe seven months a year for 20,000 Etihad miles each way and no fuel surcharges.

I’ve also written about how you can fly to Europe in a flat bed for 36,620 Etihad miles + $94.70 in taxes in Brussels Airlines Business Class. This is technically still speculative, as I eventually found an Etihad Guest agent who found a Business Class award seat on this flight but I did not actually carry out the booking.

The only award I’ve booked myself with Etihad miles was Belgrade, Serbia to Bucharest, Romania on Air Serbia for 4,550 Etihad miles (now 5,000 miles) plus taxes. Air Serbia flights can only be booked with Etihad miles, award space is wide open, miles prices are cheap, and some of its routes are expensive. I recently transferred another 5,000 ThankYou Points to Etihad miles to be ready to book another Air Serbia flight this summer.

Transfer Speed

Last year, my Etihad miles took seven days to post after transferring from ThankYou Points. This week, the same transfer took five days to post.

That’s my best guess for the speed of American Express Membership Rewards transfers, though I will look for reports of people’s transfer times to see if they differ from ThankYou Points.

While there is no way around the risk that your award space disappears before your miles arrive, Etihad allows awards to be put on hold for 24 hours, so take advantage of that while your points are transferring between accounts.

Other Top Transfer Partners of American Express Membership Rewards

My other favorite AMEX transfer partners are:

Bottom Line

American Express Membership Rewards now transfer 1:1 to Etihad miles. This is great news–not to fly Etihad First Class–but to fly Etihad partners like American Airlines, Brussels Airlines, and Air Serbia.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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The Starwood Preferred Guest personal and business credit cards from American Express now come with 35,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of cardmembership.

Links:

The normal sign up bonus is 25,000 points, the twice yearly limited time offer is 30,000 points. This is the highest public sign up bonus ever on these cards. (And some people say the hobby is dying…)

American Express recently introduced a rule that you can only get the bonus once per lifetime on each of its cards. Eligibility is separate for each card. That means if you’ve only ever had the business card, you can still get the personal card or vice versa. But if you’ve had the personal card before, you can’t get this bonus on the personal card. If you’ve had the business card before, you can’t get this bonus on the business card.

If you get both cards, you’ll have to spend $8,000 total in the first three months of cardmembership. In return, you’ll get one Starpoint per dollar spent plus a 35,000 point bonus on each card for a total of 78,000 Starpoints. I get at least 2.5 cents of value per Starpoint in the following ways, meaning a total value of at least $1,950 to me.

Here are the main ways to get value from Starpoints:

1. Free Night Awards

Starpoints can be used for free nights at any Sheraton, W, Westin, Le Meridien, Aloft, Four Points, St. Regis, Element, or Luxury Collection Hotel. Free nights start at 2,000 points per night. And the best part is: If a standard room is for sale, you can book it with Starpoints. Free night awards are not capacity controlled like award flights are.

Here is the Free Night Awards chart:

Book a four night award at Category 3-7 hotels and get a 5th night free. Here are the total prices for five nights:

There can be tremendous value in the free night awards. For instance:

These are old examples. The prices have surely changed. Just pay attention to the ideas embedded in them.

Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort, Thailand is a stunning category 2 hotel that goes for only 3,000 points on the weekends. One weekend night in January goes for $123, so that redemption would be worth 4.1 cents per point.

3k Starpoints or $123

And more importantly, 78,000 Starpoints would be enough for up to 39 weekend nights at some properties.

Starwood Cards = 23 Nights Here

As another example of Free Night Awards, the cheapest SPG property in Hawaii is the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, a category 4 property that costs 10k points per night or 40k for five nights, using the 5th Night Free pricing.

The property goes for $302 per night after taxes for a five-day stay in March: $1,510 total. Instead you could pay 40,000 Starpoints and get 3.76 cents per point in value. And more importantly, you’d be here:

Get the 5th Night Free on the Big Island
2. Cash & Points Awards

Cash & Points awards are a way to stretch your cash and your Starpoints. You’ll generally get even more value from your Starpoints through these awards though they are capacity controlled. Here is the Cash & Points chart:

As you’ll notice, a Cash & Points night requires half the Starpoints of a free night plus a cash co-pay.

Unless I were taking advantage of the 5th Night Free with Free Night Awards, a discounted weekend night, or I was cash poor at the moment, I would look to choose a Cash & Points award over a Free Night.

To see why, let’s look at the Sheraton Frankfurt Congress Hotel, a Category 3 property. For a Tuesday this month, the hotel wants 149 euros for the refundable rate. Or you could spend 7,000 Starpoints for a Free Night, or you could spend 3,500 Starpoints + $55.

Comparing them:

  • 149 euros is $163
  • 7,000 Starpoints for a free night is a respectable 2.32 cents per point
  • 3,500 Starpoints + $55 is an incredible 3.09 cents per point

And I chose this hotel because I’ll be in Frankfurt next week, not because it has an abnormally valuable Cash & Points option. I’d frankly consider 3 cents per point about average for a Cash & Points redemption.

3. Transfer to Airlines with a Miles Bonus

For people who eschew chain hotels, Starpoints are incredibly valuable to transfer to airline miles because their are so many partner airlines, and in most cases, transferring 20k Starpoints nets you 25k miles in the account of your choice, a 25% bonus!

Starpoints transfer to 30 airlines in total, mostly at favorable rates.

The best three options are Aeroplan, Alaska Airlines, and Asiana. Starpoints transfer in a 20k points to 25k miles ratio (1:1.25) to all three airline airlines, and none is a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards or ThankYou Points. Click here for the reasons to transfer to those three airlines.

Other partners where I would consider transferring Starpoints include:

(Note that many of the airlines on this bulleted list are Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards partners, and I would rather transfer those points to these airlines, since I value Starpoints more.)

The one glaring weakness in the airline transfer partners is that United is not a 1:1 transfer partner, 20k Starpoints transfers to only 12,500 United miles. Avoid that transfer, and earn Ultimate Rewards instead to transfer to United.

But apart from that, the transfer partner list is astoundingly excellent. You can get on most commercial flights worldwide through one of these transfer partners.

Other Important Things to Know about the Starwood Preferred Guest Program

Status

Both the Starwood personal and business cards confer 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward elite status, and they are cumulative, so if you get approved for both cards, I’ll have 4 stays and 10 nights credited to your account, leaving you just 6 stays or 15 nights short of Gold Status.

Gold Status entitles you to free internet and a 4 PM checkout. You also get an extra Starpoint per dollar on Starwood purchases, so cardholders with Gold Status get 5 Starpoints per dollar.

Other than stays, you can also get Gold Status by having an American Express Platinum card or spending $30k per year on a Starwood credit card.

4x or 5x

Cardholders can earn 4 points per dollar on Starwood purchases, 5 points per dollar if they have Gold Status. This breaks down to 2 points per dollar for the spending normally plus another 2 points per dollar if the spending is on a Starwood card.

Combine Points

You can combine points between Starwood accounts if both parties have had the same address on file for 30 days.

This is hugely important, since certain blocks of Starpoints are critical. For instance, if you and your wife each have 10k Starpoints, you could each transfer them to your respective American Airlines accounts and have 10k miles in two accounts. Or you could combine the Starpoints and send the points to one person’s American Airlines accounts, leaving you with 25k American Airlines miles in one account after the transfer bonus.

Your Parents’ Card

Your parents like to travel, they’re jealous of your trips, and they want a rewards card. But they don’t want to keep track of category bonuses, ten programs, and tons of promotions. (OK, maybe I’m just describing my parents.)

Tell each of your parents to get the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Of course you can do better than putting all of your spending on this card by taking advantage of other card’s bonuses, but you can do pretty well by putting all your spending year after year on this card and building a balance of valuable hotel points that can also transfer to 30 airlines. When people come to my Award Booking Service with a stash of Starpoints, I know the job will be easy.

Big Spenders

I’ve argued before that Big Spenders Should Be Using One of These Three Cards (And They Probably Aren’t). One of those cards is the Starwood card. Because of its transfer partners and transfer bonus, using the card is like earning 1.25 miles per dollar in almost any airline program.

Nights & Flights

I probably should give Nights & Flights more billing because it might be a better deal than Free Night Awards, Cash & Points awards, and airline transfers. With Nights & Flights, you get five hotel nights and 50,000 airline miles for only 60-70k Starpoints.

Unfortunately the award is limited to Category 3 and 4 hotels. But the price is unbeatable. Going back to the Sheraton in Kona discussed above, for 70k Starpoints, you could get five free nights at the property plus 50k American Airlines miles to get there (you only need 35k).

Moments

A lot of airlines and hotels, want you to blow your points on overpriced experiences and merchandise, but Starwood Moments have some good values. I spent 5,500 Starpoints for two tickets to a Captial Cities concert, plus the chance to meet the band beforehand, and free food and drinks at a reception.

All in One Place

Starwood has an awesome chart that compares many of the redemption options discussed here and some worse options not discussed here.

Referrals

If you have the personal or business card, you can refer friends to these offers and earn 5,000 bonus Starpoints for each friend who gets the card. Log in here to get your referral links. You can post or request referrals in the comments.

Recap

Currently, both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card have a 35,000 Starpoint sign up bonus until March 30, 2016, their largest ever.

Getting both cards gives you 78,000 total Starpoints after meeting their minimum spending requirements. Through Free Nights, Cash & Points, airline transfers, and Nights & Flights, you can plan to get at least 2.5 cents of value per Starpoint.

These are the set-it-and-forget-it cards. For people who don’t have that attention span, these are go-to, everyday cards to keep in your wallet for a long time to build up balances towards incredible vacations.

Further Reading:

Links:

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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3

Enroll any Membership Rewards earning card today for 2x Membership Rewards at Amazon on purchases through July 31, 2016.

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Sign into your American Express account, click on the card you want to enroll, and scroll down to see your “Amex Offers & Benefits.”

For my AMEX Platinum, the Amazon offer was listed second.

You can enroll through July 31, 2016 and earn one bonus point per dollar on Amazon purchases made after enrollment through July 31, 2016. Bonus points will post by October 29, 2016.

Bonus points are not available at foreign versions of Amazon. Sites using “Check out by Amazon” or other Amazon payment methods do not qualify for this offer. Offer not valid for Shop with Points transactions, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Local, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, Amazon Supply, Amazon Local Register, Amazon Coins, Kindle Direct Publishing, Corporate gift cards, Amazon Home Services, Amazon Currency Converter, or websites affiliated with/linked to from Amazon.com.

Good Deal?

Cards and portals rarely offer bonus points at Amazon. Those are generally reserved for sites/stores with higher margins and smaller selections. In that sense, 2x is surprising and fantastic.

But you can get 5x at Amazon every day if you have a Chase Ink Plus. Just buy Amazon gift cards at an office supply store like Staples, earning 5x Ultimate Rewards per dollar, and then use those gift cards for Amazon purchases.

Also the Chase Freedom has offered 5x on Amazon purchases in the fourth quarter for the last few years. And if you use the Freedom Two Step, those can also become 5 airline miles per dollar.

Which Card?

If you can’t do better than 2x, which American Express card should you enroll in the offer?

The best option is the Amex Everyday Preferred. If you have 30 transactions in a statement, you earn 1.5x on the card, so you would earn 2.5x in total on Amazon through this promotion.

If you don’t have that card, any other card that earns Membership Rewards is equally good.

Full Terms

Get 2X Membership Rewards® points” means you will receive one extra Membership Rewards point per dollar spent using your enrolled American Express® Card in accordance with the terms of this offer. These extra points are in addition to any points you would normally receive for purchases on your Card under the terms of your Card Member Agreement and the Membership Rewards program. Enrollment opens on 3/22/2016 and continues until 7/31/2016. Enrollment limited. Only U.S.-issued American Express Cards that are enrolled in the Membership Rewards program at the time of purchase are eligible. Limit 1 enrolled Card per American Express online account. Offer is non-transferable. Your enrollment does not extend to any other Cards that may be linked to your account (such as Additional Cards). Offer valid only for qualifying purchases made with the US Dollar at Amazon.com or smile.amazon.com using your enrolled American Express Card after enrollment and prior to 7/31/2016. Not valid at international or non-English versions of Amazon.com or websites affiliated with/linked to from Amazon.com. Purchases made through other merchants or third party sites, including those using “Check out by Amazon” or other Amazon payment methods do not qualify for this offer. Offer not valid for Shop with Points transactions, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Local, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, Amazon Supply, Amazon Local Register, Amazon Coins, Kindle Direct Publishing, Corporate gift cards, Amazon Home Services, Amazon Currency Converter, or websites affiliated with/linked to from Amazon.com. See Amazon’s website for shipping policy. Amazon may not ship to all areas. Purchases may fall outside of the offer period in some cases due to a delay in merchants submitting transactions to us or if the purchase date differs from the date you made the transaction (for example, the purchase date for online orders may be the shipping date). If American Express does not receive information that identifies your transaction as qualifying for the offer, you will not receive the extra points. For example, your transaction will not qualify if it is not made directly with the merchant. In addition, in most cases, you will not receive the bonus points if your transaction is made with an electronic wallet or through a third party. When we calculate the extra points benefit for Amex EveryDay® Card products, points awarded under this offer will not be included. Extra points may be reversed if a qualifying purchase is returned or cancelled. Extra points will be credited to your Membership Rewards program account within 90 days after 7/31/2016. Terms and conditions for the Membership Rewards program apply. Visit membershiprewards.com/terms or call 1-800-AXP-EARN (297-3276) for more information. Participating partners and available rewards are subject to change without notice. The value of Membership Rewards points varies according to how you choose to use them. To learn more, go to www.membershiprewards.com/pointsinfo. Amazon, Amazon.com, Amazon Prime, the Amazon.com logo, and the smile logo are registered trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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5

You can only get the bonus on American Express credit and charge cards once per lifetime. If you haven’t kept detailed records of all your past American Express cards, how do you know whether you’ve gotten a card before, meaning you can NOT get its bonus now, or whether you haven’t had it before, meaning you CAN get the bonus?

This question has come from several readers recently since the SPG personal and business cards have their highest ever bonuses of 35,000 Starpoints.

Request a List from AMEX Chat

To get a list of previous American Express cards, sign into your American Express account and click Help.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 1.24.04 PM

Then click Start Live Chat.Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 1.24.11 PM

Ask the rep for a list of all cards you have opened with American Express. She will start to list them one at a time.Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 1.40.39 PM

This seems to involve some skill beyond copying and pasting on her part as she missed one of my cards, but when I pointed it out, she found it.

Hat Tip Renes Points

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

5

In 2014, American Express changed its churning rules so that you could only get the bonus on a personal credit card once per lifetime.

Now the rule has been extended to business cards.

This follows the general trend of tightening the giving of bonuses by banks. For instance, Chase is about to institute a rule that you’ll be denied for a credit card automatically if you’ve opened five other credit cards in the last 24 months.

I expect to see further tightening, and I expect the changes to be profitable for the banks. Other bloggers who suggest it will be unprofitable are engaging in wishful thinking in my opinion.

I have updated the post “Issuing Bank Rules for Approvals and New Bonuses.”

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

9

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. It also offers a $250 Air Travel Credit per calendar year.

$250 Prestige Air Travel Credit

The Air Travel Credit can be used to offset the first $250 you spend on any airline (or at any online travel agency) on airfare, award taxes and fees, baggage fees, seat selection fees, upgrade fees, change fees, onboard fees, the purchase of miles, or pretty much any other charge that is processed by an airline. Here is how I spent mine in the first month of having the card.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 2.36.26 AM

Although I generally say the $250 credit is “per calendar year,” technically the credit is for all statements that close within a calendar year. That’s a little different, and it means you need to spend the $250 credit a little bit quicker than you might realize.

From the terms of the Citi Prestige:

“This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December. Pending transactions that do not post in your December billing cycle will count towards the next year’s Air Travel Credit.”

So if your statement closes on December 15, 2015, your purchase needs to appear on that statement to count toward your 2015 credit. That means you may only have a few days left to max out the credit, depending on when exactly your December 2015 statement closes.

As a corollary, your 2016 credit is going to offset any purchases made after your December 2015 statement closes, even if those purchases are in 2015.

American Express Air Travel Credits

The Prestige Air Travel Credit was a response to American Express credits. All versions of the American Express Platinum offer a $200 annual Air Travel Credit and the Premier Rewards Gold offers a $100 Air Travel Credit. The American Express credits are worse because:

  1. They are smaller than the Prestige’s $250 credit.
  2. They cannot be used for airfare like the Prestige’s $250 credit can.
  3. You have to designate one airline in advance of using the credit, and the credit only applies to that airline. (No advance designation required for Prestige credit which applies to all airlines.)

However the terms on the American Express credits say:

“[E]ach Card Account is eligible for up to a total of $100 [$200] per calendar year in statement credits.”

That means that you actually have until December 31, 2015 for charges to post that can get offset by these credits. I’d make sure I made all purchases by December 27, though, since purchases often take a day or two to post.

I am going to use my American Express credit to purchase airline gift cards, which are explicitly excluded from reimbursement, but are in fact reimbursed. See “Which Airline Gift Cards Are Reimbursed By American Express Fee Credits?

Best practices for American Airlines gift cards, my designated airline, are to buy $100 gift cards a few days apart, so I purchased my first today.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.58.48 PM

Bottom Line

You have until your December 2015 statement closes on your Citi Prestige® Card to use your 2015 Air Travel Credit. Since that could be as soon as tomorrow, use it today.

You have until December 31, 2015 to use your American Express Airline Fee Credits. Plan ahead since you want to purchase a few days before the deadline, and some airline gift cards like American Airlines’, may require more than one purchase spread over a few days.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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18

American Express Platinum Cardholders (including the “regular” Platinum, Business Platinum, Mercedes-Benz Platinum, and Ameriprise Platinum) get a $200 Airline Fee Credit each calendar year to offset “incidental fees, such as checked bags and in-flight refreshments.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 4.52.23 PM

However “[t]his benefit doesn’t offer credit toward airline tickets, mileage points purchases or mileage points transfer fees, gift cards, upgrades, duty–free purchases, or award tickets.”

You have to designate one airline each year before making the purchase you want to offset, make that purchase on your Platinum card, and wait for reimbursement.

This fee credit is much worse than the $250 Air Travel Credit on the Citi Prestige® Card, which also resets each calendar year, because:

  1. $250 is better than $200. And since you can earn these credits every calendar year and the first 12 months you hold the relevant credit card will contain two calendar years, $500 is better than $400. Please read this full post on the Prestige’s $250 Air Travel Credit to learn how to earn it.
  2. The Prestige’s Air Travel Credit explicitly reimburses the purchase of airfare and payment of award taxes. The Platinum’s specifically disallows those purchases.
  3. You have to enroll in the Platinum’s credit. The Prestige’s is automatic.
  4. You have to choose a single airline each year for the Platinum’s credit. The Prestige’s credit covers all airlines (and online travel agencies.)

While some people spend $200 per year on incidentals like onboard refreshments, seat selection, and baggage fees, most of us don’t. It would be better to convert that $200 to something more useful. Enter gift cards.

While AMEX’s terms and conditions clearly say you can’t buy gift cards and get reimbursed, in fact, you can. There is a FlyerTalk thread devoted to each airline that you can select for fee reimbursement for people to post their experiences trying to purchase gift cards.

I’d recommend clicking on the thread that interests you, reading the wiki at the top that summarizes the thread in a few paragraphs and then clicking on the last page or two to read the most recent reports. I’ll do that for you here, but it could become out of date quickly.

American Airlines

Gift cards of $100 or less are being automatically reimbursed. Purchase two $100 gift cards a few days apart.

Alaska Airlines

For the last few months, no Alaska Airlines gift cards have been reimbursed. Keep a close eye on the thread though because the problem may be temporary.

Delta Airlines

Gift cards of $50 or less are being automatically reimbursed. Purchase four $50 gift cards during the same checkout. You can redeem two at once.

Hawaiian Airlines

Only one attempt–at a $200 gift card has been reported in the last four years–and it was not reimbursed. Two years ago, someone’s under-$100 Hawaiian Airlines flights were reimbursed, but not his flights over $100.

JetBlue

Gift cards are not reimbursed.

United

The wiki of the United thread:

“Gift Registry and Gift Cards

The consensus is that United gift registry contributions will be reimbursed and gift card purchases will not. So

  1. Log into united.com
  2. Set up a gift registry for yourself
  3. Use the link in your gift registry web page to send an announcement to your email address. This better, faster, and more reliable than searching for your gift registry, especially if you have a common name. Even someone with an unusual surname like mre5765 has could not find his registry after creating it.
  4. Log out of united.com
  5. Follow the Make Contribution in your gift registry email
  6. Contribute using your Amex platinum card

There seems to be no downside to contributing in sub-200 dollar chunks since the gift registry creates a single pool of cash. However there are lots of reports of successful fee credits from a single $200 donation. Whether done as on $200 transaction or eight $25 transactions, the result is that one will have $200 in ones TravelBank.”

So that’s very gift-card-like and just a few more steps.

Southwest

$100 gift cards are being reimbursed.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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