Do you have a New Year’s Resolution to travel more? This is the post that will show you what cards to get to do that for free or very cheap!
There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.
- For free luxury hotel stays and First Class flights
- To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford
- To take your family on vacation
- To visit home for the holidays
- To earn big rewards for everyday spending
Whatever your reason for coming to MileValue, there is a rewards card that suit your needs.
In the last few years, I’ve been to dozens of countries, travel that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards. This has been my life thanks to miles:
- Swimming a few hundred meters into a dark cave in Vietnam
- Riding an elephant in Thailand
- Attending an Argentina/Brazil World Cup Qualifying Game
- Shooting a crossbow at Trakai Castle in Lithuania
- Going to the mid-Summer bonfire on an island near Helsinki
- Tapas in Madrid
- Spelunking in Cuba
- Watching sunset on Ka’anapali Beach on Maui
- Trekking four days in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile
- Hiking the Great Wall of China with my brother
- Straddling the border between North and South Korea
- Watching dragons dance at the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong
- Cliff jumping in Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Leading an “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” cheer in Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia
- Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
- Biking in the Lake District of Patagonia in Bariloche, Argentina
- Spending three days at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
- Seeing Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Getting some home cooking from my mom who lives 5,000 miles away
And I’ve generally flown Business or First Class between those adventures on tickets that cost me not thousands or hundreds of dollars, but tens of dollars.
If you don’t have the money to take your dream trips, the good news is that you don’t need much money. By maximizing the sign up bonuses on rewards cards, anyone with good credit can take a dream trip anywhere in the world.
Here are, in my opinion, the top ten rewards credit cards.
1. Citi American Airlines Cards
For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.American Airlines miles are the best miles for ultra-luxury First Class redemptions like flights in Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Malaysia, or Etihad First. 40,000 miles are enough to book Etihad First Class on the A380.
American Airlines miles are also the best for super-cheap international economy redemptions by taking advantage of its generous off peak chart. 50,000 miles are enough for two roundtrips to the Caribbean or one to Europe, Asia, or South America.
The card comes with more valuable benefits than the average airline card:
- Cardholders get a 10% rebate on the miles used to book American Airlines award tickets up to 10,000 miles rebated per year.
- Cardholders are entitled to a free checked bag for themselves and up to four companions on the same ticket when flying American Airlines. That’s up to a $250 value per roundtrip.
- Cardholders get Group 1 boarding, so they’ll never have to gate check bags after the overhead bin space fills up.
- Cardholders get a 25% discount on purchases onboard.
The card has no foreign transaction fee and no annual fee the first year, $95 thereafter.
Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
2. American Airlines Business Card
The business version of this card also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Get both cards for over 100,000 American Airlines miles.
3. Ink Plus
For a limited time, the Ink Plus is a business card that offers 60,000 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 60,000 point promotion.
Application Link: Ink Plus
4. Citi Prestige Card
For a limited time, the Citi Prestige® Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open, $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, the fourth night free on paid hotel stays, three free rounds of golf per year, and a $450 annual fee.
I got the Citi Prestige when it only offered 30,000 bonus points for its amazing benefits. Now that it also has one of the biggest sign up bonuses on the market, it shoots up my rankings. I value the current sign up bonus at $1,250.
The Citi Prestige® Card is premium card that is designed to give travelers huge benefits to offset the big annual fee. For the first 12 months of holding the card, you are guaranteed to get more than $450 from the card if you maximize the $250 worth of statement credits for purchases of airline tickets or airline fees each calendar year (that’s $500 worth in the first 12 months), a $100 statement credit to offset Global Entry, and Priority Pass and American Airlines lounge access.
Beyond the 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Citi Prestige® Card earns:
- 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
- 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
ThankYou Points transfer to 12 airlines and one hotel. Or you can use the points for 1.33 cents off any flight on any airline with no blackouts or 1.6 cents off American Airlines flights. Here’s how to use ThankYou Points.
Click these links for a full explanation of the card’s benefits and for a comparison to the American Express Platinum Card.
Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card
5. Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 50k Ultimate Rewards after spending $4k in 3 months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, Singapore, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.
You also get 5k bonus points for adding an authorized user while applying, so I think of this as a 55k bonus point card. (Adding an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card at the same time or in the future as a primary account holder and getting the full sign up bonus.)
The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points on dining and travel. Dining includes bars, restaurants, and fast food. Travel includes airfare, hotels, taxis, rental cars, tolls, parking, and much more.
The Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee the first year, then $95 thereafter.
Application Link: Sapphire Preferred
6. Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 50,000 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.
The “regular” Platinum card is worse than this offer because it has a smaller sign up bonus and only a $25 lower annual fee.
7. British Airways Card
The British Airways Visa Signature card comes with 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $2,000 in the first three months on the card.
Spend $10,000 in the first 12 months for another 25,000 bonus Avios or $20,000 in the first 12 months for another 50,000 bonus Avios. The maximum bonus is 100,000 total Avios for spending $20,000 in the first 12 months of which $2,000 came in the first three.
The card comes with 3 Avios per dollar on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per dollar on other purchases.
British Airways Avios are perfect for short, direct, economy flights on British Airways partners that do not levy fuel surcharges like these partners.
For instance, the west coast to Hawaii on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights for 12,500 Avios or only 4,500 Avios between New York and a dozen destinations are two of many sweet spots.
The card has a $95 annual fee that is NOT waived during this potential 100,000 offer.
Application Link: British Airways Visa
8. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card
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.
Application Link: Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card
9. Club Carlson Visa
The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card offers 85,000 bonus Club Carlson points after spending $2,500 on the card in the first 90 days.
The card earns 5 points per dollar on all purchases and 10 on purchases at Carlson Rezidor hotels, so you’ll earn at least another 12,500 points from meeting the minimum spending requirement. After meeting the minimum spending requirement, you’ll have at least 97,500 Gold Points.
- Free nights at Radisson, Park Plaza, and other properties start at 9,000 Gold Points
The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card is a must have if you are traveling near the 1,000 participating Club Carlson hotels. I picked up the card in 2013 and don’t ever plan on canceling it because of the 40,000 points I earn every year on my card’s anniversary upon paying the $75 annual fee.
Application link: Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card
10. Arrival Plus
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® with 40,000 bonus Arrival miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
The card earns 2x miles on all purchases with no cap.
Miles are worth 1.075 cents toward any flight, hotel, car rental, cruise, or other travel expense with no blackouts. Miles are super easy to redeem. Just purchase the travel expense with your Arrival Plus, then log into your online account and remove part or all of the charge within 120 days of purchase.
Arrival miles are ideal for people who fly cheap flights like domestic economy or flights on low-cost carriers, for the payment of award taxes, or to book non-chain hotels. Credit Card Points Pretending to Be Miles, the category of miles to which Arrival miles belong, are a balanced part of any miles-collecting strategy.
The card has no annual fee the first year, then $89.
Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®------------------------------------------------------------
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.
Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.