This is the fourth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.
There are currently some huge sign up bonuses that folks new to the miles game can pick up.
I’ve categorized some of the best offers below, but before applying for any cards, I recommend checking out my Introduction to Travel Credit Cards.
Make sure you sign up for a card that earns points or miles that are useful for your specific travel goals (i.e. the corresponding award charts for redeeming them have reasonable prices to where you want to go, and there is also award space). It breaks my heart when people come to my Award Booking Service with the wrong miles for the trip they want. There’s no reason to Make the Biggest Mistake in Our Hobby.
- What are the best cards for beginners?
Best Card for the Benefits Within the First Year
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. My review of the Citi Prestige Card explains its other benefits like access to 900 Priority Pass lounges, the fourth night free on hotel stays, $100 global entry free credit, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and 2x points on dining and entertainment.
You also get $250 in Air Travel Credit each calendar year. So the first $250 in plane tickets/award taxes & fees/in-flight purchases/etc. in 2016 and the first $250 in plane tickets in 2017 are free. That’s another $500 in free tickets before you pay the annual fee again in 12 months.
ThankYou Points can be transferred to 12 airline partners for high value redemptions. I recently transferred ThankYou Points to Singapore Airlines miles to fly from Atlanta to Honolulu in a flat bed for 30,000 miles. I’ve also used Singapore miles to fly from Colombia to Argentina in Business Class for half the price it would have been with United miles. Singapore miles are also the only way to fly Singapore Suites, cheaper than United miles to book United flights to Europe, and offer two stopovers in addition to your destination on roundtrip awards. I also love Air France Flying Blue as a transfer partner because of its cheap awards to Europe, Israel,Hawaii and South America.
ThankYou Points can also be used like cash toward the purchase of any airline ticket with no blackouts. You get 1.33 cents off any flight. That means 40,000 bonus points are worth $532 in flights.
The card comes with a $450 annual fee that is not waived for the first year, but the myriad of benefits and the $500 in air travel credit during the period covered by the $450 annual fee more than make up for it.
Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card
Best Card for Awards to Central & South America
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
American Airlines miles are some of the most valuable miles to get you to Central and South America. American Airlines flies more routes from the United States to Central and South America than any other carrier–by far!
You can also stretch your American Airlines miles to last a long time if you redeem them on economy Off Peak awards.
American Airlines miles also open up a ton of economy award space to Australia, but Business and First Class award space is much harder to come by.
The card has a $450 annual fee is that is not waived the first year. While this card won’t be appropriate for everyone, read my review of the AAdvantage Executive card that explains how the benefits and of this card can help out outweigh the hefty annual fee.
Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®
Best Business Card
The Ink Plus is a business card that offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonuses after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, Singapore, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, 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 Ink Plus has no annual fee the first 12 months, $95 thereafter.
While I can not directly link to the 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.)
Best All-Around Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 50k Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in 3 months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, 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.
While I can not directly link to the offer for the Sapphire Preferred, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)
**For the reasons described in this post, the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus are two of the first cards I recommend for beginners just starting out in the miles hobby**
Best Hotel Credit Card (Limited Time Offer)
For a limited time, the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card come with 75,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first three months, automatic Hilton Silver status, and no annual fee.
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:
- 20 free nights at Category 1 Hilton hotels
- 10 free nights at Category 2 Hilton hotels
- 5 free nights at Category 3 Hilton hotels
Application Link: Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card
Above are some of the top travel credit cards to consider if you’re just beginning to collect miles and points. Here are some more links to posts I have written recently that will be a big help to beginners:
- A Change to My Advice on Applying for Credit Cards
- Best Order for Card Applications to Maximize Bonuses Over Your Lifetime
- Issuing Banks Rules for Approvals and New Bonuses
- Free First Class Next Month 2014: The Beginners Guide to Frequent Flyer Miles and Points
- Top 10 Travel Credit Cards (updated bi-monthly)
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 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.