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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 from yesterday.
I also recommend getting a Free Credit Card Consultation instead of picking cards on your own. 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 Economy Travel
Citi Prestige® Card
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.
ThankYou Points can be used like cash toward the purchase of any airline ticket with no blackouts. You get 1.6 cents off of American Airlines and US Airways flights or 1.33 cents off any other flight. That means 50,000 bonus points are worth $800 in flights on American Airlines.
The card also comes with up to $250 in statement credits each calendar year to offset airfare purchases. So the first $250 in plane tickets in 2015 and the first $250 in plane tickets in 2016 are free. That’s another $500 in free tickets before you pay the annual fee again in 12 months. (We’re up to $1,300 in flights so far if you’re counting.)
My review of the Citi Prestige Card explains its other benefits like access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, the fourth night free on hotel stays, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and 2x points on dining and entertainment. $250 Air Travel Credit each year.
The card comes with a $450 annual fee that is not waived for the first year, but remember that you get $1,300 in free flights during the period covered by the $450 annual fee.
Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card
Best Card for Awards to Asia, South America, Central America, Australia
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
American Airlines miles are the undisputed best miles for ultra-luxury redemptions, and the miles are valuable for trips to Asia, South America, Europe, and Australia. On a recent trip, I spent 67,500 American Airlines miles for a First Class redemption from New York City to Singapore with 23 hours in Macau along the way.
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® offers 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
That’s enough for a roundtrip to Asia, Europe, South America, or Hawaii.
Beyond the sign up bonus, cardholders also get a 10% rebate on American Airlines miles redeemed each calendar year up to 100,000 miles redeemed.
The card’s $95 annual fee is WAIVED the first year.
Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
Best Business Card
The Ink Plus is a business card that offers 50,000 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.
Best All-Around Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 40k 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 45k 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.
Best Hotel Credit Card (Limited Time Offer)
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 $500 or more per night.
For a limited time, the card even comes with a $100 statement credit if you spend $100+ on a Hilton stay in the first 90 days after getting the card.
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 $1,000 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
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 an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.