There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.
- For free First Class flights and luxury hotel stays
- To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford (like Norway, pictured above, where I traveled last July)
- 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 suits your needs. In fact, there is probably more than one. That’s what makes this miles and points game exciting.
Below are, in my opinion, the top ten consumer rewards credit cards right now. For the top business credit card offers–an easy way to collect even more miles that you’re probably missing out on–check out Top 10 Business Credit Cards for Travel Rewards.
Credit Card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.
1. Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, Singapore, British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue, Hyatt, and more.
Chase Sapphire Reserve holders get a $300 travel credit each cardmember year (not calendar year), as well as a $100 credit to cover the application fee for Global Entry or TSAPre √® every five years, and a free Priority Pass Select membership–which gives you access to over 900 lounges around the world and guest access for two people you’re traveling with.
The Sapphire Reserve offers 3x Ultimate Rewards on travel and restaurants. Travel and restaurants are broad categories and include flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, tolls, parking, Uber, taxis, restaurants, bars, fast food, and night clubs.
The $450 annual fee is not waived, but you can see how the benefits more than make up for it.
2. Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, Singapore, British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue, Hyatt, and more.
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. It is a great card, arguably the best, for those just dipping their toe in the travel credit cards rewards pond: The points are versatile, category bonuses solid, and the annual fee isn’t significant.
3. Citi ThankYou Premier
The Citi ThankYou Premier Card has a much higher than normal 60,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. That’s the highest bonus this card has ever offered. Transfer points to 15 airline loyalty programs for the most outsized value. Points are also redeemable for 1.25 cents each on any airline’s cash tickets (sign-up bonus is worth $750 redeeming this way).
Category bonuses include a stellar 3 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on travel and gas purchases, and 2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on restaurant and entertainment purchases.
For a card with an annual fee of just $95 (that is waived the first year), that’s a valuable benefits package. You can also use this card abroad or on foreign purchases and no foreign transaction fees are collected.
4. Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 60,000 Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, All Nippon Airways, Singapore, and British Airways.
The card has a $550 annual fee. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, hotel status, and a 5x category bonus for purchases directly from airlines. For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card. The annual fee recently increased on this card, but it comes with new benefits like $200 in Uber credit annually to make up for it. Read all about them in Amex Platinum Annual Fee Jumps to $550
Before applying for this offer, read 100k Amex Platinum Targeted Offer is Back! to learn about the massive targeted bonus through the CardMatch Tool. Check if you’re targeted for the 100,000 Membership Reward bonus offer on the Platinum Card (for spending the same amount of $5,000 in three months).
5. Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard
The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard offers 60,000 American Airlines for putting just one purchase on the card and paying one $95 annual fee! That means you’d effectively be paying $95 (or .15 cents a mile) and a hard credit pull for 60,000 American Airlines miles.
Other benefits include two American Airlines miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines purchases, free checked bag, discount on inflight purchases, 10% rebate on all American Airlines miles redeemed per year (capped at 10k returned each year), access to American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards, and no foreign transaction fees.
Note that this AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard is a separate product from the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard, also issued by Barclaycard, which is what most of you who used to have the U.S. Airways card were converted to back in early 2015. So if you have the AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard, you should still be eligible for this card.
6. Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Plus
This new card is a recent addition to the Marriott portfolio, a result of the SPG/Marriott merger. It comes with a 75,000 point bonus for spending $3,000 on the card within three months of account opening. You’ll get a free night award to spend at any property that costs up to 35,000 points, and automatic Silver Elite status as it grants 15 elite credit nights each calendar year (starting in 2019). You’ll earn…
- 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott/SPG properties
- 2 Marriott points per dollar spent on all other purchases
Not stellar earning rates for everyday spend, but the bonus is what really interests me about this card (and not even specifically for spending at Marriotts). While 100k Marriott rewards can book you a decent amount of award nights, I personally don’t dabble much in the hotel rewards playing field. But you can transfer 75k points (81k at least after the spend to get there) to nearly all the popular airline programs–more than any other transferrable point–and you get a 5k mile bonus for every 60k point increment you transfer, so 81k points are essentially 32k airline miles.
In short, I look at this card as 32,000 airline miles of almost any type, which is why it’s ranked pretty high up on the list. Versatility = value, at least in my book!
Amex issues the SPG card that comes with an almost identical set of benefits and the same sign up bonus as the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus. And now that the two rewards’ program are merged, they share the same rewards currency. So if you aren’t eligible for the Chase Marriott Premier Plus for any reason, you could go for the SPG card instead.
7. SPG Luxury Card
The Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card is the latest addition to the Marriott family credit card portfolio, launched in late August of this year. Until October 31, 2018, you will earn 100,000 bonus points (remember, these are Marriott points now, so that’s like 33.3k SPG points) for spending $5,000 within three months of account opening.
This is a premium credit card, has a large annual fee of $450 mostly offset by benefits as long as you are Marriott/SPG patron. You’ll get…
- a $300 statement credit for purchases at Marriott & SPG hotels every year you hold the card (not calendar year)
- a Free Night Award every year after your anniversary at hotels that cost 50k points or less
- Gold Elite status, with a fast track to Platinum for spending $75k on the card in a calendar year, and as of 2019 you’ll get 15 nights that count towards elite status
- Priority Pass Membership (access for you and two guests)
- Statement credit for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every four years
- Spending category bonuses:
- 6x at SPG & Marriott hotels
- 3x at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
- 2x for all other purchases
And remember, you don’t necessarily have to use those Marriott points for hotels. Just like the points earned by the Chase Marriott Premier Plus above, you can transfer them to almost any airline loyalty program to redeem on flights. The 110k points you’d earn from meeting the spend for the bonus equate to about 41,000 airlines miles of almost any kind.
Interest piqued? Read a more in-depth analysis of the SPG Luxury Card and whether or not it might be worth it to you.
8. The British Airways Visa Signature Card
The British Airways Visa Signature card comes with 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the card. If you spend $10,000 on the card within the first year of card membership, you’ll earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios, for a total of 75,000 Avios. And if you can hit $20k in the first year, you’ll earn an additional 25k bonus for a total of 100,000 Avios. That’s at least (not considering any category bonus) 120,000 Avios for $20,000 in spend.
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 Cuzco and Lima, Peru are two of the sweet spots. You can even find some premium cabin award sweetspots on the Avios chart, however, like this 45k Avios flight I booked myself on Iberia Business Class between Brazil and Spain last year (no fuel surcharges departing Brazil).
The card has a $95 annual fee that is NOT waived.
Chase also has an Iberia Plus Card which earns Iberia Avios, which are similar but not exactly the same as British Airways Avios. The card has a very similar benefits package to the BA Avios card, including a tiered sign up bonus of up to 100k Avios for spending $20k in the first year.
The nice thing about Iberia Avios is that while the award pricing is distance-based, it is not segment based (when at least one segment is flown on a partner). You can fly multiple segments and the award won’t fragment into multiple awards like a British Airways Avios award would–the distance measured for the award price is cumulative. Iberia also has an awesome off-peak season chart with cheap prices to fly between the United States and Europe.
You can transfer freely between British Airways and Iberia Avios accounts as long as you follow the caveats outlined in this post.
The Iberia Plus Card also has a $95 annual fee that is NOT waived.
9. World of Hyatt Credit Card
Chase has revamped their Hyatt product with the brand new World of Hyatt Credit Card. It now comes with…
- 40,000 Hyatt points for spending $3,000 within three months of opening the card
- An additional 20,000 Hyatt points for spending a total of $6,000 within three months of opening the card (for a total of 60k bonus points)
Category one and two Hyatts are just 5k and 8k a night respectively, so those bonus points could get you 12 nights in a Category 1 Hyatts or seven nights in Category 2 Hyatts. You’ll earn 9 points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels (4 per dollar from the card, and 5 base points per dollar for being a World of Hyatt member), and 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants, on airlines tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships.
While the card has a $95 annual fee, it’s likely worth keeping open long-term as you’ll get a free night at any Category 1 – 4 Hyatt after your cardmember anniversary each year, as well as five qualifying night credits toward your next tier status every year. Spending $15k on the card a year earns you an extra free night at a Category 1 – 4 Hyatt.
10. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card comes with 50,000 “miles” after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months. I called the card’s rewards “miles” because they’re not like traditional airline miles, but rather are redeemed for 1 cent each toward any travel expense. That means you don’t have to bother with finding award space. The bonus plus the spending it takes to get there will earn you $560 in travel credit. Learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
You’ll earn 2 of these “miles” per dollar spent on everything you charge to the card. You’ll also earn 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels booked and paid through hotels.com/venture!
With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you don’t even have to wait to meet the minimum spending requirement to earn miles for redemption as redemption happens retroactively on purchases. Open the card, put your travel expenses on it, and once you do meet the requirement and earn your bonus miles, you can redeem them retroactively for a statement credit as long as your purchase was within the last 90 days.
These kind of “miles” are great for covering cheaper tickets, generally domestic flights, that are too cheap to merit redemption of traditional airline miles. The card also comes with up to $100 credit FOR TSA PRE✔® or Global Entry.
Before you rush to sign up for new cards, remember to take into account that some miles are better than others for getting to specific destinations–not to mention issuing bank rules concerning eligibility if you’ve had rewards cards in the past.
- If you need help deciding which card is the right one for you, try our Free Credit Card Consultation Service. We’re happy to help guide you in the right direction towards effectively and efficiently collecting the appropriate rewards.
- Need help redeeming your miles efficiently? Try our Award Booking Service. You send us your goal and current balances, and we do the work making sure your miles are stretched just as far as possible.