All links have been removed because this list is outdated. Click here for the current list of top credit cards for travel.
Why are you collecting miles and points?
- For free luxury hotel stays and first class flights?
- To travel to more countries than you’d otherwise be able to?
- To take a family vacation?
- For a free trip home for the holidays?
- To earn big rewards for everyday spending?
Whatever your reason for being here, there is a rewards card that suits your needs.
Since the start of last year, I’ve been to 25 countries, travel that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards. This has been my life thanks to miles:
- Playing bilingual basketball games with the expats and locals in Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Cliff jumping in Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Bungee jumping in Queenstown, New Zealand and Soweto, Jo’burg, South Africa
- 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
- Eating Thai-hot Thai curry in Thailand at Thai prices
- Biking in the Lake District of Patagonia in Bariloche, Argentina
- Spending three days at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
- Getting to travel with my brother in Australia and using miles to make his dream of seeing the Australian Open a reality
- Flying a friend to Thailand to spend a week together
- Seeing Angkor Wat
- Getting some home cooking from my mom who lives 5,000 miles away
- Following my favorite basketball team for six games across seven countries
How can you earn rewards for the trips of your dreams? What are the best credit card offers for May 2014?
1. Ink Plus and Ink Bold
The Inks are business cards that for a limited time only are offering 60,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonuses after spending $5k in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, and more.
The Inks earn 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 Inks have no annual fee the first 12 months, $95 thereafter.
The Ink Bold is exactly the same as the Ink Plus except the Plus is a credit card and the Bold is a charge card. That means the Bold must be paid off in full each month, while you can run a balance on the Plus. Because of this difference, I have gotten both for the same business.
I used Ultimate Rewards (transferred to Hyatt points) to book the Grand Hyatt Macau and Ultimate Rewards (transferred to United miles) to book Slovenia to North Carolina in Lufthansa First Classon a recent trip.
2. Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is a great card for families that travel in economy without much flexibility, since Arrival miles can be used to book any flight on any airline with no blackouts. Miles can also be redeemed for any hotel or other travel expense.
This card comes with 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
With this card you can book any flight on any airline at any time, or any hotel, or rental car, then redeem your miles for a statement credit equal to the cost. Here’s how.
The 40,000 bonus miles could be used on any $400 flight without the need to find award space. You would even earn miles for flying the flight, since the airline will see it as a cash ticket!
Plus you get a 10% rebate after every redemption for travel, so after redeeming the 40,000 miles for $400 in travel, you get 4,000 miles back, worth $40 more dollars.
I have used my Arrival miles on a recent trip to book a motel and domestic flights like a $150 trip from Raleigh to Tampa that would have been a poor value with traditional miles.
This card earns 2 miles per dollar, which is 2.28 cents back toward travel, on all purchases.
This card fills the gaps in a miles strategy because the rewards are perfect for cheap domestic flights or hotels that otherwise would be bad redemptions with traditional airline miles and hotel points.
There is no annual fee the first year, $89 thereafter.
Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
3. Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 40k Ultimate Rewards after spending $3k 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 other big bonus is a 7% annual points dividend each January on all the points (other than the sign up bonus) earned in the previous calendar year.
The Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee the first year, then $95 thereafter.
4. Citi ThankYou Premier Rewards Card
For people who want domestic or economy flights, traditional airline miles are often a poor value. For those flights, cards that earn flexible points that can be redeemed for any flight with no blackouts are often the better deal. The Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card earns those super flexible points.
The card has no annual fee the first year, then $125.
Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card
I just got my Citi ThankYou Premier Rewards card in February, and I have not had a chance to use the rewards yet.
5. 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.
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 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