Top 10 Credit Cards for Travel Rewards: April 2019

33
76429

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.

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.

This list tends to stick to credit cards that earn points transferrable to airline miles or hotel points, or outright airline miles. If you’re more interested in hotel co-branded credit cards with hotel specific benefits, keep your eye out for a Top Hotel Credit Card List coming soon.


1. Chase 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 four years, and a free Priority Pass Select membership–which gives you access to over 1,200 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. Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige comes with some of the best perks of any credit card and a sizable bonus as well. Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou points after $4,000 in purchases are made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. It has an expensive $495 annual fee, but with all the benefits it’s easy to see how you can quickly make that money back. 

You’ll get a $250 travel credit each calendar year, which can be applied twice within the first year of card membership–before the annual fee is due–for a total of $500 in travel purchase credit (for charges like flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, subways, ride share services, parking, etc.)

The real clincher with this card is its category bonus earning :

  • 5x points on air travel and restaurants
  • 3x on hotels and cruises

For avid travelers, those are better category bonuses than any other credit card.

You’ll also receive a statement credit every 5 years worth up to $100 as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre √®, a complimentary 4th night for up to two separate hotel stays, and a free Priority Pass Select membership (you + two guests get lounge access).

Transfer points to 15 airline loyalty programs or 1 hotel program for the most outsized value.

3. Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 60,000 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.

4. Citi ThankYou Premier Card

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.

The link to apply for this card has been moved to the top of the website, under the drop-down menu Top Credit Cards. 

5. The 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).

6. The American Express Gold Card

American Express recently rebranded their Premier Rewards Gold Card to call it the American Express Gold Card, and gave it a shiny new lineup of benefits to boot. The public offer is 35,000 Membership Reward points for spending $2,000 on the card within three months of opening it.

It’s the category bonuses that really make this card shine, however.

  • 4 Membership Rewards per dollar spent at U.S. Restaurants and supermarkets, good on the first $25,000 in purchases per year
  • 3 Membership Rewards per dollar spent directly booking with an airline or on amextravel.com

Other benefits include $10 a month of credit at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House; $100 credit every calendar year with one airline of your choice, and no foreign transaction fees.

This $295 a year card is made of metal.

7. 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.

8. Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Through April 3 (that’s today!), the Delta Gold card is offering 60,000 bonus Delta miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You also get a $50 statement credit after your first Delta purchase in the first three months. In the past, all Delta purchases (even very small ones) and gift cards have activated the statement credit.

You will also earn 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and get a free checked bag on Delta reservations. This card does not charge foreign transaction fees and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

You must submit your application for this card by 4/3/2019 to be eligible for the 60,000 mile bonus offer.

9. Barclaycard Arrival Plus

For a limited time, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus comes with 70,000 bonus Arrival miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. The card earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem the miles to offset any travel expense greater than $100 inside your Barclaycard account within 120 days of the purchase.

Arrival miles are great covering cheap cash flights that aren’t worth spending miles on, as well as any other travel expense like taxes and fees on award tickets, hotels, Airbnb, car rentals, cruises, and more. You also get a 5% rebate on all redemptions.

After meeting the minimum spending requirement on the card, you’ll have at least 80,000 Arrival miles, which you could redeem to offset an $800 charge. And when you redeem the miles, you get the 5% rebate back instantly, so redeeming 80,000 would offer 4,000 miles back, worth another $40. It’s great for travel as it has no foreign transaction fees, actually has a chip and pin function (very useful for automatic payment terminals), and is a Mastercard, which means you will probably pay less in currency conversion fees.

The link to apply for this card has been moved to the top of the website, under the drop-down menu Top Credit Cards. 

10. Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card

If you fly Southwest often, there is little doubt you’ll get tons of value from the Southwest Priority Card. It comes with 40,000 Rapid Rewards for spending $1,000 within the first three months, 7,500 Rapid Rewards after each account anniversary, a $75 Southwest purchase statement credit each year, four upgraded boardings annually,  and 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi. You also earn 2 Rapid Reward points per dollar spent on all Southwest purchases.

I love Southwest because of its two free checked bags, no change or cancellation fees, and efficient boarding process. Southwest Rapid Rewards can be very valuable for domestic redemptions/redemptions to Mexico or the Caribbean if you can book it far enough ahead of time (award prices are based on the cash price of the ticket, unlike most award pricing schemes that are region based).

If you live and travel often to destinations served by Southwest, the Companion Pass should be on your radar as it is one of the best deals in travel. It allows you to designate a companion who flies for just the taxes on every Southwest flight you fly. That’s $5.60 each way within the United States and a bit more on Southwest’s international flights. Read more in the Companion Pass Master Thread.


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 opened 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.

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.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

33 COMMENTS

  1. Scott, have you heard of Barclaycard (in this case, it is specific to a Barclaycard Arrival Plus credit card) asking for additional information in order to process the credit card request? I received a letter asking for copies of my drivers license, SS card and utility bill. I’m wondering if credit card companies are starting to do this as a hassle to repeat customers of their cards.

    • I can’t speak for Scott, but for me personally, no I have not heard of this practice before. I do know that out of the major banks, Barclays tends to be the most inquiry sensitive.

  2. When I log into my United Mileage Plus account the current offer increases from 50,000 miles to 70,000 miles. I can’t take advantage of this offer because I received the bonus on that card too recently, however others who have an existing Mileage Plus account should sign in before applying for the card to see if they’ve been targeted.

  3. My wife logged into her United account and saw the award amount offer reduced to 50,000, from 70,000. She applied; was told a decision could not be made immediately, etc.; and then, within three business days, received a rejection letter. Very frustrating.

    • Bizarre — so her offer went DOWN when she logged in?! Sounds like she can’t get it anyway because of 5/24, though for others I guess they should check and compare the offers both before and after logging in!

  4. Sapphire Preferred

    “For the reasons presented in this post, this is one of the first two cards I recommend everyone get.”

    What is the other card you recommend in the “first Two” ?

  5. I closed my Prestige account more than a year ago, but given the current sign-up bonus and with a big payment pending in the next two months, is there any intelligence out there that Citi will approve me again for this card or does Citi tend to make you wait longer before approving your again?

    • Hari
      Of course wait 4 the 75K or LARGER points . But I’ll save another $300 when I book the 4th nite FREE in 6 weeks for my May trip ..

      Cheap is Good !

      CHEERs

  6. You can actually get 30K SPG points with a public offer through this link on AmEx’s website: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card/starwood-preferred-guest/ (if it doesn’t work at first, try your browser in incognito mode). However, if you apply by linking through Starwood’s website (or by phone), you only get 25K points. Unfortunately for me I only realized this 2 days after I applied — called AmEx to see if they’d honor it and had no luck whatsoever. I was quickly reminded why I never get AmEx cards….

  7. Scott, I enjoy your, and Sarah’s, posts very much. I have most all of these cards, but somehow I think your list should have the Barclay Arrival Card. When I have to be somewhere to catch a flight and do not want to use points, paying for the hotel on the Arrival card, and then having 120 days to earn the points at 2x is a petty good deal in the whole travel scheme.

    • Hi Bryon, glad to hear you’re enjoying the content. I too agree the Arrival Plus is a great card. And as far travel-rewards specific cards go, it does provide a good return. However, for everyday spending, I wouldn’t necessarily make it my default choice. You could be using the Citi Double Cash Card for 2% back on everything, not just travel, and you wouldn’t have to deal with waiting to accrue $100 worth of Arrival points to redeem (which is a stipulation of the Arrival Plus). The Arrival Plus is 100% worth getting for the sign up bonus (I’ve personally collected the bonus on it twice), it’s just not on the list right now because it doesn’t have a historically high bonus at the moment. Not to mention the Citi Double Cash card has no annual fee and the Arrival Plus has an $89 annual fee after the first year, if we’re talking about holding it longterm.

  8. “Qualify for a business card? The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card…
    The rest of the card’s benefits look similar to those of the personal card.”

    This is not entirely true. The business version of this card gives you access to Starwood chain hotel club lounges, which has saved me and my guests a ton of $ (free breakfast, evening heavy hors d’œuvres, bottled water, etc.).

  9. I’m a subscriber, and I was going to ask a question after reading my email. But when I get to your page, I find comments from three years ago, some with outdated info. What gives?

    Oh, and my question is can you apply for the Sapphire Preferred if you have the Reserve? I know you can’t go the other way (Preferred to Reserve). The way I read Chase’s terms, if you have any Sapphire card, you cannot apply for another one. Whaddya think?

  10. In regards to the Barclay card, the 24 month restriction for applying for the card seems to have disappeared. I am unsure whether this means that Barclay is adopting the Amex policy of one application per card per lifetime? Also, the reports are that if you have the old Aviator card open, you will be declined for the World Elite???

  11. I am disappointed to not have seen any answers to Gary’s questions regarding the Barclay Aviator card. I would LOVE to have some updated information. We are a family of 5, 3 of us were approved for the World Elite while holding the older Aviator card. Did have to do a recon call each time (June, Sept, Oct). 4th family member was turned down in Dec during the recon call. Agent claimed that they are now considered the same product even though they don’t have identical benefits. 5th member canceled his card in Dec and would like to re-apply, but only if he can get the bonus. Would really love to know what is actual policy.
    Thanks!

  12. is the Citibank Prestige not worth ? doesn’t appear on your top 10. i guess $ 250 maxed out 2 times , global entry would more than cover that expense of annual fee.

  13. Sarah
    Off thread but who cares I want to Thank You again on ur post u did on ur over-nite Ferry trip u did last year . I booked mine on www,corsicaferries.com ..I went from Toulon ,France to Corsica I boarded @ 8am left by 9am and was there 8 hrs later ..Perfect car ferry trip like a 3.5* carnival cruise (pool) BUT BUT 4* French food . I paid like $70 for the trip with TWO very good meals .They have 2 floors of cabins but loads of places u can camp out like the cafe with a window if u get there early . Next time I will do an over-nite to save the hotel room cost but no hassles here super safe for woman or anyone . Great staff and u can bring anything on board good but not so good as to Anything .. Loved it (dogs do too) will hit any port this ferry line goes to as in On time ,Cheap,Clean ,Safe and PROFESSIONAL ..

    CHEERs

  14. All comments are very outdated and most don’t relate to your card list any longer. I know you’re refreshing the post vs. making a new one, but comments from 2015…?
    I also find SouthWest card to be a strong offer, although it carries $149 annual fee not mentioned here.

    • Fair point, thanks for bringing that to my attention. Just cleaned out all the pings as well as any comment before April of 2017 so it’s easier to get to the bottom of the comment list.

      The Southwest Priority Card is on this list at the moment, in slot #10.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.