Top 10 Travel Credit Cards: February 2018

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There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.

  • For free luxury hotel stays and First Class flights
  • To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford (like Norway, pictured above, where Sarah Page 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 suit your needs.

But 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.

Without further ado…below are, in my opinion, the top ten rewards credit cards right now.

1. Ink Preferred

The Ink Preferred is a business card that offers 80,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.

The Ink Preferred earns 3x points on travel; shipping; internet, cable, and phone services; and search engine or social network advertising and 1x points on everything else.

You’ll also get up to $500 in coverage per claim in cell phone protection against theft or damage for you and your employees (for every cell who’s bill you with the Ink Preferred).

The $95 annual fee is not waived.

2. 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, British Airways, Singapore, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, 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 free unlimited guest access to those lounges for anyone 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.

3. 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, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, and more.

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

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.

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, 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 just increased on this card, but it comes with new benefits like $200 in Uber credit annually. Read all about them in Amex Platinum Annual Fee Jumps to $550: Changes Coming March 30.

If you qualify for business credit cards, consider the Business Platinum card from American Express OPEN as well. The minimum spending requirement is higher–$10,000 within three months of opening the card will get you 50,000 points, and another 25,000 for spending another $10,000 within the same three month period. But a 75k bonus is a big chunk of points, and the card comes with many of the same valuable perks that the personal Platinum doesas (well as some unique ones like 5x points on airfare and hotels booked through Amex’s travel portal). The annual fee is also $100 cheaper than the personal card’s.

5. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

The SPG Amex offers 25,000 SPG points after spending $3k in the first three months

When you transfer SPG points to airline partners, you get a 5k mile bonus for each increment of 20k SPG points transferred. So the 28k SPG points you’ll have after meeting the minimum spending requirement for the bonus is really like 33k airline miles (and SPG has TONS of airline transfer partners, more than any other transferrable point type).

The card comes with other benefits like category bonuses of 5 points per dollar spent at SPG properties and 2 points per dollar spent at Marriott properties. You’ll also get complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide.

Read about why both of the SPG credit cards (personal and business) should be on your immediate radar for credit card applications.

6. Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express Open now comes with 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 on your card in the first three months the account is open.

The normal offer for the Business Gold Rewards Card is 25k Membership Rewards after spending $5,000. This improved offer is twice is good as it was before, and the best we’ve seen in years. Since you can only earn the sign-up bonus from a publicly available American Express card offer once per lifetime, that is significant when we say it’s the best sign up bonus we’ve seen in years.

It also has customizable category bonuses with unique options to choose from and the annual fee is waived the first year. You’ll get 3x Membership Rewards on one category of your choice out of the following five choices…

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
  • U.S. purchases at gas stations
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
  • U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers

…2X Membership Rewards on the four remaining categories, and 1 Membership Reward per dollar spent on all other purchases. Read a full breakdown of the Business Gold Rewards card here.

7. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard

For a limited time, the Citi / AAdvantage card comes with 60,000 American Airlines bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within 3 months of opening the account. Benefits include:

  • Free checked bag on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and four companions
  • Preferred Boarding on American Airlines flights (this means after Business/First/elite passengers and before economy)
  • 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights
  • Double AA miles on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 10% rebate of all redeemed AAdvantage miles, capped at 10k miles each calendar year
  • Access to American Airlines’ domestic Reduced Mileage Awards
  • No foreign transaction fees

The annual fee of $95 is waived the first year. Citi also has a business card co-branded with American Airlines, the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard, and it too has a limited time sign up offer of 60,000 miles for spending $3,000 in three months. The rest of the benefits are pretty similar, although not identical, to the personal card.

8. 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.

9. Chase Southwest Rapid Reward Visas

If you live and travel often to destinations served by Southwest, now is a prime time to sign up for a Southwest co-branded credit card from Chase. There are are two personal versions and one business card, and all of them come with big sign up bonuses.

  • Personal Plus: 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in three months, $69 annual fee NOT waived for the first year, 3,000 bonus points each year you renew
  • Premier Plus: 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in three months, $99 annual fee NOT waived for the first year, 6,000 bonus points each year you renew
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card: 60,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in three months, $99 annual fee NOT waived for the first year, 6,000 bonus points each year you renew

More importantly, it’s the beginning of the year, meaning it’s the ideal time to earn a Southwest Companion Pass. A Companion Pass 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. You qualify for a Companion Pass by earning 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards from credit cards during a calendar year. The easiest avenue to take right now is opening one personal Southwest card and the business Southwest card. The 110k Rapid Rewards are worth about $1,1540 in free travel on Southwest on any flight, any time with no blackout dates at all. And you can fly basically free with your significant other, friend, family member–whoever–for all of 2018 and 2019 by earning the Companion Pass now.

Each Southwest card earns two Rapid Rewards per dollar on Southwest purchases, and one Rapid Reward per dollar on all other 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). 

10. Asiana Visa Signature Card

You will earn 30,000 Asiana miles after spending $3,000 on the card within three months of opening it. We value Asiana miles very highly at 2 cents each, making this sign up bonus worth approximately $600. You’ll also earn 3 Asiana miles per dollar spent on Asiana purchases, 2 per mile spent on gas station and grocery store purchases, a 100$ rebate on Asiana purchases annually, and a 10k Asiana mile bonus after every account anniversary. The $99 annual fee is not waived the first year.

Asiana has the best award chart in the Star Alliance. That means that you can book any of the 27 Star Alliance airlines, including United, for fewer miles on many routes with Asiana miles than with better known programs like United, Lufthansa, LifeMiles, Singapore, and Air Canada. Unfortunately some Asiana awards have fuel surcharges. But not all of them do, and some are worth it anyways because of the dirt cheap mileage price. Learn more in 30k Sign Up Bonus on Asiana Card: What It’s Good For.

This card should be particularly be on your radar if:

  • you value Business and First Class awards to Europe and Southern South America, because Asiana miles are extremely valuable to those regions.
  • you fly Asiana often, because the annual $100 Rebate on Asiana Purchases and the 10,000 Asiana Mile Bonus Certificate more than negate the $99 annual fee.

 


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.

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272 COMMENTS

  1. So they charged the $450 membership fee after the first month; I was thinking itwas after the first year…so, any way around that or getting it waived?

    • No. The Citi Prestige’s annual fee is NOT waived the first year (or any year.) Just max out the Air Travel Credit in 2015 and 2016 and it will be more than offset.

  2. Thanks Scott, for the wonderful inputs on top travel credit cards. I guess it takes time but once you accumulate the miles the holiday is so much sweeter. I am based in India and use a similar credit card called Premier Miles by Citibank and it helps me get hotel stays & flights and its agnostic to any specific hotel/airline so its ideal for someone who loves travel.

  3. Scott: You are the best and I love your blog!
    I have an opportunity to make large transactions on a credit card @ 3.8% charge. Do you think it is worth it?

    • Definitely not to earn 1 mile per dollar. It would be worth it to clear more sign up bonuses on cards whose minimum spending requirement you couldn’t otherwise meet.

  4. Re: credit card charge at 3.8%. I am not Scott – but pretty sure he or anyone else would never value miles at 3.8 cents each to make it worth doing that. I guess the real question is what would you do with those miles (buy airline ticket for example). And what would it cost if you just bought that ticket outright vs what you are paying for that charge. And, I assume you would pay off that charge card and not have to also pay interest on it.

  5. My husband is just about to become silver status on Delta because he has been traveling a lot from his current post in South Africa to Washington, DC via Delta. Though we have had an international life, he is Dutch and has never really focused on miles on any one carrier. Now he thinks he should stick with Delta and get a credit card that helps accumulate more miles on that carrier. Though this South African project will end in March, he thinks he is now stuck with Delta. He can’t use American Express as that is not a good card for the odd countries he has to travel to. He needs a Visa or Master Card. Delta always seems to be connected to American Express. Is there a 1) non-American Express card 2) without foreign exchange fees 3) that is point based and NOT Capital One that does not give enough of a credit line to buy a loaf of bread for someone like him who does not have much of a credit history in the US. Thanks for your help!

  6. Great list, but I can’t understand why the Club Carlson card is in the top 10. It is a decent card, but is it worthy of top 10 status? Perhaps it was before the deval, but not now.

  7. Just took advantage of the 4th night free with Citi Prestige for the first time.

    I timed my stay so the fourth night was the most expensive night!

    Awesome benefit!

  8. Hi Scott,
    Is there a reason that you start Citi Prestige details with a bold red ‘For a limited time’? Any indications that this card or it’s great sign-up bonus could away in near future?
    I am still contemplating signing up for this card by end of this month or next, but had to decide between a 60K targeted Citi AA Platinum or the Prestige card due to their spend requirements along with other card spends.

    Thank you for your inputs, always helpful.

    • No indication when, but Citi is specifically marketing it as a “limited time” offer. Hopefully the offer continues.

  9. Does anyone know of any other cards similar to the Barclay Arrival that provide rebates on travel purchases by using points? I know Capitol One is another, but any others? Thanks, Lisa

  10. I am sorry bother you all. but I would like to ask for advice which travel card should I get if I want to travel in first or business to Philippines or Dubai, from/to USA

    I have been using the United mileage exploded and AA Citibank cards but both have davaluated

    What should I do?

    Hope you can help me

    • To Dubai, I’d collect 90k Alaska miles each way for Emirates First Class. Get the Alaska personal and business cards and the SPG personal and business cards. To Philippines, I’d go with 80k United miles each way in Business. Get the United personal and business, Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Plus.

  11. I just came back from 8 nights in Belize and used Citi Prestige Concierge to book our two hotels. We did 4 nights at each property, so I could get Citi Prestige to pay for the 4th night at both hotels (one in the jungle and the other on the beach.) When I got my April bill the hotel charges were listed, but there was no credit. I called Customer Service and was told it will take up to 8 weeks for the credit to be applied, so I have to pay my full bill this month and wait for the adjustment. Just FYI.

  12. Hi Scott, truly enjoy your posts. Do you have an updated version of an old post you had about ways to meet the minimum spending for these cars?

    Could you please post the link? Thanks!

  13. Scot: First, thanks for all the great information and recommendations. I currently have the Delta Amex gold card. If I apply and am approved for the Delta Amex Platinum card, will I be able to combine the miles from both accounts so I can apply them for a Delta flight award?

  14. Scot: You and all your readers should be aware that Amex/MB grossly underestimated the interest in this card offer and, as such, are way, way behind in fulfillment after one gets approved. I have been waiting for than 2.5 weeks for my card to arrive and there still is no definitive date that Amex can give for delivery. First, Amex said there was problems with UPS not delivering the cards in a timely fashion. Then, the Amex said that they were having problems printing/making the cards to meet the demand. If the delay continues, I will miss my opportunity to meet the $$ requirement for the point bonus I have one shot only with a large bill coming due. Really, really frustrating!

  15. If I have gotten an Amex Platinum card in the past, am I still able to get the 50k points bonus for the Mercedes platinum card?

  16. Any thoughts on when the Chase 5/24 resets? On 10/21 I will be 4/24, but is there any data to say I should wait until 11/1 to apply for the Sapphire Reserve? I have a large expense in November that will cover the minimum spend but I need to give time for the card to arrive.

    • I would wait until you are definitely back down to 4/24 on October 21, and then ask Chase to expedite the card.

  17. Can the Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred be downgraded / changed to a non fee card, such as the Chase Freedom, after 1 year?

  18. Is it too late in the year to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve? When does the December statement post? If I don’t have any upcoming travel in the works, how can I spend the $300 quickly enough to get the travel credit? Does the United app trick work like for Amex?

    • Don’t get it this month. If you get it now, your first statement closes in 2017, so you don’t get a 2016 credit. Get it starting next month when you’ll have 11 months for first $300 and one month for second $300 before second annual fee.

  19. I have an offer from Chase website for the 100K Sapphire Preferred. I have excellent credit score but am worried about the 5/24 bug. I have a Sapphire Reserve for which I got a bonus. Is considered a dif card for the 24 rule? I would not get id until Jan2017 so I could get the two $300 element twice, and because need to buy an airline ticket in Jan for a family member.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. […] From the extreme travel accident insurance that can compensate you for serious injury between $500,000 and a $1,000,000, to the simple but appreciated luggage delay reimbursement that covers $100 a day in clothes and toiletries, the Sapphire Reserve, Preferred, and Ink Business Preferred offer excellent, comprehensive travel protection coverage. You can read about the rest of their benefits in our Top 10 Travel Credit Cards List. […]

  24. 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” ?

  25. 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

  26. 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….

  27. 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.

  28. “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.).

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