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.
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.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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 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 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. The American Express Gold Card
American Express 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 25,000 Membership Reward points for spending $2,000 on the card within three months of opening it, but there is a common referral offer of 50,000 Membership Rewards for spending $3,000 within three months.
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 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, and until January 9 you can request a Rose Gold version if you wish.
6. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Capital One is adding the ability to transfer its “miles”, currently worth just one cent a piece towards travel, to 12 airline partners. That’s a huge move on Capital One part’s in increasing this card’s value… at least for those of us who know how to use mileage programs wisely.
There are a couple offers available for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card at the moment: 50,000 Capital One miles after spending $3,000 on the card in the first three months, and also 75,000 miles for spending $5,000 miles within three months. 2 Capital One Miles will equal 1.5 airline miles, so to translate that bonus into a more digestible value, it’s worth 37,500 to 56,250 airline miles depending on which offer you choose. Partners include airlines from all three alliances, including Flying Blue, Aeroplan, Etihad, and Avianca, and more. If you have the spending capability, obviously the 75k Capital One mile offer is better.
Of course, you can continue to redeem Capital One miles for one cent each, which may be the better call for domestic economy travelers. As you’ll earn 2 of these Capital One miles per dollar spent on everything you charge to the card, that means your minimum return on spend is 2%, which is great for a card with options to transfer to airline miles.
You’ll also earn 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels booked and paid through hotels.com/venture!
The card comes with up to $100 credit FOR TSA PRE✔® or Global Entry. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
The United Explorer Card comes with 40,000 United miles after spending $2,000 on the card within three months of opening it. You can earn an additional 25,000 bonus United miles, for a total of 65,000 bonus miles, for spending $10,000 on your card within six months of account opening.
The card earns 2 United miles per dollar spent on United purchases, but more importantly gets a ton of United related perks. One highly valuable and non-marketed one is extra MileagePlus award space called “last seat availability”. This basically means cardholders have access to more United award space than non-cardholders.
You and one travel companion can check your first bag for free to save up to $100 per roundtrip flight. Save another $100 with the Global Entry or TSA Precheck® fee credit benefit. You and anyone on your reservation also get Priority Boarding, which means you get to board before the majority of people and have a better chance to get your carry on luggage in the overhead bin. You’ll also get two passes for the United Club per year, and if you’re a MileagePlus Elite, cardholders are eligible for upgrades on domestic award travel.
The card charges no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee the first year. After that, it is $95 annually.
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 100,000 bonus Avios up for grabs!
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. Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa Cards
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. You qualify for a Companion Pass by earning 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards from credit cards during a calendar year, and you keep it for that calendar year you earned it in as well as the following one.
There are are three consumer Southwest cards, and all of them come currently come with big sign up bonuses.
|Chase Southwest Consumer Credit Cards||Sign-up Bonus||Anniversary Bonus||Annual Fee|
|Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card||40,000 points for spending $1,000 in three months; 20,000 additional points for spending $12k total within 12 months||3,000 points||$69|
|Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card||40,000 points for spending $1,000 in three months; 20,000 additional points for spending $12k total within 12 months||6,000 points||$99|
|Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card||40,000 points for spending $1,000 in three months; additional 20,000 points for spending $12k total within 12 months||7,500 points||$149|
Points earned by the bonuses from Southwest cards count towards a Companion Pass, but note that you can’t open both personal cards–Chase will only approve you for one. You can, however, open a personal and a business card.
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).
Chase has revamped their Hyatt product with the World of Hyatt Credit Card. It 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.
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.