Top 10 Travel Credit Cards March 2017

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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
  • 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.

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Swimming in a Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

In the last few years, I’ve been to dozens of countries, travel that would have been completely impossible without miles and points earned from credit cards. This has been my life thanks to miles:

And I’ve generally flown Business or First Class between those adventures on tickets that cost me not thousands or hundreds of dollars, but tens of dollars.

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.

Where I’ve Been as of April 2017

Below are, in my opinion, the top ten rewards credit cards right now.

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.

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.

You get a $300 travel credit each calendar year, which can be applied twice within the first year of card membership for a total of $600 in travel credit.

Chase Sapphire Reserve holders also get 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. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

The SPG Amex is currently offering a total of 35,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $5,000 over the course of the first six months of holding the card. You will earn:

  • 25,000 SPG points after spending $3k in the first three months
  • An additional 10,000 SPG points after spending another $2k within six months

This is a record high bonus for the SPG card, tied with the same bonus that was offered last year at this time. Why is that important? You can only get one bonus per Amex product per lifetime (not including targeted offers), so ideally you shouldn’t apply unless the card has a historically high bonus like the one the SPG card has right now.

When you transfer SPG points to airline partners, you get a 5k mile bonus for each increment of 20k SPG points transferred. So the 40k SPG points you’ll have after meeting the minimum spending requirement for the bonus is really like 50k 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.

Qualify for a business card? The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card is also offering a record high bonus of 35,000 SPG points for spending $8k within six months (must spend $5k in the first three months and $8k total within six). The rest of the cards benefits look similar to those of the personal card.

We value SPG points more than any other reward currency because of their extreme versatility. Read more about how to maximize SPG points in LIMITED TIME: Highest 35k SPG Bonus Returns!

4. 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.

5. Citi Prestige Card

The Citi Prestige comes with the best perks of any credit card and big bonus points as well. Earn 40,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. You can read my full review of the Citi Prestige here. 

There is another public sign up offer for the Citi Prestige right now. You can earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points for spending $5,000 in three months. If you don’t see that offer when you pull up the application page, try opening it in an incognito window or a different browser. I have seen both the 40k and 50k offer.

You’ll also get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, which can be applied twice within the first year card membership for a total of $500 in Air Travel Credit.

You’ll also receive a statement credit, up to $100 every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre √®, a complimentary 4th night for any hotel stay at hotels booked through Citi Prestige® Concierge, and a free Priority Pass Select membership.

Transfer points to 12 airline loyalty programs or 1 hotel program for the most outsized value. Points are also redeemable for 1.33 cents each on any airline’s cash tickets (sign-up bonus is worth $532 redeeming this way).

The category bonuses are stellar as well: earn 3x points on air travel and hotels and 2x points on dining at restaurants and entertainment. This is a great card to put the majority of your spending on as I assume all of us as avid travelers spend a good amount within those categories.

**Note that there are two public offers out there right now for the Citi Prestige, 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in three months, as well as 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in three months. If you don’t see that offer when you pull up the application page, try opening it in an incognito window or a different browser. I have seen both the 40k and 50k offer.

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. United MileagePlus Explorer Card

The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card comes with 50,000 United miles after spending $3,000 on the card within three months of opening it.

You’ll earn 2 United miles per dollar spent on United purchases, as well as restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores purchases.

You also get a ton of perks when flying United.

You and one travel companion can check your first bag for free to save up to $100 per roundtrip flight. You and anyone on your reservation 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.

The card charges no foreign transaction fees but has $95 annual fee.

8. Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 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 $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status. For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card.

The “regular” Platinum card is worse than this offer because it has a smaller sign up bonus and only a $25 lower annual fee.

The Business Platinum Card doesn’t have a great sign up bonus right now but it’s worth noting as it has one of the best perks out of any of the premium cards on the market right now–a 50% rebate when you Pay with Points through the Amex Travel Portal on all Business/First Class flights and economy flights on your chosen airline.

Business Platinum Card Members can get 2 cents per point toward flights in economy on one airline and 2 cents per point toward any First or Business Class flight. You have to call in and select one airline to get 2 cents per point of value for its coach flights. The Business/First benefit is automatic. Then you have to have enough points to cover a booking at 1 cent per point and book through American Express Travel inside your Amex account. You will quickly be rebated half the points back, essentially giving you a redemption value of 2 cents per point which is great for Membership Rewards.

9. British Airways 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.

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.

The card has a $95 annual fee that is NOT waived.

10. Barclaycard Arrival Plus

For a limited time, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus comes with 50,000 bonus Arrival miles after spending $3,000 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. Here is How to Redeem Arrival Miles.

Arrival miles can be redeemed for any travel expense like any flight (no blackouts), 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 56,000 Arrival miles, which you could redeem to offset a $560 charge.  And when you redeem the miles, you get the 5% rebate back instantly, so redeeming 56,000 would offer 2,800 miles back, worth another $28. It’s great for travel as it has no foreign transaction fees and is a Mastercard, which means you will probably pay less in currency conversion fees.


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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238 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.

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