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 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 and playable.
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. 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.
2. 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.
For the moment there is another sign up offer floating around for the Sapphire Preferred card: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards for spending $4,000 on the card within three months of account opening and paying the first year’s annual fee of $95. Check out New Sapphire Preferred Bonus: 10k Points Higher for a $95 Fee to learn more.
3. 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 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.
Before applying for this offer, read 100k Amex Platinum Targeted Offer is Back! to learn how to 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)
4. Citi ThankYou Premier
The Citi ThankYou Premier Card now offers 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Transfer points to 14 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 $625 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.
5. Chase Marriott Premier Plus
This brand-spanking new card is a recent addition to the Marriott portfolio, a result of the SPG/Marriott merger. It comes with a 100,000 point bonus for spending $5,000 on the card within three months of account opening. You’ll get a free night certificate to spend at any property that costs up to 35,000 points, and automatic Silver Elite status as it grants 15 elite credit nights each calendar year (starting in 2019). You’ll earn…
- 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott/SPG properties
- 2 Marriott points per dollar spent on all other purchases
Not stellar earning rates for everyday spend, but the bonus is what really interests me about this card–and not even specifically for spending on Marriotts. While 100k Marriott rewards can book you a decent amount of award nights, I personally don’t dabble much in the hotel rewards playing field. But until August you can transfer 100k Marriott Rewards (105k at least after the spend to get there) SPG, turning them into 35,000 SPG points, which are transferrable to nearly all the popular airline programs–more than any other transferrable point–and you get a 5k bonus for every 20k increment you transfer, so 35k spg points are 40k airline miles. I value SPG points at 2.5 cents each for this reason.
And come August, SPG and Marriott are merging their loyalty programs, and you will be able to transfer Marriott Rewards straight to airlines without having to move them to SPG first (at the same rate as now).
In short, I look at this card as 40,000 airline miles of almost any type.
6. 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
- New category bonuses! 2 miles per dollar spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on American Airlines purchases
- $100 discount off an American Airlines flight each year that you spend $20,000 on the card
- Access to American Airlines’ domestic Reduced Mileage Awards
- No foreign transaction fees
7. The British Airways Visa Signature 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. 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 at least (not considering any category bonus) 120,000 Avios for $20,000 in spend.
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.
8. Iberia Plus Card
Chase has released a new card called the Iberia Plus Visa Signature card that 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. Spend $30,000 in the card within a year and you’ll get a $1,000 discount towards two tickets.
The card comes with 3 Avios per dollar on Iberia purchases and 1 Avios per dollar on other purchases.
Iberia Avios are similar to British Airways Avios are perfect for short economy flights on partners that do not levy fuel surcharges like these partners. The nice thing about Iberia Avios is that while the award pricing is distance based, it is not segment based. 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.
The card has a $95 annual fee that is NOT waived.
9. United MileagePlus Explorer Card
The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card comes with 40,000 United miles after spending $2,000 on the card within three months of opening it.
The card comes with 2 United miles per dollar spent on United purchases.
You also get a ton of perks United related perks–one highly valuable and non-marketed one being 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. 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, 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.
10. Chase Southwest Rapid Reward Visas
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 two personal versions and one business card, and all of them come with big sign up bonuses.
- Personal Plus: 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in three months, $69 annual fee NOT waived for the first year, 3,000 bonus points each year you renew
- Premier Plus: 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 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
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).