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What’s In My Wallet?
Credit cards are one of the easiest ways to accumulate miles and points and there are some amazing deals out there. I can actually trace my mileage obsession back to the original American Airlines Citi AAdvantage MasterCard. I remember being about 10 years old when my friend Peter’s parents from down the block had just signed up for the card. They had a conversation with my parents about how they used their card for all their purchases and were planning a free trip for the entire family to Disney World. My parents soon signed up (yes, they were allowed in those days to sign up for cards without my input) and so began our yearly December vacation to Florida followed later by the Caribbean, care of Citi and American. The offers weren’t as generous back then, but the award tickets were readily available at low redemption levels. Things have changed quite a bit, but credit cards are still one of the easiest ways to earn free travel and anyone not utilizing these offers is silly. I’ve easily earned over 4 million points with cards. I’m constantly asked by colleagues, friends, and family what my favorite cards are and which ones will allow them to earn the most points for an upcoming trip. In fact, I’ve recently helped many friends obtain completely free honeymoons, with flights and hotels fully booked with miles and points. Below you’ll find my favorite cards, feel free to email me at email@example.com with any questions or to share a better sign-up offer. Remember, these are per individual so you can obtain even more points if each member of the household applies.
Chase Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
While the Chase Ink Plus has come and gone, Chase has ushered in the newest Chase business product, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. The card is offering 80,000 points after spending $5K on purchases in the first three months. This is higher than recent Ink Plus offers, but matches one of the most generous offers for that now discontinued card. The card has a $95 annual fee which is not waived for the first year. One of the biggest differences is bonus category spend, 5x points on office supply stores, cell phones, internet, and cable television has been replaced with 3x points on the first $150,000 spent on:
- Shipping purchases
- Internet, cable and phone services
- Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines
The best news is that if you’ve had the Chase Ink Plus or Chase Ink Cash cards, you can still receive this bonus as the new Ink Business Preferred is considered a completely separate product. However, the 5/24 restrictions unfortunately apply to this card. Trip cancellation / interruption, purchase protection, extended warranty, and cell phone protection are all included with the card. Like the Sapphire and Sapphire Reserve below, benefits include 1 to 1 point transfers with United, Southwest, British Airways (Oneworld), Korean Air (SkyTeam), Singapore KrisFlyer, Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Hyatt,Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, IHG Rewards Club, and Amtrak.
Chase Sapphire Reserve℠
The much anticipated Chase Sapphire Reserve card has arrived and is offering an amazing 100,000 points after spending $4k within the first 3 months.
The card benefits are quite impressive and you can negate that $450 annual fee quite quickly:
- 3X Points on Travel and Dining Worldwide – Earn 3X points per $1 spent on travel from flights, cruise lines and hotels to car rentals, trains and taxis. Plus, earn 3X points per $1 spent at restaurants – from fast food to fine dining.
- $300 Annual Travel Credit (every calendar year). Each year, automatically receive up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel-related purchases charged to your card.
- Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Fee Credit – Receive a statement credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card.
- 50% More Value in Travel Rewards (making points worth 1.5 cents each ) – Your points are worth 50% more when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 towards travel.
- 1:1 Point Transfer – Transfer points to participating frequent travel programs at full 1:1 value – that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points equals 1,000 partner miles/points. Travel partners include British Airways Executive Club, United MileagePlus®, Hyatt Gold Passport®, Marriott Rewards®, and more.
- Complimentary Airport Lounge Access – You and your authorized users can access 900+ VIP airport lounges worldwide with Priority PassTM Select and enjoy lounge amenities such as WIFI, free snacks, beverages and more when you activate your membership.
This is considered a separate card from the Chase Sapphire Preferred and so you can apply and receive the 100K bonus even if you have that card! There is a $450 annual fee that is not waived, though when you consider the $300 travel credit (2x) and the Global Entry credit, this fee is palatable. 1 to 1 point transfers are offered with United, Southwest, British Airways (Oneworld), Korean Air (SkyTeam), Singapore KrisFlyer, Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Hyatt,Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, IHG Rewards Club, and Amtrak. Chase is sticking to their 5/24 rule for the majority of applicants, though some have been lucky and won approval.
The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express
Amex has increased the standard offer for The Business Gold Rewards Card, now offering 50K Membership Rewards points after spending $5K within your first 3 months instead of the normal 25K. There is no annual fee for the first year. You’ll also earn 3x points on either airfare from airlines, gas station purchases, shipping, advertising in select media, and computer hardware / software / cloud computing purchases. You earn 2x points on those categories that you don’t select. You can see full details and apply for the card here.
The 50K points will be combined with your current Membership Rewards. This card is considered a different product than the Premiere Rewards Gold Card and you can obtain these points even if receiving a sign-up bonus for the personal card. In addition, you’re eligible to apply even if you’ve had a Business Platinum Card.
- Special Offer: Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership
- Get 3x points – Choose 1 out of 5 categories
- Plus, 2X points on the 4 remaining categories and 1X points on other purchases
- 3X and 2X apply to the first $100,000 in purchases in each of the 5 categories per year, 1X point per dollar thereafter
- Track, organize, and stay on top of your business expenses with powerful expense-tracking tools
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175
- Terms and limitations apply
- See Rates & Fees
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (Partner Offer)
Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 35,000 Bonus Starpoints! This has been my favorite points card for well over ten years now, I used to use it for all purchases. However, I now use my Sapphire Preferred for dining and non SPG travel purchases (2x points). I’ve had this card since 2002 and love it for hotel redemptions and airline transfers. In my opinion Starwood has some of the nicest properties in the world (Westin, W, St. Regis, Luxury Collection, Sheraton, etc.) and earning points in their program allows you to stay at hotels that might otherwise cost up to $600 per night. Only interested in airline miles? Did you know that with the SPG AMEX card you can actually earn more miles than you would with most airline cards? You’ll enjoy a 5,000 Starpoint bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to miles on more than 30 airline partners. For every $1 you spend you’re essentially earning 1.25 miles with this bonus, better than the 1 to 1 rate offered by most airline cards. The current limited time offer is: $0 first year and $95 after, 25,000 Starpoints points after spending $3000 within 3 months and an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. You’ll earn 2 starpoints for every $1 spent at Starwood and Marriott hotels and 1 starpoint for every $ spent anywhere else. This is one card where I actually pay the annual fee each year. I also like the extended warranty benefit with this card, 90 day purchase protection, built-in rental car insurance, price match protection, and the new AMEX return protection benefit. You can see full details for this card and all the benefits here.
- Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- Limited Time Offer- Earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Offer ends 4/5.
- Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
- Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express (Partner Offer)
Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 35,000 Bonus Starpoints! If you qualify for a business card, this is the perfect companion to the SPG personal card above and includes all the same benefits. You can have both! You’ll receive your first year free and 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5000 within the first 3 months and an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints after you make an additional $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. There is a $95 annual fee for this card after the first year. You can see full details for this offer and all the benefits here.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 35,000 bonus Starpoints® – Offer ends 04/05/2017.
- Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- Earn an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months.
- Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint® for all other purchases.
- Redeem Starpoints® for free nights at over 1,300 hotels & resorts in over 100 countries and for free flights on over 150 airlines with SPG Flights. Some hotels and resorts have mandatory service charges.
- Free, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases and $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Terms Apply
- See Rates & Fees
The Platinum Card® from American Express (Partner Offer)
Let’s start out with the cost, it’s $450 a year! Yes, that sounds outrageous but you make up the initial outlay extremely quickly, especially if you’re a frequent traveler with no lounge access. With membership comes complimentary Delta Sky Club lounge access, access to Priority Pass Select lounges around the globe, and American Express Centurion Lounges. If you are someone who buys any of these memberships, then this card is definitely worth the membership fee. Prices for annual club memberships at airlines vary based on your status level, however Delta charges $300-$450. Even more valuable, you can add up to 3 additional members for only $175 total, which means 4 people can enjoy these benefits for $625 or $156.25 per person for access to all of these lounges for the year. The card also includes $200 airline fee credit per year. You select an airline to receive up to $200 annually in statement credits for incidental fees such as checked bags, in-flight refreshments, and change fees. Finally, the card also comes with Global Entry registration, which normally costs $100. The program allows you to bypass passport control and use automated entry machines or special passport control lines to expedite your entry back into the US. You’ll also receive GoGo and Boingo wifi access while traveling. Additionally, a special Platinum concierge desk that can help with special dining reservations, sold out event assistance, and shopping services. You also get VIP treatment at thousands of hotels in the Fine Hotels and Resorts Program booked via AMEX, including upgrades and late 4pm checkout. No foreign currency conversion fees and the standard purchase protection plans are also included. A new benefit introduced in October 2016 allows you to earn 5x points for flights booked directly with airlines or AmEx Travel. As noted with the AMEX Gold Card above, Membership Rewards points are extremely flexible and can be transferred to several partners including some of the largest airlines. However, that card is much better in terms of earning points (double and triple) for purchases, this card’s appeal is for the lounge, airline fee credit, and Global Entry perks. Do the math, first subtract the $200 airline fee credit from the annual fee. Now, if the remaining cost is lower than what you pay each year for an airline membership, the card definitely makes sense, even without taking into consideration Global Entry or the hotel benefits. You will receive 40,000 Membership Rewards points after $3000 in purchases within three months.
- Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 a year for baggage fees and more at one airline. Terms Apply.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations worldwide. Terms Apply.
- Enroll to enjoy the benefits of complimentary Hilton HHonors(TM) Gold Status with your Platinum Card.®
- No interest charges because you pay your balance in full each month.
- Terms and Conditions apply.
- See Rates & Fees
If you already have or had the Platinum Card, consider the separate business edition of the card here.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – (LIMITED TIME Increased Offer)!
For a limited time, this card is awarding 50,000
40,000 points for new applications (plus 5K additional for adding an authorized user)! The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been my go to card for travel and restaurant purchases since I first obtained it almost five years ago. The card earns 2 points per dollar spent on travel (airfare, taxis, train, bus, etc. are all included) as well as when dining at restaurants. The points are super valuable with 1:1 transfers to several airlines and hotels, including United Airlines. I absolutely love the card and Ultimate Rewards, plus you’ll feel special after seeing impressive reactions when handing over the card for payment due to it’s weight and look. All customer service calls are answered by actual human beings and you’ll never be greeted by an automated system. The current limited time offer is 50,000 40,000 points upon spending $4000 in the first three months and an additional 5,000 points when you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.1 to 1 point transfers are offered with United, Southwest, British Airways (Oneworld), Korean Air (SkyTeam), Singapore KrisFlyer, Ritz Carlton, Marriott, Hyatt,Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, IHG Rewards Club, and Amtrak. After the first year there is an annual fee of $95. The card also includes some great warranty and purchase protection benefits.
Citi Prestige® Card
This card has benefits similar to the Platinum Card from American Express below. You’ll receive a welcome bonus of 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months after opening your card. In addition, the card comes with access to both the American Airlines Admirals Club lounges (a new yearly membership would cost you $400-$500 from AA depending on your status) and Priority Pass Select lounges as well as a $100 Global Entry fee credit every five years. The card has some awesome bonus categories too including 3x points on airfare and hotel purchases and 2x points on dining and entertainment purchases. Points can be transferred 1:1 to Cathay Pacific, Singapore KrisFlyer, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Qantas, Thai Airways, EVA Air, Virgin Atlantic, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines, and Hilton HHonors. Each year you’ll receive a $250 air travel credit which can be used on any airline for any type of charge (including airfare). Even cooler, you receive your fourth night free for all hotel stays…at any hotel. There are no foreign transaction fees with the card and ThankYou Points earned from the Citi Prestige Card can be applied toward airfare at 1.6 cents per dollar (60% more value) on flights with American Airlines and at 1.33 cents per dollar (33% more value) on flights with all other airlines. Cardmembers receive special benefits at Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons hotels as well when booking via Citi’s travel concierge. Now the fee…it’s $450 and not waived the first year. Though, if you take into account the $250 air travel credit, the $100 global entry credit, and the AA Admirals Club benefits, it’s quite an enticing offer.
Citi ThankYou Premier Card
This card is sort of the Citi version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Upon approval, you’ll receive a sign-up bonus of 40,000 ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card is all about the spend categories…you’ll earn 3x points on travel purchases (airfare, taxis, train, bus, parking, and gas) and 2x points on dining and entertainment transactions. Points can be transferred 1:1 to Cathay Pacific, Singapore KrisFlyer, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Qantas, Thai Airways, EVA Air, Virgin Atlantic, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines, and Hilton HHonors. When using the Citi ThankYou travel booking portal (thankyou.com), your points are worth 25% more when redeemed for airfare, hotels, and other travel purchases. There is no annual fee for the first year and a $95 fee thereafter. The card has no foreign transaction fees.
A few other cards currently in my wallet…
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express (Partner Offer)
Perhaps you’re ready to cancel your other Membership Rewards cards to avoid the annual fees, but don’t want to lose those hard earned points. This card (as well as the preferred version below) are the perfect solution…and offer some pretty great benefits too. You’ll get 10K points after making $1,000 in purchases w/in the first 3 months and the card has no annual fee. Plus there are bonus points awarded for US supermarket spend.
- Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits. Terms and limitations apply.
- 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
- You can use Membership Rewards® points for all or part of your flight, hotel booked and paid in advance, vacation or cruise booking.
- No annual fee. Plus, 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.49% to 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express (Partner Offer)
Similar to the Amex EveryDay card above, though you’ll receive 15,000 points after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months plus there are bonus categories for supermarkets and gas stations as well a more generous bonus.
- Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Use your Card 30 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 50% more points on those purchases less returns and credits. Terms and limitations apply.
- 3x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 2x points at US gas stations; 1x points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
- You can use Membership Rewards® points for all or part of your flight, hotel booked and paid in advance, vacation or cruise booking.
- 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, currently 13.49% to 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card
The 100K British Airways card offer may be long over, but the current 50K Avios offer now has a much lower spend requirement of only $2000 within three months of account opening. Looking to spend more, you can earn up to 75K Avios when you spend up to $10,000 on purchases within your first year and up to 100K Avios when you spend $20,000 within your first year . Why should you take advantage of this offer if you live in the US and you know of BA’s ridiculous fuel surcharges? I recently went to Barbados round-trip on American for only $47.50 in taxes and 12,500 Avios points each way (instead of 17,500 AA miles). BA offers amazing redemption opportunities on short-haul flights (not as great as they once were) and points can be used for cheap awards on American Airlines award redemptions within North America, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. There are even some good long-haul opportunities that avoid the outrageous taxes and fees that BA has become known for. Check out this post for the short haul opportunities and this post with the long haul opportunities. Also, Avios has some great unexpected airline partners who are not partners with BA or Iberia, see this post. Finally, remember that BA allows household accounts where up to 7 members residing at the same address can combine and pool their points together. The annual fee of $95 is not waived for the first year.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
I sat out on the hype over this card when it was first released, but it now plays a role in my wallet…though a very different one. The benefits -double points on all purchases / no worrying about category spend, waived annual fee first year, free subscription to TripIt, and a free copy of your FICO score. More importantly, no worrying about award availability as you are actually buying a ticket with your points. The points are valued at 1.1 cents per mile when redeemed for travel and you receive a statement credit for their value. Since you are buying the ticket, you’ll actually be earning miles on your award ticket. That’s all great but I sign up for credit cards to fly in business / first to international destinations, quite difficult to achieve when my points are only worth 1.1 cents. So why did I apply? Incidental travel costs, positioning flights for mileage runs, and some potential domestic trips that I don’t want to burn my valuable airline miles on. Little known fact, you can actually redeem the miles for anything labeled “travel” on your statement and so that means they are great for seat upgrades, rental cars, club memberships, etc. When you apply you’ll receive 40,000 points (which equals $440 when redeemed for travel) after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months. You’ll also receive 5% of your redeemed points back each time you redeem for an award. There’s an $89 fee that’s waived for the first year. There’s also the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® (not elite) which has no annual fee and provides 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in 90 days.
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express (Partner Offer)
The major selling point of this card is that you will ALWAYS earn triple Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with airlines and double points on US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. You will earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 on the card within 3 months. You’ll also get up to a $100 airline fee credit. While the sign up bonus may not be as high as the other cards above, the triple and double earnings are key. Additionally, AMEX consistently runs transfers bonuses where you can earn up to a 50% mileage bonus on miles transferred into a given partner program. That means your actually earning more than the double and triple points listed above. Membership Rewards has a ton of airline partners including: Delta, AeroMexico, Air Canada, Alitalia, ANA, British Airways, Air France/KLM, Frontier, Hawaiian, Iberia, JetBlue Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin America. Under a recent promotion you could earn 1.5 British Airways Avios points for every Membership Reward Point transferred. Hence, the bonus points earned actually became 37,500 British Airways Avios miles. Delta tends to have similar 50% bonus transfer promotions that would amount to the same 37,500 miles. The card also offers extended warranty protection, purchase protection, return protection, and rental car insurance. There is $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195 thereafter.
- Receive 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
- No matter where you’re traveling, when you use your Premier Rewards Gold Card there are no foreign transaction fees from American Express.
- $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline.
- Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc. Terms apply.
- There is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195.
- Terms and limitations apply. See Rates & Fees
Since I’m a points junkie, I do have a few others… Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card (small sign-up bonus but allowed to have more than one to separate your expenses), Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, The JetBlue Card (brand new), Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®, United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.
Card Match Tool: Want to see if you’ve been selected for special targeted sign-up offers that are larger than the currently available public offers? Click here to use the free Card Match Tool with no impact to your credit score.
Family Time Credit Card Applications? See here for tips on tracking, providing spending guidance to parents and loved ones, and why your continued involvement is so important when making this a family event!
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