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If you’re new to this, please read our Comprehensive Guide To Award Travel For Beginners. If you need ideas to help meet minimum spend, click here. Also, please familiarize yourself with Chase’s 5/24 policy before applying for any cards. Unless you have a specific travel goal that requires a specific award currency, I’d focus on opening Chase cards first.
Click here for a list of cards that all beginners should consider (5/24 cards).
I’ve grouped our top credit cards a few different ways in this post:
- Overall top credit card choice
- Top cards for everyday spending
- Best premium travel cards
- Top business credit cards
- Best airline co-branded cards
- Best hotel co-branded cards
Looking for a 0% interest card?
Many of the best travel credit cards have high interest rates. This is not an issue as long as you pay off your balance each month. Carrying a balance and paying high interest rates would probably negate any travel rewards earned from credit cards.
There are some credit cards that have intro offers of 0% APR on purchases and/or balance transfers for a given period of time (usually 12-15 months). These cards generally are not as lucrative as the other cards in this list if you’re looking for the best welcome bonuses.
For that reason, these types of cards rarely make this list. But given our economy’s current situation, one of these cards may be worth considering.
My top choice would be the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which is in this list. Scroll down for details.
If you do take advantage of one of these offers, read the terms carefully and be sure to keep track of the 0% period. For example, if it’s for 12 months, you will want to make sure you have that balance paid off before the 13th month when the higher interest rate kicks in.
Our overall top credit card:
Looking for your first travel rewards credit card? No matter what your travel goals are, Chase Sapphire Preferred should be your very first credit card. The welcome bonus is worth at least $750 in travel, the annual fee is reasonable, and the rewards (Chase Ultimate Rewards) are easy to earn and redeem.
Current offer: Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
Check out our list of 36 redemption ideas!
As of August 16, bonus categories have been added and/or improved!
- Earn 5 points per dollar on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Earn 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases
- Instead of the old earn rate of 2, you can now earn 3 points per dollar on dining (including eligible delivery services and takeout)
- 3 points per dollar on online grocery purchases (this excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
- 3 points per dollar on select streaming services
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Also, receive credit of up to $50 annually on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards. New cardmembers will receive this credit immediately and existing cardmembers will start earning after the next anniversary.
Each anniversary, you’ll receive bonus points equal to 10% of total purchases made the previous year. This excludes any sign up bonus points, so it’s only on points earned from spending.
The annual fee is $95, but the welcome offer alone is worth a lot more than that. Also, you’ll receive a year of DashPass (normally $9.99 per month) for free. You must enroll by 12/31/21.
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to 11 different airline frequent flyer programs or 3 different hotel loyalty programs. You can also redeem the points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal. Each point can be redeemed for 1.25 cents. That makes the welcome bonus of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points worth $750!
More top travel credit card offers
The reason Chase cards top most of these sub-lists is because of the 5/24 rule. This post goes into great detail about our top credit card choices for beginners and why Chase cards should be your first cards.
Top cards for everyday spending:
To determine the top cards for everyday spending, we’ve considered earn rates and category bonuses (if any).
Best everyday earn rate: Chase Freedom Unlimited
This card earns 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on all purchases. To compare, the earn rate on our other Ultimate Rewards earning cards is 1 point per dollar on all non-category bonus spending. Another important thing to point out: there is no annual fee on this card!
There are now bonus categories, too!
- 5% on Travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3% at restaurants
- 3% on Drugstore purchases
The points you earn on this card are cash back. 1.5 points is 1.5 cents when redeeming. Some people like the simplicity of a cash back card which is understandable, but transferable points is how we’re able to get more than 1.5 cents per point when redeeming. The point I’m trying to make is that I prefer transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards. The points earned on this card are only redeemable as cash unless you also have one of the three Chase Sapphire cards that earn transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred),
If you have one of those 3 cards, then the points you earned from Freedom Unlimited can be combined with your points from your Sapphire card, thus making your points transferable OR redeemable as cash! Click here for more details.
Welcome offer: $200 (or 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 in the first 3 months. Earn 5% cash back (or 5 points per dollar) on grocery store purchases (excluding Target or Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
Again, I only recommend this card if you also have one of the three cards that earns transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Ink Business Preferred). Click here for more details.
Best card for ease of redeeming: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The most valuable credit card rewards are those that are transferable to airline and hotel programs. Prior to 2018, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card was essentially a cash-back credit card. To redeem the rewards for travel, you simply used your miles as a purchase “eraser”. Since then, Capital One has added airline and hotel transfer partners, so Venture deserves a spot on this list.
This post has a detailed comparison between your earning and redeeming potential on both the Capital One Venture and the Chase Sapphire Preferred. In terms of value, the rewards earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred are probably going to be superior to that of the rewards earned with the Capital One Venture. With that said, some people prefer the simplicity of a cash-back card and this card is a great choice. Plus, if you decide to explore transfer partners, you will have the option.
Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Click here for more information.
The annual fee is $95. You earn 2 miles per dollar on ALL purchases. You will also receive up to $100 in reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
You can use miles as a purchase eraser. To do this, you can purchase your flight or hotel stay with your Capital One Venture card. Then you log in to your Capital One account and use your Venture miles to “erase” all or part of the travel purchase. You can redeem at a rate of 1 cent per point. I’ll spare you the math, but redeeming Venture miles this way means you receive 2% cash back for travel.
To get even more value, you can transfer Venture miles to airline partners or hotel partners. Some exciting news: all airline partners now have 1:1 transfer ratios except EVA. This is an improvement as most partners were previously 2:1.5.
Read this post for more info about your redemption options.
Another good card for ease of redeeming: Citi Premier card
Like Amex and Chase, Citi also has a bank rewards program known as Citi Thank You points.
Citi has temporarily added American Airlines as a Thank You points transfer partner. This means that those who have a Citi Premier card can transfer Thank You points to American Airlines AAdvantage at a 1:1 ratio. This is slated to end on November 13, 2021.
The annual fee of $95 is very reasonable and the welcome bonus of 80,000 Thank You points means you could potentially have 80,000 AAdvantage miles each if you earn the bonus then transfer those points to AAdvantage before the November 13, 2021 end date. But there are other good partners such as Avianca and Etihad as well.
Current offer: Earn 80,000 Citi Thank You points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
The earn rate on this card is also exciting. Earn 3 points per dollar at restaurants and supermarkets, 3 points per dollar at gas stations, 3 points per dollar at hotels and for air travel. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The Amex Gold Card has a better earn rate at restaurants and supermarkets (4x), but the annual fee of $95 on the Citi Premier makes it a good alternative for earning points that transfer to some of my favorite airline programs.
Best bonus categories: American Express Gold Card
The American Express Gold Card earns 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and on purchases at amextravel.com, 4 points per dollar at restaurants and, 4 points per dollar at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases annually. Also, earn 4 points per dollar on Uber Eats purchases. For restaurants and US supermarket spend, this is one of the highest earn rates available.
There is a great new welcome offer for this card!
Welcome Offer: 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. The minimum spending requirement is $4,000 in the first 6 months.
The annual fee is a little steep ($250), but there are statement credits and benefits that help offset this fee. First, you can receive up to $120 annually in dining credit. Also, you can receive up to $120 annually in statement credit on Uber rides or Uber Eats. Enrollment required. Terms apply. [See rates and fees]
3 points per dollar on flights is as good or better than most of our other favorite travel cards, but the categories that really stand out here are 4 points per dollar at restaurants and US supermarkets.
You can choose between a gold or a rose gold card if that sort of thing matters to you!
Unlike typical credit cards, the Gold Card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.
Another Amex card with good category bonuses: American Express Green Card
The American Express Green Card recently received a facelift. It now earns 3 points per dollar on travel purchases and at restaurants, which makes it a good option for an everyday spending card.
Welcome Offer: 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. The minimum spending requirement is $2,000 in 3 months.
An important note would be the definition of travel on this card. The Gold and Platinum cards only earn bonus points if travel is booked directly with airlines or at amextravel.com. The Green Card has a much broader definition of travel! You can receive 3 points per dollar on hotel stays, train tickets, flights, and more, even if it’s not booked through amextravel.com
If you want to enroll in CLEAR, you will receive $100 per year in statement credits for a CLEAR membership. The American Express Green Card annual fee is $150. [see rates and fees] Terms apply.
Unlike typical credit cards, the Green Card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.
Top premium travel credit cards:
Want to step up your travel experience? Consider a premium card that has the benefit of lounge access as well as other premium benefits. These cards typically have higher annual fees, but if you’re able to utilize the benefits and statement credits that are available, it’s easy to justify paying a higher annual fee.
You can read a comparison of the Platinum Card from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.
This premium card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Although you don’t get Amex Centurion lounge access with this card, you will get a Priority Pass membership. This means you have access to Priority lounges worldwide. Also, the bonus categories on the Chase Sapphire Reserve are a little better than our other favorite premium travel card, the Amex Platinum Card.
Current offer: Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in 3 months.
The annual fee is now $550, but, you receive a travel credit of $300 each year. That brings the fee to effectively $250. You cannot have this card if you already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred. But if you’re trying to decide which one to open, it really depends on how much you travel. Here are some of the reasons the fee is higher:
I already mentioned the $300 annual credit and the lounge access. Also, you receive a $100 credit for Global Entry (or $85 for TSA precheck).
The other benefit to this card (as opposed to the Chase Sapphire Preferred) is that your points are worth more when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. The redemption rate is 1.5 cents per point. So 50,000 Ultimate Rewards are worth $750. Of course, you can also transfer those Ultimate Rewards to Chase’s airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 ratio. This is how we often get redemption values of 2 cents per point or more.
Some of Chase Sapphire Reserve’s bonus categories earn more than the Chase Sapphire Preferred:
- Earn 10 points per dollar on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards
- Earn 3 points per dollar on all other dining purchases
- Earn 10 points per dollar on hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Ultimate Rewards
- Earn 5 points per dollar on flights purchased through Ultimate Rewards
- Earn 3 points per dollar on all other travel purchases
All other purchases will earn 1 point per dollar.
A few new benefits were recently added to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
- Free Lyft Pink for a year (which is normally $199 annually). Notable benefits are 15% off of Lyft rides and priority pick ups at airports
- 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides when you pay with your Chase Sapphire Reserve
- $60 credit per year in 2021 with DoorDash
- A free year of DashPass (normally $9.99 per month)
- Reserve cardmembers will have access to “Reserved by Sapphire,” which are exclusive opportunities to book reservations at sought-after restaurants across the country.
Now, if you’re able to use all of these credits, they more than offset the annual fee increase. The problem is, some cardholders may not be able to use Lyft and DoorDash enough, if at all, to make use of these credits.
The Platinum Card from American Express will grant you access to their amazing Centurion lounges (where available). These lounges have complimentary food and drinks, plus some locations even have spa services! You’ll also receive complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, which is the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world. Terms apply, learn how to apply here.
Current offer: Earn 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months. Email me before applying as sometimes we have personal referral links with an offer of 125k. Also, new cardmembers receive 10 points per dollar on purchases at restaurants and when you shop small in the US on up to $25,000 in combined purchases during the first 6 months.
Amex points can be transferred to several different airline and hotel programs.
The annual fee has increased to $695 [See rates and fees], which is very steep. There are lots of benefits and credits that may help offset that fee, though. The current welcome offer of 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points also helps offset that annual fee.
100,000 Membership Rewards points is enough for a roundtrip ticket to Japan if you learn to utilize transfer partners!
If you’re a frequent flyer, this card has one of the highest earn rates on flight purchases. Earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly through airlines or through amextravel.com on up to $500,000 per year. Also, earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Additional benefits and details:
Enrollment is required before you can receive some of these benefits. You an enroll online in your Amex account.
Airlines: Receive up to $200 of reimbursement on airline incidentals per calendar year
Uber: Receive up to $200 total in Uber credits annually and Uber VIP Status.
Hotels: Get up to $200 back annually in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with Amex Travel.
Make airport security and/or customs quicker:
- Receive reimbursement for TSA precheck or Global Entry enrollment
- Enroll in CLEAR to make airport security quicker. Receive up to $179 back annually on a CLEAR membership.
Shopping and entertainment:
- 100$ total in statement credit for purchases at Saks Fifth avenue annually.
- Each month you can receive up to $20 in statement credits (for a total of $240 annually) on eligible purchases on these digital entertainment providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times.
- Receive up to $25 back each month on select Equinox memberships (for a total of up to $300 annually).
Unlike typical credit cards, the Platinum Card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.
Already have the Platinum and want to cancel? Make sure you don’t lose your points.
With the annual fee increasing to $695, I’ve received a lot of questions about cancelling this card and what happens to your points. If you cancel the card and do not have another Amex Membership Rewards earning card, you will lose your points.
You have a few options:
- Transfer the points before cancelling to one of Amex’s airline or hotel partners (I don’t recommend doing this without an immediate plan, but if you are other wise going to lose the points, and you don’t want to do options 2 and 3, transfer them.) Or find another way to redeem but remember that other redemption methods and cashing them out isn’t as valuable as using them for travel.
- Downgrade to Amex Gold or Green (see card details above in previous section). Both of these still come with annual fees, though they are more reasonable. Gold is one of my favorites for everyday spending.
- If you really want to avoid annual fees, you can open the Amex Everyday credit card before cancelling your Platinum Card. The Amex Everyday card earns Membership Rewards points, so any points you have accumulated from Platinum would be safe. Note that you cannot simply downgrade from a Platinum (or other charge card such as Gold or Green) to this card. You have to apply for this card.
Amex Everyday card information:
I do not have an affiliate link for this card, but this is a personal referral link. The offer is 10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after opening the Amex Everyday card and spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. Disclosure: We do not earn a commission from this card but we may earn points for the referral.
The Amex Everyday Credit Card has no annual fee [rates and fees]. Earn rate is 2 points per dollar on purchases at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year and 2 points per dollar on travel purchased at Amextravel.com. All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar. Terms apply.
Top business credit cards:
Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card
If you own a business, I highly recommend Chase Ink Business Preferred as your first business credit card. The Chase Ink Business Preferred card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are easy to earn and redeem. Also, the annual fee is very reasonable.
Current offer: Earn 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $15,000 in 3 months.
The annual fee is $95. 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth $1,250 if you book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal. To potentially redeem for even more value, you can also transfer the 100,000 points to Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partners. Click here for a list of other valuable ways to spend 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
The earn rate makes it easy to accumulate Chase Ultimate Rewards points on business and travel expenses. You’ll earn 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent each year in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. After you hit $150,000 on these categories, the rate is 1 point per dollar. All other categories are 1 point per dollar.
Looking for a no annual fee business card? A great option is the no annual fee Chase Ink Business Cash. You can read a comparison of the Chase Ink Business Preferred and the Chase Ink Business cash here.
If you want a premium business card, this is a strong contender. The Business Platinum Card from American Express is especially lucrative for those who regularly make large business purchases.
Current Offer: 120,000 American Express points After spending $15,000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee is $595 ($695 if application is received after 1/13/22), but the benefits may be worth it, especially if you make large business purchase or if you spend a lot on flights. Terms apply. Learn how to apply here. [see rates and fees]
The earn rate is basically the same as the personal Platinum card (5 points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels at amextravel.com, 1 point per dollar on everything else) but there is one exception. Purchases over $5,000 earn 1.5 points per dollar (you can earn up to 1 million additional points each year). So if you make large business purchases that may not qualify for bonus categories on other business cards, this may be a good card for you.
Also, you will get the $200 airline incidental reimbursement per calendar year and airport lounge access benefits that the personal version of this card has. Note that the Uber credits and Saks credits are not available on the Business Platinum Card. You can also enroll to receive up to $400 in statement credits annually for Dell purchases, up to $360 annually with Indeed, up to $150 with Adobe, and up to $120 on wireless telephone purchases. Also, you can get up to $179 back per year on a CLEAR® membership.
Unlike typical credit cards, the Business Platinum Card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
Current offer: 80,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.
Notable benefits: 9,000 anniversary points each year, Global Entry or TSA precheck reimbursement ($100 or $85, respectively), Four upgraded boardings per year when available, $8 credit for inflight wifi on Southwest flights, up to 365 times per year
The earn rate is 4 points per dollar on Southwest, 3 points per dollar on hotel and car partners, 2 points per dollar on rideshare, and 2 points per dollar on search engine and social media advertising, internet, cable and phone services, and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
If you fly Southwest often, the benefits may make this card superior to the other Southwest Rapid Rewards business credit card (Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card).
Unless you’re trying to earn a Southwest Companion Pass, I generally suggest opening a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points before opening a Southwest (or any airline) co-branded credit card. The Chase Ink Business Preferred card is less than half the annual fee of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance card. Plus, Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to Southwest. For those reasons, I’d choose the Chase Ink Business Preferred over this card if the Southwest Companion Pass is not your goal.
Top airline co-branded credit cards:
Remember, if you’re a beginner, I highly recommend staying away from non-Chase co-branded credit cards until you’ve opened the Chase 5/24 cards you want. Open a Chase Ultimate Rewards earning card first. Then open Chase co-branded credit cards. Then you can move on to other airline and hotel co-branded credit cards. Chase co-branded cards are at the top of this list because of 5/24, but also because the current welcome offers are valuable.
United Quest Card
This is a Chase 5/24 card, so if you don’t open it as a beginner, you may miss your chance to get it. The current offer is enough to open this card, and the benefits may make this card worth keeping open, even if you use other cards for everyday spending.
The United Quest is a brand new card but as long as you’re under 5/24, you can open it and receive the bonus even if you already have a different United card.
Current offer: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
The annual fee is $250, but the benefits may make this a better card than other options in the United family. Each year, receive a $125 credit on United purchases and two 5k mile anniversary award flight credits. Another benefit that can save lots of money if you fly United frequently (or even just once a year) is a free first and second checked bag. Also, receive up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee reimbursement.
The earn rate is 3 points per dollar on United purchases, 2 points per dollar at restaurants, on select streaming services, and all other travel, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
United Explorer Card
This is also a Chase 5/24 card.
Current offer: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months.
The annual fee is waived the first year. After the first year, the annual fee is $95. If you use the card to purchase United flights, you will earn 2 miles per dollar, plus you will get your first checked bag for free. That’s a value of up to $120 per roundtrip flight.
Other valuable benefits include up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee reimbursement, 2 one-time passes to United Club each anniversary year, and priority boarding benefits. In addition to 2 miles per dollar on United flights, you also have restaurant and hotel bonus categories. Earn 2 miles per dollar on spend at restaurants and hotels. All other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit card
This is also a Chase 5/24 card. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card was launched in July 2018. There are 2 other personal Southwest co-branded credit cards from Chase, but if you fly Southwest, this would definitely be the top pick of the 3. The welcome offer is the same on all 3 personal cards. Click here for more details about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority credit card.
Current offer: Up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 50,000 points if you spend a total of $12,000 in the first 12 months.
The annual fee is $149, but if you fly Southwest, the $75 annual credit effectively brings that fee to $74. Another notable benefit is that you get 4 upgraded boarding positions per year with this card.
The earn rate is 3 points per dollar on Southwest flights. Also, 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including rideshare, 2 points per dollar on internet, cable, phone service, and select streaming. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard from Barclay
There is a better offer for this card if you happen to have an AA flight coming up. It’s the same offer as below, except the annual fee is waived the first year. This is available to passengers who apply with a code that you will be given while onboard.
Welcome offer: 60,000 AAdvantage miles after paying the annual fee of $99 and then making one purchase in the first 3 months.
Like most airline co-branded cards, you’ll get a free checked bag and priority boarding with this card.
The earn rate is 2 points per dollar on AA purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
I’ve ranked this card lower than its Barclay counterpart (but yes, you can have both) because the offer is less and there is a minimum spend requirement. However, this card’s annual fee is waived the first year, so those trying to avoid annual fees may find this offer more appealing. This card also has bonus categories that the Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red does not have.
Welcome offer: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months.
The annual fee of $99 is waived for the first year. Like most airline co-branded cards, you’ll get a free checked bag and priority boarding with this card.
The earn rate is 2 points per dollar on AA purchases, 2 points per dollar at restaurants, and 2 points per dollar at gas stations, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Top hotel co-branded credit cards:
For the same reasons stated in the airline co-branded cards section, Chase is the issuer of my top hotel credit cards. Both are 5/24 cards, so both are cards you will want to open before opening cards from other banks. If you’re already over 5/24 but you want a hotel credit card, I suggest checking out the Hilton co-branded cards from Amex.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card from Chase
Although I don’t value Marriott Bonvoy points as much as Chase Ultimate Rewards points or even World of Hyatt points, this card’s welcome bonus and benefits land the card on this list of top offers
Current offer: Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and 1 free night award (for a night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.
The annual fee is $95. In addition to the nice welcome offer, the card comes with a free night worth up to 35,000 starting at your first anniversary of card membership. (This benefit kicks in at your first anniversary of card membership, not when you open the card).
Though the annual fee is $95, the annual free night can be valuable. Ryan and I used our certificates to book the Tambo del Inka property (a Luxury Collection Resort) in Peru. The rate on our dates was over $400 per night. So even if we get no other benefits out of having this card, think of it like this: we booked a $400 room for $95.
With this card, you earn 6 points per dollar at Marriott properties (for a total of up to 17 points per dollar, depending on your elite status), and 2 points per dollar on everything else. The earn rate on this card seems high, but remember, Marriott points aren’t as valuable as other points.
This card also comes with Marriott silver status.
World of Hyatt credit card from Chase
World of Hyatt is my top hotel loyalty program, so naturally the co-branded credit card is going to be my top hotel credit card. The welcome bonus is nice, but the main benefit that makes this card worth keeping year after year is the annual free night certificate. This is good for any Hyatt property that is category 1-4. The annual fee is $95, but there are so many properties for which you can use the annual free night with rates significantly higher than $95.
Current offer: 30,000 Hyatt points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, plus 2 bonus points per dollar on purchases that normally earn up to 1 point per dollar for the first 6 month on up to $15,000.
The annual fee is $95, but again, the initial bonus offer and then the annual certificate for each anniversary make this card worth opening and keeping.
This card also comes with Discoverist status, which is mid-tier at best, but Discoverist status will get you free premium internet and late checkout. In our experience, Hyatt is also generous with room upgrades, even for lower status!
The earn rate is 4 World of Hyatt points per dollar at Hyatt, 2 points per dollar at restaurants, 2 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines, 2 points per dollar on local transit, and 2 points per dollar on gym memberships.
IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
To be honest, IHG is one loyalty program that we just really haven’t had much experience with. There is a pretty enticing offer right now on one of their co-branded credit cards, though, so I think it deserve a place on this list.
Current offer: 150,000 IHG points plus a Reward Night after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
This is a 5/24 card, so if you want it and you’re under 5/24, I suggest getting it now while the bonus is increased.
The annual fee is waived the first year, and $89 thereafter. The IHG card has one perk that you do not find often on cards with similar annual fees. Cardholders can receive up to $100 every 4 years for Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fees.
The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card from Chase comes with automatic IHG Platinum elite status.
Like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless and World of Hyatt cards, you also receive a free night each anniversary with the IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card. Cardmembers receive one free night up to 40,000 points.
When you redeem points for a stay of 4 or more nights, the 4th night is free.
Earn rate: 10 points per dollar at IHG properties (this brings the total to 25 points per dollar because you also receive 10 for being an IHG Rewards Club member, plus an additional 5 for having Platinum status), 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Amex Rates and Fees:
- American Express Gold Card [See rates and fees]
- American Express Platinum Card [See rates and fees]
- Business Platinum Card from American Express [see rates and fees]
- American Express Green Card [see rates and fees]
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