Best Travel and Airline Miles Credit Cards – April 2013
I’ve already listed the best cash back rewards credit cards, but another popular area is travel rewards credit cards. These are often sponsored by airlines and hotel chains, but not always. While travel rewards won’t be as flexible as cash, the potential value can be much greater. I’ve been able to stay at historic hotels and fly all around the world with these kinds of cards, something I probably would never do otherwise.
Here are what I see as the top travel and airline miles credit cards available on the market today. For each card, I’ll try to provide real-life examples on how what you can use the miles or points to redeem for rewards.
Capital One® Venture(SM) Rewards Credit Card. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. Instead of miles, I prefer to think of them as travel points, as the “miles” are not transferable to any particular airline. However, they are more flexible in that you can redeem 100 miles = $1 towards any kind of travel expense charged onto your card – tickets from any airlines, stays at any hotel, etc. There are no foreign transaction fees. $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that.
For a limited time, you can earn 10,000 bonus miles, equal to $100 in travel. All you have to do is spend $1,000 within three months of approval.
Chase Sapphire Preferred(SM) Card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers new cardholders 40,000 bonus points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. This is quite a good deal, as 40,000 points can be redeemed for $400 cash or $500 towards airfare or hotel nights. For example, you could book two $250 tickets with that many points, on any airline on any date.
The card features 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining as well as travel expenses, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. You also earn a 7% annual dividend on all the points earned during the year. No foreign transaction fees when using the card abroad. No annual fee the first year, $95 after that.
Citi ThankYou(SM) Preferred Card $150 in Gift Cards - The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card is their higher tier card with a focus on travel rewards. You earn 1 ThankYou point for every dollar you spend on purchases. The sign-up promotion is 15,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $1,000 in purchases within 3 months of account opening. That’s worth $150 in gift cards.
But with this card, you will get a 33% bonus when you redeem for airfare through the ThankYou Travel Center (not overpriced flights, the prices are equivalent to Expedia). So the same 30,000 points can be redeemed for $399 in airfare. In addition, you actually earn points for the miles you fly when you purchase a ticket with your Citi ThankYou Premier Card. No foreign transaction fees on purchases. More details here.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is a very flexible travel rewards card, I’ve had one for years. Starpoints can be used towards hotel stays (Sheraton, Westin, W, and more), converted to various airline miles (20,000 points = 25,000 miles), or converted to things like gift cards. The best value is for hotel stays or converting to airline miles to reach an award that you want. I have stayed at the Westin Madrid in Spain for 10,000 points instead of paying over $300 a night.
New cardholders will get 10,000 Starpoints after first purchase, and an additional 15,000 when you spend $5,000 in 6 months. 25,000 points is enough for a weekend at a category 4 hotel, or 30,000 frequent flier miles. You earn 1 Starpoint per dollar spent, No annual fee the first year, then $65 after that.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card. The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card is another card that is great at racking up free nights at hotels. You can get:
- 50,000 Marriott points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
- Up to 7 Free Nights To Start!
- 1 free night stay after account approval and each year upon account anniversary
- No foreign transaction fees.
- Free Silver elite hotel status with 15 nights credit toward Elite status
- No annual fee the first year. Future years are $85, which also includes another free hotel night certificate, up to Category 5.
At Category 2 hotel costs 10,000 points, but if you book 4 nights you get the 5th one free. This means that you can get 7 nights out of this credit card deal (5 nights + 5th night free + the additional 1 night free certificate). Marriott properties include Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard, Residence Inn, and Fairfield Inn & Suites. You can also get 5 points for every $1 spent at Marriott® locations, 2 points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, and at car rental agencies & restaurants, and 1 point for every $1 spent on other purchases.
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