Top Cards

Top Credit Cards for Free Travel:

The ‘Best Credit Card Offers’ change monthly, so bookmark this page.

The Links for these cards change occasionally, so if a link is broken, simply Google™ the card and click the application page.  The Amount of Points / Sign Up Bonus you get for ALL cards changes every few months, so my advice is not to apply unless the current bonus matches what you see here.  

 

Arguably the best card to sign up for at the current time, the Ink Preferred offers a bounty of 80K UR Points, which can be transferred to United and other airlines for at least 3 round trip domestic tickets, OR 1.5+ International Tickets if you want to get fancy.

 

Chase Ink Plus Business Card – Being Switched to “Ink Business Preferred

80,000 bonus points  – after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening

3 points per $1

Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year.*

Earn unlimited 1 Point Per $1 spent on all other purchases. Points do not expire as long as your account is open.*

$95 a year just like the old version… but does NOT have the 5% back at Office Supply Stores, making it less ideal for some folks.  Compare to the old version below.

If you have an actual small business or work for a company that wouldn’t mind you being PERSONALLY Liable for a card that affects THEIR Business Credit, a Business Credit Card may open up even more opportunities for you.  These tend to have lucrative bonuses, and if you have an EIN you are more likely to get approved.  They DO still ping your credit, and also have higher minimum spend requirements.

Chase Ink Plus – No longer available (comparison sake)

ChASE Ink 60k

  • Like the Chase Sapphire, points are in the ‘Ultimate Rewards’ Portal, which can be transferred to other hotels/airlines
  • 60,000 Points = Round Trip to Europe on AA, or United and other airlines depending on the season.
  • $95 is well worth a $1,400 ticket
  • Offers 5x Points on Office Supply stores, Cell Phone and Internet / TV Bills
  • Points can be transferred to your other Chase UR Cards if necessary

Capital One Venture Rewards

*Referral Link Notice:  Because you’re using My Link (Thanks!) We BOTH Get $50! All other terms are the same!*

www-venture-visa-sig-flat-9-14[1]Cap1 Bennies  Another nice ‘Fill the Gaps’ solution just like the Barclay Card if you don’t know exactly when you can use your points – no planning ahead necessary.  Their rewards program works differently, in that the ‘Travel Expenses‘ are ‘Reimbursed by PointsAfter you make the purchases and see them on your bill… Unlike traditional programs where you choose your benefits before booking.   This card has many cool features:

  • No First Year Fee!  ($430+ worth of Travel Expenses wiped out for Free!) *$59 the next year, OR you can convert it to the QuickSilver card for no fee  and 1.5% back on everything.
  • Can be used to cover AirBnB Stays
  • Covers Trains, Subways, Taxis and other Transportation costs when charged to the card
  • 2x on ALL Purchases – Great choice for an every day card if you have a vacation coming up
  • Not tied to any particular airline or hotel chain
  • Unique Issuer (CapitalOne) – Vary up your Cards when possible, CapitalOne doesnt have a lot of other offerings

 


Barclay Arrival+ – Updated Bonus – 50,000 instead of 40K!

All the same details for the Barclay Arrival+ card apply, but the bonus is higher and you now only get 5% of your points back.

Need to get from Point A to Point Be while at your destination?  There’s a Card for that.

Barclay Details The Barclay Arrival card is a perfect ‘Fill the Gaps’ solution if you plan to take a thrifty vacation.  Their rewards program works differently, in that the ‘Travel Expenses‘ are ‘Reimbursed by PointsAfter you make the purchases and see them on your bill… Unlike traditional programs where you choose your benefits before booking.   This card has many cool features:

  • No Annual Fee!  ($460+ worth of Travel Expenses wiped out for Free!)
  • Can be used to cover AirBnB Stays
  • Covers Trains, Subways, Taxis and other Transportation costs when charged to the card
  • 2x on ALL Purchases – Great choice for an every day card if you have a vacation coming up
  • Not tied to any particular airline or hotel chain
  • Unique Issuer (Barclay) – Vary up your Churning Cards when possible

 


The Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Note, only get this card when the signup bonus is 100K unless you want the card for other reasons)

Its Currently 50,000 and MAY or may not go back up in the future

 

 

 

 

Normally when someone asks ‘which is the best card for me?’ I tell them it depends on their travel goals… but in this case, its a no brainer.  You get $600 worth of travel credit*, a TSA PreCheck Credit, AND 100,000 Points – the most one can get for any Chase Product in one sign up.

The Catch?  The offer which has been around for months is about to expire on January 12th online, mid-March in branch.  You also have to have a 700+ Credit Score to win this card, AND fall under Chase’s 5-24 rule.

Quick run down of the basic benefits:

  • Sign-up bonus of 100,000 Chase Ultimate rewards after $4,000 in spending after 3 months
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit (automatically applied to your account) –  That includes Uber, AirBnB, Tolls, and airline and hotel purchases
  • Lounge Access –A version of Priority Pass Select
  • $100 Global Entry (or TSA PreCheck) Fee Credit
  • Redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards for a 50% bonus (compared to 25% bonus with the Sapphire Preferred)
  • 1:1 Point Transfer to Chase Transfer Partners
  • 3x Earning on Dining & Travel Expenditures
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

Downside$450 Annual Fee (Not Waived), $75 for Authorized Users

YES $450 sounds high, but you get $300 in Travel Reimbursement EACH CALENDAR YEAR- which means this card MAKES YOU $150 in profit, PLUS the value of points, which will be AT LEAST $1,040 in cash / much more if you redeem for points on a flight in the future.

100,000 Points can get you:

  • 4 Nights an an All Inclusive Hyatt, which includes Drinks/Food in 6 Caribbean locations
  • FOUR Round Trip Tickets to anywhere in the US
  • Various Business Class tickets to Europe
  • A flight from the US to the Philipines, with points leftover
  • A Flight to Anywhere on Planet Earth. (Most Points Tickets on all the transferable airlines max out at 80k)
  • 20 Nights at the Hyatt in Canton, OH.
  • Weeks at a night AirBnB
  • A Year of free Ubers
  • A Trip for Two to Hawaii

…The list goes on and on


Hyatt Visa – Two Free Nights ANYWHERE

Update – This Offer is changing to 40,000 Points at the end of the month!

The change is only bad if you planned on using your 2 Free Nights at a LUXURIOUS 25,000 or 30,000 Point Property, their highest levels.  Those Grand Park Hyatts are usually in busy cities, where everything is expensive and the hotels go for $500-900 a night!  The Plan would be for you and your partner to BOTH get the card at the same time, and ‘stack your nights’ for a 4 day stay at an awesome place like the Park Hyatt Kyoto/Tokyo/Paris/NYC etc.

However, now if you plan to use the card at an ‘average nice Hyatt’ in say Chicago, you actually get more value… Since those are only 12,000 a night.  Loophole Travel wrote about this in greater depth, so read his article as I’m not going to reinvent the wheel….

A great way to round out any vacation is with the Chase Hyatt Card.  Hilton offers a similar offer but the Hyatt card gets you an extra Free Night each year for just $75.  I view Hyatt Hotels favorably because of their mix of of being fairly luxurious, but with a comparatively low redemption cost when paying with points.  This is especially beneficial when transferring points from the Chase UR Portal.

You can Redeem free nights with as few as 5,000 points!  Cleveland Downtown’s Galleria Hyatt is beautiful, and only 8,000 Points for what would cost an average schmo $209!  That’s a great value at 2.6 Cents per Point… Comparatively, an average Hilton will be 40,000 for a similar property.

You also get a bonus 5,000 for adding an Authorized User when you get the card.  So off the bat you would have just around 7-8K plus 2 Free Nights.  I would use the two FREE Nights at the fanciest Hyatt in the city you are visiting, and perhaps use the points for a hotel ‘on the outskirts’ of the city if you explore another less expensive area.


SPG – Starwood Preferred Guest Cards

35K and 30K Personal & Business versions available twice a year – Usual Bonus is 25,000

Note:  This card is an AMEX Card, and as such you should only get the SPG cards below if you need SPG Points for a particular reason.  Since the Merger with Marriott, SPG Points can now be transferred back and forth with Marriott Points at a 1:3 ratio… And SPG points can be shared with your Spouse back and forth.  So its pretty easy to get 100,000+ if you both get the Biz and Personal version of each card… You would also get 7,500 when one spouse ‘Refers’ the other, giving you another 15,000 points.  These points can be transferred to various airlines – so if you are looking for a Business Class Trip to Japan on say All Nippon Air, you send both your SPG points and Amex MR Points to ANA, and get their 85,000 RT US-Tokyo BIZ CLASS Trip more easily.

The Starwood Preferred Guest Card (SPG)  is an Amex branded card with arguably the best ‘Points per Stay’ values.  its usually a 25K bonus, and twice a year it hits 30,000 points…. Now for a few more days, you can get 35,000 if you spend 3K in 3 months and 2K more by 6 months!

Amex SPG Personal 35,000
Act Now! Offer Expires 4/5/17!

Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months and an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months

$0 introductory annual fee – $95 after that… So cancel 11 months from now  =)

You can get 35,000 for the Personal Card, and 35,000 with the Biz version and have a total of 83,000 SPG Points… Enough to fly Business class on ANA Airlines to Japan or the Philippines!

The Business Card spending requirements a little tougher:

Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases 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. Offer ends 04/05/2017.

The real value of SPG points lies in their Flexibility.  They can be transferred to many different airline programs, Marriott a rate of 1:3, and even be used to help you get the Companion Pass for one more month!


SouthWest RapidRewards

March 2017 Update on Chase SW Business Premiere Card:

60,000 bonus points – usually 50K or less!*

This offer is currently limited to JUST The Business Card! However you will need t spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.*

This bonus offer is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.

If you plan on traveling within the US, by far the best current offer is the SouthWest Personal Card which gives you 50,000 60,000 for a Minimum Spend of just $2,000 plus the $69 sign up fee.  Normally I don’t recommend cards with fees, but in this case the $69 is more than offset by the up to $750* you can get in FREE Travel via their ‘Wanna Get Away‘ Fares.

*Southwest points are unique in that the fares vary and are tied to a dynamic price of a flight, instead of being just ‘25,000 for a domestic round trip’ like with United.  Points are worth roughly 1.6 cents each.

Southwest Personal 69 The card comes in multiple flavors, as you can see from the SouthWest Credit Card comparison breakdown.  This one is the cheapest of the Personal Cards, and this promotion runs approximately 1/3 of the year.

Pro Tips:

  • You CAN Apply for TWO Chase SouthWest Cards at the same time if you’re looking to get the Companion Pass ASAP
  • The $69 more than likely does NOT count towards the $2000 Spend.  This is important to know if you’re an unfortunate soul who has spent $1985 in 90 days, and thought they met the Min Spend because of the $69 fee being included.
  • The Companion Pass is half the reason to get this card.  The Companion Pass = Free “Plus 1” ANY TIME You go ANYWHERE Via SouthWest – and include that given Friend.
  • You Can NOT combine Points from two different accounts into one to get the Companion Pass.  (IE You and the Wife getting the same card will NOT help you in this endeavor.)
  • This card is best ‘applied for’ in late November to early March.  Why? Companion Pass… FREE Travel for the year you Earn it (2015)  plus the ENTIRE Year After! (2016)

 


IHG Rewards Club

A perennial favorite of ours is the IHG Rewards Club card, also from Chase.  60,000 Points is the usual sign up bonus… But currently you’ll get a bonus of 60,000 Points to use at any IHG Hotel. (Note: 80K offer comes and goes periodically) 80K Offer I know what you’re thinking, ‘Who the Heck is IHG?’  They are the good folks behind the Holiday Inn, Candlewood, and the luxurious InterContinental among others.  If you’re going to fly for free, why not STAY for Free as well? The Benefits of this Card are numerous:

  • FREE the 1st Year, then only $49
  • 10% Rebate on IHG Rewards Club Point Redemptions
  • For example, if you redeem 30,000 points, you will receive 3,000 back! Up to 100,000 points back each year.
  • ANNUAL FREE NIGHT WORLDWIDE* – Including at InterContinental if you wish to Ball Out!
    • I have to stress, the REAL value of this card lies in getting the FREE NIGHT at a FANCY hotel that you would otherwise not afford.
    • This could be an InterContinental in NYC, Tokyo, Paris, Monterrey Bay, or any place where hotels are in the $300s or more
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Platinum Status – Free WiFi, but more importantly Possible Room/Suite Upgrades

What does 75,000 points get you?  How about 5 Nights at the Holiday Inn Express in Puerto Rico, 15 minutes from the airport and a 5 minute walk to the Conando Beach?  For 50,000 a night you can stay in the classier InetContinental – But avoid that if you’re trying to save money and maximize travel.

IHG Card Requirements:

  • Spend $1000 in 3 Months  (Sometimes $2K)
  • $49 Fee Waived the 1st year – After that, $49 is more than fair for 1 FREE night certificate, which can be redeemed at any IHG property in the world, including the IC Bora Bora & Thalasso Spa
  •  Foresight – ‘Reward Rooms’ Book up fast, so plan 2-6 months ahead for your trip if you plan to utilize Rewards Nights

 Chase Sapphire Preferred – A Crowd Favorite – Currently 50,000

This is the younger cousin of the Sapphire RESERVE card, similar benefits but only $95 a year instead of $450.  A great starter card if you have OK credit and want to build up your relationship with Chase.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Many folks consider this card one of the best ones out there because of the versatility of Chase’s UltimateReward Points.   Chase Sapphire Bennies

One of the main benefits is the ease at which you can transfer points to various  ‘Partner Programs’ at a 1:1 ratio.  Perhaps you only have 15,000 United Points left after your honeymoon…. The UR Portal will allow you to Transfer the 10,000 you need for a free flight to Miami with ease!  Need a hotel while you’re there?  Transfer another 10,000 to the Marriott or Hyatt Rewards program and you’re there!


Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature

I have not personally used the Club Carlson Card, but for comparison purposes here is their offering for an annual fee of $75.  Unlike IHG and Hyatt, they don’t waive the fee the 1st year.  They do balance that out by giving you a ‘Free Last Night‘ however. Depending on where you stay, the $85 fee might be worth it


 American Express Platinum Cards

You can sometimes find the best deal on the 75,000 MR Points  American Express Platinum Mercedes Benz card if you’re lucky or targeted.  AMEX is notorious for offering ‘tricky to find’ bonuses that you need to find via ‘Incognito Browsing’, Targeted Mailers/Emails, or by calling them and lying talking to a rep.

Not interested in purchasing a BenzWho Cares. This card will get you enough points to travel from Cleveland to London in BUSINESS Class on AsiaMiles (80K), or bring a friend with you for free* in Econ flying with Iberia!  Or Fly from New York to Hanoi Viet Nam on Air Canada for 75K.  There are many possibilities, which you can break down yourself via AwardAce.

Amex Benz Plat Traveling Tricks

The American Express Benz Platinum comes with a hefty $475 fee, which sounds like a lot.  However there are $500+ worth of benefits that immediately come with the card, making it well worth it.

  • $200 worth of Airline Fee Reimbursements in 2017
    • This can be ‘Incidental Airline Expenses’ like fancy drinks on the plane….
    • …OR purchase SouthWest, AA, or United Gift Cards
  • Free TSA PreCheck or Global Entry – They reimburse you for the Fee  ($100)
  • $200 worth of Airline Fee Reimbursements in 2018
    • Do the same trick above for a total of $400 in Amazon gift cards.
  • $100 Towards Mercedes Benz Accessories purchased in the dealership
    • Not amazing, but you’re already at a $25 profit by having this card
    • You can get a nice polo, Benz mugs, or 14 really nice water bottles of varying styles.
  • Centurion Lounge Access
    • Available at a handful of international airport hubs in the US, these locations give you a relaxing time at the airport
    • Free Booze, The Good Stuff
    • Free snacks
    • Free Meals.  Legit, replacement for dinner meals.
    • Better WiFi
    • Comfortable Seating
    • …and sometimes, a shower / massage!

There are other benefits that come with the card as well.  75,000 Membership Rewards Points can get you a round trip ticket to just about anywhere via Transfer Partners!

AMEX has a slew of different ‘Platinum Cards’ – including Business Versions.  The card also comes with $15 a month in Uber Credits now, as well as access to ‘Amex Offers’ which get you free or discounted stuff from certain vendors.  You can only get the bonus for AMEX cards one a Lifetime, so ONLY apply when they are at their Highest!


There are other cards that are worth mentioning, but if the bonuses are not at the ‘peak‘ of what you can hope for for any given card, I tend to not post them here.  Feel free to leave a comment if you see anything worth adding!

6 thoughts on “Top Cards

  1. Well done! I’ll need to look into one of these. It would cool to see a page on top cards that have no annual fees, whether they be good for travel or other rewards.

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