When I first started applying for travel-related credit cards, I focused exclusively on airline-branded cards. That was years ago and as a newbie at the time, I missed out on the more lucrative mileage and point-earning capabilities for everyday purchases that more traditional cards offered.
Fast forward several years and I woke up to the true value of loyalty programs offered by the card issuers themselves. I originally focused on Chase products and the Ultimate Rewards program. And I recently signed up for the American Express Platinum card and Membership Rewards.
Why? Because I’m now more flexible in my airline and hotel choices given I’m nearing million-miler status on United and I’m no longer gunning for any particular elite level with a hotel chain. Both Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards each offer great choices on where I can transfer (or use) my points for travel.
Here are my current top three cards:
I’ll be flying American Airlines quite a bit more shortly and the Platinum card gives me Admirals Club lounge access. The $450 annual fee for the card pays for itself given the amount I fly, which I blogged about recently, through not having to pay the lounge fee, plus the card offers $200 in airline fee credits. And I love Membership Rewards where I can transfer points to more than a dozen airline programs, plus hotels.
This is my primary business credit card and it gives me 5X points on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on my cell phone, landline, internet and cable TV services. It also gives 2X points on the first $50k for gas station purchases and hotels rooms bought directly with the chain. The current sign-up bonus is pretty good and offers 50,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. And the intro annual fee for the first year is $0, then $95. There’s also the Chase Ink Bold card with similar perks and annual fee with the primary difference being it’s a pay-in-full charge card.
This is my primary personal credit card and it gives me 2X points on travel and dining purchases, plus a 7% annual points dividend on all of my points earned. As with the Ink Plus and Ink Bold cards, this card has no foreign transaction fees and also has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. If redeeming points directly through Ultimate Rewards, it provides 20% off airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises. The current sign-up bonus is 40,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
For other airline, hotel and flexible credit cards that earn miles or points, click here.
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