Top Ten Rewards Card Offers for December 2013

Every month I’ll list what I consider to be the top ten sign up bonuses on rewards cards. This post is a handy place to compare all the information in one place, but it shouldn’t be any new information for folks who read daily or receive all my posts via email.

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This month, there is a lot of uncertainty over point values because we’ve seen United and Delta devalue, but we don’t know what will happen to the American Airlines and US Airways charts during their merger, which closes in one week.

Uncertainty aside, though, the hardest part of putting together the top ten was narrowing it down. We are truly in a golden age of rewards cards offers.

What are the top ten rewards card offers for December 2013?

1. United MileagePlus Explorer Card

Sign Up Bonus: Many folks report a 50,000 mile offer after spending $2k in the first three months by visiting a Chase bank branch. The public offer is 30,000 miles after spending $1k in three months, and you can get 5k extra miles by adding an authorized user. Chase is very good about matching you to the best available sign up bonus if you send a Secure Message to ask for the match. Your mileage may vary.

Annual Fee: $0 intro first year, then $95

Commentary: United miles just got a lot less valuable for awards booked February 1, 2014 or later for international premium cabin awards on partners. But there is still good value on the United chart after February 1, like 115k miles roundtrip to Europe in business class in United’s awesome BusinessFirst product.

If you can get the 50k mile offer and 5k more for adding an authorized user, you’ve got almost enough miles for a roundtrip in economy to Europe (60k miles) or one way in business class (50k currently, 57.5k if booked after 2/1/14.)

Some will certainly point out that American and US Airways currently have far better award charts than the post-February-1 United chart, but I think the American and US Airways charts will be devalued in line with the United chart soon.

2. Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard & CitiBusiness / AAdvantageWorld MasterCard

Sign Up Bonus: Both cards have a 50,000 mile sign up bonus after spending $3k in the first three months

Annual Fee: $0 intro first year, then $95

Commentary: American Airlines miles are the best miles for ultra-luxury redemptions like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Etihad, and Malaysia First Class.

American Airlines has great partners for Asia, Australia, and South America, though I am not as high on using American miles to Europe or Africa.

You can get both the personal and business card, though you should wait a few days between the applications in my experience.

3. Chase Ink Plus and Ink Bold

Sign Up Bonus: Both cards have a 50,000 point sign up bonus after spending $5k in the first three months

Annual Fee: $0 intro first year, then $95

Commentary: The Ink Plus and Ink Bold are business cards. Plus is a credit card. Bold is a charge card, on which you cannot run a balance month to month. Since they are different, I was able to get both for my business without cancelling either.

The cards earn Ultimate Rewards, which I prize for their flexibility. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Korean, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, and more.

Even though Hyatt, Southwest, and United have all devalued this year, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways haven’t.

Both cards earn 5x points at office supply stores, cell phone bills, internet bills, and cable TV bills, and 2x points on gas and hotels, so racking up points is a breeze.

4. Sapphire Preferred

Sign Up Bonus: 40,000 point sign up bonus after spending $3k in the first three months. 5,000 bonus points for adding an authorized user when applying.

Annual Fee: $0 intro first year, then $95

Commentary: The Sapphire Preferred earns Ultimate Rewards like the Inks mentioned above.

The Sapphire Preferred is a fantastic all-around card that justifies its annual fee with great category bonuses and annual retention bonuses.

The card earns 2x points on dining and travel expenses. And you get a 7% bonus on points earned the previous calendar year (excluding the sign up bonus) each January.

5. Premier Rewards Gold Card

Sign Up Bonus: A sign up bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $1k in the first three months was seen on November 25, 2013 on the  CARDMATCH tool. This is a targeted offer. You can see whether you are offered the same offer through the CARDMATCH tool, but there are no guarantees.

Annual Fee: $0 intro first year, then $175

Commentary: The Premier Rewards Gold Card earns Membership Rewards, which transfer to dozens of hotels and airlines. I love to transfer to:

The card earns 3x points on flights booked with airlines, 2x at US gas stations and US supermarkets, and 1x on everything else. And you get 15k bonus points any calendar year in which you spend $30k on the card.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card is a great card with its normal 25k sign up bonus and even better with a 50k offer!

CARDMATCH Link: CARDMATCH

6. The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard

Sign Up Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles on first purchase and 30,000 more bonus miles after spending $5k in the first three months for 50k bonus miles total

Annual Fee: $79

Commentary: The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard earns Miles & More miles. Miles & More is the frequent flyer program of Lufthansa and its affiliated airlines.

I love the program because it has dirt cheap award prices to Hawaii and within the US, especially in business and first class on flat beds. Other great uses are roundtrips to Europe for only 50k miles, Singapore Business Class on longhaul flights, and awards to the Caribbean or South America. With Lufthansa miles, you also have the only access to Swiss First Class and the best access to Lufthansa First Class.

Some Miles & More awards have fuel surcharges, so you have to use the miles strategically. See the Miles & More Program Primer & Six Great Uses (and Two Bad Ones) of the Lufthansa Card’s 50k Sign Up Bonus for more information on using the miles well.

Application Link: The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard

7. British Airways Visa Signature Card

Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2k in the first three months

Annual Fee: $95

Commentary: British Airways Avios are awesome for short, direct flights on which British Airways doesn’t collect fuel surcharges. My favorite routes are from the West Coast to Hawaii on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights for 12,500 Avios each way and from Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus for 12,500 Avios each way.

Do not get this card to go from the West Coast to Europe, or from anywhere to Africa, Asia, or Australia. The price of those flights and the fuel surcharges will be incredibly high.

8. Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

Sign Up Bonus:

  • Earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points. Bonus points are redeemable for up to $500 in gift cards, up to $625 for airfare or other great rewards
  • Earn 20,000 points after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn an additional 30,000 points after another $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of your second year of being a cardmember

Annual Fee: First year annual fee waived, $125 after that

Commentary: The Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card has the best sign up bonus for domestic economy travel. ThankYou points can be used on any airline, on any flight with no blackouts as long as a seat is for sale. You get 1.25 cents per value for each ThankYou point toward the cost of the ticket, so 50,000 points would be enough for a $625 flight.

The airline you fly on your ThankYou award tickets will see your ticket as a cash ticket and award you miles and status even though you won’t have paid a cent!

The card racks up the points with 3 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent on purchases for dining at restaurants and entertainment, 2 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent on purchases for airfare and hotels, and 1 ThankYou Point per $1 spent on other purchases.

For full offer details, see New, Improved Citi ThankYou Premier Offer.

For a comparison between the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card and other cards in the fixed-value category, see Comparison Table of Fixed-Value Bank-Point Cards.

Application Link: Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card

9. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and business version

Sign Up Bonus: 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months

Annual Fee: waived the first year, then $65

Commentary: I value Starpoints at 2.5 cents each, which is more than any other mile or point. The reasons?

These are points that can be redeemed for incredible value for flights and hotels. Free hotel nights start at as little as 2,000 points. Transferring 20k points to airlines like American, Delta, and US Airways always gets you 25k miles. Starpoints are basically unbeatable.

Application Link: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

10. US Airways Premier World MasterCard®

Sign Up Bonus: 30,000 bonus miles on first purchase

Annual Fee: $89

Commentary: This card is disappearing during the US Airways/American Airlines merger. Get the 30k miles now and use them on US Airways’ awesome chart or have them converted to American Airlines miles, which is hardly a bad outcome.

Application Link: US Airways Premier World MasterCard®

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Did I miss your favorite offer? What am I overrating?



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9 Responses to Top Ten Rewards Card Offers for December 2013

  1. What about the US Airways Mastercard with 35000 mile bonus after first purchase and annual fee waived the first year? https://www.barclaycardus.com/apply/Landing.action?campaignId=1695&cellNumber=31

  2. Hi Scott! I applied for the United MileagePlus Explorer card and already hit the required spending. Statement closed last week…do you know when the bonus miles will post? They say typically 6-8 weeks, but was wondering if you had any insight. Was hoping to get the miles quickly so that I can book before the devaluation hits. Thanks for the great info!

    • Usually the same day as you get the regular miles earned last statement. In any case, certainly before 1/31/14.

  3. Scott–Is there any annual fee card that you hold and choose to give up the potential for future churned sign up bonuses?

  4. I get concerned when bloggers predict changes to the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles award charts. The more people talk about these hypothetical adjustments, the more likely it’ll happen.

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