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This is the fourth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

There are currently some huge sign up bonuses that folks new to the miles game can pick up.

I’ve categorized some of the best offers below, but before applying for any cards, I recommend checking out my Introduction to Travel Credit Cards.

Make sure you sign up for a card that earns points or miles that are useful for your specific travel goals (i.e. the corresponding award charts for redeeming them have reasonable prices to where you want to go, and there is also award space). It breaks my heart when people come to my Award Booking Service with the wrong miles for the trip they want. There’s no reason to Make the Biggest Mistake in Our Hobby.

We also offer a Free Credit Card Consultation Service to help point you in the right direction if you don’t where to begin (or if you’ve been in the game a while but are confused by all the new issuing banks’ sign up bonus rules).

So what are the best cards for beginners? I’ve broken them down into the following categories:

  • Best all around card
  • Best card for the benefits within the first year
  • Best card for awards to Central and South America
  • Best business Card
  • Best hotel card

While the travel rewards cards below are issued by varying banks, a point for beginners to note is the infamous Chase 5/24 rule: once you’ve opened five credit cards within the last 24 months, Chase will not approve you for their cards. Most business credit cards won’t count against you.

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.

Best All-Around Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a personal card that earns Ultimate Rewards . Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, British Airways, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt,  and more.

The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points on travel. Travel includes airfare, hotels, taxis, rental cars, tolls, parking, and much more.

The Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee.

Best Card for the Benefits Within the First Year

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® also earns Ultimate Rewards. My review of the Sapphire Reserve card explains its other benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges for you all travel companions, $100 global entry free credit, and 3x points on travel.

Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to airline partners for high value redemptions. I recently redeemed Singapore Airlines miles to fly from Atlanta to Honolulu in a flat bed for 30,000 miles. I’ve also used Singapore miles to fly from Colombia to Argentina in Business Class for half the price it would have been with United miles. Singapore miles are also the only way to fly Singapore Suites, cheaper than United miles to book United flights to Europe, and offer two stopovers in addition to your destination on roundtrip awards. I also love Air France Flying Blue as a transfer partner because of its cheap awards to Europe, Israel,Hawaii and South America.

Best Card for Awards to Central & South America

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard comes with valuable benefits such as a free checked bag and  priority boarding on American Airlines flights.

American Airlines miles are some of the most valuable miles to get you to Central and South America. American Airlines flies more routes from the United States to Central and South America than any other carrier–by far!

You can stretch your American Airlines miles to last a long time if you redeem them in economy. 

Best Business Card

Chase Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card earns Ultimate Rewards that transfer 1:1 to United, Singapore, British Airways, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt and more.

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card earns 3x points on travel; shipping; internet, cable, and phone services; and social media advertising and 1x points on everything else.

The Ink Business Preferred an annual fee of $95.


Best Hotel Credit Card

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card comes with automatic Hilton Gold status.

Bottom Line

Above are some of the top travel credit cards to consider if you’re just beginning to collect miles and points. Here are some more links to posts I have written recently that will be a big help to beginners:

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.