Top 10 Credit Cards: August 2019

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There are a lot of reasons to collect miles and points.

  • For free First Class flights and luxury hotel stays
  • To travel to more countries than you could otherwise afford (like Norway, pictured above)
  • To take your family on vacation
  • To visit home for the holidays
  • To earn big rewards for everyday spending

And the amazing thing is you don’t need much money to achieve your goal. Focus your spending on unlocking sign up bonuses, and anyone with good credit can take a dream trip anywhere in the world.

Whatever your reason for coming to MileValue, there is a rewards card that suits your needs. In fact, there is probably more than one. That’s what makes this miles and points game exciting and ongoing.

Below are the top ten consumer rewards credit cards right now. If you want personal recommendations tailored to your travel goals, fill out this form for a free credit card consultation,


1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to United, Singapore, British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue, Hyatt, and more.

The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points on dining and travel. Dining includes bars, restaurants, and fast food. Travel includes airfare, hotels, taxis, rental cars, tolls, parking, and much more.

The Sapphire Preferred has an annual fee of $95. It is a great card, arguably the best, for those just dipping their toe in the travel credit cards rewards pond: The points are versatile, category bonuses solid, and the annual fee isn’t significant. It’s also the best choice for someone with a lower credit score than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Preferred’s more sophisticated and  overall more valuable older sister. Average credit score approval range for the Preferred is 670 and up, while the average for the Reserve is 740 and up.

2. Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 to travel partners including United, Singapore, British Airways, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue, Hyatt, and many more.

Chase Sapphire Reserve holders get a $300 travel credit each cardmember year (not calendar year), as well as a $100 credit to cover the application fee for Global Entry or TSAPre √ every four years, and a free Priority Pass Select membership–which gives you access to over 1,200 lounges around the world and guest access for two people you’re traveling with.

The Sapphire Reserve offers 3x Ultimate Rewards on travel and restaurants. Travel and restaurants are broad categories and include flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, tolls, parking, Uber, taxis, restaurants, bars, fast food, and night clubs.

The $450 annual fee is not waived, but you can see how the benefits more than make up for it.

3. Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige comes with some of the best perks of any credit card and a sizable bonus as well. Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou points after $4,000 in purchases are made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. It has an expensive $495 annual fee, but with all the benefits it’s easy to see how you can quickly make that money back. 

You’ll get a $250 travel credit each calendar year, which can be applied twice within the first year of card membership–before the annual fee is due–for a total of $500 in travel purchase credit (for charges like flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, subways, ride share services, parking, etc.)

The real clincher with this card is its category bonus earning :

  • 5x points on air travel and restaurants 
  • 3x on hotels and cruises

For avid travelers, those are unbeatable compared to any other single card. 

You’ll also receive a statement credit every 5 years worth up to $100 as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre √, a complimentary 4th night for up to two separate hotel stays, and a free Priority Pass Select membership (you + two guests get lounge access).

Travel transfer partners include Avianca, Etihad, Flying Blue, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, and more. 

Note that on September 22, 2019, Citi is dropping most travel insurance related benefits from this card.

4. The Platinum Card from American Express

The regular offer for the Platinum Card from American Express comes with 60,000 Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Sometimes Amex targets customers for 100k bonuses (see below), and sometimes referral bonus offers can be higher.

Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, All Nippon Airways, Singapore, and British Airways.

The card has a $550 annual fee. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, hotel status, and a 5x category bonus for purchases directly from airlines. For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card. The annual fee recently increased on this card, but it comes with new benefits like $200 in Uber credit annually to make up for it. Read all about them in Amex Platinum Annual Fee Jumps to $550.

Before applying for this offer, read 100k Amex Platinum Targeted Offer to learn about the massive targeted bonus available to some through the CardMatch Tool. Check if you’re targeted for the 100,000 Membership Reward bonus offer on the Platinum Card (for spending the same amount of $5,000 in three months).

5. Citi ThankYou Premier Card

The Citi ThankYou Premier Card has a much higher than normal 60,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. That’s the highest bonus this card has ever offered. Transfer points to 15 airline loyalty programs for the most outsized value. Points are also redeemable for 1.25 cents each on any airline’s cash tickets (sign-up bonus is worth $750 redeeming this way).

Category bonuses include a stellar 3 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on travel and gas purchases, and 2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on restaurant and entertainment purchases.

For a card with an annual fee of just $95 (that is waived the first year), that’s a valuable benefits package. You can also use this card abroad or on foreign purchases and no foreign transaction fees are collected. 

Note that on September 22, 2019, Citi is dropping most travel insurance related benefits from this card.

The link to apply for this card has been moved to the top of the website, under the drop-down menu Top Credit Cards. 

6. The American Express Gold Card

American Express recently rebranded their Premier Rewards Gold Card to call it the American Express Gold Card, and gave it a shiny new lineup of benefits to boot. The public offer is 35,000 Membership Reward points for spending $2,000 on the card within three months of opening it.

It’s the category bonuses that really make this card shine, however.

  • 4 Membership Rewards per dollar spent at U.S. Restaurants and supermarkets, good on the first $25,000 in purchases per year
  • 3 Membership Rewards per dollar spent directly booking with an airline or on amextravel.com

Other benefits include $10 a month of credit at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House; $100 credit every calendar year with one airline of your choice, and no foreign transaction fees.

This $295 a year card is made of metal.

FYI: The CardMatch Tool has been offering targeted customers 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards for the same minimum spending requirement of $2,000 in three months. I value 15,000 Membership Rewards at around $300, so that’s a much better offer.

Check to see if you’re targeted. Don’t worry, there will be no hard credit pull.

7. Chase Freedom

The Freedom card comes $150 cash back for spending $500 within three months of account opening.  

Ultimate Rewards redeemed straight from a Freedom account are worth just 1 cent each– that’s why all the official marketing of the card features cash back language. BUT what they don’t tell you is if you have a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred (#1 and #2 on this list, #1 on the business card list), there is a second way of redeeming the Freedom’s Ultimate Rewards: transfer them to one of those accounts and from there to airline miles or hotel points. That makes the points earned by the Freedom MUCH more valuable.

Looked at this way, the Freedom’s offer is actually 15,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards.

You’ll earn 5x points on the first $1,500 in spending per quarter in rotating categories. If you can max out the categories each quarter, that’s 30,000 Ultimate Rewards per year from a card that has no annual fee!

8. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card

Bank of America’s co-branded Alaska Airlines credit card has a sign-up bonus that’s 10k miles higher than normal: 40,000 Alaska miles and a Companion Fare for spending $2,000 within three months. That may not sound like as many miles as the other bonus’ on this list, but Alaska miles are specifically valuable for international premium cabin awards (that get a free stopover on each direction!) to Asia flying Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, or Hainan, to the Middle East/India flying Emirates, and to Fiji flying Fiji Ariways are just some of the great deals available booking through Alaska MileagePlan.

The other component of the sign up bonus, the Companion Fare, is a $121 ticket for your Companion to fly anywhere with you on Alaska Airlines. If utilized on an expensive flight, this perk could be very valuable.

Other benefits:

  • Free checked bag on Alaska flights for you + six companions
  • Earn 3 miles per dollar spent on Alaska purchases
  • 50% day passes to Alaska’s lounges and 20% off in-flight purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

Annual Fee: $75.

The link to apply for this card has been moved to the top of the website, under the drop-down menu Top Airline Credit Cards. 

9. Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard

The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard offers 60,000 American Airlines for putting just one purchase on the card and paying one $99 annual fee! That means you’d effectively be paying $95 (or .15 cents a mile) and a hard credit pull for 60,000 American Airlines miles.

Other benefits include two American Airlines miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines purchases, free checked bag, discount on inflight purchases, 10% rebate on all American Airlines miles redeemed per year (capped at 10k returned each year), access to American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards, and no foreign transaction fees.

10. Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card

If you fly Southwest often, there is little doubt you’ll get tons of value from the Southwest Priority Card. It comes with 40,000 Rapid Rewards for spending $2,000 within the first three months, 7,500 Rapid Rewards after each account anniversary, a $75 Southwest purchase statement credit each year, four upgraded boardings annually, and 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi. You also earn 2 Rapid Reward points per dollar spent on all Southwest purchases. All of that for an annual fee of $149.

I love Southwest because of its two free checked bags, no change or cancellation fees, and efficient boarding process. Southwest Rapid Rewards can be very valuable for domestic redemptions/redemptions to Mexico or the Caribbean if you can book it far enough ahead of time (award prices are based on the cash price of the ticket, unlike most award pricing schemes that are region based).

The biggest reason this card is on this list is the Companion Pass. If you live and travel often to destinations served by Southwest, the Companion Pass should be on your radar as it is one of the best deals in travel. It allows you to designate a companion who flies for just the taxes on every Southwest flight you fly. That’s $5.60 each way within the United States and a bit more on Southwest’s international flights. Read more in the Companion Pass Master Thread…it’s super easy to get right now if you’re eligible for a business credit card.


Before you rush to sign up for new cards, remember to take into account that some miles are better than others for getting to specific destinations–not to mention issuing bank rules concerning eligibility if you’ve opened rewards cards in the past.

  • Read this blog continuously to learn how to book your own dream trip with miles, or just leave the hard part up to us. MileValue’s Award Booking Service will spend your miles more efficiently to book a better trip than you can, so you can have more miles to go even more places!

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are 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.

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35 COMMENTS

  1. Scott, have you heard of Barclaycard (in this case, it is specific to a Barclaycard Arrival Plus credit card) asking for additional information in order to process the credit card request? I received a letter asking for copies of my drivers license, SS card and utility bill. I’m wondering if credit card companies are starting to do this as a hassle to repeat customers of their cards.

    • I can’t speak for Scott, but for me personally, no I have not heard of this practice before. I do know that out of the major banks, Barclays tends to be the most inquiry sensitive.

        • JC
          The banks are just checking u out that’s all . I had about TEN addresses on my credit report by 32 . Just Do what they Ask and Beeee nice .One banker @ BMO asked me what’s up I replied u won’t give me a HELOC . You think I’m not living @ the home even after I gave u all the Data .He took care of it and BMO gave me a Opp’s letter too.
          ” Game On “.
          CHEERs

  2. When I log into my United Mileage Plus account the current offer increases from 50,000 miles to 70,000 miles. I can’t take advantage of this offer because I received the bonus on that card too recently, however others who have an existing Mileage Plus account should sign in before applying for the card to see if they’ve been targeted.

  3. My wife logged into her United account and saw the award amount offer reduced to 50,000, from 70,000. She applied; was told a decision could not be made immediately, etc.; and then, within three business days, received a rejection letter. Very frustrating.

    • Bizarre — so her offer went DOWN when she logged in?! Sounds like she can’t get it anyway because of 5/24, though for others I guess they should check and compare the offers both before and after logging in!

  4. Sapphire Preferred

    “For the reasons presented in this post, this is one of the first two cards I recommend everyone get.”

    What is the other card you recommend in the “first Two” ?

  5. I closed my Prestige account more than a year ago, but given the current sign-up bonus and with a big payment pending in the next two months, is there any intelligence out there that Citi will approve me again for this card or does Citi tend to make you wait longer before approving your again?

    • Hari
      Of course wait 4 the 75K or LARGER points . But I’ll save another $300 when I book the 4th nite FREE in 6 weeks for my May trip ..

      Cheap is Good !

      CHEERs

  6. You can actually get 30K SPG points with a public offer through this link on AmEx’s website: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card/starwood-preferred-guest/ (if it doesn’t work at first, try your browser in incognito mode). However, if you apply by linking through Starwood’s website (or by phone), you only get 25K points. Unfortunately for me I only realized this 2 days after I applied — called AmEx to see if they’d honor it and had no luck whatsoever. I was quickly reminded why I never get AmEx cards….

  7. Scott, I enjoy your, and Sarah’s, posts very much. I have most all of these cards, but somehow I think your list should have the Barclay Arrival Card. When I have to be somewhere to catch a flight and do not want to use points, paying for the hotel on the Arrival card, and then having 120 days to earn the points at 2x is a petty good deal in the whole travel scheme.

    • Hi Bryon, glad to hear you’re enjoying the content. I too agree the Arrival Plus is a great card. And as far travel-rewards specific cards go, it does provide a good return. However, for everyday spending, I wouldn’t necessarily make it my default choice. You could be using the Citi Double Cash Card for 2% back on everything, not just travel, and you wouldn’t have to deal with waiting to accrue $100 worth of Arrival points to redeem (which is a stipulation of the Arrival Plus). The Arrival Plus is 100% worth getting for the sign up bonus (I’ve personally collected the bonus on it twice), it’s just not on the list right now because it doesn’t have a historically high bonus at the moment. Not to mention the Citi Double Cash card has no annual fee and the Arrival Plus has an $89 annual fee after the first year, if we’re talking about holding it longterm.

  8. “Qualify for a business card? The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card…
    The rest of the card’s benefits look similar to those of the personal card.”

    This is not entirely true. The business version of this card gives you access to Starwood chain hotel club lounges, which has saved me and my guests a ton of $ (free breakfast, evening heavy hors d’œuvres, bottled water, etc.).

  9. I’m a subscriber, and I was going to ask a question after reading my email. But when I get to your page, I find comments from three years ago, some with outdated info. What gives?

    Oh, and my question is can you apply for the Sapphire Preferred if you have the Reserve? I know you can’t go the other way (Preferred to Reserve). The way I read Chase’s terms, if you have any Sapphire card, you cannot apply for another one. Whaddya think?

  10. In regards to the Barclay card, the 24 month restriction for applying for the card seems to have disappeared. I am unsure whether this means that Barclay is adopting the Amex policy of one application per card per lifetime? Also, the reports are that if you have the old Aviator card open, you will be declined for the World Elite???

  11. I am disappointed to not have seen any answers to Gary’s questions regarding the Barclay Aviator card. I would LOVE to have some updated information. We are a family of 5, 3 of us were approved for the World Elite while holding the older Aviator card. Did have to do a recon call each time (June, Sept, Oct). 4th family member was turned down in Dec during the recon call. Agent claimed that they are now considered the same product even though they don’t have identical benefits. 5th member canceled his card in Dec and would like to re-apply, but only if he can get the bonus. Would really love to know what is actual policy.
    Thanks!

  12. is the Citibank Prestige not worth ? doesn’t appear on your top 10. i guess $ 250 maxed out 2 times , global entry would more than cover that expense of annual fee.

  13. Sarah
    Off thread but who cares I want to Thank You again on ur post u did on ur over-nite Ferry trip u did last year . I booked mine on www,corsicaferries.com ..I went from Toulon ,France to Corsica I boarded @ 8am left by 9am and was there 8 hrs later ..Perfect car ferry trip like a 3.5* carnival cruise (pool) BUT BUT 4* French food . I paid like $70 for the trip with TWO very good meals .They have 2 floors of cabins but loads of places u can camp out like the cafe with a window if u get there early . Next time I will do an over-nite to save the hotel room cost but no hassles here super safe for woman or anyone . Great staff and u can bring anything on board good but not so good as to Anything .. Loved it (dogs do too) will hit any port this ferry line goes to as in On time ,Cheap,Clean ,Safe and PROFESSIONAL ..

    CHEERs

  14. All comments are very outdated and most don’t relate to your card list any longer. I know you’re refreshing the post vs. making a new one, but comments from 2015…?
    I also find SouthWest card to be a strong offer, although it carries $149 annual fee not mentioned here.

    • Fair point, thanks for bringing that to my attention. Just cleaned out all the pings as well as any comment before April of 2017 so it’s easier to get to the bottom of the comment list.

      The Southwest Priority Card is on this list at the moment, in slot #10.

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