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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The Freedom Unlimited comes with an unusually high sign up offer right now: 3% back on the first $20,000 in spending within the first year of card membership.
Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed at a rate of 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 Unlimited’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 Unlimited MUCH more valuable.
Looked at this way, the Freedom Unlimited’s offer is actually 3x Ultimate Rewards (the kind that can be transferred to airline/hotel partners for outsize value) on the first $20k in spending within a year, or 40,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards (60,000 total).
After you’ve spent $20,000 on this card, the earning rate drops to its status quo of 1.5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on all purchases (which is still fantastic for a no annual fee 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.
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.
- 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.
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!