BUDGET TRAVEL BLOG

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards 2018




Still using THAT card?
Odds are you're leaving points on the table.

According to CreditCards.com, 31 million Americans haven't changed credit cards in more than a decade - two thirds of them still use their first credit card. If that describes you, you're missing out on a bonanza of free flights, complimentary travel incidentals, VIP benefits and perks big banks dole out to entice you to sign-up to their credit cards. The latest up-and-coming benefit; an annual travel incidental credit you can apply against any incidentals fees charged to your card. 

Sign-up bonuses aren't as generous as they once were, but the sign-up incentives alone offered by the credit cards in the chart below add up to 28 free round-trip flights and a dozen free hotel stays. Every year, I earn a few free trips this way, and in the following video, I share how I did this to pull off a trip for taxes only:


                  


FINDING THE BEST CARD FOR YOU

To quickly find which credit cards offer the best overall value to you:

  1. Decide which benefits are most valuable to you.
  2. Filter the following list of cards down to those that offer the best combination of those benefits. (You must be a U.S. resident for the cards below. If you are Canadian click here for cards that apply to you).
Due to space restrictions in the chart, insurance benefits were not inserted. But you can review any card's insurance benefits by clicking 'APPLY' and reading the insurance benefits on their homepage:

FLIGHT REWARDS - U.S. RESIDENTS

Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite
Yes 60K Must spend 3K in 3mths Yes on AA domestic flights No Yes No
Alaska Airlines Signature
No $75 30K Yes Annual pass from $121 Yes No
AMEX Delta SkyMiles Platinum
No $195 10K Must spend 25K/yr Yes Yes $75 max Yes Yes $29
AMEX Gold Delta Skymiles
Yes 30K Must spend 1K in 3mths Yes No No Delta Skyclub access discount
AMEX Platinum
No $550 60K Must spend 5K in 3mths $200/yr travel credit + $15mth Uber credit No No No
AMEX Premier Rewards Gold
Yes 50K Must spend $2K in 3mths $100/yr credit for airline fees No Yes No
Barclay Arrival+
Yes 40K Must spend 3K in 3 mths No No Yes No
BoA Premium Rewards
No $95 50K Must spend 3k in 3mths $100 annual travel credit No Yes No
British Airways Signature
No $95 75K Spend 3K in 3mths + 10K/1yr No Yes Must spend 30K in 1/yr Yes No
Capital One Venture
Yes 50K Must spend 3K in 3 mths No No Yes No
Chase Ink Business Preferred
No $95 80K Must spend 5K in 3 mths No No Yes No
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Yes 50K Must spend 4K in 3mths No No Yes No
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
No $99 40K Must spend 1K in 3mths FREE to check bags 1yr unltd. after 110Kpts or 100flights /yr Yes No
United Mileage Plus Explorer
Yes 50K Must spend $3K in 3mths Yes No Yes No
United MileagePlus Club
No $450 50K Must spend 3K in 3mths Yes No Yes Yes

HOTEL REWARDS - U.S. RESIDENTS

Credit Card Annual Fee Waived 1st Year? Sign Up Bonus Points Free Checked Bag? Companion Pass? Foreign Transaction Fees Waived? Airport Lounge Access?
AMEX Hilton Honors
No annual fee 50K Must spend 1K in 3mths No No No No
AMEX Hilton Honors Surpass
$95 ($75 till 01-18-18) 75K Must spend 3K in 3mths No No Yes No
AMEX SPG
Yes 25K Must spend 3K in 3mths No No Yes + FREE premium internet No
Chase Hyatt
Yes 40K Must spend 2K in 3mths + 1 FREE ngt/yr No No Yes No
Choice Privileges Signature
Yes 32K + 1 FREE ngt/yr No No No No
Marriott Rewards Premier
No $85 80K must spend 3K in 3mths + 1 FREE ngt/yr No No No No
Ritz- Carlton Rewards
No $450 2 FREE ngts must spend 4K in 3mths $300 annual travel credit $100 OFF multi flier bookings Yes Yes

MAXIMIZE YOUR POINTS

You should also factor how many points your card earns for everyday purchases. Most cards offer bonus points for purchases made at certain stores in addition to bonus points (or point multipliers) for purchases at select restaurants, with certain travel operators and for gas.

To accelerate your points earnings:
  • Use your credit card for all everyday purchases so long as you pay off your balance each billing cycle. Otherwise, the interest you pay on outstanding balances will erode the value of points you earn. *A secret way to charge rent, tuition and income tax payments to your credit card is to pay those bills with a Plastiq account linked to your credit card.
  • Sign-up to two or more cards. I recommend traveling with two credit cards (especially when traveling alone). Leave one in your bags as a spare in case anything happens to your primary card.

To collect your sign-up bonus, you are usually required to first charge a pre-defined dollar value to your card within a set number of billing cycles. This is referred to as minimum spend, and the minimum spend requirement varies by card. Most cards that come with an annual fee require to to spend $3,000 within three months of activating your card. Prestige and business cards tend to offer more enticing sign-up bonuses, but they come with higher annual fees and higher minimum spend requirements.


AVOID FEES

Any credit card with generous benefits comes with an annual fee. Some cards waive this fee for your first year upon subscribing, but you might not know how to have this fee waived when it comes due for renewal on your card's anniversary:
  1. Call your credit card company and ask them to cancel your card.
  2. They'll try to keep you from canceling by offering to either waive your renewal fee or give you points for keeping your card active.
You should make this call every year before your card comes due for renewal - you'll be amazed how often it works!
 

Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less' available at stopdreamingstarttaveling.com.


FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com    


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