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Ranking the Top US Bank Travel Credit Cards

by on December 19, 2012 · 27 comments

in Credit Cards, US Bank

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This is a post in my series ranking the top travel credit cards from the major banks. Other posts include: My Ranking of the Top American Express Travel Credit Cards, My Ranking of the Top 12 Chase Travel Credit Card Offers, and My Ranking of the Top Citi Credit Card Offers.

Although it was pretty much just a regional entity a few years ago, US Bank has been dramatically expanding its credit card offerings – including with a slate of new points-earning travel products that might be worth getting in on. It is always good to have more options than Chase, American Express and Citi who have been leading the rewards card space for years.

US Bank has really upped its travel rewards credit card products lately.

US Bank has really upped its travel rewards credit card products lately.

In a move that I think is smart, US Bank has focused on a few lesser known and non-US-based programs like LANPass, Korean Air SkyPass and Avianca/Taca LifeMiles to lure new customers and bulk up its travel credit cards menu by appealing to underserved points and mileage program customers and finding niches in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Case in point, US Bank is also the issuer of the three newly introduced Club Carlson credit cards that got everyone buzzing last week thanks to large sign-up bonuses and some interesting perks like half-off award rates.

So I’ve prepared a ranking of the top travel credit card offers from US Bank this week both in terms of their relative value and the perks that they can give you. When making these calculations, I am not including the benchmark base spending of 1 mile/point per dollar spent, just anything above that, for instance getting 2 LANPass  miles per dollar spent on flights rather than just 1 mile per dollar on other purchases.

Note: It appears that US Bank has stricter underwriting rules than most of the other credit card companies and getting approved for cards can be a challenge if you have a lot of recent inquiries. Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Here are my rankings of the top US Bank credit card offers of the moment, with rationale for each explained below:

1. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature and Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Signature: $997.50
2. Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature: $625
3. LANPass Visa Signature Card: $510
4. LANPass Visa: $360
5. LifeMiles Visa Signature Card: $360
6. US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Business Visa Signature: $326
7. SkyPass Visa Signature Card: $325
8. LifeMiles Visa: $285
9. US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature: $276
10. AeroMexico Visa Signature: $275
11. AeroMexico Visa: $250
12. SkyBlue Visa: $75
13. SkyPass Visa Classic: $10

Note: Many of these are my affiliate links, but to the best of my knowledge I have highlighted the best offers out there.  If anyone knows of better public offers, please share them and I will update the post with them. As always, this is a free site, so I greatly appreciate it if you use my links.

TOP US BANK TRAVEL CREDIT CARD OFFERS

Card: Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature and Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa Signature
Type: Personal & Business
Current Bonus: 85,000 bonus points – 50,000 upon first purchase, additional 35,000 when you spend $2,500 in 90 days.
Category Spending Bonuses: 10 points per $1 at Carlson Rezidor hotels, 5 points per $1 on other purchases.
Perks: When you redeem Gold Points for 2 or more consecutive Award Nights, your last night is free; 40,000 renewal bonus points each year; automatic Gold Elite Status; existing elite members get 10 qualifying nights toward obtaining or maintaining elite status; Visa Signature benefits.
Annual Fee: $75 on the personal; $60 on the business.
Value Ranges: A top Radisson Blu free night is 50,000 points, so I’m going to peg their value at about .5 cents a piece since it isn’t hard for those free nights to be $250. That would make the 85,000 point sign-up bonus worth $425. However, since the second award night is free on two-night stays and you’d accrue 12,500 regular spend points (bringing the total haul to 92,500), the real sign-up bonus is more like 144,500 points (2 nights at a 50,000 point a night property) or $722.50.  Other Carlson hotels like Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inn & Suites tend to be lower end properties, so in my opinion the number of truly aspirational properties (and thus really lucrative redemptions) are limited compared to other chains. Gold status is worth $50 and the elite qualifying nights another $100, for a total estimated value of $872.50 + 40,000 renewal bonus of $200 – $75 annual fee = $997.50.
Offer Expiration: None.

Carlson Visa Signature

Card: Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 60,000 points – Receive 50,000 Gold Points after your first purchase. Plus 10,000 points once you spend $1,500 on your card within the first 90 days.
Category Spending Bonuses: 6 points per $1 on Carlson Rezidor purchases, 3 points per $1 on other purchases
Perks: When you redeem Gold Points for 2 or more consecutive Award Nights, your last night is free; 25,000 bonus points after you renew your card each year; automatic Silver Status; Visa Signature benefits.
Annual Fee: $50
Value Ranges: 60,000 points is $300 + 2nd night free (50,000 points) $250 + 20,000 anniversary points of $100+ $25 Silver Status – $50 annual fee = $625
Offer Expiration: None.

Card: LANPass Visa Signature Card
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 20,000 bonus kilometers with first use.
Category Spending Bonuses: 2 miles per $1 on LAN ticket purchases, 1 mile per $1 on other purchases.
Perks: 4,000 bonus miles with annual renewal, 20% discount on LAN purchase of up to $1,000 once per year; 25% flight miles bonus and 3 one-way upgrade coupons to use at check-in per year when you spend $15,000 or more each calendar year; Visa Signature benefits.
Annual Fee: $0 first year then $75.
Value Ranges: NYC to Lima is 48,000 Kilometers in economy roundtrip or 100,000 in business. I’d value kilometers at about 1.5 cents apiece, so 20,000 = $350 + $60 annual renewal + $100 in flight discounts = $510.
Offer Expiration: None.

LANPass Visa

Card: LANPass Visa
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 15,000 kilometers with first use
Category Spending Bonuses: None
Perks: 2,000 bonus miles with annual renewal, 10% discount on LAN purchases up to $500 once per year.
Annual Fee: $0 first year then $45
Value Ranges: NYC to Lima is 48,000 Kilometers in economy roundtrip or 100,000 in business. I’d value kilometers at about 1.5 cents a piece, so 15,000 = $275 + $35 annual renewal + $50 in flight discounts = $360.
Offer Expiration: None.

Card: LifeMiles Visa Signature Card
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 20,000 bonus LifeMiles with first use.
Category Spending Bonuses: 2 miles per $1 on Avianca and TACA ticket purchases, 1 mile per dollar on other purchases.
Perks: 6,000 bonus LifeMiles with annual renewal, 50% excess baggage redemption discount on TACA, Visa Signature benefits.
Annual Fee: $0 first year then $75
Value Ranges: Avianca sells miles with a 100% bonus for 1.5 cents a piece, which is a fair valuation, so 20,000 bonus = $300 + $60 for renewal = $360
Offer Expiration: None.

Lifemiles Visa Signature

Card: US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Business Visa Signature
Type: Business
Current Bonus: 17,500 points when you spend $2,500 within the first 5 months
Category Spending Bonuses: 3 points per $1 on charitable donations; 2 FlexPoints for every $1 spent on gas, grocery or airline purchases – whichever you spend most on each monthly billing cycle – and on most cell phone expenses; 1 Flexpoint per $1 on other purchases.
Perks:  $25 airline allowance with each redeemed airline award travel ticket; points valued at between 1.33-2 cents each when redeemed for travel; free National car rental day coupon; 25% discount at National Car Rental and a certificate each year for one free day on a three-day weekend car rental, and free Emerald Club Membership; Visa Signature benefits.
Annual Fee: $49 waived the first year.
Value Ranges: At max value of 2 cents apiece the 17,500 point sign-up bonus = $350 +  $25 in perks for the free ticket – $49 = $326. Clearly the more you spend in the bonus categories, the more value you get out of this card.
Offer Expiration: None.

Card: SkyPass Visa Signature Card
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 15,000 miles with first purchase
Category Spending Bonuses: 2 miles per $1 on Korean Air ticket purchases
Perks: 2,000 mile bonus each year on renewal, 2 Korean Air VIP Lounge coupons each year, one $100 discount on a Korean Air purchase each year, no foreign transaction fees, Visa Signature Benefits.
Annual Fee: $80
Value Ranges: Korean has US to Asia redemptions for 80,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 120,000 miles in business, so I value them roughly at 1.5 cents a piece. 15,000 miles = $225 + 2,000 mile anniversary bonus ($30) + 2 lounge passes ($50) + 100 discount – $80 annual fee = $325
Offer Expiration:  None, but targeted offers have given bonuses of up to 40,000 miles.

SkyPass Visa Signature

Card: LifeMiles Visa
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 15,000 bonus LifeMiles with first use.
Category Spending Bonuses: None.
Perks: 3,000 bonus LifeMiles with annual renewal, 25% excess baggage redemption discount on TACA
Annual Fee: $0 first year then $45.
Value Ranges: Avianca sells miles with a 100% bonus for 1.5 cents a piece, which is a fair valuation, so 15,000 bonus = $225 + $60 for renewal = $285
Offer Expiration: None. TAM/Avianca is a member of Star Alliance.

Card: US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 15,000 bonus FlexPoints after the first $500 in net purchases in the first 90 days.
Category Spending Bonuses: 3 points per $1 on charitable donations; 2 FlexPoints for every $1 spent on gas, grocery or airline purchases – whichever you spend most on each monthly billing cycle – and on most cell phone expenses; 1 Flexpoint per $1 on other purchases.
Perks: 5,000 FlexPoints when you refer a friend who acquires and uses the card; 3,500 bonus FlexPoints each year when you spend $24,000 in Net Purchases. You can redeem these FlexPoints for your annual fee or combine them with other FlexPoints for travel or many other rewards; receive an airline allowance of up to $25 with every award travel ticket to use toward baggage fees, in-flight food or drinks and more; points valued at between 1.33-2 cents each when redeemed for travel; 25% discount at National Car Rental and a certificate each year for one free day on a three-day weekend car rental, and free Emerald Club Membership; Visa Signature benefits.
Annual Fee: $49
Value Ranges: At max value of 2 cents apiece the 15,000 point sign-up bonus = $300 +  $25 in perks for the free ticket = $325- $49 = total value of about $276. Clearly the more you spend in the bonus categories, the more value you get out of this card.
Offer Expiration: None.

Aeromexico Cards

Card: AeroMexico Visa Signature
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 20,000 miles for first use plus companion ticket (Valid for round-trip travel from the United States to Mexico on Aeromexico and Aeromexico Connect only. Not valid on any partner or code-shared partner airline. Valid with new Aeromexico ticket purchases only and is not valid on prepaid and previously purchased tickets. Taxes, fees and surcharges may apply. May not be combined with any other discount offer. May only be used with fares booked in M/B/Y class of service. Both travelers must be on the same itinerary.)
Category Spending Bonuses: 2 miles per $1 on gas and groceries and Aeromexico airfare purchases directly from Aeromexico, 1 mile per $1 on everything else
Perks: 4,000 annual bonus miles plus $99 companion ticket with renewal (same conditions apply), 15% discount on Aeromexico airfare purchases; 5,000 Club Premier Elite Qualification Miles awarded when you spend $30,000 within cardmembership year; Visa Signature benefits.
Annual Fee: $0 first year then $80
Value Ranges: The Aeromexico award chart is not very generous. For example US to Mexico for 48,000 miles roundtrip in economy or US to Europe is 80,000 miles in economy or 128,000 in business. I’d value miles at about a cent a piece and the companion ticket at $0 since it requires expensive fare classes. Total sign-up value $200 +$75 in Aeromexico discounts = $275.
Offer Expiration: None

Card: AeroMexico Visa
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 15,000 miles for first use
Category Spending Bonuses: 2 miles per $1 on gas and groceries and Aeromexico airfare purchases directly from Aeromexico, 1 mile per $1 on everything else
Perks: 2,000 annual bonus miles plus $99 companion ticket with renewal (same conditions apply), 10% discount on Aeromexico airfare purchases.
Annual Fee: $0 first year then $45
Value Ranges: The Aeromexico award chart is not very generous. For example US to Mexico for 48,000 miles roundtrip in economy or US to Europe is 80,000 miles in economy or 128,000 in business. I’d value miles at about a cent a piece and the companion ticket at $0 since it requires expensive fare classes. Total sign-up value $200 + $50 in 10% off discounts =$250.
Offer Expiration: None.

Card: SkyBlue Visa
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 5,000 miles with first purchase.
Category Spending Bonuses: None – earn 1 mile for every $2 you spend.
Perks: No annual fee.
Annual Fee: $0
Value Ranges: Korean has US to Asia redemptions for 80,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 120,000 miles in business, so I value them roughly at 1.5 cents a piece. 5,000 miles = $75
Offer Expiration: None.

Card: SkyPass Visa Classic
Type: Personal
Current Bonus: 5,000 bonus miles with first purchase.
Category Spending Bonuses: None – earn 1 mile per $1.
Perks: 1,000 bonus miles at annual renewal
Annual Fee: $50
Value Ranges: Korean has US to Asia redemptions for 80,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 120,000 miles in business, so I value them roughly at 1.5 cents a piece. 5,000 miles = $75 + 1,000 mile anniversary bonus ($15) – $80 annual fee = $10
Offer Expiration: None.

Disclaimer: The responses below are 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 posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Hdellenger

    You might want to point out that US Bank appears to be much harder to get approved for if you have done multiple credit card apps in the last several months. This is based on my experience and from what I have read on the FlyerTalk forum.

  • thepointsguy

    Good point- will add that in

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  • CanesLawMarty

    Agreed, from my own experience, as well as reading up on US Bank from other sources, they are extremely stingy when it comes to both approval and credit limit. And be VERY careful because they are notorious for approving you for a lesser card, which pretty much sucks. To wit: living in Miami and travelling to South America, LAN obviously has a huge presence here so to “diversify,” I applied for the LanPass Visa Signature, mainly for the upgrade coupons (MIA to UIO is only 1 each way for example, although requires a slightly higher fare bucket). Although I have an excellent credit score (730-740 range) and only 2-3 credit inquiries in the last 6-8 mos., I was only approved for the LanPass Visa with a paltry $3500 limit. I called to inquire but they were very firm, saying only that if I wanted them to take a look at upgrading to the LanPass Visa Signature to establish a good relationship with them and re-visit the issue in six months. The 10% discount came in handy and posted automatically and the conversion b/w KMs and Miles (1.6 to 1) can be helpful but I don’t see this as a competitive card, especially considering the paltry sign-up bonus.

  • PJ

    Yes, I am holding back on their 5 % rebate card due to my privous rejection on LAN Pass creditcard before my previous South American Trip.

    Their 5% on bill pay mentioned Insurance like Statefarm and Cable wireless phones..CA Anthem takes credit card payments on premium wonder if this is included. Anybody has further information? It looks like this is a card to have and to keep even without sign on bonus

  • Yichuan

    Where did it say “one $100 discount on a Korean Air purchase each year”? I can’t locate this on the application page.

  • http://www.passthedressing.com/ Heather @ passthedressing

    Where does the free Club Carlson card come out for you? I am thinking about this card because I would rather not pay the fee (I know, I know) just for these properties. Do you think the free card ranks at all?

  • Jtgray

    I applied and was denied due to too many recent inquiries just last week. Yes…I had a lot of inquiries as a churner. Does anyone know how long I might need to keep my record clean of inquiries before US Bank will approve? I certainly don’t want to wait 3 months, apply again, only to get denied and find that 4 months was the sweet spot. I have some travel in 2015 (Svalbard) where those Club Carlson points and bonus night benefits could come in handy, so I certainly have time and I don’t really have any other cards I need to get for a while either.

  • Adam

    Club Carlson Card is better for low-level redemption IMO. For their Orlando Disney hotel, which is a Cat 1 property (lowest $300 this season) , it only needs 9000 points, and 4500 points with this card. so That’s basically 6.7 cents/point. and this signup bonus can be max out to be thousands of dollars plus you get the Gold benefits. But I was rejected when I tried to reply. too many requests lately.

  • thepointsguy

    That is an incredible redemption..one of my 2013 resolutions is learning how to leverage Club Carlson more

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  • dalem

    Just approved for Carlson card – had 3 apps in the last 7-8 months. Automated system didn’t provide which level card was approved – but not really an issue for me as I believe all offer the extra nite rebate on rewards stays, which looks like the best benefit.

  • thedude80202

    Quick question for anyone with more than a few inquiries on the credit report – I have another US Bank card with a credit limit of $15k (Flex perks, Olympic offer), but 3 recent inquiries (new cards) in the last 3 months and 3 more in the last year. I’m a little worried about getting approved. With Chase and Citi, I’ve always been able to DIVERT some of the credit from another card to open a new account. Is this at all possible with US Bank?

    If it’s not possible, has anyone had luck CLOSING a US Bank card to get a new one approved? (I can’t do that as of now since I have a ton of FlexPerks points, but when next summer comes, I’ll have used them up).

    Both these are pretty standard methods for other CC companies, but from the talk, it seems like US Bank consumer representatives can not approve anyone on the spot.

    Still not sure whether to give it a go now, as there are always new offers coming up from other companies… can’t wait until I have no recent inquiries if there are better offers to chase!

  • PointPerk

    Wondering if it’s even allowed by US Bank to hold more than one o their cards. Just got the FlexPerks Signature Card but also interested in the Cash+ as well now.

  • Armando86

    TPG, I just wanted to point out that the US Bank card actually gives 1.6 Premier Kilometer (1 Mile) per $1 spent & double that on gas and groceries, as you mentioned. ( The sign on bonus equates to 32,000km) The Aeromexico award chart is based on Kmp rountrip. Thus, it´s not 48,000 miles but 48,000 kmp for redemption.

    http://www.clubpremier.com/us/earn-kilometers/cards/aeromexico-visa-credit-card/visa-signature-credit-card

    Cheers

  • spindoc1

    Not sure why you dont like cards like the United Presidential plus. It gives the usual mileage perks, United Club membership( not just day pases), and , more importantlyto me, EQM’s. It is more impt to me to move up to platinum from gold than just to get a few extra miles

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  • DF

    Are you going to so a series ranking the best Barclays cards?

  • gomike

    When you request a $100 visa card reward and you get the $25 bonus card, does that get shipped separately?

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  • Awe Guro

    I may say that US Bank that I would still stick to US bank. It’s flexperks make me want to stay.

    us
    bank promotion code

  • JD

    You are mistaken in your calculation on the Aeromexico credit card when you say the Aeromexico award chart is not generous. US to Mexico in coach is 48,000 KILOMETERS not MILES as you state in your valuation. Same for US to Europe it is 80,000 KILOMETERS not MILES. Actually, US to Mexico is 30,000 miles, and US to Europe is 50,000 miles.
    FYI, 1 mile = 1.6 kms

  • AJ

    I’m interested in getting one of US Bank’s secured cards while I’m rebuilding my credit. Between LANpass, LifeMiles, and AeroMexico, which would you recommend for someone interested in traveling in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America? Do you think your valuation is still accurate?

  • Drew

    Anyone?

  • Drew

    ??

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