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The 5 Most Overlooked Travel Credit Card Offers Right Now

by on January 16, 2014 · 34 comments

in American Express, Chase, Citi

I spend a lot of time talking about the top travel credit cards including the Sapphire Preferred and Platinum Amex, but there are a ton of other cards currently in the marketplace that present some great values both in terms of earning and redeeming points and miles for travel. Here are five you should keep your eye on

IHG Visa1. IHG Rewards Club Select Visa (Via FlyerTalk): Although 80,000 IHG points (the sign-up bonus when you spend $1,000 in 3 months) won’t get you as far as 80,000 Hyatt points will, say, that’s still not a number to ignore since it means you can get at least one night in a top-tier property (50,000 points) – or two nights at 40,000 points each plus a $70 co-pay like in the example below – or two nights in a Category 7 hotel (40,000 points).

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It also comes with the following perks: One free night every year at any IHG hotel (excluding all-inclusives) and earns 5 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels, 2 points per $1 spent on gas,groceries and dining and 1 point per $1 on everything else. It gives cardholders a 10% points rebate on any redemptions, carries no foreign transaction fees, and awards automatic Platinum status. IHG Platinum status is their highest level of elite status IHG offers, which normally requires 50 nights or 60,000 points per year to achieve. While Priority Club Platinum isn’t as generous as Hyatt Diamond or Starwood Platinum, it still has plenty of decent benefits, including a 50% bonus on base points, complimentary room upgrades, guaranteed room availability 72 hours in advance, priority check-in, and a dedicated Platinum Elite customer service phone number. Not bad for a card with the $49 annual fee waived the first year.

Frontier card

2. Frontier Airlines World Mastercard: Most people seem to forget about this predominantly Western US-based carrier and don’t feel inclined to use miles on it because of its low-cost reputation, but it flies to some sought-after smaller airports where fares are usually expensive that could be worth exploring.

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The 40,000 miles you earn by spending $1,000 in 90 days (and you can earn up to an additional 10,000 with balance transfers) is enough for four one-way awards at 10,000 miles each, which can be especially lucrative on those high-cost short-hauls, and the card also earns double miles on Frontier purchases, one mile per $1 on other purchases, and allows cardholders to redeem for companion tickets at a 5,000 mile discount. This card, and the flights it opens up can be a great option if you need positioning flights from a smaller regional airport to an international hub where you can catch your main award flight to other continents or destinations as well. There is a $69 annual fee that is not waived.

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3. Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard: I recently got this card because the bonus went up to an all-time high of 60,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in 3 months, but more importantly, each calendar year when you spend $40,000 on your card you will earn 10,000 AAdvantage elite qualifying miles which makes this card a powerful tool to help me requalify for top-tier Executive Platinum status. It also earns me 2X miles per $1 on American fares, which I purchase a lot as it’s my main airline program, so that brings in quite a few bonus miles, and then there are other money-saving benefits including 25% off in-flight purchases, and no foreign transaction fees. It does come with Admirals Club membership (hence the $450 annual fee), which will really be handy once the Platinum Amex partnership with American/US Airways ends in March.

While $40,000 might seem like a lot of spending for just 10,000 miles, those 10,000 miles to me might mean the difference between requalifying or not for top-tier American AAdvantage Executive Platinum status, which comes with a ton of perks including unlimited complimentary domestic upgrades (no more banking on 500-mile upgrade requests), 8 annual EVIP systemwide upgrades on any published paid fare – which can equate to thousands of dollars per flight in value – a 100% elite mileage bonus (Platinums get this as well), waived fees on ticketing and award mileage reinstatement.

Spend $30,000 in a year, to get the British Airways Travel Together ticket.4. British Airways Visa Signature Card: I have talked about this card a lot in the past when the sign-up bonus has gone up to 100,000 Avios, but haven’t been giving it much love lately because the bonus is just 50,000 Avios when you spend $2,000 in 3 months, but that can still be worth it and a great value proposition for a lot of folks. Especially because the 100,000 bonus is usually contingent on spending $20,000 in a year, which is out of some people’s reach.

The British Airways Travel Together Ticket. One of the great reasons I keep this card around is that when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year and receive a Travel Together Ticket good for two years that equates to getting two award tickets for the price of one, no matter which class of travel you book (hello 2 first class award seats!). The card also earns 2.5 Avios per $1 on BA fares and 1.25 points per $1 on everything else, which puts its earning potential higher than a lot of other cards out there. The one other benefit I focus on, however, is the 10% discount it offers cardholders on British Airways tickets – and that 10% isn’t just off the fare, it’s off the taxes and fees, too, which can mean huge savings.

Plus, you can redeem Avios for some very high-value awards thanks to the program’s distance-based formula, including expensive short-hauls like New York – Montreal, or flying from the West Coast to Hawaii for 10,000 miles less than using American miles.

For  ideas on how to maximize British Airways Avios, check out my series. Posts include: Distance-Based AwardsHousehold AccountsUsing Avios to Upgrade Paid TicketsThe Avios and Cash OptionSave Money on Fuel Surcharges by Transferring British Airways Avios to IberiaUsing Avios For Non-Flight RedemptionsUsing Avios to Book Domestic First Class FlightsDirect Flights, London Stopovers and UK DestinationsHow to Redeem British Airways Avios Without Huge FeesUsing British Airways Avios on Aer Lingus to Avoid Huge Fees.

5. Amex Premier Rewards Gold (CardMatch Offer): I do talk about this card a lot, but I’ve been ignoring it a bit lately because it currently only comes with a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points when you spend $2,000 in 3 months, many people have reported that by going through the Card Match tool, which allows you to see if you have any special offers targeted towards you, that they are being offered a much higher bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in 3 months with the $175 annual fee waived the first year. This offer below was available for several of my friends and family members as of January 15, 2014:

Card Match PRG

Beyond the sign-up bonus, though, it has a few other valuable benefits that make it one of the cards I use the most. First, it has some lucrative category spending bonuses including 3X points per $1 on airfare (4X if you book through Amex travel), and 2X on gas and groceries – those are three major spending categories in any household (and airfare is especially a big one for me for obvious reasons) so racking up bonus points happens fast. Not only that, but when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, Amex gives you a 15,000-point bonus, essentially giving you a 50% bonus on your spending. One other benefit I enjoy? Cardholders receive a $75 hotel credit and room upgrade at check-in when you book a minimum 2-night consecutive stay with the Gold Hotel Collection.

For more information on these cards and Amex Membership Rewards, check out these posts:
The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners
Analyzing Amex Membership Rewards Star Alliance Transfer Partners
Top 10 Lesser Known Amex Membership Rewards Airline Transfer Partners

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • AYD

    Where is the link to IHG 80K? The standard offer seems to be 60K sign up bonus.

  • Laura Hartman Roland

    I got the Frontier card and then found that their awards are extremely difficult to redeem. They don’t release a schedule until 5 or 6 months out. I was looking for 3 one way tickets home from California in June and I was willing to fly from just about any city in California! They released the seats about a month ago. Every single ticket for the entire week I was looking, from every city was 20,000 for one way (rather than 10,000) So that was kind of a waste of a credit inquiry :(

  • shay peleg

    Who wants to fly frontier lol

  • Justin

    Click on the link above and it’ll take you to the FT thread where they explain the 80k offer (it says it’s not on the T&C in the application but that various people have confirmed the 80k from that link.) I haven’t seen the 80k in black & white either.

  • Zorxan

    I recently upgraded my Amex PREMIER GOLD REWARD Biz to AMEX PLAT BIZ. I did this as soon as the amex website asked if I wanted to upgrade the card and really didn’t think about it. On the personal side I have a green, which I got last July, but they haven’t allowed me to upgrade. They told me I have to wait a full year for that. Anyway, I love using AMEX, especially the gold, so I’m wondering what I should do. I have a CHASE INK (fantastic) and Citi Hilton Reserve as well plus Sapphire on personal side.

  • Juno

    I would love to sign up for British Airways card but I am leery of their fees that can run in to hundreds if not thousands for companion ticket or award ticket to Europe

  • Michael

    BA is a must for someone in Dallas, even at the 50k level. I signed up a year ago and received the 100k tiered bonus and use it for last minute weekend trips. Used avios from DFW to New Orleans the day after Thanksgiving for 2 people. 18k avios for 2 flights that would’ve cost 1,000 isn’t too bad. As Brian has mentioned before the real value is in short haul flights since avios are distance based, but I’ve also used it to LAX, NYC as well. 20k avios is better than 25k American miles. Only drawback is that their only available for MileSAAver awards so availability can be limited at times.

  • Bryn

    I am in need of a huge assist! We are a family of four that want to vacation a lot more and the cost is just too much. There is just so much info here that I am really not sure where to start.
    My husband is a small business owner so we have an AMEX through Costco for gas, etc. Other other card is a VISA that we use for pathetic travel points or cash back. We put EVERYTHING on that card (between $3,000 and 5,000) and pay it off every month. CITI is our bank. We are out of Chicago.

    Please help

  • Izzy

    Recently got an offer for Amex Business Premier Rewards Gold for 75k points after $2k spend.

  • thepointsguy

    Awesome deal!

  • thepointsguy

    I’d start with the sapphire preferred for both you and your husband. You can transfer to united (chicago hub) and British airways (partner of AA, which is great for Chicago) and also redeem for Hyatt at great rates. Each signup is 40k and you get 2x on travel and dining
    http://www.thepointsguy.com/go/sapphirepref

  • thepointsguy

    I’ve gotten amazing value out of Miami as well on short/mid haul trips to carribbean/Latin america

  • thepointsguy

    You can avoid the fees by using them on AA to non-Europe or air Berlin/aer lingus to Europe

  • thepointsguy

    Click on the link to the flyer talk thread to learn more

  • Ben Price

    Is this Gold AMEX a pay-in-full card?

  • JTP

    Awesome value out of SAN as well for the BA card, easy flights to LA! For whatever reason, SAN-LAX is crazy expensive.

  • Bryn

    Why do you think that is better than a citi advantage card? Just wondering.

    Can I link up the card to where we eat out as well and does it have an online mall to get more points for online shopping? Is there an airline program that is connected to the Chase card?

  • Bryn

    I am wondering why you would suggest that card over the CITI advantage since that is our bank? Also, we put at least $600 for groceries each month (again wondering if the sapphire would be the best.
    Does sapphire have an online mall that you can connect to as we as a dining rewards network?
    Can you tell I have been reading your site a lot this morning? :)

  • Danny

    I have never had any luck with the card match tool. It’s always just the crappiest no-bonus cards despite the fact that I have very good credit. I have 4-5 major rewards cards with good history and have never been turned down for anything, but card match never gives me anything nice.

  • thepointsguy

    Yes- it is a charge card

  • joeypore

    Yes it is. All of the “colored” AMEX cards (Plat, Gold, Green) are charge cards.

    They have a “pay-over-time” option that works similar to a traditional credit card, but at a ridiculously high interest rate. These cards are definitely not meant to carry a balance.

  • joeypore

    Amen. hahaha

  • Suzanne

    Can you help me? I went to check out the AA CitiExecutive card and I don’t see the 60,000/5K deal, this all I see. “Apply now, get the card and earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases within 3 months of becoming a cardmember2!”

  • toadhollow

    Brian, what search engine are you using to find the air Berlin.are lingus flights?

  • Sean

    I have both cards. The sapphire preferred is better because you earn twice as fast with points that are more flexible. It doesn’t really matter what bank you use. Also look at the Amex blue cash preferred for grocery spend, it’s 6% cash back.

  • thepointsguy
  • Clivus

    Re the AA card; you mention getting the 2 miles per dollars on Aerican fares being useful ‘ because ” I purchase a lot”. Why do you have to BUY airline tickets? Don’t you have enough miles to fly free?

  • Justin

    ^I am different from person above.

    I applied from the FlyerTalk link a couple of months ago. It’s definitely 80k!

  • Bryn

    Is it beneficial to have both of us have our own separate accounts. Or one account for the family?

  • Suzanne

    Thank you so much!!!!!

  • Ben McKelfresh

    I am sitting with 35K Frontier miles mostly due to the Midwest-Frontier “merger” a few years back. I am keeping these from expiring, but also having a hell of a time trying to use them.

  • Juno

    It’s so frustrating to me when searching for flights on BA and get this message “British Airways does not have traffic rights to operate directly between these two cities.”

    I am going to use your link to get the BA card.. but man o man this is frustrating.

  • Mike E

    Do you have a recommendation for a cheap card to use to avoid the 3% foreign transaction fee? Cheapest I found at first glance was Hilton Reserve, one of your recommendations from another post.

  • peter_bc

    Mike E, the chase sapphire preffered and citi thank you premier card have good bonuses when you spend the minimum amount in the first 3 months, but they have an annual fee after the first year. I think all of the capital one cards do not have an annual fee and most(if not all) are free cards. all of these have no foreign transaction fee

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