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10 of the Best Credit Cards for Travel- June 2014 Edition

by on June 9, 2014 · 22 comments

in Aadvantage, Alaska, American, American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Chase, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi, Credit Cards, Hilton, Hyatt, Southwest, Starwood, US Airways

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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards from American Express have expired. View the current offers here –personalbusiness.

Update: The offer mentioned below for the Chase Freedom Visa has expired. View the current offer here

Getting in on the most lucrative credit cards is key to maximizing your miles and points. With the continuously shifting nature of the credit card landscape, I thought it was time again to spell out what I see as the 10 best offers currently available.  Whether you’re well-versed in the art of credit and seeking your next sign-up bonus score, or you’re new to the game and looking for guidance, read on.

Note: This is not a list of every offer on the market. For that I recommend going to the Top Deals page, and feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

Before you get started, be sure to check out my posts on How To Check Your Credit – Preparing For The Credit Card Application Process, and When To Cancel A Card – My Personal Card Inventory and Decision Process.

AMEX

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (There is a Business version as well)
Current bonus (through June 30, 2014): 30,000 points - 10,000 after your first purchase, and an additional 20,000 when you spend $5,000 within 6 months.
Other Benefits:  2 Starpoints per dollar spent on Starwood stays. 2 stays and 5 nights towards elite status per card- so if you have both personal and business cards,you start the year with 4 stays/10 nights. 
- Gold status with$30,000 in spend per calendar year
Annual Fee: $65, waived the first year.


BANK of AMERICA

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature
Current Bonus: 40,000 miles – 25,000 after account approval and 15,000 more after spending $10,000 within 6 months.
Other Benefits: Earn 3 miles for every dollar spent on Alaska Airlines tickets, Vacation packages and Cargo purchases, and earn 1 mile per $1 on everything else. Coach Companion Fare every year from $118 (USD) ($99, plus taxes and fees from $19). Note: You can get this card multiple times, so even if you’ve gotten it in the past, many people have been able to get the same bonus numerous times. 
Annual Fee: $75


BARCLAYCARD

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard 
Current Bonus: 40,000 miles 
with $3,000 spend in 90 days.
Other Benefits: 
Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases and receive 10% of your miles back when you redeem on travel. 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 months after account opening – after that, a variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%,based on your creditworthiness. Chip and Pin technology. No foreign transaction fees. For more information on this card, read my updated review here, and then check out this post for details on its Travel Bonus Category and Redemption Options, and this one for ideas on the Top 10 Ways To Maximize Barclaycard Arrival Miles.
Annual Fee:
$89, waived the first year

US Airways Premier World MasterCard
Current Bonus: 40,000 miles 
after first purchase or balance transfer in the first 90 days.
Other Benefits:
Receive an annual companion certificate good for up to 2 companion tickets upon approval and every anniversary. 5,000-mile discounts on awards. Free checked bag for you and up to 4 companions. 2X miles per $1 on US Airways purchases. Also receive 1 complimentary US Airways Club day pass and get first class check in and Zone 2 boarding. Thanks to the merger with American Airlines, this card’s days are numbered, so get it while you can still maximize its value with the companion certificates. For more info on this card, read my most recent review here.
Annual Fee:
$89


CHASE

Chase Freedom Card
Current Bonus: 20,000
points with $500 spend in 3 months. 
Other Benefits: Rotating quarterly bonuses that allow you to earn 5 points per dollar in certain categories, up to $1,500 per quarter. 1 point per dollar on other spending. Points can be transferred into the Ultimate Rewards account for your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink cards. For more on the current offer, check out this recently updated review.
Annual Fee: None

Ink Plus Business Card and Ink Bold Business Card
Current Bonus: 
50,000 points with $5,000 spend in 3 months.
Other Benefits:
Earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores, cellphone, landline, internet, and cable TV services, and 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations and on hotel accommodations, up to $50,000 annually. Receive complimentary LOUNGE CLUB membership and 2 free visits each year with access to over 350 VIP airport lounges. 
Annual Fee:
$95 waived the first year
 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa
Current Bonus: 50,000 points after $2,000 spend in 3 months.
Other Benefits:
With this card you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways purchases, as well as Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. This offer comes and goes, but the best time to apply is between October and December so that you hit the $2,000 spend requirement as early in the new year as possible and maximize the holy grail of travel rewards – the
 Companion Pass.
Annual Fee:
$99

Hyatt Visa
Current Bonus: 2 free nights at Hyatt properties worldwide after $1,000 spend in 3 months.
Other Benefits: Receive automatic Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum elite membership (and up to 20% off room rates thanks to Hyatt’s new Elite Nights benefit). Earn 3 points for every $1 spent at all Hyatt properties. Earn 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, and at car rental agencies. Earn 1 point for every $1 spent elsewhere. No foreign transaction fees. Smart Chip technology and extra protections. Free night at category 1-4 property every year after your card anniversary.
Annual Fee: $75 waived first year


CITI

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
Current Bonus: 
Two weekend night certificates, each good for one weekend night (standard room, double occupancy) at most hotels and resorts within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, after $2,500 spend in 4 months.
Other Benefits: 
10 points for every $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio. 5 points for every $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases. 3 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Automatic Hilton HHonors Gold status; Diamond status with $40,000 annual spend. No foreign transaction fees. SmartChip technology. Visa Signature benefits. Cardholders who spend $10,000 annually get an anniversary free weekend-night certificate that can be used at any property
Annual Fee:
$95

Citi Executive AAdvantage World Mastercard
Current Bonus:  100,000 AAdvantage miles after $10,000 spend in 3 months.
Other Benefits: 
Earn up to $200 in statement credits — earn $1 in statement credits for each $1 spent on purchases within the first 12 months of cardmembership. Complimentary Admirals Club membership (value up to $475). Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after spending $40,000 in purchases each calendar year. No foreign transaction fees. Earn two AAdvantage miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, including US Airways codeshare flights booked on aa.com. Priority Boarding and 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases. First eligible checked bag is free. SmartChip technology. Expert Concierge Service. For more on this card, read my full review.
Annual Fee:
$450

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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  • davemethvin

    The linked posts on BarclayCard Arrival Plus make it sound like it’s not that good an option for cash back. But if you get the one with the $89 fee (waived year one) it’s paying 2x points on every buy, which offsets the 0.5 cents cash rate per point to bring you back to a penny per point equivalent. That makes it the same as the cash rate on a Citi ThankYou for example, but with BarclayCard there’s the upside of getting twice the cash rate on any travel-related reimbursement.

    BTW I just got a Citi ThankYou Premier upgrade offer for 3x dining, 2x travel, 1x others, no foreign fees, and $125 membership (not waived). However, there’s no bonus for spending in the first few months so you have to earn your way out of the $125 membership hole the hard way. Seemed like the BarclayCard is a better deal.

  • 5on5

    Translation: this is a posting of some (note: but not all! Click on the link!) of the most lucrative credit card payouts that the points guy blog currently touts, regardless of whether or not these cards are the best deals.
    Just another shill blog for bank rate…but its okay! They’re giving away an amenity kit and a gift card!

  • henry

    Is it possible to redeem SPG points for cash or statement credit? What ratio?

  • Jeff
  • Kevin Nas

    I have to travel a lot for my business, mostly in Europe and Asia, but often in the states to cities like Las Vegas. I used to use sites like Travelocity to book my flights and lodging, but I stumbled upon the better way to find deals: go to the second level sites – those like http://hotelsmixmatch.com who compare the hundreds of different booking sites in one single search. You’ll not only see Trivago or Expedia deals, but ALL OF THEM in one place.

    I must have saved over 3,000 Euros since I started using them. I sincerely believe that using only one of the top booking sites is not necessarily the best idea.

  • gloria wong

    I just applied for the ae prg on 6/3. When can I apply for the spg? Thanks

  • J.D. KaPow

    Charge redemption is exactly the same thing as cash back (meaning you get the same benefit in dollars and cents). You’d be nuts to use the BarclayCard for cash back at 0.5 cents/point. As long as travel charges account for more than 2.222% of your spending on the card, you can redeem all your points at 1 cent/point. If your travel charges are less than 2.222% of your total charges, then you simply shouldn’t be using that card.

  • shay peleg

    Can any of the hotel certificates can be used at a location where it’s all included? (free FB and drinks)

  • justthebest

    what a jerk. Why read the blog if you are so cynical about the blogger?

  • luv2mtb

    Do you have a job? Do you like to get paid? So do these travel bloggers. They provide a lot of useful info to travelers and commissions on these offers is how they stay in business and continue to offer us travel tips.

  • Pally1975

    very helpful info

  • Pally1975

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • davemethvin

    Is there another card with no first-year fee that gives 2x points on all purchases and 1 cent per point? If so that would be better than BarclayCard I agree. I don’t know of one.

  • Wahlflower

    I already have the SPG card and I am in the process of planning a 3 week Europe trip next year. If I apply for the SPG business card can I use my same SPG account number or do I have to get a new one? Also, will I receive the sign up bonus on the business card if I have the regular card already?

  • thepointsguy

    You can use the same SPG number. Yes, you are eligble for the signup as long as you havent had the Business card before (having the personal card does not disqualify you)

  • thepointsguy

    There is no set rule- I’d apply by June 30 so you get the 30k promo

  • thepointsguy

    Nope

  • Schilpa

    The Alaskan card says the 40 k is “for elite members” only. Any idea on whether we can get the 40k even without elite status? I do not want to put 10k spend on the card and then hear that I don’t get the last 15k miles as I don’t have elite status?

  • OSURN

    When applying for a second Alaskan Visa card, should I include my current Alaska Air Mileage Plan number or leave it blank and let them assign a new number?

  • GregD

    My wife and I were both approved for our second Alaska Air VISA cards recently. We left the Mileage Plan Number blank on the apps, and either BoA or Alaska Air automatically assigned the cards and the bonus miles to our existing Mileage Plan accounts. The points were awarded on approval and were available on our accounts before we got the cards!

  • Razzle

    For the $100 credit on the Citi Hilton, it says spend $100 on a Hilton stay within 3 months of account opening. Does it mean the Hilton Honors account or the credit card account. I am already a HHonors member, but will be staying at a Hilton paying for cash in September. Would that qualify me for the $100 credit? Thanks!

  • Pete

    Another technique that used to work for me – not so much these days though – is to call the credit card company just before the annual renewal and ask them to close the account. When they ask you why, tell them you can’t afford the annual fee in your current budget and ask if it can be waived. This used to work for me every time, but last year they wouldn’t do it for my Southwest card. Good luck!

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