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Update: The offers mentioned below for the Delta Gold and Platinum cards are no longer available. View the current offers here: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
Sign-up bonuses for travel credit cards are always changing, and as part of your strategy for maximizing points and miles earning, it pays to stay informed so you don’t miss the best deals out there. To help you weigh your options, I like to provide an updated monthly list of the top travel credit card offers. Below you’ll find my top 10 picks for August.
A few of these card offers have atypically high sign-up bonuses, while others are among my favorites because of their benefits. This isn’t a list of every offer on the market (for that, I recommend going to the Hot Deals page) but is instead meant to be a resource for those of you who are in the market for a new travel credit card (or more than one).
Before you get started here, be sure to check out these posts:
How To Check Your Credit – Preparing For The Credit Card Application Process,
When To Cancel A Card – My Personal Card Inventory and Decision Process,
How Credit Card Applications Affect Your Credit Score.
Type: Personal or Business
Current Bonus: 50,000 SkyMiles when you spend $1,000 in 3 months, and earn a $50 statement credit after your first Delta purchase (also within 3 months).
Other Benefits: Earn 2 miles per $1 on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. Check your first bag free on every Delta flight for you and up to 8 people on your reservation. Priority boarding and 20% in-flight savings. Discounted Delta SkyClub access ($29 per visit). On the Business version, save 3% to 10% automatically on business expenses from FedEx, Hertz, OfficeMax, and more with OPEN Savings. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. No annual fee for additional card.
Reasons to get it: This is the highest public signup bonus I’ve seen on this card in a while. If you’re just looking to top up your mileage account and want basic benefits like free checked bags, this version of the Delta card is your best long-term option. Offer available until September 8, 2014.
Type: Personal (business version also available, but with lower signup bonus)
Current Bonus: 50,000 SkyMiles and 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months, and earn a $100 statement credit when you make your first Delta purchase within 3 months.
Other Benefits: Earn 2 miles per $1 on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. Check your first bag free on every Delta flight for you and up to 8 people on your reservation. Earn a bonus of up to 20,000 SkyMiles and 20,000 MQMs annually (10,000 of each for $25,000 in calendar year spend, and another 10,000 of each for a total of $50,000 in calendar year spending). You’ll also receive priority boarding and 20% in-flight savings, as well as an Annual Companion Certificate for one round-trip economy ticket in the 48 contiguous United States. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $195
Reasons to get it: Again, this is the highest public offer we’ve seen since the 55,000 SkyMiles bonus from over a year ago, which had a much higher spending requirement. The Platinum Delta Amex holds value for those looking to boost their MQMs through spending, and the companion ticket that you receive every year after card renewal might also be worth it for Delta frequent flyers out there; if you maximize it, you can easily offset the annual fee of the card. Offer available until September 8, 2014.
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 5% of your miles back when you redeem miles for travel. Chip and Pin technology, and no foreign transaction fees. For more information on this card, read my updated review, 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
Reasons to get it: The sign-up bonus alone is worth ~$420 in travel statement credits. I also like this card because it comes with Chip + Pin technology that makes it easy to use abroad, and for the versatility of the miles you earn with it, which can be redeemed for non-traditional travel rewards like campgrounds and bed-and-breakfasts.
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 $99 companion tickets upon approval. 5,000-mile discounts on awards. Free checked bag for you and up to 4 companions. Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on US Airways purchases, receive 1 complimentary US Airways Club day pass, and get first class check-in and Zone 2 boarding.
Annual Fee: $89
Reasons to get it: As part of the evolving US Airways merger with American Airlines, in 2015 this card will transition to an American Airlines Mastercard and its benefits will change; I’d suggest getting it while you can still maximize the value of its companion certificate. For more info on this card, read my most recent review here.
Ink Plus Business Card and Ink Bold Business Card
Current Bonus: 60,000 points with $5,000 spend in 3 months.
Other Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores, and on cell phone, land line, internet, and cable TV services, 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations and on hotel accommodations (up to $50,000 in spending annually), and 1 point per dollar elsewhere. 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 (unless you get the Ink Plus in person at a Chase bank branch)
Reasons to get it: These business cards come loaded with benefits, including 5x and 2x category spending bonuses, and the ability to earn valuable Ultimate Rewards points, which you can then transfer to any of Chase’s 11 travel partners.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Current Bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 in 3 months, plus another 5,000 bonus points when you add an additional cardholder and make a purchase within the first 3 months.
Other Benefits: 2 points per $1 on travel (which includes flights, hotels, car rentals, subway, parking, taxis, etc.) and restaurants (basically any food establishment and catering) with no maximum cap. Points are worth 1.25 cents when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Center for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises (that means the 40,000 sign-up bonus = $500 towards travel at minimum), or potentially much more when used with any of Chase’s 11 transfer partners; no foreign transaction fees; extra earning potential through the Ultimate Rewards earning mall. The card also offers no foreign transaction fees, chip & signature technology, primary auto insurance coverage on rental cars, Ultimate Rewards Exclusives experience redemptions, and Visa Signature perks and protections. The card used to earn a 7% annual points dividend, but that benefit was eliminated in July 2014.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
Reasons to get it: The Sapphire Preferred comes loaded with benefits including no forex fees, Chip + Signature technology, and those lucrative 2x category spending bonuses on travel and dining. All those features make it one of the top travel cards and points-earning cards on the market.
For more information, see these posts:
10 Chase Ink Benefits You Might Not Know About
Ranking the Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners
Top 10 Ways To Maximize Each Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner
Why I Love Chase Ultimate Rewards
Ranking the Top Chase Travel Credit Card Offers
Marriott Rewards Premier Visa
Current Bonus: 70,000 points after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months.
Other Benefits: After account approval, receive 1 free night stay at Category 1-4 Marriott properties, as well as 1 additional free night stay at a Category 1-5 location every year after your account anniversary date. Earn 5 Marriott Rewards points for every dollar spent at Marriott properties; 2 points at car rental agencies and restaurants, as well as on airline ticket purchases made directly with airlines; and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Get 15 credits toward your next Elite membership level after account opening and every year after your account anniversary. No foreign transaction fees, and global Chip and Signature technology.
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, $85 thereafter
Reasons to get it: The current 70,000-point sign-up bonus is up 20,000 points from the usual 50,000-point offer on this card. In my monthly valuation of points and miles for August I have Marriott points listed at .7 cents a piece, which means that a 70,000 point sign up bonus is worth about $490. With the free night upon approval you could get an additional ~$300 in value.
United Explorer: This offer is no longer available. View the current offer here.
Current Bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months, plus an additional 5,000 when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first 3 months.
Other Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases. 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 in net purchases each calendar year, effectively boosting your miles earning to 1.67 miles per dollar spent. Priority boarding (for the cardholder and companions on the same reservation), 2 United Club passes per year, and free first checked bag on United operated flights (for the cardholder and one companion on the same reservation when you use your Explorer card to purchase tickets). Note: when redeeming miles for an award flight, you can still get a free checked bag by using your card to pay for the TSA security fee.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
Reasons to get it: The standard bonus for this card is 30,000 miles, and while there have been targeted offers floating around for as high as 60,000 miles, the present offer is the best publicly available one we’ve seen in a while. In my most recent monthly valuations, I list United miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so I’d value the sign-up bonus for the MileagePlus Explorer card (plus the extra 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user) at about $825. If you take just four one-way United flights each year, the free checked bag benefit will save you $100, and I value the two club passes at about $25 each. Thus, you’re getting around $1,000 worth of travel and benefits out of the MileagePlus Explorer just by signing up and meeting the spending requirement.
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
Current Bonus: After a $2,500 spend within 4 months, receive two weekend night certificates, each good for one weekend night (standard room, double occupancy) at most Hilton Worldwide hotels and resorts.
Other Benefits: Earn 10 HHonors points per dollar spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, 5 points per dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases, and 3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Automatic Hilton HHonors Gold status, and Diamond status with an annual spend of $40,000. No foreign transaction fees, SmartChip technology, and 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
Reasons to get it: The two free weekend nights and anniversary weekend night for $10,000 spending plus automatic Gold status and the ability to earn Diamond status based on spend all make this card a top choice for loyal Hilton customers. However, depending on where you redeem those weekend night certificates, the sign-up bonus alone can be worth thousands of dollars.
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card and Club Carlson Rewards Business Visa
Current Bonus: 85,000 Gold Points, 50,000 of which will be earned after your first purchase, plus 35,000 more points once you spend $2,500 within the first 90 days.
Other Benefits: You’ll earn 10 points per dollar spent at participating Carlson Rezidor hotels and 5 points per dollar spent everywhere else. Club Carlson cards come with Gold status and a bonus night on award stays that’s one of the best hotel card benefits available.
Annual Fee: $75 for personal card, $60 for business version
Reasons to get it: That free last night on award reservations can be worth tens of thousands of points alone, but this card’s other benefits – including increased earning, elite status and a high sign-up bonus – make it a good value proposition for folks who stay at Carlson.
For more background on the Club Carlson program, check out my Maximizing Club Carlson series, including Base Level Earning and Redemptions, Business Program, Elite Status and Cash + Points Redemptions, Half-Price Award Redemptions on two-night award stays if you have one of the Club Carlson credit cards.