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Top 10 Travel Credit Card Offers for December 2014

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Ink Plus, Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard, Citi ThankYou Premier,

The sign-up bonuses and other benefits of travel credit cards are constantly changing. Bonuses increase and decrease all the time; cards introduce new benefits or take others away, sometimes with little or no notice. An offer that’s available today could be gone…well, later today. That is why it’s useful to stay current on the credit card marketplace and monitor developments, so if an amazing deal becomes available, you’ll be ready to take advantage of it.

To help you do that, I periodically compile a list of what I think are the top travel credit card offers. Read on to see my selections for the 10 best in December, 2014.

Here is this month's list of top credit card offers.
Here is this month’s list of top credit card offers.

While many of the cards on this list remain consistent thanks to great benefits and fairly constant bonus opportunities, it does change from month to month, and the rankings shift along with the offers. For instance, Barclaycard just raised the sign-up bonus on the US Airways Premier World MasterCard from 40,000 miles to 50,000 miles (after the first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee) in a final push to get new cardholders before the end of the year, so it tops my list. The Platinum Card from American Express also went up the rankings this month because getting it now lets you take advantage of the annual $200 airline rebate for 2014 and 2015, effectively getting $400 in airline credits right off the bat if you use the benefit strategically.

This is not a list of every offer on the market. For that I recommend checking out the TPG Top Deals page, where you’ll find a comprehensive roundup of the best deals currently available, as well as specific hotel and airline credit cards that might interested you.

However, if you are looking to apply for a credit card now, this list features the top options. Check back each month for updates and the latest, best offers out there.

Before you get started, see these posts for tips on applying and getting approved:

Here is the short list of cards, but continue reading below for the specifics on each of them.

1. US Airways Premier World MasterCard
2. Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCard
3. British Airways Visa
4. Ink Plus
5. Platinum Card from American Express
6. Citi ThankYou Premier
7. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa
8. Chase Sapphire Preferred
9. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
10. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve

THE DETAILS

Here’s a detailed look at each of the cards listed above, their benefits, and reasons to apply now.

Barclaycard upped the bonus on its US Airways card to 50,000 miles.
Barclaycard upped the bonus on the US Airways card to 50,000 miles.

1. US Airways Premier World MasterCard
Current Bonus: 50,000 Dividend Miles after first purchase or balance transfer in the first 90 days and payment of annual fee. Note: there have also been reports of targeted bonus offers of 50,000 miles when you spend $1,000 in 90 days.
Benefits:
Receive an annual companion certificate good for up to two $99 companion tickets upon approval (though this benefit will disappear in 2015, so use it fast!). 5,000-mile discounts on awards (this also ends in 2015). 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 US Airways merger with American Airlines, this card will transition to an American Airlines MasterCard in 2015 and its benefits will change. In fact, Barclaycard has already introduced a targeted, higher-end version of its new American Airlines co-branded credit card to select US Airways cardholders. So if you’ve been waiting, I would suggest getting the US Airways card to maximize the value of its various benefits while you still can, including the companion ticket and 5,000-mile rebate before the end of the year. It’s probably worthwhile for the sign-up bonus alone. For more info on this card, read my most recent review here.

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select comes with 50,000 miles and 2 Admirals Club passes.
The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select comes with 50,000 miles and 2 Admirals Club passes.

2. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard
Current Bonus: 50,000 AAdvantage miles and 2 Admirals Club one-day passes after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Benefits: Receive a $100 American Airlines flight discount every year when you make $30,000 or more in purchases. Free first checked bag and Group 1 priority boarding for you and up to 4 travel companions on American Airlines. For more information on this card, check out my post on Reduced Price Awards and 10% Mileage Refund for Citi AA Cardholders.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: 50,000 miles is as high as the bonus on this card usually ever goes publicly (long gone are the 75,000-mile days), and AAdvantage miles are among the most valuable mileage currencies out there right now. I value them at 1.7 cents apiece, so the sign-up bonus alone is worth $850. If you can maximize the 10% mileage refund, you’ll save 10,000 miles (or another $170) annually. The card also comes with benefits like 25% off in-flight purchases on American Airlines and US Airways, as well as 2x miles for airfare purchases from both airlines.

The British Airways Visa can offer you some terrific value, and for a limited time only, you don't have to pay an annual fee in year one.
The British Airways Visa offers terrific value, and for a limited time the annual fee is waived the first year.

3. British Airways Visa Signature Card
Current Bonus: 50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Benefits: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and receive a Travel Together Ticket good for two years. Earn 2.5 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases, and 1.25 Avios for every $1 spent elsewhere. 10% off British Airways ticket purchases with CARDOFFERU cardholder code. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: The main reason this card is high on the list at the moment is that the $95 annual fee is waived the first year, which usually isn’t the case. It also has some great perks like the 10% discount on BA fares (now good through 2015), the ability to spend your way to a companion ticket, and an everyday earning rate of 1.25 Avios per dollar. For more info, check out my series on this card and how to maximize British Airways Avios:

The Chase Ink Plus makes the list again thanks to great ongoing benefits.

4. Ink Plus
Current Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $5,000 in 3 months.
Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores, cell phone, land line, internet, and cable TV services (on up to $50,000 in spending annually), and 2 points per dollar spent at gas stations and on hotel accommodations (again, on up to $50,000 in spending annually).
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: This business card comes loaded with benefits, including 5x and 2x category spending bonuses, and the ability to earn points that you can transfer to any of Chase’s 11 travel partners. I list Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents apiece in my most recent monthly valuations, so I value the sign-up bonus at $1,050.

For more information, see these posts:

Though expensive, the Amex Platinum card offers a slate of valuable benefits.
Though it has a high annual fee, the Amex Platinum card offers a host of valuable benefits.

5. Platinum Card from American Express
Current Bonus: 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Benefits: This card also comes with an array of valuable benefits, including a $200 yearly airline rebate, Delta and Priority Pass lounge access, and a Global Entry application rebate (see posts below for more info).
Annual Fee: $450
Reasons to get it: Though the annual fee on this card is among the highest on the market, it has several valuable perks that you can learn more about in the posts I’ve linked to below. If you can maximize benefits like the $200 annual airline rebate (which you can get right now before the end of the year and again in 2015 – effectively providing $400 in credit that nearly covers the $450 annual fee), lounge access, Fine Hotels & Resorts perks and credits, and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee refunds, you’ll come out way ahead. Some folks report getting targeted sign-up bonus offers for this card in the range of 75,000-100,000 points, so be sure to check any credit card mailers you receive in case you’ve been pre-selected.

For more information, check out these posts:

The ThankYou Premier has gotten a lot more compelling lately.
The ThankYou Premier has gotten a lot more compelling lately.

6. Citi ThankYou Premier
Current Bonus: 20,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months, and 30,000 additional points when you spend another $3,000 in the first 3 months of the second year of cardmembership.
Benefits: Earn 3 ThankYou Points for every dollar spent on dining at restaurants and entertainment, and 2 points per dollar on airfare and hotels. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Citi ThankYou also now has 10 transfer partners including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, EVA Air, Etihad Guest, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, Thai Airways, and Hilton HHonors. This card also features EMV chip technology, no foreign transaction fees, and Citi Price Rewind.
Annual Fee: $125, waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: Citi made a ton of improvements to the ThankYou program in general this year, so there plenty of reasons to consider the Citi ThankYou Premier, including the current sign-up bonus and the category spending bonuses on dining, entertainment, airfare, and hotels.

The Club Carlson card has some potentially valuable benefits including free award nights.
The Club Carlson card has one of the most valuable ongoing benefits out there: free award nights.

7. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card
Current Bonus: 85,000 Gold Points, 50,000 of which are 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 include Gold status and a bonus night on award stays that can make this an ultra-valuable card to carry.
Annual Fee: $75 for the personal card, $60 for the business version.
Reasons to get it: This card’s most valuable benefit is that cardholders get the last night free for award stays of two or more nights. That can be worth hundreds of thousands of points alone if you maximize it. However, this card’s other benefits – including a solid base earning rate, automatic elite status, and a high sign-up bonus – all make it a great value for folks who stay at Carlson properties (like Radisson Blu) around the world.

For more background on the Club Carlson program, check out my Maximizing Club Carlson series, with posts on Base Level Earning and Redemptions,  Business Program, Elite StatusCash + Points Redemptions, and Half-Price Award Redemptions.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred recently increased the minimum spending requirement to $4,000.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred recently increased the minimum spending requirement to $4,000.

8. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Current Bonus: 40,000 points
when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Other Benefits: This card regularly makes my list of the top travel credit cards thanks to compelling benefits like earning 2x points on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees, primary auto rental insurance and the ability to transfer points to 11 transfer partners.
Annual Fee: $95 waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: This is still a top travel credit card, though Chase has recently made some changes to it. The sign-up bonus spending requirement recently increased from $3,000 to $4,000, and Chase eliminated the 7% annual points dividend for new cardholders (and eventually for current cardholders). On the positive side, the card’s trip cancellation coverage was bumped up to $10,000, and the Sapphire Preferred now offers primary rental car insurance instead of just secondary.

For more information, see these posts:

Ways to Maximize Each Ultimate Rewards Partner
Sapphire Preferred vs. Arrival Plus for International Travel
Chase Sapphire Preferred Announces More Benefit Changes
Chase Sapphire Preferred First Friday – 3x Points on Dining

The Arrival Plus is one of the top all-round travel credit cards out there.
The Arrival Plus is consistently one of my top all around travel credit cards.

9. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard 
Current Bonus: 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 90 days.
Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, and receive 10% of your miles back when you redeem for travel. Chip and Pin technology. No foreign transaction fees. For more information on this card, read my updated review, check out this post on Travel Bonus Category and Redemption Options, and this one for ideas on the Top 10 Ways To Maximize Barclaycard Arrival Miles. One of the more interesting benefits of Arrival Plus is that you can get your FICO score free each month, making it easier to track your credit.
Annual Fee: $89 waived the first year
Reasons to get it: The sign-up bonus alone is worth approximately $440 in travel statement credits, and if you’re already maxed out on Amex and Chase cards, you might want to consider applying for cards from other issuers like Barclaycard. I personally like this card because it comes with Chip + Pin technology and no foreign transaction fees (making it easy to use abroad), and for the versatility of the miles you earn with it, since you can redeem them for non-traditional travel rewards like train tickets and tourist attractions.

The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve offers 2 free weekend nights as a sign-up bonus.
The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve offers 2 free weekend nights as a sign-up bonus.

10. 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 spending $2,500 in 4 months.
Benefits: 10 HHonors 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
Reasons to get it: The two free weekend nights and anniversary weekend night after spending $10,000, plus automatic Gold status and the ability to earn Diamond status all make this card a top choice for fans of Hilton. However, the sign-up bonus alone can be worth thousands of dollars depending on where you redeem those weekend night certificates. The card did slip down a bit in the rankings because it used to offer a $100 statement credit on a Hilton purchase, but that offer has expired.

For more information, check out these posts:

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®

Apply Now
  • Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy Group 1 Boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases.1
  • Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
  • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back — up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 14.24% - 22.24%* (Variable) $95, waived for first 12 months* 0% Excellent/Good