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Top 10 Travel Credit Card Offers for January 2015

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: The Platinum Card from American Express, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

Happy new year! 2015 brings new opportunities to maximize your travel rewards, both in terms of earning and redeeming the points and miles that will get you where you want to go.

One of the most important aspects of your award travel strategy is deciding which rewards credit cards to apply for and carry, since the sign-up bonuses and other benefits they offer can be immensely valuable. However, these bonuses and benefits change constantly; you may even find different rewards for the same card depending on which channel you use to apply (online, over the phone, in person at a bank or via a targeted offer).

Many of these variations and changes occur with little or no notice, and an offer that’s available today could be gone…later today. That is why it’s imperative to stay current on the credit card marketplace and monitor developments, so if an amazing deal becomes available, you’re ready to take advantage of it.

To help you do that, and with the new year in mind, I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the top travel credit card offers for January 2015.

Here is this month's list of top credit card offers.
Here’s my list of the top travel rewards credit card offers for January 2015.

Many of the cards on this list remain consistent thanks to great benefits and fairly constant bonus opportunities, like those on the Ink Plus and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. However,  the list does change from month to month, and the rankings shift along with the offers. For instance, Barclaycard recently 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 card disappears, so it has earned a place near the top of my list.

Do your homework before applying for new credit cards.
Do your homework before applying for new credit cards.

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 interest you.

However, if you’re 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’s the short list of cards, but continue reading below for more details on each of them.
1. The Platinum Card from American Express 
2. US Airways Premier World MasterCard
3. Ink Plus
4. British Airways Visa
5. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
6. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
7. Citi ThankYou Premier
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.

1. Platinum Card from American Express Targeted off available through the CardMatch tool.
Current Bonus: 100,000 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 annual airline rebate, access to Delta and Priority Pass lounges (as well as the Amex Centurion Lounges), and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck 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, lounge access, Fine Hotels & Resorts perks and credits, and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee refunds, you’ll come out way ahead. As of January 5, 2014, some folks have reported getting targeted 100,000 point sign-up bonus offers for this card through the CardMatch Tool, so be sure to check there.

For more information, check out these posts:

2. US Airways Premier World MasterCard – This card no longer exists
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 this year). 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. The issuer is running a referral bonus for existing cardholders until January 18, so that’s the date I would aim to apply by.  In addition to all the benefits this card comes with, it’s probably worthwhile for the sign-up bonus alone. For more info on this card, read my most recent review here.

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

3. 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:

4. 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, now extended through 2015. 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 for 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 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.

5. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
Current Bonus:
 30,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $1,000 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 gets 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. American is also offering a potentially lucrative double miles promotion for 2015, so now might be a good time to take a closer look at AAdvantage if it hasn’t been your mileage program of choice to date.

The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card's sign-up bonus is currently a whopping 140,000 points.
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 140,000 points!

6. The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
Current Bonus: 140,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Benefits: Earn 5x points per $1 at Ritz-Carlton and Marriott properties; 2x points per $1 on airfare, car rentals and dining; and 1 point per $1 on other purchases. No foreign transaction fees. 10% annual points dividend on all points earned. Three annual Club Level upgrades on stays of up to 7 days. $100 credit for incidentals on paid Ritz-Carlton stays of 2 days or more. Automatic Gold status for the first account year, and every year thereafter that you spend at least $10,000 on purchases. Upgrade to Platinum elite status when you spend $75,000 or more in a cardmember year. $300 annual fee rebates for airline incidentals and Global Entry application. Membership in Lounge Club.
Annual Fee: $395
Reasons to get it: This card doesn’t make the list that often, but with a sign-up bonus of 140,000 points along with the other benefits this card offers, it’s a no-brainer. Those 140,000 points are enough for two nights in a top-tier Category 5 property like Bachelor Gulch or Hong Kong, or almost 5 nights in a Tier 2 property like Rancho Mirage, Berlin or Shanghai, so you can really stretch them far. If you stay at Ritz-Carlton properties a lot, that $100 stay credit is useful and Club Level upgrades can be extremely valuable, while automatic Gold status (or even spending $10,000 a year for it) confers even more valuable perks like 25% bonus points, complimentary room upgrades, and free premium internet during stays.

The $300 annual airline/travel fee rebate can also wipe out much of that $395 annual fee, and Lounge Club access comes in handy for frequent travelers. All in all, if Ritz is your chain, or if you’re looking for a new luxury hotel chain to patronize, this offer is the best out there. Read a full card review here.

7. Citi ThankYou Premier
Current Bonus: 20,000 ThankYou 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, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, 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 are 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.

8. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Current Bonus: 50,000 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 including British Airways, Southwest, United, Hyatt, and Marriott.
Annual Fee: $95 waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: This is still a top travel credit card, though Chase 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 coverage.

For more information, see these posts:

9. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
Current Bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 90 days.
Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, and receive 5% 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. Another interesting benefit 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 $500 in travel statement credits, and if you’re stocked with cards from other major issuers like Amex or Chase, this is a good option. 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 its miles, 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 with some serious spending all make this card a top choice for Hilton fans. However, the sign-up bonus alone can be worth over a thousand dollars depending on where you redeem those weekend night certificates.

For more information, check out these posts:

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

Apply Now
  • For a limited time, earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 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 15.99% - 23.99%* (Variable) $95, waived for first 12 months* 0% Excellent/Good