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Top 10 Travel Rewards Credit Card Offers for March 2015

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi Prestige Card, British Airways Visa Signature Card, The Platinum Card from American Express, IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard, CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard

The sign-up offer for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has been increased from 40,000 to 50,000 points after $4,000 spent within the first three months. You can earn an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first 3 months as well.

As airline and hotel loyalty programs change constantly, having a coherent, powerful credit card strategy is more important than ever. Factors to consider include sign-up bonuses, earning bonuses and structures, and the host of other benefits that cardholders stand to gain — like free checked bags, elite status and more. By maximizing these benefits and using the right credit cards to earn points and mile faster, you can achieve your travel goals and travel better to boot.

However, just like airline and hotel programs, credit card terms and offers also change constantly — an offer that’s here today could be gone tomorrow (or even later today). It pays to remain as up to date as possible on what offers are out there and how they’ve changed over time, so you can best decide which cards to apply for.

To help you keep it all straight, every month I round up the best current travel credit cards out there as a reference in case you’re thinking of applying for a new card (or several). In this post you’ll find my picks for the top travel credit card offers for March 2015.

Many of the cards on this list remain consistent from month to month thanks to great benefits and fairly constant bonus opportunities, like those on the Ink Plus Business Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. However, the list does change from month to month, and the rankings shift along with the offers, like the US Airways Premier World MasterCard, which is in a last push to sign up new cardholders by raising the usual bonus of 40,000 miles to 50,000 miles (after the first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee), and adding new benefits like waiving foreign transaction fees for cardmembers.

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.

According to myfico.com, these next two mistakes will impact almost two-thirds of your credit score!
Before you apply for new cards, check out the following posts.

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. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard and CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard
2. British Airways Visa Signature Card
3. Ink Plus Business Card
4. The Platinum Card from American Express
5. Citi Prestige Card
6. United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
7. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
8. IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
9. US Airways Premier World MasterCard
10. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

THE DETAILS

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

1. Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
Current Bonus: 30,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months (same requirements for both cards).
Benefits: Free first checked bag and Group 1 priority boarding for you and up to 4 travel companions on American Airlines. 10% mileage refund on awards up to 10,000 miles each year on the personal card, and a 5% mileage bonus for purchases on the business card each year you renew your membership. For more information on the personal card specifically, check out my post on Reduced Price Awards and 10% Mileage Refund for Citi AA Cardholders. For more information on the business card, check out this post.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year (same for both cards).
Reasons to get it: AAdvantage miles are among the most valuable mileage currencies out there right now as I value them at 1.7 cents apiece. If you maximize the 10% mileage refund on the personal card and get 10,000 miles, that’s equivalent to another $170 in value annually. The 5% mileage bonus on purchases with the business card could equate to a chunk of extra miles if you put a lot of spend on it. Both cards also include 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 is a good time to take a closer look at the AAdvantage program.

2. British Airways Visa Signature Card
Current Bonus: 50,000 Avios after spending $2,000 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 the end of 2015. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: Given that British Airways recently announced a devaluation to the Avios program that will go into effect April 28, you might be surprised to see this card still on the list. However, there are still a lot of good reasons to get the card, including the fact that economy awards aren’t increasing (in fact, some are decreasing); primarily business and first class redemptions will be affected. The award zones aren’t changing either, so there are still plenty of ways to reap great rewards from Avios and this card in general, especially if you can earn the bonus and redeem before April 28.

Beyond that, 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 is not always 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. Read 9 Great Ways to Maximize 50,000 Avios for ideas, and 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.
The Chase Ink Plus makes the list again thanks to great ongoing benefits.

3. Ink Plus Business Card
Current Bonus: 60,000 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). Waived foreign transaction fees. Ability to transfer points to 11 travel partners, including United, British Airways, Southwest and Hyatt.
Annual Fee: $95
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. The bad news is that Chase just ended a limited-time sign-up bonus of 60,000 points with the same spending requirements. If you’re not in a rush, you might wait around to see if a similar offer resurfaces, since Chase does periodically offer higher bonuses for this card.

For more information, see these posts:

4. Platinum Card from American Express
Current Bonus: targeted offer for 100,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months available through the CardMatch tool). Otherwise, the current public offer is 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 in 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. This card is worth having for the long-term, so you should look into it even if you aren’t targeted for the larger sign-up bonus.

For more information, check out these posts:

5. Citi Prestige Card
Current Bonus: 30,000 ThankYou points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.
Benefits: $250 air travel credit each year for things like airfare, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases. Admirals Club access and Priority Pass Select lounge membership. No foreign transaction fees. $100 Global Entry application fee waiver. Earn 3x ThankYou points on air travel and hotel purchases, 2x on dining and entertainment, and 1x on everything else. Get your fourth night free at hotels with no black-out dates when you book four consecutive nights at any hotel via a personal travel advisor designated by MasterCard. Redeem your points for air travel at a rate of 1.33 cents apiece, or 1.6 cents apiece on American Airlines or US Airways. Citi ThankYou Rewards also now has 12 transfer partners, including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, Virgin Atlantic, Hilton HHonors, and most recently, Qantas.
Annual Fee: $450
Reasons to get it: Though it’s more expensive than the Citi ThankYou Premier (which has an annual fee of $125, soon to be reduced to $95 in April), Citi Prestige comes with a host of value-added benefits that can make its $450 annual fee more than worthwhile. The annual $250 air travel credit covers more than half the annual fee, and Citi made a ton of improvements to the ThankYou program in general over the last year, including the addition of new transfer partners (and there may be more to come). This card also offers other great benefits like lounge access, a Global Entry fee waiver, that fourth-night-free hotel benefit, and more. For more information on the card and its benefits, check out this post.

6. United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
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urrent Bonus: 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months after your account opening.
Benefits: Earn 2x miles per $1 on United purchases and on select business expenses including restaurant, gas station and office supply purchases, and 1 mile per $1 on everything else. Get employee cards at no extra cost. Earn 10,000 bonus miles when you make $25,000 in net purchases on your card each year. Get perks like your first checked bag free, priority boarding, 2 United Club passes per year, and no foreign exchange fees.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: This card offers perks that the personal version does not, including those bonus spending categories. Plus, if you already have the personal card, this is a good way to earn some more bonus miles. Now that United has changed its mileage earning structure to a revenue-based program, devalued partner earning, and raised the requirements for elite status, having a United co-branded credit card and actually spending on it will become even more central to your mileage strategy if United is your carrier of choice.

7. 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 offers primary rental car insurance instead of secondary coverage. This card is always on my list of top travel credit cards thanks to great category bonuses on travel and dining, waived foreign transaction fees, and the value of the Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners.

For more information, see these posts:

8. IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
Current Bonus: 70,000 points after you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.
Benefits: Earn 5 points per $1 spent when you stay at IHG hotels, 2 points per $1 on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores & restaurants, and 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Get an annual free night, Platinum Elite status as long as you’re a Select cardmember, an automatic 10% points rebate, and no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $49, waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: Though there are sometimes targeted offers of up to 80,000 points, this 70,000-point sign-up bonus is the highest public one I’ve seen in a while for this card, and it only lasts until the end of this month. Apart from the sign-up bonus, this card comes with some potentially valuable benefits including a 10% refund on redeemed points, automatic Platinum Elite status (which includes perks like 50% bonus earnings on base points, complimentary room upgrades, and guaranteed room availability), and especially that annual free night, which can be worth hundreds of dollars depending on where you redeem it. With no annual fee the first year, this card is a no-brainer. For more information, check out this post on the offer and how to maximize it.

9. 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 the annual fee.
Benefits:
Receive an annual companion certificate good for up to two $99 companion tickets upon approval (though this benefit will be discontinued this year). Get a free checked bag for you and up to 4 companions. Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on US Airways and American Airlines ticket purchases. Get a 25% discount on in-flight purchases on both airlines, 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 started waiving foreign transaction fees for cardholders making purchases abroad with this card. It likely will not be available to new cardholders much longer, so if you’ve been waiting, I suggest getting the card now to maximize the value of its various benefits while you still can. For more info on this card, read my recent review and check out TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele’s post on 50,000 US Airways Miles and How to Maximize Them.

10. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
Current Bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 or more 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 $400 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.

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