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My 5 Hottest Credit Cards for Summer 2015

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi ThankYou Premier

I carry a lot of different credit cards in my wallet. With each one offering a unique collection of benefits — such as category bonuses, extra points with certain hotel chains and perks like lounge access and waived foreign transaction fees — it pays to diversify. Last week I wrote about the cards I use for most of my spending, from dining to airline purchases, but today I’m going to take a broader look by diving in to my five favorite offers for this summer. These cards not only come with significant sign-up bonuses, but also provide perks that are sure to come in handy if you’re planning a trip, even if it’s just an hour’s drive from home.

Here are my picks for summer 2015:


1. Citi ThankYou Premier Card

Current Bonus: 50,000 ThankYou points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Benefits: Earn 3 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on travel including gas, and 2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment. Citi ThankYou Rewards also now has 12 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. $95 annual fee, waived for the first year.

My Take: I had ignored Citi ThankYou Rewards in the past due to the lack of useful transfer partners, but over the last year Citi has worked hard to make improvements, and the list of airline partners now includes some of my favorites: Singapore KrisFlyer and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Also, Citi just expanded the earning categories on this card to include 3x points per dollar spent on travel, which is a really wide net. In addition to airlines, hotels and travel agencies, you’ll also earn triple points on car rental agencies, gas stations, commuter transportation, taxi/limousines (Uber), passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, campgrounds and trailer parks, time shares, bus lines, motor home/RV Rental and boat rentals. So make sure to charge this summer’s yacht rentals to your ThankYou Premier card and get your friends to pay you back in cash!


2. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Current Bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. You’ll earn another 5,000 bonus points when you add a second cardholder and make a purchase within the first three months.

Benefits: 2x points on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees, primary auto rental insurance and the ability to transfer points to 11 travel partners, including British Airways, Southwest, United, Hyatt and Marriott. $95 annual fee, waived for the first year.

My Take:  The Chase Sapphire Preferred has been one of my top cards for a while, thanks to its 2x points bonus on travel and dining purchases. Even as other cards have improved, Sapphire remains a favorite in my personal arsenal because the transfer partners are very strong, including my favorites United, Hyatt and British Airways. I eat out all the time, so the 2x points from dining (whether fast food or gourmet) is huge, as is the 3x points you’ll earn on the first Friday of every month.


3. American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

Current Bonus: Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your card in the first three months. Some readers are also reporting targeted sign-up bonuses of 50,000 points through the CardMatch Tool.

Benefits: Earn 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines, 2x points on gas and groceries and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere. Starting June 1, this card will earn 2x points on dining and offer a $100 Airline Fee Credit each calendar year, and it will have no foreign transaction fees. $175 annual fee, waived for the first year.

My Take: I love using my Premier Rewards Gold card when booking flights, thanks to the 3x points it offers for airfare purchases. As an added bonus, I often book airfare through Amex Travel to boost my earnings to 4x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights. And I fly a lot!


4. Citi Prestige Card

Current Bonus: 50,000 ThankYou points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Benefits: $250 annual air travel credit 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 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. $450 annual fee.

My Take: A $450 annual fee may seem like a lot to spend on a card, but off the bat you get $250 a year you can use toward airfare, so I really view it as a $200 annual fee that gets me Admirals Club access (up to a $500 value), as well as the 4th night free on almost ANY hotel stay, Global Entry and more. It’s a no-brainer if you travel even a couple times a year.


5. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

Current Bonus: 40,000 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. The card comes with Chip and PIN technology and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. $89 annual fee, waived for the first year.

My Take: This is one of the only cards available in the US that offers full chip and PIN technology, which makes traveling in Europe a breeze. You can use miles to reimburse a wide range of travel-related purchases, and you even earn points/miles and elite credits on charges you pay for using Arrival miles. This is my go-to card for any crazy travel redemptions that I can’t otherwise book using points and miles. For example, you can book a Blade helicopter flight from NYC to the Hamptons for $575, then use 57,500 miles to reimburse the charge and get 5,750 points back with the 10% rebate (which, for better or worse, makes it impossible to get your account balance to 0 when redeeming for travel).

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A See Issuer's Terms Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit