This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – United MileagePlus Explorer, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, British Airways Visa Signature Card, IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card, Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard

The travel credit card marketplace is fickle. Bonuses go up and down, benefits evolve and annual fees change. Airline and hotel programs change all the time too, as you might have noticed last month with the British Airways award chart devaluation and changes to Southwest Rapid Rewards.

With all those factors in play, having a powerful, cohesive credit card strategy is more important than ever. That’s true not only because the right credit cards can earn you valuable benefits (like lounge access and free checked bags), but also because the right combination of cards can insulate you against dramatic developments in the points and miles world. To help you maximize your points and miles, each month I compile a list of what I think are the top travel credit card offers; here are my selections for May 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 Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard. However, the list does change, and the rankings shift along with the offers, like the Citi Prestige offering a historically high sign-up bonus of 50,000 points (when you spend $3,000 in 3 months), or the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offering enhanced new benefits like 2x earning on dining purchases and waiving foreign transaction fees starting June 1.

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!
According to myfico.com, these are the factors that make up your credit score.

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

Here’s the short list of cards, but continue reading below for more details on each of them.

1. Citi ThankYou Premier
2. Ink Plus Business Card from Chase
3. Chase Sapphire Preferred
4. IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
5. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
6. American Express Premier Rewards Gold
7. British Airways Visa Signature
8. United MileagePlus Explorer Card
9. Citi Prestige
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 ThankYou Premier
Current Bonus: 40,000 ThankYou points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 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.
Annual Fee: $95
Reasons to get it: There are plenty of reasons to consider the Citi ThankYou Premier, including the current sign-up bonus, which was simplified from the old convoluted formula that took a full year to earn. The greatest motivation might be those bonus spending categories, which Citi just flipped so that you earn 3x points on travel and 2x on dining and entertainment.

Citi also broadened the travel category to include gas and a wide range of other merchants. In addition to airlines, hotels, and travel agencies, you’ll now earn 3x ThankYou Points for spending on car rentals, gas, commuter transportation, taxi/limousines, 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 if you spend a lot of money on travel and gas, that 3x points per $1 will come in handy, and the card will still offer 2x points on dining out and entertainment.

Citi has dramatically improved its ThankYou Rewards program with all those new airline partners (with occasional transfer bonuses), and the annual fee on this card (which is waived for the first year) dropped from $125 to $95, making it a great pick all around. In fact, I recently applied for this card myself.

For more information, check out these posts:

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.

2. Ink Plus
Current Bonus: 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.
Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar at office supply stores, and on 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). No 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. Unfortunately, Chase recently removed the Lounge Club benefit, but the fundamental value of the card hasn’t changed.

For more information, see these posts:

3. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Current Bonus: 50,000 points
when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You’ll earn another 5,000 bonus points when you add a second cardholder and make a purchase within the first 3 months.
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 made some changes to it in the last year. The sign-up bonus spending requirement increased from $3,000 to $4,000, and Chase eliminated the 7% annual points dividend. On the positive side, you can score an extra 5,000 points by adding a second cardholder. The card’s trip cancellation coverage was also bumped up to $10,000, and the Sapphire Preferred now offers primary rental car insurance instead of the usual 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 on the card and the Ultimate Rewards program, see these posts:

4. IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card
Current Bonus: 70,000 points after you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.
Benefits: Earn 5 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels, 2 points per $1 on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, and 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Get an annual free night and Platinum Elite status as long as you’re a Select cardholder. Receive an automatic 10% points rebate on award redemptions, and no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $49; waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: Though there are reports of targeted offers for up to 80,000 points, this 70,000-point sign-up bonus is the highest publicly available offer for this card. It was supposed to expire in March, but has since been extended for a while longer. Apart from the sign-up bonus, this card offers potentially valuable benefits such as a 10% refund on redeemed points and automatic Platinum Elite status. However, the biggest perk is probably  that annual free night, which can be worth hundreds of dollars depending on where you redeem it. All that and no annual fee the first year make this card a no-brainer. That’s why I recently applied for it, and plan to use my points and free night for a stay at the Intercontinental Bora Bora. For more information, check out this post on the offer and how to maximize it.

5. Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
Current Bonus:
 30,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
Benefits: Free first checked bag and Group 1 priority boarding for you and up to four travel companions on American Airlines. 10% mileage refund on awards up to 10,000 miles each year. For more information, check out my post on Reduced Price Awards and the 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 public bonus on this card usually gets (more commonly it offers 30,000 miles), 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 maximize the 10% mileage refund on the personal card and get 10,000 miles, that’s equivalent to another $170 in value annually. The card also includes 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.

The merger with US Airways is also progressing fairly smoothly: the AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles programs have now been combined, and the US Airways Premier World MasterCard is no longer accepting new applications. That means if you want a new credit card to earn bonus AAdvantage miles, this is your best bet.

Amex Premier Rewards Gold

6. American Express Premier Rewards Gold
Current Bonus: Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your card in the first 3 months. Some folks are 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, 1x points on everything else. Starting June 1, this card will earn 2x points on dining and a $100 Airline Fee Credit each calendar year, and will have no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $195; waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: Though the annual fee is increasing on this card, it’s still waived for the first year, and in the meantime, it offers a lot of other potentially valuable benefits. The bonus categories are widening to include dining as well as gas, groceries and airfare. Amex is finally catching up with other issuers by waiving foreign transaction fees (starting June 1) and that $100 airline fee credit should offset the higher annual fee.

Membership Rewards is still a very strong points program with great transfer partners like British Airways, Delta, Air France/KLM and Singapore. Unlike some of the other transferable points programs, Amex regularly offers transfer bonuses to various partners, which can make the points you earn even more valuable. All in all, this is a solid product to carry, and a no-brainer if you can get in on one of the targeted 50,000-point offers out there.

7. British Airways Visa Signature Card
Current Bonus: 50,000 Avios after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months plus an additional 25,000 Avios when you spend $15,000 within your first year.
Benefits: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and receive a Travel Together Ticket good for two years. Earn 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases, and 1 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: You might be surprised to see this card on my list given the recent British Airways Avios devaluation, and changes to this card’s category spending benefits, but I think there are still a lot of good reasons to get the card. Economy awards did not increase (in fact, some are decreasing), and 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.

The main reason this card remains high on the list 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 the rest of 2015) and the ability to spend your way to a companion ticket. Check out my series on this card and how to maximize British Airways Avios:

8. United MileagePlus Explorer Card
C
urrent Bonus: 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months after opening your account. Get an extra 5,000 miles when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months.
Benefits: Earn 2x miles per $1 on United purchases and 1 mile per $1 on everything else. Earn 10,000 bonus miles when you make $25,000 in net purchases on your card each year. Other perks include your first checked bag free (for cardholder and one companion on the same reservation), priority boarding, 2 United Club passes per year, and no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95; waived the first year.
Reasons to get it: This card normally comes with a sign-up bonus of just 30,000 miles when you spend $1,000 in 3 months. So although you have to spend an additional $2,000, you get 20,000 extra miles. This card also offers some great benefits like priority boarding and free checked bags.  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 co-branded United credit card and actually spending on it will become even more central to your mileage strategy if United is your carrier of choice.

Check out these posts for more details on the card and the MileagePlus program in general:

9. Citi Prestige Card
Current Bonus: 40,000 ThankYou points when you spend $4,000 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 adviser 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, and Hilton HHonors.
Annual Fee: $450
Reasons to get it: This card’s annual fee is much higher than the Citi ThankYou Premier’s, but the Citi Prestige comes with a slew of valuable benefits that can make it more than worthwhile. The annual $250 air travel credit equates to more than half of the annual fee, and Citi made several major 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, the fourth-night-free hotel benefit, and free rounds of golf. For more information on the card and its benefits, check out these posts:

10. 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. 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.

For more information on this card, check out these posts:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • 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 on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
5.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.