Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

What’s the Best Card if I Travel a Lot and Only Fly AA?

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TPG reader Robbie tweeted me to ask about the best card for a unique situation:

@thepointsguy – “Should I get SPG Amex, ThankYou Premier or Sapphire Preferred? I travel a lot for work and fly AA exclusively, but don’t have a preferred hotel chain.”

This is an interesting question, because these three cards have unique benefits.

If you’re only flying American Airlines and you want a credit card that helps you rack up AAdvantage miles, your best bet is the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. It’s the only one of the three cards you mentioned that will allow you to transfer points to American Airlines. Plus, you get 5,000 bonus miles when you transfer 20,000 points from SPG.

Even though the SPG Amex doesn’t have bonus categories (other than 2x points on Starwood stays), you’re effectively earning 1.25 AA miles for every dollar spent thanks to the transfer bonus. That’s better than the actual co-branded AAdvantage cards in most cases.

American Airlines
The Starwood Amex can help you earn American Airlines miles faster than most of the co-branded AAdvantage cards.

If you want to use your points to buy American Airlines revenue flights, then the Citi ThankYou Premier Card is your best bet. As a cardholder, you can redeem Citi ThankYou points for 1.25 cents apiece toward any flight on American Airlines (or any other airline for that matter).

If you’re spending a lot, the Citi Prestige Card might also make sense. Not only do you get access to Admirals Clubs, but also you get a $250 air travel credit each year, which can be used on airfare. Prestige gives you even better options for redeeming, as points can be used at 1.33 cents apiece toward most airfare, or 1.6 cents apiece toward American Airlines and US Airways flights. Again, fares purchased through the ThankYou Travel Center count as revenue flights, so the Citi cards are good options if you’re hoping to maintain elite status. If you have Executive Platinum status, you can use your systemwides to upgrade on these flights just like normal.

In general, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is great for travel because you earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel expenses, and Chase has some pretty strong transfer partners. British Airways is a Oneworld transfer partner, so if you’re flying AAdvantage MileSAAver awards (which is getting harder and harder these days), you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to BA and book flights on American Airlines that way, as some of those short-haul redemptions offer amazing value. BA is also a Starwood transfer partner, so depending on your spending patterns, the SPG Amex is also a good option if you want to book AAdvantage flights that way.

In general, I think your best bet is going to be Starwood if you want to boost your AAdvantage miles, and either of the ThankYou Rewards cards if you want to buy American Airlines revenue flights with your points.

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits for all three cards:

Starwood Preferred Guest Amex:

  • Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • Receive free in-room, premium internet access. Booking requirements apply.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • Get free nights at over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.


Citi ThankYou Premier:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening — redeemable for $500 in gift cards, $625 for airfare, or other great rewards.
  • Earn 3x ThankYou Points on Travel including Gas, 2x ThankYou Points on Dining Out and Entertainment, and 1x ThankYou Points on Other Purchases
  • ThankYou Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through, as compared to gift cards
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited ThankYou Points
  • Annual Fee: $95 (fee waived for the first 12 months)

Chase Sapphire Preferred:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $500 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security and wider acceptance
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value — that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points
  • Premium Travel and Purchase Protection Benefits, including Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Purchase Protection and more
  • 24/7 direct access to dedicated customer service specialists
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

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 a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 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 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit