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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 – British Airways Visa Signature Card,  The Blue for Business Credit Card from American Express

Points and miles programs constantly change, as do the credit cards associated with them. Sign-up bonuses rise and fall, benefits are gained or lost, and mileage and award-night charts are revalued. And it all happens with little or no notice. That makes staying up to date on the credit card marketplace imperative for a successful award-travel strategy. While there is a lot to keep track of, each month I compile a list of what I think are the top travel rewards credit cards to help you make the most of the offers out there.

Many of the cards on this list remain consistent from month to month thanks to great benefits and relatively constant bonus opportunities, like those of the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Citi ThankYou Premier cards. However, the list does change, and the rankings shift along with the offers. For example, you’ll notice that the Ink Plus Business Card from Chase tops the list this month thanks to a higher-than-usual sign-up bonus of 60,000 points; and the British Airways Visa has been on the list for a few months thanks to its current sign-up bonus that gives you a total of 100,000 Avios – 50,000 Avios after $2,000 spent within the first 3 months and the ability to earn an additional 50,000 Avios after $20,000 spent within your first year.

This is not a list of every offer on the market. For that I recommend checking out the TPG Hot 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 are thinking of applying for a credit card now, this list features my top all-round choices of the moment. In the meantime, you can 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 your credit score and read the posts below for advice and tips.

Before you get started, take a look at these posts for advice on checking your credit score, applying for new cards and getting approved:

THE SHORT LIST

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

1. Ink Plus Business Card from Chase
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
3. British Airways Visa Signature Card
4. Blue for Business from American Express
5. Citi Prestige
6. Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express
7. The Platinum Card from American Express
8. Citi ThankYou Premier
9. Chase Freedom
10. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve

THE DETAILS

Here’s an in-depth look at each of the cards listed above, including their benefits and reasons to apply now.

1. Ink Plus Business Card from Chase
Current Bonus: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three 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. Note that as of December 8, you’ll no longer be able to transfer points to Amtrak.

Annual Fee: $95

Reasons to get it: The Ink Plus is number one on the list this month again thanks to an increased sign-up bonus offer of 60,000 points. That’s 10,000 points higher than it used to be, representing a 20% increase, so if you’ve been thinking of applying for this card, now’s the time. The one catch is that you have to pay the first year’s $95 annual fee, whereas with the previous offer of just 50,000 points, you did not. So one way to look at it is that you’re basically paying $95 for an extra 10,000 points. That’s about 0.95 cents per point. However, I value Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cent apiece, so I’d still say this is a great opportunity if you’re considering signing up.

Based on the same valuations, I would peg the sign-up bonus at about $1,260 in value. Plus, the card offers 5x and 2x category spending bonuses, which makes it a great option not only for small-business owners, but also for strategic spenders who can take advantage of those categories to rack up the points.

For more information on how you can maximize this card and the Ultimate Rewards points it earns you, check out these posts:

2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Current Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points
when you spend $4,000 on the card in the first three months. You’ll earn another 5,000 bonus points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months.

Benefits: This card regularly ranks highly on my list of top travel credit cards thanks to 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. Note again that, as of December 8, you’ll no longer be able to transfer points to Amtrak.

Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95.

Reasons to get it: Since it was introduced a few years ago, this has been one of my all-around top travel credit cards. It’s the card I use for most of my purchases. Before I get too effusive, it’s important to point out that there have been some negative developments to the card lately, including a higher sign-up bonus spending requirement (it increased from $3,000 to $4,000), and the 7% annual points dividend was eliminated last year. Chase has also said that it will end the First Friday 3x dining bonus in 2016, but that’s not a major blow as I see it.

This card’s tremendous benefits package still far outweighs those negatives, though. The sign-up bonus is just 40,000 points, but you can score an extra 5,000 just for adding an authorized user…for free! Not only are the bonus-spending categories broad, including restaurants and a range of travel purchases, but the card also offers primary rental car insurance instead of the usual secondary coverage offered by most travel credit cards, and its trip cancellation coverage was raised to $10,000. All that makes it a great choice for travel purchases and to use when you’re on the road.

For more details on the card and why I think it’s worth applying for, check out these 5 reasons to get the Sapphire Preferred now. Then if you do get the card, be sure to check out this post on 5 things to do when you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred to make sure you maximize this card’s outstanding benefits.

Beyond that, read these posts for more information on the card and the Ultimate Rewards program:

The BA Visa makes a reappearance on this list thanks to a 100,000-Avios bonus.
The British Airways Visa makes a reappearance on this list thanks to a 100,000-Avios bonus.

3. British Airways Visa Signature Card
Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend $15,000 on purchases for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios.

Benefits: Earn 3 Avios for every dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every dollar spent on all other purchases. 10% off British Airways ticket purchases with CARDOFFERU cardholder code through the end of 2015. No foreign transaction fees. Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.

Annual Fee: $95

Reasons to get it: Though this card ranks in the third place on this list thanks to that high sign-up bonus, there are several caveats to keep in mind before applying. First, you have to spend $20,000 in order to get the full bonus. Second, British Airways’ Avios program underwent a major devaluation last April that meant some huge increases in redemption requirements for most premium-cabin and partner awards. Not only that, but just last week, BA announced that its lowest 4,500-Avios awards would be eliminated within the US, meaning awards booked on American Airlines using BA Avios are going to get more expensive as of February 2016. The bonus categories on the British Airways Visa also changed in May. Now you earn more points per dollar spent on BA airfares, but fewer Avios on all other purchases.

However, there are still a lot of good reasons to get the card, including the fact that most economy awards did not increase in price (and some even decreased), and Avios can still offer some pretty good value on short-haul flights (including on BA’s Oneworld partner, American Airlines, within the US, as well as Cathay Pacific flights in Asia and Qantas flights in Australia).

Lately, BA has also been offering discounted award redemptions of up to 40% off. One of the major reasons you might consider this card now, though, is the fact that British Airways and Amex also decreased the transfer ratio of Membership Rewards to Avios by 20% as of October 1. That makes Membership Rewards points a less attractive option for BA redemptions, but earning Avios themselves (without having to transfer) a much better option for some flyers.

If you purchase flights on the airline, you can get some tremendous value from this card’s 10% discount on BA fares. Plus, the ability to spend your way to a companion award ticket can be worth thousands of dollars if you strategize your awards. There’s also been some great business-class award availability from the west coast to Europe, and some new routes from the US to the UK will be opening up in the coming months.

For more information on how to maximize British Airways Avios, check out these posts:

The Amex Blue for Business is offering a sign-up bonus that's double the usual points.
The Amex Blue for Business is offering a sign-up bonus that’s double the usual points.

4. Blue for Business Card from American Express
Current Bonus: Up to 20,000 points. Get 10,000 Membership Rewards points after making your first purchase on the card in the first three months, plus for a limited time get an additional 10,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the card within the first six months of card membership. Applications must be received by 07/29/2016.

Benefits: The major benefit of this card is that you earn an annual points bonus of 30%, bringing your earning rate up to 1.3 points per dollar.

Annual Fee: $0

Reasons to get it: This card usually only offers a sign-up bonus of 10,000 points with first purchase, which is still part of this offer, though you also have the opportunity to earn another 10,000 points by hitting that spending requirement. The key is to apply before this limited-time offer ends on January 25, 2016. While the points you earn with this card are called Membership Rewards, they’re actually not the transferable kind. Though if you have a card that earns transferable Membership Rewards points, like the Premier Rewards Gold, you can combine your accounts.

This card is also part of the OPEN Savings program and gets you access to discounts at several merchants, though Hyatt will no longer be a partner in 2016.

For more information, see these posts:

5. Citi Prestige Card
Current Bonus: 40,000 ThankYou points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Benefits: Earn 3 ThankYou points per dollar on air travel and hotel purchases, 2 points per dollar on dining and entertainment and 1 point per dollar on everything else. $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. Get your fourth night free at hotels, with no blackout 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. Citi ThankYou Rewards also now has 13 transfer partners, including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Virgin America and Hilton HHonors.

Annual Fee: $450

Reasons to get it: This card has a much higher annual fee than its mid-tier counterpart, the Citi ThankYou Premier, but the Prestige comes with a slew of high-end benefits that make it potentially much more valuable. The annual $250 air travel credit equates to more than half of the annual fee, and you can even use it on airfare, which sets it apart from competitors. If you take advantage of the other great benefits (such as lounge access, a Global Entry fee waiver, the fourth night free and free rounds of golf), this card is a clear winner. Citi has also made some major improvements to the ThankYou program over the last year; namely it added over a dozen transfer partners, including, most recently, Virgin America. It has also begun offering transfer bonuses to some of them, including Virgin America and Hilton.

Many readers have asked about whether to get the Citi Prestige or the Citi / AAdvantage Executive when trying to decide between the two, because they offer such similar benefits. The Citi / AAdvantage Executive card is a great option for American Airlines flyers who value elite status (or perks that mimic it) as well as full Admirals Club membership instead of just access. The Prestige offers a broader range of benefits not necessarily tied to American Airlines, though. For a thorough look at the two cards and how they compare, check out this post.

For more information on the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Rewards, check out these posts:

Use the Starpoints you earn from this card's sign-up bonus to stay at properties across the globe.
Use the Starpoints you earn from this card’s sign-up bonus to stay at properties across the globe.

6. Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express
Current Bonus: Earn 25,000 points when you make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months on the personal card. Earn 25,000 points when you make $5,000 in purchases within the first three months on the business card.

Benefits: Earn 2 Starpoints per dollar on purchases at participating Starwood hotels, in addition to what you’d normally earn through SPG. Earn 2 stays/5 nights of credit toward elite status each year, plus automatic Gold status when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. As of August, American Express added a slate of new benefits including no foreign transaction fees, complimentary unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at once and complimentary premium in-room internet access. The business version also comes with more perks as part of the OPEN program, and free access to Sheraton Clubs when you book rates that are eligible to earn Starpoints.

Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95.

Reasons to get it: Apart from the great benefits this card offers on its own, the Starwood Preferred Guest program is unique in that it both offers great hotel redemptions and has over 30 airline transfer partners. Not only can you transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to many of those partners, but you can also earn a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 points at a time to airline partners, making this card a great option if you need to top up various frequent-flyer accounts. SPG sometimes offers bonuses above and beyond those 5,000 miles, like the recent transfer 20% bonus specifically to American Airlines.

However, I consistently rank Starwood points among the most valuable loyalty currencies out there because of the return you can get by redeeming them for hotel stays at SPG properties around the world. Now that the card no longer charges foreign transaction fees, it’s a much better choice for use abroad as well. Though the sign-up bonus sometimes goes up to 30,000 points (instead of the usual 25,000), that offer generally only comes around once a year, and it just ended in September, so if you’re thinking of getting this card but want to wait, it might be a while.

In terms of the business card specifically, if you already have the personal card but are looking for another avenue to earn SPG points, this could be it. Note that the bonus spending requirement on this card is $5,000 instead of $3,000.

For more information, check out these posts:

Amex Centurion Lounge
The Platinum Card has lost some of its benefits, but the opening of new Centurion lounges has kept it in my wallet. (Photo courtesy of Miami International Airport.)

7. Platinum Card from American Express
Current Bonus: 40,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. There are targeted offers through the CardMatch Tool, where you might be eligible for special bonuses like 100,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months which we saw back on July 22, 2015.

Benefits: This card comes with an entire laundry list 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 (which can be especially useful now that the TSA is ending the managed inclusion program).

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, free Hilton Gold status and free Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status, the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credits, this card’s perks can easily be far more valuable than the cost of the annual fee. The Platinum Card did lose some of its lounge benefits last year, but Amex is actively expanding the network of Centurion Lounges throughout the US and beyond, including the recently added lounges in Miami and Seattle, and one slated for Houston in 2016.

For more information, check out these posts:

8. Citi ThankYou Premier
Current Bonus: 40,000 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 13 transfer partners, including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Hilton HHonors. This card charges no foreign transaction fees, and it features EMV chip technology and Citi Price Rewind, which has saved consumers $2 million so far this year according to Citi.

Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95.

Reasons to get it: There are plenty of reasons to consider the Citi ThankYou Premier, including recent positive changes both to the card and to the ThankYou Rewards program in general. First and foremost is the current sign-up bonus, which was simplified from the old convoluted formula that took over a full year to earn. Citi also dropped the annual fee down from $125 to $95, and waives it for the first year, making it even more competitive with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and EveryDay Preferred from Amex.

However, the biggest positive factor in its favor might be those new, broader bonus spending categories, which Citi recently changed so that you earn 3x points on travel and 2x points on dining and entertainment. Citi also expanded the travel category to include a larger range of expenses. I applied for this card myself a few months ago and have found it easy to maximize both my earning and redemptions with it, so it’s likely that I’ll keep it even after that $95 annual fee is due.

For more information, check out these posts:

9. Chase Freedom
Current Bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. Earn a $25 bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within the same three-month period.

Benefits: Each quarter you can activate your Freedom card to maximize category bonuses. You can view the current category bonuses here Chase Sapphire Preferred

Annual Fee: $0

Reasons to get it: Though this card is ostensibly a cash-back card, if you also have one of the premium Ultimate Rewards cards (like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Plus Business Card), you can then combine points and transfer them to any of the program’s 11 travel partners as well (again, not Amtrak after December 8). The sign-up bonus is worth about 20% cash back, while if you add an authorized user (for free), you get another 5% back for a total potential return on spending of 25%! But that’s just the sign-up bonus.

The single biggest selling point of this card, however, is the opportunity to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar per quarter (on up to $1,500 of purchases) at rotating merchants.  You can check the whole calendar and register to earn bonuses at this page.

For more info on the Chase Freedom card, check out these posts:

10. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
Current Bonus: Two weekend night certificates after spending $2,500 in the first four months. Each certificate is good for one weekend night (standard room, double occupancy) at most hotels and resorts within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio.

Benefits: Earn 10 HHonors points for every dollar spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, 5 points for every dollar spent on airline and car rental purchases and 3 points for every dollar spent on all other purchases. Receive automatic Hilton HHonors Gold status, and earn Diamond status with $40,000 in annual spending. No foreign transaction fees. SmartChip technology. Visa Signature benefits. Cardholders who spend $10,000 annually (starting on your annual fee date) get a free weekend night certificate on the account anniversary.

Annual Fee: $95

Reasons to get it: The free nights, automatic Gold status and the ability to earn Diamond status through spending all make this card a top choice for Hilton HHonors loyalists, but also for folks who can maximize its benefits and use those free weekend nights at high-end properties, since the sign-up bonus alone can be worth thousands of dollars depending on where you redeem those certificates.

Another great benefit: If you spend $10,000 annually, you also get another free weekend night certificate, which can far outweigh the card’s $95 annual fee depending where you redeem it. Citi sometimes offers a limited-time $100 statement credit for your first Hilton stay within three months of account opening, but that extra incentive isn’t available at the moment. If you aren’t in a rush to apply, you might hold out to see if that offer shows up again, but this is a great card even without it.

For more information, 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
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer
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.