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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, United MileagePlus Explorer, Citi Prestige Card
Every month, I compile a list of the top travel rewards credit card offers currently available. Because of great benefits and fairly constant bonus opportunities, like those available with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, many of the cards on my list remain consistent from month to month. However, as new offers come out, the list changes and rankings shift. For example, the recent launch of an all-time-high 100,000-point sign-up bonus on the Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, and higher bonuses on the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express all set the points world atwitter last week, and the cards rank here accordingly.
You can always find a comprehensive roundup of the best deals currently available, as well as specific hotel and airline credit cards that might interest you on the Hot Deals page. However, if you’re thinking of applying for a credit card now, this list features my top choices at the moment. It takes into account up-to-the-minute news such as the recent addition of Air France/KLM Flying Blue as Chase Ultimate Rewards’ 11th transfer partner, and the evolving state of the Marriott takeover of Starwood. So be sure to check back each month for updates and the latest and best offers out there.
Before you get started, you can peruse these posts for advice on checking your credit score, applying for new cards and getting approved.
- How Credit Card Applications Affect Your Credit Score
- 5 Things To Understand About Credit Before Applying For Cards
- Which Credit Factor Is Most Important To My Overall Score?
- Should I Be Concerned About A Credit Card Denial?
- Your FICO Score and Which Credit Cards Offer it for Free
- Credit Card Application Restrictions for the Major Issuers
- Avoiding Late Payments and Other Silly Credit Card Mistakes
- 5 Lesser-Known Things That Affect Your Credit Score
- How to Use the CardMatch Tool to get Even Better Sign-Up Offers
- Will My Credit Score Drop If I Don’t Use My Credit Cards?
THE SHORT LIST
Here’s the short list of this month’s cards, but continue reading below for more details on each of them.
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
2. Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express and the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
3. Citi Prestige
4. Ink Plus Business Card from Chase
5. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
6. United MileagePlus Explorer
7. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
8. Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
9. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
10. JetBlue Plus Card
Here’s an in-depth look at each of the cards listed above, including their benefits and reasons to apply now.
Current Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after 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 high on my list of top travel credit cards thanks to 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees, primary auto rental insurance, trip cancellation coverage and the ability to transfer points to 11 travel partners, including British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, Southwest, United and, as of last month, Air France/KLM Flying Blue.
Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95.
Reasons to get it: The Sapphire Preferred has been one of my all-around top travel credit cards since it was first introduced a few years ago. It ranks as the top card again this month because of the considerable sign-up bonus and the fact that the Ultimate Rewards program maintains a very strong value thanks to the variety of its 11 travel transfer partners. It’s the card I use for most of my purchases thanks to the ability to earn 2 points per dollar on restaurant and a range of travel purchases with no limit. Not only that, but you can also redeem Ultimate Rewards points directly for airfare at a rate of 1.25 cents apiece, giving you even more flexibility.
You might also want to apply for this (or another Chase card) first because the bank has been tightening up its application restrictions. For more details on the card and why I think it’s worth applying for, check out this post of 5 reasons to get the Sapphire Preferred now, and these 5 things to do when you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred to help you maximize this card’s outstanding benefits.
Beyond that, read these posts for more information on the card and the Ultimate Rewards program:
- 5 Reasons Chase Sapphire Preferred Should Be Your First Credit Card in 2016
- 5 Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits You Might Not Know About
- 10 Fun Ways to Use 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points
- One Year of Earning and Burning With The Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Which Chase Card is Best For You?
Current Bonus: Earn 35,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) after spending $1,000 in the first three months and a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first three months.
Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Get a first bag checked free on Delta flights (for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation). Priority boarding. Save 20% on eligible in-flight purchases. Get 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 on the card in a calendar year, plus earn an additional 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $50,000 on the card in a calendar year. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $195
Reasons to get it: While 35,000 SkyMiles won’t get you as far as they used to, keep in mind that you also earn valuable MQMs to help you boost your elite status with the airline. Plus, spending $25,000 on this card in a calendar year will waive those pesky Medallion Qualifying Dollar requirements. The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express and Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express both have limited time offers of 30,000 miles after $1,000 spent within the first 3 months, plus a $50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase in the first three months.
3. Citi Prestige Card
Current Bonus: 50,000 ThankYou points when you spend $3,000 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. Get a $250 air travel credit each year for things like airfare, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases. Admirals Club access (when flying AA) and Priority Pass Select lounge access. No foreign transaction fees. $100 Global Entry application fee waiver. Get your 4th night free at hotels with no blackout 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. Citi ThankYou Rewards now has 13 transfer partners, including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Virgin America and Hilton HHonors, among others.
Annual Fee: $450
Reasons to get it: This card has a much higher annual fee than its mid-tier counterpart, the Citi ThankYou Premier card, but the Prestige comes with a higher sign-up bonus (in fact, the Premier’s bonus is non-existent at the moment!) and an array of high-end benefits that make it a potentially much more valuable asset in your wallet. 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 its main competitor, The Platinum Card from American Express. If you take advantage of the other great benefits, such as lounge access, the Global Entry fee waiver, the 4th night free at hotels, comprehensive travel protections and free rounds of golf, this card is a clear winner.
For more information on the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Rewards, check out these posts:
- Maximizing Benefits with the Citi Prestige in 2016
- How I’ve Gotten $2,250 in Value from my Citi Prestige Card
- Maximizing Citi Prestige Benefits – A Reader Success Story
- Immediately Denied for the Citi Prestige? You’re Not Alone!
- Is Amex Platinum or Citi Prestige Better for Lounge Access?
- Which Citi ThankYou Rewards Transfer Partner is Best?
4. 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, 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 (also on up to $50,000 in spending annually). No foreign transaction fees. Ability to transfer points to 11 travel partners.
Annual Fee: $95
Reasons to get it: The Ink Plus gets one of the top slots on the list again this month thanks to its sign-up bonus offer of 60,000 points. That’s 10,000 more points than the Sapphire Preferred, though this card is meant for small business owners rather than personal applications. If you’ve been thinking of applying for this card, now’s the time since it’s unlikely we’ll see the bonus go up from here. However, it’s worth noting that Chase does sometimes raise the bonus to 70,000 points when you sign up at a Chase branch and spend $5,000 in the first three months — though this offer is usually only available for a few weeks at a time.
Apart from the sign-up bonus, this 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:
- 10 Chase Ink Benefits You Might Not Know About
- A Year of Earning and Burning with the Chase Ink Plus
- Business versus Personal Credit Cards
- Top 10 Reasons to get a Business Credit Card
5. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card
Current Bonus: 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months your account is open.
Benefits: Earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest Airlines, and with Rapid Rewards participating hotel and rental car partners. No foreign transaction fees. Earn 6,000 bonus points each year after your account anniversary. Earn 1,500 Tier-Qualifying Points per $10,000 you spend on the card each calendar year up to a maximum of 15,000 Tier-Qualifying Points per year.
Annual Fee: $99
Reasons to get it: I rank this card as one of my top airline co-branded credit cards because it offers a solid overall return on spending, with a relatively low minimum spending requirement for that bonus, as well as the ability to earn elite credit based on spending. Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.5 cents apiece, so the bonus alone is worth at least $750. However, these points can be doubly lucrative if you can leverage this offer to earn the Southwest Companion Pass at 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. The Companion Pass is essentially a two-for-one that allows you to bring a companion along on any flight and just pay the taxes on his/her ticket, including those you book with points. Given Southwest’s fantastic domestic route network and the airline’s rapidly expanding international destinations list, that Companion Pass can mean tremendous savings.
For more information, see these posts:
- One Year of Earning and Burning with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Earning Southwest Rapid Rewards Points Without Flying
- How Can I Earn Points for the Southwest Companion Pass?
- Maximize 50,000 Southwest Points on Flights to the Caribbean
- What is Southwest Elite Status Worth in 2016?
- 10 Tips for Maximizing Southwest Rapid Rewards
6. United MileagePlus Explorer Card
Current Bonus: There’s a targeted offer of up to 70,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. To see if you’re eligible, click this link and log in with your United account details. Otherwise, Chase is offering 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months, plus 5,000 bonus miles when you add an authorized user and make a purchase.
Other Benefits: Get a $50 statement after your first purchase (if you’re eligible for the 70,000-mile offer). Earn 2 miles per dollar on United purchases and 1 mile on all other purchases. Get two United Club passes each year, no foreign transaction fees, priority boarding, a free checked bag, and improved award availability.
Reasons to get it: If you haven’t had this card within the last 24 months (per Chase’s more strictly enforced recent policies), this is a good opportunity to pad your account — especially if you’re eligible for that 70,000-mile offer. The bonus usually hovers around 30,000 miles, so you’d be getting a 67% premium even with the 50,000-mile offer. Normally, when this card’s bonus goes up, you have to head into a Chase branch to take advantage, but this one is publicly available, and only around until June 30.
7. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
Current Bonus: 60,000 AAdvantage miles when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
Benefits: This card’s greatest benefit is Admirals Club membership, which is why the annual fee is at a premium level. However, the card recently expanded this benefit so that authorized users (of which you can add up to 10 per card account) also get lounge access, greatly increasing its value. It also offers a rebate for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, which equals up to another $100 in value. American flyers will benefit from an earning rate of 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, and 10,000 elite-qualifying miles for spending $40,000 on the card every calendar year (January through December billing statements), which can be a handy shortcut to earning elite status. Cardholders also get priority boarding, 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases, first checked bag free and concierge service.
Annual Fee: $450
Reasons to get it: The sign-up bonus on this card has hovered around 50,000 miles for about a year now, so this is 10,000 more miles for the same amount of spending. While that’s still a ways off from the 100,000 miles this card has offered in the past, you had to spend $10,000 in three months to earn it, so this spending bonus formula might be more manageable for a lot of folks. The expanded lounge benefits are a huge selling point in my book because you can get up to 10 additional cards at no further cost. So, you can basically get lounge access for 10 people (and the guests they can bring) for the price of one. Many people seem to wonder whether to get the Citi Prestige or the Citi / AAdvantage Executive because the two cards offer similar benefits. The Executive Card is still a great option for American Airlines loyalists who value elite status (or perks that mimic it), while the Citi Prestige Card offers a broader range of benefits. Check out this post for a more thorough answer to that question.
8. Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
Current Bonus: Earn 100,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar at over 4,000 participating Marriott locations worldwide and 2 points per dollar on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies, restaurants, office supply stores and for internet, cable and phone services purchases. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Receive an annual free night at a Category 1-5 property after your account anniversary. Guaranteed Silver elite status, and receive 15 credits toward your next membership level after account approval and every year after your account anniversary. Receive 1 credit toward elite status for every $3,000 spent on purchases, with no limit to the number of credits you can earn. No foreign transaction fees. Earn Marriott Rewards Gold Elite status when you spend $50,000 on purchases each account year.
Annual fee: $99
Reasons to get it: 100,000 points is the highest offer we’ve ever seen on the Marriott Rewards Premier Business Card. I value Marriott Rewards points at 0.7 cents apiece, so this offer is worth about $700, but depending on how you use the points, you could get even more value from this bonus. Not only that, but as we see how the Marriott-Starwood takeover progresses, it could be a good idea to pad your Marriott Rewards account with some extra points that you might eventually be able to put to use at Starwood properties as well. This card might also be a good choice for those who already have the personal version of the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card.
This card automatically confers 15 nights of credit toward elite status each year, enough for automatic Silver status, which is an added plus. And Marriott announced a new scheme that lets members redeem points for status if they failed to requalify this year. So a handy points bonus from this card might be just what you need, especially if you were Platinum and can get it back since, thanks to Marriott’s RewardsPlus partnership with United, Marriott Platinum members can get automatic United Silver status. The anniversary free night at a Category 1-5 property can be worth well over the $99 annual fee, so that should lessen the sting of not having it waived the first year. Finally, if you’re a Southwest flyer, if you take advantage of Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages and transfer Marriott points for an award stay and airline points with Southwest, those points will count toward Companion Pass qualification — a potentially huge value.
For more information, check out these posts:
- Finding Value with Marriott’s Cash + Points Awards
- What is Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Elite Status Worth in 2016?
- The Best Credit Cards for Marriott Guests
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. American Express added new benefits to both cards last year, 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, as well as 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 them: There’s no telling what might happen to these cards after Marriott’s takeover of Starwood, so it might be worth applying for them while they are still around. Especially if you can put the points to use before that takeover actually happens since we’re still not sure what is going to become of the SPG program.
Apart from the great benefits these cards offer on their own, including the relatively new perks, the Starwood Preferred Guest program is unique in that it offers both great hotel redemptions and has more than 30 airline transfer partners, including the recent addition of Virgin America. Not only can you transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to many of those partners, but you can also earn a 5,000-point bonus when you transfer 20,000 points at a time to airline partners (and sometimes an even higher bonus), making this card a great option if you need to top up your various airline accounts.
In terms of the business card specifically, if you already have the personal card but are looking for another avenue to earn SPG points (and you own a small business or are self-employed), this could be it, as long as you haven’t had the business card before. Just keep in mind that the bonus spending requirement on the business card is $5,000 versus $3,000 on the personal card.
For more information, check out these posts:
- One Year of Earning and Burning with the SPG Amex
- The Best Credit Cards for Starwood Guests
- What is Starwood Elite Status Worth in 2016?
- The Award Traveler’s Guide to Starwood Preferred Guest
- Redeeming Starwood Preferred Guest Points for Maximum Value
- 6 Best Ways to Use Starpoints from the SPG Amex Cards
- Ultimate Guide to Starwood Airline Transfers
Current Bonus: 30,000 TrueBlue points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
Benefits: Earn 6 points per dollar on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Each year after your account anniversary you will earn 5,000 bonus points. Get 10% of your points back every time you redeem points for an award. You also get 50% savings on all eligible in-flight purchases including cocktails, food and movies, plus enjoy Mosaic benefits for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases after your anniversary date.
Annual Fee: $99
Reasons to get it: Barclaycard recently launched its new family of JetBlue cards, including this top-tier one that’s still a relative bargain at $99 per year. Assuming you use your card to purchase JetBlue tickets online, you’ll be earning at least 12 TrueBlue points per dollar you spend on eligible airfare. I value TrueBlue points at 1-1.4 cents apiece, which means the sign-up bonus alone can be worth about $300-$420 in value, and you’re getting about 12%-16.8% return on your ticket purchases! The redemption refund and in-flight savings are also a big benefit. Plus, you can enjoy Mosaic status benefits solely through spending — another benefit (though JetBlue is also currently offering a status match/challenge if you’re interested). All in all, this card is a big step up from the former Amex version of the JetBlue card, so if JetBlue is your carrier of choice, this new product is a no-brainer.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
|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|