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Top 10 Travel Rewards Credit Card Offers for July 2016

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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, Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card

Every month, I compile a list of the top travel rewards credit card offers currently available. I take into account all the news in the points and miles marketplace as well as any major bonuses or product launches. 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 of the moment.

Because of great benefits and consistent bonus opportunities, such as those available for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi Prestige cards, many credit cards on my list remain consistent from month to month. However, as new offers come out, the list changes and rankings shift. For instance, the recent launch of a 75,000-point sign-up bonus on the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature earned the card a place on my list this month.

Credit Factors to Consider

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, you can peruse 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 this month’s cards, but continue reading below for more details on each of them.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred
2. The Platinum Card from American Express
3. Chase Ink Plus Business Card
4. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card
5. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
6. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
7. Hyatt Credit Card
8. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve
9. JetBlue Plus Card
10. Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature

THE DETAILS

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

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

 The Chase Sapphire Preferred always earns a place on this list thanks to a higher sign-up bonus and its great benefits and points-earning potential.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns the top place on this list thanks to a high sign-up bonus and its great benefits and points-earning potential.

Current Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on the card in the first three months. That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. 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 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide, zero dollars in 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 May, Air France/KLM Flying Blue.

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

Reasons to get it: The Sapphire Preferred ranks as the top card again this month because of the 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 my top all-round travel credit card, and the one 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 can now transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Flying Blue as well.
You can now transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Air France/KLM Flying Blue as well.

When it comes to Chase cards, you might also want to apply for this card first because Chase 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:

2. Platinum Card from American Express

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Great benefits, including a growing list of Centurion Lounge locations, keep the Amex Platinum on my list of top cards.

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 last saw in May.

Benefits: This card offers no shortage of valuable benefits, including a $200 annual airline rebate, access to Delta and Priority Pass lounges (plus the Amex Centurion Lounges) and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application rebate. You can also transfer the Membership Rewards points you earn with this card to 20 airline and hotel partners.

Annual Fee: $450

Reasons to get it: While this premium card has one of the highest annual fees on the market, it has several valuable perks that could make it worthwhile, depending on your travel patterns. These include a $200 annual airline rebate, lounge access, free Hilton Gold status and free Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status. You also get access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credits. Another great benefit is Centurion Lounge access; these clubs provide a great place to sip a cocktail, relax and even enjoy a pre-flight meal. Amex has been actively expanding its lounge network, including the recently opened Houston location as well as recent additions in Miami and Seattle. An LAX location might be in the works, as well.

For more information, check out these posts:

3. Ink Plus Business Card from Chase

Chase Ink Plus offer

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. We saw a limited-time sign-up bonus of 70,000 points in May for National Small Business Week, but that was just for in-branch applications, and is no longer available. The current sign-up bonus is 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.

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:

4. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be very useful, especially if you earn the companion pass.
Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be very useful, especially if you earn the Companion Pass.

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. 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. Another selling point? This card also offers the ability to earn elite credit based on spending.

For more information on Southwest and the card, see these posts:

5. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard come with Admirals Club membership.
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard comes with Admirals Club membership.

Current Bonus: 60,000 AAdvantage miles when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.

Benefits: This card’s most valuable benefit is Admirals Club membership, which is why the annual fee is at a premium level. However, the card also recently expanded this benefit so that authorized users (of which you can add up to 10 per card account) also get lounge access along with guests, greatly increasing its value. The card offers a rebate for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, which equals up to another $100 in value. American Airlines flyers benefit from an earning rate of 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, a 40% premium over base-level earning once the new American earning rules go into effect in August. Cardholders can also earn 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: There are a lot of great reasons to get this card now. The sign-up bonus on this card has hovered around 50,000 miles for about a year now. But Citi just launched this new, higher bonus last month — a 20% premium. While that’s not as high as the 100,000 miles this card has offered in the past, we haven’t seen an offer like that in a while. 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. This card is also the only one to offer the opportunity to earn AAdvantage elite-qualifying miles based on spending, so if you’re an American loyalist, that can be a huge selling point.

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 flyers 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.

6. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

Use the Starpoints you earn from these cards' sign-up bonuses to stay at properties across the globe, like the St. Regis Princeville. Photo courtesy of Starwood.
Use the Starpoints you earn from these cards’ sign-up bonuses to stay at properties across the globe, like the St. Regis Princeville. Photo courtesy of Starwood.

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, making this card a great option if you need to top up your various airline accounts.

The entrance to the St. Regis New York, the flagship property for the brand. Image courtesy of SPG.
Starpoints can make for fantastic redemptions at world-class hotels like the flagship St. Regis in New York. Image courtesy of SPG.

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. Another reason to do so? Starwood recently sent out targeted offers to cardholders of the business card with the opportunity to earn 5,000-10,000 bonus points for meeting spending thresholds over the summer.

For more information, check out these posts:

7. Hyatt Visa

Current bonus: Get 2 free nights at Hyatt properties worldwide — in any category — after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months after account opening.

The Hyatt Visa's membership anniversary free night can be used at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica where room rates can be more than $500 per night.
The Hyatt Visa’s membership anniversary free night can be used at Category 1-4 properties including the newly renovated Park Hyatt Saigon. Image courtesy of Hyatt.

Benefits: Earn 3 points per dollar spent at all Hyatt properties; 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies; and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases made with your card. 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 property. Get 5,000 bonus points when you add an authorized user to your account and make a purchase with your card during the first three months as a cardmember. Exclusive benefits with Platinum status as long as you’re a cardmember. Receive 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $20,000 in each calendar year. Receive an additional 3 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $40,000 total in each calendar year. No foreign transaction fees on international purchases. Chip-enabled technology brings you greater worldwide acceptance and advanced security. Protection benefits including lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, extended warranty protection and more.

Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $75.

Reasons to get it: This card has a few key benefits that make it a solid choice. First, the two free nights that come as a sign-up bonus can be used anywhere in the world (pending availability), including some very expensive, premium properties like the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, where TPG Points and Miles Editor Sarah Silbert recently stayed. So the sign-up bonus alone can be worth thousands of dollars. Then there are the ongoing benefits like automatic elite status, trip protection, waived foreign transaction fees, strong earning potential with broad bonus categories and the annual free night at a Category 1-4 hotel, which alone more than makes up for the $75 annual fee. Though Hyatt is among the smallest of the major chains out there, it is slowly expanding, most recently with the announcement of its new Unbound brand, so there are some great redemption opportunities.

Use your Hyatt free nights to stay at a property like the Park Hyatt Siem Reap.
Use your Hyatt free nights to stay at a property like the Hyatt Regency Maui.

For more information, check out these posts:

8. Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve

You can use your Hilton certificates at top-tier properties like the Conrad Koh Samui.
Put all those Hilton free night certificates to use at a property like the Conrad Koh Samui. Photo courtesy of Hilton.

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 and no foreign transaction fees. 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: This card’s sign-up bonus of two free nights can be worth as much as 190,000 points if you redeem them at top-tier properties like the Conrad Maldives, and it also confers automatic Gold status and the ability to earn Diamond status through spending. HHonors status seems like less of a benefit lately since Hilton (following Hyatt’s lead) announced it would be offering status matches through March 2017, so there might be a glut of new elites, but it’s still worth something in my book.

Another great benefit: If you spend $10,000 annually, you get another free weekend night certificate, which can far outweigh the card’s $95 annual fee, depending where you redeem it.

For more information, check out these posts:

9. JetBlue Plus Card

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JetBlue’s new Plus Card offers compelling bonuses as the airline ups its competition against Alaska and Virgin America.

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 a new set of JetBlue cards, and though this top-tier one comes with a $99 annual fee, the sign-up bonus alone is worth about $420 in my estimation. Then there’s the earning potential. If you use this card to purchase JetBlue tickets online, you’ll be earning at least 12 TrueBlue points per dollar you spend on eligible airfare, equivalent to about a 16% return on spending on ticket purchases according to my same valuations. The 10% points redemption refund and in-flight savings are also big benefits. Plus, you can earn Mosaic status and enjoy the benefits solely through spending. JetBlue also announced an amazing miles-match deal for those with Virgin America miles, which indicates JetBlue is taking the Alaska/Virgin takeover seriously and will hopefully be launching more competitive offers over the coming months in an effort to woo new customers. 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.

10. Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature

The sign-up bonus is more than enough for a free night at a Category 9 hotel like the Conrad Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Hilton.
The sign-up bonus is more than enough for a free night at a Category 9 hotel like the Conrad Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of Hilton.

Current Bonus: 75,000 Hilton HHonors points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

Benefits: Earn 6 HHonors bonus points for each dollar spent at any participating hotel within the Hilton Portfolio. Earn 3 HHonors bonus points for each dollar spent on purchases at supermarkets, drugstores and gas stations. Earn 2 HHonors bonus points for each dollar spent on all other purchases. Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Silver status as long as you are a cardmember.

Annual Fee: None.

Reasons to get it: This card is one of several solid options for Hilton guests, and it offers some outstanding benefits considering it does not charge an annual fee. The complimentary HHonors Silver status is a nice perk that I value at about $65, with the main benefit being a fifth night free on award redemptions. This card also lets you upgrade to HHonors Gold status when you $20,000 on the card in a calendar year or complete four eligible stays within the first 90 days of account opening. However, the biggest draw is probably the 75,000-point sign-up bonus, which seems to be a direct response to the limited-time higher sign-up bonuses offered by Amex on its Hilton co-branded cards back in April.  That can get you anything from a free night at a top-tier luxury property like the Conrad Hong Kong (where award nights start at 70,000 points in August), or which you can stretch for several nights or stays at lower-level Hilton properties where award nights require as few as 5,000 points.

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 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit