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.
Every month, I compile a list of the top travel rewards credit card offers currently available. Many of the cards on my list remain consistent from month to month thanks to great benefits and consistent bonus opportunities, like those available with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. However, the list does change, and rankings shift as new offers come out and old ones change.
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. Check back each month for updates and the latest and best offers out there.
Credit Factors to Consider
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
- Should I Be Concerned About A Credit Card Denial?
- Credit Card Application Restrictions for the Major Issuers
- 5 Lesser-Known Things That Affect Your Credit Score
- 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 Reserve
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
3. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
4. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card
5. Chase Ink Plus Business Card
6. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express
7. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
8. Platinum Card from American Express
9. Hyatt Visa
10. Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature
Here’s an in-depth look at each of the cards listed above, including their benefits and reasons to apply now.
Current Bonus: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Benefits: Earn 3x points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. $300 annual travel credit. Priority Pass Select lounge access. Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit. No foreign transaction fees. Primary auto rental insurance. Trip cancellation coverage. Redeem points through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal for 1.5 cents apiece.
Annual fee: $450
Reasons to get it: The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card has been hotly anticipated by many award travelers, and it doesn’t disappoint. As expected, the just-announced card has a high annual fee in line with those of other premium travel rewards cards, but it offers some amazing perks that can make it well worth that charge. The sign-up bonus is worth an outstanding $2,100 based on my latest valuations, and the 3x points you’ll earn on travel and dining equal a return of 6.3% compared to 4.2% for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. And while the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal isn’t usually the best way to use your rewards, you can get significantly more value from your points when you do redeem them that way (1.5 cents per point vs. 1.25 cents per point with the Chase Sapphire Preferred).
That’s not even mentioning the very generous $300 annual travel credit, which applies to a huge range of travel purchases, from airfare to parking fees. This effectively brings the annual fee down to $150, and you also get a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. While several other cards offer lounge access through Priority Pass Select, this perk is still nice to have — especially if you don’t have lounge access through another card. Overall, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is an extremely lucrative travel rewards card, and I can’t wait to use it to earn valuable points for all my travel and dining purchases.
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, 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 May, Air France/KLM Flying Blue.
Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95.
Reasons to get it: While Chase Sapphire Preferred isn’t quite as appealing as it once was, following the launch of Chase Sapphire Reserve, it’s still a fantastic choice if you can’t stomach the Reserve card’s $450 annual fee. The card allows you to earn 2 points per dollar at restaurants and on a range of travel purchases, with no limit. You can transfer your points to the Ultimate Rewards program’s 11 great travel partners. 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.
Chase has been restricting some new credit card applications depending on how many cards you have (generally you can only apply for five Chase cards within a 24-month period), so when it comes to this issuer’s cards, you might want to apply for this one first. 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
- Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points for Maximum Value
Current Bonus: Three complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton Hotel after spending $5,000 in the first three months your account is open
Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar at Ritz-Carlton and Marriott properties; 2 points per dollar on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies and restaurants; and 1 point per dollar on everything else. $300 annual travel credit. Complimentary $100 credit for qualifying dining, spa or other hotel recreational activities on paid stays of two nights or longer. Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership. Automatic Gold elite status during your first account year. Upgrade to the Ritz-Carlton Club level three times per year on paid stays of up to seven nights. $100 Global Entry application fee credit.
Annual fee: $450
Reasons to get it: Thanks to a new sign-up bonus and some additional perks, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card is a stronger premium travel rewards card than ever. Now, instead of two free nights at any Tier 1-4 property, you’ll get three complimentary nights (still at Tier 1-4 hotels). The new offer does require meeting a higher minimum spending requirement ($5,000 vs. $4,000), but if you can maximize the three free nights at expensive hotels it can be well worth it. In addition to a better sign-up bonus, the card now offers a Global Entry application fee reimbursement separate from the $300 annual travel credit, and you also get Priority Pass Select lounge membership, which can come in handy if you don’t have lounge access through another card. The annual fee did increase from $395 to $450, but if you can maximum the additional free night and new benefits, it could be well worth it.
For more information on Ritz-Carlton, see these posts:
- Should I Join Marriott Rewards or Ritz-Carlton Rewards?
- What Is Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Elite Status Worth in 2016?
- An Unforgettable Experience at the Cayman Cookout
- Transferring Ultimate Rewards to Ritz-Carlton
- Should I Get the Marriott or Ritz-Carlton Credit 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: This card gets the top airline co-branded credit card slot because of its solid return on spending. Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.5 cents apiece, so the sign-up bonus alone is worth at least $750. However, these points can be doubly lucrative if you leverage this offer to earn the Southwest Companion Pass by accruing 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. The Companion Pass is a two-for-one benefit that allows you to bring a companion along on any flight and just pay the taxes on his/her ticket, including tickets you book with points. Given Southwest’s fantastic domestic route network and the airline’s rapidly expanding international destinations list, the Companion Pass can mean tremendous savings and travel potential. Its final selling point: This card offers the ability to earn elite credit based on spending.
For more information on Southwest and the card, 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
- 10 Tips for Maximizing Southwest Rapid Rewards
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 earns a top slot on the list this month thanks to its sign-up bonus offer of 60,000 points. There are sometimes limited-time sign-up bonus offers of 70,000 points for in-branch applications, but those are not consistently available. 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 folks who can strategically take advantage of those bonus categories to rack up the points quickly.
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
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: As Marriott prepares its takeover of Starwood, there’s a lot of uncertainty about how the two chains will merge their loyalty programs. So it might be worth applying for these cards while they still exist in their current form. That’s especially true 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 phenomenal benefits these cards offer, 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, as well as interesting non-travel redemption opportunities like tickets to the US Open. When you transfer 20,000 points at a time to airline partners, you can also earn a 5,000-point bonus, making this card a great option if you need to top up your various airline accounts. These cards also regularly offer referral bonuses, so if you get them and have friends who are interested in applying, you might be able to rake in even more points.
If you already have the personal card and you own a small business (or are self-employed), the business version might be a good option, as long as you haven’t had it 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
- The Award Traveler’s Guide to Starwood Preferred Guest
- 6 Best Ways to Use Starpoints from the SPG Amex Cards
- Redeeming Starpoints for Maximum Value
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 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 potential value. The card offers a rebate for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, worth up to $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 with the new American earning structure that went into effect this month. Cardholders can 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 good 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. While the current offer is not as high as the 100,000 miles this card has offered in the past, we haven’t seen a bonus like that in quite a while, and there’s no telling if it will ever return. 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. Now that Citi has announced the Citi Prestige Card will no longer include Admirals Club access starting next July, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard will be a much better option for American Airlines flyers who value elite status (or perks that mimic it).
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 perks that make it worthwhile, depending on your travel needs and patterns. Its most valuable benefits include a $200 annual airline rebate, lounge access, free Hilton Gold status and free Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status. You also get access to booking hotels through 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 coming soon as well.
For more information, check out these posts:
- Maximizing Benefits with the Amex Platinum Card
- Is Amex Platinum Worth It If I’m Not Near Centurion Lounges?
- 10 Things to Do When You Get Amex Platinum
- My Experience Getting Refunded for the Global Entry Application Fee With My Amex Platinum Card
9. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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 great 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. 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. Plus, now through October 31, 2016, Hyatt is offering cardholders a 10% points rebate on award and Points + Cash redemptions, stretching those Gold Passport points even further.
For more information, check out these posts:
- Maximizing Chase Hyatt Visa Free Night Certificates
- Which Credit Card is Best When Paying for Hyatt Stays?
- What is Hyatt Gold Passport Elite Status Worth in 2016?
- The Award Traveler’s Guide to Hyatt Gold Passport
- The Best Credit Cards for Hyatt Guests
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 spend $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 Citi launched in June. 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 Reserve℠
|Intro APR||Regular APR||Annual Fee||Foreign Transaction Fee||Credit Rating|
|N/A||16.24%-23.24% Variable||$450||0%||Excellent Credit|