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Let me start by saying there is no one-size-fits-all credit card strategy, even for people who are the same age. Spending habits will vary from person to person, and that affects which credit cards are right for you. That being said, there are credit cards with bonus categories and benefits well suited to those in their 50s.
Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 within three months. Points are worth a flat 1 cent per point (both in the eyes of Bank of America and according to TPG valuations), meaning you’re getting $500 in value from these points.
Annual fee: $95
Rewards: The BoA Premium Rewards card has a unique rewards structure. You’ll earn 2x points on dining and travel purchases, plus 1.5x points on all other spending. Most cards offer either a flat-rate rewards structure (oftentimes at 1.5x points or 1.5% cash back) or bonus categories. It’s rare to see a card that offers bonus categories and a base earning rate more than 1x points or 1% cash back.
Other benefits: The card comes with travel protections plus access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection and the Visa Signature Concierge service. You’ll get up to $100 in statement credits for airline incidental expenses annually, plus up to a $100 statement credit for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee every four years. Loyal Bank of America customers can also receive additional benefits through the Preferred Rewards program.
Who should apply: If you have more than $20,000 in qualifying combined balances in Bank of America banking, Merrill Edge and/or Merrill Lynch investment accounts, this is definitely a card worth considering. The Preferred Rewards program offers benefits in three tiers — Gold, Platinum and Platinum Honors — based on a three-month average combined balance in Bank of America and Merrill accounts. You could earn up to 75% more points on every purchase with Platinum Honors, which would mean earning 3.5x points on travel and 2.62x points on everything else. Preferred Rewards also comes with additional benefits like savings interest rate boosters, waived account fees and more.
Welcome bonus: Earn a $300 bonus after you spend $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Rewards: You’ll earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back everywhere else. Capital One has broad definitions for what qualifies for dining and entertainment, making this rewards structure even more lucrative. Whether you’re a fan of sporting events, theatre or even bowling, you can take advantage of 4% cash back. The dining category includes both dine-in and carry-out as well.
Other benefits: Through May 2020, you’ll earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats, which offers tickets for sporting events, concerts and theater shows. You’ll also receive access to purchase and travel protections, including extended warranty protection and travel accident insurance. The card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, which makes it perfect for maximizing rewards on entertainment when you’re on vacation outside the US.
Who should apply: The Capital One Savor is extremely versatile in that pretty much everyone can find value with the card. Are you a sports fan? You’ll earn 4% cash back on tickets (and 4% cash back on dinner before or after the game). Enjoy taking your kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews to the zoo or out bowling? Both of those also fall under entertainment and earn 4% cash back. If you’re spending just $198 on dining or entertainment each month, you’re already offsetting the cost of the annual fee. Just keep in mind that Capital One only allows you to have two personal cards at once, and you can only apply for one new Capital One card (including both personal and business cards) every six months.
Welcome bonus: Earn 3% cash back on the first $20,000 spent in your first year (1.5% cash back after).
Annual fee: $0
Rewards: After the first year, you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
Other benefits: You’ll get purchase protection and extended warranty protection, both of which are among the benefits being cut across Citi’s cards. The card also offers 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (17.24% – 25.99% variable APR after the intro period ends).
Who should apply: I am a strong believer that everyone needs at least one flat-rate cash back card in their wallet to maximize the purchases that don’t fall under other bonus categories. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great choice for this, especially if you have other Chase credit cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. When you pair the Freedom Unlimited with the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your rewards can be redeemed for 1.25 cents through Chase’s travel portal. If you have the Reserve, you can redeem those rewards for 1.5 cents each.
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Membership Rewards points are worth 2 cents each based on TPG valuations, meaning this welcome bonus could be worth as much as $1,200.
Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)
Rewards: Earn 5x points on flights booked through Amex Travel or directly through the airline, 5x points on hotels booked through Amex Travel and 1x points on everything else.
Other benefits: The perks that come with the Amex Platinum are what ultimately set it apart from the rest. You’ll receive up to $200 in airline incidental fee credits, up to $200 of Uber Cash credits, up to $100 of Saks Fifth Avenue credits and up to $100 in statement credits (every four years) for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. Additionally, you’ll get access to The Hotel Collection and Global Lounge Collection, plus automatic Gold elite status at Hilton and Marriott. The card comes with purchase protections, including extended warranty and return protection.
Who should apply: If you’re looking to travel in style, this is the card for you. The Amex Platinum offers some amazing luxury perks, and those perks alone more than offset the cost of the annual fee when you take full advantage of them. Lounge access can help you decompress while you’re at the airport, and elite status at both Hilton and Marriott can greatly improve your hotel stays. If you fly enough throughout the year to justify that annual fee, the Amex Platinum should have a slot in your wallet.
Welcome bonus: Earn 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 within the first 90 days. If you meet the spending requirement, you’ll also earn Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare (more details below). TPG values Alaska miles at 1.8 cents each, making the bonus miles from this bonus worth up to $720.
Annual fee: $75
Rewards: You’ll get 3x miles per dollar spent on Alaska Airline purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases. Most other cobranded airline credit cards only offer 2x miles/points for airline purchases, so this is one way Alaska sets itself apart from the competition.
Other benefits: Most notably, cardholders get Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) every year on their account anniversary. Additionally, you’ll get free checked bags for you and up to six other guests, 20% back on inflight purchases and 50% off Alaska Lounge day passes.
Who should apply: If you frequently fly Alaska (or with its partners) you can get a lot of value out of this card. Alaska miles are hard to earn and very valuable, and the card itself comes with some great perks. Alaska isn’t a member of one of the three major alliances, but its lineup of individual partners includes Cathay Pacific, Qantas and more. Add in the ability to book stopovers on one-way trips with Alaska (including those made with a partner-operated flight) and this card becomes a no-brainer for any frequent flier.
Other Cards to Consider
This is a solid list of cards that will be beneficial to most frequent travelers in their 50s, but there is always the possibility other cards might make a better fit for your specific spending and travel habits.
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card is a great choice if you fly with Alaska or its partners. However, you might find more value with other cobranded airline cards if you wouldn’t use the perks the Alaska Airlines Visa offers. Delta and American Express have a solid lineup of cards available for both personal use and small business owners, including the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. Whether you’re loyal to JetBlue, United, American, Southwest or even Hawaiian Airlines, there are options available to help you maximize both your rewards and your experiences while in the air.
All of the major hotel brands also have credit cards available, and many of them offer perks such as automatic elite status, fourth-night-free awards and more. Fans of Marriott have a full lineup of cards to choose from, ranging from the no-fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card to the luxury Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card. Those who are more loyal to Hilton also have multiple card options. Plus, top travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum allow point transfers to Marriott and Hilton, making their cobranded cards great complements to your general travel card.
If you spend a sizable portion of your budget on gas and groceries each month, you may want a card that caters to those categories over (or in conjunction with) the dining out and entertainment categories offered by the Savor. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is an excellent option whether you live in the suburbs or the city — the card will earn bonus cash back at US supermarkets, gas stations, on transit and on select US streaming services.
Parents who are housing college kids during the summer but have different spending habits in the fall and winter might want to look at a card that lets you choose your bonus categories each month or quarter. The US Bank Cash+ Credit Card and Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card both allow cardholders to choose which categories earn cash back, so you can cater your rewards to your spending habits throughout the year.
While it’s impossible to give a definitive list of the cards every person in their 50s should have, there are a few cards that lend themselves to the spending categories common among many 50-year-olds. As long as you’re choosing cards that make sense for your lifestyle and offer you bonus rewards across as many of your purchases as possible, you’ll be in good shape.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Amex, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
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WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees