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Many travel rewards credit cards have superlative-laced names that include words like Plus, Preferred, Premier and Reserve that can make it hard to differentiate them. On top of that, card issuers and the brands they partner with are making things even more difficult, like Marriott recently rebranding its loyalty program.
What’s in a Name?
At least with cards like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, consumers can infer that the Platinum version will be more expensive and theoretically have more perks than the Gold version. After all, platinum is more valuable than gold in the real world.
Another easily discernible difference? The JetBlue Plus versus the JetBlue Card. Of course the Plus is going to be a nicer version of the regular card. Or the Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express versus the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express. Something that’s preferred is going to be more exclusive.
But how is the average traveler supposed to figure out the difference between the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card? Which is higher-end — something ascendant or something aspirational?
Those are just a few examples. But it doesn’t end there. Here are some of the most confusing naming schemes among the major travel rewards credit cards, and the differences you should know about.
Marriott’s New Bonvoy Credit Cards
Let’s start with the latest development. As part of the combination of Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz-Carlton Rewards programs into the new Bonvoy program, Marriott also decided to rebrand its credit cards. It made sense for the chain to standardize its offerings by converting existing card holders and offering newly branded cards to future potential members. They also changed the benefits of some of the cards, while sticking with both Chase and Amex as issuers.
In the short term, that means a lot of confusion for card holders. Here’s a handy graphic showing the Amex cards being converted:
As you can see, the transition is fairly straightforward on the surface. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is turning into the Marriott Bonvoy Card from American Express. Likewise, the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express is now the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
The odd one here: the relatively new Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Credit Card from American Express is now the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. On its own, that doesn’t sound too complex. But consider that Marriott is also changing the names of its Chase cards as follows:
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is bound to get mixed up with the new Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, and the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business Visa Signature will be hard for the ordinary card holder to distinguish from the less flamboyantly named Marriott Bonvoy Business Card from Amex.
In this case, card holders are getting hit with the perfect storm of a loyalty-program merger and overhaul, agreements with two issuers, and a marketing department that’s far too fond of the thesaurus.
Hilton Honors Ascend to Aspire
Hilton Honors dropped an extra “H” in its reward program name a couple of years ago. Then it dropped its association with Citibank to launch a slate of new credit cards with American Express in January 2018.
Among the new cards were two similarly named ones that continue to confuse card holders to this day. The Aspire card is more expensive and richer in benefits than the Ascend, so you’d have to Ascend to the Aspire.
You can find a full review of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card here, but the short version is: the card has a $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), earns up to 14 points per dollar, and comes with perks like Hilton Honors Diamond status, an anniversary free weekend night at almost any Hilton worldwide,up to $250 Hilton Resort statement credit each cardmember year, up to $250 annual airline fee credit, up to $100 Hilton on-property credits and Priority Pass membership.
Our review of the lower-tier Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card is here. This card has an annual fee of just $95 (See Rates & Fees), earns up to 12 points per dollar and has pared-down perks like automatic Hilton Honors Gold status, lower Priority Pass Select membership and a free weekend night only after spending $15,000 in a calendar year.
The Aspire is a clear winner given all the added benefits and a difference of only $355 in annual fees.
Capital One and Venture
Why Capital One ever named a card the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is beyond me. It’s a nonsensical compound word that literally tells you nothing about the card and doesn’t have anything to do with its earning structure.
The two key differences between it and the similarly named Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is that the Venture card earns 2 miles per dollar on every purchase and has a $95 annual fee, as well as perks like Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement. The VentureOne earns 1.25x miles per dollar and has no annual fee.
Capital One is not consistent with its card names though. Based on the Venture cards, you’d assume that any Capital One card that has One as part of the card name would be the lower-end version of the non-One card. That’s true of the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card ($95 annual fee after the first year and higher earning rate) versus the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card (no annual fee).
But it’s not the case with the Quicksilver cards. The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card and Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card both earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases. The Quicksilver has a sign-up bonus but no annual fee, while the QuicksilverOne has no sign-up bonus and a $39 annual fee. You need better credit for the Quicksilver, so in that respect it does follow the Card versus CardOne rule, but it’s mystifying nonetheless.
Citi – Are You Preferred, Premier or Prestige?
Citi’s three ThankYou Rewards-earning cards have likewise confusing names. They are pretty simple to keep straight, though. The Citi Preferred is the $0 annual fee card, with points that you cannot transfer to the program’s travel partners. It’s also no longer open to new applicants — it’s been replaced by the Citi Rewards+ Card.
The Citi Premier is the mid-level card. It has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year), and earns 3 points per dollar on travel (including gas) and 2 points per dollar on dining out and entertainment.
As its name might suggest, the Citi Prestige is the top of the heap. It now offers 5 points per dollar on airfare and dining, 3x on cruises and a $250 annual travel credit good for all travel. It continues to offer a 4th Night Free benefit on hotel stays (that can be used twice per calendar year) and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement. Its annual fee is $495.
Is Plus or Premier a Priority with Southwest?
Plus and Premier are the most used monikers on credit cards, and Southwest is one of the worst offenders since its two main cobranded cards are the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus. The airline also recently introduced the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card to make things even more perplexing.
Instead of getting into the granular details here, you can check out this post with a direct comparison of all three. The one standout fact you should take away is that the new Priority comes with more perks than the other two cards, such as a higher anniversary bonus of 7,500 Rapid Rewards points, a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, four annual upgraded boardings and 20% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi. It also has the highest annual fee of $149.
Is Your Business Preferred or Plus? Ask Chase
Chase introduced a whole new level of bafflement to its business cards when it unveiled the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card a few years back, in direct competition with its own Chase Ink Plus business credit card.
The Ink Plus is no longer longer available, so the Preferred won. But if you had the Plus, you can still apply for the Preferred. It has the same $95 annual fee as the Plus. However, its earning structure is a lot simpler. Card holders earn 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. That’s versus a convoluted 5x/2x/1x structure with the old Ink Plus.
There are some other significant differences, but you can check out our full review of the Chase Ink Business Preferred.
Hyatt and IHG Rewards Rebrands
Both World of Hyatt and IHG Rewards introduced new credit cards meant to replace older versions in the past year or so.
The IHG Rewards Club Select Card still exists, but is closed to new card holders. Instead, IHG introduced the new IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and the IHG Rewards Club Traveler. The latter is the hotel chain’s most basic card, with a $29 annual fee.
IHG has been pushing Select card holders to convert to the Premier, which has an $89 annual fee versus the old card’s $49, and only offers a free anniversary night at properties whose award nights cost up to 40,000 points each, rather than the nights good at any IHG worldwide available with the old Select card.
For its part, Hyatt Gold Passport became World of Hyatt back in 2017, but it took over a year for the company to launch a new cobranded card, the World of Hyatt Credit Card, to replace the old Hyatt Credit Card.
Like IHG, Hyatt has been trying to get holders of the old card to upgrade to the new one along with an annual fee that increased from $75 to $95. The new card does offer enhanced benefits like earning up to 4x points per dollar at Hyatts versus the old card’s 3x cap, plus 2 points per dollar on airline, local transit purchases and gym memberships.
Unlimited Freedom Redundancies
While the Chase Freedom card has been around for years and years, Chase unveiled a different version called the Chase Freedom Unlimited a couple of years ago. The two cards are quite similar beyond just sharing a name.
Both have no annual fee. Both earn cash-back Ultimate Rewards points that can be combined with transferable Ultimate Rewards points if you have another card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, the Unlimited version earns 1.5x points on all purchases while the old Freedom earns one point per dollar on most purchases, but 5x points on up to $1,500 spend each quarter on rotating merchant categories. Which card is right for you depends on your spending habits. But one thing is for sure: it’s hard to remember which card is which or when to use what.
Credit cards are confusing enough without issuers and rewards programs introducing several similar cards with all kinds of bombastic modifiers in their names like Bonvoy Brilliant.
That’s why it pays to stay on top of loyalty programs. Every update and revamp is likely to mean new and improved–or at least additional and different–cards to choose from. At the very least, you should know which options are available for your specific loyalty programs of choice so that you can be sure to pick the best card or cards for your needs.
Know before you go.
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Limited Time Offer! Earn 100,000 points with this card after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months. TPG values 100K Bonvoy points to be worth around $900. Aside from the huge welcome offer you'll earn up to $300 in statement credits each year and 1 free night every year after cardmember anniversary.
- Limited time offer: Earn 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Offer ends 4/24/2019.
- Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
- Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select membership.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $450 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees