Readers pick the best credit cards for the 2021 TPG Awards
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. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
It’s the first day of Credit Cards Week here at the 2021 TPG Awards — and that means it’s time to give out some trophies. Readers cast their votes for six awards from Sept. 13 through Oct. 15, and the results are in.
Read on for a full breakdown of the winners — including a few surprises.
Best Premium Credit Card
The world of premium travel rewards cards — which we define as those with annual fees greater than $300 — went through some major shake-ups in 2021. There were increased annual fees on some of these products and an array of (at times unexpected) new benefits on popular products. This may have impacted the voting, as we have a surprise first-time winner of this award.
Taking home the trophy is American Airlines’ top-tier credit card: The Citi AA Executive card.
This card has a number of perks that are especially appealing to American travelers, including free checked bags and Admirals Club access when traveling on American or its partners. But most importantly, it extends those lounge privileges to up to 10 authorized users (AUs) — including two guests or immediate family members. Even better? These AUs can be added at no additional charge.
It’s possible that higher annual fees on cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express helped push this unlikely winner to the top. It’s worth noting that American also won many of the airline-related awards, so it stands to reason that AA flyers simply came out in large numbers during voting.
Best Travel Rewards Credit Card
Cards with smaller annual fees ($300 or less) are even more appealing to the average traveler. And in this category, a familiar one came out on top.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Sapphire Preferred won the award as the best travel rewards card for the fourth-straight year.
While it’s been a mainstay on TPG’s list of best cards for years, it underwent a refresh to make it even more valuable in 2021. This included enhanced earning rates and a new $50 hotel credit every year (when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal). Its best-ever welcome offer that ran for a few months in 2021 may be in the past, but the Sapphire Preferred clearly still sticks in the minds of TPG readers.
Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Card
Paying an annual fee on a credit card can unlock incredible value, but even those without a yearly cost can be an important part of your travel rewards strategy. And here again, it’s a repeat winner.
Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited
On the surface, it seems simple: You earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make. However, you can also effectively convert these rewards into fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points by carrying a higher-end Chase card — like one of the Sapphire cards. This translates into an effective return of 3% in rewards (based on TPG’s most recent valuations), and TPG readers felt that the Freedom Unlimited offers a value proposition worthy of another award.
Best Business Card
Business credit cards provide an array of perks for small-business owners (though you may be surprised at what may qualify you for one), and in this category, we again had a first-time victor.
The Amex Business Gold card was voted as the best one for small businesses. While it’s not as flashy as The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, the card nevertheless provides some solid value for a card with a $295 annual fee (see rates and fees). It offers great ways to maximize your earning rates across different categories of purchases, and you’ll also enjoy a 25% rebate when using the Pay With Points feature to book travel reservations through Amex Travel (up to 250,000 points per calendar year).
Best Airline Cobranded Credit Card
We saw some incredible new offers launch on airline credit cards in 2021, but one card stood above the rest according to TPG readers.
One of American’s mid-tier cards took home the honor as best airline cobranded card this year. The card could be a solid option for American Airlines travelers — especially if you’re based in one of the carrier’s hubs — as you’ll enjoy a free checked bag on domestic itineraries plus a 25% discount on in-flight purchases.
American also added the ability for current elite travelers to requalify for status by spending $15,000 on a cobranded card from July 15 through Nov. 15, so that may have helped push the card to the top.
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Best Hotel Cobranded Credit Card
The final category for today is for hotel cobranded cards — and like in years past, the winner came from the same program that took home the hotel-related awards in 2021.
Marriott’s mid-tier card was voted as the best hotel card around by TPG readers.
While the Marriott Bonvoy program is popular for many road warriors, this card can appeal to even more casual fans. The Marriott Boundless card launched its best-ever bonus during voting, but it also provides value for cardholders after that initial haul of points — including a free-night certificate every year (up to 35,000 points) plus automatic Silver Elite status and 15 elite-night credits to help you hit an even higher tier.
There were some surprise winners for the readers’ choice categories here at Credit Cards Week at the 2021 TPG Awards, but that’s simply how the votes fell this year.
Do you agree with these picks, or did the readers miss the mark? Be sure to join the discussion in our TPG Lounge Facebook group — and then tune in to our Facebook Live this Thursday at noon Eastern Time to hear our editorial team members’ take on the winners.
For rates and feed of the Amex Business Gold Card, please click here.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees