Credit cards are a great way to build credit and get rewards or cash back for your purchases. Despite their benefits, a growing number of Americans – now 29% – have ditched them altogether.
There are a few potential reasons for this. It could be that people are less likely to take out a line of credit if they’re cash-strapped. Or, perhaps the financial crisis of 2008 has so severely damaged the reputation of creditors that people are avoiding them at all costs.
But we would implore you not to lose faith in the benefits of credit cards. They are still fantastic for those of you that can use them responsibly and want rewards for your money, especially when it comes to getting travel miles.
If you’ve got wanderlust, there is no better time to get a credit card than now. Many different banks are offering cards with generous travel rewards programs.
In this article, we’ll guide you to the best credit card for miles.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is not only gorgeous-looking, its rewards benefits are also extremely attractive.
Upon signing up for the card, you can get 50,000 bonus rewards points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. These points come out to about $625 in travel if you use Chase’s travel portal. They could potentially be worth even more if you use them on Chase’s partners: United, Southwest, and Hyatt.
On top of that, you get 2x the points per every dollar spent on travel or dining. On everything else, you get 1 point. The card does have an annual fee of $95 but it’s waived in the first year.
The only downside to this card is that it doesn’t have the travel-specific bonuses that some airline cards do, like free bag checks or priority boarding.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Card
The Venture Rewards card is perhaps more travel-specific than the Chase card.
With this card, you earn two travel miles for every dollar spent on the card regardless of category, and you can then redeem these miles for to compensate for almost all travel expenses. This means that you don’t have to use the travel miles just on big expenses like car rental, airline tickets or hotel bookings. No, with this card you can even pay for a $10 Uber ride if you wish.
This card comes with a fantastic signing bonus as well. If you spend $3,000 in the first three months, you can 50,000 travel points, which comes out to about $500 in travel expenses in Capital One’s reward system.
There are also no foreign transaction fees and no black-out dates for using your points to pay for air travel like there is on some cards.
The only downside here is that the rewards points you get for this card have to be used solely for travel expenses. But if that’s what you’re looking for a card, there are no issues.
Lastly, this card also has an annual fee of $95 that is waived in the first year.
The Bank of America Travel Rewards Card
The Bank of America Travel Rewards card has extremely generous rewards.
With this card, you’ll earn 1.5 points per every dollar spent on any purchase. For BoA, each point is worth one cent. Additionally, if you’re a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch account holder, you may get an additional 10-75% bonus when you redeem your points depending on your account balances.
There is no annual fee with this card ever and no APR for the first 12 billing cycles. There’s also a signing bonus of 20,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
Lastly, you also have 12 months to use your points after you redeem them, which is a larger buying window than most cards.
The only drawback to this card is that if you want to take full advantage of its rewards program, you have to be a Bank of America or BoA-affiliated banking customer.
The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
Attention, high rollers. This credit card is for you, as its $195 annual fee (waived in the first year) is prohibitively expensive for most.
What you get in return for that fee is pretty great, however. This cards trademark benefit is its $100 Airplane Fee Credit and $75 Hotel Credit. Every year you get a $100 Airplane Fee Credit to use for incidental purchases and bag check fees at one particular airline designated in Amex’s rewards system.
With the Hotel Credit, you get that $75 to spend on bookings as well as a free room upgrade if you book a room with a hotel in the rewards system’s Hotel Collection. With these credits, the card’s annual fee practically pays for itself.
You also receive 3x the points on every dollar spent on purchases from airlines, 2x the points at restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores, and 1 point all other purchases. If you’re a frequent traveler, it’s very easy to rack up purchases with this card.
Lastly, you’ll get 25,000 bonus points if you spend $2,000 on the card in the first three months.
The American Express Platinum Card
This is the mack daddy of credit cards. It’s as thick as card stock, shiny as silver, and comes with a whopping $550 annual fee. But if you’re a luxury traveler, this is the luxury card you need.
Considering the fee, the rewards on this card are well-worth it. You get 5 points for every dollar spent on hotels and airlines (though there are stipulations here) and 1 point on everything else.
You also get some pretty insane perks. Every year, you get a credit of $200 for airline fees and $200 in Uber credit. On top of that, you get access to over 1,000 luxury airport lounges, as well as exclusive concierge service at select hotels, and access to restricted concerts, shows, and other events.
Also, if you pay for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry with this card, you’ll get your money reimbursed every five years.
Lastly, if you spend $5,000 in the first three months, you’ll receive 60,000 rewards points, the highest on this list.
The only downside to this card is that if you aren’t always traveling and spending money, the annual fee can really bog you down. Also, Amex cards aren’t as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard, so you may run into issues in remote locations.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
The Sapphire Reserve card is like the luxury model of their aforementioned Preferred card and is meant to compete with the Amex Platinum card.
It does this by dropping undercutting the Platinum’s annual fee, offering a cheaper price at $450 a year and potentially better perks.
Let’s start off by explaining its rewards system: With this card, you get 3 points per dollar spent on travel expenses and restaurants and 1 point for every dollar spent on anything else. In Chase’s Ultimate Rewards system, each of these points is worth 1.5 cents if you book your travel through Chase’s system.
Additionally, you get a signing bonus of 50,000 points (a $750 travel credit) if you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
From there, this card offers a lot of the same perks the Platinum does, but in a slightly better fashion. Every year, you get a $300 in credit for all travel expenses, and your TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry fees get reimbursed every 4 years.
You also get access to Priority Pass Lounges in airports and are treated to travel insurance just by carrying the card.
The Chase Ink Business Preferred Card
If you’re a business owner, you should look no further than this card if you’re looking for travel perks.
This card has a small annual fee of $95, and a giant 60,000 point signing bonus if you spend $5,000 is the first three months, which comes out to $1,000 in travel expenses if you book the Ultimate Rewards Program.
And here’s where the card gets particularly good for the business owner: For every dollar you spend on travel, telecoms, shipping, or social media advertising, you get 3 points and 1 point for everything else.
Each point is worth 1.25 cents if you book through the Ultimate Rewards portal or can be exchanged on a 1:1 ratio if you book with United, Southwest, or Hyatt.
The only downside to this card is that it has a spending limit on its rewards program. You can only get 3x the rewards points on up to $150,000 per year in spending in the aforementioned categories. However, this limit is pretty high, and unless you’re running a corporation, it’s unlikely you’ll hit the spending cap.
So What’s the Best Credit Card for Miles?
It’s hard to say which of these cards is the best credit card for miles, as everyone’s needs are different. If you’re a high-roller or a business owner, you’re going to get the most bang for your buck out of the Chase Ink, Sapphire Reserve, or Amex Platinum cards. Their perks can be beaten and if you can withstand the annual fee, there is no downside.
But if you’re just looking for a cheap, effective card that still has a good rewards program, we’d go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Its annual fee is low and its rewards are generous.
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