5 Travel Rewards Credit Cards To Upgrade Your Travel [April 2017]

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Updated: April 2017

Are you tired of being tied down to one airline or hotel loyalty program? Are you ready to fly in first class on some of the most prestigious airlines and stay at some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts around the world? Do you keep saying how you want to travel more, but just don’t think it fits your budget?

Then you need to consider up one, two or more of these powerful credit cards with flexible reward programs, and you’ll be on your way to upgrading your travel in no time!

These five credit cards are among the many travel rewards cards available on the market today, but they offer enhanced perks that are especially geared towards frequent travelers. Each one comes with exclusive benefits and specialized bonus categories to help you earn lots of points so you can travel in style.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Current Signup Bonus

Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

What You Get

Those points are worth 25% more for travel when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal (making this signup bonus worth $625), or they can be used directly with a growing number of airline and hotel transfer partners  (like Southwest, United, Hyatt, Marriott, and others).

You can earn an additional 5,000 bonus points for adding an authorized user and make a single purchase on that card (this could be for your spouse, child, friend, whomever!).

Earn More, Travel More

Earn 2X points per dollar spent on all dining and travel-related charges (airlines, hotels, parking and even Uber) worldwide and 1X point per dollar on all other purchases. There’s no limit to the number of points you can earn in these categories either!

With no foreign transaction fees, you can use your Chase Sapphire Preferred® card around the world and rack up lots of points!

The card also comes with primary rental car insurance benefits, trip cancellation coverage, and exclusive invites to events and experiences around the country.

Annual Fee: Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.

Why This Card?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card unlocks access to 11 airline and hotel transfer partners so you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to really maximize their value

Ready for that Hawaiian vacation? Take advantage of just one of Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, Singapore Airlines, where KrisFlyer miles can be redeemed for United Airlines flights for fewer miles than using United’s own MileagePlus program!

Honolulu Hawaii
Get to Hawaii with fewer miles on United Airlines flights by transferring to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Program and take advantage of award chart sweet spots! Photo Courtesy of shutterstock.com

Singapore Airlines only charges 17,500 miles for a one-way flight in economy from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii, 30,000 miles in business class and 40,000 in first class, while United charges you a whopping 22,500 miles in economy, 40,000 for business and 50,000 in first class for the same exact flight making Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program one of the best to get you to finally say Aloha to Hawaii!

Overall 

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the most popular travel award credit cards with a flexible Ultimate Rewards program, and incredible opportunities to earn points, helping you to travel in style in no time.

2. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Current Signup Bonus

Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, plus a special limited time offer for an extra 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after you make an additional $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months, but apply by April 5th 2017 for that special limited time offer!

What You Get

35,000 Starpoints® is the highest bonus ever offered on this card, and since American Express has a once in a lifetime sign-up bonus rule, now is the time to get this historic offer.

Starpoints® are extremely valuable because they can be redeemed for stays at any of one the 11 hotel brands in the Starwood Preferred Guest network or transferred to one of the most extensive lists of airline transfer partners with a 5,000 bonus on transfers of 20,000 points or more.

That means with the minimum spending requirements plus the bonus, this card could earn you up to 50,000 miles in your favorite Starpoints® airline transfer partner!

Earn More, Travel More

Earn up to 5X points per dollar spent on eligible purchases at participating Starwood hotels, which includes the 2x Starpoints® at Starwood properties and 2x or 3x you earn as a Starwood Preferred Guest member.

You’ll get 1X Starpoint® per dollar spent on all other purchases which could be as much as 1.25 airline miles if you are racking up Starpoints® to transfer to one of the 30+ participating airline partnersThis makes the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express one of the best-branded travel rewards credit cards on the market for everyday spend!

Marriott also recently acquired Starwood, opening up tons of additional opportunities to travel even more with Marriott and Ritz Carlton stays with a transfer ratio of 1 Starpoint® to 3 Marriott Rewards points.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a great card to have with you everywhere you travel since it provides a peace-of-mind with services like a Global Assist hotline when traveling 100 miles from your home and benefits with no foreign transactions fees.

Annual Fee: $0 first year, then $95.

Want a Jump Start on Your Loyalty Status?

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express will help you get fast tracked to elite status by receiving an automatic credit for 5 night and 2 stay credits each year toward SPG elite status.

SPG partners with over 30 airlines like American Airlines, Air France Flying Blue, and many other incredible programs that provide some amazing redemption possibilities, and to help, we’ve created a guide with the 45 best ways to maximize the value of your Starpoint® redemptions!

SPG also has a Nights & Flights offer where 60,000 Starpoints® give you 5 free nights and 50,000 airline miles to their select airline transfer partners at SPG category 3 properties or 70,000 Starpoints® for category 4 properties like the Palacio del Inka, A Luxury Hotel Collection in Cusco Peru (the perfect destination to start your journey to Machu Picchu!)

Luxury Collection Hotels Cusco SPG
Stay in luxury before exploring one of the 7 Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu – Courtesy of The Luxury Collection

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express definitely provides a great way to earn plenty of flexible and rewarding Starpoints®, but it also provides a lot of protection on valuable purchases.

Overall

Starwood Preferred Guest is one of the best and most valuable travel rewards points out there and with the historic 35,000 sign-up bonus, I would consider this the first card to get if you haven’t received a bonus on this card before.  

3. Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Current Signup Bonus

Earn 25,000 Membership Reward® points after you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months of Card Membership.

What You Get

25,000 Membership Reward® points provide you with redemption possibilities from 500 leading brands in travel, gift cards and entertainment including transfers to many incredible airline and hotel partners.

The card also gives a $100 airline fee credit each calendar year, which reimburses you for fees like checked baggage charged directly by your selected airline.

This benefit alone will offset the annual fee if you decide to keep the card after one year, since you will be able to use this benefit twice before the annual fee hits in 2018, giving you $200 in airline fee credits!

Earn More, Travel More

The Premier Rewards Gold card from American Express provides the most bonus earning categories of all three cards! And this card comes with no interest since it is considered a charge card, requiring you to pay off the balance in full each month.

You can earn 3X points for all airfare booked directly from airlines, which could be a huge potential if you have a lot of friends and family that always ask you for help to book their travel!

You will also earn 2X points at restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets in the US, which is perfect if you want to dine out or grab groceries, this card has you covered even while you’re on the road.

Hotels will earn you 2X the points when you book through Amex Travel, and if book through the Amex Hotel Collection you’ll also earn a $75 hotel credit on qualifying purchases on stays of 2 nights or more, which makes this a great card to spend on hotels through American Express if you don’t have any loyalty to a particular brand.

With no foreign transaction fees, a dedicated personalized travel service team just a phone call away and premium Roadside Assistance Protection (which will actually pay to change a flat tire when you’re stuck on the road) the Premier Rewards Gold card from American Express makes it even easier to travel even more.

Flat Tire Roadside Assistance
Don’t get stuck on the road! The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express pays for select Roadside Assistance!

Annual Fee: $0 first year, then $195

Why This Card?

You are looking for exclusive premium benefits from your card membership and a flexible travel rewards program, like Membership Rewards®. Once you’ve earned lots of Membership Reward® points, be sure to check our guide on the 58 best ways to redeem Membership Reward® points for max value!

Your purchases are safe when using the Premier Rewards Gold card from American Express with protections like Extended Warranty, Purchase Protection, and Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance.

The Premier Reward Gold Card from American Express also provides exclusive entertainment benefits for Card Members like access to American Express Preferred Seating at select venues and early access to pre-sales tickets for Card Member-only events.

Get exclusive access to Hamilton seats with your Premier Rewards Gold card from American Express! Photo Courtesy of Broadway in Chicago

Overall

The Premier Reward Gold Card from American Express provides some very exclusive benefits to help elevate your travel and also some fantastic bonus earning categories to earn plenty of points every day!

4. JetBlue Plus Card

Current Signup Bonus

Earn 30,000 TrueBlue bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.

What You Get

TrueBlue points are great because they never expire, come with no blackout dates, and can be earned and redeemed with over 40 different partners.

These points don’t have a fixed value, but according to our calculations, they have an average value of 1.2 cents per point, which means after you meet the requirements of for the bonus you will have at least $372 worth of JetBlue flights!

When you fly JetBlue you will get a free checked bag, 50% off in-flight purchases and each time you use your points you get 10% back on redemptions to use on a future flight. You also get a $100 credit on a Getaways Vacation Package purchases each calendar year.

Each year, card members are awarded an anniversary bonus of 5,000 TrueBlue points, and for those big spenders that truly want to go blue, you can earn Mosaic elite status for spending $50,000 in a calendar year.

Earn More, Travel More

The JetBlue Plus Card is ideal for those who can’t get enough of those free blue chips they offer on JetBlue flights since you earn 6X points on all purchases made directly with JetBlue.

You also earn 2X points for all purchases made at restaurants and grocery stores, making this card an easy one to carry around with you every day to maximize earning your points.

TrueBlue members also have the ability to earn 3X points per dollar spent on Amazon purchases, both on the ground through TrueBlue or in the air using JetBlue’s Fly-Fi (the fastest free internet in the skies).

Annual Fee: $99 per year

Why This Card:

The JetBlue Plus Card (read our full review) is perfect for those who are loyal to the JetBlue experience, offering excellent incentives to earn lots of JetBlue points with 6X on purchases directly with JetBlue and fantastic perks when you fly with them.

You want to boost your TrueBlue balance to experience the best domestic first class cabin in the skies, starting at 39,400 points each way, The Mint cabin provides the longest lie-flat seats and most exclusive private suites for travelers who want the ultimate JetBlue experience.

How To Redeem JetBlue TrueBlue Points
Rack up those TrueBlue Points to experience the best first class domestic seats available with The Mint cabin. Photo Courtesy of JetBlue

Your points will never expire, you want to be rewarded for being a cardmember and want to fly with a growing airline that continues to be considered one of the best domestic carriers to choose from with plenty of great options to redeem your TrueBlue points.

Overall:

The JetBlue Plus Card makes it even easier to earn TrueBlue points on everyday purchases and with the 2X on grocery stores and restaurants paired with the 3X Amazon partnership, it would be hard not to earn 2X-3X points on almost everything!

5. The Platinum Card® from American Express

american express platinum card

Current Signup Bonus

Earn 60,000 Membership Reward® bonus points after you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months of account opening.

What You Get

Besides the 60,000 Membership Reward® points, which can be can be transferred to select hotel and airline partners and redeemed for items and experiences with over 500 leading brands, you get access to one of the most rewarding premium travel rewards card out there.

Each calendar year this card gives you a $200 airline fee credit, which can be used to reimburse for things like checked baggage and change fees charged directly by your selected airline and can be used twice before the next annual fee hits!

You also will get complimentary access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world with the Global Lounge Collection, which includes the Centurion® lounge network and access to Priority Pass lounges after enrolling in Priority Pass™ Select.

Centurion Lounge SFO
Get access to Centurion® Lounges and relax in comfort before your flights at select airports. Photo Courtesy of Centurion® Lounge (SFO)

The Platinum Card® from American Express also will reimburse the fee for TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry, up to $100 every 4 years, ensuring your airport security process will be a breeze so you can enjoy more time in the premium lounges offered by this card.

Earn More, Travel More

The huge benefit of the Platinum Card® from American Express (read our review) is that you earn 5X Membership Reward® points for all airfare booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel and 1X for all other purchases.

It is rare to see a 5X points bonus category, which was just recently increased but is a tremendous benefit if you book a lot of airfare for yourself, family members or friends.

This card also offers special privileges and competitive rates for cardmembers when booking at least two nights in the Fine Hotels and Resorts from American Express. Cardmembers will receive daily breakfast for two, $100 amenity, guaranteed 4 PM late check-out and depending on availability, a room upgrade, and early 12 PM check-in.

You also receive benefits through the Hotel Collection and booking at least two nights through American Express Travel. Cardmembers will receive a room upgrade when available and a $75 hotel credit to be used on qualifying dining, spa and resort activities.

If these benefits aren’t enough, you also get upgraded access to premium loyalty status with two hotel chains- Starwood Preferred Guest® Gold and Hilton Honors™ Gold which will add even more perks for the frequent traveler. You also will receive premium loyalty status with select car rental companies to help you get to your destination faster and in style.

Annual Fee: $550 per year

Why This Card

This card provides huge incentives to cardmembers that are looking to elevate their travel experiences to another level and with the annual fee increasing to $550 on March 30th, now is the time to get this card and lock in the $450 fee rate for the first year.

Earning 5X Membership Reward® points on airfare booked with the airline or through American Express Travel can really give a boost to your award balance, giving you more opportunities to make great award redemptions while you enjoy all the other exclusive travel benefits this card offers.

A flexible award currency like Membership Rewards® is perfect for those who don’t have a specific trip in mind, since they can be used to book travel using points through American Express Travel at any time, or they can be used to transfer directly to select airline mileage programs or hotel loyalty points.

Overall

The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the most elite travel rewards cards on the market, offering fantastic benefits and huge earning potential with 5X points on airfare, this card is a must, especially if you make it before the annual fee increase.


 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
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