The Best Rewards Credit Cards For High-Spend and Large Purchases

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We’re all familiar with the concept that if you spend more on a rewards-earning credit card, you’ll earn more rewards.

While it’s a simple concept, if you can generate big spending on a credit card, you may be able to catapult your benefits to a higher level than just the normal rewards earned for spending.

Many credit cards have spending thresholds that trigger benefits far beyond regular earnings.

We’re not talking about exclusive high-net-worth or invitation-only credit cards here either — we’re looking at hotel, airline, and premium travel credit cards that most consumers with excellent credit can qualify for.

Hitting credit card spending thresholds can earn a variety of elevated reward levels, including the following:

  • Free hotel nights
  • Hotel loyalty program elite status
  • Companion airline tickets
  • Bonus frequent flyer miles
  • Mileage/dollars toward airline elite status
  • Bonus rewards points
  • Generous sign-up bonuses

It may seem like only those who can spend big will reap rewards — but you don’t need to be a high roller or big business owner to earn these extra bonuses. With that said, you may need a high-limit credit card to meet some of these spending levels.

Let’s take a look at just what level of spending is required, and whether you might be sitting on the edge of greater rewards!

High Limit Credit Cards and High Spending

You generally can’t have high spending without having a high credit limit.

High limit credit cards are generally considered those credit cards with limits greater than $10,000. You’ll need an excellent credit score and sufficient income to qualify for a card with a credit limit greater than $10,000.

You won’t know up front what your credit limit will be when you apply for a card, but you’ll want it to be sufficient to allow you to match your anticipated spending levels and in turn earn the associated rewards.

Premium credit cards and business credit cards generally do have greater credit limits, thus allowing you to keep credit utilizing percentages in check.

Hot Tip: When you’re approved for a new credit card, make sure the credit limit is sufficient for your upcoming spending. It is possible to move credit limits between credit cards of the same issuer or ask for an increase due to a large upcoming purchase for example. To increase credit limits on existing credit cards, check out our suggestions for American Express and Chase credit cards. 

Best High-Spend Credit Cards for Free Hotel Nights

Many hotel branded credit cards offer a free night certificate at your card renewal anniversary — but did you know you can spend your way to additional free nights?

Here are some of the most popular hotel credit cards that kick it up a notch with free nights for big spending:

Best High-Spend Card for Free Hotel Nights – Annual FeeCard Comes With:Spend Your Way to:
  • Free weekend night at card renewal anniversary
  • Additional free weekend night after spending $60,000 in a calendar year
  • N/A
  • Free weekend night after spending $15,000 in a calendar year
  • Free night at card renewal anniversary
  • An additional free night after spending $15,000 during card anniversary year
  • Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa® Signature Card
  • Radisson Rewards™ Business Visa® Card
  • 40,000 Radisson Rewards points at each card renewal anniversary
  • A free night certificate for each $10,000 spent on the card per anniversary year, up to 3 free nights ($30,000)
  • Radisson Rewards™ Visa® Signature
  • 25,000 Radisson Rewards points at each card renewal anniversary
  • A free night certificate for each $10,000 spent on the card per anniversary year, up to 3 free nights ($30,000)

Bottom Line: Many hotel branded credit cards offer a free night certificate for renewing your credit card, or offer enough bonus points to redeem for a free night. This free night alone can almost always offset any annual fee.

Marriott hotel room
Enjoy an upgraded room as a result of complimentary elite status that comes with your hotel branded credit card. Image courtesy of Marriott.com.

Best High-Spend Credit Cards for Hotel Elite Status

Some hotel credit cards offer elite hotel loyalty status just for having their branded credit card, while others add the option for you to spend your way to elevated elite status.

This collection of hotel branded credit cards offers both elite status and the option to spend big for higher status:

Best High-Spend Card for Hotel Elite Status – Annual FeeCard Comes With:Spend Your Way to:
  • Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Hilton Honors top Diamond status – $40,000 spent in a calendar year
  • Marriott Silver Elite status + 15 qualifying night credits toward higher elite status
  • Marriott Gold Elite status – $35,000 spent in a card anniversary account year (2019 requirements)
  • Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Card from American Express – $450
  • Marriott Gold Elite status + 15 qualifying night credits toward higher elite status
  • Marriott Platinum Elite status – $75,000 spent in a card anniversary year
  • Discoverist elite status + 5 qualifying night credits toward status
  • World of Hyatt top Globalist Status – receive credit for 2 qualifying elite nights per $5000 spent. Globalist Status requires 60 nights/year

While the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card each come with Hilton Honors Gold Status and the option to spend $40,000 to reach Diamond Status, the Hilton Honors Aspire Credit Card automatically comes with top Hilton Honors Diamond status.

None of the Marriott or Starwood branded credit cards automatically offer top elite status — you must spend $75,000 on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Card to reach Platinum Elite status (or stay the required 50 nights).

You do receive 15 qualifying nights for having the card toward this requirement.

The Chase World of Hyatt Card offers the unique opportunity to combine spending with stay activity to qualify for Hyatt Globalist Elite status.

Although not recommended, you could actually qualify based on spending alone since as the card grants 2 elite night stay credits for each $5,000 spent.

Hot Tip: Not every great hotel branded credit card requires big spending to earn free nights, elite status, or rewards. Check out our recommendations for the best hotel credit cards in our complete guide.

Southwest plane
Spend your way to a Southwest Airlines companion pass. Image courtesy of Southwest.

Best High-Spend Airline Credit Cards for Companion Tickets

Several airline credit cards offer a companion ticket benefit for additional spending on their branded credit card.

Let’s take a look at those credit cards that allow you to spend your way to a discounted or free (subject to taxes and fees) companion ticket.

Best High-Spend Airline Credit Card for Companion TicketsSpend Your Way to:
  • Southwest Airlines Companion Pass after spending enough to earn 110,000 points in a calendar year. Sign-up bonus, credit card purchases, and revenue flights count toward the 110,000.
  • AAdvantage Aviator Business MasterCard
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
  • $99 domestic economy companion ticket after $30,000 spent in a calendar year
  • Companion travel ticket when purchasing an award ticket – after spending $30,000 in a calendar year (taxes and fees apply)

Southwest Airlines’ Companion Pass is a valuable benefit because it is not a one-time use companion ticket. Once earned, the pass is good for multiple flights flown throughout the remainder of the current year in which it’s earned plus the entire following year.

The American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards and the British Airways Visa Signature® Card require significant spending of $30,000 in a calendar year to earn a companion ticket.

It’s worth noting that many airline credit cards come with companion ticket benefits that do not require additional spending:

  • Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card – Each card offers a $99 companion ticket (plus taxes/fees) at card anniversary renewal
  • Aeromexico Visa® and Visa® Signature Cards – Each card offers a free companion fare at card opening and a $99 companion fare at renewal
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express – Offers free domestic (lower 48 states) main cabin companion ticket at card anniversary
  • Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express – Offers free domestic companion ticket good for coach, business, or first class at card anniversary

Bottom Line: While some airline branded credit cards require you to spend big in order to receive a companion ticket, many airline credit cards offer free or discounted companion tickets without additional spending. 

Best High-Spend Airline Credit Cards for Bonus Miles and Elite Status

Most airline frequent flyer programs have requirements for both the amount of miles flown and dollars spent with the airline in order to qualify for elite status.

Some airline branded credit cards allow you to earn these qualifying miles/dollars toward elite status, while some offer redeemable frequent flyer bonus miles when hitting spending thresholds.

First let’s clarify some terminology:

  • Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) – Revenue spending requirement needed on a particular airline to qualify for that airline’s elite status
  • Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs/MQMs/PQMs) – Miles that count for elite status but are not redeemable
  • Redeemable/Bonus Miles – Frequent flyer miles that can be redeemed for award tickets and other rewards, but do not count toward elite status

Here are the airline branded credit cards that offer one or more of the above bonus types when spending big on their credit card:

Best High-Spend Airline Credit Card for MilesSpend Your Way to:
  • Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard
  • Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business MasterCard
  • $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) after spending $25,000 in calendar year
  • 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after spending $40,000 in a calendar year
  • 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 elite qualifying miles (MQMs) after spending $30,000 in a calendar year; additional 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs after spending $60,000
  • Revenue requirement waiver for elite status – spend $25,000 in a calendar year, and the MQD revenue requirement is waived for elite status qualification ( all levels except Diamond)
  • 10,000 redeemable bonus miles and 10,000 elite qualifying miles (MQMs) after spending $25,000 in a calendar year. Additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000
  • Mosaic elite status after spending $50,000 in a calendar year
  • Revenue requirement waiver for elite status – spend $25,000 in a calendar year, and the PQD revenue requirement is waived for elite status qualification (all levels except 1K)

Bottom Line: You’ll earn miles faster, reach elite status sooner, and receive benefits such as free checked bags and priority seating/boarding when having an airline branded credit card. 

Chicago skyline
Enjoy a free U.S. hotel night after spending $10,000 on your Radisson Rewards Card. Image courtesy of Radisson Rewards.

Best No Annual Fee Cards With High Spend Bonuses

It may come as a surprise that there are credit cards that reward high spending but don’t charge an annual fee.

No Annual Fee Cards With High-Spend BonusSpend Your Way to:
  • Hilton Honors Gold status – $20,000 spent in a calendar year (card comes with Silver status)
  • Radisson Rewards™ Card
  • A free night certificate for each $10,000 spent on the card per anniversary year, up to 3 free nights ($30,000)
  • Barclays Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card
  • 8,000 bonus points after $10,000 spent per account anniversary year

Hilton Honors Gold status comes with free breakfast and room upgrades.

It’s important to note that Radisson free night certificates can only be used in the U.S.

Choice Hotel free nights start at 8,000 bonus points, so the card bonus alone could earn you 1 free hotel night.

Bottom Line: Even no annual fee credit cards can offer spending level bonuses such as elevated rewards, elite status, or free hotel nights.

Additional Credit Cards for Spending Bonus Rewards

If you’re spending a large amount annually on a credit card, you’ll want to receive all possible bonuses. These cards offer bonus rewards when hitting specific spending thresholds.

Credit Card/Annual FeeSpending Bonus
  • 50% bonus Membership Rewards points on purchases of $5,000 or more
  • $100 flight discount on AA after $20,000 spent during card membership year
  • Chase IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card – $89
  • 10,000 IHG Rewards Points after spending $20,000 in a calendar year
  • Best Western Rewards® Premium MasterCard – $59 (waived first year)
  • 20,000 Best Western Rewards points after spending $5000 in each 12-month billing cycle

Bottom Line: Don’t miss out on spending level bonuses! Check your existing credit cards and make note of spending bonuses on newly acquired credit cards to ensure you meet the requirements of the reward levels you want to achieve. 

Final Thoughts

Choose Wisely

If you have a business with large cash flow or spend a considerable amount personally, you’ll want to consider high limit or high spend credit cards that deliver the most value for your largest expenditures — and it may not be a hotel or airline branded credit card.

Directing major spending to achieve these bonuses shouldn’t be done without analyzing any lost opportunity cost either. For example, you may have cash-back credit cards with bonus categories earning 2%-6% cash-back that would deliver greater value for some expenses.

You may also have rewards-earning credit cards that earn flexible rewards, which can be redeemed for a greater return on your dollars spent.

Consider Sign-up Bonuses

The best return for credit card spending happens when you qualify for the initial sign-up bonus after being approved for a credit card.

Since it’s possible to receive, for example, over 100,000 hotel points for spending a few thousand dollars in the first 3 months after card approval, it makes sense to include sign-up bonuses in your credit card decision process.

Bottom Line: Unless you’re already spending large amounts on your credit card, striving for the additional big spend bonuses is hardly worth it. However, you should be aware of any available spending bonuses on your cards so that you don’t miss out by coming up short!


*Featured image credit: Marriott

FAQ

Which is the best high-spend credit card?

The best high-spend credit card for you is the one that delivers the most value for the amount you spend, the categories of your highest expenses, and how much you want to pay for an annual fee.

The best card for you will also depend on the loyalty brands you frequent and where you spend the most money. If you’re a frequent traveler, for example, the best high-spend credit card for you will be different than for a person who does not travel.

Select the card that rewards your highest expenses, delivers benefits that you can actually use, and charges an annual fee you’re comfortable with.

Is a card with an annual fee worth it?

Yes, if a credit card delivers value for you that exceeds the cost of the annual fee then it is worth it.

For example, if you travel frequently and find value in having executive lounge access to shower and get some work done before an important meeting, a premium card offering complimentary lounge access would prove valuable.

Since an annual lounge membership can run $500 or more, having a credit card that charges an annual fee of $450 could be worth it — especially since these premium credit cards usually come with additional travel expense rebates and other travel benefits.

Are high-spending rewards worth it?

In some cases, it may not be worth it. If your business is spending at a high level anyway, however, the benefit is there.

For example, you wouldn’t intentionally spend $20,000 on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard just to receive $100 off an American  Airlines ticket but if your business is spending that anyway, the perk is there to utilize.

How do I use the free hotel nights?

In most cases, when you reach the required spending level, the free night certificate is deposited into your loyalty account and available for use when you make a reservation.

You can also call reservations for the hotel loyalty program to book your free night.

Free night certificates do have expiration dates, usually one year from the date the free night certificate is earned and issued.

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2 comments

  1. I’ve heard JetBlue also has a really nice credit card.

    • Christine Krzyszton · December 3, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Haley! Yes, we mentioned just the two JetBlue credit cards because of their high-spend bonuses but there is also a no annual fee JetBlue credit card issued by Barclays that does not have a high-spend bonus. Thanks for your comment.

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