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Top Travel and Rewards Credit Cards of 2018
We know that choosing a credit card can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Here we've broken down the top travel and rewards credit cards currently available. Learn about the pros -- and cons -- of each card, and find out why we're recommending it. Whether you're looking to earn free travel rewards or discounts on car rentals, our list has a little something for everyone.
1. 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®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- 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
Why We Recommend It: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the most well-rounded cards in the industry. With the 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points sign-on bonus, you'll have a minimum of $625 in travel rewards that can be transferred to airlines like United, Southwest, British Airways, Singapore and more, or to hotels like Hyatt, Marriott and Ritz-Carlton. While you'll pay a $95 annual fee after the first year and there are cards out there with better travel perks, the fact that there's no fee for the first year and you have the flexibility to use points in multiple programs makes this one of our favorite travel cards on the market.
2. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
- Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
- Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
- $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Planning a road trip? Rent your car, fill up your tank, book your hotel, and pay for it with your American Express® Card.
- Terms Apply.
Why We Recommend It: We consider the SPG points program to be one of the most valuable and versatile of all the rewards programs. With the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, you can take advantage of their very reasonable hotel award chart to earn free hotel nights, plus you'll receive 5,000 points free for every 20,000 points you transfer to dozens of airline programs. While the 25,000 point sign-up bonus is on the low side, points can now be transferred to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, meaning that 25,000 SPG points is equal to 75,000 Marriott points. Once you have to start paying the $95 annual fee, this card might not be worth keeping unless you stay at SPG properties consistently, but it's definitely worth trying out for the first year.
3. The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Terms Apply.
Why We Recommend It: With the outstanding number of travel perks from the Platinum Card, frequent travelers will find paying that massive $550 annual fee well worth it if you can manage the sign-up bonus spending requirement. While the $200 in free airline credits annually is only valid for incidentals like baggage fees and upgrades, combine that with the $200 Uber credit, access to a huge network of airline lounges, and 60,000 points worth at least $600+, and we still find the Platinum Card from American Express to be one of the top credit cards in the category.
4. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY®Magazine
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Why We Recommend It: When the Chase Sapphire Reserve card first hit the market, it was a unicorn with its introductory 100,000 points sign up bonus. But even at 50,000 points, we love this card for its amazing travel perks that easily offset the $450 annual fee, like the $300 travel credit good for all travel expenses, the airline lounge pass membership, the $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application fee credit, and the increased point value when you redeem travel through the Chase portal. With the 50,000 point bonus and the annual travel credit, you'll be looking at a minimum of $1,000+ in savings.
Images courtesy of Chase, American Express, Barclaycard.
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