Top Travel Cards to Earn Points and Miles

The following cards are ones that I believe provide the best value in terms of “bang for your buck.”  In other words, the sign-up bonuses are large, the benefits are many, and/or the time is right (it’s a limited time offer).  Don’t forget to check this post for ideas on how to meet minimum spend!  I do not receive a commission for any of these cards.

1) The Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card – 40,000 Ultimate Rewards Points

  • I love this card.  First of all, it just feels right in your hand.  It’s made of metal so it’s got a nice heft to it.
  • You’ll earn 40,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points after you spend $3,000 on the card within the first three months.  Actually, you end up earning more, because you’re spending at least $3,000 on the card, AND the card provides a 7% bonus on all points you’ve earned throughout the year, AND if you go through the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal (more on that in this post), you can double (2x), triple (3x), or sometimes 10x or 12x your points.  So you’re looking at at least 46,000 points for the year but it will more likely be much more than that.
  • Ultimate Rewards points are valuable because of their versatility.  You can transfer them 1:1 to airline or hotel partners such as United, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, or Priority Club (Intercontinental).  You can also use them to spend on travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards site and get a 25% bonus on points (so those 46,000 points would be worth $575).
  • The $95 fee is waived for the first year you have the card.
  • You earn 2 UR points per dollar on dining and travel, and 1 UR point per dollar on everything else.

2)  Club Carlson Cards – 85,000 Club Carlson points

At first glance, these Club Carlson credit cards seem pretty basic.  However, the awesome part about these cards is that they all feature a “bonus reward night.”  This is huge, because it is a benefit that can effectively double your points; if you redeem points for a 2-night stay, your second night is free.  So if you are traveling as a family and both adults have a Club Carlson card, you could stay 2 nights under one reservation, then swap to the second reservation and stay 2 nights, and so on. Here is a rundown of the different perks you get with each card:

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature

    • 5 Club Carlson points per dollar on daily spending
    • 10 points per dollar on Club Carlson hotel spending
    • 85,000 point sign-up bonus — 50,000 after first purchase and 35,000 more after $2500 spend within 90 days
    • “Bonus Award Night” – when you cash in points for an award redemption, your last night is free
    • Club Carlson Gold status
    • 40,000 points a year on your “card anniversary”
    • $75 annual fee

Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa

    • 5 Club Carlson points per dollar on daily spending
    • 10 points per dollar on Club Carlson hotel spending
    • 85,000 point sign-up bonus — 50,000 after first purchase and 35,000 more after $2500 spend within 90 days
    • “Bonus Award Night” – when you cash in points for an award redemption, your last night is free
    • Club Carlson Gold status
    • 40,000 points a year on your “card anniversary”
    • $60 annual fee

3) The Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Card from American Express – 25,000 Starpoints

  • This is a solid card to have in your wallet because of its flexibility. You earn a 25% bonus when you transfer SPG points to airline partners. (For example, 20,000 SPG points is worth 25,000 American Airlines miles). Also, the Cash and Points option for booking Starwood hotels can be an incredible deal.
  • The current bonus on this card is 25,000 Starpoints – 10,000 points after your first purchase using the card, and an additional 15,000 points after you spend 5,000 within 6 months.
  • Starpoints are valued at around 2 cents apiece, so 30,000 Starpoints is worth around $600.
  • There is a $65 annual fee for this card – which is waived the first year.
  • Earn 4 Starpoints/$1 spent at Starwood hotels, and 1 point/dollar everywhere else.

4) The Chase Freedom card – 10,000 points 

  • I must admit that I overlooked this card for awhile because the sign-up bonus isn’t very glamorous.  However, I quickly realized that this card is like the Little Engine That Could.
  • You get 10,000 points after a minimum spend of $500 within the first 3 months.
  • When you’ve got this card, you can enjoy a quarterly rotating bonus (5x points) in certain spend categories such as grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and other essentials.  You can currently earn up to an additional 7,500 points per quarter (for $1,500 of spend).
  • If you’ve also got the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Chase Ink Bold card, you can transfer your Chase Freedom points to any Ultimate Rewards partner at a 1:1 ratio.  This makes the Chase Freedom card even more valuable.

Comments

  1. Hi,I have a question. I just received 40,000 on my Sapphire card and was wondering if I could transfer 10,000 to my rapid rewards acct. for 10,000 points towards companion pass?
    Thank you very much!

    • Points Pixie says:

      Hi Dave – Any Chase points that you transfer directly to your Rapid Rewards account will NOT count towards your Companion Pass. You need to convert Chase points to hotel points first, and then convert those hotel points to Rapid Rewards. You can do this with Hyatt:

      1. From your Chase Ultimate Rewards account, transfer 17,000 Ultimate Rewards points to 17,000 Hyatt points.
      2. Transfer 16,250 Hyatt points to 8,400 Rapid Rewards points (transfers need to be in increments of 1,250 Hyatt points).
      3. When you add those 8,400 points to the 2,000 points you will earn by making minimum spend, this will be enough to push you over the 110,000 points threshold, and you will earn your Companion Pass.

      Good luck!

  2. Why don’t you get commission? You should – you are promoting these cards every time you write wonderful things about them! IJS!

    • Points Pixie says:

      ElleX – I know! The credit card companies are very selective about who gets to earn commission/get affiliate links. I may investigate that possibility in the future, but for right now, I am just enjoying getting the info out there!

  3. I love these tips! I’m thinking about applying for the Carlson AND the Chase Freedom in the next few days. If strategically buy Vanilla reloads (on the Chase Freedom) at gas stations and grocery stores, couldn’t I potentially earn 5x the dollar amount spent?

    Why isn’t everyone doing this????
    You rock!

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