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How To Choose The Best Rewards Travel Credit Cards

Best Credit Card Rewards Program

Shane writes: I’m interested in obtaining another credit card that is a rewards credit card and I’m not sure which one to get. My credit score is almost 900 and I travel 4-5 times a year total domestically and internationally. I’d say I average $30-$40k in expenses a year on my current credit card with no rewards.

This is a perfect situation for earning loads of free travel miles and rewards points!

Shane tells me that he mostly flies on American Airlines, his expenses are business related and he owns his own business. To really capitalize on free travel I would suggest any kind of American Express credit card with a bonus for signing up. Once in awhile American Express will offer a large sign up bonus, such as 75,000 rewards points for business owners who spend $10,000 within the first 4 months. Other credit cards offer anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 bonus points after meeting their spending requirements. Most of the time, the annual fee is waived for the first year.

In my personal opinion American Express offers the best options for both flying, hotels and car rentals along with the best rewards points available.

American Express frequently offers deals for transferring your rewards points to other airline carriers, such as Delta, British Airways, Virgin America and even to some hotel chains. These bonuses can add an extra 20% to 50% more airline miles or hotel points immediately.

In Shane’s situation he could register for a personal American Express card and a business credit card, both earning him rewards points for every dollar he spends. He can also register for the Gold Delta SkyMiles card and earn 30k airline miles right away. I personally have 6 American Express credit cards, 1 personal, 1 SkyMiles, 4 business credit cards (2 cards for each of the businesses I own).

If Shane flies on American Airlines, then why would I suggest a Delta SkyMiles credit card?

Depending on where Shane lives, I have found that flying overseas on Delta is easier than flying on American Airlines. In the future when Shane has hundreds of thousands of airline miles, booking a rewards ticket with Delta has been the better option. As you can see I am a fan of Delta!

I have had bad experiences with trying to book rewards tickets with AA and have even looked at getting British Airway’s miles ‘Avios’ and using those for booking an AA flight. Since British Airways and American Airlines are partners, you think you should be able to book a flight using their miles.

I hear people say how cheap rewards flights are with AA, but they make booking an awards ticket nearly impossible. For instance, a few months ago my wife flew to Dallas to visit a friend for a week. I always look for the best deal and even called British Airways/American Airlines to see if we could book a flight from Anchorage to Dallas or even from Seattle to Dallas with a very flexible schedule. There were no rewards tickets available, even though I had called 4-5 months in advance.

If Shane was able to use Avios and book flights on American Airlines, then American Express would be the way to go. British Airways seems to offer the most transfer bonuses of any airline. The past few bonuses had been at the 50% mark, which means if Shane were to get an AMEX card with a 50k bonus sign up and then took advantage of the transfer bonus to BA, he would get 75,000 miles. What other credit card offers these types of bonuses? Chase? Citi? Capital One? BofA? – None that I know of.

How about a Chase Sapphire Credit Card? I know there are many blogs out there that say Chase is amazing, but I honestly don’t see as much value with Chase and their travel partners – Southwest, British Airways, Continental, United Airlines (Mileage Plus) as I do with American Express and their travel partners.

Obviously you have to determine which 1-2 airlines you will fly the most and then focus your efforts on building up your rewards for those airlines.

Credit card travel partners:

  • American Express – Air Canada, British Airways, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Jetblue, Qantas, South African Airways, Virgin America
  • Chase – Southwest, British Airways, Continental, United Airlines (Mileage Plus)

Currently British Airways is offering a 40% transfer bonus until September 27th, 2012, which means you can get a lot more Avios if you were to transfer your American Express rewards points over to your BA account. You can view all of American Express’s travel partners, here and also see who is currently offering a transfer bonus.

Tip – Just because I prefer Delta and American Express, does not mean that those two options will work best for your situation. Living in Alaska makes traveling harder, as I cannot get some of the same offers or same deals that others can get in the lower 48 states. Be sure to fully research every option so you can make a decision on which credit card and airlines works best for you.

Disclosure – I do currently hold miles in Delta, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines. I also have rewards points with American Express and Chase

About Derek

I currently live in beautiful Alaska with my wife! Living in Alaska i have learned that it cost so much more just to travel anywhere! In order to fly anywhere it cost us an extra $250+ a ticket. We use miles and points to fly nearly everywhere for free, usually in First Class. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook or why not signup to receive new blog post via email or in RSS reader