There are four factors to consider when choosing a the best Credit card for travel points:
1). AIRLINE LOYALTY
2). SIGN UP BONUS.
4). ANNUAL FEE
How much do you travel? Where do you go?
If you travel a lot or plan on traveling a lot, you might have an idea of where you will be going and what airlines you might want to take. If you travel to the same places all the time for work, on the same airline, it might make sense to get a card that earns points for that particular airline. Whats more, if you already use that airline a lot, you may have loyalty status with them and get extra perks when you travel like free check bags and upgrades. Even when buying flights with miles as a status holder you would still get these perks that you wouldn’t get with other airlines.
However, if you tend to go to different places all the time, or just don’t have any plans in particular, it’s best to keep your options open.
Committing to one airline is a bad idea if your travel plans are subject to change often. How do you avoid committing to one airline? Choose a credit card that allows you to transfer points or use points on partner airlines. This way you will always have backup options in case there’s no availability on your first choice or your first choice doesn’t fly to where you want to go.
By using cards associated with programs such as Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, American Expresses Membership Awards and Citi’s Thank You Points, you will have plenty of options when it comes to booking your trip. These cards are not air miles credit cards, they are Bank branded loyalty points cards and these points can be spent in other ways than air travel, such as hotels and general shopping.
Not only do these cards have multiple major airline partners they also let you buy a normal ticket on any airline by using your points as cash, so there are no availability problems.
If you fly the same route often or have loyalty status with a particular airline, get their credit card. Otherwise, go with a transferable points currency card.
SIGN UP BONUS
Relying purely on credit card spending to gain points at a $1 : 1 point rate is a bad strategy. Purely relying on this strategy means you’d have to spend $100,000 just to accrue 100,000 points.
Most people don’t spend $100,000 a year on their credit cards.
The only realistic way to accrue a sizable amount of points, therefore, is through the credit card sign up bonuses where you can get upward of 50,000 points in one go.
The good credit card bonuses do not last forever, perhaps for just a couple of months once a year. Even rarer are bonuses of 70,000 points+ that can appear just once in a lifetime for a card or maybe every couple of years.
Depending on what month you apply for a certain card, the bonus could vary by tens of thousands of points. Most cards only let you claim a sign-up bonus once (or at most once with a 24month period), so you don’t want to waste your one shot when the sign-up bonus is not at its peak, otherwise you are just leaving points on the table!
How do you know if its a good deal or not?
Most credit cards have been around for a while and you can check online to see what the previous bonuses for that card have been. Just google the name of the card + sign up bonus and see what comes up. If you are still unsure, try searching a specific number like: Credit card name + 60,000 points. If there ever was a bonus for 60,000 points, the ad will show up.
If the current bonus is more 5000 points lower than the highest one, wait it out. Unless the past bonus you are looking at seems to be a one-off like when the card was launched.
As a rule, I aim for bonuses of 50,000 points and above on any card with an Annual Fee. For free credit cards, the bar is lower. For example the Chase freedom Card’s highest sign-up bonus was 30,000 points, however, this is rare and it usually sits at 15,000/20,000. And since there are so many other cards to chose from and you can’t sign up for them all at once, it makes sense to go with another card and leave the Chase Freedom card until it’s offered with a higher bonus.
Choose a card that has a historically high sign up bonus for that particular card.
The credit cards with the best sign up bonus usually have more expensive annual fees and require a higher credit score to be approved. Check you credit before you decide which credit card to apply for. You can sign up to www.creditkarma.com to get a rough idea of your credit score without having to pay or do a hard pull on your credit, which could bring it down a few points temporarily.
Here is a rough idea of what credit scores you need to apply for certain card issuers:
SUGGESTED CARD ISSUERS
American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Barclaycard, Chase, Citi, Discover and Wells Fargo
Bank of America, Barclaycard, Capital One, Chase, Discover and Wells Fargo
Capital One, Credit One and other cards designed for fair or average credit.
The Capital One Secured Mastercard, Credit One credit cards
Don’t waste a hard pull credit check on a credit card you don’t qualify for. Check your credit score and Choose a credit accordingly.
The annual fee is also something to consider. The sign-up bonus may seem attractive but if you are paying $450 a year for that card(like with the American Express Business Platinum card) and not using any of the other perks, it may not be worth it. At a very basic level 100 points is worth at least $1, so in the above example, you would be to get a bonus of 100,000 points but be paying 45000 points worth to get it, leaving you with net 55,000 points…. and that’s if you cancel the card after just a year, otherwise you’ll pay the $450 again the following year and so on.
Having open credit lines active for only a short period of time can negatively affect your credit score. Cancelling your credit card after only one year is therefore not advised as a general practice. Take this into account when weighing up the annual fee of a potential new credit card.
Check the annual fee to see if it doesn’t negate the Sign-up Bonus and make sure you have good enough credit for the credit card you want.
WHICH CREDIT CARD IS BEST?
1) A card that gives you multiple airline transfer options,
2) with a reasonable annual fee,
3) that you can get approved for
4) and most importantly is offering its highest historical sign-up Bonus(or close enough).
For anyone dipping their toes in the credit card miles an points game I suggest a card that earns either Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, American Expresses Membership Awards or Citi’s Thank You Points. Luckily each of these programs has multiple credit card options. One of them will usually have a good bonus.