Best Travel Reward Credit Cards 2011Take a look at the list below and find the best travel rewards credit card with benefits to match your travel habits.
Starwood Preferred Guest(R) Credit Card from American Express
First off you earn points towards Starwood hotels for free nights (free nights start at 2000 points) and upgrades in the Starwood Preferred Guest® program. But the benefits aren’t only for the hotels. You can redeem your points for airline travel as well, mostly on a one-to-one point basis (you can redeem at over 350 airlines). The hotels and airlines offered have no blackout dates. Currently, you can earn 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase and an additional 15,000 points if you spend $15,000 in six months (that’s enough for up to 6 free nights at a category 1 or 2 hotel!). Stay 2 nights at participating Sheraton Hotels and Resorts and get the 3rd night free. You can earn up to 5 points for every dollar spent at Starwood Preferred Guest® hotels and resorts – 2 points for every dollar spent at the hotel or resort and 2 for being a member. If you reach Gold or Platinum member status you earn an additional point. For regular spending you get one point per dollar. The first year the annual fee of $65 is waived.
You can see that if you do a lot of traveling, this can become a card with a lot of great benefits. It was Smarter Travel Editor’s Choice for Best Travel Awards Card for Domestic Use
Blue Sky from American Express(R)
This Blue Sky card may have one of the easiest-to-understand rewards programs on this list. There is no annual fee, a 0% APR on purchases for up to 6 months, and your travel rewards have no restrictions or blackout dates. Your points are redeemable for flights on any airline, stays at any hotel, and car rentals with any company. With as few as 7,500 points you can earn a $100 statement credit on any travel purchase (up to 33% more point value than most other cards). You will also get American Express’ protection from fraudulent charges and extensions on manufacturer’s warranties on eligible purchases. And don’t forget Amex’ 24/7 Global Assist® Hotline, which provides emergency assistance worldwide.
The Blue Sky card was rated “Best Airline Credit Card” by Card Ratings Consumer’s Choice Awards in 2010.
The Blue Sky from American Express(R) is a great general-purpose credit card that’s easy to understand!
Chase Sapphire(SM) Preferred Card
Right off the bat you can earn 50,000 points, enough points for a free flight, when you spend $3,000 in the first three months (that’s like $625 towards airfare or hotels). When you book airfare through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards(SM) site your points are worth 25% more. So those 50,000 bonus points could be redeemed for two flights worth up to $312.50 each, which would normally cost 62,500 points. When you use your card outside of the United States there are no foreign transaction fees. When you use your card to book airfare and hotels through Ultimate Rewards(SM) your get 2X the points (oh, and when you call to book you get an actual person, not a prompt). Other purchases are one point for every dollar spent. At the end of the year you get a 7% points bonus/dividend for all points earned the previous year. The first year’s annual fee is waived ($95). There are also no blackout dates or restrictions when airfare or hotel is booked through Ultimate Rewards(SM).
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card
PenFed is the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. They offer up quite a package for their members who use this card. You get 5x points on Airfare and 3x points on Dining and Hotels. All other spending yields you double points. You will receive a 20,000 point bonus when you spend $650 in the first 3 months (enough to earn a free airline ticket). The card also provides complimentary concierge service, PenFed’s premium collection of travel privileges, and comprehensive travel insurance coverage (see card site for details). You gain VIP airport lounge access with $15,000 in annual spending. There is no annual fee for the card but you do need to be a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to qualify for the card (there are a number of ways to be a member and anyone can apply).
Platinum Card(R) from American Express
The prestigious card gives you Priority Pass Airport Club access to airport lounges around the world for you and your guests. When you travel abroad, feel free to use your card without foreign transaction fees added on. Annually, you get up to $200 in Airline Fee Credits to cover incidental fees with your airline. You can earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months of being a member (already good for one domestic round-trip Coach-Class airline ticket). Membership allows you to receive upgrades and amenities to over 600 hotels around the world. You also have the privilege of the Platinum Card® Concierge to help you from gift buying to reservations. There are no blackout dates or restrictions on points redeemed for air and travel and you can earn double points when you book online. If you travel out of the country, the Platinum Card has no foreign transaction fees. And check this – you can apply for Global Entry with your card and have the fee waived and gain access to expedited entry to save time by bypassing most arrival lines at U.S. airports when arriving from international travel.
The Platinum Card is a charge card so there is no pre-set spending limit and no interest charges when your balance is paid in full. The annual fee is $450 and can be well worth it if you take advantage of all of the card’s benefits. There are plenty more benefits that I don’t have room to write about.
Continental Airlines OnePass® Plus Card
After your first purchase you get $50 back. That’s a great start! Then you can earn up to 30,000 bonus miles (enough for a round-trip reward ticket). The first 25,000 you get after your first purchase. The next bonus 5,000 miles you earn by adding an authorized user to your account. Your first bag will be checked free when you fly on Continental. When you spend $25,000 for the year on the card you get a bonus 10,000 miles. Annually, you get 2 passes to the Continental Presidents Club®. You’ll also earn 2 miles for every $1 spent when purchasing Continental Airlines tickets with your card and you get 1 miles for all other purchases on your card. Your miles may be used for car rentals and hotel stays as well. The first year’s fee for the card is waived (an $85 value). While more of an airline card, with the cash back and the fact that you can use miles for car rentals and hotels, the Continental Airlines OnePass® Plus Card makes for a good Travel Rewards card.
American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold Card
With the American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold Card you get 15,000 Membership Rewards® Points if you spend $1,000 in the first three months of having your card (this can earn you $150 in gift cards in the Rewards program). You can pile on the points with 3X earning using your card for airfare; 2X for gas and groceries; and 1X on everything else. This first year’s annual fee is waived ($175 after). By using Pay with Points at American Express Travel you can fly ANY airline, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE without blackout dates or seat restrictions. You also get the backing of Amex’ Global Assist® Hotline should you have an emergency when you are 100+ miles from home. There’s also roadside assistance and you get Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance when you use your card to rent a card. The card also gives you their Baggage Insurance Plan with coverage for lost, stolen, or damaged bags that are checked or carried on with tickets you purchased on your card.
Remember – In order to truly get the most from a travel rewards card you should not be carrying high-APR debt.
If you are looking for a specific airline miles card check out The Best Airline Miles Credit Cards.