A lot of big changes occurred in the travel credit card world during my (fairly) MIA period in August and it’s time to step back, scan the landscape, and take stock of what I love, like, hate, and hope for from each lender.
This is obviously a very subjective post (even more than some others), and I actually intend for this to be an interactive discussion, as opposed to just me sharing my own views, so please comment below on things you love, like, hate and hope for!
Here goes! Let’s start with off on a positive note with my favorite lender, Chase.
- The new Chase Ink Plus, that, despite sharing all the awesome perks of the Chase Ink Bold, is considered a completely different card, thereby allowing everyone yet another 50k signup! FANTASTIC!
- The 5x spending categories on a number of their cards; from the Freedom, which has rotating categories each quarter to the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, which offer 5x on all cable/internet/phone bills and also at office supply stores.
- Everything already not mentioned about the Chase Ink Bold, which is now firmly entrenched as my favorite card. My absolute favorite perk is the fact that you can buy gift cards at Office Depot (and get 5x points) and use them for all your everyday spend.
- That the Chase Hyatt card allows you 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt in the world, meaning you can redeem them for properties that would normally cost $700+ a night and truly spoil yourself…for free!
- The 2x bonus points on travel and dining for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
- The waiving of the first year annual fee on most of their cards (the SW card notwithstanding) and the waiving of a foreign transaction on most of their best cards (a huge score for travelers)!
- The Chase Priority Club card offering an 80k signup bonus AND having PointBreak properties at only 5k. You could theoretically spend 16 nights at an Intercontinental hotel for free!
- The Chase Marriott Premier’s signup bonus of 50k (which MIGHT be able to be bumped to 70k) PLUS 1 free night.
- The fact that the Chase Hyatt and the Chase Marriott Premier both give you 1 free night each year, which negates the annual fee and makes them both worth keeping open indefinitely.
- The Chase Freedom and it’s $0 annual fee forever, making it a great card to open and keep forever.
- Earning big chunks of points by shopping at the Chase Ultimate Rewards mall, my favorite online shopping portal.
- The ability to transfer UR points instantly to United and Hyatt, which gives you a great airline and great hotel partner.
- The signup bonus for the Chase Southwest cards being lowered from 50k to 25k. Ugh!
- The Chase BA card not waiving the first year annual fee and lowering the bonus from 100k to 50k.
- The fact that Freedom, regular Chase Sapphire, and Ink Classic points can’t be transferred to airlines or hotels without first transferring them to a Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus account.
- That the Southwest bonuses go back up to 50k sometime soon.
- That the Southwest points earned from signup bonuses continue to count toward the Companion Pass.
- That the minimum spend requirement on the Ink Bold and Ink Plus drop, making them more readily available for most people (although here’s a few ways to make it easier in the meantime).
- That Chase is somehow able to snag a good OneWorld transfer partner and open up even more possibilities for UR points (admittedly, I have no clue how this would happen, but remember, this is a hope).
- The incredibly high value of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points, which transfer to 30 airlines, including AA, at a 20k to 25k ratio.
- The 5th night free at SPG hotels when using SPG points and the option to use Cash and Points when staying at SPG hotels, two of the best hotel perks out there.
- The transfer bonuses they’ve offered for British Airways Avios points recently (the current one is 40%).
- The Amex Hilton HHonors, which NEVER has an annual fee, meaning you can keep it open forever and help build your credit, and yet still offers a decent signup of 50k Hilton points AND gives you Silver Status, which allows you to access the GLON and AXON awards chart (thanks to The Points Guy and Nick for making sense of them).
- That Amex backdates every credit card you open to when you opened your first one (big thanks to Noobtraveler for this heads up)! This is a big plus in helping keep your credit score high!
- The multiple 75k one day bonuses we’ve seen for the Amex Gold business card over the past year and the fact that “regular” signup bonus is now at 50k.
- The 2x points on groceries on the Amex Personal Rewards Gold card (I don’t consider the 2x on gas as important since the Ink Bold gives the same 2x and I prefer Chase UR points over Amex MR points).
- The overall lack of good transfer partners for American Express MR points since they lost Continental. The only decent Star Alliance option is Air Canada (which only sometimes charges fuel surcharges) and the best OneWorld partner is British Airways, which are only valuable in certain situations. Those two, combined with Delta, just isn’t cutting it!
- The declining value of Amex MR points, due to the above bullet. At this point, they aren’t even close to being in the same category with Chase UR points.
- The incredibly high annual fee on many of their cards. $125 for the Amex PRG? Ha, no thank you! $450 for the Amex Platinum? Nope (although I do realize the benefits make it worth it for SOME people, just not most of us).
- The 3% foreign transaction fee on most of their cards (not including the Amex Platinum).
- The small standard signup bonuses offered when there isn’t a promotion running. As if 25k for the Amex Personal Rewards Gold and Amex Platinum wasn’t bad enough, how about ZERO MR points for the standard Amex Gold business card, which was the offer until this bump-up two weeks ago! That’s bush league, Amex!
- That Amex tries to steal back some market share from Chase and starts offering some better signup bonuses for their premium products, along the lines of 75k for the Gold and 100k for the Platinum.
- That Amex works to improve their transfer partners, such as adding AA as a transfer partner for MR points and not just SPG points.
- The Citi/AAdvantage Visa and American Express double up, which will earn you a cool 100k AA miles. This is the best signup bonus out there, and even though the link in on my Best Current Deals page takes you to an application page that won’t mention the 50k, numerous people (including myself) have received the 50k in the past few weeks. If you don’t have these cards yet, you need to get on it!
- The fact that after 65+ days of getting approved for the two Citi/AA card mentioned above you can also apply for the business version of the Visa and get an additional 50k AA miles. That’s 150k AA miles for a few minutes of work! Can’t beat that return on investment!
- The Citi Hilton HHonors card, which, like it’s Amex doppleganger, never charges an annual fee and yet still gives you a 50k signup bonus and Silver Status, which gives you access to the GLON and AXON rewards chart.
- The fact that all Citi cards, to my knowledge, waive the annual fee for the first year.
- That Citi is at least attempting to step up to the plate (yeah, I’m talking to you Amex) and make a run at Chase by offering a new product in the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card (unfortunately, it falls short, but it’s a start).
- Citi’s customer service! The fact that I mention it before any of the other things that annoy me about Citi shows just how bad it is. It’s impossible to get reconsidered for a card over the phone. Instead, you have to send in an actual paper letter in the actual mail (which I’m convinced still only gets read half the time). This isn’t 1965, Citi. We have things called telephones and lo and behold, the internet!
- The fact that the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card limits the 2 free nights you get as your signup bonus to ONLY WEEKEND nights. This seems like a super unnecessary and super annoying way of killing a lot of the value of a fairly decent deal. Not cool, Citi.
- The whole Citi Thank You points system. Even though I applied for the Citi Thank You Premier when the bonus was 50k (it’s now 25k), I still haven’t even thought about using them, and personally, don’t enjoy points that are tied to a specific monetary value and can’t be transferred to airline miles or hotel points.
- That the Citi/AAdvantage signup bonuses continue to work even though they are technically “expired”. Even better, how about bringing back the old 75k public offer! Now that’d be sweet!
- That Citi continues to try to emulate Chase and comes out with some new products (and this time offers cards of similar value to Chase).
- That instead of offering Thank You Points, Citi works with some other airlines or hotels to offer some good, co-branded credit cards like their AA partnership.
Bank of America
- That the Bank of America and Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airline cards both transfer to Hilton at a 1:2 ratio, meaning the signup bonus for each card, which is 35k Hawaiian Airline miles, will net you 70k Hilton points!
- That most of their card are churnable, meaning you can get the signup bonus for the same card again (usually after waiting a year or so).
- That the Alaskan Airlines card bonus dropped to 25k from 40k.
- That the Virgin Atlantic card bonus dropped from 50k to 25k.
- That none of their cards waive the annual fee for the first year.
- That both the Alaskan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic cards bounce their bonuses back up to the better offers (which seems to happen pretty frequently).
- That the cards continue to be churnable.
- The USAirways Mastercard has no minimum spend, a waived annual fee, and offers 40k miles a signup bonus. That’s about the most hassle-free miles you can ever expect to get!
- The fact that you can get a SECOND USAirways Mastercard, even while keeping the first one open. I’ve done this already, as have many others. Unfortunately, I just tried for a third, but to no avail.
- None, really.
- Nothing, other than the fact that I you can “only” get 2 USAirways Mastercards!
- That Barclays starts offering more cards or maybe a better version of their Virgin America card, which currently only offers a 25k signup bonus and has a $49 annual fee that is not waived for the first year.
Please don’t forget to comment below on what you love, like, hate, or hope for from some of the lenders. This isn’t a monarchy; I want an open discussion about this, so bring your opinions and A-game below!
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For an even more in-depth breakdown of the cards, check out the Best Current Deals tab and the Best Hotel Cards page.