I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. Citibank is an advertising partner of this site, as is American Express, Chase, Barclays and Capital One. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same). Terms apply to the offers and benefits listed on this page.
The Top (10) Deals in Travel:
- Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. Arguably the single best benefit in all of travel is the Southwest Companion Pass which is earned after 110,000 points in a year [effective January 1, 2020: 125,000 points in a year] – and credit card points (including signup bonus points) count. Your designated companion can fly with you for just taxes regardless of whether you’re traveling on a paid fare or points. While points transfers from hotel programs no longer counting towards your total, points earned using Southwest credit cards do — both bonuses and ongoing spend.
- Best Signup Bonus to Boost Your Points Quickly. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has an 100,000 point initial bonus after $4000 spend within 3 months. That can even be enough for a roundtrip business class award ticket between the US and Europe. (Chase points are super valuable because they transfer directly to a variety of airlines and hotels such as United, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Southwest Airlines, Hyatt, JetBlue, and more.)
- Roundtrip first class between the US and Japan on ANA for 110,000 – 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
From the West Coast it’s just 110,000 miles for first class (90,000 in business class). My last reservation was a Houston – Tokyo Narita first class roundtrip for 120,000 miles and $169.26 in taxes (no fuel surcharges) but sadly ANA has increased its surcharges.
You can put the award on hold for 24 hours. Points transfer from partners instantly. Roundtrip travel is required, Virgin Atlantic awards have a $50 per passenger change fee, and a cancel/redeposit fee of $50 as well. No changes are permitted within 24 hours of travel.
- Alaska Airlines $99 Companion Ticket. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature has one killer benefit, but it’s one of the best benefits in travel. Each year you get a companion economy ticket that costs $99+tax just for having the card, and you can pretty much always use it because it books into the same revenue inventory that the paid ticket does.
In other words the companion even earns miles. And you can use it for any itinerary bookable through Alaska. Book East Coast to Hawaii roundtrip if you want. And even book a Seattle stopover if you wish.
- Bring 33 People into an American Airlines Admirals Club.
Thirty three isn’t unlimited but the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® has an interesting quirk. This is the card that comes with an American Airlines Admirals Club membership. Authorized users on the card have no annual fee. You can have up to 10 authorized users. Each one gets access to the Admirals Club on their own by presenting their card, and each can bring in two guests. That’s eleven total cards per account and a single annual fee, and each of the 11 folks can bring 2 guests. Consider splitting the cost of the card’s $450 annual fee with friends or family.
American Airlines Admirals Club New York JFK
- Mideast – Southeast Asia for 50,000 AAdvantage miles each way in first class Fly Etihad Abu Dhabi – Singapore in first class for 50,000 miles, which is great value considering this is true international first class and an over 7 hour flight (not to mention access to Etihad’s first class lounge enroute).
Etihad First Class Lounge, Abu Dhabi
If the diplomatic row between Qatar and neighboring Gulf states ever subsides you’d be able to fly Doha – Abu Dhabi in Qatar’s regional first class, unlocking access to their al Safwa first class lounge and connect Abu Dhabi – Singapore in Etihad’s first class at the same time.
Qatar Airways al Safwa Lounge, Doha
- Cathay Pacific US – Asia in first class for 70,000 Alaska miles each way… or add on Africa for no additional points. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan allows you to book stopovers on one way award tickets, and charges just 70,000 miles each way for first class on Cathay Pacific between the US and Asia. Fly to Hong Kong, stop over, and continue to another Cathay Pacific destination in Asia.
Cathay Pacific First Class
The funny thing is that Alaska charges the same price for awards to Africa on Cathay Pacific as they do Asia. So you can connect (or stopover) in Hong Kong and continue to Africa without spending any more miles.
Sadly Cathay no longer serves Johannesburg using an aircraft with a first class cabin, but Hong Kong – Johannesburg (a 13 hour flight) as a ‘free’ add-on in business class still isn’t bad.
- Best Value Rewards Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Points transfer to United, Hyatt, Southwest, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, Marriott, IHG Rewards Club. The card earns 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.
- Best All-Around Rewards Credit Cards:
- American Express Gold Card offers four points per dollar in two different categories: restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases annually, then 1 point per dollar spent) and earns 3X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines and amextravel.com.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve has great earn, a great bonus, and decent benefits. The signup bonus is 50,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months. You earn triple points on travel and dining, and those points transfer to airline miles and hotel points. [Offer expired]
The card has a $550 annual fee, but there’s a $300 annual travel credit (automatically rebates qualifying travel spend) and a $100 global entry credit, plus you get a Priority Pass for airport lounge access with unlimited visits and no fee for guests.
That’s a strong bonus and fast earn, with good benefits, though not as strong benefits as American Express has with their premium card. 5/24 applies.
- Platinum Card By American Express earns valuable points (Membership Rewards that transfer to airline miles), has a strong signup bonus (60,000 points after $5000 spend within 3 months), and earns 5 points per dollar on airfare.
There’s a $200 annual airline fee credit (which you can use in 2021, and again at the beginning of 2022, so twice during your first cardmember year) and a $200 annual Uber credit, enrollment required for each. There’s also a $100 Global Entry credit.
Lounge access is American Express’ own Centurion lounges, Delta lounges when flying Delta same day, Airspace lounges and Priority Pass lounges (enrollment required).
And you get elite status with Marriott, Hilton, National Car Rental, and Uber. It’s also a pretty hefty metal.
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card has a 100,000 point signup bonus after $15,000 spend within 3 months. That can even be enough for a roundtrip business class award ticket between the US and Europe. These points transfer directly to airlines and hotels.
It earns 3 points per dollar on travel — that’s airlines, hotels, rental cars, tolls, even Uber — and 3 points per dollar on shipping and advertising on social media and search engines, so great for anyone who advertises on Facebook or Twitter, or who spends money advertising with Google. It also comes with $600 protection against theft or damage when you use it to pay your cell phone. 5/24 applies.
You get a great signup bonus, great points-earning, and a good benefit in cell phone coverage.
- Citi Prestige Card used to be a great benefits card but in my opinion they’re largely killing the 4th hotel night free night benefit. Instead they’ve turned this into a huge card for points-earning (5 points per dollar on air travel and restaurants, 3 points per dollar on hotels and cruise lines) plus Priority Pass card with unlimited visits and 2 included guests.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card lets you buy any flight without worrying about restricted award availability using your rewards. It earns 2 miles per dollar spent, and those now transfer 2:1.5 into several airline frequent flyer programs. That makes this card a double threat: great for buying paid travel, also great for transfers to frequent flyer programs since with many of those programs you’re earning 1.5 miles per dollar spent.
- Checking Account Miles: BankDirect 22,000 American Airlines mile signup bonus. This has been my primary checking account since July 2003. [Offer no longer available]