Choosing Your Best Rewards Card While Travel Is Grounded

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Chase picked a challenging time to launch the new United ClubSM Infinite Card. It’s the brand new, souped up card that comes with United Club membership. I’m not sure how many people are going to be looking for that right now, although it comes with a limited time offer to earn 100,000 bonus miles after $5,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.

It actually makes a lot of sense to bulk up on miles right now. You’ll be well-positioned to take some great trips once we’re all flying again. And I expect that planes will have a lot of empty seats for awhile which should be great for the best award pricing. We already know that ths offer is scheduled to end in May. So it can make great sense to take advantage of right now.

My strong view is that frequent flyer miles in major airline programs are very safe. However for extra security it can make sense to focus more on bank programs.

  • Major banks are probably stronger than the major airlines

  • Their programs that let you transfer to a variety of frequent flyer programs offer an additional hedge compared to having miles in one program.


Three currently worth highlighting, I think, are:

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers an initial bonus to earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    Ongoing spend will earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. Uber counts and I’m relying on those charges a bit more than usual lately. Spend also earns 3X points on dining charged by restaurants. I feel good these days giving restaurants money when I can, and getting rewarded for it. And cardmembers can get a complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.

    When the time comes to redeem you can take your points and transfer them to a variety of airlines and hotel programs, or use your points at 1.5 cents apiece towards travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

    • Airlines: United MileagePlus, British Airways Executive Club, Air France KLM Flying Blue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Iberia Plus, Aer Lingus AerClub, Emirates Skywards
    • Hotels: World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, IHG Rewards Club

  2. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card has a new bigger offer to earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    Your spending will earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Points transfer to the same programs as the Sapphire Reserve’s do.

  3. American Express® Gold Card gives you 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar for spending with restaurants worldwide. That’s great for those takeout orders. And for cooking at home 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases) is great as well.

    Points transfer to:

    • Star Alliance: Aeroplan, ANA, Singapore, Avianca
    • oneworld: AsiaMiles, British Airways, Iberia, Qantas
    • SkyTeam: Aeromexico, Alitalia, Air France KLM, Delta
    • Non-alliance: Etihad, Emirates, El Al, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic
    • Hotels: Choice, Hilton, Marriott

Emirates First Class Shower Spa

If you just aren’t wanting to build up points on the assumption that you’re going to use them for travel, or you’d rather hold cash right now, I think the best strategy by far which gives you great flexibility is to focus on the Citi® Double Cash Card.

  • 2% cash back
  • Can also be 2 Thank You Rewards points
  • Which, if you have (or get later) a premium Citi card like Premier or Prestige will also transfer to a variety of airline mileage programs.

You can earn very strong cash while still giving yourself the flexibility to choose airline miles later. I think that’s really compelling in the current environment. What’s your card strategy right now, and what would you consider getting or moving to?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. i thought amex gold only good for four points at US restaurants, and supermarkets, not worldwide?

  2. I like the dry humor in the understatement in the first sentence: “a challenging time”. Good one.

  3. I would think lenders at a time like this might look at new credit applications much more closely and maybe even take adverse action if they think someone is aggressive credit seeking. In the current climate I am sure the banks are overly sensitive to people who suddenly are seeking more credit.

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