Which Credit Card Is The Most Bang For Your Travel Buck?

Illustration for article titled Which Credit Card Is The Most Bang For Your Travel Buck?

If collecting credit card points and airline miles for free travel and upgrades is your thing, you're probably aware that there are so many options out there. Every airline and hotel chain offers a company-branded card, promising rewards for spending your money with them. But how do you know you're using the best one for you?


On Thursday, American Express (AMEX) announced some enhanced benefits for its Platinum Card members. Beginning in June, Platinum members will get free access to each of the over 700,000 Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots. This is a huge perk for frequent travelers, because not only does Boingo get you internet use at airports, you can use your Boingo account to log in to Gogo wireless on board any flight with Gogo Wi-Fi. AMEX has also added a $85 statement credit for Platinum members who wish to participate in the TSA Pre-check.

AMEX is currently giving a 40,000 point bonus if you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months, plus a $200 credit toward airline incidentals like checked bag fees. You can even apply that $200 credit toward an annual airline lounge membership, according to The Points Guy.


AMEX VP Travel Innovation Gary Portuesi said:

"American Express is committed to offering a variety of travel benefits and services that further elevate every point of a Card Member's travel journey. With enhanced benefits like the TSA Pre✓TM $85 statement credit option and Boingo Wi-Fi, American Express Platinum Card Members can save money and enjoy an easier airport experience whether traveling domestically or abroad."

So, what about other options? Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you 2 points for every dollar spent on travel & restaurants, and no foreign transaction fees. There's currently a 40,000 point bonus if you spend $3,000 during the first three months you have the card, plus another 5,000 points if you add an authorized user. Both Nerd Wallet and The Points Guy say this card is the best option out there.

Airline frequent flier programs are heading in the direction of spending-based rewards, versus rewards based on distance flown. In other words, the "mileage run" is dead. On a mileage run, savvy travelers would scour the web for cheap off-peak airfares, often creating lengthy point to point itineraries in order to rack up thousands of points at a time for a cheaper rate and help them qualify for elite tier status. Delta has recently made news for converting its Sky Miles program to this type of spend-based reward system. Its new structure will bring even more benefits to its best customers, yet make it harder for Average Joe flier to qualify for rewards. Delta's changes go into effect January 1st next year. Nerd Wallet says the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier is the best airline-specific card for its 25,000 point sign-up bonus and high value redemption rate.


JetBlue is currently working to poach frequent fliers from other airline programs, by offering immediate status in their upper-tier "Mosaic" program if you have an upper tier membership with a different airline. This offer is scheduled to run until April 18th.

If you're in the market for a credit card with travel rewards, Nerd Wallet has a great in-depth chart to help you sort out the numerous options.


Top image via Getty

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