I plan to update this page in the next few weeks with the best offers for each of the major airline and hotel cards. But, this will help answer most of the requests I get about what card to start out with.
This page is an assembly of a variety of credit cards you may want to have in your wallet to maximize your earning potential for miles and points.
The majority of miles and points aren’t earned flying from point A to point B or staying at a hotel. Credit cards are the fuel you need to drive to those once-in-a-lifetime trips. Having the right credit card is pretty darn important, especially when you consider some of the sign-up bonuses the banks are offering.
Some of these links offer me a referral credit, most of them do not. In those cases where I earn a referral credit, it’s at no cost to you. These are still the best offers I’ve found out there for each of these cards. I’ll do my best to keep this updated with the best offers for all of these cards. Feel free to send suggestions if I’ve missed anything.
You can e-mail at ed -at- milepoint.com for advice on which cards are the best for your specific situation.
For newbies, CreditCards.com has a service called CardMatch that list a wide variety of offers that may fit your speed.
Credit Cards That Earn Airline Miles:
US Airways Premier World MasterCard: Link to register. With the impending US Airways/American Airlines merger, this card could now have two purposes. You could apply for this card to use those miles on United or other Star Alliance carriers before US Airways leaves Star or stock up on Dividend Miles that will ultimately become AAdvantage miles.
Link to apply. This offer is for 30,000 miles after your first purchase, two companion tickets (a $99 ticket when you buy a second ticket valued at $250 or more), a US Airways Club pass and priority check-in and boarding. 40,000 miles is enough to get you a round-trip saver award anywhere in the US, or 2/3 of the miles needed for a round-trip coach ticket to Europe. For those who hold some elite status on US Airways, the card also comes with the opportunity to earn 10,000 miles towards Preferred status if you spend $25,000 on the card in a year.
There are reports that people have gotten a second card while they have one open, but YMMV.
All-Purpose Mile/Points Cards: These are cards that are not tied to a specific airline or hotel chain. They offer varying degrees of flexibility and earning potential for a variety of different travel styles.
Chase Ink Bold: 50,000 point sign-up offer. One of my favorite cards. The sign-up bonus kicks in when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Where the rubber meets the road on Ink Bold is the 5 points per dollar you earn on all cell phone, cable and internet services as well as purchases at office supply stores. There’s a cap of $50K on this category, but that’s 200,000 extra points if you max out this category. The card also awards 2 points per dollar for all hotel charges and gas station purchases.
Chase Sapphire: 40,000 point sign-up offer. This card is good for the general consumer/traveler. It offers 2 points per dollar for a wide variety of travel categories (airfare, hotels, rental cars, etc). The same bonus holds true for restaurant charges as well.
Credit Cards That Earn Hotel Points:
Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card: The Starwood card has long been a stalwart for it’s flexibilty. Before there were Chase cards that produced the wonderful Ultimate Rewards points, there was Starwood. They’re current sign-up bonus is 25,000 points, but the requirements for this have changed here and there over the past year. While there are lots of good features to this card, the feature that sets this card apart is the transfer to airline partners. With very few exceptions (United being one of them) you can transfer Starpoints on a 1:1 ratio to most of the airlines. And, any time you transfer 20,000 points, Starwood gives you a 25% (5,000 point) bonus. This is truly the workhorse in my credit card wallet. Not as sexy as Chase Sapphire or Ink Bold, but a strong earning card.
Cash Back Cards: These are cards that offer straight cash back, no points or miles. For some, this is the best course of action. It’s not my chosen path, but I’ve outlined a few cards that should help with this strategy if you choose this path.
Fidelity Investment Rewards Card: This card offers a straight 2% cash back. While not my favorite option, this beats a lot of cards out there from various credit unions or smaller banks that advertise “rewards”. Unless you’re using Ultimate Rewards or Capital One, the rest of the generic rewards cards are hard to navigate for outsize value. So, a card like this gives you 2% back which you can spend whatever way you want.