Throughout the week I’m highlighting what I believe are the (5) best credit card signup bonus offers, (5) best credit cards for points-earning every day, and (5) best credit cards for non-points benefits.
On Monday I shared the five most lucrative credit card signup bonus offers, and on Wednesday the give cards with the best benefits.
Today I’m going to suggest what I believe are the five best credit cards that reward you the most for your spending every day.
My rank-order priorities for where to put credit card spending is:
- Meet minimum spend requirements for signup bonuses. The most valuable thing you can do with your spending it put it towards signup bonuses on new cards. That’s far more leveraged than earning a single mile (or even 2 or 3).
- Meet spending requirements to earn benefits. If you’re trying to qualify for elite status and your card helps you do that, you’re willing to settle for lower value points in order to get there.
- Earn the most from your spend. What card offers the most valuable points, and/or double or triple points for the kind of spend you’re doing.
Most people don’t sign up for credit card after credit card to get signup bonuses. Since a plurality of all miles are earned through credit cards, “what credit card should I get?” is probably the single most common frequent flyer question I’m asked. But usually folks want to know what one card is most rewarding. And even people chasing bonuses aren’t doing so all the time (those that are are, at least, in the great minority). So most readers will want a card that’s rewarding day in, day out.
Here are my top five:
- Ink Bold charge card and Ink Plus credit card are small business cards that both offer 50,000 point signup bonuses after $5,000 spend within 3 months. They have a $0 fee the first year, $95 thereafter.
Both cards offer double points on gas and hotels (when you book directly with hotels, not when the spend is charged an online agent like Expedia) and quintuple points on telecommunications and office supplies. Between internet, cell phone, XM radio and cable television that’s a lot of points each year, and it’s amazing what you can buy at office supply stores.
Points transfer to United, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak.
Many folks can get small business cards, it’s fine to be a sole proprietor. That just means you list your own social security number under the place for tax ID. And you may have some side income in addition to your job, or are planning to develop that. These cards are useful to keep personal expenses separate from business expenses.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a $0 fee the first year ($95 thereafter), 40,000 points after $3000 in spend within 3 months, no foreign currency conversion fees, double points on all travel and dining spend.
Like with the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, points transfer to United, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club, and Amtrak.
This is the card I recommend most to beginners in the hobby for getting started.
- American Express Premier Rewards Gold offers 25,000 points after $2000 spending within 3 months but most importantly for this post is that it is the best card for earning American Express Membership Rewards points — it gets you triple points on airfare and double points on gas and groceries.
The annual fee is $0 the first year then $175 thereafter. So you need to spend a lot on the card to make it worth keeping — but if you do put $30,000 on the card in a year you receive 15000 bonus points, which is worth well more than the annual fee (and is why I continue to carry the card myself even past the first year).
I recently wrote up how to make the most of Membership Rewards points. My personal favorite is transfers to Singapore Airlines to redeem first class awards (since availability is actually really good).
- Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card offers a nice signup bonus. The cards also come with 2 stays and 5 nights towards elite status, and $30,000 spend gets you Gold status from Starwood.
The reason this card is great, though, is because Starwood has the most number of airline points transfer partners where transfers are 1:1 into miles (or better). And there’s a built-in 25% transfer bonus: for every 20,000 miles you transfer points into Starwood gives you 5000 additional miles. So you effectively earn 1.25 miles per dollar on all of your spend, and you get to pick what airline program you want your miles in later.
- Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offers two free weekend nights after $2500 in spend within months, there are no foreign currency transaction fees, and the card earns 10 points per dollar spent at Hilton, 5 points per dollar on airline and rental car spend, 3 points on everything else.
The four cards at the beginning of this list are the very best for earning the three most valuable currencies — Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Starpoints. So here my suggestion for a fifth card is slightly different — it isn’t about earning the most valuable currency, but rather about earning a very attainable threshold bonus.
While these are the most lucrative cards for spending each day, if you’re not getting bonus points (e.g. 2 points per dollar or better on your spending) or you don’t think about using your miles for international business and first class tickets, then consider whether miles make sense for you. Earning just 1 point per dollar on a credit card is essentially ‘buying’ that point for 2 cents, since the opportunity cost is a 2% (or better) cash back credit card.
(Note that some of the cards in this post offer credit to me if you’re approved using my links. I try to offer only the best available cards, and most lucrative deals available for those cards. So if you’re aware of better deals than I’ve featured please do let me know! The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine. The content is not provided or commissioned by American Express, by Chase, by Citibank, US Bank, Bank of America, Barclays or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.)