There are 3 Ways to Get Value From a Rewards Credit Card

I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. 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).

There are (3) kinds of value you can get from a credit card, beyond just making it easy to buy stuff (and — if you must — finance purchases short term but then you shouldn’t be focused on rewards).

  1. Signup bonus. A card may have an attractive acquisition bonus. And you should get the card. But that doesn’t mean you should put any spending on it once you’ve earned the bonus. It’s like the old saying that the best marketing in the world is the enemy of a bad product.

  2. Benefits for having the card There are cards you should get because they give you better treatment from an airline or hotel, lounge access, annual free hotel nights, or other perks — perks that are worth far more than the card’s annual fee — but again, that doesn’t mean you should put any spending on the card. Get the card, stick it in a drawer, unless you have to show it to access your perks.

  3. Rewards for your ongoing spend There are cards that are rewarding for your ongoing spending. They earn valuable points (like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards), and earn them quickly (more than one point per dollar). That’s where you want ongoing spend to go.

It’s important to know the reason you’re getting a card, and use it accordingly. Which kind of value does a card provide? Are you getting it just because there’s a compelling offer? Are you getting it because of the benefits? Or do you actually want to keep it top of wallet.

Let’s take some of the biggest credit card bonus offers, and see how those cards stack up.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    With a $0 annual fee the first year, then $95, I suggest that as the number on card to get started with in miles and points.

    Points transfer to United, Hyatt, Southwest, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Air France KLM, Marriott Rewards, IHG Rewards Club, and Ritz-Carlton. Probably the best all-around credit card, certainly for getting started in the hobby, and with a great signup bonus.

    The card earns two points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The card has an introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.

    You’re earning valuable points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and you are earning them quickly for travel and dining categories. So if you’re someone spending a lot in those categories, it’s a card to get for the bonus and for ongoing spend.

    The only meaningful benefit is primary collision when renting cars. It’s a great card for renting cars, double points and if you ding your rental car your insurance company may not need to know. It’s not a card you stick in a drawer for benefits.

    best credit card bonus offers
    Transfer Points and Redeem for Singapore Airlines A380 Suites

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Card has a 50,000 point signup bonus after $4000 spend within 3 months; triple points on travel and dining; Priority Pass Select membership with free guests; $300 travel credit make this new Visa Infinite card from Chase with a $450 annual fee the most exciting new entrant of the year.

    This is a good bonus, great for ongoing spend, and has lounge benefits. That’s a trifecta, though it’s probably weakest on the benefits front since the benefits it offers are easily duplicated by several other cards.

  • British Airways Visa Signature® Card is offering a signup bonus of up to 75,000 Avios: (Offer expired)

      Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $10,000 total on purchases within your first year of account opening for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios.

    If you spend $30,000 in a calendar year to earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years which can double the value of your Avios on a single redemption for 2 people. Chase’s 5/24 reportedly does not apply.

    This is a fantastic bonus. It is generally easy to get. It’s not a card with big benefits. The only reason to spend on an going basis would be if you’re going for the 2-for-1 award redemption benefit.

    British Airways First Class

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard® has an offer for a limited time to earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. (Offer expired)

    There’s a $0 annual fee the first year, then $95. Cardmembers receive one free checked bag and preferred boarding on American Airlines flights. You also get 10% of your miles back (up to 10,000 rebated per calendar year) when you redeem miles.

    This is a class card with a good bonus. And you may want to keep it for the benefits if you fly American Airlines a decent amount but not enough to earn elite status, because of the free checked bags and preferred boarding. But it’s not good for spending, usually earning just 1 mile per dollar with American.

  • 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 any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


    1. Don’t forget another prime benefit from the BA Chase Visa: 3 avios per $1 when buying BA tickets. I booked a LHR-TLV round-trip flight in Club World for next year for $401.96 and got 1205.88 avios. Not bad. But once the bonus aviios and the Travel Together benefits have been acquired, that’s the only thing it’s worth for. Also, the Chase Freedom card gives you 1.5 avios for all purchases, BUT there is a foreign transaction fee if you use this for a purchase outside the USA.

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