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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I often list the best signup bonuses, or lists of which card is best for which category of spending. But what are the best cards overall that hit it out of the park, the triple threats that deliver value across all three dimensions?
- Chase Sapphire Reserve has great earn, a great bonus, and decent benefits. Information about the product is neither provided nor reviewed by its issuer.
The signup bonus is 50,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months. You earn triple points on travel and dining, and those points transfer to airline miles and hotel points.
The card has a $450 annual fee, but there’s a $300 annual travel credit (automatically rebates qualifying travel spend) and a $100 global entry credit, plus you get a Priority Pass for airport lounge access with unlimited visits and no fee for guests.
That’s a strong bonus and fast earn, with good benefits, though not as strong benefits as American Express has with their premium card. 5/24 applies.
- Platinum Card By American Express earns valuable points (Membership Rewards that transfer to airline miles), has a strong signup bonus (60,000 points after $5000 spend within 3 months), and earns 5 points per dollar on airfare.
The annual fee is $550 but there’s a $200 annual airline fee credit (which you can use once in 2017, and again at the beginning of 2018, so twice during your first cardmember year) and a $200 annual Uber credit. There’s also a $100 Global Entry credit.
Lounge access is American Express’ own Centurion lounges, Delta lounges when flying Delta same day, Airspace lounges and Priority Pass lounges.
And you get elite status with Starwood (which matches to Marriott), Hilton, National Car Rental, and Uber. It’s also a pretty hefty metal.
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has an 80,000 point signup bonus after $5000 spend within 3 months. That can even be enough for a roundtrip business class award ticket between the US and Europe. These points transfer directly to airlines and hotels.
It earns 3 points per dollar on travel — that’s airlines, hotels, rental cars, tolls, even Uber — and 3 points per dollar on shipping and advertising on social media and search engines, so great for anyone who advertises on Facebook or Twitter, or who spends money advertising with Google. It also comes with $600 protection against theft or damage when you use it to buy your cell phone. 5/24 applies.
You get a great signup bonus, great points-earning, and a good benefit in cell phone coverage.
Bonus: the two cards that offer the best value for money are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Amex Everyday, and The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express.
The Amex Everyday is the only personal card that has no annual fee where points transfer to airline miles 1:1. You even earn more than 1 point per dollar because if you use the card 20 times each month you earn a 20% bonus on all of your spending. And since these are full Membership Rewards points they transfer to Aeroplan, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Delta, and many more.
This isn’t a huge signup bonus card, or a benefits card, but in terms of the price point (no annual fee) it’s great for earning.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is great value ($0 the first year then $95), has a great signup bonus (50,000 points after $4000 spend in 3 months, plus 5000 more points for adding a no annual fee authorized user and making a purchase int he same time period), and has fast earning (double points on travel and dining).
It hits two of the three categories while offering that $0 first year fee, so great value, and it does have some benefits like primary collision when you rent a car (earn double points and if you ding the rental your insurance company may not have to know).
And the Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express earns 2x Membership Rewards points on your first $50,000 in purchases per year (1 point per dollar thereafter). That makes this the best most rewarding card for otherwise-unbonused spend. And there’s no annual fee.