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This year has been has been a wild ride of new card launches, many of them are compelling and some are disappointing. And several cards have re-launched or revamped their benefits.
It’s an incredibly competitive market for rewards credit cards. It used to be that most of the money went to the banks, travel partners are getting more but now consumers are too. An arms race for premium rewards cards to capture the attention of consumers started last year, but has only accelerated — products that have been a year in the making have finally launched.
So it’s an embarrassment of riches. Cards that used to be appealing and strong aren’t anymore — even though they’ve remained the same — because even better products have come along. With so many new options it can be tough to sort through what’s the ‘new’ best.
Chase Has Launched New Hotel Cards
The new card this year I’m most excited about is The World Of Hyatt Credit Card. I’m already using it. Fortunately for many readers Chase’s 5/24 doesn’t apply so having opened 5 or more new card accounts in the last 24 months doesn’t disqualify you.
Hyatt has been my top hotel chain for several years. I didn’t love how they made elite status harder to earn, though I did qualify for top tier status again last year. This card makes getting status much easier. And they’re awarding more points, and more free nights, along the way.
The initial offer is to earn up to 60,000 Bonus Points – 40,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus an additional 20,000 Bonus Points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening.
Ongoing earn 9 points total per $1 spent at Hyatt – 4 Bonus Points per $1 when you use your card at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 you can earn as a World of Hyatt member plus, earn 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airlines tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships.
You’ll receive 1 free night every year after your cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort and earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort if you spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year.
The card lets you get automatic World of Hyatt Discoverist status for as long as your account is open and 5 qualifying night credits toward your next tier status every year and also earn 2 qualifying night credits towards your next tier status every time you spend $5,000 on your card.
$15,000 spend on the card gets you two free nights each year plus 11 elite night credits. When you hit 30 nights with Hyatt you get another category 1-4 free night. When you hit 60 nights you get a category 1-7 free night. And each 10 elite nights beyond 60 earns a choice of 10,000 bonus points or a confirmed suite upgrade.
With Marriott’s new program launching August 1 there will be a new premium American Express card coming. So new cards for 2018 certainly aren’t done. But Chase has already launched its improved Marriott card.
The Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card has an initial bonus to earn 100,000 Points after spending $5,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. (Offer expired)
In addition you receive a free night award that can be used at hotels which cost up to 35,000 points to redeem each year after account anniversary.
5/24 does appear to apply to this one.
Starwood’s Al Maha Desert Resort – Base Room is a Standalone Villa With Private Pool
IHG Rewards Club
Chase revamped their entire hotel portfolio this year and the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is super attractive.
It has an initial bonus offer is 80,000 points after $2000 spend within 3 months and 5,000 points after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months. (Offer expired)
The card comes with Platinum status, a free night after each account anniversary year, and a free reward night on points stays of 4 or more nights. (That’s better than the ‘5th night free’ from Starwood and from Hilton, and amounts to a 25% discount on four night award stays.)
And like the Hyatt card 5/24 approval limits do not appear to apply to the card at this point.
American Express Offers New Hilton Cards, Too
American Express bested Citi for the whole Hilton portfolio. There’s now only one issuer of Hilton Honors cards. And they’ve really invested in the products, improving points earn and free night earning and going farther to provide status benefits as well.
The Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express is great for even the casual Hilton guest. It has an initial bonus of 100,000 Hilton Honors points after $2,000 in eligible purchases with the product in your first 3 months of cardmembership.
The card comes with Gold status in the program. Each year you spend $15,000 on the card you’ll earn a weekend night reward, and $40,000 in a calendar year earns Hilton Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year. So there’s incentive to use the card.
Ongoing earn is 12 Hilton points per dollar on purchases directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio; 6 per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations; and 3 per dollar for all other eligible purchases.
The premium Hilton American Express card was the very first to offer Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It didn’t used to include any free visits. This new card comes with Priority Pass Select including 10 visits each year — not bad for a $95 annual fee card.
The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card is offering 100,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months on this card.
Overall the card is quite similar to the personal Ascend product. The card earns 12X at hotels & resorts in the Hilton portfolio, 6X on select business and travel purchases, and 3X everywhere else.
You’ll get complimentary Hilton Gold status just for having the card. $15,000 spend in purchases in a calendar year earns a weekend night reward as well, and another weekend night after you spend an additional $45,000 in purchases on your Card in the same calendar year.
The card comes with Priority Pass Select including 10 visits each year also.
300,000 Avios on Offer Thanks to Two New Cards
The British Airways Visa Signature® Card was the very first card to have a 100,000 point signup bonus nearly a decade ago. They’re back with the top line number, though too many people probably signed up and dumped the card rather than adopting it for spending so now there’s a higher spending requirement to earn all those points.
Of course one of the really appealing things is that Chase’s 5/24 reportedly does not apply. Having 5 or more new card accounts in the last 24 months doesn’t disqualifying you from applying. Here’s the initial bonus offer:
- 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. Earn a further 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening for a total of 100,000 bonus Avios.
And what’s new this year is that there are now similar offers for the Aer Lingus and Iberia versions of this card. That’s a total of 300,000 Avios on offer from 3 cards.
New Transferable Points Program
Barclays introduced the Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard® as their entry into the tranferrable points game. They have been adding airline transfer partners. So now we have four different banks offering flexible currencies that transfer to miles whose cards you can apply for (along with Chase, Citi, and American Express).
The card hasn’t been as popular as hoped, I think it’s a lot better then most people give it credit for, but this month they’ve improved things a bit by waiving the card’s $150 annual fee the first year.
Amex Enters the Cash Back Game With a Thud
The gold standard in cash back is the Citi Double Cash with no annual fee card and 2% cash back (1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back as you pay off the purchase) along with the Fidelity Investment Rewards Visa Signature Card which earns 2% back deposited into a Fidelity account and has no annual fee.
So why go for a cash back card that offers less than 2%? The new American Express Cash Magnet card has no annual fee and pays unlimited 1.5% cashback.
A Credit Union Travel Card That Pays You
Despite no annual fee there’s a $100 a year travel credit and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement (albeit every 5 years rather than 4).
A New Best Small Business Card
Chase introduced the Chase Ink Business Unlimited(SM) Credit Card in May and it’s deceptively simple. In fact it’s at least arguably now the best business card out there even though it’s a no annual fee card.
There’s a 50,000 point initial bonus (after $3000 spend within 3 months of cardmembership) and the card earns 1.5 points per dolar on spend. It’s that simple and straightforward.
If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, move these points over to Sapphire Preferred and from there to airline miles or hotel points.
- Airlines: United, Singapore, Korean, British Airways, Air France KLM, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Aer Lingus
- Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, IHG
On its own it’s a good card but not the best, in conjunction with Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or other Chase transferable points cards it’s powerful indeed.
A Card Where Spending Earns Elite Qualifying Miles One-to-One
I’m not ever going to be a Frontier Airlines customer, at least until they add internet to their planes. But they really went outside the box developing new elite levels and offer elite qualifying miles one-to-one for spending.
Their 100,000 mile tier makes all ticket purchases refundable, in addition to waiving a bunch of fees and bundling things like premium seats.
Copyright: zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo
Updates to the American and United Co-Brands
Airline cards used to rule the roost. But with so much new competition they have to aggressively improve in order to remain under consideration. The Citibank personal AAdvantage co-brand added 2 points per dollar at restaurants and gas stations and an annual $100 American Airlines flight discount after $20,000 spend within a year provided after card renewal.
I don’t think that fundamentally changes the value proposition of the card — which is that it has a fantastic initial bonus offer, and that it’s a good card to have and keep for travel benefits on American Airlines if you’re not an elite member of AAdvantage. But spending on the card, unless you specifically want AAdvantage miles, isn’t as rewarding as many competitors.
Meanwhile the UnitedSM Explorer Card just added a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit and 25% back on United inflight purchases.
Chase is offering 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open plus $100 statement credit after your first purchase. Your spending will earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
What’s great about this $0 the first year then $95 annual fee card is the travel benefits when flying United. You get first bag for free (a savings of up to $100 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket. You get priority boarding (avoid having to gate check your carry on, and indeed on a Basic Economy fare you can still bring on a full-sized carry on bag).
You’ll get 2 one-time United Club passes each year for your account anniversary as well.
Cardmembers get access to last seat availability on extra miles awards as well as extra saver award availability that general members don’t have. Elites with the card can receive complimentary domestic upgrades on award tickets.
Still, another good card to get and keep for the benefits but not one worth using for ongoing spend.
So Which is Best?
Of all the new cards I like The World Of Hyatt Credit Card best, but that’s because I enjoy Hyatts and they’ve made it possible to status earn easily — while making the spend towards that status much more rewarding.
Regardless of which hotel chain you favor you have new options this year worth considering.
I think the most creative card is the Frontier product, though I won’t get the card since I’m not going to fly the card. If I lived in Denver or Orlando I might think differently.
And in the no annual fee space — which really requires creativity in order to offer a rewarding product — the new PenFed card is surprisingly good and on the business side the nod has to go to the Chase Ink Business Unlimited(SM) Credit Card.