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Information about Chase Sapphire Reserve is neither provided nor reviewed by its issuer and links to the card do not provide compensation to the author.
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 ninin 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?
- American Express Gold Card offers four points per dollar in two different categories: U.S. restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases annually) and earns 3X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines and amextravel.com.
The card has a $250 annual fee, offset first with a $100 airline fee credit — in my experience selecting American Airlines as my preferred airline and then a $100 electronic gift card gets reimbursed, though it’s not supposed to work that way — and second with a $120 annual dining credit which gives enrolled cardmembers up to $10 per month in statement credits for using the card at:participating Shake Shack locations, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Grubhub/Seamless.
The airline fee credit is based on calendar year not cardmember year. So if you get the card now you can use the $100 credit still in 2018, and then at the beginning of 2019, meaning getting $200 in credits during your first cardmember (annual fee) year.
American Express has invested in metal at a lower price point than before. There are two card options — Gold and Rose Gold. The Rose Gold option will only be available through January 9, 2019.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve has great earn, a great bonus, and decent benefits. 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 2018, and again at the beginning of 2019, 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 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, and The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express.
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), 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.
In all of these cases you’re earning Membership Rewards points or Ultimate Rewards points — points that transfer to your choice from a variety of different mileage programs. That way you can put the points where you need them, when you need them based on the award you want and which airline has availability at that time.