The Best Rewards Cards for Road Warriors

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The best rewards cards for road warriors are my sweet spot. I’ve flown over 100,000 miles a year for as long as I can remember. I’ve scaled things back a bit since becoming a new dad, but in 2016 I spent nearly half of my nights on the road. My biggest credit card expenses are airfare, hotel stays, and dining out. That’s fairly typical for a road warrior, and fortunately I don’t have to use a company credit card giving someone else the rewards.

Here are the best rewards cards for road warriors:

  • Platinum Card® from American Express remains a great tool because it offers the most extensive airport lounge access of any credit card. You get access to American Express’ own Centurion lounges; Delta lounges (when flying Delta same day); Plaza Premium, Aspire, and Escape lounges; and a Priority Pass which gets you into airport lounges and Minutes Suites.

    You get Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold and this is also the card whose roadside assistance I used last year for towing, because it had the most generous benefit. It’s also lucrative earning 5 points per dollar on airfare.

    best rewards cards for road warriors
    Delta Sky Club Austin

  • Citi Prestige Card is in some ways a shell of its former self, no longer offering American Airlines lounge access, premium values redeeming points for paid travel, or a golf benefit and the fourth night free hotel benefit has been gutted.

    However the card earns 5 points per dollar on airfare, 5x also at restaurants, and 3x at hotels — all sweet spot road warrior earning categories. It comes with a Priority Pass (which includes participating airport restaurant access) as well.


    Bobby Van’s, New York JFK Terminal 8

  • American Express® Gold Card has been redesigned with road warrior earning in mind, offering 4 points per dollar at restaurants and at US supermarkets and 3 points per dollar on airfare.

    the best rewards cards for road warriors
    My Rose Gold American Express Gold Card

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been tough for many readers to get approved for despite good credit and incomes, but the card offers 3x travel and dining and a Priority Pass (which includes participating airport restaurant access) as well. I think Citi Prestige may now be the more rewarding card. Not my referral link, information about Sapphire Reserve is neither provided nor reviewed by its issuer.

    what are the best rewards cards for road warriors

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Citi Premier℠ Card both have the best initial bonus offers (60,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months) and a lower price point than the other cards ($95 annual fee) while still bonusing travel-related categories and offering points that transfer to airline miles.

    Sapphire Preferred earns double points on travel and dining, while Citi Premier earns triple points on travel (including gas stations) and double points on restaurants and entertainment.

The only area where I knock American Express here is for lack of trip delay and baggage delay coverage. It’s nice, paying with a premium Visa or Mastercard, not to wait in line to see what sort of hotel your airline might give you with an overnight delay (due to weather it’ll be nothing, but it’s probably not one you want to stay at anyway) .. and instead just head straight off to get a good night’s sleep, maybe have a nice meal, save your receipts and send them in to the company whose card you used to buy your ticket.

Of these the best rewards cards for road warriors that I carry are the Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card and together they have me covered for airline tickets and restaurant spend. (I put my Hyatt stays on The World Of Hyatt Credit Card earning 4 Hyatt points per dollar doing so.)

Together I’m earning American Express Membership Rewards points quickly, one of my favorite currencies that can be transferred to:

  • Star Alliance: Aeroplan, ANA, Singapore, Avianca
  • oneworld: AsiaMiles, British Airways, Iberia, Qantas
  • SkyTeam: Aeromexico, Alitalia, Air France KLM, Delta
  • Non-alliance: Etihad, Emirates, El Al, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic
  • Hotels: Choice, Hilton, Marriott

However with seven figure balances to work with both in my Chase and American Express accounts, I’m in need of diversification with Citi ThankYou points. I cancelled my Prestige card just over two years ago and am considering whether it may make sense again to spread my balances more.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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.

Comments

  1. Shocked that you don’t carry a card that earns 3x on “travel,” which is really Uber, Lyft, taxis, ground transportation of any kind, parking, Amtrak, passenger trains, ferries, etc. For this alone, Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth having compared to the Preferred. If you want to get into Citi points, get the Premier instead – you would get limited usage out of the Prestige, and the Premier offers 3x in travel, which the Prestige does not. It is also shocking that Amex doesn’t have a card that awards bonus points on travel.

  2. Many road warriors (and non road-warriors) these days dont even get a choice. It’s the corporate card.

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