An Easy Guide to Five Credit Cards Designed to Get You Started With Award Travel

Updated: Mar 6

Most of us enjoy having options when ordering from a menu at a restaurant. We can select a meal that hits the spot. However, too many options can become a source of frustration—and paralyze our ability to make a decision.


The same holds true with selecting a credit card designed to maximize credit card rewards—aka miles & points. There are a lot of good ones out there. But, which one is right for you if you want to get started with Award Travel? I have reviewed five travel credit cards in order to help you make a decision. They are ranked from 5th to 1st. Drum roll, please...


Selecting the right travel credit card is like ordering from a menu—there are a lot of options
Selecting the right travel credit card is like ordering from a menu—there are a lot of options. Image courtesy of Unsplash

All opinions and reviews expressed herein are the author's alone and have not been reviewed or approved by any credit card issuer, airline, bank, hotel chain, or other entity. Some of the credit card offers and links appearing in this article are from companies from which we may receive commission or a referral bonus when you click on the link. You do not need to use our links but we appreciate it when you do—it helps support our website!


5th: United Quest℠ Card


The United Quest℠ Card currently has a 70,000 miles welcome bonus! You can earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. You can apply for this card here!


The $125 annual United purchase credit, two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits, and free first and second checked bags for the primary cardmember and one companion can offset the $250 annual fee. A more in-depth review of this card is found in the following post: United Quest Card—the Best Airline Credit Card!


My wife has this card and we have found great value in it! In fact, she was able to get approved without having a job. Learn how this can be done in the following post: Getting Approved for a Credit Card While Unemployed—Why You Don't Want to Miss Out!


United's loyalty program—United MileagePlus®—has some good value when redeeming an Award Ticket from the United States to Europe. In addition, the Excursionist Perk—a free one-way Award Ticket as part of a qualifying multi-city itinerary—adds additional value! To learn more about how to book an Award Ticket with United and take advantage of the Excursionist Perk, see the following post: United MileagePlus—How to Book an Award Ticket.


4th: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card


The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card currently has a welcome bonus that offers the Companion Pass® plus 30,000 Rapid Rewards® points! The other two personal credit cards in the family—Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card—also offer the same welcome bonus! You can compare and apply for these cards here!


The $75 Southwest annual travel credit and 7,500 cardmember anniversary points credit offset the $149 annual fee. A more in-depth review of this card is found in the following post: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card—Get This Card if You Use Southwest Airlines!


In addition, to learn more about this limited-time Companion Pass® offer, see the following post: Wow! Southwest Credit Cards' Welcome Bonus Makes It Easy to Earn the Companion Pass. You will need to act fast to take advantage of the Companion Pass® as the offer ends March 14, 2022. The Companion Pass® allows you to designate a companion to fly with you on any Southwest Airlines flight for free; your traveling companion will only need to pay the taxes for the ticket. This includes tickets redeemed with your Rapid Rewards® points and revenue-based tickets!


I recently received a targeted offer for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card—even though I was at 5/24 (i.e. opened five credit cards within the last 24 months) and had just opened the Chase Freedom Unlimited® about a month ago. I immediately jumped on the offer and was instantly approved.


I would have rather opened up the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card but the targeted offer I received was only for the former product. Nevertheless, it came with a sign-up offer of the Companion Pass® plus 30,000 Rapid Rewards® points. The annual fee is only $69 but it doesn't include the $75 Southwest annual travel credit and the cardmember anniversary points credit is 3,000 versus 7,500.


3rd: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card


The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has a welcome bonus of 60,000 miles! You can earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. You can apply for this card here!


The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card provides an easy avenue to earn miles. You will earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked on Capital One's Travel Portal. However, the real value is the unlimited 2X miles on non-bonus-category spending. I use it on some of my non-category-bonus spending and love it! The miles add up over time—and are better than the 1X or 1.5X you earn from other credit cards. If you do not like having multiple credit cards and trying to decipher which one to use for a specific purchase, this card is for you!


Capital One also has an outstanding shopping portal that allows you to earn cashback in the form of a statement credit. A more in-depth review of this card is found in the following post: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card—Simple But Powerful!


The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a Flexible Points Credit Card. Perhaps the least understood but, often, the most valuable method of utilizing your existing miles/ points is to transfer your existing miles/ points to a transferrable partner. To learn more, please see the following post: Flexible Points Credit Cards vs. Co-Branded Credit Cards—Don't Make This Mistake!


Capital One currently has 17 transfer partners—14 airlines & 3 hotel chains.


Here are the 14 airlines:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1 ratio)

  • Air Canada Aeroplan® (1:1 ratio)

  • Avianca LifeMiles (1:1 ratio)

  • British Airways Executive Club (1:1 ratio)

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (1:1 ratio)

  • Emirates Skywards® (1:1 ratio)

  • Etihad Guest (1:1 ratio)

  • EVA Infinity MileageLands (2:1.5 ratio)

  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM (1:1 ratio)

  • Finnair Plus (1:1 ratio)

  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (1:1 ratio)

  • Singapore KrisFlyer (1:1 ratio)

  • TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go (1:1 ratio)

  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (1:1 ratio)

Here are the 3 hotel chains:

  • ALL-Accor Live Limitless (2:1 ratio)

  • Choice Privileges® (1:1 ratio)

  • Wyndham Rewards® (1:1 ratio)

It is possible to get great value by leveraging Capital One's transfer partners for an Award Ticket. To learn more about how to do this, see the following post: An Easy Example of How to Leverage Your Miles & Points for an Award Ticket.


2nd: Citi Premier® Card


The Citi Premier® Card has a welcome bonus of 60,000 ThankYou® Points! You can earn 60,000 ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is opened. You can apply for this card here!


The Citi Premier® Card shines when it comes to the rewards it earns on purchases. Not only does it earn 3X points at restaurants, air travel, and hotels, but it also includes this same rate at supermarkets and gas stations! This creates an opportunity to turn this card into a real workhorse for everyday expenses; it is not your typical travel card. A more in-depth review of this card is found in the following post: Citi Premier Card—Don't Underestimate This Workhorse!


The Citi Premier® Card is also a Flexible Points Credit Card which makes it easy to leverage your ThankYou® Points for an Award Ticket. Citi currently has 18 transfer partners—16 airlines & 2 hotel chains.


Here are the 16 airlines:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1 ratio)

  • Avianca Lifemiles (1:1 ratio)

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (1:1 ratio)

  • Emirates Skywards® (1:1 ratio)

  • Etihad Guest (1:1 ratio)

  • EVA Infinity MileageLands (1:1 ratio)

  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM (1:1 ratio)

  • InterMiles (1:1 ratio)

  • JetBlue TrueBlue (1:1 ratio)

  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich (1:1 ratio)

  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (1:1 ratio)

  • Qatar Privilege Club (1:1 ratio)

  • Singapore KrisFlyer (1:1 ratio)

  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus (1:1 ratio)

  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (1:1 ratio)

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (1:1 ratio)

Here are the 2 hotel chains:

  • Choice Privileges® (1:2 ratio)

  • Wyndham Rewards® (1:1 ratio)

The Citi Premier® Card falls far short when it comes to travel benefits and purchase protection compared to other premium travel credit cards. It no longer has Worldwide Car Rental Insurance, Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance, Trip Cancellation & Interruption Protection, Trip Delay Protection, Baggage Delay Protection, and Lost Baggage Protection, just to name a few.


You will want to be cognizant of this fact when preparing your trip—and have other travel insurance options at your disposal. Having travel insurance provides peace of mind when unexpected events take place that impacts your trip. With COVID-19 affecting travel, learn more about how to plan for travel insurance in the following post: An Easy Guide to Travel Insurance for Your Next Vacation.


In any event, the welcome bonus, credit card rewards-earning potential, and robust transfer partners make this card at number 2 in our list. What travel credit card comes out on top?


1st: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the most sought-after premium travel credit cards in the market—and for good reason. The welcome bonus currently stands at 60,000 Ultimate Rewards® points. You can earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is opened. You can apply for this card here!


The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has recently enhanced its credit card rewards. You will now earn 3X points per dollar on online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target, and wholesale clubs), 3X points on dining, 3X points on select streaming services, 5X points on Lyft rides, 5X points on Peloton equipment, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase's Travel Portal, and 2X points on other travel categories.


Two new benefits that help offset the $95 annual fee are the $50 annual Ultimate Rewards® Hotel Credit and the 10% anniversary points boost. A more in-depth review of this card is found in the following post: Chase Sapphire Preferred—the Best Credit Card Just Got Better!


The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is also a Flexible Points Credit Card which makes it easy to leverage your Ultimate Rewards® points for an Award Ticket. Chase currently has 14 transfer partners—11 airlines & 3 hotel chains.


Here are the 11 airlines:

  • Aerclub Aer Lingus (1:1 to ratio)

  • Air Canada Aeroplan® (1:1 to ratio)

  • British Airways Executive Club (1:1 to ratio)

  • Emirates Skywards® (1:1 to ratio)

  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM (1:1 ratio)

  • Iberia Plus (1:1 ratio)

  • JetBlue TrueBlue (1:1 ratio)

  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (1:1 ratio)

  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® (1:1 ratio)

  • United MileagePlus® (1:1 ratio)

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (1:1 ratio)

Here are the 3 hotels:

  • IHG® Rewards Club (1:1 ratio)

  • Marriott Bonvoy® (1:1 ratio)

  • World of Hyatt® (1:1 ratio)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also has excellent travel benefits, which include Trip Cancellation/ Trip Interruption Insurance—up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. It also includes primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver coverage. There are Travel and Emergency Assistance Services. There is also Trip Delay Reimbursement—up to $500 per ticket. It includes Baggage Delay Insurance—up to $100 a day for 5 days. And, there is Lost Luggage Reimbursement—up to $3,000 per passenger.


"Selecting the right travel credit opens the door to an amazing Award Ticket redemption."

When considering the overall package, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes out on top. This includes the welcome bonus, credit card rewards, $50 annual Ultimate Rewards® Hotel Credit, 10% anniversary points boost, and travel insurance benefits. This checks most of the boxes for a premium travel credit card—with only a $95 annual fee!


Calculate "Your" Credit Card Value


Everyone has their own "custom" spending habits. Therefore, selecting the right credit card is a personal decision. Wouldn't it be great if there was a "custom" calculator that generated a value based on your spending habits?


There is! AwardYourMiles has developed a Miles & Points Calculator. Select the credit card and enter the amount of money you spend on average per month in the corresponding category. It will calculate the following:

  1. The monetary value of your first and second years using the credit card; and

  2. The miles/ points generated from your spend.

AwardYourMiles has also developed a Credit Card Selector Calculator. It uses our proprietary algorithm which determines the best credit card in our database based on your spending habits. You will be able to determine the value of each credit card in your first year of use! Having more miles & points will improve your ability to leverage for an Award Ticket.


Travel Tips


Travel has been transitory since the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are planning to travel internationally, the following post will be helpful: International Travel—Five Things You Should Research First!


AwardYourMiles has created a COVID-19 Resources tool to help you search for the country you would like to visit. After you enter the country, links to dynamic travel guidance/ requirements will automatically populate. This will save you time and energy. We have also included all 50 states within the United States. Our goal is to help provide you with tools to help make your journey a success.


Finally, learn more about creating a COVID-19 vaccination digital record in the following post: COVID-19 Vaccination—How to Create a Digital Record.


Credit Card Miles & Points Consultant


Do you feel overwhelmed with all the options available when it comes to redeeming your miles & points? Would you like some assistance to get you started in the right direction? You will benefit from the services of a Credit Card Miles & Points Consultant. You will be assisted with regards to earning miles & points through credit card use and leveraging those miles & points for Award Travel. Or, feel free to use any of our Award Travel Tools online. Get started today!


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