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So you’ve read all about travel hacking, and are ready to dive in to the maddening world of credit card applications.  With so many options out there, and so many variations of the same card (with different bonuses depending on what link you use!) it’s often hard to tell where to start.

As always, come up with a plan first and choose what’s best for you.  Flying 2 in business class seats all the way to Tokyo and staying at the Park Hyatt requires a completely different set of cards then taking a family of 4 to Disney World.

To make things slightly easier, however, I’ve put together a list of some of the better bonuses out there.

PERSONAL CARDS

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card40,000 Ultimate Reward Points after spending $4000 in 3 months. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio into numerous partners like United, Hyatt, and Marriott.  2x on restaurants & travel expenses, with an additional 7% annual bonus on all points earned. Annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year.

American Express Gold Card – 50,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $1000 in 3 months. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio into most partners, but American Express offers bonus rates very frequently. 3x on airfare, 2x at gas stations and supermarkets.  Annual fee of $175 is waived for the first year.

Citibank Platinum Select AAdvantage Visa/AmEx  – 50,000 miles after spending $3000 in 4 Months. $150 statement credit off of all American Airline purchases (including gift cards). 2 free lounge passes.  Annual fee waived for the first year.  The application doesn’t give any details, but according to the Flyertalk thread in the link, the sign up is still very much working.

Chase British Airways Card50,000 BA miles after spending $1000 in 3 months.  Companion pass after spending a total of $30,000 in the first year. Annual fee of $95 NOT WAIVED the first year.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card50,000 Southwest Rapid Reward miles after spending $2000 in 3 months.  2x points on Southwest and partner purchases. 3000 points awarded annually. This is a really useful card if you’re trying to get the Southwest Companion Pass.  The annual fee of $69 is NOT WAIVED the first year.

Chase Hyatt CardTwo nights at any Hyatt property in the world, such as the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris, or the Park Hyatt Tokyo after spending $1000 in 3 months. 3x all Hyatt purchases, 2x for dining, airlines, and car rentals.  A free night in a category 1-4 hotel every year by paying the annual fee. Also comes with complementary platinum status, which gets you amenities like free internet. Annual fee of $75 is NOT WAIVED the first year.

Citibank Hilton Honors Reserve CardTwo weekend nights at almost any Hilton property in the world, including their Waldorf Astoria properties (excluding some resorts) after spending $2500 in 4 months [verify]. 10x on all Hilton purchases, 5x on airlines and car rentals, 3x on everything else.  Comes with complementary gold status, which gets you free internet and breakfast. Annual fee of $95 is NOT WAIVED the first year.

Chase Marriott Premiere VisaA free night in a category 1-4 hotel on approval and 70,000 Marriott Rewards points after spending $1000 in 3 months.  5x on Marriott purchases, 2x on dining, airlines, and car rentals. Every year you’ll get a free night in a category 1-5 Marriott property in exchange for your annual fee.  Annual fee of $85 is waived for the first year.

 

BUSINESS CARDS

Chase Ink Bold/Chase Ink Plus Cards – 50,000 Ultimate Reward Points after spending $5000 in 3 months. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio into numerous partners like United, Hyatt, and Marriott.  5x on office supplies, cable, and internet expenses, 2x on hotels and gas stations. Annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year.

American Express Business Gold Rewards Card – 75,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $5000 in 3 months. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio into most partners, but American Express offers bonus rates very frequently. 3x on airfare, 2x at gas stations and supermarkets.  Annual fee of $175 is waived for the first year.

Citibusiness AAdvantage Card50,000 miles after spending $3000 in 4 Months. $150 statement credit off of all American Airline purchases (including gift cards). 2 free lounge passes.  Annual fee waived for the first year.  The application doesn’t give any details, but according to the Flyertalk thread in the link, the sign up is still very much working.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Business Card50,000 Southwest Rapid Reward miles after spending $2000 in 3 months.  2x points on Southwest and partner purchases. 3000 points awarded annually. This is a really useful card if you’re trying to get the Southwest Companion Pass.  The annual fee of $69 is NOT WAIVED the first year.

 

CONCLUSION

Credit card bonuses are probably the single easiest way to accumulate miles and points.  In my next few posts I’ll discuss what to do when it’s time to pay your annual fee, and how transfer partners work for programs like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards.

Additional Reading

– Flyertalk has a great thread detailing all of the best sign up bonuses.

– Unsure whether you have a business or not?  There are several good blogs on the topic.