The Top Travel Credit Cards for July 2017

Below is my list of what I consider to be 10 of the best travel credit card offers as of July 2017. I don’t employ a purely scientific approach for these rankings but instead I weigh a number of factors, such as the value of sign-up bonus, benefits, limited time nature of the offers, flexibility of using points, ease of obtaining the bonus, and potential for maximum value. In the end, these rankings are highly subjective but should serve as good guiding posts to help you shop around for some of the hottest travel credit cards. Click here for some of the best cash back cards.

Updated: July 1, 2017 

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Highlights: 

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months
  • $300 travel credit (“travel” very broadly defined)
  • 3X on dining and travel
  • Priority Pass with unlimited guests
  • Redeem points at 1.5 cents per point through Chase Travel Portal
  • TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry $100 credit
  • Primary rental car insurance
  • Annual fee: $450 (not waived first year)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve lost its ridiculously high 100,000 point intro sign-up bonus in March 2017 but 50,000 Ultimate Rewards is still around $1,050 worth of value. But this card has much more going for it than its signup bonus, with bonus categories of 3X on dining and travel, which can add up in a hurry. The card also comes with Priority Pass membership allowing for unlimited guests flying with you and the ability to redeem Ultimate Rewards at 1.5 cents per point through the Chase travel portal.

You might be turned off by the $450 annual fee, but with its $300 travel credit you can knock down that fee to $150. The annual travel credit will now be issued on a cardmember anniversary basis for new applicants, so keep in mind that when applying.

 Also remember, this card is subject to 5/24. 

2. The Platinum Card® from American Express

Highlights: 

The changes to The Platinum Card® from American Express in March greatly changed the value proposition of this card. It’s got a higher sign-up bonus, better lounge access (for some), and now comes with $200 in Uber credits and a sleek new metal design. If you’re able to utilize the $200 annual travel credit and the $200 in Uber credits, you’re looking at an effective annual fee of $150, which is fantastic considering the benefits listed above.

If you were able to catch the 75,000 Incognito offer and value Membership Rewards at 2 cents per point, you’re looking at $1,400 in value from the sign-up bonus alone. Even with the 60,000 bonus, you’re still looking at $1,200 worth of travel.

Of course if you don’t regularly use Uber and/or looked forward to getting access to your family of four into Centurion lounges this new Platinum Card® from American Express may not appeal to you so much.

  • Click here to find out more about this card and apply. 

3. The Chase Sapphire Preferred

Highlights:

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months (plus 5,000 Ultimate Rewards after adding an authorized user)
  • 2X on dining and travel
  • Redeem points at 1.25 cents per point through Chase Travel Portal
  • Primary rental car insurance
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is still one of the best cards available to the public and at 2.1 cents per point, its sign-up bonus and authorized user bonus can bring in $1,155 worth of value. It earns 2X on a broad travel category and 2X on dining and also offers primary rental car insurance. Depending on your level of spend on these categories, the Sapphire Reserve might be a better option but you can read this article to find out if that’s the case.

While not as impressive as the Sapphire Reserve, its annual fee is waived the first year and after that it’s only $95. For many people paying $450 for the Reserve is just asking too much, regardless of the potential return in value, and so the Sapphire Preferred is often the more practical option. If you’re averse to high annual fees, this card might be perfect for you.

4. US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

Highlights: 

  • 50,000 points (worth $750 in travel) after spending $4,500
  • $325 travel credit
  • 3X on eligible mobile wallet purchases
  • 3X on travel booked directly with airlines, hotels, taxis, trains, etc. (but no OTAs)
  • Priority Pass (with only 4 entries)
  • 12 complimentary GoGo passes each membership year
  • TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry $100 credit
  • $400 annual fee

This is a brand new premium credit card that just launched in May 2017 and there are a couple of things that make this card instantly attractive. For one, you can earn 3X on travel booked directly with airlines, hotels, taxis, trains, etc. (but no OTAs). But more importantly, you can earn 3X on eligible mobile wallet purchases through Apple Pay,® Android Pay,™ Samsung Pay and Microsoft Wallet. This opens up some big earning potential (and will likely not last very long, in my opinion).

The card also comes with one of the highest travel credits at $325. Unfortunately, this travel credit will be issued per cardmember year, so you won’t be able to double dip after the turn of the calendar year.

The biggest drawback of this card will be getting approved for many. You need to have been an existing US Bank customer for at least 35 days (e.g., hold a checking account or similar) to be eligible. Also, US Bank is notoriously strict when it comes to approving applicants with many inquiries on their credit report so a lot of folks might be facing a rejection.

Still, you can net $675 in travel from the sign-up bonus + travel credit after you factor in the annual fee and that’s one of the most generous bonuses available right now.

5. Barclaycard Aviator Red

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after your first purchase.
  • Annual fee $95 (not waived)
  • First checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines.
  • Group 1 boarding for the primary cardmember on domestic flights operated by American
  • 25% inflight savings on food, beverages, and headsets on American Airlines-operated flights
  • 10% of your redeemed miles back on redemptions (up to 10,000 miles per calendar year)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Sign-up bonuses don’t get much easier than these, as all it takes is making a single purchase to earn your bonus! It’s essentially like paying $95 for 50,000 AAdvantage miles, which is a deal I’d go for just about any day. The previous offer for this card was 40,000 so the extra 10,000 miles for no additional spend is a great perk. If you want to compound your earnings, you can also go got the 60,000 miles sign-up bonus from the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard® and come up with over 110,000 AA miles after you hit your minimum spends on just two cards.

6. United MileagePlus Explorer

Highlights: 

  • 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months
  • 70,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months [Targeted]
  • Two free United Club passes each year
  • Free checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • Access to increased award space for United
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)

Chase keeps messing with us and extending the deadline for this bonus but I’m not complaining. The United MileagePlus Explorer card is offering a 50,000 mile bonus along with targeted offers for 70,000 miles. Some of these targeted offers also come with a $50 statement credit. The 70,000 miles offer with a $50 statement credit is one of the top offers for any co-branded airline credit card I’ve ever seen.  Considering the benefits like lounge access and free checked bags, the value you’d receive from this card by flying United only a couple of times a year, could easily surpass what you pay for the annual fee (which is waived the first year).

Thus, if I were targeted and under 5/24, I would pick this card up in a heartbeat.

7. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard®

Highlights: 

  • 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months
  • First checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines.
  • Group 1 boarding for the primary cardmember on domestic flights operated by American
  • 25% inflight savings on food, beverages, and headsets on American Airlines-operated flights
  • 10% of your redeemed miles back on redemptions (up to 10,000 miles per calendar year)
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard® is now offering a bonus for 60,000 miles with the annual fee waived. Although you could easily be matched to this bonus in the past, it’s fantastic to see the 60,000 offer publicly available. This card comes with a lot of perks that are similar to elite status, such as a free first checked bag on domestic itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation and preferred boarding. You also receive 25% in savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases.

One great perk about this card is that you”re given a 10% rebate on AA mile redemptions up to 10,000 miles annually. So with this 60,000 mile bonus, you’re actually provided with an additional 6,000 miles.

8. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard®

Highlights:

  • 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard® offers you maximum flexibility when redeeming your “miles” since they effectively act as a travel credit that can be used on any purchase that codes as travel. Factoring in the purchases needed to meet the minimum spend requirement, you’ll be left with $560 worth of travel credit with this card. Having the flexibility to use your miles on any travel purchase makes it a lot easier to purchase airfare and hotels and put your itinerary together.

While I would normally recommend applying for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card card since it has lower redemption minimums, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard® has the extra $100 in travel attached to its sign-up bonus right now so I’d have to give it the nod.

9. Barclaycard Wyndham Rewards Visa

Highlights: 

  • Earn 30,000 bonus points after your first purchase. Plus, earn an additional 15,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
  • Automatic Platinum status
  • Earn 6,000 bonus points annually after your account anniversary every year (this is in addition to the 3,000 offered each year due to Platinum status)
  • $75 annual fee (not waived)

Wyndham has a unique redemption system where you can book any of their properties for 15,000 points a night so this card offers you a total of three free nights. Considering that two nights are offered to you just after the first purchase, that’s quite a bargain. Also, each year you’re given 9,000 points which isn’t too far off from another free night.

Some properties will allow you to redeem 3,000 points + cash for a booking so it’s quite easy to stretch those 9,000 points plus cash into free nights, especially considering how expansive the Wyndham network is.

Finally, Barclaycard typically pulls from TransUnion so this card can give your Equifax and Experian credit reports a much needed break.

10. Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

This offer will be gone as of July 5, 2017 so act quickly! 

Highlights: 

  • 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within your first 4 months
  • $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 4 months. ($100 statement credit also available for some).
  • Offer expires on 7/5/17
  • $95 annual fee waived the first year
  • 2X on Delta purchases
  • 1X on genera purchases
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

The  Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is offering a high sign-up bonus for 60,000 miles, which is almost enough for a one way business class award to Europe on Delta. I’m very critical of the Delta SkyMiles program but this sign-up bonus, available with no annual fee the first year, is high enough to warrant some interest.

Some targeted offers have gone out for this card in the past with lower spend requirements but $3,000 spend isn’t bad and is pretty standard. If you can get the $100 statement credit, this card becomes even more valuable.

You can also look into thePlatinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, which is offering 70,000 miles as a sign-up bonus. If you think you might be flying Delta or a SkyTeam Alliance partner anytime soon, then you might want think about hopping on this card.

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