pending credit card application

Top Travel Credit Cards for February 2018

Below is my list of what I consider to be the top travel credit cards for February 2018. 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 bonuses, 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 the top travel credit cards (some referral links below).

Updated: February 2, 2018 

The Top Travel Credit Cards February 2018


1. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Top 10 Travel Credit Cards

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 CSR: the top travel credit card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards worth around $1,050, which is impressive. But this card has much more going for it than its signup bonus, with bonus categories of 3X on dining and travel and some of the best travel and purchase protections offered by any credit card. 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. Chase also has some excellent travel partners that you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards to including: Southwest, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, United, Korean Air, Flying Blue, and Virgin Atlantic.

  • You can click HERE to learn more about this card and compare it others. 

You can fly in Singapore Suites by transferring your Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to Singapore Airlines.


2. The Platinum Card® from American Express

Top 10 Travel Credit Cards

Highlights: 

A powerhouse of a credit card

The changes to The Platinum Card® from American Express in March 2017 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.

American Express has arguably better transfer partners than Chase. With American Express, you can transfer Membership Rewards to airlines like ANA, Aeroplan, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, British Airways/Iberia, Flying Blue, Delta, JetBlue, Etihad, Emirates, and several others. These partners give you maximum flexibility across several alliances and partnerships making it much easier to find good rewards to use your points on.

With all of these perks the Amex Platinum is easily one of the top travel credit cards.

  • You can click HERE to learn more about this card and compare it others. 
Use your Platinum Card to get into Centurion Lounges.

3. The Chase Sapphire Preferred

Top 10 Travel Credit Cards January 2018

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)

Still one of the best travel credit cards

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is still one of the top travel credit 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 but want a solid travel credit card, this card might be perfect for you.

  • You can click HERE to learn more about this card and compare it others. 
Feel better about rental cars with primary rental car insurance offered by cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

4. Southwest Plus Card

Top 10 Travel Credit Cards January 2018

Highlights: 

  • 50,000 points after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months
  • $69 Annual fee
  • 3,000 anniversary points
  • Perfect for getting the Southwest Companion Pass

Perfect for the Companion Pass

The Chase Southwest cards are back to 50,000 point offers! While we have seen 60,000 point offers for all cards at once before, the 50,000 point offers are still great. If you can combine these two 50,000 points offers together you’re really close to hitting the 110,000 points needed to hit the Southwest Companion Pass.

That pass will allow you and a companion can fly around on Southwest for the next two calendar years while only paying for one ticket (and the taxes/fees on the other). Out of all of the insane redemptions Brad and I have been able to take advantage of, I still think getting the Southwest Companion Pass was one of our best decisions.

Since Southwest will be flying to Hawaii in 2019 (and possibly late 2018), you might be able to use your Companion Pass to get to paradise. And since we just started the new year, this is a perfect time to jump on the Companion Pass since it will be good for all of 2018 and 2019.

  • You can click HERE and HERE to learn more about these cards and compare them to others. 
Use the Companion Pass to dive with whale sharks in Cancun.

5. Hilton Honors Aspire Card

Hilton Aspire Bonus

  • 100,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio worldwide
  • 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at U.S. restaurants
  • 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points on other purchases
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • One weekend night at any hotel or resort in the Hilton portfolio (upon opening account and on account anniversary)
  • Weekend night after spending $60,000 on the card within a calendar year
  • Unlimited Priority Pass membership
  • $250 airline incidental fee statement credit
  • $250 Hilton resort statement credit
  • $100 on property credit at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking the exclusive Aspire Card package
  • $450 Annual Fee 

A hotel card with lots of value potential

The Hilton Honors Aspire Card is loaded with benefits and comes with a valuable sign-up bonus. The bonus is essentially worth 195,000 Honors points with the free night certificate it comes with, which is more than enough to cover two nights at even the most expensive Hilton properties.

If you have any planned stays at Hilton properties, especially any Hilton resorts then this card should get your attention. 14X on Hilton purchases amounts to nearly a 7% return and with the resort and airline credits (which add up to $500), you can actually make a profit on this card.

Since the card also give you Hilton Diamond status, this card, Priority Pass, and an annual free night certificate, this is one of the most valuable credit cards.

Read on here to find out more about the Hilton Aspire.

Hilton Aspire card review
Hilton Americas-Houston Lobby Bar

6. US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

Highlights: 

  • 50,000 points (worth $750 in travel) after spending $4,500 within the first 90 days
  • $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

Huge travel credit & great bonus categories

This is a new premium credit card that just launched in May 2017 and there are a couple of things that make this card instantly attractive and worthy of being considered on of the top travel credit cards this month. 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!

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 for many will be getting approved. 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.

Cover Global Entry fees with this card.

7. Barclaycard Aviator Red

2/2/18 Update: sign-up bonus dropped to 50,000 — read more here.

Highlights:

  • Earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles after your first purchase.
  • Earn 2X on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 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
  • Preferred boarding for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions on their reservation
  • Earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000 on purchases each calendar year
  • 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)
  • $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $30,000 or more in Purchases on your Account during your cardmembership year
  • Reduced Mileage Awards — Fly to great destinations on American Airlines operated flights for up to 7,500 fewer AAdvantage® miles for flights in the US and to/from Canada
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee $95 (not waived)

Arguably the best AA credit card (read why)

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 60,000 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 20,000 miles for no additional spend is a fantastic perk and why this card landed in my best travel credit cards for February.

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.

Use AAdvantage miles to fly on the Etihad First Class Apartment.

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

2/2/18 Update: sign-up bonus dropped to 30,000 but 50,000 is still available — read more here.

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
  • Preferred boarding for the primary cardmember on domestic and international 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)

A solid co-branded card with a great bonus

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 50,000 mile bonus, you’re actually provided with an additional 5,000 miles.


9. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • 10X on purchases with Hotels.com (new perk!)
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $59 after that
  • No foreign transaction fees

A great all-purpose credit card

Once you hit the $3,000 spend this offer gives you $560 worth of travel which is great, especially since the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard® just dropped to 40,000.  What I really love about the Venture is that there’s no minimum redemption requirement unlike the Arrival+ which requires you to redeem for at least a $100 purchase. This makes the Venture much more practical to use.

With the $59 annual fee this is not one of the best cash back cards available. Some people who put a lot of spend on their Venture cards do get the annual fee waived but it’s never a guarantee and with no annual fee 2% cards out there, you might be tempted to look elsewhere. Still, the sign-up bonus is worth so much that that alone makes this card attractive and worthy of mention for the top travel credit cards of this month.

  • You can click HERE to learn more about this card and compare it others. 
Use the Venture to cover a stay at a hotel like the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

10. Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

Highlights:

  • 50,000 point bonus after spending $3,000 (worth $500) within the first 3 months
  • Tiered bonus earning structure (read more here)
  • $95 annual fee
  • $100 for airline incidentals, (baggage fees, in-flight drinks, etc. but excludes airfare)
  • $100 Global Entry credit

Make a profit with this card

The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card is the newest credit to the list and it offers you maximum flexibility when redeeming your points since they effectively act as a credit that can be used on any purchase, starting at $25. Factoring in the purchases needed to meet the minimum spend requirement, you’ll be left with $560 worth of statement credit with this card. Having the flexibility to use your miles on any purchase makes it a lot easier to purchase airfare and hotels and put your itinerary together.

I’m not crazy about the cash back earnings on this card (1.5% back on all purchases and 2% on travel and dining), but it’s still a great way to cover $500+ worth of travel expenses with its sign-up bonus. Also, the travel credits are issued by calendar year, so it’s easy to come out ahead even with the $95 annual fee that is not waived.

Final word on the top travel credit cards for February

These are some of the top travel credit cards on the market right now, but know that there are plenty of other great options available. If you’re new to travel credit cards then I suggest going with a card that earns you a flexible currency like those from Chase, American Express, and Citi. That way, you can earn your points now and figure out how to maximize them when you have more time research your options.

One comment

  1. It should be pointed out that none of the AAdvantage cards work with Android Pay. That makes it a non-starter for much of the population. Back in 2015 we were told that support was being evaluated, so either Citibank decided to remain in 20th century or needs 2+ years to evaluate, neither option brings me confidence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *