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When you pick a credit card tied to a specific airline, you limit your choices for booking travel arrangements. But many travel cards these days allow customers to build heaps of points that can be transferred to frequent flier programs. For cardholders, this means more flexibility and more rewards where and when you want them. Here are a few of the Nerds’ favorite options:
Best overall: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Spending with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Chase Ultimate Reward points that are eligible to transfer to almost a dozen frequent traveler programs. Cardholders can earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases, with one of the top sign-up bonuses available: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This comes at an $0 for the first year, then $95.
If you’re skilled at hacking award charts, points accumulated on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be worth well more than the industry standard of $.01 apiece when transferred to participating frequent flier programs. This card offers a particularly rich program because transfer partners include major domestic airlines such as United and Southwest, as well as international carriers including British Airways. This makes finding a flight easy whether you’re traveling in the United States or abroad.
For people who prefer not to transfer their points, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also lets users redeem for travel directly through its on-site portal,which can be accessed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Using Chase’s redemption platform grants cardholders a 20% points discount on travel expenditures, making your points worth even more. These factors combined make the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card one of the most well-rounded travel cards available.
Great if you like to travel in style: Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
If luxury hotels and five-star accommodations are what you’re looking for, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express fits the bill. This card is a standout for hotel spenders, offering stays at a wide array of posh resort locations coupled with bonuses including massages, room upgrades and dinners, all of which can be paid for with the Starpoints you’re racking up with each swipe.
This card will best benefit those who spend at SPG partner hotels, offering up to 5 Starpoints per dollar on purchases at participating SPG hotels, 2 Starpoints per dollar at Marriott Rewards properties, and 1 Starpoint per dollar on all other purchases. NerdWallet values each Starpoint at an impressive 2.3 cents when redeemed for stays at SPG properties.
The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express also allows cardholders to transfer Starpoints to more than two dozen frequent flier programs, including United, Delta, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. On top of that, you’ll get an additional 5,000 points added to your account for every 20,000 points transferred in a given transaction (up to 79,999 points per transaction). If you’re new to the card, it comes with a sign-up bonus: Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95.
All told, this card makes traveling in style a lot lighter on the wallet.
Excellent if travel isn’t a big monthly expenditure: The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express
For people who don’t spend a ton on travel every month but would still like to get away from time to time, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express is a must-have. Offering 3 Membership Reward points per dollar spent at U.S. grocery stores (up to $6,000 spent per year), 2 points per dollar spent on gas, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else, this card provides a broader rewards approach for those looking to earn on everyday expenses.
The real magic happens when you use your card to make 30 purchases or more in a given billing period. This nets customers an additional 50% bonus on points earned, essentially upping grocery rewards to 4.5 points per dollar, gas rewards to 3 points and all other expenditures to 1.5 points. If you’re strategic about spending, this can be an easy number to hit.
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express has a wide range of frequent flier transfer partners through the Membership Reward program, including Delta, British Airways and AeroPlan. Like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Membership Reward points can also be used at SPG hotels by converting them to Starpoints (at a 2:1 conversion rate).
The annual fee is $95, and that comes with the card’s bonus offer for new customers: Earn 15,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply All in all, the The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express is a solid offering for the everyday spender.
When choosing a card for transferring points to frequent flier programs, consider what type of consumer you are and what type of rewards you’d like to receive. There are a handful of options available that fit the needs of spenders across the board.
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