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Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

Regular Contributor

Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

Between my job and personal adventures, I travel between 6-10 times per year (totaling about 5 weeks), of those trips, about 4 or 5 involve flights and all involve rental cars.  I am trying to find which rewards card is best suited to my needs.  I mostly use Marriott and Hilton hotels but I'm open to other properties like Sheraton or Hyatt.  I would love to get a free ticket each year, but this is only valuable if I can redeem easily.  I plan to upgrade my Citi HHonors to the Reserve card to lock in Gold status later this year and I also anticpate a score in the 700's before I apply.  I spend about 1-2k monthly between my cards, but if the rewards are great will funnel the majority through the travel card(s).


As of now, I have narrowed it down to CSP, Amex SPG, Cap One Venture, and even the Platinum AMEX (fee is killer though). In combination, I am debating the Platinum Delta Card or US Airways Card.


 Anyone have experience with these cards?


 I am trying to determine if the redemption process relatively easy and do rewards rack up quickly?


Thoughts (Open to other suggestions as well)??

NFCU cashRewards (22k) | Discover IT (8k) | AMEX EveryDay (5k) | AMEX Delta Gold (5k) | CSP (5k) | Marriott Rewards Premier (5k) | Citi Hilton Reserve(5k) | AMEX SPG (2k)
Scores: EQ - 670 | TU- 742 | EX - 691
Message 1 of 24
Valued Contributor

Re: Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

I have a CSP and Chase pulled EX for me. 


I love my CSP nice metal card. 40K sign up bonus if you spend $3K in the first 3 months, but if you apply in branch and approved then its only $2K to get the bonus. But 2 points per $1 for restaurants and travel. 

Last Pulled EQ: 809
Last Credit Card App: 02/05/2016
Last CLI: 02/06/2016
Find Me: Gardening
Message 2 of 24
Regular Contributor

Re: Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

It seems like since you already have a hotel card, it might not be the best value to have another one (SPG). If you don't like the AF on the Platinum, the CSP and Venture are perfectly good choices. The Venture is a solid 2% cash back travel card, whereas the CSP earns points that can be transferred into hotel/airline loyalty program. People like to combine it with the Freedom to maximize points earning potential. It really comes down to whether you want easy cash back or if you'd prefer a potentially better return in the form of hotel/airline rewards.

As for Delta vs. US Airways, I've heard redeeming US Airways Dividend Miles can be a nightmare (very few available award seats), so I'd personally go with the Delta card as long as you'll be flying with them regularly.

EX: 758 (10/12), TU: ???, EQ: ???

BankAmericard Travel Rewards // Citi Forward // Amex Blue Cash Preferred // Gap Visa
Message 3 of 24
Established Contributor

Re: Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

For travel nothing beats the Chase combo


Sapphire, Ink, and Freedom



Ink for 5x cable internet phone and cellphone $4,000 is a pretty modest spending a year for 20k points a year + $3,000 gas budget at 2x for 26k points annually

Freedom for 5x categories which are easily maxed out each quarter at $1,500 with purchases of gift cards  30k points a year

Sapphire for $3,000 a year dining out (about $60 a week) and travel ticket purchases for 6 trips low budget around $1,200 a year. = $4,200 x 2 = 8,400 points a year + 7% annual bonus = about 9,000 points a year.


26 + 30 = 56 + 9 = 65k points a year from the 3 combo + every day spendings. These 3 cards would effectively gain you without normal 1x spendings or the Chase Freedom 10% bonus for having a checking would net you EXACTLY enough to fly across the world on United saver award to Asia from anywhere in America 12 time zones away.


The sign up bonuses would add upto a lot 40k sapphire 50k ink and 10k freedom for total of 100k sign up bonuses. Spending requirements aren't hard if you use Williamspaid to pay your rent/mortgage on your credit card doubled up with buying Amex gift cards at a discount off face value to help offset the transaction costs a lot.


Ultimate Reward points transfer 1:1 to United so it's really very simple, and United has the highest number of award seating and isn't generally very hard to find a seat. Delta skymiles are nicknamed Skypesos for a reason. I have a Amex Delta skymiles card and I have NEVER found a good redemption for my points even 300+ days in advance.


Also you can obtain a First class ticket if during season would cost you 130k points for a saver package which would normally run $12,000 + effectively making each point worth upwards of 9-10 cents a piece. For high peak season for economy $2,800 would run you not far from 3.7 cents a piece redemption.


The points however are not great for domestic trips so take that into consideration with United. 25k points are required for a Tampa to Newark ticket at $179 so you would be getting less than 1 penny a point here. For Domestic trips I would recommend Flexperks by US Bank. Since the points are worth upto 2 cents a piece a little tricky to work with but the awards earned are considered same as cash so you gain frequent flyer miles that works towards free flights + status on each airlines.


1 Flexpoint is base, and 2 and 3 point categories effectively makes this a 2, 4, 6% categories. Also with 25k in US Bank checking it turns into Platinum checking (or free with military connections) you would gain 1.5 base flexpoints for everyday spending which would make this a 3% card. This is the best for Domestic flights imo mainly because the extra flyer miles. A round trip ticket would cost you $179 Tampa to Newark but with the redemptions 20k points (minimum to redeem) would easily get you 2 free flights, or 1 first class ticket. Not to mention the Frequent flyer miles earned at ANY airline would easily bump up the value from 3% base with plat checking to 5%+


Also remember the Amex Platinum with Free Global entry + $200 a year airline costs comps + lounge access etc throws this over the top.


Personally if you don't like to have too many cards depending on your travel habits


1. United Club high annual fees but you get 2 checked bags free and basically get Star Alliance Gold included. If you travel internationally this is a great card for lounge access 2 free checked bags makes your trip a lot easier and best of all 1.5 points per dollar spent on anything.


2. US Bank Flexperks for Domestic travel is my winner


Those two cards would do you very well, and remember Amex Platinum doesn't get you lounge access with United either.


For me I would get the whole Chase Combo with Ink and Sapphire, and try to sneak in a Freedom 3 months later.  First get the Ink Bold nice bonus, and Sapphire since your allowed 1 personal and 1 business card without much of a problem at the sametime with Chase. I would just set a few bills on the Ink bold and keep it in your sock drawer and not carry it. 


Sapphire for restaurants and travel costs even parking meters and toll gets 2x points


Freedom for the obvious 5x areas

total credit limits $108,400 Credit scores Ex 728 EQ 738 TU 758
Message 4 of 24
Regular Contributor

Re: Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

Thanks everyone for the input...this really helps clarify things for me.  It seems like the Consensus is with CSP.


With the Platinum AMEX....I know that if you book through AMEX, you are eligible for upgrades when staying at participating hotels.  Does anyone know how often these upgrades actually occur?


@sengpatt, I thought hard about that point (having 2 hotel rewards card).  What keeps bringing me back to it is the fact that they have so many airline partners and the points convert 1:1 if I am not mistaken.  Seems like it gives me some flexibility to eliminate having an airline card.  The only thing is that I wouldnt see any of the perks like (free baggage, priority boarding, etc...).

NFCU cashRewards (22k) | Discover IT (8k) | AMEX EveryDay (5k) | AMEX Delta Gold (5k) | CSP (5k) | Marriott Rewards Premier (5k) | Citi Hilton Reserve(5k) | AMEX SPG (2k)
Scores: EQ - 670 | TU- 742 | EX - 691
Message 5 of 24
Frequent Contributor

Re: Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

That was an amazing post

9/2013: Fico EQ 676, EXP 686, Fico TU 686.
NFCU Flagship Sig. $14k..NFCU CashRwdsSig $14k..NFCU LOC $12.5k..USAA Amex 4k..AMEX Green NPSL..Discover IT $1.5k...BofA Cash Rewards123 $2.5k...Southwest Premier $2k..Chase Freedom $1.5k..CareCredit $3.5k..Cap1-$1.5k..HSBC $300...Lowes $1.5k...WalMart $1.5k...JCP $1k..Chevron $1.1k..Kays/Jerrod - $5k split. around 8% Util. Want to get in the 700's in 2013! Have three old paid charge offs. 15-20inq.. LAST APP 8/29/13
Message 6 of 24
Established Contributor

Re: Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

Consider the US Airways/American merger before applying for that card.  Also, don't upgrade the HHonors card to the reserve.  Apply for a new one and get the two weekend night bonus.

Message 7 of 24
Valued Contributor

Re: Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

djrez4 wrote:

Consider the US Airways/American merger before applying for that card.  Also, don't upgrade the HHonors card to the reserve.  Apply for a new one and get the two weekend night bonus.

There are still links floating around for the US card that includes a 10k anniversary bonus. I'm not sure if it will be honoured after the merger is complete though, since Citi will probably be the main issuer and Barclay's will likely be dropped.

EX 798, EQ 789, TU 784
American Express Platinum (NPSL) || Bank of America Privileges with Travel Rewards Visa Signature - $23,200 CL
Barclays American Airlines Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard - $20,000 CL || Chase IHG Rewards World Mastercard - $25,000 CL
Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa Signature - $12,700 CL || Chase United MileagePlus Club World Elite MasterCard - $26,500 CL
Citibank Hilton Reserve Visa Signature - $20,000 CL || J.P. Morgan Ritz Carlton Visa Signature - $23,500 CL
Message 8 of 24
Established Contributor

Re: Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

You could go for the Penfed Amex, it gives 5 points per dollar on airline purchases.

Amex BCE $10,000 | BofA Power Rewards WMC $10,000 | Discover It $10,000 | ICBC Preferred Gold UnionPay $8,000 | Local CU Visa $3,500
Message 9 of 24
Valued Member

Re: Best Travel Rewards Card (Personal Experience)

I have both the CSP and Chase Marriott Rewards cards, both are metal inside and get the typical, "wow this card is cool" comments.


I got the CSP because of the 40k signup bonus, I will probably downgrade to Sapphire after the year is up. The Sapphire gets the Food 2x but not the travel 2x. However the Chase Marriott does give 2x travel. 


What I like about the Chase Marriott Rewards Card;


1 Free night each year (Cat 1-5)

2x Travel

Auto Silver Membership Each Year

Extra 5pts @ Marriott Hotels

$85 fee (cheaper then CSP and gives the Travel 2x which regular sapphire doesnt)



START (01/13):TU: 701 | EQ: 692 | EX: 706
CURRENT: TU: 739 (FICO 5/13) | EQ: 711 (FICO 2/13) | EX: 725 (PLUS 5/13) in the garden since 3/9/2013
GOALS: 750 by 01/14
Chase Sapphire Preferred | Chase Marriott Rewards Premier | Chase Freedom | Chase Slate | AMEX Blue Cash Everday | Citi Dividend |
Citi Simplicity | USAA Rewards | Walmart Discover |
Message 10 of 24