Compare The Best Rewards Credit Cards 2019

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express
The American Express® Gold Card
Chase Freedom Unlimited® (when used in Conjunction with Ink or Sapphire)
World of Hyatt Card® by Chase®
Citi Prestige Card (Revamped for 2019)
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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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Platinum Card Is No Longer Accepting Delta Gift Cards Against Airline Credits; Platinum’s Value is Increasingly Questionable

American Express’s Platinum card once gave cardholders a $200 annual credit against airline purchases.   Several years ago, Amex “upgraded” its program by only applying the $200 annual credit against incidentals at a single airline that cardholders needed to specify beforehand.   Savvy cardholders realized from searches on the internet that they would continue to get the full credit by specifying Delta as their chosen airline and purchasing 4 gift cards of $50 each.   (There is also anecdotal evidence that this worked for American Airlines too, but with Delta, it was always certain).   As another new “upgrade” for 2019, Amex is no longer accepting Delta’s $50 gift card charges as an incidental and will charge you their full cost.

Amex seems to just be constantly “upgrading” the Platinum card such that it is becoming harder and harder to see its value against the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and the newly improved Citibank Prestige card.   It is especially remarkable since Amex used to bend over backwards to keep Platinum cardholders happy.

These days, they now charge $550 per year for the card (“upgraded” from $450) and give you small monthly Uber credits that are often not properly credited.   While access to United and American lounge access has been lost (and Delta is no limited to the cardholder only), you do have access to the Centurion lounges, but they are most likely to be more crowded than the terminal itself.   Plus, you may not always be given access and they won’t let in a single cardholder with more than one kid.

Platinum does now give 5 points per dollar for travel booked directly with the airline, but as of January 4, 2019, that has been matched by Citibank’s Prestige card.   Both the Prestige card and Chase’s Sapphire Reserve Card (which only gives 3 points per dollar on airlines) offer better compensation in the event of a flight delay or cancellation.

Of course, Platinum still has their Fine Hotels and Resorts program that can be incredibly valuable, giving you a third or fourth night free and an upgrade to a suite.  But, if you don’t use that program, the Platinum card’s value is increasingly questionable.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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Wall Street Journal Article Suggests that Banks Cannot Sustain Travel Reward Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

The Wall Street Journal started the year off with an interesting article that seems to say that the credit card flipping game is about to end.   It suggested that Chase – which controls many of the most valuable sign-up bonuses - can no longer offer the same bonuses for new cards when the card attrition rate is growing and when interchange fees are under pressure.  Interestingly, the article cites ThePointsGuy as Chase’s main source of new accounts while alluding to the fact (although not specifically stating) that ThePointsGuy is completely designed to help young and not particularly well-heeled cardholders maximize travel rewards.

Even were the credit card flipping game to end, the opportunity for individuals and couples to adopt a strategy to maximize rewards from their credit cards will continue to exist.  In fact, it will get still better in the short term, as many card issuers, including Amex and Citibank, have added new features and reward--earning opportunities to their premium products over the last several years.

Most interesting are the reader comments in the WSJ article, as they indicate that most people still do not take the time to analyze or estimate their credit card spend, nor to get the cards that give them the most valuable rewards.   BestCashCow’s credit card maximizer enables users to enter different spend categories and easily identify those travel rewards credit cards and those cash-back credit cards that provide the greatest value.

I’d also note that the WSJ article is not the first to suggest that the huge sign-up bonuses handed out by credit card companies aren’t sustainable.   Much the same has been written time and time again since the early part of the decade.   What makes this time different, however, is that Amex, Barclays and Citibank have all somehow managed to become less and less competitive with Chase on sign-up bonuses.  If Chase cuts back its sign-up bonuses, others will certainly follow and bonuses will become less and less attractive.

But, while competition in this sector continues, , you might want to take a look at all of the valuable travel sign-up bonuses that Chase, Amex, Citi, Barclays and others are still offering to try to attract your business.   We’ve boiled them down to one easy-to-use chart here.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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American Airlines and Marriott Are Each Now Playing the Loyalty Credit Card Game with 2 Partners – Outcomes Appear Different

American Airlines acquired US Air in 2015 and Marriott acquired Starwood in 2016, making each the largest US Airline and largest US hotel chain respectively.

It took years for them to fully integrate the loyalty program of their acquiree.   In the case of American Airlines, the loyalty program wasn’t the main reason for the acquisition (it was scale), but Marriott clearly acquired a better program than they had previously (and than they have now).

Both American Airlines and Marriott have now wound up with terms allowing the credit card partner of their acquiree to continue as a credit card partner, effectively creating two separate credit card partners competing for their loyalty customers.

American is now allowing both Citibank, its longtime incumbent credit card partner, and Barclays, which had serviced US Air, to issue personal and business American Airlines branded credit cards.   Barclays had been barred from issuing new cards for a while, but now gets exclusive access to market inside the airplanes and the airports (excluding Admirals Club which goes to Citi, along with the website, direct market channels, etc.).

In practice under the new American Airlines system, Barclays and Citibank are now competing against each other to provide the most valuable consumer card, the most valuable business card and the best signup bonuses.   American is winning - they are being rewarded for all of these new accounts at both Citibank and Barclays, and selling miles to both.   Customers also seem to be winning.   I was on a flight where a flight attendant told a passenger next to me to open both, and that means customers can get two products with separate features (for example, the Barclays Aviator cards give 3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars for every $25,000 in spend).   They are also getting access to better products with Citibank now offering a high end product in The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® and a low end no-fee product in American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp? Card.

Marriott has also maintained both Chase, its incumbent credit card partner, and American Express, which had serviced Starwood, as credit card partners.  Their press releases indicate that Chase will be offering the standard Marriott card with  Amex offering higher end consumer cards and business cards.    Again, Marriott is probably something of a winner here – like American they are being rewarded for new accounts with both Amex and Chase and will be selling miles to both.  

However, unlike the case with American Airlines, consumers seem to be losers here, especially those who had been part of Amex’s exceptional successful and popular Starwood loyalty card products.   Those cards which had been the most valuable travel rewards credit cards since  the early 2000s until recently were debased at the beginning of this month.   Instead of continuing to provide one Starwood point per dollar, it will now only offer 2 Marriott points.   Since Marriott itself is applying a 1 to 3 conversion ratio, it means that the Starwood product will now produce 33% fewer points.   Likewise, the new Chase Marriott card is also giving only 2 Marriott points on non-Marriott spend which is more than it previously delivered, but still 33% less value that loyalty to Starwood had delivered through Amex.  In short, Marriott has not delivered an enhancement for credit card loyalty that it appeared that they might when they instituted a 1 Starwood to 3 Marriott conversion ratio.   They recognized that Starwood was a better program, but then set out to destroy it, and are now making their own program less valuable through devaluations and removal of their 7 Night Hotel And Air Packages.  

Find the best travel rewards credit card for your spend profile here.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

Advertising Disclosure: This site may be compensated for hosting offers.