Top 20 Most Valuable Travel and Rewards Credit Cards 2020

Getting Started with Rewards Credit Cards

Many credit cards today offer some type of reward for using them in the form of points. Points can be redeemed for cash back, free gifts, and travel rewards (hotels, airfare). After having analyzed this space extensively, BestCashCow believes that travel reward programs offer the best sign­‐up rewards, with some worth well over $1,000 if you meet promotional spend requirements; and the best return, with some programs easily offering up to 3% of the regular spend. For certain categories that offer 2, 3 or even 5x, for every dollar spent on a credit card, as much as fifteen cents of a certain part of your spend can come back in the form of a reward, that's up to 15% of your spend.

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Chase Ink Business Preferred Card

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card

Bonus:

Get 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in the first three months. BestCashCow values these points as high as 2.05 cents each, making the value of this bonus $2,050.   $95 annual fee.   



Points:
Receive 3x points on travel, shipping, online advertising (Google, Facebook) and internet/cable/phone expenditures to a total of $150,000 per year.  No foreign transaction fees. Also, if you use the card to purchase your cell phone, it provides $600 in damage protection.  (This is a business card, but you do not need to have a business to apply for the card.  It is a sister product to the Sapphire Cards and can be used interchangably with them although it will not provide the same car rental protection and purchase protection).

The complete list of Chase transfer partners is here.    Some of the more attractive transfer opportunities are:

  • Hyatt - 8,000 points gets a night at the Hyatt Regency Greenville, SC.
  • British Airways - 15,000 points gets a round trip ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on AA)
  • United - 140,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from JFK to Narita
  • Singapore - 60,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from the mainland US to Hawaii (on United)
Those seeking to separate business spend from personal spend and those seeking flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points. You may apply even if you don't have a business by entering your social security number when prompted to enter an EIN.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

Bonus:

Receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within three months.  $550 annual fee.   The card includes Priority Pass membership, a $300 travel statement credit that renews on each card membership anniversary date, certain Lyft benefits, and a $60 Grubhub credit annually (through 2021).



Points:
Earn 3x at restaurants and on travel.  Use in conjunction with the Chase Freedom to earn 5x at quarterly rotating categories, including gas, groceries, restaurants, Costco and Amazon, up to a $1,500 quarterly limit.  Also use in conjunction with the Chase Ink Cash card to earn 5x at office supply stores and on telecommunications spend up to a $25,000 annual limit (detailed here).  
The complete list of Chase transfer partners is here.    Some of the more attractive transfer opportunities are:
  • Hyatt - 12,000 points gets a night at the Hyatt Regency Greenville, SC.
  • British Airways - 15,000 points gets a round trip ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on AA)
  • United - 140,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from JFK to Narita
  • Singapore - 60,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from the mainland US to Hawaii (on United)
Those seeking flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points.

World of Hyatt Card by Chase

World of Hyatt Card by Chase

Bonus:

50,000 Hyatt points.  25,000 after a $3,000 spend within 3 months, and an additional 25,000 after total spend of $6,000 within the first 6 months.  $95 annual fee.



Points:
4x at Hyatt, 2x at restaurants, gym membership, ride sharing services, and air travel purchased directly from an airline, 1x everywhere else. No foreign transaction fees. After payment of your annual fee upon renewal, you will receive 1 night in a Hyatt category 1-4 hotel.   Also, receive automatic Hyatt Discoverist status and 5 qualifying needs towards the next status just for being a card member.   Each $5,000 spend in a calendar year earns 2 qualifying nights towards the next status and each $15,000 spend in an anniversary year earns and addition 1 night in a Hyatt category 1-4 hotel.
 
Redeem 8,000 points for a night at Park Hyatt Mendoza or Hyatt Regency Montreal, or 30,000 points for a night at the Park Hyatt New York or Park Hyatt Paris.
Customers of Hyatt and those seeking to redeem value for their credit card spend at Hyatt, which is one of the most valuable hotel programs even after recent program devaluations.

The Blue Business Plus® Credit Card from American Express®

The Blue Business Plus® Credit Card from American Express®

Bonus:

Link your Business Blue account to your Membership Rewards account with a Gold or Platinum card and all sign-on and earned points will be directly transferred into one common account.



Points:
2x points for every dollar you spend up to $50,000 each year.  The complete list of Amex's transfer partners is here.   
While it is difficult to find valuable redemptions with many of these partners, we value Amex points as being worth as much as 1.95 cents per point when redeemed on ANA or Singapore airlines (both part of the Star Alliance and partners with United).
Those who want to segregate business expenses and earn double points on their first $50,000 in spend annually.  You may apply even if you don't have a business by entering your social security number when prompted to enter an EIN.

United Club Infinite

United Club Infinite

Bonus:

100,000 bonus United Mileage Plus miles after you spend $5,000 within you first 3 months of card membership.   We value United miles as high as 1.80 cents each, making this bonus worth $1,800.



Points:

Earn 4 miles per dollar spent on United, earn 2 miles per dollar spent on dining and other travel, and eanr 1 mile on all other spend.

As few as 70,000 United miles can still be redeemed on any of its Star Alliance® partners for a one-way business class ticket from anywhere in the US to anywhere in Europe.   Star Alliance® partners include Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, Austrian Air and SAS Airlines.   You may also Rredeem 140,000 points for a business class ticket from JFK to Narita, or redeem 30,000 points for an intra-Europe round-trup coach class ticket on a Star Alliance® partner.

Receive United Club membership, 2 free checked bags on United, up to $100 global entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement, no foreign transaction fees.  $525 annual fee.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Bonus:

60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within 3 months (Targeted offers may offer more Membership Rewards points).   The Welcome Offer is not available if you have ever had the exact same product before (if you have had the card before, consider the Business version, the Morgan Stanley version or the Mercedes Benz version.)



Points:
Ordinarily 1 point per $1 spent on the card, this card now offers 5 points per $1 spend directly on airlines and on hotels booked through American Express. $200 annual airline incidental credit (can be used in twice in the first payment year for airline incidental fees - once in each of two successive calendar years).  $200 in Uber statement credits annually ($15 per month and $35 in December).   $50 semi-annual Saks statement credit.  Limited Priority Pass membership.   Global Entry reimbursement.   Access to Amex's own airport lounges worldwide.  $550 annual fee.
The complete list of travel partners to which Amex points may be transferred is here
Those who spend a lot on airline travel booked directly with the airline and who can find valuable redemptions with Amex's transfer partners.

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card

Bonus:

Earn 60,000 United Mileage Plus points after spending $3,000 within your first three months of card membership.   We value this Welcome Bonus around $1,080 as we value United points around 1.80 cents each.



Points:

Earn 2x on United purchases, at restaurants and on purchases directly from hotels.   Earn 1 mile everywhere else.   

 

As few as 70,000 United miles can still be redeemed on any of its Star Alliance® partners for a one-way business class ticket from anywhere in the US to anywhere in Europe.   Star Alliance® partners include Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, Austrian Air and SAS Airlines.   You may also Rredeem 140,000 points for a business class ticket from JFK to Narita, or redeem 30,000 points for an intra-Europe round-trup coach class ticket on a Star Alliance® partner.
Those who fly United and those who can take advantage of the extensive 2x point categories.  The card includes Global Entry or TSA precheck reimbursement (up to $100 every 5 years), 2 United Club passes, free first checked bag and a 25% discount on purchases onboard United or from United at the gate.   No foreign transaction fees.   

The American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card

Bonus:

Earn 25,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in your first 3 months.  $250 annual fee.



Points:

Earn 4x points at restaurants (U.S. only).

Earn 4x points at supermarkets up to $25,000 annually (U.S. only).

Earn 3x points on airline travel when booked directly through the airline.

Earn 1x on everything else.

Transfer Amex Membership Rewards® points to:

  • British Airways at 1 Amex: 1 BA
  • BA Singapore Airlines at 1:1 where they have the value described above.
  • Delta Airlines at 1:1 where they are worth very little
  • Or, several other travel partners listed here.

Those who spend a lot of money at U.S. restuarants and U.S. supermarkets and can take advantage of the generous 4x points per dollar spend that this card offers.

American Express® Business Gold Rewards Card

American Express® Business Gold Rewards Card

Bonus:

35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within 3 months of account opening. (Targeted offers may offer more Membership Rewards points).   $295 annual fee.



Points:
Designate 2 of the following categories for 4x Amex Membership Rewards® points on a combined total of $150,000 spend annually: 
  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV, radio)
  • U.S. purchases made directly from select technology providers of computer hardware, software, and cloud solutions
  • U.S. purchases at gas stations
  • U.S. purchases at restaurants
  • U.S. purchases for shipping
Transfer Amex Membership Rewards® points to:
  • British Airways at 1 Amex: 1 BA
  • BA Singapore Airlines at 1:1 where they have the value described above.
  • Delta Airlines at 1:1 where they are worth very little
  • Or, several other travel partners listed here.
Those seeking to segregate business expenses and earn flexible points that can be redeemed on several solid partner airlines, including British Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Chase Freedom Unlimited (when used in Conjunction with Ink or Sapphire)

Chase Freedom Unlimited (when used in Conjunction with Ink or Sapphire)

Bonus:

Receive 20,000 Chase Ultimate rewards points after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership.   These points can be redeemed for $200, but have more value if transferred to an Ink or Sapphire card.  No annual fee.



Points:
Earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent.
Points only have the value ascribed when they are transferred to a Chase Sapphire or a Chase Ink card as explained in this article.
Those who have a Chase Sapphire or a Chase Ink card.

American Express Green Card®

American Express Green Card®

Bonus:

30,000 points after spending $2,000 within 3 months of account opening.



Points:

Earn 3x Membership Rewards for spend at restaurants and on travel.   1x everywhere else.   Receive $100 annual credits at Clear and Lounge Buddy.

Amex Membership Rewards points may be transferred to any of the partners listed here.   Delta is the most commonly selected partner for Amex transfers.

Those who spend a lot on travel and restaurants.   Can be used as a complement to the Amex Platinum card and other Amex cards that do not deliver 3x in those categories.   May not make sense as an alternative to other cards from Chase and Citibank that deliver 3x in these categories as the travel protections are not as strong and card carries a currency conversion fee when used outside the U.S.

British Airways Visa Signature Card

British Airways Visa Signature Card

Bonus:

Receive 50,000 British Airways Avios points after spending $3,000 within 3 months.  Receive an addtional 50,000 British Airways Avios if you spend a total of $20,000 within your first year of card membership.  If you spend a total of $30,000 in a calendar year, you will receive a "Travel Together voucher" valid for 2 years which can be redeemed for a companion ticket in the same class of service as a fully fare round-trip ticket on British Airways.



Points:
3 Avios points per Dollar Spent on British Airways.   2 points per dollar spent in booking directly with hotels.   1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
There are redemption opportunities as low as 15,000 British Airways Avios for a round trip coach ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on American), between Hong Kong and most destinations in Southeast Asia (on Cathay Pacific), or between London and Madrid (on Iberia).  Note that redemptions directly on British Airways are often subject to excessive fees.   $95 annual fee.
Those seeking great value for their credit card spend by redeeming on short haul flights through British Airways' partners

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Bonus:

Earn 125,000 Hilton points after spending $2,000 within your first three months. $95 annual fee.



Points:
Earn 12 Hilton Honors points per $1 spent at Hilton, 6 points per dollar spent at restaurants, US supermarkets and gas stations, 3 points everywhere else. 
Most Conrads are 95,000 points per night. 
Those who stay at Hilton family hotels.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card

Bonus:

Get 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 within 3 months of account opening.



Points:
Earn 2x miles for every dollar spent.   Earn 10x miles at hotels.com.   
Redeem miles against a statement credit at 1 mile per penny against travel charges to your card.
Those who like flexibility and want to redeem their rewards without worry about airline redemption blackout dates.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

Bonus:

Earn 60,000 Delta miles after spending $2,000 in your first 3 months.  Earn an additional 10,000 Delta miles on your first anniversary of cardmembership when you renew your card.   Get a $100 Delta credit when you spend $10,000 in a calendar year.  $0 annual fee for first year, $99 thereafter.



Points:
Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on the card and 1 extra mile for Delta purchases.
Delta removed its award chart and valuable redemptions are just tougher and tougher to find.   The most valuable redemptions we find are in Business Class seats for long haul flights from New York to Latin America when they are on "sale".
People who live in Atlanta or Salt Lake City or who want to redeem for international travel from JFK.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Bonus:

75,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of receiving the card. We value each Marriott point as high as 0.90 cents ordinarily.  $95 annual fee.



Points:
Card earns 2 points per $1 of spend, but 6 points at Starwood or Marriott properties.
Even after past devaluations, some bloggers had succeeded in finding redemptions where Marriott points were worth over 3 cents a point at the Westin Snowmass Resort in Colorado and at the Wailea Beach Resort in Hawaii.   However, after category changes and program devaluations in March 2020, we think it will be hard to find redemptions better than 9/10 cent a point.   

 

Those who stay at Marriott hotels, and who want to take advantage of their higher end hotel properties (St. Regis, Ritz Carlton, Luxury Collection, Edition, Autograph).

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Bonus:

Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within three months of opening the card. $95 fee.



Points:
3x on travel, including gas, 2x at restaurants and entertainment, 1x everywhere else. No foreign transaction fees. 
Points may be transferred to any of Citi's transfer partners listed here.   May alternatively be redeemed directly for travel at 1.25 cents per point.
Those who charge a lot on travel and restaurants, and who can take advantage of one of the Singapore Airlines redemptions outlined in this article (other rewards, including the direct credit on American Airlines, ordinarily provide less than the value ascribed here.).

Citi Prestige® Card

Citi Prestige® Card

Bonus:

50,000 points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening.



Points:

Earn 5x on air travel and at restaurants, 3x at hotels and 1x everywhere else.  The card also offers TSA Precheck / Global Entry, Priority Pass Select, and a complimentary 4th night free at hotels (which will only be available 2x per year after October 2019).   The Prestige Card now carries a $495 annual fee, but gives a $250 annual statement travel credit. 

Points may be transferred to any of Citi's transfer partners listed here.   May alternatively be redeemed directly for travel at 1 cent per point.

Those who charge a lot on travel and restaurants, and who can take advantage of one of the Singapore Airlines redemptions outlined in this article.

Citi American Airlines® Advantage Platinum Select World Mastercard®

Citi American Airlines® Advantage Platinum Select World Mastercard®

Bonus:

50,000 points after spending $2,500 within 3 months.  $99 annual fee, waived the first year.



Points:
2x points on American, 2x at gas stations, 2x at restaurants, 1x everywhere else. 
45,000 miles gets a round trip ticket between the US and Europe during low season.
Those who fly American Airlines or who seek to redeem points on American.

Marriott Bonvoy™ Brilliant American Express® Card

Marriott Bonvoy™ Brilliant American Express® Card

Bonus:

Current signup offer is 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points after you spend $3,000 in 3 months, provided you have never had this product before and you do not currently have a Marriott card from Chase.   $450 annual fee includes a $300 annual Marriott statement credit and Priority Pass membership.    (The Marriott Bonvoy™ Boundless Credit Card from Chase also offers 75,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in 3 months and has a $150 annual fee, but does not offer a statement credit or Priority Pass.)   



Points:
This card now earns 2 Marriott points per dollar spend and 3 points on dining and air travel booked directly with the airline.  It earns 6 Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott.   In all cases, the card's earning capabilities are less than or equal to what were with the Starwood Preferred Guest card that this replaces (Starwood points were converted to Marriott at 1 to 3 and that card earned 1 Starwood point per dollar spent).  
 
We valued Starwood points as high as 2.7 cents per dollar prior to that integration.  We see Marriott points ordinarily being worth around 0.90 cents per point.
Marriott has devalued its redemptions severely by adding so many categories and peak versus off-peak awards that we rarely see attractive valuations for redemption at Marriott.   You may still transfer 60,000 points for 20,000 airline miles and get a 15,000 Marriott point bonus, but even that is inferior to the airline redemptions that Starwood previously offered.   
Those who stay at Marriott hotels.

Radisson Rewards Visa Signature Card® by US Bank

Radisson Rewards Visa Signature Card® by US Bank

Bonus:

50,000 Gold points when you sign up and 35,000 when you spend $2,500 in 3 months. 40,000 each year you renew.  $75 annual fee.



Points:
Earn 5 points per dollar spent. We value these points in the maximum scenario as being worth 0.25 cents each. 
Redeem 70,000 points for 1 night at the MayFair in London.
This card only has great value for those seeking to convert their credit card spend into free nights at the May Fair in London and perhaps on certain other Radisson Blu hotels in Europe, as this article explains.

DiscoverIT Miles Card

DiscoverIT Miles Card

Bonus:

N/A.



Points:
Earn 1.5x miles for each dollar spent.   Your miles earned are doubled at the end of your first year of card membership.
Miles are redeemed for travel credits against charges to your card at 1 cent per mile.

Barclays Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Barclays Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Bonus:

60,000 American AAdvantage Points after making your first purchase within 90 days of receiving the card.  $95 annual fee.



Points:

Earn 2x for every dollar spent on American, 1x everywhere else.  Also receive 3,000 American Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $25,000 in a calendar year.  

45,000 miles gets a round trip ticket between the US and Europe during low season.

Those who fly American Airlines or who seek to redeem points on American.  Also may have value for those seeking a faster path towards status on American through their spend.

Also see our list of the 10 best credit cards based on the value of the welcome offer!

This table lists the best travel and rewards credit cards based on value received through ordinary use of the card for purchases. The value that you receive from any card may differ, based on your particular usage patterns and whether you redeem points you earn for the most valuable rewards. Use BestCashCow's Credit Card Maximizer to see the cards that may be most valuable for you based on your spending patterns.

But to get this level of reward takes some knowledge of how these credit cards work and also the various deals offered by the cards. Earning valuable travel rewards points is easy with the right credit card and a little bit of research and planning. It can also be exciting, even exhilarating. Most importantly, it can enable you to travel the world in a class of service that you might not otherwise be able to afford, or to see places that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive to get to.

It is important to note that rewards cards do not make sense for those who plan to carry a balance. For those looking to finance purchases on their card, a low interest credit card is the better choice. But, if you pay off your balances monthly, flexible rewards points or travel rewards in the form of hotel points and air miles will provide you with the most value for your credit card spend.


The table above is generated by BestCashCow and includes BestCashCow’s commentary about the credit card product listed. It may include references to products from one or more of advertisers, but no content herein has not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser. BestCashCow has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. We may receive compensation when you click on links to products. Additional terms may apply.