Top 20 Most Valuable Travel and Rewards Credit Cards 2018

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.

Also see our list of the 10 best credit cards based on the value of the sign-up bonus!

Card Sign-Up Bonus / How To Accrue Points Redemptions for Maximum Point Value A Great Card for People Who

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card®

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card®

Bonus:

N/A



Points:
Provides 1.5 points for every dollar spent, plus a 75% bonus for those holding more than $100,000 in a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch account (totaling 2.625%).  Points are redeemable only for travel statement credits.
N/A
Those with $100,000 in assets at Merrill or BoA who seek maximum flexibility in redemptions.

Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard®

Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard®

Bonus:

N/A. $150 annual fee.



Points:
2x per every dollar spent on the card.  Points have a 1 cent value when used in amounts over 10,000 points ($100) to redeem for direct statement credits against travel charges to the card.  Miles can also now be transferred to certain non-US airline carriers listed here.   Note that Barclays has temporarily suspending new issuance of this card in October 2018.
If you spend over $15,000 on the card each year, you will receive an additional 15,000 points, and if you spend another $10,000, you will receive an additional 10,000 points. 
High spenders can receive up to 3 cents per dollar spent up to $25,000 annually.   

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card®

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card®

Bonus:

Get 80,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. $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)
Small businesses or individuals seeking to separate business spend from personal spend. Those seeking flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points. Apply today even if you don't have a business.  Just enter your social security number when prompted to enter an EIN.

World of Hyatt Card® by Chase®

World of Hyatt Card® by Chase®

Bonus:

60,000 Hyatt points.  40,000 after a $3,000 spend within 3 months, and an additional 20,000 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.
 
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.
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 (Use in Conjunction with Amex Gold or Platinum)

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express (Use in Conjunction with Amex Gold or Platinum)

Bonus:

20,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 in your first 3 months of cardmembership.  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).
A great card for those seeking to segregate business expenses and earn double points.  Apply today even if you don't have a business.  Just enter your social security number when prompted to enter an EIN.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card®

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card®

Bonus:

Get 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months.  $450 annual fee.



Points:
Earn 3x at restaurants and on travel.  Use in conjunction with the Chase Freedom to earn 5x at quarterly rotating categories, including groceries, restaurants, Costco and Amazon.  Also use in conjunction with the Chase Ink Cash card to earn 5x at office supply stores and on telecommunications spend (detailed here).  
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 flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Bonus:

100,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months. (Targeted offers for the business version are often as high as 150,000 points).  $550 annual fee, but Morgan Stanley accountholders with over $1,000,000 in their accounts can get a free version of this card with only a 50,000 points sign up bonus and all of the same benefits.



Points:
Ordinarily 1 point per $1 spent on the card, this card now offers 5 points per $1 spend directly on airlines. $550 annual fee. $200 annual airline credit can be used in twice in the first payment year for airline incidental fees (once in each of two successive calendar years).
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.

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, waived the first year.



Points:
3x on travel, including gas, 2x at restaurants, 1x everywhere else. No foreign transaction fees.  (A separate card, the Citi Prestige Card, now carries a $450 fee and no bonus. The Prestige card offers Global Entry and Priority Pass select, like Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve, but Citi removed most of the cards other benefits, described in this article, in 2017 and 2018).
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.).

British Airways® Visa Signature Card®

British Airways® Visa Signature Card®

Bonus:

50,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months.  Earn an additional 25,000 points if you spend $10,000 within the first year, and 25,000 more for an additional $10,000 within the first year.  Spend $30,000 in a year and get a free companion ticket. $95 annual fee.



Points:
3 Points per Dollar Spent on British Airways.   1 Point per dollar spent everywhere else.
15,000 points gets a round trip ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on American), or a round trip between Seattle and LA (on American), or a round trip trip between London and Madrid (on Iberia).  Note that redemptions directly on British Airways are often subject to excessive fees.
Those seeking great value for their credit card spend by redeeming on short haul flights through British Airways' partners

Citi American Airlines® Advantage Platinum Select World Mastercard® (or Business Mastercard® for Businesses)

Citi American Airlines® Advantage Platinum Select World Mastercard® (or Business Mastercard® for Businesses)

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, 1x everywhere else. 
40,000 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.

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card®, also available for Business

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card®, also available for Business

Bonus:

Current signup offer is 100,000 Marriott points after you spend $3,000 in 3 months, provided you have never had this product before and you don't currently have the Chase Marriott card.  Fee waived the first year, $95 thereafter.



Points:
Effective August 1, 2018, this card earns only 2 Marriott points per dollar spend.  That is only 2/3 what it earned when it delivered prior to the 1 Starwood to 3 Marriott integration (it previously earned 1 Starwood point).  
 
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.
60,000 Marriott points for a night at the St. Regis in Florence or Rome or Aspen until the end of 2018 when Marriott will be adding new award categories and peak versus off-peak awards.
Those who plan to stay at Starwood or Marriott hotels for long stays and can take advantage of Starwood or Marriott's 5th night free awards. 

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, waived the first year.



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.  Receive a 10% rebate on AAdvantage redemptions (limited at 10,000 points annually).   

40,000 miles gets a round trip ticket between the US and Europe during low season.

A great card for those who fly American Airlines, those seeking a faster path towards status on American, or who seek to redeem points on American.

American Express OPEN® Business Gold Rewards Card

American Express OPEN® Business Gold Rewards Card

Bonus:

30,000 points after spending $5,000 within 3 months (Targeted offers are often as high as 75,000 points after spending $5,000 in three months).   $175 annual fee, waived the first year.



Points:
Ordinarily 1 point per $1 spent on the card, although there are certain categories for faster accumulation. 
Transfer 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.
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.

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card®

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card®

Bonus:

60,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in 3 months.  (You will need to log in to a United Mileage Plus account to see this offer).   $95 annual fee, waived the first year.



Points:
Earn 2x on United, 1x everywhere else. $95 annual fee, waived the first year.  No foreign transaction fees.
Redeem 140,000 points for a business class ticket from JFK to Narita, or redeem 30,000 points for an intra-Europe coach class ticket on a Star Alliance® partner.
Those who fly United Airlines, or who seek to redeem rewards on United.

Hilton Honors® Ascend Card® from American Express

Hilton Honors® Ascend Card® from American Express

Bonus:

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



Points:
Earn 12 points per $1 spend at Hilton, 6 points per dollar spend at restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, 3 points everywhere else. 
Most Conrads are 95,000 points per night. 
Those who plan to stay at Hilton 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.
Due to a recent program devaluation, this card only has value for those redeeming at the May Fair in London on certain Radisson Blu hotels in Europe, as this article explains.

DiscoverIT Miles Card (First Year Only)

DiscoverIT Miles Card (First Year Only)

Bonus:

No sign up bonus.



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.

Venture® from Capital One®

Venture® from Capital One®

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.
Ideal for people who like flexibility and want to redeem their rewards without worry about airline redemption blackout dates.

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card

Bonus:
75,000 Marriott points (25,000 Starwood) 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.
Some commentators have suggested that there will be a temporary opportunity to find valuable rewards at the high end Starwood properties in late 2018 as these properties will temporarily fall in category.  

 

A great card for people who stay at Starwood or Marriott, and who want to take advantage of the more valuable higher end redemptions.

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

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

Bonus:

15,000 points. 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.
Only people who have a Chase Sapphire or a Chase Ink card.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

Bonus:

Earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months.  The offer is sometimes raised to 40,000 or 50,000 miles.  Get a $50 statement credit on your first Delta flight purchase made (if made during these three months).  $0 annual fee for first year, $95 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, Salt Lake City or want to redeem for international travel from JFK.

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.

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.


Card names, trademarked images and copyrights appearing on this page are the property of the issuer, not BestCashCow. Calculations and editorial information appearing on this page have been determined by our editorial team and by site users without any input or endorsement of the issuer.