The Honeymoon Guy’s 10 Best Travel Credit Cards – October 2015 Edition

UPDATE: See the updated list here!

The top four spots remain unchanged, but there’s major movement in the bottom six spots in the October 2015 edition of the 10 Best Travel Credit Cards.  The rankings are below, after a short intro.


A lot of people will tell you that it’s hard to rank travel credit cards because their utility is heavily based on the specific travel plans of the user.  That’s true.  But I’m up for a challenge.

The rankings are heavily tied to the signup bonus offers of the card as that is where the big payoff is, especially for the average couple planning a honeymoon or a major vacation.  Let me know what you think in the comments!

1. Chase Hyatt

Ranking in previous month: 1

What changed from last month to this month: Nothing – the Hyatt Gold Passport program was stable and the signup bonus offer remains very lucrative.

Chase Hyatt Stock ImageBefore this summer, the signup bonus for this card was fairly consistent: Two nights in any Hyatt worldwide.  The offer was then sweetened with a $50 statement credit which inched this card into the #1 spot back in July.  UPDATE: In early October Chase added a stipulation to this offer.  Eligibility for the extra $50 credit is now dependent on having stayed at a Hyatt since 01 May 2015 or having a reservation for an upcoming stay.  If you don’t already meet those criteria, simply make a refundable reservation for far out in the future and then provide that confirmation number to Chase if they require it for the $50 credit.

The two free nights can provide incredible value. Great redemption options include the Park Hyatt hotels in Sydney (Australia), Milan (Italy), Paris-Vendome (France), the Grand Hyatt Kauai, the Hyatt Regency Aruba and of course our choice: the Andaz Maui.  We redeemed our four free nights (two for each of us as we both got this card) there when the going rate for the same room was $450/night including taxes.  We received about $900 each in value from simply signing up for this card.

See this post on great redemption options for free Hyatt nights for more details.

In addition to the free night awards, the card has a lower minimum spend requirement ($1,000 in 3 months) than many other travel cards.

Here are the key features of the the Chase Hyatt card:

  • 2 free nights at Hyatt properties worldwide, after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Each year that you renew the card you also get a free night award good for any Category 1-4 hotel, which can easily be worth $250-$300
  • Platinum status in the Hyatt Gold Passport program, which includes a 15% point bonus on eligible spend, complimentary in-room Internet, 72-hour room guarantee, expedited check-in and a preferred reservation line
  • Annual fee is waived the first year (then $75 thereafter, though the free Category 1-4 hotel easily offsets that).
  • No foreign transaction fees, making it suitable for use in foreign locations
  • Chip-style card for greater acceptance worldwide

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 17 out of 17

2. Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Ranking in previous month: 2

What changed from last month to this month: Nothing – the Citi ThankYou program was stable and the signup bonus offer remains the same.

Citi ThankYou PremierThe Citi ThankYou® Premier Card was recently relaunched.  The relaunch came after my last app-o-rama so this is actually one of the few cards I don’t have!

This card comes with a very enticing signup bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points.  Those points can be redeemed for $625 of airfare, hotels, cruises and car rentals through the ThankYou® Travel Center.  Alternatively, you can transfer the points to 11 different airline frequent flyer programs (including Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Etihad, Flying Blue by Air France and KLM) or Hilton.

The fact that you can use the points both as pseudo-cash or transfer them is great.  The value you can get from airline miles is often tremendous but that is somewhat offset by the possibility that you won’t be able to get two reward seats on the same flight in some cases.  If you’re planning your honeymoon or vacation and you have ThankYou points you can consider both approaches and simply select the more appealing one.

A friend of ours recently shared her story of getting this card and making a redemption.  She immediately used it to pay for a cruise, which earned 3X points as a travel purchase.  That and several other moderate purchases got her over the minimum spend threshold.  The points earned from those initial purchases combined with the 50k bonus points from the signup enabled her to get an $800 flight to Europe (for the cruise) for free!

The annual fee of $95 is waived for this card for the first year.

The spend requirement to receive the signup bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points is a fairly-standard-these-days $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

Here are some other key features of the Citi ThankYou® Premier card:

  • 3X ThankYou Points on travel including gas
  • 2X ThankYou Points on dining out and entertainment
  • 1X ThankYou Points on other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases
  • Chip technology included for improved acceptance while traveling

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 16 out of 17

3. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

Ranking in previous month: 3

What changed from last month to this month: Nothing – the AAdvantage program was stable and the signup bonus offer remains the same.

Citi AAdvantage Select CardThe Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard is a straightforward airline credit card.  It earns two AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on American Airlines and US Airways purchases and one AAdvantage mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.  With US Airways and American Airlines merging there is an even greater number of flights on which you can easily redeem your AA miles.

Here are some key features of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®:

  • 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines and US Airways purchases and 1 AAdvantage mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • First checked bag free for you and up to four traveling companions
  • Group 1 boarding
  • Annual fee waived the first year (then $95 thereafter)

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 15 out of 17

4. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Ranking in previous month: 4

What changed from last month to this month: Nothing – the Ultimate Rewards program was stable and the signup bonus offer remains the same.

sapphire_preferred_cardLike the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card doesn’t earn you points directly with a specific hotel or airline.  The card instead earns you points in Chase’s “currency” of Ultimate Rewards.  These Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for straight cash back at a 1 point = 1 cent ratio, redeemed to purchase travel at a 1 point = 1.25 cent ratio and for maximum value, transferred to a variety of hotel and airline companies for redemption in their programs.

Transfer partners include British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Amtrak Guest Rewards®, Hyatt Gold Passport®, Marriott Rewards®, IHG® Rewards Club and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.  Patty and I have reaped tremendous value from transferring UR points to Southwest, Hyatt and United.

Here are some key features of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

  •  40,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants. 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Always get 20% off travel when you redeem for airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate RewardsSM. For example, a $500 flight requires just 40,000 points.
  • No foreign transaction fees when you use your card on purchases made outside the United States.
  • Embedded chip provides enhanced security and wider acceptance when you make purchases at chip-enabled card readers in the US and abroad.
  • Annual fee waived the first year (then $95 thereafter)

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 15 out of 17

5. Chase IHG Rewards Club Select

Ranking in previous month: 6

What changed from last month to this month: Nothing – the IHG Rewards program was stable and the signup bonus offer remains the same.

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit CardThe best publicly-available signup bonus offer for this card gets you 60,000 IHG points and a $50 statement credit after spending $1,000 within 3 months of account opening. 

However, many people, myself included, have had success getting Chase to update their account to an 80k points signup bonus offer after they’ve been approved for the card.  Some folks have even been able to retain the $50 statement credit in addition to the increased points offer. 

With IHG’s new reward tier setup, 75,000 points is a critical threshold.  Once you’ve earned 75,000 points in a year you are awarded with Spire Elite status and that yields you 25,000 more points.  The credit card signup bonus points count towards this threshold.  This has essentially, though unofficially, upped the signup bonus for this card to 100,000+ points.

In addition to a strong signup bonus, the card has a lower minimum spend requirement ($1,000 in 3 months) than many other travel rewards cards.

Here are some key features of the Chase IHG Rewards Club Select card:

  • 60,000 points and a $50 statement credit (usually increased to 80,000 points with a request to Chase) when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Free night award annually upon payment of annual fee
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels
  • Earn 2 points per $1 on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores & restaurants
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees when you use your card for purchases abroad
  • Platinum status
  • $49 annual fee, waived the first year

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 14 out of 17

6. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Personal Card and Plus Personal Card

Ranking in previous month: 8

What changed from last month to this month: The Southwest Rapid Rewards program was stable last month and the signup bonus offer remains the same for the Premier card.  There is now a publicly-available offer for a 50k signup bonus for the Personal Plus card also, though it’s not heavily advertised.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit CardThe Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card yields you 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account.

With Southwest expanding to more and more international destinations including Mexico, Costa Rica, Aruba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, etc. the airline deserves more thought by honeymooners.

The Plus version of the card can be obtained with a similar 50k point signup offer though the link to the offer isn’t as well-advertised.

As we near the end of a calendar year and beginning of a new one, the cards become even more appealing as they can be parlayed into a Southwest Companion Pass.

Other key features of the cards include:

  • 6,000/3,000 Rapid Rewards (RR) points each year at your card anniversary date for the Premier card and Plus card, respectively
  • $99/$69 annual fee, applied to your first billing statement for the Premier card and Plus card, respectively (those fees are essentially offset by the 6,000/3,000 anniversary RR points each year)

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 14 out of 17

7. British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Ranking in previous month: 9

What changed from last month to this month: The signup bonus offer was changed slightly, adding the possibility of additional bonuses with major spending.

British Airways Signature Visa CardThe British Airways Visa Signature® Card is a straightforward airline credit card.  With it you earn 2.5 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1.25 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.  The strong value of the card is that the signup bonus is decent and that there are certain ways (short- to medium-distance economy flights on partner airlines such as American Airlines) to obtain great value from the Avios program.

Patty and I just saw the value of this program element firsthand as I booked a domestic flight for my mom for only 7,500 Avios and Patty booked a roundtrip flight to Europe for only 40k Avios.  That same flight would have cost 60k United MileagePlus miles.

Here are some key features of the British Airways Visa Signature® Card:

  • 50,000 bonus Avios when you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Plus earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend $10,000 on purchases or 50,000 bonus Avios when you spend a total of $20,000 on purchases within your first year.
  • Earn 2.5 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1.25 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees when you use your card on purchases made outside the United States.
  • Annual fee is $95

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 14 out of 17

8. Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

Ranking in previous month: 6

What changed from last month to this month: Though the offer for this card remained the same I’ve had more of a chance to absorb the negative changes that were made to the card in July.

BarclayCard Arrival PlusThis card, like the Citi ThankYou Premier and the Chase Sapphire Preferred is not associated with any particular lodging or air travel company but yet it is very much a traveler’s card.  A Barclaycard Arrival mile is redeemable for 1 cent of travel cost (where 2 Arrival miles are required for every cent of redemption for non-travel costs).  This card, and the associated points, are therefore great for travel costs such as cruises, theme parks, boutique hotels or lodging, small airlines, ground travel costs (e.g. cabs, Uber) and more.

Here are some key features of the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®:

  •  40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days (redeemable for $400 of travel statement credit)
  • 2 miles earned per dollar on all purchases made
  • Get 5% miles back every time you redeem for travel statement credits (effectively making the signup bonus worth $420 towards travel)
  • Annual fee waived the first year (then $89 thereafter)

This card is valuable for the signup bonus and use through the first year but my personal opinion is that you should lobby for the annual fee to be waived at renewal time because there are straight cash-back cards that offer about 2% back.  However, this card still carries the impressive signup bonus that those cash-back cards do not.

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 13 out of 17

9. Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (Personal)

Ranking in previous month: 5

What changed from last month to this month: American Express has made significant changes to the card’s benefits and raised the annual fee from $65 to $95.

SPG Amex GraphicThe Starwood Preferred Guest credit cards (there is a personal version and a business version) are offered directly by American Express.  Though the signup bonus is not usually as large in magnitude as other signup bonuses, Starwood points are generally more valuable than other points.  Patty and I each signed up for this card and between the two of us we were able to use the bonuses towards two nights in the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, saving us about $1,040!

However, in August of 2015, the card’s benefits changed.  There are no longer any foreign transaction fees charged when using the card for international purchases.  There are also some other new perks.  On the other hand, the annual fee was raised substantially to $95 and within the past couple weeks it’s become known that AMEX’s standard, somewhat lucrative Small Business Saturday feature, will no longer yield consumers any statement credits.

Here are some key features of the card:

  • 25,000 Starpoints after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • Annual fee is waived the first year (then $95 thereafter)

Starwood Preferred Guest points are some of the most valuable hotel points around – I value them at about 2.5 cents each and you can often get substantially greater return than that.  So although the signup bonus for this card may not seem incredible at first glance, it is indeed a very valuable offer.

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 13 out of 17

10. United MileagePlus Explorer Card

Ranking in previous month: 10

What changed from last month to this month: There are reports of the previously-available 50k points + $50 statement credit showing up again while going through the booking process but I haven’t been able to regenerate that offer recently.

explorer-chipThe “standard” signup offer for the United MileagePlus Explorer card is for 30k bonus miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months.  With a simple trick you can also get a $50 statement credit after first purchase (see my summary post here).  It is a somewhat standard airline card, offering 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Other key features of the card include:

  • Free first checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 2 United ClubSM passes per year
  • NewChip-enabled Card provides added security
  • Receive 10,000-mile bonus after you reach $25,000 in net purchases each year

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 13 out of 17


What are your thoughts on this edition of the Best Travel Credit Cards?  Did I omit any that you think are worthy of inclusion?  Let me know in the comments section below!

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4 thoughts on “The Honeymoon Guy’s 10 Best Travel Credit Cards – October 2015 Edition

  1. I so wish I had this report after a month of agonizing over which to get. I chose capital one venture because of use on any airline or portal. If chase ultimate program has something then I would use chase sapphire . Also I really want to know if ANY of these points are lost or not carried over to next year as we do not travel that often but big when we do. I opened several accounts and finally Cap one venture has told me too many but want me to call. Very limited SW flights for us so kind of sorry I got that one. Saw a deal for Zilara on Expedia for the two weeks we are going for only $150 less per person that our great timeshare cost ! What a rip !

    1. Hi Sarah!

      Chase Ultimate Rewards remain valid as long as you have a Chase card open that is part of the Ultimate Rewards Program. Those cards include Freedom, Sapphire Preferred and Ink. Though the Freedom card earns Ultimate Rewards points it doesn’t give include an option to transfer the Ultimate Rewards points to partners like the Sapphire Preferred and Ink cards do.

      Unfortunately I can’t speak to the details of Capital One cards. I have generally found they aren’t as valuable as other cards. I believe they’re targeted at people with low or mediocre credit scores.

      If you’re not going to use your Southwest points for travel then you could consider redeeming the points for gift cards. You can get $500 worth of Amazon gift cards for 50k Southwest points.

  2. Also, for us, it is important to know if travel expense category covers timeshares because not all do.
    Could you let me know about any you reviewed that would not cover timeshare? I only know Chase Sapphire and cap one venture do and maybe SW.

    thanks Michael- you two kill me !!!

    1. I’ll have to check into this. I don’t know off the top of my head as I’ve never personally tried to redeem for a timeshare expense.

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