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

We have a change to the #1 spot, and some others, in the July edition of the 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.

This is first and foremost a honeymoon site, so I’ve taken my cut at ranking the best travel credit cards in that context.

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 (as opposed to someone who will be traveling repeatedly).  Let me know what you think in the comments!

1. Chase Hyatt

Ranking in previous month: 2

What changed from last month to this month: The Hyatt Gold Passport program was stable and the signup bonus offer was improved to include a $50 statement credit after first purchase.

Chase Hyatt Stock ImageThe signup bonus for this card has been fairly consistent: Two nights in any Hyatt worldwide.  The newly added $50 statement credit feature inches this card into the #1 spot for this month’s rankings.  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.  See this post on great redemption options for free Hyatt nights for more details.  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.

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

Here are the 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: 1

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, or transferred 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 and you have ThankYou points you can consider both approaches and simply select the more appealing one.

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: 4

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: 3

What changed from last month to this month: The Ultimate Rewards program was stable and the signup bonus offer remains the same.  However, Chase appears to be denying approval for Ultimate Rewards cards for applicants with more than 5 credit card accounts opened in the past two years.

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. Starwood Preferred Guest American Express (Personal)

Ranking in previous month: 5

What changed from last month to this month: Nothing.

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 quantity of points 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!

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 $65 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: 15 out of 17

6. Chase IHG Rewards Club Select

Ranking in previous month: N/A

What changed from last month to this month: IHG implemented a new structure for their elite rewards program and it is paying off for holders of this credit card as reaching 75k points gets you a free 25k additional points.

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: 13 out of 17

7. Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

Ranking in previous month: 6

What changed from last month to this month: The signup bonus offer remained the same but Barclay’s weakened the card’s features slightly.  The rebate on miles redemptions has been decreased from 10% to 5%, the free TripIt Pro subscription is eliminated, minimum redemption level has been raised from 2,500 miles to 10,000 miles and tourist attractions no longer count as travel expenses.

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 10% 5% miles back every time you redeem for travel statement credits (effectively making the signup bonus worth $440 $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: 14 out of 17

8. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier 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 but the offer has decreased to 25k points for the Plus card.

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.

On the other hand, Southwest devalued their Rapid Rewards program in an opaque manner in April 2015 so the program, and this card, lost a bit of its appeal.

Other key features of the cards include:

  • 6,000 Rapid Rewards (RR) points each year at your card anniversary date
  • $99 annual fee, applied to your first billing statement though those fees are almost offset by the 6,000 RR points each year

THG’s Honeymoon Suitability Rating: 13 out of 17

9. British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Ranking in previous month: 9

What changed from last month to this month: Nothing.  After a devaluation in late April that affected premium cabins, the Avios program was stable last month and the signup bonus offer remains the same.

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.

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

  • 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn 2.5 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1.25 Avios for every $1 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.
  • Annual fee waived the first year (then $95 thereafter)

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: Nothing.

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

Dropped from the rankings…

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Personal Plus – The signup bonus decreased from 50k Rapid Rewards points to 25k Rapid Rewards points
  • Chase Freedom – The signup bonus was decreased from $200 to $100 cash back and Chase has apparently started approving fewer applications for Ultimate Rewards cards

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