I can’t believe I am saying this but it is time to start thinking about your 2019 Travel Hacking strategies, which include the best credit cards for airline miles and the best airline credit cards in general to get the most bang for your buck. If you travel often whether it’s for business or pleasure are getting the most out of your credit cards.
Travel Hacking can be a pain in the butt if you don’t know what you are doing and you aren’t disciplined when it comes to understanding your end goal. If you are going to start traveling more often or the travel bug has just hit you now is the time to kick your 2019 Travel Hacking strategies into high gear.
Are you missing out on deals and discounts that could save money or even free flights and hotel rooms?
Airline credit cards to the rescue! I love the perks that come with having the best airline card, which can include free checked bags, free WiFi, access to airport lounges, and complimentary companion tickets.
If you’re spending money on air travel every year, consider getting a card with the airline you like the best or use most often. Somewhere along the line, we as a society decided that credit cards are the absolute worst and should be avoided at all costs. The benefits outweigh the harm if you know what you are doing and stick to a plan.
What is exactly is travel hacking? Travel hacking is a strategy that can help you afford those dream vacations without the hefty price tag. Your money needs to work for you not against you.
Travel hacking can mean different things from how to get upgraded on a flight or packing tips which I discuss in this post; 21 travel hacking tips for 2018. In this travel hacking post, I’m talking about leveraging credit card points to pay next to nothing for flights and hotels.
Let’s Get Started On The Best Credit Card For Airline Miles
Applying for the best airline credit cards for travel miles can help you can save money and earn travel miles for future trips. Choosing the best credit cards for airline miles can be very lucrative, especially with bonuses over $600 in rewards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
If you’re a frequent or casual traveler, consider adding one of the following best miles credit cards to your line up even if you’re looking for the best airline credit card. The cards below allow you to earn travel rewards that can be transferred to airline miles with the best credit cards for travel miles.
Here are the best credit cards for travel miles:
- Best Credit Card for Travel Miles: Chase Sapphire Preferred
- 2x miles on all purchases: Capital One Venture
- 4x points on dining: American Express Gold
- Best for frequent travelers: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Overall Best Credit Card for Travel Miles: Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card comes with a huge sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. The 50,000 points you earn are worth $500 in statement credits, $625 in travel through Chase’s travel portal, or they can be worth even more if you transfer them out to loyalty partners like United, Southwest, or Hyatt.
Some of the best credit cards for travel rewards are ones who aren’t co-branded with an airline and give you the option to transfer your points out to multiple airlines as the Sapphire Preferred does.
Additional Chase Sapphire Preferred Benefits
- There are no foreign transaction fees.
- Account holders that book their travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards receive 25% more value.
- 1:1 points transfer to participating travel programs. Participating programs include British Airways Executive Club, Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards®, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® and World of Hyatt.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the best credit cards for airline miles. It was voted best travel card for 2018. If you aren’t brand loyal to one airline or hotel, this may be the travel credit card for you. You can redeem miles for any travel purchases, but the downside is you don’t have the flexibility to transfer miles out to other travel partners.
Capital One Venture Benefits
- New account holders will earn 50,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months. After that, account holders earn unlimited two miles per dollar spent on every purchase.
- This card also offers the flexibility to book your own travel through any website or app, and benefits can go towards any airline, hotel, or rental car company.
- There are no foreign transaction fees.
- No blackout dates for air travel.
American Express Gold Card
American Express is my favorite credit card and one of the main benefits of the American Express Gold Card is the $120 dining credit and 4x points per $1 at U.S. restaurants and supermarkets. This is one best airline travel credit cards for travelers because you can use points on restaurant and supermarket purchases
You also receive a $100 annual airline incidental credit and 3x points per $1 on airline purchases directly from airlines.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best rewards credit cards for anyone that travels. I don’t personally have the Chase Sapphires because I am partial to American Express but it offers a 50,000 Ultimate Reward point sign-up bonus and offers 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases.
The Sapphire Preferred credit card also comes with a $300 per year annual travel credit, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit, Priority Pass Lounge access, travel insurance, and more. Maybe I need to rethink the Chase Sapphire with all of these benefits.
Like the Sapphire Preferred you can transfer your points to different airlines making it a great credit card for airline miles even though it’s technically not an airline credit card.
Best Airline Credit Cards
The most important factor in choosing an airline credit card has nothing to do with the card itself but instead where you live. If your home airport is dominated by a single airline carrier like Atlanta’s airport is dominated by Delta then I suggest using that airline’s card.
I have identified the best airline cards with the best features just for you!
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
There are actually four Delta credit cards, but the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is an excellent option for casual travelers that want to earn SkyMiles, free checked bags, and priority boarding.
You will get 2 SkyMiles for every Delta purchase and 20% in-flight discount. All remaining purchases earn 1 point per $1 spent. Another valuable Delta travel benefit is that you and eight travel companions get your first checked bag free.
As a new cardholder, you can also earn 35,000 bonus SkyMiles and a $50 statement credit as a signup bonus. And, American Express waives the $95 annual fee for the first year too.
Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express is the best premium travel rewards card for airline purchases in my opinion for two reasons:
- Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from the airline or AmexTravel.com
- Transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to multiple frequent flyer programs
Some of the American Express Membership Rewards travel partners include Delta, Emirates, Etihad, and JetBlue. Below are the premium air travel benefits:
- $200 air travel credit for checked bags and in-flight purchases
- Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement
- Complimentary access to airport lounge networks include Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club, and The Centurion
- Unlimited Boingo wifi hotspot access
Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select
After a few benefit upgrades, the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select is a competitive offering for those that fly American Airlines.
The card benefits include:
- 2x miles on American Airlines, dining, and gas station purchases
- 10% point redemption bonus (up to 10,000 points annually)
- $100 American Airlines credit after spending $20,000 in a card membership year
- 25% in-flight purchase discount
- Free checked bag for you and up to four travel companions
Who shouldn’t be travel hacking
What are the risks of travel hacking:
- You are in the process of purchasing a home: In most cases, your credit score will fluctuate a little when applying for credit cards and that is normally not a big deal if you are applying for a home loan your credit needs to be superb.
- You typically overspend with credit cards. If you overspend or have issues paying your credit card bills in full every month, then opening another credit card might not be the best idea for you. Make sure you are committed to doing the right thing.
Do don’t spend enough to reap the rewards of a travel credit card.
To earn the bonuses you’ll need to spend anywhere from $3,000-$5,000 within the first three months. It’s not as hard as you think to spend $3k to $5k if you use your card to pay your rent, food, or school activities for the kiddos.
- Competitive Cheer fees kids (I need a second full-time job to cover her expenses)
- Home renovations (we just got a pool installed)
- Car insurance
- Airline tickets (Duh)
The best time to apply for a travel credit card is when you know you have a big expense coming up.
If I don’t have any upcoming expenses here are some alternative way to use the card:
- Gift cards to Publix because we gotta eat right?
- Amazon gift cards since that’s where we buy most of our household supplies.
- Sam’s Gift cards because I buy in bulk.
- Holiday Shopping – Gift Guide For Women Who Love To Travel
- Hotel gift cards for future travel.
Hotel Credit Cards for free stays
Don’t forget to apply for Hotel credit cards as well to help offset your accommodations.
I’ve personally always found hotel points aren’t that useful to me because I like to stay in a boutique hotel (which don’t participate in corporate points programs) like a Marriott, Starwood or Hilton.
There are hotel-branded credit cards for Marriott which is what I have, Hyatt, and Starwood. Choosing the best travel credit card strategy can be vital in paying only a fraction of the price for your next vacation. one can have a full vacation paying only a few hundred dollars in fees.
Best Credit Cards For Airline Miles
The following credit cards for major U.S. airlines are available through Passports and Grub.
|Airline||Card (annual fee)||Bonus offer|
|Alaska||Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card($75)||Buy 1 ticket, get 1 for just the taxes and fees with Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ Offer. Get 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of your account opening.|
|American||American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card($0)||NEW: Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*|
|American||Citi® / AAdvantage®Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® ($0 for the first year, then $99)||Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*|
|American||Citi® / AAdvantage®Executive World Elite™Mastercard® ($450)||Limited time offer: Earn 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*|
|Delta||Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express ($0)||Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.|
|Delta||Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express ($0 for the first year, then $95)||Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Terms Apply.|
|Delta||Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express($195 (This offer is no longer valid on our site))||Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires on 9/19/2018. (This offer is no longer valid on our site)|
|Southwest||Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card ($69)||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open|
|Southwest||Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card ($99)||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open|
|Southwest||Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card ($149)||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.|
|United||United℠ Explorer Card ($0 for the first year, then $95)||40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open|
The Bottom Line To Travel Hacking
Travel credit card-based programs can take your Travel Hacking potential to the next level in 2019. Make sure you apply for cards with high sign up bonuses, educate yourself about the airline and hotel partnerships to ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck and searching for the best credit cards for airline miles.