Credit card changing fortunes (COVID-19 Edition)

16

Crystal ball showing credit card changing fortunes

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, travel related perks have lost value while the advantages of stay-at-home perks have grown.  I’ve long been interested in how external influences can change our perceived value of credit card perks (and I’ve written about the topic before), but I’ve never before seen such dramatic changes in credit card fortunes.

For this post, I selected a number of popular credit cards to look at.  Has the current situation made them more valuable or less?

To help answer this question, I referred to my COVID Credit Card Enhancements Ultimate Guide to remind myself which cards are offering enhanced stay-at-home perks during the pandemic.

Some of the most interesting trends, in my opinion, are where a card’s value has changed indirectly because the competition has gotten stronger or weaker.  For example, the Amex Gold card retains its great value for US Supermarket purchases but many other cards have temporarily gained supermarket bonuses.  As a result, I value the Gold card a bit less than before.

Amex Cards

Platinum cards

Trend Amex Platinum Cards
Amex Platinum cards are loaded with high end travel perks that have become mostly worthless during the pandemic.  That said, Amex has more than made up for it with stay-at-home rebates that add up to huge savings.  The rebates are so good that you may want to sign up for a Platinum card today (or upgrade from a Green or Gold card).  See: Is it time to get an Amex Platinum Card?
Nov 2019 Trend: Mixed
“Amex devalued their Platinum cards (and other cards that offer Priority Pass) when they dropped Priority Pass restaurants.  On the other hand, the same cards increased in value with the addition of travel protections: trip interruption & cancellation, and trip delay.  The value of the latter was tempered by a reduction in purchase protections.  Overall, I think the changes are net negative.”
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

FM Mini Review: This card is absolutely loaded with high end perks. Depending upon your situation, those perks may be worth the annual fee or much more.


Annual Fee: $595

Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel
Other

Earning rate: 5X flights and prepaid hotels at AmexTravel.com ⚬ 1.5X points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5000 or more (up to 1 million additional Membership Rewards points per year) ⚬ 1X elsewhere

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Up to $200 a year in statement credits for airline incidental fees ⚬ Up to $200 a year in statement credits for Dell purchases ($100 Jan-June; $100 July-Dec) ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement.⚬ Airport lounge benefits ⚬ Rental car elite status ⚬ Marriott Gold status ⚬ Hilton Gold status ⚬ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: Amex Platinum Guide

The Platinum Card® from American Express

FM Mini Review: This card is absolutely loaded with high end perks. Depending upon your situation, those perks may be worth the annual fee or much more.


Annual Fee: $550

Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel

Earning rate: 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel ⚬ 5X points for prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ $200 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $200 a year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline ⚬ Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status for Basic Member only ⚬ Complimentary Uber Eats Pass Membership for up to 12 months (must enroll by 12/31/21) ⚬ Up to $100 in credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue (up to $50 in credits semi-annually, enrollment required) ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement ⚬ Airport lounge benefits ⚬ Rental car elite status ⚬ Marriott Gold status ⚬ Hilton HHonors Gold status ⚬ Free Gold card AUs. Terms Apply.

See also: Amex Platinum Guide

Gold Card

Trend Amex Gold Card
The Amex Gold Card didn’t need any enhancements for it to be a great card during the pandemic.  It already offered great earnings for grocery (4X at US Supermarkets, up to $25K spend/year, then 1X) and dining (4X worldwide).  And the card’s $10 per month dining credit has arguably become more useful than ever before since it can be used for food delivery from GrubHub or bulk items through Boxed.  One negative is that the card’s $100 airline fee credit is harder than ever to earn.  Despite the airline fee issue, I would have given the Gold card an “up” trend, but for one thing: the competition has improved.  For a few months anyway, many Chase and Amex cards offer great grocery earnings.  So, overall, I see the trend as mixed for the Gold Card.
American Express® Gold Card

FM Mini Review: This card offers an awesome return on US supermarket and worldwide dining spend, putting it at or near the top-of-class in both categories. The addition of Boxed.com makes it easy to get full value from the card's $10/month dining & entertainment credits.


Annual Fee: $250

Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Grocery

Earning rate: 3X points for flights booked with airlines or on amextravel.com ⚬ 4x points at US Supermarkets (up to $25K in purchases, then 1x) ⚬ 4x at restaurants worldwide ⚬ 1X points on other purchases. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Up to $100 a year in statement credits for baggage fees and more with one qualifying airline (available through 12/31/21) ⚬ Up to $10 in statement credits monthly with participating dining partners (Boxed.com, Shake Shack, Seamless/Grubhub, Cheesecake Factory and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse) ⚬ Up tp $10 in statement credits monthly with Uber or Uber Eats beginning in January 2021 ⚬ Complimentary Uber Eats Pass Membership for up to 12 months (must enroll by 12/31/21) ⚬ $100 hotel credit on qualifying charges on stays of 2 nights or longer, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc

Green Card

Trend Amex Green Card
Under COVID-19, the card’s CLEAR rebate and Lounge Buddy credit have become temporarily worthless to most of us.  On the other hand, Amex has thrown in a $10 monthly rebate (through December) for cell phone service payments.  While that’s not enough to make the card trend upward, it’s enough to avoid a down arrow.
Nov 2019 Trend: UP
“Until recently, the Amex Green card had no purpose other than as a relatively cheap downgrade from the Amex Platinum card.  Now, in exchange for an increased annual fee (which has jumped from $95 to $150), Amex has thrown in solid bonus earnings (3X dining and travel) and a couple of valuable perks (most noteworthy is the annual $100 CLEAR rebate).  Read more here: Amex Green takes on Chase Sapphire Reserve with narrow miss.”
American Express® Green Card

FM Mini Review: This card is worth considering as your go-to travel card, but only if you value its CLEAR and Lounge Buddy credits. Also note that Amex cards continue to have limited acceptance in many international destinations.


Annual Fee: $150

Card Type: Amex Charge Card

Base
Travel
Dine

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X on travel & transit (including flights, hotels, taxis, and rideshares) ⚬ 3X dining ⚬ 1X points on other purchases. Terms apply. See

Noteworthy perks: $100 CLEAR credit annually ⚬ $100 LoungeBuddy credit annually ⚬ Complimentary Uber Eats Pass Membership for up to 12 months (must enroll by 12/31/21). Terms Apply.

Hilton Cards

Trend Hilton Credit Cards

Things are looking pretty good for Hilton cardholders! May through July, Aspire & Surpass cardholders earn 12X points per dollar at grocery stores.  Even better, free nights that can be earned with the Aspire, Surpass, or Business card have become more valuable.  Free nights earned through end of year are now valid any day of the week instead of just weekends.  And free nights issued from May 1 to December 31 2020 will be valid for 24 months from the date of issuance (previously 12 months).  Further, the Aspire card’s $250 resort credit can now be earned through purchases at U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery, from June to August 2020.  Sure, the Aspire card’s travel benefits and airline fee credits are less valuable for now, but I’d argue that the other enhancements more than make up for those negatives.

See: Is it time to get an Amex Hilton Card?

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

FM Mini Review: This card is loaded with valuable perks that are more than worth the card's annual fee if you stay in Hilton resorts at least once per year, and other Hilton properties a few times a year..


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 14X Hilton spend ⚬ 7X US restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, select car rental companies ⚬ 3X on all other eligible purchases ⚬ Terms & Limitations Apply.

Big spend bonus: Second free weekend night after $60K spend in calendar year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬Annual Weekend Night Reward upon approval and every year upon renewal ⚬ Free Diamond Status ⚬ Priority Pass w/ 2 free guests ⚬ $250 Hilton Resort Credit per membership year ⚬ $250 Airline Incidental Fee Credit per calendar year ⚬ $100 on-property credit w/ Aspire Card package ⚬ Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees

See also: Amex Hilton Aspire In-Depth Review

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

FM Mini Review: Easy way to secure Hilton Gold status (which offers free breakfast among other perks). Those who want Diamond status may be better off with the Aspire card.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Dine
Gas
Grocery
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 12X Hilton spend ⚬ 6X U.S. restaurants, US Supermarkets, and US gas stations ⚬ 3X on all other eligible purchases

Big spend bonus:
⚬ Free weekend night after $15K spend in calendar year ⚬ Diamond elite status with $40K calendar year spend ⚬ Terms apply

Noteworthy perks: Free Gold status. Diamond status w/ $40K spend. ⚬ 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits per calendar year ⚬ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

FM Mini Review: Easy way to secure Hilton Gold status (which offers free breakfast among other perks). Amex business cards do not count towards 5/24 status so will not hurt chances of applying for Chase cards.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Gas
Phone
Biz
Brand
Other

Earning rate: ⚬ 12X Hilton spend ⚬ 6X on Select Business & Travel Purchases (flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel; car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies; US restaurants; US gas stations; wireless telephone services purchased directly from US service provider; US shipping purchases) ⚬ 3X on all other eligible purchases

Big spend bonus:
Free weekend night after $15K spend in calendar year and another after $60K spend

Diamond elite status with $40K calendar year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Free Gold status. Diamond status w/ $40K spend. ⚬ 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits per calendar year ⚬ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.

Hilton Honors American Express Card

FM Mini Review: This card isn't particularly rewarding, but it's good to keep primarily for targeted Amex upgrade offers to the Ascend card.


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Dine
Gas
Grocery
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 7X Hilton spend ⚬ 5X US restaurants, US Supermarkets, and US gas stations ⚬ 3X on all other eligible purchases

Big spend bonus: Gold elite status with $20K calendar year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Free Silver status; Gold status with $20K spend. ⚬ Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: Hilton Amex Cards. Everything you need to know.

Marriott Cards from Amex

Trend Amex Marriott Credit Cards

May through July 2020, Marriott Bonvoy and Bonvoy Brilliant cards earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $7,500 in eligible purchases.  Further, June through August, purchases at U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery, now qualify toward the $300 Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant statement credit benefit.

These temporary enhancements are nice, but they don’t go as far as Hilton towards making the cards more valuable.  Ultimately I think that Marriott offered enough here to keep the status quo.  If these Marriott cards were right for you before, they’re probably still worth keeping.  And if you didn’t want a Marriott card before, I don’t see any reason to get one now.

Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card

Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Brand

Earning rate: 6X Marriott ⚬ 2X on all other eligible purchases

Big spend bonus: Marriott Gold Elite with $30K annual spend (note this threshold will increase to $35K on January 1, 2019)

Noteworthy perks: 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary up to 35K points (subject to resort fees) ⚬ Receive free premium internet at Marriott properties.

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

FM Mini Review: Decent ultra-premium option for Marriott fans, but Hilton fans may prefer the ultra-premium Hilton Aspire card.


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: 3X airfare charged by airline; 3X US restaurants, 6X Marriott; 2X on all other eligible purchases

Big spend bonus: Platinum Elite status with $75K calendar year spend

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ 50K Free Night Award each year upon renewal ⚬ $300 Marriott Rewards statement credit per membership year ⚬ Gold Elite status ⚬ 15 elite nights credit ⚬ Priority Pass Select with 2 free guests ⚬ Global Entry fee credit ⚬ Free premium internet at Marriott properties

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

Annual Fee: $125

Card Type: Amex Credit Card

Base
Dine
Gas
Phone
Biz
Brand

Earning rate: 6x at Marriott Bonvoy properties ⚬ 4x U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased from U.S. suppliers and on U.S. purchases for shipping ⚬ 2x on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

Big spend bonus: Marriott Gold elite status with $35K annual spend ⚬ Earn an additional free night (good for one night at a redemption level at or under 35K points, subject to resort fees) after you spend $60K on purchases in a calendar year

Noteworthy perks: 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary for a one-niight redemption level at or under 35K points (subject to resort fees) ⚬ Complimentary premium Internet access at Marriott properties ⚬ Terms Apply (Rates & Fees)

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Delta Cards

Trend Delta Credit Cards
Most Delta credit cards are valuable because of the travel perks they provide.  Amex has thrown us a bone by giving us 4X at US supermarkets May through July, but in my opinion that’s not enough to make up for the fact that benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding, and lounge access (Delta Reserve only) are useless until travel resumes.  Luckily Delta has extended the expiration dates of companion tickets and travel vouchers so things aren’t completely hopeless.  Overall, though, I think that Amex and Delta should have done more to keep their cardholders happy.
Nov 2019 Trend: MIXED
“Delta has announced huge changes coming to their Amex Delta card portfolio starting Jan 30, 2020.  Here’s my summary of trends:
  • Delta Blue (fee free): Trends up as Amex drops FX fees and offers 2X at restaurants worldwide.
  • Delta Gold Cards (Consumer & Business): Trend up. The Gold cards benefit from new bonus categories and a $100 flight credit with $10K spend. The biggest loss is that spend on this card no longer counts towards an MQD waiver (which you need only if you’re trying for elite status).
  • Delta Platinum Cards (Consumer & Business): Trend down. Annual fee goes up from $195 to $250.  Miles Boost is replaced with Status Boost and so we no longer earn bonus miles with high spend.  New bonus categories mean that the changes may be a net positive for some.
  • Delta Reserve Cards (Consumer & Business): Trend is mixed. On the positive side, the cards gain Centurion Lounge access, 2 SkyClub guest passes per year, additional status boost thresholds, and free upgrades for non-elites.  On the negative side, the annual fee jumps up to $550, and Miles Boost is replaced with Status Boost so we no longer earn bonus miles.”

Chase Cards

Sapphire Reserve

Trend Sapphire Reserve

Earlier this year Chase increased the Sapphire Reserve card’s annual fee to $550 (from $450) and added DoorDash food delivery and Lyft rideshare benefits.  Even without the COVID-19 situation, I saw these changes as a net negative for most people.  But now a number of the Sapphire Reserve card’s best features have become temporarily useless: best-in-class ultra-premium travel protections, Priority Pass Select.  And, of course, the card’s Lyft ridesharing perks have lost their value as well.

To make up for these things, Chase has offered $100 statement credits to those who were recently charged $550 to renew their membership.  They’re also giving Sapphire Reserve cardholders 5X points per dollar at grocery stores in May and June on up to $1500 spend per month.  Both of these changes are nice, but in my opinion they do not make up for the value lost to cardholders during the pandemic.

See also: Is the $550 Sapphire Reserve worth keeping? Here’s how to decide.

Nov 2019 Trend: UP
“The Sapphire Reserve card hasn’t changed, but changes to other ultra premium cards has made this one more valuable.  Chase already had the best ultra-premium travel protections, but Citi used to be a close second with their Prestige card.  That changed dramatically when Citi dropped their travel protections altogether.  Meanwhile, Amex Platinum cards may have become more interesting when Amex added modest travel protections, but Amex also devalued their Priority Pass membership.  Taken together, these changes to competitor cards has cemented the Sapphire Reserve’s place as the best all around travel card.”
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

FM Mini Review: Excellent all-around card for frequent traveler. Best when paired with no-fee Chase Freedom Flex, no-fee Freedom Unlimited & no-fee Chase Ink Cash


Annual Fee: $550

Card Type: Visa Infinite

Base
Travel
Dine
Other

Earning rate: 3X Travel and Dining ⚬ 10X Lyft (through March 2022)

Noteworthy perks: $300 Annual Travel Credit ⚬ Points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Priority Pass Select lounge access ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee credit ⚬ $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 & 2021 ⚬ Free DashPass for at least 1 year (activate by 12/31/21) ⚬ One year Lyft Pink membership ⚬ Earn 10X on Lyft spend

See also: Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide

Ritz

Trend Ritz Card
The Ritz card is one of the many cards in Chase’s lineup that earn bonus points at grocery stores.  In this case, you’ll earn 6X on up to $5K total spend from May through July.  And, since the Ritz card offers the same great travel protections as the Sapphire Reserve and better Priority Pass membership, the Ritz card becomes more of a keeper whenever the Sapphire Reserve becomes less so.  I would have given the Ritz card an up arrow, but for a couple of problems:
1) Chase hasn’t done anything to make the card’s $300 in airline fee credits easier to earn during the pandemic.
2) In January, the Ritz card lost its Visa Infinite Discount Air benefit ($100 off domestic round-trip travel for two).
Nov 2019 Trend: UP
“Following the massive devaluation of the CNB Crystal Visa Infinite card, the Ritz card is the last card standing to offer the Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit ($100 off domestic round trip flights for 2) and Priority Pass with unlimited guests.  The only way to get this card today is to first have a Chase Marriott Bonvoy consumer card and to ask for an upgrade.  The Ritz card also includes the same excellent travel protections as found on the Sapphire Reserve card.”
Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Visa Infinite

FM Mini Review: While the card is pricey, the annual free night, plus $300 in ariline fee credits, plus other perks make this card a keeper.


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Visa Infinite

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 6X Ritz & Marriott.⚬ 3X airline tickets purchased directly with the airline, at car rental agencies and at restaurants ⚬ 2X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: $75K spend per account year for Platinum elite status

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Annual 50K hotel certificate upon renewal ⚬ 3 club level upgrades. $100 hotel credit for each 2 night or longer stay ⚬ Priority Pass Select with unlimited guests ⚬ $300 annual credit for airline incidentals ⚬ Automatic Gold Status

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Marriott Cards from Chase

Trend Chase Marriott Credit Cards

May through July 2020, all Chase Marriott cards, including business cards, earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points at supermarkets on up to $5,000 in eligible purchases.

This temporary grocery benefit is nice, but it’s hardly a game changer.  Ultimately I think that it may be just enough to keep the status quo.  If these Marriott cards were right for you before, they’re probably still worth keeping.  And if you didn’t want a Marriott card before, I don’t see any reason to get one now.

Chase Marriott Bonvoy Premier

Annual Fee: $85

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 2X airline, car rental, & restaurants ⚬ 5X Marriott.

Big spend bonus: 1 credit towards elite status for every $3,000 in purchases

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ 15 night credit towards elite status every year upon account anniversary ⚬ Free category 1-5 certificate each year upon renewal

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 6X Marriott Bonvoy ⚬ 2X everywhere else

Big spend bonus: Earn Gold status when you spend $35K each year

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Annual free night certificate for 1 night at a hotel redemption level up to 35K ⚬ Automatic Silver status ⚬ 15 nights of elite credit each year

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

FM Mini Review: The best use for this card is probably to downgrade from the Ritz or Boundless card to avoid the annual fee. That way, you can always upgrade again when you need the annual free night or other perks


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X Marriott Bonvoy ⚬ 2X travel ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: Automatic Silver status ⚬ 15 nights of elite credit each year

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Marriott Bonvoy Premier Plus Business

Annual Fee: $99

Card Type: Visa Signature Business

Base
Gas
Phone
Biz
Brand

Earning rate: 6X Marriott ⚬ 4X dining, internet, cable and phone service ⚬ 4X gas stations and shipping ⚬ 2X everywhere else.

Big spend bonus: Gold status with $35K account year spend

Noteworthy perks: As of 8/26/18: 35K free night award each year upon renewal ⚬ Silver status ⚬ 15 elite night credits each calendar year ⚬ Free in-room premium internet

See also: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Airline Cards from Chase

Trend Chase Airline Credit Cards: United, Southwest, British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus

In May and June 2020, all Chase airline cards except the United Club Infinite card earn 3X miles at supermarkets on up to $1,500 spend per month.  The United Club Infinite card earns 5X miles on up to $1,500 spend per month for those same two months.

In my opinion the grocery bonus is not enough to make up for the fact that benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding, and lounge access (United Club Infinite Card) are useless until travel resumes.

Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card

FM Mini Review: Good choice for a nice signup bonus. Award rebate makes the card a keeper if you frequently book awards from the US to Europe.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X British Airways. Iberia, and Open Skies purchases ⚬ 2X hotels ⚬ 1X elsewhere

Big spend bonus: Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together companion Ticket good for two years.

Noteworthy perks: Up to $600 per year in award fee rebates ⚬ 10% off BA flights originating in the US.

Chase Iberia Visa Signature® Card

FM Mini Review: Good choice for a nice signup bonus. Unless you fly Iberia often or intend to go for the big spend bonus, though, I don't see it as a compelling card to keep past the first year.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X Iberia, British Airways, Aer Lingus, LEVEL and OpenSkie ⚬ 1X elsewhere

Big spend bonus: Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your Iberia Visa card, you’ll earn a discount voucher good for $1,000 to use toward two tickets on the same flight

Noteworthy perks: 10% off on Iberia flights when you use your Iberia Visa to purchase at iberia.com/Chase10

Chase Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card

FM Mini Review: Good choice for a nice signup bonus. Unless you intend to go for the big spend bonus, though, I don't see it as a compelling card to keep past the first year.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 3X Aer Lingus, Iberia, British Airways, LEVEL and OpenSkies ⚬ 1X elsewhere

Big spend bonus: Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your Aer Lingus Visa card, you’ll earn an economy class companion ticket good for 1 year.

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Plus Card

FM Mini Review: Great for signup bonus, but consider cancelling after first year.


Annual Fee: $69

Card Type: Visa Signature or Platinum

Base
Travel
Brand

Earning rate: 2X at at participating Rapid Rewards® hotel and rental car partners ⚬ 2X Southwest

Big spend bonus: If you earn 125,000 points in one calendar year, you'll get a companion pass good for the rest of that calendar year and all of the next year.

Noteworthy perks: 3000 bonus points each year upon card renewal.

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card

FM Mini Review: Great for signup bonus, but consider cancelling after first year.


Annual Fee: $99

Card Type: Visa

Base
Travel
Brand

Earning rate: 2X at at participating Rapid Rewards® hotel and rental car partners ⚬ 2X Southwest

Big spend bonus: If you earn 125,000 points in one calendar year, you'll get a companion pass good for the rest of that calendar year and all of the next year.

Noteworthy perks: 6000 bonus points each year upon card renewal.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Annual Fee: $199

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Phone
Biz
Brand

Earning rate: 3X Southwest ⚬ 2x on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services

Big spend bonus: If you earn 125,000 points in one calendar year, you'll get a companion pass good for the rest of that calendar year and all of the next year.

Noteworthy perks: 9000 bonus points each year upon card renewal.

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

FM Mini Review: Great for signup bonus, but consider cancelling after first year.


Annual Fee: $99

Card Type: Visa Signature or Platinum

Base
Travel
Brand

Earning rate: 2X at at participating Rapid Rewards® hotel and rental car partners ⚬ 2X Southwest

Big spend bonus: If you earn 125,000 points in one calendar year, you'll get a companion pass good for the rest of that calendar year and all of the next year.

Noteworthy perks: 6000 bonus points each year upon card renewal.

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

FM Mini Review: Great for frequent Southwest flyers.


Annual Fee: $149

Card Type: Visa Signature or Platinum

Base
Travel
Brand

Earning rate: 2X at at participating Rapid Rewards® hotel and rental car partners ⚬ 2X Southwest

Big spend bonus: If you earn 125,000 points in one calendar year, you'll get a companion pass good for the rest of that calendar year and all of the next year ⚬ Earn 1,500 TQPs for each $10K in purchases up to $100K

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ 7,500 anniversary points each year ⚬ $75 Southwest annual travel credit ⚬ Four A1-15 boardings every year ⚬ 20% back on in-flight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging, and movies

United℠ Business Card

FM Mini Review: Decent perks such as enhanced access to United saver level economy awards makes this a keeper for some.


Annual Fee: $99

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Dine
Gas
Office
Other

Earning rate: 2X at restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores ⚬ 2X United ⚬ 2X on local transit and commuting, including taxicabs, mass transit, tolls, and ride share services

Big spend bonus: $100 annual United travel credit after 7 United flight purchases greater than $100

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Improved saver award availability ⚬ Last seat standard award availability ⚬ Free first checked bag ⚬ Priority boarding ⚬ No foreign exchange fees ⚬ 2 United Club passes per year at anniversary ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ 5,000 bonus miles at anniversary when you have this card and also a personal Chase United credit card. ⚬ 25% back on United in-flight purchases

United Club℠ Infinite Card

FM Mini Review: While pricey, the Chase United Club Infinite Card is a great choice for those who want a United club membership and waived close-in award fees.


Annual Fee: $525

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 4X United ⚬ 2X dining & travel

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ United Club membership ⚬ Priority check-in, security screening, baggage handling, and boarding ⚬ Free 1st and 2nd checked bags ⚬ Hertz President's Circle Elite Status ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver

United Club Business Card

FM Mini Review: While pricey, the Chase United MileagePlus® Club Business Card is a great choice for those who want a United club membership


Annual Fee: $450

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Brand

Earning rate: ⚬ 2X United ⚬ 1.5X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: United Club membership ⚬ Priority check-in, security screening, baggage handling, and boarding ⚬ Free 1st and 2nd checked bags ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® President's Circle®

Chase United Explorer Card

FM Mini Review: Decent perks such as enhanced access to United saver level economy awards makes this a keeper for some.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Travel
Dine
Brand

Earning rate: 2X United ⚬ 2X restaurants ⚬ 2X on hotel stays

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ Improved saver award availability ⚬ Last seat standard award availability ⚬ Free first checked bag for primary cardholder and one travel companion when you pay with the card ⚬ Priority boarding ⚬ No foreign exchange fees ⚬ 2 United Club passes per year ⚬ Primary auto rental collision damage waiver ⚬ Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre-check credit ⚬ 25% back on United in-flight purchases

United Gateway Card

Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
Gas
Brand
Other

Earning rate: 2X United ⚬ 2X gas stations ⚬ 2X local transit and commuting

Noteworthy perks: No foreign exchange fees ⚬ 25% back on United in-flight purchases

Citi Cards

Prestige

Trend Citi Prestige
Between May and December this year, purchases at Supermarkets and Restaurants (including takeout) count toward the card’s $250 Travel Credit benefit.  This makes it easier than ever to maximize this perk.  On the other hand, the Prestige card’s travel benefits (such as Priority Pass lounge access) aren’t getting much use these days.
Nov 2019 Trend: DOWN
“When Citi first announced major changes to the Prestige card, including ruining the 4th Night Free benefit, I saw more good than bad in those changes.  The ability to earn 5X transferable points for travel & dining on a card with excellent travel protections was insanely great.  But now that Citi has dropped nearly all travel & purchase protections, I can’t justify using this card for travel.  Is 5X dining enough to make this card a keeper?  Probably not.”
Citi ThankYou Prestige Card

FM Mini Review: The Prestige card's best in class 5X rewards for dining, airfare, and travel agencies is hard to beat. Sadly, this travel card doesn't provide any travel protections.


Annual Fee: $495

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Travel
Dine

Earning rate: 5X airfare, dining, and travel agencies ⚬ 3X hotels and cruise line ⚬ 1X everywhere else

Noteworthy perks: $250 travel rebate per calendar year ⚬ Free lounge access: Citi Properietary Lounges; and Priority Pass Select with free guests ⚬ $100 Global Entry application fee credit ⚬ 4th night free hotel benefit

See also: Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide

Premier

Trend Citi Premier
In April we learned about significant changes that are in the works for the Citi’s $95 Premier card.  Starting August 23rd, the card will have the following category bonuses: 3X at grocery stores (prev 1X), 3X at restaurants (prev 2X), 3X for air travel, hotels, and travel agencies (previously 3X for all travel), 3X at gas stations (unchanged), and 1X for entertainment (previously 2X). Those changes are mostly good.  On the other hand, as of April 10, 2021, cardholders will no longer be able to redeem points for 1.25 cents each for travel.  Still, in my opinion, the ability to earn 3X at grocery stores is a huge win that outweighs the 1.25 loss.  And it makes the Premier an even better key component of Citi’s awesome trio: Double Cash, Premier, and Rewards+.
Nov 2019 Trend: UP
“Other than losing travel & purchase protections, the Citi Premier card hasn’t changed much.  It still offers solid bonus categories: 3X for travel and at gas stations; and 2X for dining and entertainment.  The $95 Premier card benefits from the falling fortunes of the $495 Prestige card and the rising fortunes of the fee-free Citi Double Cash.  You still need the Premier or Prestige card to retain the ability to transfer ThankYou points to airline partners and the Premier card is a much cheaper option for doing so.  Also, while the Prestige lost its ability to buy airfare at better than 1 cent per point value, the Premier retains its ability to purchase any travel booked through the ThankYou portal at 1.25 cents per point value.”
Citi Premier Card

FM Mini Review: Very strong earnings for spend. Excellent bonus categories. Points transferable to select airlines. Recommend pairing this card with Citi Double Cash and Citi Rewards+. Sadly, this travel card doesn't provide any travel protections.


Annual Fee: $95

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base
Travel
Dine
Gas
Grocery

Earning rate: 3X grocery ⚬ 3X dining ⚬ 3X gas stations ⚬ 3X flights, hotels, travel agencies

Noteworthy perks: Transfer points to airline partners ⚬ Redeem points for 1.25 cents each towards travel (until 4/10/21) ⚬ Starting 8/23/20: $100 Annual Hotel Savings Benefit

See also: Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide

Double Cash

Trend Citi Double Cash

The Citi Double Cash card is a unique hybrid.  On the one hand, it’s a solid fee-free 2% everywhere cash back card.  On the other hand, its capability of converting cash rewards to Citi ThankYou points makes the card an awesome choice for anyone wanting to earn additional transferable points (which can be transferred to airline miles 1 to 1).

I gave the Double Cash an up arrow because, for many, it makes more sense to earn cash back than points during the current recession.  But unlike any other cash back card, with Double Cash you always have the option of getting more value from your rewards by converting to points and then to miles (when paired with the Citi Premier or Prestige card).

For more, see: Citi Double Cash Complete Guide.

Nov 2019 Trend: UP (WAY UP)
“The fee-free Double Cash card’s stock went up, way up, when it gained the ability to transfer cash back to ThankYou points. Now, you can earn 2X points per dollar, uncapped.  And as long as you or a trusted friend or family member has a Prestige or Premier card, you can transfer those points to valuable airline programs.  Of course, adding to the rising value here is the fact that Citi ThankYou points are transferable to Turkish Miles & Smiles which can be used to book flights to Hawaii for only 7.5K points one-way!See our Double Cash Complete Guide for more.”
Citi Double Cash Card

FM Mini Review: 2X rewards for all spend with no annual fee makes this card a winner. Earn 2X everywhere and redeem for the equivalent of 2% cash back or 2X ThankYou points. Pair with the Premier or Prestige card to make points transferrable to airlines.


Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Mastercard World Elite

Base

Earning rate: 2% cash back everywhere (1% cash back for each purchase + 1% when paying your credit card bill for that purchase)

Noteworthy perks: 1X when you make a purchase + 1X when you pay for those purchases

Costco Anywhere Visa

Trend Costco Anywhere Visa

The Costco Anywhere Visa is a really good fee-free rewards card, especially when paired with a 2% cash back everywhere card.  However, Costco rewards can be redeemed only once per year.  The cardholder receives a rewards certificate on or shortly after their February statement closing date.  Then, the cardholder must go in-person to Costco to exchange the certificate for cash or merchandise.

This once per year thing is an awful policy.  That hasn’t changed.  What has changed is that the policy seems to me to be even more awful when viewed in light of the current pandemic and economic recession.  Come on Costco, give cardholders their rewards whenever they want them, and let them cash them out online.

Nov 2019 Trend: UP
“The Costco Anywhere Visa hasn’t changed.  It was already an excellent cash back card.  What has changed is that the Uber Visa card is now practically useless.”
Costco Anywhere Visa

Annual Fee: $0

Card Type: Visa Signature

Base
1%
Travel
3%
Dine
3%
Gas
4%

Earning rate: ⚬ 4% gas (up to $7K spend / year) ⚬ 3% restaurant & travel; 2% Costco ⚬ 1% everywhere else

 

Email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

16 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments