Best new credit cards for frequent travelers

creditcardwalletThere is no such thing as the “best” credit card for frequent flyers. But there is a best one for YOU based on your travel and spending habits.

Here’s our list of top picks for 2015– it should help you decide which one is best for YOU! 

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Best all-around cards:

bonusBEST CURRENT BONUS & BEST OVERALL: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is currently offerings a nice 50,000 point sign up bonus (after spending $4,000 in first three months), and you can use points on several airlines, hotels and other travel providers. Nice: no irritating and expensive foreign transaction fees. That 50,000 point bonus with Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is good for $625 in travel when booking through the very robust and flexible Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, plus it now offers primary rental car collision coverage (most cards provide secondary coverage). Details

bonusBEST FOR SIGN UP BONUS. British Airways Visa Signature® Card 0ffers a nice 50,000 Avios sign up bonus after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. But get this: You’ll earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend $10,000 on purchases for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios. Even better: You earn another 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend a total of $20,000 on purchases within your first year for a total of 100,000 bonus Avios. In addition to the sign up bonus, you earn three Avios for every dollar spent on BA, and a free companion ticket (any class) when you spend at least $30,000 in a year. Plus there are no foreign transaction fees, and the card has a chip making it easier to use in Europe and beyond. Annual fee is $95.  More.

BEST FOR THOSE WHO SPEND A LOT OF TIME IN MARRIOTT HOTELS: Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. Get 50,000 point bonus after spending just $2,000 in the first three months- enough for at least one free night, depending on category. Plus you get 15 elite credits and a free night (in a category 1-5 hotel) every year after your anniversary date. Earn 5 points per dollar spent at over 4,000 Marriott locations, including Ritz-Carlton, plus earn two points per dollar spent on airlines, car rental and restaurants. There are no foreign transaction fees but the annual fee is $85, which is waived for first year. Details.

BEST FOR UNITED FLYERS  The United MileagePlus Explorer® Card is perfect for those who don’t fly or spend enough to earn elite status– that’s because the card provides some nice elite level perks like priority boarding, two one-time passes to United Clubs and free first checked bags. Other nice perks: no irritating foreign transaction fees, primary car rental collision coverage and double miles on tickets purchased from United. Right now you can get 30,000 bonus miles for signing up and spending $1,000 in the first three months. Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. Details here.

BEST FOR FLYERS FED UP WITH MILES: Recently I signed up for the popular new Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard®. I easily spent $3,000 in the first 90 days and earned another 40,000 point sign up bonus. Using the card frequently (and earning 2x point on all purchases), I was able to redeem the points to help reduce the cost of a price ticket to Puerto Rico over Christmas. I did that because when redeeming Barclaycard points, there are no blackout dates.  You do not convert your points into airline miles like you do with most other cards. Instead, if a seat is available, you buy it using the card, and then use your points to pay the bill.  The number of miles you use is based on how much the ticket costs. Easy! Even better: This card uses chip & PIN (vs chip & signature) technology for overseas transactions. Details

BEST FOR THOSE WHO LIKE SOUTHWEST’S LOW FRILLS APPROACH: The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card offers 25,000 points (enough for one roundtrip flight) after spending just $1,000 in first three months, plus a 6,000 point bump every year on your cardmember anniversary. In addition, it does not charge foreign transaction fees, and offers two points per dollar spent on Southwest flights as well as its hotel and car rental partners. What’s nice about this offer is that the 25K bonus points is a nice start toward Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass status, which requires 110,000 points. Details

Now that IHG is absorbing Kimpton, one of my favorite hotel brands, it’s time to consider getting more deeply involved in the popular IHG Rewards program…and maybe even get the IHG® Rewards Club Select card.  Get a free night each year of card membership at over 4,900 hotels worldwide. Plus, get a nice 60,000 points sign up bonus after you spend just $1,000 in the first three months of account opening. What will 60,000 IHG points get you? Several free nights at IHG hotels, depending on when and where you say, and if you can take advantage of its lucrative point breaks and last minute reward nights options. No fee for the first year, then $49. Details here.

Check out ALL of our featured credit card offers here.

Check out ALL of our featured credit card offers here. 


This is by no means an exhaustive list! Please help out your fellow business travelers and tell us which card you use most…and why…in the comments below. THANKS!

–Chris McGinnis

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analysis, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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  • Jeff

    I use Diners Club. It is now Master Card (which was a down grade to be honest). The reason for this is primarily the rent car coverage. It is a primary. Other cards all seem to be secondary coverage. If a rental car company gives me grief I just file a claim with D/C and it is sorted out. Their points are fairly good but this is the best as a self employed very heavy traveler.

  • Tim_Dick

    Most business travelers can deduct one annual card fee from their taxes which makes high-fee cards (e.g. United Club card) easier to swallow. I consume enough “free” breakfasts, cappuccinos’s & wine at the United Club to make up the balance vs. a $6 airport latte.

  • BA/VA luvr

    The BA Chase card is great with the 100K bonus. It’s terrific to be able to fly in their First cabin so easily. Their pairing menus, and service are awesome–plus spa access and concierge at Heathrow!
    Also, the Virgin America Signature card is excellent, with an easy path to elite, for VA flyers. So, it has far superior cabin service and amenities, compared with all domestic legacy carriers! and cheap redemptions to Singapore, London or Samoa.

  • disqust101

    Best card for Hawaii is BA card, or PRG if you do a lot of 2x gas/grocery. Take advantage of Amex MR transfer bonuses to BA and use those 25K r/t flights from west coast. The Barclays Hawaiian card is junk.

  • Daniel

    The Delta Air Lines Gold card has lost a very important perk… the $99 companion certificate. It was the best perk that card offered (together with the free checked bags). Shame to see it go, it was actually the reason I cancelled that account a few days ago.

  • Daniel

    For people who spend more than about $20k a year on their credit cards, it makes sense to sign up for the United Club card instead of the Explorer card. The annual fee (~$400) is steep vs the ~$90 annual fee of the Explorer card, but the extra half mile per dollar spent (plus the rest of the great perks), more than make up for the additional cost.

  • Aaron

    Personally I like Capital One Venture. it has a much lower annual fee and I get double miles that I can use any time. The airline loyalty programs have far too many restrictions. This card is great for someone who doesn’t have any elite status and doesn’t travel enough to qualify for upgrades. It’s a great way to accrue miles to cash in for tickets on any airline.