You have to start somewhere! It can be an overwhelming task, trying to figure out which mileage earning credit cards are the best to start with. There are many of them out there. Some are good and some are just so-so.
To help you sort it all out, I am going to list (what I think are) the top 5 cards for beginners.
This is pretty much a basic “entry level” mileage earning credit card for one of the best reward programs out there. Here’s what you get:
- 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months.
- Earn 2 AAdvantage miles per $1 spent on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per $1 on everything else.
- Your first checked bag is free
- Priority boarding and 25% off eligible in-flight purchases
- 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back (up to 10,000 miles per year)
- $100 American Airlines flight discount every card membership year in which you spend $30,000
- $95 annual fee waived the first year
Two great things about the AAdvantage program are the one-way awards and the off-peak awards. I’m really hoping these don’t disappear after the merger with US Airways. I have used the off-peak awards to the Caribbean many times. 25,000 AAdvantage miles roundtrip to the Caribbean in the off-peak season of Sep 7 – Nov 14. The peak season award is 35,000 miles. So if you add in the 10% back for having the Citi card, I’m saving 12,500 miles per ticket. Yes, you have to pull the kids out of school to go to the Caribbean in the fall, but it’s worth it!
This card is issued by Barclay’s, which from what I understand, is highly churnable. Though I myself have not yet churned this one so I can’t say for sure. At any rate, this is an awesome card because you earn your miles without a huge spend requirement! This card should be around for a while after the merger with American, but they are not accepting new card members after mid-2015. Here’s what you get:
- 40,000 US Airways Dividend miles after your first purchase in the first 90 days of card membership.
- 5,000 mile discount when you redeem for US Airways award travel
- 2 miles per $1 spent on US Airways purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else
- 2 annual $99 companion certificates
- 1 free US Airways Club day pass
- First class check in and priority boarding
- $89 annual fee is NOT waived for the first year
The link above takes you to a FlyerTalk page with the link to the application with the best sign up bonus. The Chase IHG Rewards Club VISA is an awesome, and often overlooked, card. Hubby and I both have this card, and we will be keeping them for a long time.
It is completely worth the modest $49 annual fee for a free night certificate that you can use at a property like the Paris Le Grande where rooms average $600 per night.
Here’s what you get with the card:
- 80,000 IHG Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
- Free night every year at any IHG hotel
- 5 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels
- 2 points per $1 spent on gas, groceries and dining
- 1 point per $1 spent on everything else
- 10% points rebate on all redemptions
- $49 annual fee waived the first year
- IHG Platinum status which will give you upgrades and bonuses on paid stays
Another awesome hotel card. Hubby and I also have this one and plan on keeping it, at least for a couple years. With 5 points earned per dollar spent on all purchases, the points add up fast. And as a cardmember you get one night free when you redeem points for a 2 night or longer stay. Here’s what you get:
- 50,000 Club Carlson points after your first purchase and another 35,000 points after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months
- 1 free award night when you redeem points for 2 or more (consecutive) nights at the same hotel
- 40,000 Club Carlson points upon card renewal each year
- 10 Club Carlson points per $1 spent at Club Carlson hotels and 5 points per $1 spent on everything else
- Club Carlson Gold status
- $75 annual fee NOT waived for the first year
For those not familiar with Club Carlson, they are the Radisson family of hotels, which includes the May Fair Hotel in London.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is not linked to any particular hotel or airline but it does offer some excellent point transfer options through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. You can transfer 1:1 to partners such as United, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, IHG and many more.
Here’s what you get:
- 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
- Earn an additional 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points after adding an authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point per $1 on everything else
- Automatically get a 7% points dividend on all points earned through the year
- $95 annual fee waived for the first year
Well…those are my top 5 cards for beginners. I hope this has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or e-mail me!
I do not earn any compensation or commission for any credit card links provided.