As a follow-up to my previous post, Libby’s Lifestyle FAQ, following is my response to the question: What are the best credit cards for someone who frequently travels and stays in hotels?
I find the following cards to be the most valuable for my lifestyle:
- American Express BlueSky Preferred – Main benefit: 2x American Express points for $1 spent at U.S. hotels and restaurants (75 American Express points = $1 credit back); I use this card for general purchases within the U.S. (outside the U.S., I don’t get the multiplier, plus there are foreign transaction fees); I generally receive 2.7% of most expenses as credit I apply back to my credit card each month.
- Hilton Surpass American Express – Main benefit: 12x Hilton Hhonors points per $1 spent at Hilton hotels; I use this card specifically for gaining additional Hilton points for all hotel, food, and service charges at Hilton hotels.
- United Chase Visa – Main benefit: 2x United miles per $1 spent for United Airlines purchases; I use this card specifically for purchases through United Airlines (or their partners); additional perks include priority boarding, ability to check in 1 bag free, and two free entries into the United Club Lounge each year.
- IHG Rewards Chase MasterCard – Main benefit: 5x IHG points per $1 spent at IHG hotels; I use this card for my stays at IHG (Holiday Inn & InterContinental) hotel for the bonus points, plus I receive one free hotel night per year.
Those are my 4 main credit cards. It’s nice to have a Visa and MasterCard for when American Express isn’t accepted. In Europe, sometimes Visa is not accepted or is discouraged, so having a MasterCard or American Express is useful. I also have the Delta American Express and the SPG (Starwood hotels) American Express, but I find these cards less useful than the 4 above.
Each of these credit cards has an annual fee of less than $100, but this fee pays for itself if you can use the benefits. My credit cards are my only bills, and I have auto-pay set up so that the balance is ALWAYS paid each month directly from my checking account. Therefore, I am unfamiliar with their policies and rates for when you don’t pay the full balance each month.
- A bonus perk of the Hilton and IHG hotel credit cards is that you automatically get bumped to a high tier in their loyalty programs (Gold for Hilton and Platinum for IHG). That allows you to earn points even faster when you stay at those hotels, and you’re more likely to get complimentary room upgrades. Also, being a Gold Hilton Hhonors member means you get a free breakfast at Hilton, Doubletree, and Garden Inn hotels. Note: SPG and Marriott credit cards do NOT give you the bump to a higher tier.
- An additional perk related to all of the hotel and airline hotels is that you earn a certain amount of points if you spend a certain amount of money within the first 3 months. To optimize this perk, the key is to apply for the credit card just a few weeks before you can fully utilize it.
- A recently added perk of the American Express BlueSky Preferred card is 5x American Express points per $1 spent on flights. Plus they provide $100 credit for airlines misc. fees. Therefore, I use this card anytime I book a flight that isn’t United or Delta (because I use my United and Delta cards for those).
- All of these cards are chip-enabled, which is critical to avoid fraud, especially while travelling abroad.
The Points Guy credit card section has additional information about the variety of credit cards and perks. However, keep in mind that The Points Guy gets paid by the credit card companies. I share my information just as an objective traveller who’s done her own research.