Help! I’m Looking for a Travel Rewards Credit Card

by JT McGee

When it comes to keeping up with all the changes in personal finance products, I’ll admit I just cannot keep up. I compare it to mobile phones and PCs, which are the subject of so much innovation that what comes out today is old next week.

So I’m calling on you to help me find a decent travel rewards credit card.

In years gone by I played the churn and burn credit card game, signing up to a new card to make tuition payments and collect big sign-up bonuses, 0% interest rates, and decent everyday rewards. It was fairly lucrative. All-in, I might make $100-250 on rewards/bonuses then get a nice 18 months of 0% interest.

Credit card companies paid me for the right to float my balances at 0%. Thanks again!

Moving on to better credit cards

Previously I had to churn and burn the low-quality cards because my credit history was much too short.

Now that I have solid history, I want to find one or two cards that will give me some sweet travel rewards and do so without excessive gaming of the system. Minimal effort; maximum reward. If there’s anything microeconomics taught me, it’s that perfection is rarely worth it.

So far, I think I’ve settled on a potential winner: Capital One’s Venture Rewards card, which offers 2% rewards on every purchase. It carries an annual fee, but given that I’d move practically all my spending to it, I’m sure I can more than cover the annual cost. I like the fact it pays a steady 2% with no limit, which means I can spend minimal effort shifting through cards in my wallet to decide which offers the best bang for my buck.

Alternatively, Delta’s Platinum Sky Miles card looks intriguing. Its $150 annual fee is pretty high, but the free annual companion certificate easily pays for the annual fee and more. Plus, no fees on checked bags is awesome, since they hit you with a $25 checked bag fee both ways. Only downside: American Express’s acceptance rate is one of the lowest. Capital One’s card is a Visa.

Ultimately, I want:

  • Rewards that can be redeemed at all airlines, or at least Delta.
  • Rewards that don’t take a PhD to understand.
  • A card that doesn’t require I sign up every 3 months to various rotating rewards (I’m looking at you, Discover.)

For the record, I have:

  • Barely there credit utilization.
  • A credit score of 760+, according to Credit Karma.
  • ~6 years of perfect history
  • Likely sufficient income for all but the most elite cards.

Are there any rewards card experts in the house? Any insight into your favorite travel/cash back rewards card would be great.

(P.S. If you get something for referring a new person to a particular financial institution, leave your referral link. Other readers and I may use it if you leave a compelling case!)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill July 24, 2013 at 08:20

Here is a vote for the SkyMiles card. My wife and I have our own cards so we get two free tickets each year from the certificates. The certificate program just ended on the Gold card so get the Platinum card or better.

Regarding your postscript, is it normal for credit cards to pay you to refer friends? If Delta’s cards do that then I have missed a bunch of extra miles!

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krantcents July 24, 2013 at 13:44

I have had a United airlines credit card for 20+ years. I use the frequent flier miles to travel overseas business and first class every other year.. The annual fee is $95, but I have earned many more trips than the fee. A lot depends on how much you can earn through the card.

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Ryan July 28, 2013 at 21:07

I’ve heard different bloggers write highly about the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card; though I have no personal experience with it.

Info on the card: http://www.creditcards.com/credit-cards/starwood-preferred-guest-credit-card.php

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