The Best Air Miles Credit Cards for Every Day Spending

I originally wrote this post about the best air miles credit cards in August of 2011.  I never posted it because it’s hard to account for all the variables (as I’m sure you’ll discover as you read through the post).

However, I decided it was time to dust off the post and run it because Ben asked a question about it.  Here is Ben’s comment on the benefits of Ultimate Rewards post.

Thanks Craig, I appreciate the thoughtful response and the link you posted. I think miles are great when you get them via credit card signup bonuses, but I’m not sure about everyday spending.
For instance, in your example the United miles are only worth 1.33 cents each (60k / $800). I would have to spend $40k to earn $800. A person with a United card has to spend $60k because you only get 1 mile per dollar spend.
I’d love to see a post on the best cards for everyday spending. I’m just trying to figure out the best place to put my spend after I’ve completed my signup bonuses.

I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with my Excel Spreadsheet.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been spending some time trying to determine the best travel and air miles credit card according to my spending and preferred travel needs.

Most of my spending has been going towards fulfilling credit card spending requirements.  However, I’m anticipating that a day will come when I’ll actually have to choose which card will be the first choice for maximizing air mile rewards.  Still, even when I’m free to spend where I want (not trying to reach a minimum spend), there’s not much left to use to earn miles.

6 Finalists for the BEST Air Miles Credit Card

Here are the assumptions I’m working with:

  1. A person will spend $12,000 annually
  2. Of that $12,000, $2,000 is on travel each year

Subjectivity Warning:

The points value varies dramatically on how you plan to use the points.  Flying first class and using miles will be more valuable than flying domestic in the US.

Credit Card Points Earned Points Value Annual Fee Total Bonus Value Per year after annual fee
Starwood American Express 14,000* $175 $65 $110.00
Travelocity American Express 20,000 ** $400* $35 $365.00
Fidelity American Express 24,000*** $240 $0 $240.00
American Express Premier Rewards Gold 21,000**** $210 $175 $35.00
Capital One Venture Rewards 24,040***** $240.40 $59 $181.40
Chase Sapphire Preferred 16,050 ****** $192.60 $95 $97.60

*Assumed the $2,000 spend was at Starwood hotels

** 1 point for $10,000 and 5 for $2,000 at Travelocity.  Credits can only be used at Travelocity.com.  Assumed $2,000 was spent at Travelocity.com

*** Can be used for cash back 2% or transferred to Aeroplan miles

**** $5,000 spend at 2x points, $5,000 spend at 1x, and $2,000 travel at 3x points.

***** $2,000 travel spend through online site with 2x bonus

****** $9,000 on everyday spending.  $3,000 on flights and dining out (2x)

According to this chart, the best cards would be in the following order:

  1. Travelocity American Express
  2. Fidelity American Express
  3. Capital One Venture Rewards
  4. Starwood American Express
  5. Chase Sapphire Preferred
  6. American Express Premier Rewards

Of course, these numbers would need to be customized to your travel and spending preferences.

What does that mean?

  • The more dollars you put on a card, the less important the annual fee becomes.  This analysis is with only spending $1,000 per month.
  • The more you spend on air travel, the more seriously you should consider the Premier Rewards.  If you can book travel with Travelocity, then you should more seriously consider the Travelocity card.
  • If like to fly business class, you should consider the Fidelity American Express as Aeroplan has good rewards redemption rates.
  • If you have a Chase checking account and a Chase Freedom card (with 5% bonus earning categories), you may find the Chase Sapphire Preferred increasing in value.
  • If you travel overseas and spend foreign currency, then the Cap1 and Sapphire cards increase in value.
  • If you like earning miles across multiple programs, then the Premier Rewards or Starwood are more viable options.

Just remember you’d have to run your own numbers to discover the best credit card for you.

What do you think is the best airline credit card?  What factors weren’t included in this analysis?

 

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

Comments

  1. Amanda says

    The Travelocity card earns 2x points on gas, grocery, and dining out, so that would increase the points value of the card. Great post! Makes me feel better about having just applied for the Travelocity card. I’m surprised more people don’t know about it.

    • Craig says

      Amanda,
      Yes, you’re right. There was so many variables to include, but that is an important one to take note of.

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