This article is a compilation of general advice we have related to earning travel rewards using credit card reward programs where the cards are paid off in full every month (and thus you do not incur interest or late fees) and cover spending you otherwise would already be doing (by check, automated bank drafting, or other payment method).
- 1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Or Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- 2. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
- 3. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Or Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- 4. American Express® Business Gold Card
- 5. Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
- 6. Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
- 7. Chase Freedom Flex℠ Or Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- 8. United℠ Business Card Or United℠ Explorer Card
- 9. American Express® Gold Card (Personal)
- 10. Citi Premier® Card
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Or Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are the cards most people new to travel awards should start with. They usually come with great bonuses, but more importantly, it opens up the Chase Ultimate Rewards® (UR) program to you.
Note: You can apply for this card if you don’t currently have either Sapphire card (Preferred or Reserve) and haven’t received a new cardmember bonus on either Sapphire card in the past 48 months
- Read our review: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Review (2022)
- Read our review: Chase Sapphire Reserve® Review: The Best Chase Has To Offer
From there, the Chase Ultimate Rewards® points you earn will position you to score award travel with:
- United, especially for its Excursionist Perk across all its Star Alliance partner airlines (more on that later).
- Virgin Atlantic and its international bargain redemptions on Delta (more on this later as well).
- British Airways, with its distance-based domestic redemptions on American Airlines.
- Iberia and great redemptions to Europe via Spain, or Aer Lingus to Ireland.
- Singapore Airlines, one of the world’s best airlines, and the only program that is a transfer partner of all reward programs (Chase, Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott Bonvoy).
- Southwest Airlines, with its low cost, no-frills travel within the Americas.
Remember, if you are playing in two-player mode, this should be your significant other’s first card too because the Ultimate Rewards from either account can be combined if both of you are living in the same household.
Caution: The Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred back and forth between members of the same household. But once they are transferred away from the Chase UR program to a transfer partner, there’s no transferring them back!
2. Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is a business card from Chase and should be among the first several cards you open during your travel award career. This is because:
1. Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, it comes with a large bonus.
2. When you apply for it, the 5/24 rule is used by Chase as an initial filter to decide if your application may be approved.
3. Conversely, after you are approved for it, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card does not get included in your 5/24 number.
You do need to have a business to apply for a business card but think broadly about the definition of business. This card is designed for small businesses, even sole proprietor firms like dog-walking, cleaning, ride-sharing, Etsy retail, and more. If you have a side hustle, you probably have a qualified business.
In this modern economy, and especially with how the pandemic has changed work, you do not need a store or office, and lots of employees, to be considered a business.
3. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Or Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card are interesting cards because they work like fixed-value cards, but they also work like flexible points that can be transferred.
So, you could use the points you earned to offset various travel expenses like car rental, transfers, and booking fees, or send them to a Capital One transfer partner like Singapore Airlines.
Read our review: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Review: Most Versatile Travel Rewards Card
4. American Express® Business Gold Card
The second most valuable flexible travel currency is American Express’s Member Rewards points. Our favorite use of these points is transferring them to ANA and Virgin Atlantic for flights to Asia, Europe, and Australia. Other great transfer partners include Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Air Canada.
An easy way to start earning these points is with the American Express® Business Gold Card.
5. Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
The Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card is another business card from Chase. It may not come with the biggest bonuses, but it does have a few things that make it a great card:
1. The points earned can be combined into your account where you have one of the “premium” transferable Chase UR cards and they all become the more valuable transferable points.
2. You earn 1.5x on every day spend, which means for every $2 you spend, you actually earn three Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3. There is no annual fee.
6. Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
If Southwest Airlines is an important carrier for your travel plans, the co-branded Southwest Airlines credit cards need to take a spot in your wallet.
This is especially so if you are trying to score the vaunted Companion Pass, which lets a family or friend fly free with you, regardless of whether you paid for the flight with points or cash. Even more amazing is that the Companion Pass is good not just for the year you earn it but also through 12/31 of the following year.
To earn the Companion Pass, you’ll need to earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points. You can do this by flying 125,000 miles in a year, or the easier path would be to pair of co-branded Southwest business credit card with a personal card to get you closer.
You will only get the bonus on one of the personal cards, so pick the one you like based on annual fees and benefits, and stick with it.
You’ll still need to earn several thousand Rapid Rewards points by flying on Southwest or using the credits cards before scoring the Companion Pass, but these two cards will get you 95% there.
7. Chase Freedom Flex℠ Or Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Ultimate Rewards earned on both the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom Unlimited® transfer to your premium Ultimate Rewards card, and both come without annual fees.
- The Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns 5x on bonus categories that change every three months.
- The Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns you 1.5x on all spending, with no limits.
Important Note: The information for the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by ChooseFI. The product details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the bank advertiser.
Either card would be a great way to add to your arsenal of Ultimate Rewards points.
Read our reviews of both cards:
- The Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review 2022
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® Review: The Best 1.5% Cash Back Card on the Market
8. United℠ Business Card Or United℠ Explorer Card
United is a great airline co-branded card to have in your purse or wallet, especially with the Excursionist Perk and access to the Star Alliance partners. If United and the Star Alliance factor into your Why of Travel, consider getting either the personal or business cards. Note that these are both Chase cards.
9. American Express® Gold Card (Personal)
If your experiment with American Express Member Rewards was, well, rewarding, consider adding to your stash of Member Rewards points by applying for the personal version of the American Express® Gold Card. Occasionally, American Express might offer an increased bonus, so if you aren’t in a hurry to amass points, you should hold off until you see a great offer.
10. Citi Premier® Card
If your Why of Travel sees you flying a big family to faraway places, you’re going to need a generous amount of points to cover all that travel. At some point, you’ll be grateful to have some ThankYou points to transfer to partners like the Singapore Airlines Krisflyer or Jetblue TrueBlue loyalty programs.
Both carriers are transfer partners of all five major programs, making the Citi Premier® Card a great addition to your travel rewards strategy.