This post was written by guest blogger Michael D. from Credit Card Forum, which is a social community for the discussion of credit card deals.
It’s that time of year again where the cold weather is setting in and we all start dreaming of a February vacation to some tropical destination (or at least I do anyway). But in this economy, saving up for a vacation is definitely not easy.
My mom and I live on opposite sides of the country so we only get to see each other a couple times per year. For this reason, we’ve been talking about taking a vacation together for quite some time. The recession delayed our trip for two years, but now we’re finally back on schedule to do it this February!
The two of us are going to Hawaii and we actually got really creative with our credit card rewards to help minimize the cost of the trip (between accumulated rewards and new card signup bonuses, you’d be surprised how little we are paying out of pocket). As I go over what I consider to be the best travel rewards credit cards for 2011, I will highlight the deals we are taking advantage of ourselves.
#1 – Citi Thank You Premier Card
This Citi rewards card just came out (like a week ago) and I feel this is such an incredible deal, I even signed up for it myself.
There are a ton of benefits on the card so read my review to find out about all of them, but here are the three benefits I found most impressive; a signup bonus worth $200, a free companion plane ticket every year (which I will be using for my mom), and 1 point per mile flown for airline tickets paid for with the card.
Let me reiterate the value of that last benefit, because I didn’t believe it when I first read it. You get 1 ThankYou flight point for every 1 mile you fly, when you buy your tickets with this card. Flying from Detroit to Honolulu is approximately 8,960 miles (4480 miles each way). So that means I would be getting about 8,960 points for just buying that one ticket.
When you consider that 10,000 points is enough to get a $100 gift card, that means I’m getting an $85 to $90 reward value on just that one ticket alone! No other travel rewards credit card that I know of has such a generous program for airfare purchases. Check out my Citi Thank You Premier card review to find out about all its other benefits.
#2 – Starwood American Express Card
To be perfectly honest I never stay at high end hotels, but the Starwood American Express offers something very unique. Let me explain…
For starters, the signup bonus is very generous – it’s enough to score my mom and I two free nights at their very high end “category 5” hotels (or stay at a lower tier and make your points go even further). So we will be using this for two nights of our trip.
But what’s most unique about the Starwood AmEx card is that you can transfer your Starpoints (the points earned on purchases) to over 30 different airline frequent flyer programs, usually on a 1 for 1 basis… essentially making this the most universal frequent flyer card on the planet. No other card comes close to offering this feature (i.e. AmEx Gold can only transfer to 11 airlines). Here’s my detailed review of the Starwood American Express.
#3 – Chase Sapphire Card
We’ve all seen the commercials for this credit card (which seem to run 24/7!) but what is this card about anyway? Well, the cool thing about it is that you can spend the points however you like and you won’t have to talk to some in India just to redeem them (this card has fantastic customer service, you don’t even have to press any numbers or wait on hold).
Now as far as signup bonuses are concerned, the no annual fee Chase Sapphire gives you $100. That’s pretty good, but not nearly as good as the Chase Sapphire Preferred which gives you a bonus worth $250! Now the “Preferred” version does have a $85 annual fee, but that’s waived for the first year. Here’s my full review of the Chase Sapphire which explains both.
If you ever carry a balance, credit cards are a foolish idea because the interest charges will far outweigh the rewards. However if you’re like me and pay in full every other month, the best travel rewards credit cards can be an easy way t