I'm heavily biased towards credit cards with travel-related rewards as opposed to cash back cards. I caught the travel bug shortly after college, and it made sense for me to supplement the bulk of my budget with rewards. I'm on a plane at least once a month, and I try to make it as affordable and comfortable as possible.
I have a small arsenal of credit cards in my wallet, but I definitely have my favorites. Some have amazing points to dollar ratios, a few have baggage perks, and some I’m just too loyal to give up.
Note* as a rule of thumb I never look at the interest rate on credit cards. You should be using this as a debit card, meaning you shouldn't be purchasing things that you won't be able to pay off when the statement comes. The point of having a credit card with rewards is to benefit you. If you're paying late fees and interest, the credit card company is the one benefitting.
4. Airline specific cards
I tend to fly either Southwest or American Airlines. I have a card for both. My hometown only flies American and Delta, American is almost always the more affordable route. The $95 annual fee on the card pays for itself in waived baggage fees. I also get priority boarding and first dibs on a window seat.
Citi/ AAdvantage Airlines Mile Credit Card
- Sign up bonus: 30,000 points after spending $1,000 within 3 months of opening the card, first checked bag is free
- Please note these miles can only be used with American Airlines
- Annual fee: $95 after first 12 months
- Rewards: 2 miles per $1 on American Airlines purchases, 1 mile for all other purchases
- Apply Here
All in all, this isn’t my favorite card. The sign-up bonus was okay, and the dollar to mile ratio is poor. This card really only makes sense for me since I fly back home for approximately 45 weddings per year. Sup Midwesterners?
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card
- Sign up bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 within 3 months of applying for the card.
- Annual fee: $69
- Rewards: 2 points per dollar on all Southwest purchases, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. 3,000 points each anniversary of your cardholder date
- Apply Here: Email me below for referral link
When I’m not flying American, I’m flying Southwest. The competitiveness inside me enjoys checking in exactly 24 hours prior to boarding and waiting for my boarding assignment. It truly is a hunger games type event throwing elbows at 6am for a window seat.
3. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
This card is my ride or die. It doesn’t have an annual fee, Capital One is always amazing to work with, and it has decent rewards. I’ve had this card since I was 18 so it’s still in my arsenal solely to prop up my length of credit for my credit score. It’s my go-to when someone asks for a suggestion for a starter credit card.
This is my back up card that I use if my day to day card is compromised. I also put my monthly (lol) parking tickets and toll bills on this card to keep it active.
- Sign up bonus: 20,000 points after you spend $1,000 within 3 months of applying for the card
- Annual fee: FREE!!!
- Rewards: 1.25 miles per $1 on all purchases
- Apply Here
2. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
This card is just a bit of a step up from the previous. With the added annual fee comes slightly better rewards.
Both of my parents have this card, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. The Dixon family will gush over Capital One until we're blue in the face. I'd rather give up carbs than my Capital One card, and that's saying a lot.
This is my day-to-day card. The rewards are incredible and booking travel couldn't be easier. When you call, you even get a real human on the line. They are quick to fix any mistakes and are incredible at catching fraudulent activity. A little too good... I once bought $12 worth of soft serve at 11pm and promptly received a text asking me to verify the purchase. Even my credit cards know I prefer to be in bed by 9pm every night.
- Sign up bonus: 50,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months of applying for the card
- Annual fee: Free for the first year, $95 each year after
- Rewards: 2 points per dollar on all purchases
- Apply Here
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
This is the newest addition to my wallet, and I’m already in love. This one definitely took some pro/con lists, but I eventually bit the bullet because I do travel so often. If the Sapphire Reserve doesn’t make you feel middle-class fancy, I’m not sure what will.
- Sign up bonus: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within 3 months of opening the card
- Annual fee: ….$450, let me explain
- Rewards: Ready?
- $300 annual travel credit. This is automatically applied to any travel coded purchase (Airbnb, Uber, Airfare, Baggage…)
- $100 towards Global Entry application or $85 towards TSA pre-check every four years
- 3 points per $1 on all travel and dining related purchases
- 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
- Priority Pass Select membership (This means airport lounges)
- Access to special travel deals through affiliate programs
- Travel and Purchase protection
- Apply Here: Email me below for referral!
So, I know the $450 annual fee is a bit intimidating. After you factor in the travel credit, global entry or TSA pre-application fee, and access to free food and drinks in lounges, the card made more than enough sense to me. Plus, it’s a metal card so you’ll look like a total badass while you sip your free champagne in a bougie lounge after breezing through the long TSA line.
Again, Zack Mathis is the best for dealing with me drowning on about all things credit. Seriously, you're a saint.