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The Best Travel Rewards Credit Card Offers for 2014

It’s early in the year, but we have already seen some top travel rewards credit card offers for 2014. I thought it would be a good idea to do a post that unpacks some of these offers.

There are so many travel rewards credit cards to choose from. You have airline, hotel, and fixed value point cards just to begin with, so I’ll be breaking down cards into categories. This will help you find the right travel rewards credit card for you.

Here are the best travel rewards card offers in 2014, and why I think they are worth applying for.

 

Fixed Value Point Cards

Fixed value point cards basically offer you a cash amount that can be used for travel costs. And most fixed value point rewards cards have a $.o1 value per mile or point. In other words, you will get $200 in travel statement credits with 20,000 fixed value points.

Fixed value point cards are good options for people who fly domestically in economy class. Why? Because you can still earn miles/points, elite qualification miles, and stay credits on flights or hotel stays paid for with your fixed value miles. That’s because they act like a revenue transaction.

Fixed value points/miles are also great for travel expenses that frequent flyer miles can’t cover, like trains, b&bs, car rentals, etc.

The two best fixed value point card offers are:

 

Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

You will earn $400 miles after spending $3,000 in 90 days with the Barclaycard Arrival. That’s a great sign-up bonus, but there’s more. You will also earn 2x points on ALL purchases, and you will get 10% back on all award redemptions. That means the sign-up bonus is actually worth $440 in travel.

 

Another perk that I love with the Arrival is the complimentary FICO score every month. Nifty. There’s also no foreign transactions fee, and the $89 annual fee is waived the first year. Convinced yet?

You can read my full review of the Barclays Arrival World Mastercard here.

Apply Now:  Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

 

50,000 Capital One Venture

(this offer is no longer available) 

For a limited time, you can apply for the Capital One Venture and receive 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months.

You will earn 2x points per $1, but unlike the Arrival, you won’t receive 10% back on travel redemptions. The $59 annual fee is waived for the first year, and there’s no foreign transaction fees.

TIP: This is not the public offer of 20,000 miles, which is still live. To see the 50,000 miles offer, go here. The Capital One Venture is also a Visa Signature card, so you will get access to the cool Visa Signature bennies.

Read our full review of the Capital One Venture card here.

 

Business Travel Rewards Cards

Business cards are a great way to maximize your travel rewards by earning miles & points back on your business expenses. Plus, business cards often have high sign-up bonuses and lucrative category bonuses.

You may not know this, but you don’t have to be incorporated to apply for a business rewards credit card. You can apply as a sole proprietor, and just use your social security # instead of an EIN. You just have to have an explainable business. Do you do any freelance work? Explain away.

My three favorite business travel rewards cards:

 

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

Currently, you will receive 25,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

I like the American Express Business Gold rewards card because it offers 3x points per dollar on airfare, and 2x on shipping and advertising. Membership Rewards points are extremely valuable because they can be transferred out to many travel partners.

The hefty $175 annual fee is waived for the first year. You can read my full review of the Amex Business Gold Rewards card here.

Apply Now: The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

 

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

The Starwood Preferred Guest business card from American Express comes with a sign-up bonus of 25,000 uber valuable Starpoints.
You will receive 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase, and an additional 15,000 more after spending $5000 in 6 months. I like that Amex awards you on first swipe and gives you 6 months to meet the minimum spending requirement.

Starpoints can transferred out to over 30 airlines’ loyalty groups. Nice. Plus, you will receive a 5,000 bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. The $65 annual fee is waived on the SPG card for the first year.

 

 

Chase Ink Plus

The Chase Ink Plus packs a big punch with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in 3 months.

 

I love that you can earn 5x points per $1 on office supplies, phone services, cable, and satellite. You also get 2x points on gas, and hotels book directly from the hotel’s website. There’s foreign transaction fee, and the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

Ultimate Rewards points are great because they can be transferred out to many top travel partners.

Apply Now: Chase Ink Plus

 

Transferable Point Rewards Cards

I love transferable points because instead of having a fixed value, you can transfer them out to travel partners. This will give you options when it comes time to book an award flight or hotel. Transferable points are great for those people who want to fly internationally, and especially in premium cabins.

The two best transferable loyalty programs are Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, and American Express’ Membership Rewards. Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to: United, Southwest, Korean Air, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Amtrak. Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, British Airways, Iberia, Singapore Airlines, Hawaiian Air, Jet Blue, Air France, ANA, Aeroplan, Aero Mexico, Air Canada, Alltalla, Delta, and Asia Miles. There are also transfer bonuses with Amex Membership Rewards points.

My two favorite personal transferable rewards cards are:

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred

I love this card. It’s just that simple. You will receive 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points after meeting the minimum spend requirement of $3,000 in 3 months AND you will receive an additional 5,000 Ultimate Reward points after adding an authorized user.

The Sapphire Preferred packs a nice punch too – you will earn 2x points on dining and travel. Plus, a no longer available on all miles earned (excluding sign-up bonus). There’s no foreign transaction fee and it’s a chip and signature card. You can read my full review of the Sapphire Preferred card here.

Apply Now: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

 

American Express Premier Rewards Gold

The American Express Premier Gold card comes with a bonus of 25,000 points, but there will often be limited time offers from 50,000-75,000.

 

The American Express Premier Gold cards gives you 2x points per $1 on groceries & gas, and 3x on airfare.  The $175 annual fee is waived for the first year, but it’s a hefty one. If you’re a big spender, you will earn an extra 15,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $30,000 in a calendar year.

You can read my full review of the American Express Premier card here.

Apply Now: American Express Premier Rewards Card

 

Hotel Rewards Cards

If you frequent hotels, then it’s definitely a smart idea to pick up their co-branded rewards cards. Hotel rewards cards often come with extra status perks, free night stays, and extra points if you use your card for your stay.

Here are a couple of my favorite hotel rewards cards:

 

Citi Hilton Reserve

The Citi Hilton Reserve comes with two free weekend certificates after spending $2,500 in 3 months.

I like that you instantly receive Hilton Gold Status. Gold status with Hilton gives you free breakfast, free internet, and while there isn’t a guaranteed room upgrade, by virtue of having Gold Status, you will sometimes receive a bump. There is a $95 annual fee that isn’t waived for the first year.

Apply Now: Citi Hilton Reserve 

 

Starwood Preferred Guest

The Starwood Preferred Guest card is classic. It’s been around, but it’s still one of the hottest cards out there.

 

You will receive 10,000 Starpoints on first swipe, and an additional 15,000 after spending $5,000 in 6 months. There aren’t any good category bonuses with the SPG card, but you can redeem your points for top notch hotels, and transfer them out to many airlines. I love the options!

You can read my full review of the Starwood Preferred Card here.

Apply Now: Starwood Preferred Guest

 

Airline Rewards Cards

Airline rewards card can offer some sweet perks, so if you fly frequently (or even once a year), it may be worth getting a co-branded card. They can save you a lot of cash and hassle. You can get free checked bags, lounge access, priority boarding, and more, by just holding an airline rewards card.

Here are two of my favorite airline rewards cards:

 

American Airlines AAdvatage

The Citibank American Airlines AAdvantage card comes with hefty sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles!

 

You will receive the 50,000 miles sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in 90 days. I love AAdvantage miles because they are great for domestic or international travel. Beyond earning AAdvantage miles with this card, you will earn receive priority boarding, free checked bags, and 10% back on all your award redemptions. That’s a lot of perks.

You can read my full review of the Citi AAdvantage card here.

Apply Now: Citi AAdvantage

 

The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard®

For a limited time, the Frontier rewards card comes with a sign-up bonus of up to 50,000 miles.

 

You will receive 40,000 miles after spending $500 in 90 days. That’s easy. Plus, up to an additional 10,000 miles for balance transfers made in the first 90 days. The $69 annual fee isn’t waived, but you do get a 5,000 miles reduction for a companion ticket. That’s a nice touch.

Apply Now: The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard®

 

Conclusion

You can’t lose with any of these offers, by my two favorites are the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®, and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.

As you can tell, there are a lot of great travel rewards credit cards out there. I think 2014 will be a great year for sign-up bonuses and other rewards related perks on credit cards. Stay tuned as I will be doing more reviews of other types of credit cards soon.

Don’t hesitate to comment below, or email our team at [email protected] if you have any questions.

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The Top 5 Travel Rewards Cards with 0% APR

I’ve recently had a few people ask me what the best travel rewards cards are with a 0% intro APR. It’s a good question, since having no interest for 12 months or more is important to a lot of people. Whether you’re trying to consolidate debt (keep in mind balance transfer fees) or looking to make some large purchases soon, a rewards card with a 0% APR can help.

Bottom line: If you need to carry a balance for a time, a 0% APR card is a good idea. Just stay on top of when the intro period ends! You can do that with Card Watchdog (shameless plug).

Alright, below are our favorite travel rewards cards that offer a 0% introductory APR.

 

1. Barclaycard Arrival

There are two versions of the Barclaycard Arrival card: the annual fee version and the no annual fee version.

The no annual fee version offers no interest on purchases for the first 12 months of account opening. After that, it’s a variable APR of 14.99% or 18.99%, based on your creditworthiness. The intro APR doesn’t apply to balance transfers, so the variable APR will apply. There is a balance transfer fee of $10 or 4% (whichever is greater).

What we like about the Arrival:

First, the sign-up bonus of  $200 isn’t too shabby. We also like the simplicity of earning 2x or 1x for every dollar you spend. Since there are plenty of other cards that have category bonuses to think about, it’s nice to have one that’s just easy.

A new perk that we’re loving is the free credit score monitoring that Barclays is offering on this card (and several others). This is a handy tool, since it’s important to stay on top of your score when applying for cards.

Read our comparison review of the Barclaycard Arrival cards here.

Link: $200 in travel offer (no annual fee) –  Barclaycard ArrivalTM World MasterCard®

 

2. US Airways Premier World MasterCard

The US Airways Premier World MasterCard offers an introductory rate of 0% for the first 12 months, then it’s 15.99% or 24.99%. The introductory rate is for balance transfers. Good stuff.

What we like about the US Airways rewards card:

If you’re looking to make a balance transfer, this card is a good option since it allows you to earn up to 10,000 miles when transferred within 90 days of account opening (keep in mind the 3% balance transfer fee). We also like the annual companion certificate that comes with this card and the sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles isn’t bad.

FYI- Now is a good opportunity to grab the US Airways card if you don’t already have it, because it will most likely go away some time after the merger with AA is complete. Dividend miles will eventually be able to be used for OneWorld flights, so you might see it as a way to get some AAdvantage miles. Of course, you can still use Dividend miles for Star Alliance flights until March, 30, 2014, but finding space will be competitive and people are already seeing less award inventory.

Link: The US Airways Premier World MasterCard®

 

3. Lufthansa Premier Miles & More

The Lufthansa Miles & More card offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles after the account is opened. After that, your APR will be 15.99% or 24.99%based on your creditworthiness.

What we like about the Premier Miles and More card:

Well, we used to like the sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles, but that offer has been decreased to 20,000 after first purchase and 15,000 more after qualifying balance transfer. Still, the opportunity to earn up to 35,000 miles isn’t awful, and we like the chance to earn rewards on a balance transfer. The annual companion certificate is nice, too!

Link: Miles & More® Premier World MasterCard®

 

4. Chase Freedom

With the Freedom, you’ll get a 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. For those looking to consolidate/eliminate debt, the 0% on balance transfers is helpful. There is still a balance transfer fee of 3% (pretty standard). After the intro period, the variable APR is 13.99%-22.99%.

What we like about the Freedom:

For starters, we like that Chase recently raised the sign-up bonus on this card from 10,000 points to 20,000 points. No, it’s not the best bonus in the world, but an increase is better than none, especially on a no annual fee card. And the Freedom definitely has its charm – like the 5x quarterly rotating categories. I earn a pretty 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points a year for taking advantage of the bonuses.

 

5. Capital One VentureOne

The VentureOne card comes with a 0% introductory APR on purchases until December 2014, then it jumps up to 11.9% – 19.9%, based on your creditworthiness. The same APR applies for balance transfers.

What we like about the Capital One VentureOne: 

The Capital One VentureOne is a solid no annual fee card, offering a $200 in travel singing bonus and 1.25 miles on every dollar spent. You really can’t complain about that. It also has no foreign transaction fees, making it good for – yep, you guessed it – travel.

 

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Understanding your Credit Card Benefits: Purchase Protection and Chargebacks

Many credit card enthusiasts value the importance of category bonuses, annual spend bonuses, and the value of points earned on purchases – but it’s equally important to keep in mind the protections that your credit cards offer and that’s where American Express beats every other bank. You can file a claim with American Express at the link below:

American Express Online Claims Submission

 

Purchase and Return Protection

American Express offers great purchase and return protection features. Purchases up to $1000 can be protected against theft and accidental damage up to 90 days after purchase. Moreover, cardmembers can receive up to $300 in refunds for items that can’t be returned to the merchant within 90 days of purchase. If you buy a new camera for $450, but want to return it and the merchant won’t take it back, just file a claim on the American Express website. Because American Express will cover up to $300, you make up the $150 difference. They usually process claims within 1-2 weeks in my experience, pending submission of receipts and other documentation that American Express requires.

For example, I recently purchased $90 of merchandise from J. Crew in their ‘final sale,’ which is ineligible for merchant returns. After receiving the package, the items weren’t exactly as described so I wanted to return it. I went onto American Express’ claim website and turned in the required documentation. I didn’t even have to ship the merchandise back to Amex!

Best of all? Even if you close the American Express card on which you bought the item, you can still file a claim!

Your experiences with American Express’ purchase and return protections may vary depending on the card you hold. I personally have the American Express Gold and Starwood Preferred Guest cards. I’ve heard even greater success stories with the Platinum card. I’ve seen some people being credited for items that they simply lost!

These credit card benefits are more than enough to justify the annual fees in most cases, which makes me a very loyal American Express cardmember.

American Express Claim

 

Chargebacks

Conflicts with merchants can sometimes warrant a chargeback. Most of my successful chargebacks have been associated with two variables: international transactions and receipts where I have to sign.

International chargebacks have a higher chance of success since many international transactions are susceptible to fraud or are cases where the ‘tourist’ gets ripped off. Moreover, merchants abroad are unfamiliar with the chargeback process. If they don’t respond within 30 days of receiving a chargeback notice, the merchant is automatically knocked with a $25 fee and your payment is refunded.

In cases where the merchant puts up a fight, they usually get knocked if the receipt is signed ‘VOID’ instead of your signature. Signing ‘void’ denotes to the credit card processor that the charge is invalid because of factors such as merchant pressure/intimidation or dissatisfaction with the services/products received.

Most chargebacks can be filed online. On the Chase website, it can be found under your card statement link, under ‘file a dispute.’

Hopefully this information helps you feel more secure about your future travels and purchases!

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Limited Time Offer: 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards

For a limited time, Chase and Southwest have relaunched the 50,000 sign-up bonus offer on all four Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards.


The Offers

There are four versions of the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards, and they are all seen as different products. That means you can have all four versions of the credit card.

There’s a personal and business version of the Plus and Premier Southwest credit cards. And for a limited time you will receive 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $2,000 in 3 months.

The “Premier” card comes with an annual fee of $99, but you will receive a 6,000 anniversary bonus every year you hold the card. The Premier card is also great for international travel because it doesn’t charge you a foreign transaction fee. Funny, because Southwest doesn’t have a large global footprint – with basically Mexico as its only international destination.

The Southwest “Plus” card comes with an annual fee of $69, and an anniversary bonus of 3,000 Rapid Rewards points every year you keep the card open. The full

 

Why Southwest is a Good Idea

Southwest is a great airline for domestic travel because bags fly free! That’s right. You don’t have to pay to check your bags. This is as refreshing as a cold lemonade on a hot Texas summer day. Why? Because we’re in a time when airlines are coming up with numerous creative ways to hit your wallet with fees.

Southwest Rapid Rewards points also don’t expire. This will give you peace of mind if you don’t have a lot of upcoming travel plans to redeem your points.

Another reason: There are no black out dates, so if there’s space on a flight you can redeem your points for it. And lastly, a great perk is that Southwest’s Rapid Reward program is a revenue based reward program. This means award prices will match the revenue price for a ticket. What makes this great is that Southwest already has reasonable rates, and will often have fare sales on their revenue tickets, which means award prices are discounted too! You will have a lot of opportunities to spread out your 50,000 Rapid Rewards points if you decide to apply for this offer.

 

Companion Pass

If you haven’t heard of the Southwest Companion Pass, then listen up. The Southwest Companion Pass lets you bring a companion for FREE on any revenue or award ticket. Obviously, this is a tremendous value.

So how do you get the Companion Pass? Well, you have to earn 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Technically, points earned from rewards credit card sign-up bonuses aren’t supposed to be allowed, but they have been counting towards the Companion Pass for the last few years.

And since there are four versions of the Southwest Rapid Rewards card – you can apply for two at the same time. It’s best to apply for a business and personal version, if you choose to do so. If you were to take advantage of two of the 50,000 offers, you would have 104,000 Rapid Rewards points after meeting the minimum spending requirements on the two cards. That means you would only need 6,000 more Rapid Rewards points to meet the Companion Pass requirement.

Another perk is that you will have the Companion Pass for the remainder of the year that you meet the 110,000 qualification in, AND the full year following.

Simply put, the Companion Pass is the best domestic travel value out there!

 

Conclusion 

Any of the four Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards are worth taking advantage of, especially when there’s a 50,000 offer. Southwest airlines has a huge domestic footprint, friendly service, low fees, and a user friendly loyalty program.

Applying for two Southwest credit cards during the limited time 50,000 offers is also to your advantage so you can practically wrap up the Companion Pass and begin taking advantage of free flights for your companion.

You will see the Southwest offer after scrolling down to the bottom of the fourth page.

 

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4 Ways to Avoid Increasing Airline Baggage Fees

AIR Heathrow 3

It seems that airline passenger fees are getting more expensive all the time. For example, it was recently reported that a passenger abandoned multiple large and heavy bags of luggage at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in response to being faced with $1,400 in checked bag fees. This is an extreme example, but even the everyday traveler deals with these charges on some level. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that from 2008 to 2012, the amount collected by airlines in baggage fees tripled, going from $1,149,408 to $3,486,936.

As the Bureau’s studies show, Delta Airlines has topped the baggage fees list for the past three years in a row. Amazingly, the airline admitted last year that its ambitions are set even higher: the goal is to collect an additional billion dollars in fees every year. The time limit for this goal? 2014.

So, it seems safe to say that we can expect to see increased charges in the very near future — and Delta isn’t the only one. For instance, Alaska Airlines increased their baggage fees last year and are set to do so again this October.

So do these increasing fees herald that fliers need to travel lighter? Not necessarily. There are alternative remedies, such as….

 

1. Airline Credit Cards

These typically come with a variety of perks such as free checked bags and priority boarding. Though they also usually come with annual fees, you’ll find that the card pays for itself in baggage fees alone after just one or two trips, and that’s not even considering the airline miles that can be redeemed for award travel.

Consider, for example, the Delta Gold SkyMiles, United MileagePlus Explorer, and Citi Platinum Select American Airlines AAdvantage rewards cards. All of these will get you your first bag checked for free, worth approximately $50 roundtrip for each airline.

With the United card, one companion on your reservation also gets his first bag free, equalling $100 in savings for the roundtrip. The American Airlines card allows it for up to four additional people on the reservation — that’s $250 saved. And the Delta Gold card gives one free checked bag for up to a whopping nine people on the same reservation, totaling $450 in savings! With none of the annual fees exceeding a hundred bucks, it’s easy to see why this option makes sense.

2. Baggage Delivery Services

Another way around these fees is specialized baggage delivery services. These companies aim to replace the need for checking bags into airlines at all. Such companies include Send My Bag, BaggageQuest, LuggageForward, and Luggage Free. These are based out of the US and UK but offer service on a worldwide basis, and all of them seek to underbid airlines’ fees, at least for those who are seeking to transport heavier bags or a greater number of bags.

The cost for their services varies with weight, size, and destination, as it does with airlines. It might be worth looking into if you are seeking to transport a lot of heavy bags. For example, someone transporting three bags over 50 lbs each within the US would likely get a better deal out of the New York-based Luggage Free. They start charging for domestic transport at $2.15 per lb for 5 business day delivery, while United, American Airlines, and Delta all charge $100 per bag over 50 lbs, in addition to the quantity fees.

3. Book With Airlines Who Don’t Charge

Another solution is to simply book travel on airlines that don’t charge baggage fees at all, such as Southwest Airlines or JetBlue. Southwest Airlines lets all customers check in two bags for free, and JetBlue allows all customers one bag for free. Not surprisingly, these two airlines also happen to top the list in terms of customer satisfaction, according to a study conducted earlier this year by J.D. Power & Associates. Also consider that by choosing another airline, you are sending an economic message to the competitors that do charge baggage fees.

4. Carry It On, Baby

Of course, perhaps the simplest solution of all is to just make do with carry-on luggage only, when that can be achieved. With this option, there is the added benefit of not having to wait at baggage claim (and who wants to do that?). Just make sure that your carry-ons are the right size, so there aren’t any surprises. Always check the rules for the airline you’re traveling on.