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Chase Hyatt Hotel Credit Card Review

Those with a taste for luxury will enjoy the metal Chase Hyatt credit card. Though Hyatt may not offer as many properties as the competitors, they tend to be nicer. Plus, this card is one of the most lucrative hotel cards on the market. Though its $75 annual fee isn’t waived for the first year, that may be to offset the stellar sign up bonus.

Earning Rewards

After spending just $1,000 in the first three months, you will receive a credit for two free nights at any Hyatt location. That’s right — any of them. (If you already have Platinum status when applying, you’ll get two free nights and two suite upgrades. If you already have Diamond when applying, you get two free nights in a suite.) This bonus only takes up to 10 days to post, which is pretty low. Beware: if the account closes in the first three months, your free nights will be deducted from your Gold Passport account.

Then, every year after you renew the Chase Hyatt card, you will receive a credit for one free night at a category 1-4 hotel. This one takes 4 to 6 weeks to post. All free nights are only good for one standard room (aside from the bonuses for existing Platinum/Diamond members) and must be redeemed within one year after being issued.

You also earn Gold Passport points for making purchases at the rate of 1 pointper $1 spent, with 2x points for restaurants, airline tickets, and car rentals, and 3x points for stays at Hyatt properties. (That’s in addition to the 5 points you get from the Passport program.) There’s no limit on your Passport points, and wonderfully, they never expire! Between that and the anniversary certificate, this card is worth hanging on to despite its annual fee.

Gold Passport points are worth about 1.5 cents each, depending on when and where you redeem them. You need to have at least 5,000 points in order to redeem. The range runs from 5,000 points for one night in a standard room at a category 1 property, all the way to 22,000 points for the same deal at a category 6.

Get Status

You, but not your authorized user, get complimentary Platinum membership for as long as you’re a Chase Hyatt cardmember. Platinum benefits include a 15% point bonus on eligible spends, free in-room Internet, 2:00 p.m. late check-out, a 72-hour room guarantee, upgrades based on availability, and more.

The Chase Hyatt card also gives you a fast track to Diamond status. Spend $20,000 in a calendar year and receive 2 stay credit and 5 night credits. Spend $40,000 in a calendary year and receive an additional 3 stay credits and 5 night credits. After you reach either 25 stays or 50 nights in a calendar year, you’ll get Diamond status. Be aware, these Diamond credits can take up to 2-3 weeks to post and are not valid for award travel.

If you do reach coveted Diamond status, you will enjoy a 30% point bonus on eligible spends, four suite upgrades per year on paid room nights, a 48-hour room guarantee, 4:00 p.m. late checkout, and guaranteed best room available upon arrival (except suites). You also receive exclusive access to Reagency Club or Grand Club lounges, which serve breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres. And at those places without a lounge, you still get breakfast — which can prove quite valuable when traveling in Europe.

Traveler Benefits

Happily, the Chase Hyatt credit card comes with no foreign transaction fee. Plus, as a chip and signature card, it will be accepted at many places where magnetic-stripe-only cards are not, and offers extra security.

Not to mention that this is a Visa Signature card we’re talking about. Visa Signature benefits include solid protections for your purchases as well as many travel-minded perks such as lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and 24/7 concierge service that can provide referrals, translations, etc.

The Bottom Line

Any Hyatt diehard should get this card. The sign up bonus is killer, since those free nights can be redeemed at any hotel — for Hyatt, that can get pretty darn rewarding. Plus, you get Platinum benefits that guarantee you availability, late check-out, and Internet access.

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Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card Review

First of all, the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card is pretty. It’s pure black, somehow both shiny and matte, and distinctly heavy from the real metal inside.

Edit: see here for a higher limited time offer. 

But beauty is only skin-deep. For the Marriott diehard, this card also promises some valuable rewards. Although the card carries an $85 annual fee, it’s waived for the first year, and might be worth it even if it wasn’t. Here’s a guide to the benefits.

Earning Points

There’s two tasty sign-up bonuses to be had with the Marriott Rewards Premier from Chase. First, right off the bat, you get a credit for one free night at a category 1-4 hotel, to be redeemed within six months. Then, if you spend just $1,000 in the first three months, you get 50,000 Marriott points. That’s enough for three nights in mid-priced hotels with PointSaver awards, or a whole seven nights at a category 1.

Just be aware that if you close the account for whatever reason within the first six months, Chase and Marriott “can legally deduct your bonus points from your account.” That sounds to us like they’ll make you pay for it, and probably will. So hold on to this card for at least six months!

Plus, every year after you renew, you will receive a certificate for one free night at a category 1-5 hotel, to be redeemed within six months. This annual free night does well to make up for the annual fee, which is already waived the first year. It’s interesting because it makes the card worth holding on to even if you only occasionally stay at a Marriott.

The Marriott Rewards card also gets you 5 points per $1 spent at Marriott hotels and resorts, 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants, airlines, and car rental agencies, and 1 point for every other dollar spent.

Redeeming Points

It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for points to hit your account, so plan accordingly. You can redeem points at all Marriott properties, 3,600 locations in 68 countries and territories. Here’s the list:

  • The Ritz-Carlton
  • JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts
  • EDITION
  • Autograph Collection
  • Renaissance Hotels
  • AC Hotels by Marriott
  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts
  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott
  • SpringHill Suites
  • Residence Inn
  • TownePlace Suites
  • Marriott Vacation Club International
  • Marriott Conference Centers
  • Marriott Executive Apartments
  • Marriott ExecuStay

Marriott Points are worth about .8 cents each, depending on where and when you redeem then. The range goes from 7,500 points for a standard reward night at a category 1, to 45,000 points for the same deal at a category 9. Happily, if you redeem for four nights, you get the fifth night for free! There’s no limit on your points and wonderfully, points never expire! (Yet another reason this card is worth holding on to.) However, you might be denied your award during peak times.

One could also exchange Marriott points for airlines, car rentals, cruises, travel packages, or merchandise, but for considerably less value. If you looking for ultra-flexible travel points, turn to a fixed value travel rewards card such as the Bank of America Travel Rewards card or the Barclaycard Arrival.

Get Status

The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card gives you 15 Elite Credits right away and again every year after you renew. This insures you will always have at least Silver status, which requires 10 Elite Credits. You also get one Elite Credit for every $3,000 spent. Silver status elite benefits include a 20% bonus on base points earned on hotel stays (doesn’t include the credit card bonus points), priority late check-out when available, a private reservation line, and a weekend discount at participating Courtyard and SpringHill Suites locations. Not too shabby.

Traveler Benefits

This card is great for the traveler because it has no foreign transaction fee and is a chip and signature card, so you can expect it to be accepted at more locations in Europe, Asia, Canada, and beyond. This is also a Visa Signature card, which along with purchase protections, has many traveler-friendly benefits such as lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, car rental insurance, 24/7 concierge service including referrals and translation services, and much more.

The Bottom Line

The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card is definitely worth the annual fee for any Marriott diehard, and maybe even the occasional patron. That’s because the annual free night makes up for that annual fee, plus the points never expire. The sign up bonus is solid, and every fifth award night is free! Looks like you’re running out of excuses not to take that vacation.

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The Citi & American Express Hilton HHonors Credit Cards Review

Both AmEx and Citi offer a 40,000 points bonus on their Hilton credit cards.

 

Hilton hotels number over 4,000 and are located all over the world, making the chain a solid choice for the prolific traveler. The Hilton HHonors program comes in four credit cards, two with an annual fee and two without.

This article focuses on the two Hilton cards with no annual fee, the Citi Hilton HHonors card and the American Express Hilton HHonors card. Despite being free to hold on to, both of these cards come packed with value, making either a great choice for the non-committal. But which to pick? Here’s the scoop, one feature at a time.

Earning Points

The Citi HHonors card nabs you 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in first 4 months. You also get two HHonors points for every dollar spent, with 6x points at Hilton hotels, 3x points at supermarkets, drugstores, and gas stations.

The American Express HHonors card also has a 40,000 point sign up bonus, but you only need to spend $750 in the first three months. It also has a more generous rewards scheme: you get three HHonors points for every dollar spent, with 7x points at Hilton hotels, and 5x points at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations.

As you can see, in the points category the AmEx HHonors card is the clear winner. Both cards offer a 40,000 point sign up bonus, but the AmEx card’s minimum spend is considerably lower. Plus, it offers more points earned for each spending category. The only reason to favor the Citi card is that you spend a lot at drugstores.

By the way, in order to get the hotel category bonus, you must, of course, be staying at a hotel that’s part of the Hilton HHonors portfolio. Just charge the room to your HHonors card and charge all hotel services to the room bill to receive the bonus. Simply using the card at the hotel is not enough.

Redeeming Points

You can redeem HHonors points for stays at select Hampton Inn & Suites, Embassy Suites, DoubleTree by Hilton, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts. An HHonor point is worth about half a cent. Now, your mileage may vary. The value depends on what category of hotel you will be redeeming at most and what time (peak or off-peak).

Redemptions start at 7,500 points for a standard room in a category 1 hotel, giving you a lovely 1.7 cents per point. But there seem to be only six (6!) category 1 hotels in the US. You can find them at Clarksville, AR; Cleburne, TX; Colombus, GA; Florence, AL; Jacksonville, FL; and Sandston, VA. So for most people, category 1 redemptions are not likely.

Then, for 10,000 points you can get a night at a category 2 hotel. Thankfully, there are 136 of those in the US. It’s 30,000 points per night for a category 4 and 50,000 points for a category 7. The middle range gets you about .4 to .5 cents per HHonors point.

One could also redeem points for merchandise or experiences, but these are lower value options. You can also purchase points directly from Hilton, up to a max of 40,000 per year. However, this is not recommended, since at the price of $10 for 1,000 points, you’re paying a 1.25 cents per point. Buy at least 10,000 at a time and you do receive a 25% discount, but this still doesn’t quite hold up to our point value estimate of half a cent.

There is no cap to how many points you can accumulate, and points don’t expire as long as you stay at a hotel, earn points, or purchase points at least once every 12 months.

Get Status

Both the Citi and AmEx HHonors cards automatically get you Silver Status, which includes benefits such as:

  • Book a reward stay of five nights and get the fifth night free. This applies only to standard rooms and kicks in automatically, you don’t have to do a thing. Needless to say, this perk is packed with value. Never has there been a better excuse for extending your vacation.
  • 15% bonus on HHonors Base Points earned on hotel stays. This doesn’t include the bonus points earned from the credit card, just the ones that any HHonors member would get.
  • Complimentary access to health club/fitness center

Additionally, both cards offer a way to “fast track” to Gold status. The Citi HHonors card will grant Gold status if you complete four stays at Hilton Worldwide Portfolio hotels within the first 90 days after opening your account. The American Express HHonors card will grant Gold status if you spend at least $20,000 per calendar year. When you do attain Gold status, it remains for the rest of that calendar year as well as the subsequent year. Gold benefits include free Internet access, room upgrades when available, 25% bonus on Base Points, and more.

American Express “AXON” Awards

The American Express HHonors card comes with a unique feature. It opens the door to what are called AXON awards, special redemption options available only to AmEx members. AXON awards are applicable to four-night stays in standard rooms and only in hotel categories 5 through 10. Here are the options, with the equivalent regular redemptions rates per night in parentheses:

  • Category 5: 130,000 (vs 30,000-40,000)
  • Category 6: 160,000 (vs 30,000-50,000)
  • Category 7: 190,000 (vs 30,000-60,000)
  • Category 8: 220,000 (vs 40,000-70,000)
  • Category 9: 260,000 (vs 50,000-80,000)
  • Category 10: 300,000 (vs 70,000-95,000)

Nice options, but AXON awards are not always the best choice. For example, four nights at the 30,000/night rate costs 12,000, which is less than the Category 5-7AXON prices. You also have to factor in the deal you get as a Silver member: stay five nights, get the fifth night free. AXON awards do not stack with that deal, you have to pick one or the other, and often the Silver deal is better.

To book an AXON award, you must call the line at 1-800-920-5649. They will ask for your Diamond number; just explain that you are an AmEx member calling for an AXON stay.

Traveler Benefits

The Citi HHonors card comes with Visa Signature benefits, while the AmEx HHonors card comes with American Express benefits. Both include car rental insurance, luggage insurance, roadside assistance, travel accident insurance, and 24/7 concierge-style customer service. Clearly such benefits are of great value to travelers.

On the other hand, both cards comes with a foreign transaction fee, which is a real bummer. The Citi card sports the usual 3%; the AmEx, 2.7%.

The Bottom Line

Getting an HHonors credit card is a no-brainer for any Hilton diehard. You get a tasty sign-up bonus and automatic Silver status, which includes a considerable discount built right in. Now, as for which no-annual-fee card to get, we think most people would want to get the American Express card, as it has a lower minimum spend for the bonus, better bonus categories, and extra award options. However, if you are planning to complete four Hilton stays in the first three months of card ownership, go for the Citi HHonors card to grab that Gold status.

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Barclaycard Ring Credit Card Review

Barclaycard® Ring MasterCard® is unique. Open-source projects, co-op’s, and other kinds of social experiments are flowering now, in the information age. Even a bank is hopping on board.

That’s right — the Ring card is “crowd-sourced.”

The idea (according to Barclay’s) is that the cardmembers can discuss and vote, via an online community portal, and Barclay’s responds in “real time” to their requests. The issues discussed could be fee changes, marketing ideas, alterations to the terms and conditions — basically whatever is important to you, the customer. Barclay’s provides feedback about the consequences of ideas, and periodically posts all relevant financial information so that everyone can participate in this credit card business. Members even get a kind of “returns” — but we’ll get to that in a second.

Low Fees

First, let’s talk fees. Very low fees. Ring from Barclaycard is designed for those who desire simplicity and dependability, and it shows in their fee structure.

There is an 8% APR for everything, all the time. It applies to purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances. This is not promotional, and it does not depend on your credit score. (It could still change if the prime rate changes, as to be expected.) 8% is quite low.

Even lovelier, you aren’t looking at many costs beyond that. Check this out:

  • There is no annual fee — but that’s expected.
  • The foreign transaction fee is 1% — considerably lower than the standard 3-4%.
  • The cash advance fee is $1. Every time. (Typically, cash advance fees are 3% and at least $10.)
  • The late payment fee is $25 max. (Usually it’s $35 max.) Plus, there is no penalty APR for paying late. What does happen is that your returns for that cycle (part of the Giveback program, see below) get given to charity.
  • There is no balance transfer fee. Ever. In fact, you actually get 1% cash back on any balance transfers made in the first 60 days.

That last one is particularly sweet. No balance transfer fee — that alone makes this card worth having, as a back up, in case you suddenly find yourself in over your head. Now, if you are in the situation of already having a balance that you need to transfer, this may or may not be a good card for you.

Make a transfer with this card, and you get $0 transfer costs and then 8% APR. Or, you could opt for the many cards that have a 3% balance transfer fee and then 0% APR for some length of time. The longer ones right now are 12 to even 18 months. If you think you can pay the balance off in that time, go with one of those. On the other hand, if you can pay the balance off in four months or less, go with the Ring Barclaycard. (Four months is about how long it takes for the Ring’s interest charges to equal the 3% fee that you dodge.)

Giveback

Barclay’s Ring card does not have a rewards program per se. What it does have is Giveback, a feature that gives cardmembers a share of the “estimated profits.” First, returns need to pass a certain “hurdle” to cover taxes, marketing costs, and shareholder returns. The Giveback pool is 70% of whatever is remaining. Then, individual shares of that pool are computed by taking into account the level of participation.

Your Giveback share is improved by referring others, paying on time, actually using the card, or opting for paperless statements. You can choose whether to receive it as statement credit, donate it to charity, or a split between both. Note that the charity donation is not tax deductible, but if you do choose that path, Barclay’s will match the donation dollar to dollar. We applaud them for this socially conscious practice.

So, in a sense, it’s sort of like a rewards program. Except one in which nothing is guaranteed. The idea is that the cardmembers get to share in the story of the company, become concerned with profits, and thus are motivated to participate meaningfully.

Interestingly, the Ring blog indicates that as of late, members have been asking for a true cash-back rewards program. The scheme the company has proposed would have three tiers of card, with the most rewarding one earning 1.5% cash back, but at a 16% APR. It also would receive no Giveback for purchases, but more Giveback for revolving balances. But remember that if you revolve a balance on a rewards card, you negate the the rewards with the interest charges. (At a 16% APR, even just one month accumulates interest that basically equals the cash back.) Watch this space — we’ll let you know if that card comes to be, and if it beats out the other 1.5% back option, the Capital One Quicksilver.

The Truth

The truth is that the Barclaycard Ring is not a co-op card, not even close. Right in the terms and conditions, they admit that Giveback “is not based on the actual profits” and that “you have no property or other legal right in any aspect.” Having credit card members share in the profits and vote on the terms of a card is a great idea, but here that is all it is — an idea. Something to play around with.

Still, Barclay’s deserves credit for paying it lip service. Though Giveback isn’t actually the “profit sharing feature” it’s advertised as, it is based on a posted, easy-to-reference calculation. Although they don’t put up the real official financial statements, they do blog regular updates on financial performance. Not to mention that the genuinely low rates and fees are presented with clarity that goes above what’s required by law. All of this shows a true commitment to transparency.

The Bottom Line

The Ring card has no annual fee and never has a balance transfer fee, so it’s great to have as a back-up. Plus, with a constant low APR, it’s a good choice for anyone who typically carries a balance.

Or, it would be worth getting if you want to support the “crowd-sourcing” message.

This offer is no longer available

Don’t forget to check out our list of the best balance transfer cards.

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Citi Simplicity Credit Card Review

The Citi Simplicity credit card boasts a long 0% APR period.

This Citi card promises simplicity, but it delivers something even better — humanity.

Here’s a situation that’s probably familiar. Life has thrown you a curve ball, or five. Suddenly a thousand things to do pop up and before you know it, a couple days have gone by. What’s the date again? Wasn’t there something else you were supposed to do? Oh, the credit card bill! The payment is now a day late — which means the total balance is 30% higher because of the penalty rate. You call. You plead. The robotic representative tells you that rules are rules and “have a nice day.”

Well, you know, that huge bank probably really needed your payment a day ago. Yeah right! Wouldn’t it be nice to be treated like a human being for once?

Sweet Simplicity

By law, banks are allowed to raise your interest rate up to 29.99% if you pay late twice in 180 days, and most of them gleefully take that opportunity. The Citi Simplicity card, however, promises to never charge late fees or penalty rates, ever. We applaud Citi for this feature — because customers are human beings. (But you should really try not to pay late. Even without consequences from the bank, it still negatively affects your credit score.)

The other amazing feature from the Citi Simplicity card is that it boasts an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 18 months! That’s right — a year and a half. That’s the longest intro 0% period on the market right now. This card is a fantastic choice for anyone trying to get out of debt or needing to make a huge purchase. Just remember the following about balance transfers:

  • You have to transfer the balance in the first 4 months to score the 0% rate.
  • Balance transfers still incur a fee of 3%, but that’s probably better than the interest you will pay on that balance over time.
  • The balance transferred plus the balance transfer fee can’t exceed your credit limit.

The Citi Simplicity credit card has no annual fee, but it does have a foreign transaction fee.

Perks

There’s no rewards program here — boo. You can’t win them all. But the Citi Simplicity does have some neat extra perks. There’s the usual stuff: 24/7 customer service, purchase protection, extended warranty, car rental insurance, travel and emergency assistance, $0 fraud liability, etc.

Then there’s Citi’s unique services. Citi Price Rewind lets you register a purchase through the website, and then constantly searches online retailers for 30 days to find a lower price. If a lower price is found, Citi credits you the price difference (provided it’s at least $25). Not all purchases are covered. The exclusions list is long, but includes stuff like live animals, fixed structures, jewelry, and online purchases.

You will also get access to Citi Private Pass, which hooks you up with presale tickets to concerts, shows, sports games, or other events. Ever wondered how hot concerts could sell out in less than 60 seconds? Now you know — people with better credit cards than you.

Bottom Line

If you don’t carry a balance, you will probably prefer a rewards card. But if you regularly carry a balance, have a debt to pay off, have a big purchase coming up, or simply like simplicity, then get this card. It’s true to its name.

 

And don’t forget to check out our list of the best balance transfer cards.

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US Bank SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card Review

The US Bank SKYPASS card is great for those who use Korean Air.

US Bank’s SKYPASS Visa Signature isn’t too impressive as far as airline cards go, but it’s well worth it if you happen to travel with Korean Air often, since the miles earned are good for reward travel and upgrades on that airline, as well as the other SkyTeam partners.

You get the standard earnings rate of 1 mile for every dollar charged on the card and double miles on Korean Air ticket purchases. The good news is that the spending requirement for the sign up bonus is low — all you have to do is make one purchase. The bad news is that the bonus is also low, at just 15,000 bonus miles. This is enough to grab you a domestic flight in Korea… and not much else. Still, it’s nice that they give you 2,000 bonus miles every year you renew to help off-set the $80 annual fee. That and having no foreign transaction fee are features we would love to see on all airline cards.

The SKYPASS card also gets you two Korean Air VIP Lounge coupons every year. You do have to be flying with Korean Air to use these, but they work in lounges across North America and South America as well as Seoul, Korea. Each coupon is good for one person, so you can either use them for two lounge visits for yourself, or for one lounge visit where you bring a friend.

The miles you earn from making purchases on the SKYPASS card count towards Morning Calm Club membership. That is a pretty rare feature for an airline card and a pretty nice name for elite status. Morning Calm Club membership gets you exclusive check-in services, lounge access, priority baggage handling, and SkyTeam Elite member status. To qualify, you need to accumulate 50,000 miles, but sadly only 20,000 can be gotten from the SKYPASS card. Still, it puts you almost half way there.

Again, this card makes sense primarily for those who already travel with Korean Air a good bit. Also note that you can always top off your Korean Air account with Ultimate Rewards points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred — which is arguably a better card in basically every way.

Other perks include bilingual customer service and a free credit score every month. Plus, since this is a Visa Signature card, it has all of those benefits, as well. Visa Signature benefits are largely aimed towards travelers; the list includes stuff like travel insurance, rental car insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, concierge customer service, and more.

 

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American Express JetBlue Travel Rewards Credit Card

The AmEx JetBlue card is worth it for JetBlue diehards, but overall mediocre.

The American Express JetBlue travel rewards credit card is a no-brainer for anyone who already travels on JetBlue Airlines often. But the free agents out there might want to pass it up, since there are definitely better deals as far as airline cards go. Still, if you are a JetBlue fan, we don’t blame you: this airline knows how to keep it real. Their TrueBlue points (frequent flyer miles) don’t ever expire, unlike other programs, and they never charge you for your first checked bag. On the darker side, this airline has a pretty limited selection of routes, covering mostly coastal cities, and they only have economy class, similar to Southwest. But JetBlue is known to have slightly roomier seating overall, and you get your own personal TV.

With the American Express JetBlue card, the earnings rate is typical: you receive 1 point for every dollar spent on the card, and double points for ticket and vacation purchases made directly with JetBlue. Don’t be fooled by the AmEx website, which claims that you receive 8x points for ticket purchases. It’s true, you do get 8 points, but only 2 of them are because of the credit card. The other 6 just come naturally with being a TrueBlue member.

 Redeeming TrueBlue Points

Additionally, after spending $1,000 in the first three months, you receive a 20,000 point bonus. The TrueBlue website claims that award flights start at 5,000 points for one way and 10,000 points for round trip tickets, but the truth is that this represents only the very cheapest fares. The number of points required for award tickets is directly relative to the fare of the ticket, so a more realistic range for how much round trip fares cost is anywhere up to 50,000 points. It all depends on the demand for the route, so of course off-peak times will get you the best rates.

What this all means is that these points are basically at a fixed value. There isn’t even an award chart. Realistically speaking, the value of each point is going to approach just 1 cent, unless you have a lot of flexibility and book way ahead of time. But for the typical traveler, this 1% back rate is kind of pitiful. Even a rewards card as simple as the Capital One Quicksilver delivers more, not to mention the plethora of rewards cards that give even better rates.

Still, as mentioned, JetBlue has a loyal following for good reason. They recently topped a customer satisfaction study, along with Southwest. So if you are flying with JetBlue anyway, this credit card is a good deal for you. One way to slightly increase the value of the earned points is to redeem with Hawaiian Airlines, the only partner that allows redemption and not just earning of TrueBlue points. To do this, you have to book over the phone, but it’s worth it: a $550 Hawaiian Airlines fare will cost about 42,500 TrueBlue points.

 Other Perks

The AmEx JetBlue card also comes with some nice perks that keep it in the competition. You receive 50% off in-flight purchases such as movies, meals, and drinks. It shows up as a statement credit after the fact. You also get a $50 statement credit every year you purchase a JetBlue Getaways vacation package with the card. Plus, the $40 annual fee is relatively low, and waived for the first year.

Not to mention that American Express provides a lovely host of benefits, such as 24/7 concierge customer service, rental car insurance, purchase protection, travel accident insurance, exclusive discounts and events, and more. Just take note that American Express does not guarantee zero-percent liability for fraudulent charges. All they promise is to assist with the “dispute resolution.” So hold on tight to those AmEx cards!

JetBlue is arguably an up and comer. Whether that means you should get in on this program now, or wait for a tastier bonus, is up to you.

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Barclay’s Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard

Apply Now: Miles & More® Premier World MasterCard®

 

Now, Miles & More covers a good number of European airlines, including SWISS and LOT Polish as well as Lufthansa, but we recommend going with one of the Star Alliance partners in order to avoid high fees. Award ticket surcharges can easily reach $500 for flights from US to Europe.

Many long haul Star Alliance routes will also hit you with high fuel surcharges. In order to make the most of Lufthansa miles, it pays to sniff around a bit. But for example, you could use your sign-up bonus to buy business class domestic fare on US Airways or United (for 17,000 miles), a one way coach ticket to Hawaii on US Airways or United (20,000 miles), or a one way ticket to Central America or the Caribbean on US Airways, United, or TACA (17,000 miles). So while it’s not exactly a huge bonus, it does open some opportunities.

Or you could always just transfer into the Starwood program, if that’s your dig, and enjoy receiving a 5,000 point bonus when you transfer the full 20,000 miles.

The other major perk that comes with the Lufthansa Premier card is an annual companion ticket. You get one after your first purchase or transfer (as if forking over the annual fee wasn’t enough) and then again every year after you renew. Companion tickets can make for great value. This one, like many others, comes with strings attached. The purchased ticket has to be on Lufthansa, economy booking class, and heading from the US to either Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or the Far East. Both the purchased and companion ticket have to be H class or higher, which puts them in the middle range of economy tickets. There’s usually a $60 surcharge for cashing in on this during the weekend, though that’s not always the case. As expected, taxes and fees still need to be paid for both tickets — and with Lufthansa, they ain’t cheap — and this offer doesn’t stack with any other sort of discount.

Aside from all that, this is pretty standard miles earning. You get a mile per dollar spent on the card, and double miles on ticket purchases made directly from Miles & More partners. You can also book one-way tickets for half the cost of the round-trip fare, and receive a 25% discount in the award miles needed when redeeming for kids ages 2 to 11.

However you want to use your Miles & More miles, do it and do it quickly. Unlike other frequent flyer programs, the miles in this one will expire after 36 months, no matter what, regardless of flight activity.

 

Apply Now: Miles & More® Premier World MasterCard®

 

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US Bank LifeMiles Visa Signature Travel Rewards Credit Card Review

The LfeMiles Visa Signature card gets you 20k bonus miles after just one use.

The US Bank LifeMiles Visa Signature card is fairly standard as far as airline cards go. It lets you accumulate miles for the Avianca and TACA airlines, which primarily serve South America. Thus, this travel rewards card would be good to pair with the LANPASS card if you are looking to travel to South America soon.

Actually, Avianca and TACA underwent a merger back in 2009, but they have elected to continue operating as separate airlines. When you browse the card’s websites hosted by US Bank and LifeMiles, you will encounter language describing these as two distinct airlines, but rest assured that the LifeMiles you earn with this card work the same way with both. In fact, you can see on the airlines’ websites that they are currently in the process of merging the sites into one common website, which should assuage the confusion.

Now that that’s cleared up, on to this travel card’s benefits!

After using the LifeMiles Visa just one time, you will receive 20,000 bonus LifeMiles. That’s enough to completely cover a one-way ticket from the US to northern South America. Combine this ticket with what you can get from LANPASS and you’re looking at a free trip! Now is a great time to visit this part of South America. Ecuador is beginning to cut down the Amazon — who knows how that will pan out.

Since Avianca/TACA is part of the Star Alliance, you could always transfer points to those partners, as well.

There are a couple other perks worth mentioning, too. The $75 annual fee is waived for the first year, but if you do decide to renew, you will get 6,000 bonus miles — and again every year that you remain a member. This card also nabs you a 50% discount when redeeming miles to pay for excess baggage. And of course, this card sports the typical rewards earning rate of 1 mile per $1 spent and double miles on Avianca/TACA ticket purchases.

Not to mention that as a Visa Signature card, it comes with a host of benefits including automatic $1,000,000 Travel Accident Insurance, rental car insurance, lost baggage coverage, purchase protections, and much more. But beware: you’re going to want another card besides the LifeMiles or LANPASS Visa, because both sport an annoying foreign transaction fee: 2% US dollars, 3% foreign currency.

Buen viaje!