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Best Airline Credit Cards for Travel Hackers (Updated 2017)

Best Airline Credit Cards for Travel Hackers (Updated 2017)

Millions of people take advantage of earning miles to travel the world for varying amounts of money. You can really take advantage of mile offers from travel reward credit cards and use the miles for many free flights. First of all when we use the word hack we are not implying any sort of illegal activity. It is just a name given to people who know how to take advantage and get the most miles out a credit card. In our review, we feature the three best airline credit cards that have suitable large introductory offers.

Best Airline Credit Cards

Here are our picks for the best airline credit cards that every travel hacker will want to at least take a good look at. These are the top three credit cards that we picked for our Best Airline Credit Cards review.

The Best Airline Credit Cards Winner For Intro Offers And Earning Miles

Barclays Arrival Plus World elite MasterCard

Barclays Arrival Plus World elite MasterCard

The only downside to this card is that it is yet another credit card with high rewards that also requires an excellent credit rating. It seems that the best cards are often the ones demanding the very best credit rating. The introduction offer gives you a great many miles and a relatively low purchase threshold where you only need to spend $3000 during the first three months to earn your reward.

Benefits

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend the first $3000 within the first 3 months
  • Earn 2x the miles on all purchases
  • Includes a 0% intro APR for balance transfers made in the first 12 months

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Receive 5% miles back every time you redeem for travel statement credits
  • Your miles do not expire so long as your account is open

Cons

  • Has an annual fee of $89 that is waived in the first year
  • You need to have excellent credit to get the card

Why is this card ideal for travel hackers?

You are able to consistently earn 2x the miles on all purchases allowing miles to accumulate quickly. This card is popular among travel hackers because of the intro offer as well as the high 2% rewards rate on all purchases. If you use the card frequently for many of your purchases you will accumulate miles quickly. Also you get 5% of your miles back when you redeem for travel statement credits which allows you to quickly begin accumulating miles again.

Best Airline Credit Card Winner For Big Spenders Who Like Big Intro Bonuses

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for our best airline credit cards

We featured the Chase Sapphire Preferred card in last year’s best airline credit cards review, and this year they have come back with an offer that is just as juicy. For example, last year, they offered 40,000 bonus points for spending $4000 on purchases during the first three months of your account being opened. This year, they are offering 50,000 bonus points for spending $4000 on purchases during the first three months of your account being opened. Here are a few more reasons why the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has appeared on our best airline credit cards review.

Benefits

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend the first $4000 within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2x the points on travel and dining purchases
  • Get 1x the point on all other purchases for each dollar spent
  • Your points earned from the card can be transferred at an equal value to many frequent travel programs at full value
  • Regular variable APR is between 16.74% and 23.74%

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn as many as 50,000 bonus points after you add first authorized user
  • Includes premium trip insurance such as trip cancellation, auto rental insurance

Cons

  • Has an annual fee of $95 that is waived after the first year
  • More suited for a big spender

Why is this Card good for travel hackers?

You earn points on all purchases, and you get great value with 2x the points on travel and dining purchases. While you may have to spend a lot to get the bonus points you earn 2x the points on travel and dining so you do not have to travel frequently to quickly accumulate miles. Use the card when you dine out and you will quickly accumulate points for miles. In addition, the 50,000 miles is more then the average amount for an intro offer. This is one of the most popular cards among travel hackers.

The Best Airline Credit Cards Winner For Frequent Credit Card Users

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

capital one venture rewards credit card review

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is on this list because it also offers a great many reward points as an introductory offer, and it also gives you two points for every dollar you spend. Even the annual fee is lower than the credit cards listed above. The only reason this credit card is number three on the list is because the others offer more introductory points, whereas this card offers 10,000 less with 40,000 points up for grabs. Despite the fact that this is a Capital One card, they still demand an excellent credit rating in order to successfully apply for this card.

Benefits

  • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend the first $3000 within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2x the points on any purchase
  • There is no limit to how many miles you may earn
  • Regular variable APR is between 13.74% and 23.74

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • They have an app that allows you to book your trip
  • Getting 2x miles for every dollar spent is a great deal
  • Your rewards will not expire while your account is open

Cons

  • There is an annual fee of $59 that is waived during the first year
  • You need excellent credit to get this card
  • Cannot transfer points into other airline programs

Why is this Card good for travel hackers?

The starter bonus is good, which is often enough for people who are simply looking to exploit and discard credit card offers. However, the 2x miles for each dollar spent is quite good. It allows you to build points a little quicker. You do not have to spend money on travel or dining to earn the extra points because you get the 2x miles rate for every purchase you make.

The Credit Cards That Won Last Year – With 2017 Updates

The credit cards listed below are still fine cards, but they were beaten out by the three credit cards listed above. However, if you are interested in the best airline credit cards and you do not fancy one of the credit cards listed above, then maybe one of the credit cards listed below will take your fancy.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Benefits

  • Earn 30 000 bonus mile after you make $1000 in purchases within first 3 months
  • 2017 Update – It is now 60,000 bonus miles if you make $3000 worth of purchases in the first four months
  • Get 2 miles per $1 on purchases made directly with Delta
  • 2017 Update – This no longer exists
  • 2017 Update – You may earn a statement credit of up to $50 if you make a Delta purchase within the first three months
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all eligible purchases

Pros

  • First bag is free checked for free on every Delta flight
  • They are offering a very large introductory offer
  • Receive priority boarding
  • 2017 Update – There is now no limit to how many miles you may earn
  • 2017 Update – You may redeem your points with Delta and 15 other airlines

Cons

  • It comes with an annual fee of $95 that waived for first year
  • You need excellent credit to get this card

Why is this card good for travel hackers?

You only need to spend $3000 to earn the 60,000 bonus miles which can be used for a free roundtrip flight. Also the annual fee is waived for the first year so you can get great value from this card in the first year. You also earn points via most types of purchases, where they net you one reward mile per dollar spent.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Benefits

  • Earn 50 000 points after you spend $2000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
  • 2017 Update – This offer no longer exists
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on Southwest Airlines purchases.
  • 2017 Update – The same offer now applies to their hotel and car rental partners
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Points don’t expire as well as no blackout dates
  • Earn 6000 bonus points every year just for being a card member.

Cons

  • Has an annual fee of $99
  • You need to have excellent credit

Why is this card ideal for travel hackers?

You are rewarded 6000 bonus points every year just for being a card owner, which is something most cards do not offer because most are more interested in getting new customers than they are in rewarding their loyal customers. Do a little research to see if their partners and the other airlines involved are ones that you use often because you may have more to gain from this card than other people.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card

Benefits

  • Earn 25 000 reward points after you spend your first $2000 within first 3 months
  • Earn 3x the points on flights booked with airlines
  • Get 2x points when buying from gas stations and restaurants
  • Earn 1x points on other purchases
  • Receive a $75 hotel credit when you use the card to book a hotel stay for 2 or more consecutive nights
  • 2017 Update – Get up to $100 credit per year if you put your baggage and incidental fees on your Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • You can earn up to $100 credit per year on airline fees
  • High rewards rate on flight purchases

Cons

  • It has a very expensive annual fee of $195 that is waived for the first year
  • There are several terms and limitations

Why is this card ideal for travel hackers?

The very high rate of 3x the points when flights are booked with airlines which is above average, especially for a non co-branded card. You can use this card consistently on gas and dining and accumulate travel points quickly without even spending on travel. It is just a pity that the yearly fee is so high, but it shouldn’t matter so much if you are a heavy credit card user.

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

Benefits

  • Receive 30,000 bonus miles after you spend the first $1000 within first 3 months
  • 2017 Update – It is now 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3000 in the first three months after opening
  • Earn 2x the tickets purchase from United Airlines
  • Get 1x point per dollar spent everywhere else
  • Checking in your first bag is free
  • Regular variable APR is between 16.74% and 23.74%

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Your points do no expire
  • There are no limitations on how many points you may earn
  • Use the miles at any time with no restrictive or blackout dates

Cons

  • You need to have excellent credit
  • It has an annual fee of $95
  • You have to fly with United Airlines to claim the rewards

Why is this card ideal for travel hackers?

The points redemption system is idea as points earned with this card do not expire, you can use the miles at any time and there are no restricted dates when you can’t use your points. The bonus offer is easy to achieve as you only need to spend $3000 to qualify. The fact that the miles do not expire and there are no restrictions on the dates for which you can travel make this a popular and useful card for mile hackers.

What’s a Travel Hacker?

A travel hacker can best be defined as receiving the greatest amount of reward air miles possible by spending the least amount of money possible. There are methods that can be done to allow you to do this and there’s a whole strategy behind getting the best deal on miles.

How to Become a Travel Hacker

Becoming a travel hacker is not a difficult process, you don’t need a lot of money or even a lot of expertise to become a travel hacker. It will take some time, knowledge and research to learn which programs and rewards are best to use to ‘hack’ miles.

One way to get started is to get your hands on a travel credit card that offers you a good deal on miles, both on a new signup bonus and on future purchases made which give you mile bonuses. Here are the three main things to look for when trying to find a travel credit card that gives you the best bang for your buck, miles wise.

Find cards with the largest introductory bonus offers

Look for travel cards that offer that most bonus points that require the lowest amount of spending possible. For example, the Gold Delta Sky Miles credit cards requires you to only spend $3000 to receive 60,000 bonus miles within the first 3 months. Those miles can be used for at least 2 free round trips. You may be thinking, “But I have to spend $3000 to receive those points”. that is true but two free round trip flights would cost the same or even more then $3000 and remember your spending that $3000 on items you need or want in the first place. Spend money on your card by using it for necessities like groceries. Use the card for all your grocery purchases, household items, gifts, gas and car maintenance, and it will definitely take less than the 3-month limit to spend the $3000.The most important thing is to ensure you pay off your bill off in full to avoid any interest charges.

Earn Miles Quickly with Big Purchases

It is very straight forward to quickly accumulate miles very fast. Whenever you make a big purchase such as a TV, do not pay for it with cash or debit card, pay with your credit card and watch the miles accumulate. Again, it is important to pay the entire bill, or at least most of your bill off each month so you are not spending extra on interest which decreases the value you receive when miles are rewarded. For example, if you make a large purchase to accumulate miles but only make a small payment each month on your credit card bill you are spending extra money each month on interest which means you are technically paying more money to receive the same amount of miles.

Choose cards with first year annual fee waived

Most travel miles credit card include an annual fee. If you choose a card where the annual fee is waived it allows you to use the card to earn the introductory offer then ditch the card when it comes time to pay the annual fee. Many times if you call the card company and say you are switching cards because of the annual fee they will waive the fee again or reduce the fee. If you wish to close your current rewards card and switch to another, a great suggestion would be the Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard because it has the 0% APR for balance transfers.

About The Author

Ben Todd

Ben was a seriously broke graduate student with bad credit who after finding himself rejected for any sort of credit card or loan for most of his adult life, finally decided to get his financial life in order. ‘

He spent several years reading as many financial advice books and blogs as he could.

And suprisingly, Ben found he actually LIKED the topic of personal finance; after fixing his own finances, starting his own successful work at home website business, and using his earnings to get out of debt, created echeck.org to help others do likewise!

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