best travel reward credit cards – get something for nothing

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In these recessionary times I have become obsessed with the idea of getting something for nothing through points earned on my credit cards. An article in July’s 2011 Conde Nast by Wendy Perrin titled “The Informer: Card Tricks Every Traveler Should Know” was enough to make me want to review what I was getting out of the cards in my wallet.

The goal for me, is to get to my dream family vacation property for free (or as close to free as possible). Where, you may ask, is that?  Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands.

Looks amazing, right? Okay, enough daydreaming and back to how to get something for nothing.

Determining which cards are right for you depends on a number of factors including what your reward goals are (free flights, free hotels, upgrades, lounge access etc.).  Also important is finding the cards that are the best match for your spending and payment habits. Finally, there is the consideration of which cards are offering the best sign up deals (waived annual fee, bonus points and companion tickets are just a few of the potential sign up perks).

In addition to Conde Nast’s article cited above (which is a must read), there are a number of great resources to help you find the cards that are best for you *.  They include:

* (Canadians, please skip ahead to Best Travel Cards for Canadians):

Boardingarea.com (article on reward cards) – a site dedicated to business travelers

Nerd’s Wallet – a site dedicated to analyzing  and comparing credit card offers

PlasticIQ.com – also a site dedicated to analyzing  and comparing credit card offers with a great software tool that gives a dollar value to your potential rewards after fees

In my research, there are three cards that come up again and again. They are:

1. Capital One Venture Visa Card – the two best perks on this card are that it gives you 2 % of net purchases back towards travel reward purchases of your choice (hotels, car rentals, airfare etc.) and it charges no foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad (usually 2.5-3% of the transaction added on to the exchange rate).

2. Starwood Preferred American Express– gives your rewards back in free hotel stays at all Starwood brand hotels including the Westin, W, Sheraton, St. Regis, Luxury Collection, Aloft, Elements, and Le Meridien.  The return on this card starts at about 2.3% of net purchases and can be as high as 5%.  Currently offering 10,000 points after first purchase and an additional 15,000 points after spending $5000 in first 6 months.
3. Chase Preferred Sapphire Card– this card gives you 2 points ontravel and dining expenditures, but the real deal is their offer of 50,000 points if you spend $3000 in the first 3 months (worth $625 towards travel).

Good luck and see you at Little Dix Bay !

best travel reward cards for canadians

In edition to reading Wendy Perrin’s article  from Conde Nast July 2011 titled “ rel=”nofollow”The Informer: Card Tricks Every Traveler Should Know“, I encourage you to take at look at the website Rewardscanada.ca ( and their great article on best travel rewards cards  for 2011).

From all my research, here are the cards that I think are currently the best out there.

1. RBC Visa Platinum Avion – I have had this card for a long time and it has been a favorite due to the fact that it returns 2% back in flight rewards without blackout periods and almost 3% if you use their annual conversion to British Airway points with a 50% premium. The shortcoming for me with this card is that while you can book hotels with it, you need to do so through their booking agency which charges a hefty points premium (a $300 a night room was listed at close to double that on their website).  This sent me looking for other cards that did a better job with hotels to compliment this one.

2. Capital One Aspire Travel World Mastercard – I wish I knew this card existed before now.  It returns a hefty 2% back of all net purchases that can be applied to any travel purchases booked on your card (flights, hotels, airplane meals, car rentals etc.).  The RBC Avion is still a better deal for flights if you do the British Airways points conversions, but for everything else and the excellent flexibility, this is a fantastic card.

3.Starwood Preferred American Express– gives your rewards back in free hotel stays at all Starwood brand hotels including the Westin, W, Sheraton, St. Regis, Luxury Collection, Aloft, Elements, and Le Meridien.  The return on this card starts at about 2.3% of net purchases and can be as high as 5%.  Currently offering a 20,000 point sign up bonus.

4. MBNA Smart Cash Visa Card – alright this isn’t actually a travel card but it deserves a shout out because it is so good.  This no fee card returns to you 5% on gas and groceries for the first six month and 3% thereafter (for the first $600 a month).  I plan to only spend $600 per month of gas and groceries on this card and put the $288 I earn in the next year towards Little Dix Bay (photos above).  Everything else I charge above and beyond the $600 will go on one of the other cards listed above.

I hope this helps !

 

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