There's a plethora of credit cards out there that claim to offer the best rewards and travel benefits--a lot of credit card perks really are amazingly lucrative, but some others are less than jaw-dropping.
So which credit cards made the cut for the top spots?
To get the most from the credit card point and miles game you need to know which ones really give you the most bang for the buck -- after all, it's all about leveraging the perks and benefits of the cards to maximize the value and travel benefits you get. All said and done here are my top 3 credit cards perks that I find to be the most valuable:
1. Club Carlson Bonus Award Nights
Not to say that hands down this is my favorite card, but the fact Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa will get you a free award night any time you book a stay of two nights or more is incredibly lucrative. Basically you are getting twice the value from your points if you are booking stays of two nights. Say you book a stay at a top-tier hotel that normally costs 50,000 points per night. If you stay for two nights you pay for the first night with points and the second night is FREE. I just got back traveling up the coast of Croatia and stayed at both the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Dubrovnik and the Radisson Blu Resort Split. At both hotels I stayed for two nights to maximize the bonus award night and the total for each stay was 44,000 Gold Points. Since the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa also gives you automatic Gold status you will get additional perks like a welcome gift and complimentary room upgrades upon availability. This can be extremely lucrative if you are lucky enough to receive a suite upgrade like I did at the Radisson Blu Split. A Junior Suite at the hotel goes for $632 for the same nights I stayed there--making each Club Carlson point worth 2.87 cents. Across the board that is a ridiculous value from any brand of hotel points.
2. Southwest Companion Pass
Since the Southwest Visa credit cards almost offer the 50,000 Rapid Rewards points too often, the only way they could make it easier to get the Companion Pass would be to just give it out like candy. The current card offer is 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months. The premier card does have a $99 fee but it is easily justified since you are getting $800 in free airfare. To earn the companion pass you have to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year, so getting approved for one Southwest card will almost get you half the way there. If you get both the personal and business card, you just have to spend $6,000 more to reach the 110,000 point mark. Once this happens Southwest will send you a Companion Pass where you can designate a companion that can fly for free (they just pay $10 taxes/fees) whenever you fly on Southwest. The real kicker is that the pass is valid for the rest of the current year and the entire following calendar year. This means that anytime you book with points or pay for a Southwest flight your companion will fly for free for the rest of this year and all of next year. If you earn the Companion Pass in January you will have the pass for two full years! Essentially you can double the value of the 100,000 points from the welcome bonuses from $1,900 in Wanna Get Away fares to a whopping value of $3,800 when using the Companion Pass.
3. 50,000 Ultimate Rewards Points from Chase's Ink Bold or Plus Business Credit Cards
Both the Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards have had a standard bonus offer of 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for several years now. This offer is lucrative in its own right because you can transfer 50k points to numerous transfer partners including:
Airlines: British Airways, Korean Air, Southwest, United, Virgin Atlantic
Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Ritz-Carlton
Since United miles are some of the most valuable airline miles transferring UR points to United miles is the most valuable 1:1 transfer partner. Not that flying on United is anything to look forward to, but booking international business class awards flights with points on any of the Star Alliance partners gives you much more value. Some airlines you can enjoy first class travel on include Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Thai, Singapore Airlines. With 50,000 United miles you can book a one-way business class flight to Europe, or a round trip economy ticket. This is currently the best credit card offer to get United miles because the United Explorer card currently only offers 30,000 miles. Another reason I really like the welcome bonuses for the Ink cards is that the points from the bonus are Chase's Ultimate Reward points and more than likely will not be devalued. You have much more protection keeping your points in a flexible point system like this where you can choose where to transfer your points to when you want to use them. This provides you with protection from airline and hotel devaluations, but also the flexibility to use the points how you want to. The welcome bonus for these two cards is consistently one of the best offers available, plus you can earn 5X points on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, and on cellular phone, land line, internet, and cable TV service.