Top 7 “Premium” Cards You Can Try for Free

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The easiest and fastest way to earn lots of miles & points is to sign-up for credit cards with big bonuses.

The biggest bonuses usually come from “premium” cards with valuable perks, like the ability to transfer points for Big Travel, bonus categories, free checked bags, and more.  But they usually have an annual fee.

However, some cards waive the annual fee for the first year.  So you can try the card at no cost!

Best Premium Credit Card

With the Top Card on This List, You’ll Earn Valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards Points That You Can Transfer to Travel Partners for Big Travel!

Here are my 7 favorite “premium” cards that waive the annual fee the first year of card membership!

Best Premium Credit Cards

Link:   Why You Should Consider Annual Fee Cards  

With premium credit cards, you get great perks like big sign-up bonuses, the ability to earn transferable points, bonus spending categories, and more.  But they usually charge an annual fee.

The good news is, some of these cards waive the annual fee the first year.  So you can use the card, then decide after ~10 months if you’d like to keep the card…or not!

Plus, it’s fairly easy to cancel a card without issue from the bank.  Lots of times you can send a secure message or make a ~5 minute phone call.  The credit card issuer might even offer you an incentive to keep the card or waive the annual fee again.  It certainly never hurts to ask! 😉

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In some cases, it’s worth paying the annual fee, like I have on the Chase Sapphire Preferred for a number of years.  But paying an annual fee might not make sense for your particular situation.

So I’ve put together a list of the top 7 premium cards you can try for free for a year.  Then decide for yourself whether they’re worth keeping.

1.   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Link:   My Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the card I always recommend to folks who are new to miles and points.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 

That’s at least $625 in travel when you book your travel through the Chase Travel Portal.  And remember, you can get a lot more value from your points by transferring them to Chase travel partners!

You’ll also get another 5,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first 3 months.

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Everyone on the Million Mile Secrets team has had the Chase Sapphire Preferred.   Because it comes with great travel benefits for a comparatively low annual fee of $95, that’s (of course!) waived the first year!

The perks of this card include benefits like primary car rental insurance, which covers any damage or theft to your rental car, and trip delay reimbursement, which will compensate you up to $500 when your trip is delayed more than 12 hours.

2.   AMEX Starwood Cards

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (personal)

Link:   Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express (small business)

Link:   Limited Time:   Best-Ever 35,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus With AMEX Starwood Cards Returns!

I really like the Starwood card because there are so many ways to use Starwood points for Big Travel.  It’s good for MORE than hotel stays!

Through April 5, 2017, you can earn a total of 35,000 Starwood points on the personal and small business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express cards after meeting tiered minimum spending requirements.

With the personal AMEX Starwood card, you’ll earn 25,000 Starwood points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  And 10,000 more Starwood points for spending another $2,000 on purchases within the first 6 months.

And with the AMEX Starwood small business card, you’ll earn 25,000 Starwood points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  And 10,000 more Starwood points for spending another $3,000 on purchases within the first 6 months.

You’ll also get:

  • Starwood points per $1 you spend at Starwood, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton hotels
  • 2 stay credits or 5 night credits toward Starwood elite Status
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Access to AMEX offers, which can save you money on everyday purchases
  • Free in-room internet at participating Starwood hotels

The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.  So you can use the card for ~10 months then decide whether it’s worth keeping.

Best Premium Credit Card

Transfer Starwood Points to Airlines Like American Airlines and Earn 5,000 Bonus Miles for Every 20,000 Points You Transfer!

I wrote about the pros and cons of keeping AMEX cards beyond the first year and recommended keeping the AMEX Starwood (personal or small business) card.  Because Starwood points are hard to earn.  And Starwood points are valuable because you can transfer them to airlines, or use them for hotel stays, special events, or gift cards.

With 35,000 Starwood points, plus at least 5,000 points from completing the minimum spending, you could also get:

Also, the cards do NOT have foreign transaction fees, so they are handy to travel with worldwide!

Note:   AMEX will only give you the sign-up bonus for each card ONCE per lifetime.

3.   Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card

Link:   Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Link:   My Review of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card  

With the sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card, you’ll earn 50,000 Barclaycard Arrival miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

You’ll also get:

  • 2X Barclaycard Arrival miles per $1 you spend on all purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chip-and-PIN capability for use overseas 

The $89 annual fee is waived the first year.

The sign-up bonus alone is worth $525 in statement credits for travel purchases of $100+, because your miles are worth 1 cent each.  And you’ll get 5% of your miles back when you redeem them for travel.

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Did You Know You Can Use Your Barclaycard Arrival Plus Miles to Help Offset the Cost of a Cruise?

This effectively makes the card a 2.1% back card when you redeem miles for travel.  The minimum redemption amount is $100 (10,000 miles).

If you use your miles for cash back, your miles are only worth 0.5 cents each, and the minimum redemption amount is $25 (5,000 miles).  Making the sign-up bonus worth $250 in cash back.

So it’s a better deal to use your points for statement credits on travel purchases. 

Because there are other no-annual-fee cards that earn similar cash back, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a great choice for the sign-up bonus.  But not good for keeping beyond the first year, when you’ll have to pay the $89 annual fee.

Million Mile Secrets team member Scott closed his Barclaycard Arrival Plus with a very quick and easy phone call after deciding it no longer fit his travel plans.  But it was definitely worth trying the card because it didn’t cost him anything.  And he got over $500 worth of travel from it!

4.   AMEX Business Gold Rewards Card

Link:   The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN

You can earn 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points with the AMEX Business Gold Rewards card after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account. 

You’ll also get:

  • 3X AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 you spend in 1 of 5 categories of your choice
  • 2X AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 you spend on the 4 remaining categories
  • 1X AMEX Membership Rewards points per $1 you spend on other purchases
  • Terms and limitations apply

The normal sign-up bonus is 25,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points.  So getting double the regular sign-up bonus is a terrific deal!

Some folks even receive targeted offers to earn 75,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points.  So be sure to check your mail.

Emily recently applied for the 50,000 point offer and was approved!

When you include the points you’ll earn from meeting the minimum spending requirement, you’ll have 55,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points, which is enough for a one-way Business Class flight from the US to Western Europe using Air Canada Aeroplan miles.

Just remember, American Express only allows folks to get the sign-up bonus ONCE per person, per lifetime on ALL their cards.  So if you’ve had this card before, you will NOT be eligible to earn the sign-up bonus again.

5.   Citi American Airlines Platinum Card

Link:   Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Link:   My Review of the Citi American Airlines Card

You’ll earn 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening a Citi American Airlines Platinum Select card.

You’ll also get your first bag checked for free for you and up to 4 traveling companions plus priority boarding.

50,000 American Airlines miles is a good sign-up bonus, because it’s only 25,000 American Airlines miles for a round-trip coach award in the US.  Or 45,000 American Airlines miles for a round-trip coach saver award ticket to Europe during the off-peak season.

Best Premium Credit Card

25,000 American Airlines Miles Is Enough for a Round-Trip Coach Ticket Within the US, to Popular Spots Like New York City!

And especially because the $95 annual fee is waived the first year!  So you can rack up more American Airlines miles, then decide whether it makes sense for you to keep the card.

6.   AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card

Link:   Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Link:   My Review of the AMEX Premier Gold Rewards Gold Card

With the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card, you’ll get 25,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account.

You can use 25,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points towards $250 in paid travel booked through the AMEX Travel Portal at 1 cent per point.  But you’ll usually get a better deal by transferring your points to partners like British AirwaysFlying Blue, or Etihad.

Best Premium Credit Card

You Can Transfer the AMEX Membership Rewards Points You Earn to Delta for Award Flights to Europe!

With the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card you’ll also get:

  • 3X points per $1 you spend on airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • 2X points per $1 you spend at US gas stations, US supermarkets, and US restaurants
  • 1X point per $1 you spend on everything else
  • $100 per calendar year in airline incidental fee credits (baggage fees, change fees, etc.)
  • NO foreign transaction fees
  • Transfer points to participating frequent traveler programs
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195
  • Terms and limitations apply

Just keep in mind, there are sometimes higher targeted offers available for this card.  And you can only receive the sign-up bonus on American Express cards once per lifetime.

7.   Citi ThankYou Premier

Link:   Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Link:   My Review of the Citi ThankYou Premier

You can earn 30,000 Citi ThankYou points (worth $375 in travel booked through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center) after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening a Citi ThankYou Premier card.

You’ll also get:

  • 3X Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on travel (ex. airfare, gas stations, taxis, tolls)
  • 2X Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment (amusement parks, sporting events, movies)
  • No foreign transaction fees

So there’s lots of ways to earn bonus points with the Citi ThankYou Premier card!  Plus, the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

You can get great deals with Citi ThankYou points by:

But this isn’t the highest offer we’ve ever seen for the card.  So it could be worth waiting for a bigger sign-up bonus.

Bottom Line

My top 7 premium travel cards you can try for free are:

These cards come with excellent sign-up bonuses and will help you get lots of Big Travel with Small Money.  And the annual fee on ALL of these cards is waived the first year!

Do you have any recommendations that weren’t on this list?  Let me know in the comments!

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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15 responses to “Top 7 “Premium” Cards You Can Try for Free

  1. Great blog today! So useful for my friends who hate annual fees but might try our hobby otherwise.

  2. I’ve found that the Bank of America Travel Rewards card is MUCH better than the Barclay’s Arrival + card. No annual fee, 12 month time frame to get the credit on a travel charge, $25 minimum for a travel charge, as opposed to $100 on the Arrival +, the only down check is you earn only 1.5% on purchases, as opposed to 2% for the Arrival+. In my opinion, The BOA card is better. Check it out.
    P.S. it’s even better if you have a BOA checking account, you get Preferred Rewards depending on the type of account you have.

    • Great tip! Thanks for sharing!

    • There’s another BIG downer: 20,000 bonus points for BOA Travel Rewards vs. 50,000 for Arrival+. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that with Arrival+’s $100 minimum rule, you redeem down to a single point as long as A.) the charge is at least $100 and B.) you’re covering the entire charge with points.

    • And don’t forget that the A+’s $89 AF wipes out the .50% difference between the A+ and the BofA Travel Rewards card. I dumped the A+ in favor of this BofA Travel Rewards card as I am a BofA customer who gets an extra .15% for a total of 1.65%. $100 min. travel charge redemption is very restrictive on the A+. I might get the A+ card again next year just for the points tho’

  3. Is it possible to maintain a Fico score in the high 700’s when collecting then dropping all these cards?

    BTW I picked up Chase Safire Reserrve some months ago, thanks to your prompting, and it’s served me extremely well.

  4. I currently have the Barclsyxard, AMEX Business Gold and SPG personal all getting close to annual date. Can I cancel them without losing the points I have earned?

    • Hi John. The answer varies between cards. With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card you WILL lose any points you’ve earned once you’re account is closed. So be sure to use them before closing the account!

      The same is true for the AMEX Business Gold rewards card. But you could apply for a no-annual-fee AMEX card that earns AMEX Membership Rewards points and transfer your points there before closing the card.

      And lastly, with the Starwood card, you will NOT lose your the points you’ve earned, because they’re already in your Starwood account (separate from your actual credit card account).

      You can read more about losing miles & points for cancelling card here: http://millionmilesecrets.com/2012/10/10/cancel-credit-card-lose-miles-points/

  5. Pingback: Daily Points: Southwest Cancelling Duplicate Bookings, Bonus when buying United Miles, Egypt Postpones Visa Cost Increase and More - Travel Miles 101

  6. any suggestions on how to get the 100 travel credit on the amex gold without actually flying i know there are workarounds that work like gift cards if anybody has any recent data on what works and what doesn’t please advise thanks!

  7. Want to make sure the Amex Business Gold Rewards card is a different card than the Amex Business Gold Delta card?