Sign-Up for Your First Credit Card
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Now that you have thought about your goals and different credit card categories, it’s time to choose 1 or 2 cards that will work for you. Again, this is just to get you started. But once you feel comfortable the best strategy for Big Travel is to have multiple cards that cover several different categories.
Here are few cards I recommend within each category. However, each person has their own unique goals. So take a look at the Hot Deals page for other cards that may work for you. If this guide was helpful to you, please consider applying for these cards using our links on the Hot Deals page. We earn a small commission on some cards, and we are grateful for your support!
1. Credit Cards That Offer Flexibility
- Chase Ultimate Rewards – You earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, and Chase Ink Plus cards. The benefit of collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points is that you can choose from a variety of hotel and airline transfer partners. Your points aren’t useable in just 1 airline alliance or hotel chain.
Note: If you’ve opened 5 or more credit card accounts (from any bank) in the past 24 months, it’s VERY UNLIKELY Chase will approve you for any of their Chase Ultimate Rewards earning cards, like the Chase Freedom, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Chase Ink Plus.
If I could only have 1 credit card, it’d be the Chase Sapphire Preferred because of the flexibility, no foreign transaction fees when I use my card abroad, and because I get 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points for all my travel-related purchases.
- American Express Membership Rewards Cards – You can earn American Express Membership Rewards points with cards like the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold and AMEX Platinum. These cards are also great if you want some flexibility because you can transfer your points to many different airline and hotels partners.
2. No Annual Fee Card
My favorite no annual fee card is the Chase Freedom card.
With this card you get 5X points on up to $1,500 in spending on rotating categories. So you can earn an additional 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points per year by spending the maximum in bonus categories each quarter. You can redeem your 30,000 points for $300 cash back.
Or if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Plus card, you can transfer your points from your Chase Freedom account to 1 of these cards, and then you could then transfer your 30,000 points to Hyatt and get 2 free nights at a category 4 hotel.
3. Airline Card
For travel within the US, I recommend the Chase Southwest credit cards.
The best deal in domestic travel is the Southwest Companion Pass because your favorite person can fly with you for free for up to 2 years!
You can easily achieve the Southwest Companion Pass by signing-up for 1 business and 1 personal Chase 50,000 mile offer Southwest card and earning 6,000 additional points. Chase usually offers the 50,000 bonuses every few months. Some folks may qualify for a business card even if they don’t own a large business.
For international travel, the best way to determine which airline card is right for you is by checking which airlines have the most flights out of your local airport to your desired destinations.
4. Hotel Credit Card
My favorite hotel card is the Citi Hilton Reserve card.
This is an excellent choice because you get 2 weekend nights at any Hilton hotel (even the hotels that cost thousands of dollars per night!) when you spend $2,500 on this card within 4 months.
You also get free Hilton Gold Status with this card, which includes free breakfast and internet. This could save you $20 to $30 per night! Check out our Trip Reports for ideas on which hotel card will fit with your travel goals.
5. Cash Back Credit Card
My favorite cash back card is also my favorite no annual fee card, the Chase Freedom.
I like this card because you can earn points faster by taking advantage of the rotating 5X points categories.
You’ll notice that some of these cards are business credit cards. You might be surprised to learn what qualifies as a business!