The Best Credit Cards for Travel Rewards
When it comes to traveling, you're leaving money on the table if you aren't preparing for it with a solid credit card strategy. That goes double if you are someone who has to travel for work. It's also true if you regularly buy things for work that end up being reimbursed. So,let's talk about how you can get closer to your next travel destination every time you swipe that card.
The Chase Family of Cards
Hard to beat double points on most things. Although Triple points is pretty great...
Chase has several credit cards that all give out Chase Points. Which card you should choose depends on your financial situation and how much money you spend on a credit card generally. We'll start with the cards that have no annual fee, but lower rewards. Taking it from the bottom to the top:
You have two versions of this card, the Chase Freedom and the Chase Freedom Unlimited.. The Freedom card gives you 5% back in Chase points, up to $1500 each quarter. This is a good deal, however, the points are allocated to a different category every month. So, for April-June, points go to grocery stores. It's a bit of a game but pays off. The Unlimited card pays you back 1.5% on every purchase, and doesn't have the $1,500 limit. So choose which game you want to play.
Chase Sapphire: Preferred
This is a solid choice since it gives you 2 points every time you spend money on travel or dining. Travel covering: Plane tickets, train tickets, subway cards, hotels and tours. Dining is everything from a 5 star restaurant to Mcdonald's. It has a bonus of 50,000 bonus points (which is worth at least $500) when you spend $4,000 on it in the first 3 months of the account being open. It also has no annual fee for the first year, (it's$95 after that).
Chase Sapphire Reserve
This is Chase's highest end card. It offers 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel and also comes with a 50k bonus after spending 4k in the first 3 months. It also comes with a $300 annual travel credit you can apply to any trip you take. Plus it pays for Global Entry or TSA Precheck which if you ever travel, really at all, is a huge time saver. However, this has a $450 annual fee and is not waived for the first year. So, if you are going to fly at least 2-3 times a year this is probably worth it. If you travel only once a year, it is probably not.
Chase Ink Preferred
This also offers you 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel plus for any dollar you spend on internet and phone service. This card offers 80k bonus points if you spend 5k on purchases in the first 3 months. It also only has an $95 annual fee. The big however on this card is it can only be used by 'businesses,' so, you need to have a business, or be able to convince Chase that you have a business.
The Citi ThankYou Point Cards
Worry not, Linda Walker will get all of the points.
Citi also has a variety of cards depending on your budget and how much you end up swiping in a given month.
Citi ThankYou Preferred Card
You receive 2 ThankYou points for every dollar you spend on dining and entertainment. That's both dinner and a movie. (Yes, someone probably made that exact pitch in a meeting.) Plus you get 1x on everything else. It has the big benefit of having no annual fee and an APR (how much they charge you to hold a balance month to month) of 0% for the first 15 months. Which is great if you aren't starting a job for a while, or looking for a job.
Citi ThankYou Premier Card
This has 3x on all travel including gas stations. The same 2x for dining out and entertainment and 1x on everything else. Plus a solid sign up bonus of 50k ThankYou points after you spend $4k in the first 3 months. The annual fee is only $95 and waived the first year.
Citi Prestige Card
This is their high end card. This has all the same benefits as the card above, except not gas stations apparently people with this card don't pump their own gas. It also doesn't have a signing bonus currently. The big perk this card has is a complimentary 4th night free in a hotel when you book through their service. If you are someone who spends business time or vacation time in hotels, this can be a gigantic savings.
The American Express Cards
Who is this Greek Hero? Can he get me a cheap flight?
This is probably the oldest and most trusted rewards program out there. In fact, many of their competitors are slightly better only because they are attempting to steal people away from these programs.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Card
This is the go- to card for consultants and sales people who spend far too much time in hotels. You get 2x Starpoints for every dollar you spend at Starwood hotels. Occasionally they run promotions and this can end up being 5x for every dollar. To be clear that is a pretty narrow slice of the world but if you travel regularly for work this adds up quickly. Also to be clear Starpoints are way more valuable than most of the other points. The big use is for getting free hotel rooms around the world at a lower rate than any other program. So, if you stay at hotels in say Chicago all the time for work and want to stay at hotels in Paris for vacation this is the way to go. Only a $95 annual fee after the first year waived.
Blue Delta SkyMiles American Express
This is also a go-to card for people who fly a lot for work. Instead of getting points through American Express, you get miles with Delta that can be exchanged for flights with Delta. This comes with 2x Delta miles if you are at a restaurant, and no annual fee. Also a solid 10k bonus miles when you spend only $500 in the first 3 months.
Premier Rewards Gold Card
This is the American Express that you probably think about if you have an image of one in your head. It's gold and has a Gladiator head design on it. This gives you 3x points for flights you book with the airline. 2x points at restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets. Plus $100 airline fee credit. You know how now all airline tickets charge extra for everything including bag fees and sometimes peanuts? This can offset up to $100 of that. Also gives 25k points when you spend just 2k in the first 3 months. It's annual fee of $195 is a bit steep but is waived for the first year.
The big thing to remember when you're making a decision on which credit card to use is how much money do you spend and where do you spend it? It's no good to get $400 in travel rewards if you need to pay a $500 annual fee to get them. At the same time an additional $95 in annual fee could get you hundreds more dollars in rewards. So take a minute and look at how much money you spend on your credit cards now. Regardless of the answer there is a card out their that can get you to your next vacation faster. Happy and safe travels!
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Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
The world of travel is not the same as it was two years ago. From the surge in "revenge travel" to the TikTok-inspired itineraries that make the most random destinations suddenly the most popular, there's so much about traveling that's out of your control.
What you can control — to some extent — is how much you pay for it.
According to CNBC, “Between dining out and taking trips, Americans are now spending an average of $765 more a month compared with last year when much of the country was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index … Young adults, in particular, are determined to make up for lost time. Millennials and Gen Z, who reported feeling the financial impact from the rise in reopenings and social gatherings, said they are shelling out $1,016 more a month, on average, than they did during the summer of 2020. MassMutual polled 1,000 U.S. adults from July 21 to 28.”
While some are okay with making up for lost time by gleefully spending all their money, not everyone has the desire to blow up their budgets on trips. Yet, the allure of travel still calls. Thus, the appeal of travel hacking.
Travel hacking has been around as long as credit card rewards have. But during the pandemic, travel hacking gurus found unprecedented fame on TikTok and Instagram. With time to learn about the points and miles community, suddenly people were planning for future travel using tips and tricks gleaned from experts sharing their knowledge on social media.
Though it might sound complex, anyone with a fair credit score can enter the travel hacking game. Here’s how:
What Is Travel Hacking?
Travel hacking is using reward points and miles from airlines, hotels, and credit cards towards free or heavily discounted travel. This ranges from opening a number of credit cards for the reward bonuses, optimizing your normal spending in order to max out your points per shopping category, and leveraging loyalty and status for awesome perks.
To a lot of people, the term “travel hacking” can sound shady. The “hacking” scares people off. Is it illegal? Is it a scam? Can you get punished for opening too many cards? Will you ruin your credit score? The answer to all of these concerns is no.
There’s no hidden trick to travel hacking. It’s not a game of risk or cheating, it’s a game of research and planning.
Travel Hacking 101
Most commonly, travel hacking hinges on the points you can get from certain travel credit cards. Credit cards aren’t merely a way to manage cash flow. Many offer rewards programs that give you points for each purpose. These points can then be repurposed to pay for part or all of a trip.
Different networks have different systems, but most can be transferred to a range of partners. Top credit cards are with Chase, Amex, Citi, and Capital One. Simply accumulate points on your credit card, then you have the option to transfer those points to airlines, hotels, and more — for free.
When learning travel hacking, The best tip is to go backward. Don’t just open popular cards with high bonuses. Identify where you want to go, then find out what actions to take. Which airlines travel there? Which cards’ points can be transferred to that airline? Where do you want to stay? Which hotels can you book with points? Once you’ve planned out your dream vacation, see how many points you need. Then strategize for the best way to nab them.
Choose which cards are right for you, then start stockpiling those points towards free travel.
One way to quickly amass points is to take advantage of sign-up bonuses. Many credit cards use sign-up bonuses to entice users. And if you play smart, just one or two sign-up bonuses can account for one entire flight cost. However, there’s one catch: you must meet a minimum spend requirement to qualify for the bonus.
The best way to approach this is to funnel all of your regular expenses through those credit cards to chip away at the minimum spending. Pro tip: open your card right before you need to make a lot of purchases. The holidays are a good time to open a card so the cost of festivities ends up working for you.
And remember: it’s key to always pay off your monthly credit card balance before the due date! The benefits of those points are useless if you go into debt to accrue them.
And here’s a hack for you newbie travel hackers out there — be sure to manage your money and keep track of how much you’re spending for that bonus with the MeetCleo app.
MeetCleo is the personal finance tool that’s actually fun to use. Taking control of your money while “earning” free travel using your credit cards? Finances have never been more fun.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!