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Credit card points can bestow untold value on cardholders, as every purchase earns points to be banked for future redemption. Points can be redeemed for a variety of rewards, including travel, merchandise, cash back, gift cards and charitable donations.
But not all points programs are equal. Signup bonuses and special purchase types are the best methods for quickly racking up a ton of points, and for points hoarders, there are a few cards that go above and beyond in these categories.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Earning Points: Three points per dollar spent on travel and dining, one point per dollar spent on everything else.
Signup Bonus: 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Annual Fee: $450
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 16.74% to 23.74%
Why We Picked It: The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers rich rewards for cardholders who frequently travel and dine out. (Want to know more about this card? Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.)
Benefits: This card earns three points for every dollar spent on travel and dining and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. The 50,000-point signup bonus alone is worth $750 when you book travel through Chase’s travel platform, since points redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards get an extra 50% redemption value. Cardholders enjoy up to $300 in annual travel credits and a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. Chase also provides concierge services, airport lounge access and special car rental and hotel privileges. Through August, Chase is offering 100,000 bonus points to cardholders who open a mortgage with Chase.
Drawbacks: The $450 annual fee is steep.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
Earning Points: Five points per dollar spent at Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) hotels, two points per dollar spent on airlines, car rentals and restaurants, one point per dollar spent on everything else.
Signup Bonus: 80,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months, and 7,500 bonus points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the same time frame.
Annual Fee: $85
APR: Variable 16.74% to 23.74%
Why We Picked It: Cardholders can earn double and even quintuple points with this card, with special value for loyal Marriott guests. Compared to many cards with premium points programs, the annual fee is affordable.
Benefits: Every dollar spent at Marriott and SPG hotels earns five points, and every dollar spent on airfare, dining and car rentals earns two points. All other purchases earn one point. The signup bonus is a big draw. Plus, cardholders earn a free night’s stay annually.
Drawbacks: If you aren’t a frequent visitor of Marriott hotels, this card won’t deliver as much value.
Earning Points: Five points per dollar spent on flights booked through American Express or directly with the airline and eligible hotels booked through amextravel.com, one point per dollar spent on everything else.
Welcome Offer: 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
Annual Fee: $550
APR: None. You must pay the balance in full each month.
Why We Picked It: The Platinum Card’s 60,000-point bonus is impressive, and occasionally the offer is higher. The card also earns five points on eligible travel purchases. Amex’s wide range of added benefits make this card appealing.
Benefits: Along with the huge signup bonus and points program, Amex offers $200 in annual Uber credits, $200 in annual airline fee credits and $100 for a Global Entry or $85 for a TSA PreCheck application. Benefits include concierge services, special rates at hotels, airport lounge access and car rental privileges. Cardholders can also access a wide range of luxury experiences through the By Invitation Only and Global Dining Collection programs.
Drawbacks: The annual fee is steep, and you don’t have the flexibility to carry a monthly balance on the card should you ever need to.
Earning Points: Three points per dollar spent on air travel and hotels, two points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment, one point per dollar spent on everything else. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
Signup Bonus: 40,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Annual Fee: $450
APR: Variable 15.99%
Why We Picked It: Citi Prestige has a mix of methods to earn points, and savvy spenders can rack up points fast.
Benefits: Citi’s points program and signup bonus are a great draw. There’s a $250 annual air travel credit. Cardholders can extend their trip with a free fourth night at any hotel after booking four consecutive nights through Citi Prestige’s concierge service. Citi’s wide range of purchase and travel protections is all-encompassing, and with Citi Price Rewind, Citi monitors registered purchases for 60 days and automatically issues a reimbursement if there’s a lower price.
Drawbacks: The high annual fee could be a sticking point.
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
Earning Points: Three points per dollar spent on travel purchases and using mobile wallets, one point per dollar spent on everything else.
Signup Bonus: 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,500 in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: $400
APR: Variable 16.49%
Why We Picked It: The new kid on the block, the U.S. Bank card is perfect for frequent travelers who often make mobile wallet purchases.
Benefits: Consumers who frequently travel and use mobile wallets such as Samsung Pay or Microsoft Wallet can earn triple points on those purchases. Cardholders also get up to $325 in travel credits, 12 free Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes annually and a $100 credit for a Global Entry or an $85 credit for a TSA PreCheck application. Beyond that, they offer concierge services, discounted chauffeur services at GroundLink Black Car Service, airport lounge access and special privileges at hotels and car rental agencies.
Drawbacks: If you don’t use mobile wallets, you may be better off looking elsewhere. This card is only available to U.S. Bank customers.
Choosing a Points Card
Finding a card for rapid points accumulation means you’re evaluating two things: signup bonuses and earning rates. Both factors should align with your spending habits and financial capability.
Signup bonuses usually require you to pass a spending threshold within three months of opening the card. The bonuses are often generous, but if you wouldn’t normally spend that amount in three months, it’s probably not advisable to stretch your budget to get there. Choose a points card that offers an attainable bonus.
Points cards also offer boosted earning rates for certain spending categories, which include dining, travel and purchases at airlines or hotel chains. But these special rates only benefit you if you frequently make these types of purchases. If a card offers additional points for purchases you don’t typically make, you’re probably better off seeking a card that will reward you for the way you spend.
The cards that offer the biggest points bonuses and special earnings rates often charge steep annual fees of $400 or more. That’s unrealistic for many consumers. But many card issuers also offer a lower-tier card with smaller points earnings, some of which have identical signup bonuses. These cards may have annual fees at a fraction of their premium counterparts.
What Is Required to Get a Points Card?
Points rewards cards require excellent credit. If your credit isn’t immaculate, you may want to apply for a more attainable card. For now, you can work your way toward an elite points card by improving your credit and making timely payments. You can keep up with your progress by checking a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.
At publishing time, the Platinum Card from American Express and Citi Prestige credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.