Isn’t it time you took a luxury vacation? Have you considered travel after the long COVID-19 quarantine? A fabulous vacation might be the best reward you can give yourself for all your hard work. “On my budget?” you may ask, “how is that an option?” Well, people all over the planet are rewarding themselves with such luxury trips simply by utilizing the points/miles award programs offered by the major credit card companies.
You may be one such person, visiting this website for tips for how to earn even more points. Or you may be seeking information on how to begin earning travel points. In either case, this article will identify the best hotel credit card options for churning to help make your travel dreams come true.
What is Credit Card Churning?
Credit card churning is a profitable and unique way to earn points, miles, and other travel perks by signing up for credit cards.
Due to the increase in the cost of travel and luxury accommodations, and fueled by the fierce competition between credit card providers, award programs have exploded in popularity over the past few years. Now is the best time to build your credit and cash-in on some sweet rewards. However, without proper planning and tracking of bonuses and spending, credit card churning may harm your credit score.
With careful research and analysis, your efforts could end up funding your future vacation and lead to big savings!
Yes, credit card churning is using the system to your advantage. Credit card providers offer lucrative sign-up bonuses for new cardholders. After earning the points, miles, cash, or other perks of the new card, you can close the card and open another new one afterward. Why? To earn new rewards and sign-up bonuses with a new card.
Many of the best credit cards give you rewards for your sign-up and spending. Rewards come in two basic flavors:
- Cashback. Cashback can be used to directly reduce your credit card balance. Some cards offer the option to have your cashback deposited into your bank account or have it sent to you as a check.
- Points or miles. Points and miles can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, merchandise, or other things. You may also have the option of redeeming points for a credit on your statement, just like cashback.
Accumulating Your Points for Travel
General travel credit cards give you points that you can use to pay for travel. These are cards that are not tied to a specific airline or hotel loyalty program, offering you more flexibility. These points can be used to pay for airlines, hotels, and other travel expenses.
Airline credit cards carry the name of a specific airline. When you use them, you earn miles that you can redeem for free flights or upgrades on that airline. These cards don’t offer a lot of flexibility in terms of how you can use your rewards, but they pack in value with exclusive perks — free checked bags, priority boarding, airport lounge access, and more.
If you (usually) travel like a real road warrior and are already loyal to a favorite hotel chain, a co-branded hotel credit card is your first step.
Hotel credit cards carry the name of a specific hotel group, and they earn points that you can redeem for hotel stays. As with airline cards, the perks can be fantastic — a free night every year, automatic upgrades, elite status, and so on.
Predicting the best card for 2021 is difficult since the credit card offers change so quickly. Today, if you go to the American Express website, for example, and search for travel cards, you will find many different options. American Express could change the terms or put out different cards between now and 2021 so it is a good idea to check back.
How To Choose The Best Travel Card
A good travel credit card will not only give you points/miles and perks for travel, but a good credit card also comes to your aid in the case of lost luggage, provides travel insurance, and will not charge extra for foreign transactions. Knowing what is important to you will help you choose the card that best meets your needs.
When selecting a travel card, the first decision is: co-branded or general travel card.
Choosing a travel card with an airline or hotel name on it is what is called a co-branded card. Rewards on these cards can usually be redeemed only with that airline or hotel. While this limits your options, these cards also give you exclusive perks such as free checked bags and priority boarding for airlines, or free upgrades and bonus amenities at hotels.
General travel cards earn points on any purchase and can be directly redeemed for travel expenses almost wherever you choose. So, if you chose travel points over loyalty to one airline or hotel, the general travel card is the right option for you.
An example of this type of card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card. Chase is now offering 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That translates to $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. It offers you 2x the points on all purchases and has a $95 annual fee. Another option is the Chase Sapphire Reserve with a new cardmember offer of 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Offering exceptional travel rewards and benefits, this card gives you 3x points on travel and dining while charging a $550 annual fee. Chase cards has more information about this and other cards on their website.
The American Express Delta Skymiles card comes in three choices with differing sign-up bonuses and different requirements to earn those sign-up bonuses. For example, the Delta Skymiles Gold American Express card offers 35,000 bonus miles after spending $1000 in purchases on your new Card within the first three months. It also offers no annual fee.
The Delta SkyTravel Platinum American Express card offers you 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion qualification miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first three months. Plus you can earn $1,000 statement credit for purchase on Delta within your first three months. It comes with a $250 annual fee.
Delta Skymiles Reserve American Express card offers 40,000 bonus travel miles with 10,000 Medallion qualification miles after purchases of $3,000 within the first three months of your new card. It has an annual fee of $550.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card
The best sign-up bonus for a co-branded hotel card right now is the Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card earning: 3x Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels which participate in Marriott Bonvoy; 2x Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on other travel-related purchases (from taxi fare to airfare); 1x point for all other purchases. With the 30,000 sign-up bonus points and no annual fee, this is one of the best choices right now.
Not to be outdone, American Express is offering the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card with 125,000 intro points, 3x-1x rewards rates, and a $95 annual fee. With 5,500 hotels in 109 countries and territories, from Hilton to Waldorf-Astoria to Embassy Suites and Hampton Inn, it is easy to earn and redeem points. Extra points can be earned for purchases in the USA at restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets.
Automatic gold status at Hilton Hotels rewards you with a complimentary stay every 5th night, continental breakfast, and a whole slew of additional benefits.
The bonus points and other offers change frequently. In this article we have used American Express as an example of the travel card offers available from which you can choose.
Chase Bank also has enticing offers for your travel needs. Check out their many options. Capital One has the Venture card for travel miles and lucrative bonus points, and CitiBank has the Double Cash card offering unlimited bonus points and American Airlines miles for travel. With so many choices you must do your research to choose the right card(s) for your travel needs.
Thankfully, the internet makes that easy. Credit card providers’ websites such as those listed above, as well as 3rd party sites (such as this one), are portals to the latest deals to churn. Your luxury vacation may not be that far away!
Credit card churning is just one travel hack. While there are many, no other hack offers more savings and benefits. Savings and benefits multiply by churning credit cards. The more cards, the more rewards you can earn surpassing the one card, one reward. There are many different ways to utilize this loophole earning travel points, gift cards, or cash. All these reward points earn you travel savings and bring you closer to that well-earned luxury vacation you are planning.
Read the Fine Print
Welcome bonuses vary widely and are crucial criteria on which to decide what card is right for you. The popularity of credit card churning has forced some companies to add restrictive policies when it comes to eligibility for welcome bonuses. The card issuer has made its terms even stronger in discouraging people from using the system to their advantage.
Most American Express card bonuses now include language stating a person’s eligibility for a bonus is “once in a lifetime.” American Express has added the following strong language to the welcome bonus terms for the Gold Delta Skymiles Credit Card:
“If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome bonus offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome bonus offer (s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit the welcome bonus too, we may freeze the welcome bonus credited to, or we may take away the welcome bonus from your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us.”
American Express is sending a strong warning to future cardholders by telling them it has the right to not honor a welcome bonus and to cancel other accounts you may have with them if you do anything that could be interpreted as manipulating, abusing, or taking advantage of the system. For example, if you cancel your account within 12 months of opening it, or if you cancel or return purchases to meet the minimum spend, or if you apply for a bonus not intended for you, American Express says they reserve the right to terminate your account or not give you the points.
While this language is on the Delta Gold card only right now, there is the possibility of this making its way onto the terms of agreement for other cards and card providers as well. If you are not applying with the intention of churning, there should be nothing to worry about.
However, there is one term to be aware of. American Express states that if you “cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it,” it could terminate the account or refuse to honor your points. This could be tricky, as some cards waive their annual fee for the first year and some average cardholders seek to cancel or downgrade services before the fee is charged, so be careful when selecting your travel card.
Since this new terminology is only included on one co-branded card at this time, This should not persuade you to not apply for a travel card, or even for an American Express card. However, the beefing up of its language on the terms and conditions signal that American Express is taking this issue of credit card churning seriously and fully intend to penalize abuse of its system. Look for this new verbiage to be included on all card providers’ future terms and conditions.
Now is the right time to start your research and plan your holiday. If you are looking for the best hotel credit card, we recommend the Marriott Bonvoy Bold for the bonus points and no annual fee. While the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card offers an enormous sign-up bonus and Gold status at the Hilton Hotel and their many affiliates.
Choose the best credit cards for making the most of your travel budget. Plan enrollment, spending, and points/miles to maximize your vacation pleasure. Having the best hotel credit card can make your trip a suite success.
If you are a total beginner to the concept of credit card churning be sure to check out our guide, What is Credit Card Churning?, for the tips and tricks to get you started.