I should put a couple of big asterisks after the title: Best Credit Cards for Single Travelers***** These are actually just the credit cards that are currently in my wallet. And they work for me, some better than others. Please take these with a grain of salt, I am not a financial expert. I do not get paid if you get one of these — no referral links here. You’ll have to just google them if you want to sign up. And of course, if you don’t have good financial history or you don’t trust yourself with a credit card, then don’t get these.
With that said, here is what is currently in my wallet and why I find them useful.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard
Update: Since writing this post, Barclay has dramatically changed their Arrival Plus benefits, all for the worse. I canceled my card and no longer suggest signing up for this card.
Why I got it: This was my first credit card I added after getting serious about the points game simply because it has the best cash sign up bonus. After spending $3,000 in the first 90 days you get $400 worth of Arrival Miles that can be applied to ANY travel expense you have charged to the card in the past 120 days. On top of that, when you redeem your Miles, you get 10% back, valuing the sign up bonus at $440 as good as cash. Plus the 6,000 points you earn for your $3,000 purchases to meet your spending requirement and you have a sign up bonus of $500+ to be used on any travel.
Why I keep it: It is basically a cash back card that gives you 2.2 cents for every dollar you spend no matter how you do the math. I don’t think there is another credit card out there with this high of an earn.
Why there are better options: The annual fee doesn’t come with any anniversary reward. Probably a good candidate for churning; I may cancel before my first year anniversary.
Chase Hyatt Visa
Why I got it: The two free nights after $1,000 spend in first 90 days is great; however what really pushed me over the edge and made me sign up was the 20% point rebate offer when using points for the first half of 2015. Plus I am a big fan of Hyatt so this is a no brainer. It is especially helpful since traveling alone can be costly especially when it comes to hotel rooms (think about it; as a single traveler I pay twice what a couple pays for a hotel room).
Why I keep it: The annual free night in a Category 1-4 property is worth the $75 annual fee in my book. And I like accumulating and spending Hyatt points.
Why there are better options: There isn’t a huge downside to this card; although the benefit of Hyatt Platinum status is basically worthless. It used to get you free wifi but now every guest gets that perk.
Citi Prestige MasterCard
Why I got it: I wanted to get a travel credit card that gave me lounge access and paid the $100 Global Entry fee. I originally was looking at getting a Amex Platinum card that has a similar annual fee and gives you access to the Centurion Lounges (including a brand new one at my home airport of SEA that is about to open). However, Prestige currently is offering 50,000 point sign up bonus. Amex is only offering 40,000 at this moment. I want to wait to get the Amex when the bonus is higher as you can only receive the Amex bonus once per card. The Points Guy has a good article on the differences between these two cards.
Why I keep it: There is no denying, this is an expensive card. However, each calendar year you get $250 statement credit for air travel with any airline. Note: Sign up mid calendar year and you can snag the $250 twice in your first year of having this card. I will use that $250 without question, so that brings my cost to $200 a year. Not bad considering many airline lounge programs charge $400+ per year.
Why there are better options: To be honest, I will likely switch over to the Amex Platinum at some point in the future when they have a better sign up offer. But the Prestige is a great deal for the first year and good deal after that, so I will keep it until I sign up for Amex Platinum.
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa
Why I got it: This is a card I have had on and off for the past 10 years. I fly Alaska a ton; so the 25,000 sign up bonus is a no brainer. The companion fare is nice too. Also, if I were to purchase an Alaska ticket without this Visa I would not only feel like I was cheating on it but I also would mourn not earning 3x the miles per dollar spent.
Why I keep it: I don’t keep it more than a year.
Why there are better options: The annual fee on this card is $75 and it does not make sense to keep it past a year. The good thing is that you can have multiple Alaska Airlines Visa cards at a time, so really it doesn’t make sense to keep one for more than a year. Apply for a new one, get the 25,000 bonus miles and companion fare, then cancel before your year is up. Also, I know not everyone travels on Alaska as much as I do.
Starwood Preferred Guest Amex
Why I got it: This was completely for the sign up bonus. The annual fee is waived the first year and after you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months you get 20,000 Starpoints that I can transfer to Alaska Airlines or other airlines.
Why I keep it: This is my newest card and I don’t think I will keep it. I can’t justify the $65 a year as I rarely stay at Starwood properties. Starpoints are versatile but I think my spend will be better, well, spent, on another credit card.
Why there are better options: As a hotel credit card, I think the Hyatt Visa is, hands down, a better card.
Bonus Card: Costco Amex
I also have a Costco Amex card; but I pretty much only use it at Costco as it is the only credit card they take. This is changing in the next year so it will be interesting to see what Amex comes up with to keep the thousands (millions?) of customers that have this card. It may end up being a no annual fee basic Amex; in that case it will go in my sock drawer.
I don’t know if these are THE best credit cards for single travelers, but they are a list of some of the best, and ones I have used, that seem to fit my lifestyle.
I am not a financial or credit expert. Please do not base your important financial decisions on my observations and experiences.