Suggested Credit Cards

Credit card signup bonuses and reward points are the lifeblood of racking up enough miles to travel with a family!  We have utilized a pretty aggressive credit card strategy to allow us not only to travel a great deal but also to do so in comfort without tearing our hair out from stress with the kids.  The following cards we whole-heartedly recommend for a variety of reasons.  With many we can help you get some extra bonus points via referrals.  So please CONTACT US and we can get a referral for you right away.

We have monitored our credit scores during times of application and it has never dropped more than 7 points (we are both in the above 800 range).  But please do your own research when it comes to opening and closing credit cards. It does require fiscal responsibility so please tread carefully! We hold no credit card balance from month to month and always pay of our full credit card and strongly recommend you do the same!

Free Cards:
These cards are on the bottom of the totem pole as far as sign up bonuses go, but do allow you to rack up some flexible spending and points.  Theses card all have one thing in common: no yearly fee.  It may seem that all cards should have no yearly fee but many of the premium cards benifits greatly outweigh their yearly fees.

American Express Every Day Card
This is a great way to start or maintain your amex membership rewards points.  We love our membership rewards as they can transfer to a great number of airlines and hotels.  What this means to you is that you can find the award availablity for a flight you want and then transfer your membership rewards into that program to buy the award ticket.  If you always stick with branded credit cards that only earn points towards a specific airline you can find yourself limited when it comes to award redemption.
The Amex Every Day card currently has the following benefits:

  • 10k signup bonus after you spend $1k in the first 3 months
  • 2x at supermarkets (up to $6k per year then only 1x)
  • if you use your card 20 times in a month you get an extra 20% in points
  • does have a 2.7% foreign transaction fee

Branded Cards (Airline and Hotels)

IHG Rewards Club Card by Chase
This card is a no brainer- it does have a yearly fee of $49 but also comes with a free anniversary night stay in any IHG property worldwide (this includes Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, and Crowne Plaza) which by itself can easy outweigh the $49 yearly fee.  We use ours every year for a night at an Intercontinental (Tokyo, Sydney, and Johannesburg) which have always been AMAZING hotels and its always fun to stay in the fancier hotels.  You can get some great redemptions 10k-50k per night depending on the hotel.  IHG releases a quarterly “fast break” list of super discounted bonus point hotels.

  • 60k signup bonus after 1k in spend in the first 3 months(typically is between 80k-100k so I would not apply right now)
  • 5k bonus after you add authorized user and make a purchase
  • 5 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels, 2 points per $1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants (1 point per $ elsewhere).
  • Free night stay every year you keep the card (starts after your first year)
  • 10% rebate on club points spent
  • upgrade to IHG Platinum Elite status (can on occasion get you a free room upgrande)
  • no foreign transaction fee

Barclays Aviator for American Airlines
With the current signup bonus of 60k of AA miles with no minimum spend this one is well worth the upfront $95 fee.  60k AA miles can get you roundtrip to Europe for one person. Because this card has no minimum spend both my wife and I got it to net 120k miles which is almost enough to get the entire family one way to Europe, South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. You can downgrade this card to a free version after the first year.

  • 60k AA miles after first purchase and paid annual fee of $95
  • 25% off inflight food and beverage on AA flights
  • preferred boarding and 1st checked back fee for cardmember and up to 4 companions that are on the same reservation on domestic flights
  • 10% rebate on redeemed AA miles (capped at 10k miles per year)
  • $100 off flight coupon if you spend $30k in a year
  • Earn $3k EQD when you spend $25k in a year (if you are close on getting status on AA but dont have the required spend on flights this can be a huge help)
  • no foreign transaction fee

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select (both personal and business)
With a matched 60k sign up bonus as the Aviator this is a great way to top off your AA mile bank.  You can apply for this both as a personal and a business card. The business version is possible to receive the sign up bonus a few times.  It has similar benefits as the Aviator which do not stack (you don’t receive the benefits from both cards, just one).

  • 60k signup after $3k in spend in 3 months
  • First checked bag for cardholder and 4 additional people on reservation
  • earlier boarding group
  • 25% discount inflight food and beverage
  • 10% miles rebate
  • no fee for the 1st year $95 after
  • no foreign transaction fee

United MilagePlus Explorer by Chase
This is the United branded card with Chase.  Currently the signup bonus is not as high as I have seen it (we got it with a 70k sign up bonus) so I would hold off until that goes up.  It comes with the typical free first year $95 every year after.

  • 40k signup bonus after 2k in spend in 3 months
  • 5k bonus after you add authorized user and make a purchase in 3 month
  • 2x miles on United purchases and 1x on all other purchases
  • 10k yearly miles bonus when $25k of spend on your card
  • no foreign transaction fee

Alaska Air card by Bank of America
I have had this card in my wallet for quite a while! It has a unique perk of yearly getting a Companion Fare which is essentially a buy one get one free fare anywhere Alaska or Virgin America flies.  I finally downgraded to their free card this year as I found I could not use the Companion Fare but I wanted to keep this credit card open as I have a long history with the account.  It does come with 30k signup bonus which isn’t the biggest bonus out there but a single user can have multiple cards (I have had 3 at once) and it has a low minimum spend.  Plus there are some unique code share opportunities with Alaska Airlines for award redemption.

  • 30k sign up bonus after $1k in minimum spend
  • 3x miles on purchases with Alaska Air or Virgin America and 1x everywhere else
  • they have a great dining plan to earn up to 5x per $1
  • annual Companion Fare from$121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22) on Alaska and Virgin America flights booked on alaskaair.com. There are no blackout dates.
  • free 1st checked back for cardholder and up to 6 more on same reservation
  • annual fee $75
  • no foreign transaction fee

Premium Cards:

These cards are not by any means a requirement but we always like to keep at least one in our wallet as many of the travel benefits can outweigh the yearly fee.  These cards can truly make a huge difference in your travel comfort and has become our best travel tool in the airport not only for comfort but also to save money.  There are the travel benefits which offset the yearly fee, but for us they also save us a great deal of money.  We found that with a family of 5 eating in the airpot cost us between $40-$80 per meal.  If we had a longer layover which we often do during longer trips we were buying 2-3 meals per trip.  On one of our trips to Chile which had an 8 hour layover we spent $150 on food.  With our premium cards we can gain access to travel lounges which often have a decent to amazing spread of food and drink.  We no longer have to buy food during those longer trips.  A great example of this is our recent trip to Africa.  We spent 8 hours in DFW and spent the time in the Centurion Club which has an amazing buffet, then 6 hours in LHR which we spent in a a priority pass lounge, then 4 hours in Johannesburg of which we were in another priority pass lounge.  We had a total of 4 full meals during our layovers and spent $0, even better there is plenty of coffee, soda, water, cookies, and wine to keep the travels that much more enjoyable.

American Express Platinum
This is without a doubt our favorite card.  It comes with Centurion Lounge access which is our favorite brand of lounge.  The Centurion Lounge has real food in a buffet, showers, kids rooms, bar, and free massages!  The lounges can get a bit crowded but the kiddos hang out in the kids room (playing xbox 360) and we enjoy our time together.  They did recently change the rules of entry; cardholder plus 2 guests.  We as a family of 5 had to get a second authorized user for Linzie so she could get in with the other kid.  This actually worked out for the best as she can use the benefits when she is traveling without me.  This card also gets you a membership with priority pass which gets you into over 1000 additional lounges world wide.  This benefit is AMAZING in foreign destinations as they have an amazing number of lounges.  It gives you a nice place to relax and fuel up before your flight.  You do have to sign up within your Amex account so make sure you get that taken care of before your trip.  Like the Centurion Lounge you get the user plus 2 guests.  With a yearly fee of $550 it hurts when the yearly fee comes around, but this one stays in our wallet!  It also comes with $200 in free Uber rides and a $200 airline fee credit (you have a designated airline that any fees up to $200 per year will be credited on your bill).  Those two benefits alone offset the $550 annual fee by $400.  Amex membership points are transferable points to a ton of travel partners so you don’t get stuck building points in just one brand.
All these premium card come with primary rental insurance for rental cards which also can make problems with your rental cars a breeze.  Essentially the credit card provides the first insurance if you have any damage to your car, thus you can decline the overpriced insurance that rental companies try to tack on to your bill.  If your interested contact us and we can get you a referral for some extra membership points!

  • 60k signup bonus after $5k in spend in first 3 months
  • $200 in Uber rides annually (divided in monthly amounts)
  • 5x points on all flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel
  • 5x points on all hotels booked with Amex Travel
  • $200 airline fee credit- up to $200 in credit on baggage or fees with your designated airline.
  • no foreign transaction fee
  • Priority Pass Membership (with 2 guests per user)
  • Centurion Lounge access (with 2 guests per user)
  • Facebook Messenger App that allows currency conversion and fraud protection
  • car rental insurance
  • $550 annual fee
  • view all travel benefits

Chase Sapphire Reserve
When this card first came out it had a 100k signup bonus for Chase ultimate rewards points (which like Amex Membership Points has a ton of transfer partners).  This card has a higher annual travel credit of $300 which goes toward any travel expense automatically unlike the Amex Platinum which only goes towards fees on your designated airline.  This card gets you set with a Priority Pass membership which as of now has no limit to the number of guests you can take in with you so you can take the whole family in on just the one card.  The current bonus isn’t quite as high but this does come with a great number of travel benefits and has a lower annual fee of $450.  We have downgraded our card to the regular Sapphire card and will likely downgrade it to the free card this year as we concentrate our spending on our Amex cards.

  • 50k signup bonus after $4k of spend in 3 months
  • 3x points on travel and dining (this can be a HUGE amount of categories)
  • if you use your reward points on Chase travel portal you get 50% more value
  • car rental insurance and privileges
  • TSA Pre Check or Global Entry fee reimbursement
  • Priority Pass membership with unlimited guests
  • $450 annual fee
  • view all benefits

Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
This was our FIRST premium card, in fact this card is what started this whole travel nerd points game!  It came with a 100k signup bonus which was too good to pass up.  That deal has come and gone, but it still gives you a solid travel card especially if you fly American Airlines a lot.  What makes this card unique is that it comes with an Admirals Club membership.  The Admirals Club is the lounge for AA and can be found all over the world that AA flies.  What makes it even more unique is that you can add authorized users for FREE and each authorized user gets their own Admirals Club membership.  You can travel with immediate family into the lounge or 2 guests.  This card is still in our wallet as we travel on AA a lot and I have a lot of my family as authorized users so they can get into the Admirals Club when they travel.

  • 50k AA sign up bonus after spending $5k in the first 3 months
  • Admirals Club Membership for each card member (additional card members are free)
  • 10k EQM after you spend $40k per year.  These aren’t award miles but they are miles that go towards your status upgrade
  • 2x on purchases with AA
  • 1st checked bag for card holder and up to 8 guests on same reservation
  • primary car rental insurance and status priveledges
  • no foreign transaction fee
  • $450 annual fee
  • see all travel benefits

There are a great number more of travel cards out there, for us these are the one we can recommend.  Please check whats out there and make sure you don’t overextend yourself!


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