holiday spend

Best Cards to Turn Your Holiday Spend Into Free Travel (2022)

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Somehow, it’s already November! The leaves have turned and fallen off the trees, the temperatures have started to drop below freezing, and there’s not much left of the Halloween candy. Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and Christmas is around the corner. 

This time of year typically comes with increased expenditures. Nobody really likes spending more money, but if you’re in the miles and points world, you know that increased spending means more opportunities to open cards to meet credit card welcome bonuses.

Table of Contents

    Before you start

    If you are new to miles and points, this is a great time of year to start. There are some really great welcome bonuses right now and minimum spends may be easier to meet with holiday and end of year spending. However, if you don’t have any travel credit cards yet, we recommend you start with our Travel Hacking 101 series and, when you’re ready, pick one of our favorite two starter cards

    If you’ve already opened a card – or have a stack of cards – remember that the ground rules of travel hacking still apply during the holidays. Make the most of your holiday and end of year spending by earning free travel, but DO NOT spend money you don’t have! Don’t go into debt to fund travel or Christmas gifts or other discretionary expenses.

    Favorite cards this season

    There are some great welcome bonuses right now, so let’s turn some of your holiday spending into free travel! These are our favorite cards right now. Some of them we love for their year round perks, and some of them we just love for their high welcome bonuses.

    We have included some great business card offers here. Don’t ignore them just because you don’t have an LLC – even if you have a small side hustle, you probably qualify. For more information on opening business cards, check out How to Open a Business Credit Card.

    Capital One Venture X

    We love this card all year round. You can read our full review of the Venture X here. In short, the $395 annual fee includes great benefits including:

    • a $300 travel credit each year,
    • lounge access for your whole family,
    • a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry statement credit,
    • cell phone protection,
    • primary rental car insurance,
    • extended warranty protection,
    • trip cancellation and interruption insurances, and
    • trip delay reimbursement
    Capital One Venture X
    Capital One® Venture X : Earn 75,000 bonus miles
    • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
    • $395 annual fee
    • $300 annual travel credit when booking through Capital One’s portal
    • 10,000 points every year on account anniversary (worth at least $100)
    • Statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
    • Easy airport lounge access for your whole family
    • Miles can be redeemed to erase any travel purchase. 75,000 miles = $750
    • Can be transferred to a variety of partners like Jet Blue, Wyndham, Avianca, Turkish Airways and more.
    • Get our downloadable checklist here so you can max your benefits

    The Capital One Venture X’s current offer will get you 75,000 miles when you spend $4,000 in 3 months. So what can 75,000 miles get you?

    Hawaii

    Chase Sapphire Reserve

    The Chase Sapphire Reserve is another premium card with a premium annual fee ($550). Like the Capital One Venture X card, the Sapphire Reserve also comes with some benefits that make it worth considering. You can read our guide to the Sapphire Reserve here.

    We love that the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points and can be redeemed through the Chase travel portal at 1.5x. What we really love about the Reserve card right NOW though is the welcome bonus. With a current bonus of 80,000 points, this is the highest offer we’ve seen since 2017 and, right now, it has a higher offer than the Chase Sapphire Preferred (one of our favorite starter cards).

    Note that if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred right now or have received a bonus from either Sapphire card in the past 48 months, you will not be eligible for this offer.

    A lot of the features we love about the Sapphire Reserve are the same things we love about the Capital One Venture X, including:

    • a $300 travel credit each year,
    • lounge access,
    • a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry statement credit,
    • primary rental car insurance,
    • extended warranty protection,
    • trip cancellation and interruption insurances,
    • trip delay reimbursement,
    • Instacart+ membership and monthly Instacart credits, and
    • DoorDash DashPash membership and monthly DoorDash credits.
    Chase Sapphire Reserve (this referral link is showing 80k as of 12/4) Not my referral, just the best offer!)
    • $550 annual fee
    • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 
    • $300 travel reimbursement. This is automatic credit for any hotel, airfare, parking, car rental, etc.
    • Fee reimbursement for Global Entry for 1 person (which is $100). This benefit is available once every 4 years.
    • Airport lounge access for primary card user and 2 guests traveling with them through Priority Pass
    • Premium Trip insurance: If your flight is delayed 6 hrs or more for any reason they will reimburse you up to $500 for hotels, food, etc. — as long as you pay for at least a portion of your fare with the card (like taxes).

    The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s current offer will get you 80,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. So what can 80,000 points get you?

    Bali

    Chase Ink Business Cash and Ink Business Unlimited

    The Chase Ink Business Cash and Business Unlimited both have their highest welcome bonuses ever right now. Earn $900 bonus cash back (which can be converted to 90,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you have one of the Chase Sapphire cards or the Chase Ink Business Preferred) after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. These cards typically offer 75,000 points after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months.

    We love these business cards because – not only do they earn Ultimate Rewards – they have no annual fee and they don’t count towards your Chase 5/24 score. Remember though, as a Chase card, you’ll only be eligible for one of these cards if you have not opened five or more personal cards in the past 24 months.

    Chase Ink Business Cash® – Learn how to apply – BEST EVER 90k
    • $0 annual fee
    • Earn $900 (90,000 points) after you spend $6,000 in 3 months
    • If you have a Sapphire card, you can transfer the Ink points to the Sapphire card to get all the airline and hotel transfer benefits!
    • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services eacInh account anniversary year.
    Chase Ink Business Unlimited® – Learn how to apply – BEST EVER 90k
    • $0 annual fee
    • Earn $900 after (90,000 points) after you spend $6,000 in 3 months
    • If you have a Sapphire card, you can transfer the Ink points to the Sapphire card to get all the airline and hotel transfer benefits!
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% Cash Back rewards on every purchase

    If you don’t have a fee-paying card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Business Preferred), you will not be able to transfer your bonus points to any of Chase’s 11 airline partners or 3 hotel partners. However, you’ll still be able to use your Ultimate Rewards for:

    • $900 cash back
    • $900 of travel through the Chase travel portal

    If you do have a Sapphire or Ink Business Preferred card, you’ll be able to transfer your points to get the best value out of this bonus.

    What can your 90,000 points get you when transferred?

    Citi Premier Card

    The Citi Premier Card typically has a welcome bonus of 60,000 points. The current welcome bonus of 80,000 miles after spending $4,000 in 3 months is the highest offer we’ve seen. Unlike the Venture X and Sapphire Reserve, the Citi Premier card has an annual fee of only $95.

    The Citi Premier has great earning rates of 3x points for each dollar spent at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and on air travel and hotels. Citi cards also offer the best extended warranty available at an additional 2 years of warranty on items that you purchase with the card. You can read our guide to the Citi Premier card here.

    Citi Premier Offer
    Citi Premier®: Limited time 80,000 point offer

    The Citi Premier card offers some good redemption options, with the sweet spot being Choice Hotels. Citi ThankYou points transfer to Choice at a rate of 1:2 (so 1,000 ThankYou points can transfer to 2,000 Choice Privileges points).

    Put your holiday spend on this card and you can use your 80,000 points for:

    Venice

    Southwest Rapid Rewards Card

    Now is the perfect time to be opening Southwest Rapid Rewards cards in order to earn a Companion Pass valid for 2023-2024! We aren’t recommending any one card since the cards you open will really depend on your strategy.

    All the personal Rapid Rewards cards currently have welcome bonuses of 75,000 points! Pair any personal card with a couple referrals or a Southwest business card – and closely follow the timing outlined in Katie’s Companion Pass Trick post – in order to get the points needed to earn a Companion Pass in early 2023. This will allow you to choose a companion to fly with you for only the cost of taxes through 2024!

    Fly anywhere with your loved one for up to 2 years? How’s that for a great Christmas present!?!

    Companion Pass

    Sign up below to get the Companion Pass Guide with our recommended timelines and different card combinations.

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    AAdvantage Aviator World Elite Business Mastercard

    The AAdvantage Aviator World Elite Business Mastercard is currently at its high offer of 80,000 miles. This card has a lower spend requirement to reach the bonus ($2,000 in 90 days) and a statement credit that will cover the annual fee the first year.

    American Airlines

    If you regularly fly American Airlines, this card will offer value in getting you preferred boarding and a free checked bag on domestic itineraries.

    If you don’t regularly fly American Airlines, this card will get you 80,000 miles to pad your AAdvantage account for the next time you need to fly American. Since these points will transfer directly to your AAdvantage account, your points will remain in your account even if you close your card.

    Make sure to provide your mileage account number whenever you apply for an airline card so that your credit card and mileage account are linked from the start. If you don’t have an AAdvantage account, sign up (it’s free) here before you apply for your card.

    AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard® – 80,000 miles offer (non-affiliate link)
    • $95 annual fee
    • 80,000 bonus miles and a $95 statement credit after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
    • First checked bag free for you and 4 companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines.
    • Preferred boarding

    While most U.S. airlines have switched over to dynamic pricing for award tickets (meaning the number of points fluctuates with demand), American Airlines still has an award chart. See the chart below to find out how you can turn your holiday spend into free travel with this card!

    AAdvantage redemptions
    American Airlines award chart

    JetBlue Business Card

    If you fly jetBlue and qualify for a business card, this is a good card to get for a year. Since it’s a business card, it won’t count against your 5/24. After you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days, you will get a statement credit to cover your first year’s annual fee, along with 80,000 miles.

    JetBlue Business Card – 80,000 bonus points (non affiliate link)
    • $99 annual fee
    • 80,000 bonus miles and a $99 statement credit after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
    • First checked bag free.

    Unlike American Airlines, jetBlue does not have an award chart. This means that how many points a flight will cost will fluctuate based on demand.

    JetBlue TrueBlue points are typically worth 1.1-1.5 cents each, so you should be able to get about $800-$1,200 in value from this sign up bonus! Your points don’t expire and, if you are short on points, jetBlue allows you to pay for any JetBlue operated flight with a combination of dollars and TrueBlue points.

    Be sure to enter your TrueBlue number in when you open this card, and if you aren’t already a TrueBlue member (it’s free), sign up before you apply.

    Hilton Honors American Express Business

    Turn your holiday spend into free hotel nights! As a business card, this won’t count towards your 5/24, and the low annual fee will get you 10 Priority Pass visits per year. At $5,000 in the first 3 months, the spend on this card is a higher than our other favorites this holiday season, but may be more achievable if you have a lot of holiday and end of year expenditures!

    If you spend $10,000 on this card in the first 6 months, you’ll earn a free night award.

    Hilton Honors Amex Business Card
    The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card – learn more
    • $95 annual fee (Terms Apply | Rates and Fees)
    • Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors Business Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
    • Complimentary Gold status (enrollment required)
    • 10 Priority Pass visits per year
    • Earn 12X at hotels & resorts in the Hilton portfolio. 
    • Earn 6X on U.S. gas stations, on U.S. purchases for shipping, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and at U.S. restaurants. 
    • Earn 3X on all other eligible purchases.

    If you are planning a trip in 2023 and would appreciate staying in a Hilton, this card may be a good option. This card will also get you complimentary Hilton Gold status, which will get you space available room upgrades and, depending on the hotel, may get you daily food and beverage credits (within the U.S.) or complimentary continental breakfast (non-U.S. hotels).

    If you will be flying, just the 10 Priority Pass airport lounge visits make it worth the annual fee!

    If you can’t meet the minimum spend or don’t qualify as a business (and remember, you don’t need an actual business to qualify for a business card), Hilton also has some personal cards you may want to consider.

    Hilton Honors points are typically valued at about 0.5 cents per points, so this sign up bonus will get you about $650 in value.

    Hilton

    Editorial Disclosure – The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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