Luxury on a budget

Want the finer things in life but not the hefty price tag? These 3 cards have travel credits and $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit to offset the annual fee, along with airport lounge access so you can jet set in style.  

Adventure is just a phone call away with concierge service. Hamilton tickets? Done. Last minute reservation to a Michelin star restaurant? You got it.

Choose the card that fits your lifestyle. Want to save $100 on 2 domestic airline tickets and stay at a baller hotel? Check out the Ritz-Carlton card.    

Have a few international trips planned and want the best points redemption value? Choose between the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Platinum. 

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The Ritz-Carlton Rewards

The basics:

  • $450 annual fee
  • Sign up bonus: 2 complimentary nights at a Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel, after $4,000 in spend within the first 3 months
  • $300 annual travel credit per calendar year to use for incidental fees like baggage fees, seat upgrades, and airport lounges
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit
  • Earn 5 points per $1 at Ritz-Carlton and SPG hotels
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on airlines, car rentals, and restaurants

What we like:

  • Save $100 on 2 airline tickets booked via Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit Portal using the Ritz-Carlton card
  • Priority Pass Select membership (airport lounge access), with unlimited guests
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Automatic gold status at Marriott hotels the first year
  • Free upgrades to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level 3 times per year on paid stay of up to 7 nights
  • Primary collision damage waiver when you rent a car
  • No foreign transaction fees
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Chase Sapphire Reserve

The basics:

  • $450 annual fee
  • Sign up bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points ($750 in travel), after $4,000 in spend within the first 3 months
  • $300 annual travel credit per calendar year — includes transit, ride share, hotels, and airline tickets
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit
  • Earn 3% on travel and dining

What we like:

  • Flexible travel credit
  • Priority Pass Select membership (airport lounge access), with unlimited guests
  • Redeem points for 1.5x in travel through Ultimate Rewards
  • Transfer points to travel partners for even more redemption value
  • Primary collision damage waiver when you rent a car
  • No foreign transaction fees
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American Express Platinum

The basics (effective March 30, 2017): 

  • $550 annual fee
  • Sign up bonus: 40,000 Membership Rewards points, after $3,000 in spend within the first 3 months
  • $200 annual airline fee credit per calendar year to use for incidental fees like baggage fees, seat upgrades, and meals.
  • $200 Uber credit, distributed $15/month and $35 in December
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit
  • Earn 5x points points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel

What we like:

  • Amex Concierge — score hard to get restaurant reservations and concert tickets
  • Centurion Lounge access, with up to 2 guests
  • Priority Pass Select membership (airport lounge access), with up to 2 guests
  • Automatic Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Status
  • Automatic Hilton HHonors Gold Status
  • Transfer points to airline partners
  • No foreign transaction fees
 

 

Rack up the miles

If you fly with one airline often, it makes sense to build loyalty and status by getting an airline credit card. These cards give you one free checked bag and priority boarding. This may come in handy when airlines roll out the super economy class and charge for a carry-on item. 

One drawback is these cards don't give you access to airport lounges. If you value lounge access, it may be worth considering the American Express Platinum card instead — earn 5x on flights AND get access to airport lounges, plus more!

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Chase United MileagePlus Explorer

The basics: 

  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year
  • Sign up bonus: 50,000 bonus miles, after $3,000 in spend within the first 3 months
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else

What we like:

  • Free first checked bag when you fly United
  • Priority boarding with United
  • No foreign transaction fees 

What we hate:

  • Only 2 one time use airport lounge passes
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Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select

The basics:

  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year
  • Sign up bonus: 50,000 bonus miles, after $3,000 in spend within the first 3 months
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on American Airlines purchases

What we like:

  • Free first checked bag when you fly American Airlines
  • Preferred boarding with American Airlines on domestic flights
  • 25% off American Airlines in-flight food and beverage when you use the card
  • Reduced mileage awards
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed miles back, up to 10,000 miles per calendar year
  • No foreign transaction fees

What we hate:

  • No airport lounge access
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Chase British Airways

The basics:

  • $95 annual fee
  • Sign up bonus: 50,000 bonus Avios, after $3,000 in spend within the first 3 months
  • Earn 3 Avios per $1 spent on British Airways purchases
  • Earn a companion pass (good for 2 years) after $30,000 in British Airways purchases per calendar year

What we like: 

  • No foreign transaction fees

What we hate:

  • No airport lounge access