2018 TRAVEL REWARDS Credit Card Analysis

Travel rewards credit cards are a great way to earn rewards that can help pay for your next vacation. But how much are those points, miles or other rewards currency really worth? We put the leading travel rewards cards to a real-world test by booking actual flights and hotel rooms with each card's currency. Our results show how much real money you can expect to earn for every $100 you spend with each card. For more on how we did it and the methodology behind ranking the cards, see the explanation below the chart.

Our Results Summary

A summary of the travel rewards card values for each category appear in the charts below. Click on the "+" button to the left of the credit card name to see the detailed information for each credit card. To see a specific category, click on one of the chart headings (Combined, Flights, Hotels and Intro Bonus Value) below. Note that we use the term "points" to describe the rewards each card earns, even though program members can earn either miles or points, depending on the card.

Best Flight & Hotel Rewards

Click Tabs To Sort By Best: Combined Click to sort by the average of each card's Flight and Hotel Rewards value per $100 spent Flights Click to sort by each card's Flight Reward value per $100 spent Hotels Click to sort by each card's Hotel Reward value per $100 spent Intro Bonus Value Click to sort by the dollar value of each card's introductory bonus
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card features a terrific average travel value of $2.40 per $100 spent on flights and hotels. Miles are easy to redeem, and cardholders can book their travel however they'd like. Plus, unlike many of the the cards offered by other issuers in this analysis, this card is available to those with good (rather than excellent) credit.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card users will earn a very generous 10 points per dollar spent at Hotels.com/venture, and 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. Redeeming your points is simple, as users can book their travel however they want ‒ from any travel site, agent or airline ‒ and then redeem their earned points for a statement credit. Cardholders can also earn 50,000 bonus miles when they spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of card membership, equivalent to an amazing $500 in travel. There is no annual fee the first year, but from the second year on it is $95.

$2.40** $2.40** $2.40** $500
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

With a strong average travel value, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is a top travel card. It offers a high average flight and hotel value of $2.10 per $100 spent — a $2.10 value which factors in the 5% redemption bonus mentioned in the next paragraph. This many-faceted card combines high value with very flexible miles usage, making it one of our top travel rewards card choices.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® earns 2 points per dollar spent on every purchase. To use rewards, cardholders just book their travel and then redeem points for a statement credit. Rewards can also be redeemed for gift cards or merchandise. As an added bonus, when cardholder redeem their points, they will earn an added 5% in points to use toward their next redemption. This means if you spend 10,000 in points on travel, you'll get a 500 point bonus deposited to your rewards bank — a huge benefit we have not seen with many other travel rewards cards. We included this 5% bonus into the overall point value of $2.10. In addition, for a limited time, cardholders earn a 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days of card membership, equal to $700 (or $735 once you redeem it and receive the 5% bonus) that users can spend on travel or even as a statement credit. There is an annual fee of $89, but the fee is waived for the first year.

$2.10* $2.10* $2.10* $735
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express won first place for value, providing more bang for the buck than the other cards we looked at. Featuring a spectacular average travel value of of $3.39 per $100 spent, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser) is a strong pick. It's particularly great for those interested in staying at Starwood and Marriott hotels, as it offers a substantial $3.95 hotel point value. The value for flight redemption was also terrific at $2.82 per $100 spent.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express users earn a hefty 6 points per $1 spent at Starwood and Marriott hotels and 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. On top of the ongoing earnings, users also will earn a 75,000 point bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. The card's annual fee of $95 is waived the first year.

$3.39 $2.82 $3.95 $1,345
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

With an average travel value of $2.03 per $100 spent on flights and hotels, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a strong travel card pick. Offering a high $2.38 hotel value and a generous $1.67 flight value for every $100 spent, the average $2.03 combined value made this one of our top-ranked travel cards. It also features a phenominal introductory bonus of 50,000 points which, based on our analysis, is equal to a whopping $993 (note that this is not a cash back value, instead it is based on transfering the points to Hyatt Gold Passport and using that program's point value). Other bonus redemption options are for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards where it's worth $625, or for cash where it's worth $500. When you use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to redeem your points, the flight and hotel value of $1.05 isn't that great, but when you use the power of Sapphire Preferred's 1:1 point transfer with participating airline and hotel programs, the value increases considerably. The free 1:1 point transfer means you can transfer over your Sapphire points for an equal number of points in another airline/hotel program. For the purpose of this study, we transferred earned points to Southwest Rapid Rewards and Hyatt Gold Passport, thereby enjoying their high point values. We also based the intro bonus value on these numbers.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card users earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. They can also earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. Like most other non-branded travel cards in this survey, users can redeem their points for travel, gift cards or statement credits. As mentioned previously, one thing this card offers that the other non-airline and non-hotel cards don't is the ability for cardholders to transfer their points at a 1:1 value to Chase airline and hotel partners. Additionally, if cardholders book their trips through the online reward portal, their points are worth 25% more. There is an annual fee of $95, but it's waived the first year.

$2.03^ $1.67^ $2.38^ $993^
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card provides a very strong travel value of $1.69 per $100 spent for both flights and hotels. Plus, this card has no annual fee and is available to those with merely good credit, rather than the excellent credit required by many card issuers in this analysis.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card users will earn 10 points per dollar spent at Hotels.com/venture, and 1.25 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. In addition, users can earn a bonus of 20,000 points once they spend $1,000 in the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel. Just like it's sister card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, users can book their travel however they want — from any travel site, agent or airline. Once they've earned points, they can be redeemed for travel, cash, gift cards, brand-name merchandise and more. An added perk is that this card has no annual fee.

$1.69** $1.69** $1.69** $200
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card features a travel value of $1.53 on both flights and hotels for every $100 spent, a good value for a card that also offers up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card users will earn an unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Cardholders who are a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client will get even more from this card, as they will receive an extra 25%-75% point bonus on all purchases. Additionally, cardholders will earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. The points you earn have a lot of flexibility — you can choose to redeem them for a statement credit, deposit them into eligible Bank of America or Merrill Lynch accounts like checking or savings, purchase for gift cards, or use at the Bank of America Travel Center. This card has a $95 annual fee, but card perks can help compensate for the cost.

$1.53 $1.53 $1.53 $500
Discover it® Miles

The Discover it® Miles card features a travel value of $1.50 for both flights and hotels for every $100 spent. Plus it has no annual fee, unlike most of the other cards included in this analysis. Additionally, Discover it® Miles is available to those with average to excellent credit (usually considered to be a score of 670 or higher), while many of the other cards in this analysis require excellent credit. The cherry on top is that the bonus potential in the first year is remarkable, as noted in the following paragraph.

Discover it® Miles users earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases. One of the card's bigger perks is a one-time bonus, where at the end of the first year the card will match all the miles you've earned. So if you earned 30,000 points in your first year of card membership, it will be matched and you'll receive another 30,000 points (worth $300!), for a total of 60,000 points. Redeeming points is easy and flexible, users just use their card to pay for their travel and then redeem their points as a statement credit towards the travel purchases they've charged on the card. Or they can choose to redeem their points as a direct deposit to their bank account. This type of flexibility means you can book your travel however you would like — online, over the phone or via a travel agent — and on any airline or at any hotel you prefer.

$1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $300^^^
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card offers a $1.50 travel value on both flights and hotels for every $100 spent, very decent for a card with no annual fee.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card users earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all purchases. Cardholders who have another qualifying Bank of America account will especially appreciate this card, as they will earn an extra 10% point bonus on all purchases. In addition, all cardholders will earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. Redeeming points is easy — users need only to use their card to pay for their travel, then redeem their points as a statement credit towards their travel purchases. They can book their travel anyhow and anywhere they like; whether online, over the phone or with a travel agent.

$1.50 $1.50 $1.50 $250
The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card offers a terrific hotel travel value of $2.38 per $100 spent, with a much lesser flight value of 0.57, a smart choice for those who want to stay at a Hyatt but aren't as interested in earning free flights. The average value of both flight and hotel was $1.48, which places them at mid-pack in our ratings. The card also did well in introductory bonus value, with a bonus worth $1192. This value is based on the point value determined by our analysis. Users can't book flights directly, instead they need to exchange their points for miles with a partner airline and then wait up to 30 days to use the miles. To keep the playing field even, we obtained the flight value by exchanging points for American Airlines miles — another program featured in our analysis.

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card users earn 3 points for every $1 spent at Hyatt locations, 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, airline tickets and car rentals and 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Cardholders can also earn 60,000 bonus points - 40,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, and an additional 20,000 points after spending $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months. Users must exchange their earned points for miles with a partner airline in order to use their points for flights. The card has a $95 annual fee.

$1.48 $0.57 $2.38 $1,192
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ makes a good showing, featuring an average travel value of $2.03 per $100 spent on flights and hotels. Just like its sister card, Chase Sapphire Preferred, it has a remarkably high $2.38 hotel value and a very good $1.67 flight value for every $100 spent. The combination makes this a travel card to contend with. Additionally, it offers a huge introductory bonus of 50,000 points which is equal to a whopping $993 (note that this is not a cash back value, instead it is based on transfering the points to Hyatt Gold Passport and using that program's point value). You could also choose to redeem these points for for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards where it's worth $625, or for cash where it's worth $500. When you redeem your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, the card's standard value for flights and hotels of $1.10 isn't that great, but when you use the power of Sapphire Preferred's 1:1 point transfer with participating airline and hotel programs it really shines. The 1:1 point transfer allows you to convert your Sapphire points to an equal number of points in another airline/hotel program. For this analysis we transferred earned points from the highest value travel programs — Southwest Rapid Rewards and Hyatt Gold Passport — thereby enjoying their high point values. The intro bonus value was also calculated using these numbers.

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ users earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. As previously mentioned, they'll also earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. There are some pretty sweet perks too, like a $300 annual travel credit that can be used toward any type of travel, including flights and hotel stays, and a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔. Similar to other non-branded travel cards we review, users can redeem their points for travel, gift cards or statement credits. As a major bonus, if you book your trips through the Chase online reward portal, your points are worth a whopping 50% more - an enormous perk! Plus, you're able to transfer your points at a 1:1 value to Chase airline and hotel partners. There is an annual fee of $450, which may seem steep, but considering the $300 annual travel credit and all the perks and rewards this card offers, it might be worth it.

$2.03^ $1.67^ $2.38^ $993^
Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser) features a good hotel redemption value of $1.87 per $100 spent and a lower flight value of 0.67 for an overall average value of $1.27. Users aren't able to book flights with their points, instead earned points need to be exchanged for airline partner miles and there is a 4-week delay before you can use these miles. To ensure a fair comparison with the rest of the programs we researched, we based the flight point value on an airline already included in our analysis — American Airlines.

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card cardholders will earn 12 points per $1 spent at participating hotels and resorts within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, 6 points per $1 spent on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants and U.S. gas stations, and 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, users will earn 125,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. Cardholders also enjoy Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as they remain a card member. As mentioned above, users cannot directly book flights with their earned points, instead they must exchange their points for miles with a partner airline. The card has an annual fee of $95.

$1.27 $0.67 $1.87 $623
Hilton Honors American Express Card

With an average hotel redemption value of $1.69 and a much lower flight value of 0.61 for an overall average value of $1.15 per $100 spent, the Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser) is a decent choice for loyal Hilton customers. Users can't directly book flights with their points, in order to redeem them their earned points have to be exchanged for airline partner miles, and there is a wait time of 4 weeks before you can use the miles. To maintain a fair comparison of this card against the other programs we researched, we based the flight point value American Airlines — an airline already included in our analysis.

Hilton Honors™ Card from American Express cardholders will earn 7 points per $1 spent at participating hotels and resorts within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio, 5 points per $1 spent on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. restaurants and U.S. gas stations, and 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, users will earn 75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. Cardholders also enjoy Hilton Honors Silver status for as long as they remain a card member. The card does not have an annual fee.

$1.15 $0.61 $1.69 $374
United℠ Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card offers its users a decent $1.24 free flight payout per $100 spent. The value of redeeming points for free hotel stays was lower at $0.84, giving it an average overall value of $1.04 and ranking this card toward the bottom of our survey.

United Explorer Card members earn 2 points for every $1 spent when they purchase tickets from United, 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays, and 1 point for every $1 they spend on everything else. Extra card benefits include earning 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, priority boarding privileges, the ability to check your first bag for free on United flights and 2 annual complimentary passes to the United Club. The card's annual fee of $95 is a little on the high side, but it's waived the first year so it could be worth it.

$1.04 $1.24 $0.84 $471
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® (a NextAdvisor advertiser) offers a flight value of $1.25 for every $100 spent, a nice value if you enjoy flying American Airlines and earning free flights. The hotel value comes in much lower at $0.66 — dropping the average point value to $0.96. Users can also earn an intro bonus of 50,000 points, which according to our Travel Analysis is worth $595 in flights on American Airlines! This makes the card a good choice for those who aren't as interested in free hotel stays, but instead would like to earn a nice intro bonus and ongoing points for free flights on American Airlines.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® earns 2 points per $1 spent on American Airline flights, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Users will also earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, enjoy a free first checked bag on American Airline flights, get complimentary access to the Admirals Club lounge, and receive priority boarding privileges. The card's annual fee of $450 is steep, but if you fly American Airlines frequently and are interested in all the extra perks, this could be a strong choice.

$0.96 $1.25 $0.66 $595
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (a NextAdvisor advertiser) tallied up a $1.25 in flight value for every $100 spent and an overall average value of $0.96 — a decent deal for anyone who likes to fly American Airlines and get free flights. The hotel value was not so lofty at $0.66, so users might want to focus their reward points on free flights instead of free hotels.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® users earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants, at gas stations and on American Airline purchases, as well as 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Users can also earn a bonus of up to 50,000 miles: 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months and an additional 10,000 miles after spending a total of $6,000 on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening. Other perks include a free first checked bag on American Airline flights, priority boarding privileges and 25% savings on inflight food and beverages when paying with the card. The card's annual fee of $99 is waived for the first year.

$0.96 $1.25 $0.66 $595
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card (a NextAdvisor advertiser) features a flight value of $1.25 for every $100 spent, an average but not remarkable value if you enjoy flying American Airlines and earning free flights. The hotel value is much lower at $0.66 — dropping the average point value to $0.96. If you prefer a card will no annual fee that can earn you free American Airline flights, and aren't as interested in free hotel stays, this card could be a good choice for you.

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card earns an unlimited 2 points per $1 spent at grocery stores (including grocery delivery services) and on American Airline flights, as well as 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Users will also earn 10,000 bonus points and a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases in the first 3 months, and enjoy 25% all in-flight food and beverage purchases.

$0.96 $1.25 $0.66 $119
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card did very well in flight value, with a tremendous $1.83 per $100 spent. However, users cannot redeem their earned miles for hotel stays, as shown by the $0.00 hotel value in the chart, which makes this card best for loyal Alaska Airlines customers who'd like to use their miles for free Alaska and Alaska partner airline flights.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card will earn 3 points per $1 spent on all Alaska Airlines and Virgin America flights, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Cardholders will also enjoy 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. There is an annual fee of $75, but it could be worth it for those who frequently fly Alaska Airlines.

$0.92 $1.83 $0.00 $500
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

The IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card has a hotel value of $1.23 per $100 spent, a mid-range value for a hotel-branded card. The flight value is significantly lower at $0.75.

IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card users earn 10 miles per $1 spent at IHG hotels, 2 points per $1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, and 1 point per $1 on everything else. You'll also earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on the card in the first 3 months.The card does have an annual fee of $89.

$0.99 $0.75 $1.23 $634
JetBlue Card

The JetBlue Card charted a very respectable $1.74 value for flights. You can only use your miles for flights though, you can't redeem them for hotel stays (as shown by the $0.00 value indicated in the chart). If you're in the market for a card with no annual fee that earns free JetBlue flights, this card is for you, but if you want one that also earns free hotel nights, we suggest looking at one of the other cards in our survey.

The JetBlue Card earns 3 points per $1 spent on all JetBlue flights, 2 points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. You'll also earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months and enjoy a 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food on JetBlue-operated flights.

$0.87 $1.74 $0.00 $145
United℠ TravelBank Card

The UnitedSM TravelBank Card offers a flight value of $1.53 per $100 spent, however users are unable to redeem their rewards for hotel stays, as indicated by the $0 hotel value shown in the chart. This disadvantage means the average flight and hotel value is lesser, thus placing this card in the lower portion of the analysis. However, the flight value might make the card appealing to those who prefer to fly United and earn free United flights.

UnitedSM TravelBank Card users will earn 2% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on all United flights, and 1.5% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on everything else. Cardholders will also earn $150 in TravelBank cash after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, and receive a 25% statement credit for all food and drink purchased on United flights. TravelBank cash is only redeemable for United flights, it is not a traditional cash back reward. The card has no annual fee.

$0.77 $1.53 $0.00 $150
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser) has a flight value on the lower side at $1.19. It's also worth consideration that members can only use their points on flights, as there are no hotel options available.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express users earn 2 miles per $1 spent on Delta flights and 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else. It also includes the opportunity to earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in those same 3 months and you get the ability to check your first bag for free on Delta flights. The downside to this card is that members are unable to book free hotel stays. There is also an annual fee of $95 that is waived the first year.

$0.60 $1.19 $0.00 $341
Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

The Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser) has a flight value of a $1.19, which is rather low for an airline program, placing it near the bottom of our analysis. The downside to this card is that members are unable to book free hotel stays, as there are no hotel options available.

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express users earn 2 miles per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants and on Delta flights, and 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else. It also includes bonuses like earning 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 on the Card in the first 3 months, and a 20% statement credit for all Delta in-flight purchases like food and drink. There is no annual fee, which is a nice perk for a travel card.

$0.60 $1.19 $0.00 $114
Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card

The Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers its members an average value of $0.55 per $100 spent. Both its flight and hotel values are low, with a value of $0.59 for free hotel stays and one of $0.50 for flights.

With the Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card, users earn 6 points for every $1 spent at Marriot locations and 2 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Users also earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Cardholders will need to pay an annual fee of $95.

$0.55 $0.50 $0.59 $338

* This value assumes card holders will redeem their earned points for travel, thereby receiving an extra 5% point bonus.

** This value assumes that the card holder will redeem their earned points for travel.

*** This value assumes card holders will redeem their earned points, thereby receiving an extra 10% point bonus.

^ This value assumes the user transfers their points 1:1 to a participating travel program. For the purpose of this study we transferred points to Hyatt Gold Passport and Southwest Rapid Rewards because they offered the greatest value. We then used the 2018 Travel Rewards Analysis values for Hyatt Gold Passport and Southwest Rapid Rewards to calculate the Chase Sapphire Preferred point values.

^^This value assumes card holders will redeem their earned points, thereby receiving an extra 10% point bonus.

^^^This value is based on the average amount ($20,000) that Discover it Miles cardholders spend annually. The annual spend information was provided by Discover.

Hotel Analysis

First we looked at what it costs to book hotel stays with each program. We did this by comparing the standard prices of hotels in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washingon D.C. at different times of year with the number of points required to book a free stay. We used the same dates and locations for each program, and picked dates in the high summer season as well as less traveled fall season to account for seasonal fluctuation. When possible we also attempted to book stays in the same hotel for each card.

Flight Analysis

Next we employed the same real-world type of test to determine the point exchange value for free flights. We booked flights through each rewards program website, then compared the number of points required to book an economy flight with the actual dollar value of the flight. The dollar value of the flight was obtained by matching up the exact same flight with the cost on the actual airline site. We booked roundtrip flights from San Francisco to Washington D.C. and Los Angeles to New York in both the summer and fall, and used the same criteria for each program.


Reward Analysis

To calculate the actual reward card value, we employed a basic formula. First we took the dollar value of the reward and divided it by the number of points required to purchase that reward.

Point Value = Reward Price / Number of Points Required to Purchase

Then we assumed a spend of $100, with 5% ($5) spent on high-point rewards like hotel stays and flights. The remaining 95% ($95) was allocated to standard point earning spends.

Value per $100 Spent = (High Point Earn * $5 * Point Value) + (Standard Point Earn * $95 * Point Value)

For efficiency purposes, we use the term "points" to descibe the rewards earned, even though programs members can earn either miles or points. The final value per $100 spent is displayed in U.S. dollar currency ($x.xx). You can see the values in the results section to the left.

To calculate the Intro Bonus Value, we took the Point Value for each card and multiplied it by the number of introductory bonus points offered.

Intro Bonus Value = Point Value * Number of Intro Bonus Points Offered

Ratings Analysis

We created 4 different categories of rankings; one for both hotel and flights, one for flights only, one for hotels only, and one for the introductory bonus (if the card offered one). The methodologies differ between the categories.

The Best Hotel & Flight category took the average of both the flight and hotel values for a card. For example, if the hotel value was $2.00 and the flight value was $1.50, then the average came out to $1.75. This average was then used to rank the cards in order of value. If a card did not offer the ability to redeem rewards for both flights and hotels it was not included in this category — instead it is featured in either the Best Flight or Best Hotel category.

The Best Flight category only used the flight values for each card, not taking into account the hotel values. If a card did not offer the ability to redeem rewards for flights then it was not included in this category.

The Best Hotel category only used the hotel values, and not the flight values. If a card did not offer the ability to redeem rewards for hotel stays then it was not included in this category.

The Intro Bonus Value category used the introductory bonus point value for each card. If a card did not offer an intro bonus a value of $0.00 is shown.



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