There’s a lot of buzz around “premium travel credit cards” which often carry an annual fee of $400 plus. While these cards come with plenty of perks, a larger signup bonus, you don’t need to have plenty of annual fees. Here’s how you can build an All Star Travel Wallet for under $200 in annual fees!
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Picking One or Two Cards with an Annual Fee
With a budget of only $200 to build an All- Star travel wallet, you’re most likely going to be able to only have 2 credit cards with an annual fee. This means no premium travel cards and no American Express cards. To maintain optimal flexibility, I would opt for the Chase Sapphire Preferred($95 annual fee). If you plan on staying with one hotel brand, you can also pick up a hotel co-branded card that also carries an annual fee less than $100. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offer’s you access to the full power of Chase Ultimate Rewards, allowing you to transfer your hard earned Chase points.
Creating your Bucket of Fee-Free Cards
With full access to Chase Ultimate Rewards via the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can pick up several fee-free cards from Chase. Some of the best options including the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Business Ink Unlimited, and the Chase Business Ink Cash.
The Following Chase Cards Earns:
- Chase Business Ink Cash: 5x at Office Supply Stores and Cable and Internet
- Chase Freedom/Business Ink Unlimited: 1.5x on everything, Freedom Unlimited earns 3x on Dining
- Chase Freedom/Freedom Flex: Rotating Categories that earn 5x up to $1500 in spend per quarter
Unique Transfer Partners:
Chase Ultimate Rewards is extremely powerful at it gives you the ability to trasnfer points to both World of Hyatt and IHG Hotells
Capital one is also a great place to have fee-free cards. While most card issuers have a premium card that grants the ability to transfer points to loyalty programs, Capital One has a fee-free version of their Venture Card. The Capital One Venture One has no annual fee, earns 1.25 points per dollar spent, and unlocked the ability to transfer points to partner programs. Coupled with the Capital One Venture One Card is the Capital One Savor Rewards Card. This card earns “Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores, plus 1% on all other purchases”, making it a very good card to pair with a travel rewards card.
With both the Savor Rewards and Venture One Cards, you would earn:
3x on Dining, Entertainment, Streaming Services, Grocery
1.25x on Everyday Spend
5x on Travel booked through the Capital One Travel Portal
This gets an honorable mention as both American Express offers solid earning rates with a pair of fee free cards in the Amex Blue Cash Everyday Card which earn 3x at supermarkets, gas stations and on online purchases up to $6,000 per year. You can this card with others such as the Amex Blue Business Plus which earns 2x up to $50,000 in spend per year. You would still have the power of transferring Amex points which can be helpful if you need to top up a Marriot or Hilton Hotels point balance or if you want to book with ANA(All Nippon Airways).
Picking a Hotel Credit Card
Now that you have a complete portfolio of travel credit cards, you need to chose one or two hotel credit cards. While you can transfer points, I typically find that most hotel points are worth less than 1 cent per point(Hyatt is the lone exception). Hotel credit cards also have solid signup bonuses and earnings rate. By picking one card with a fee, you could also earn a free night certificate. Here are some of the options:
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card ($95 Annual Fee)
Earns 12x at Hilton, 6x at U.S. Restaurants, Supermarkets, Gas Stations
Chase World of Hyatt Card(Calvin’s Pick)
4x at Hyatt, 2x on Transit, Airlines, Dining, Fitness/Gym, Category 1-4 Free Night Certificate
With the combination of credit cards above, you should have enough for a great trip without paying a ton of annual fees. With the cards listed above, you could earn a minimum of 2x on all spend with a ton of room for increased earning on everyday purchases at spots such as supermarkets, gas stations, and streaming services. Are you ready for some free travel? Let me know in the comments section where you hope to venture next on points.