Best mile credit cards of 2014

by on Thu January 2, 2014 • 9 Comments

Click on the links below to read reviews of the mile credit cards we have chosen as the best of 2014. We travel over 100,000 miles a year and have chosen these cards based on both mile earning power and the value of the underlying programs. These cards screen well following the basic principles we explain in our How to Choose a Mile Credit Card post and are backed by valuable programs. If you are a more advanced user you can also see what cards the top frequent flyer bloggers prefer.

We also recommend entering your personal spending habits into our Card Finder tool to see which cards rank high for you, as mix of dining/travel/gas other spend can make a big difference in a mile credit card’s value.

Best Overall Mile Credit Card Starwood American Express

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

United Explorer Card

Best Travel Rebate Card Capital One Venture

Best Lounge Access Card Platinum Card from American Express

Best Overall Mile Credit Card

Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express

  • Free Hotel Nights: redeem Starpoints at over 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries worldwide – with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
  • Free Flights: redeem Starpoints on over 350 airlines with SPG Flights – with no blackout dates
  • No limits on the number of Starpoints you can earn
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65
  • Terms and Restrictions apply.

What is Starwood Preferred Guest?

Starwood Preferred Guest is the points program from Starwood Hotels, which includes Sheraton, Westin, W, Four Points, Le Meridien, and St. Regis hotels. You don’t need to stay at one of their hotels to join or earn points, and you are automatically enrolled when you sign up for the credit card.

We like the program because it lets you transfer your points into miles with over 30 top airline programs, giving you incredible flexibility with one card. In addition, you can use your points for free nights at Starwood hotels, for merchandise, or gift cards.

Top three reasons to choose

  1. Compatible with most airline mile programs. You can transfer your Starwood points almost always at 1:1 to over 30 top airline miles programs (United is diluted 2:1), making it the most flexible card. Click here to learn more about airline transfer and to see a list of participating airlines.
  2. Easy hotel rewards. If a standard room is available for sale, you can book it with your Starwood points. Hotel rewards are much easier to use for family vacations than trying to find flight awards for a family of 4.
  3. Generous sign-on bonus is enough for free nights at many Shreaton, Westin, W, St. Regis, Four Points, and Le Meridien hotels.

Click here to apply for the card at American Express’ secure site.


This is the best all-around reward card for many travelers. It’s great for people who fly just about every major airline, light hotel guests, and anyone who wants to stay at a Starwood hotel (Sheraton, Westin, W, Four Points, St. Regis, Le Meridien). It offers better earning power for airline awards than many airline cards, and allows direct transfer to your airline accounts for redemption.

It’s also excellent for people who don’t travel frequently but want to earn points toward valuable hotel nights. Hotels are much easier to redeem for vacations and the dollar value you get for each point you use is often better than for for airline tickets when using the Starwood program. You also need fewer points for free hotel nights than for most free flights. And, with Starwood If there’s a standard room for sale, it’s available for points.

How it works

Don’t worry about whether you want to use points for airlines or hotels. Decide when you plan your trip. You earn 1 Starwood point for every dollar spent and can transfer those points online to your account with nearly every major airline …most 1 for 1…with quick turnaround. Moreover, you get a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 20,000 points you transfer to airline miles, effecitvely earning 1.25 miles per dollars spent when you transfer in 20,000 point increments.

Points are also good at all Sheraton, Westin, W, Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridien, and Four Points hotels with no capacity restrictions. If there’s a room to buy, you can book it with points. For many travelers, hotel stays are a better use of points than domestic airline tickets program. They are notable because you don’t need many points for great values:

  • 3,000 points = 1 free night at “Category 1″ hotels (midpriced, suburban locations)
  • 4,000 points = 1 free night at “Category 2″ hotels (metropolitan and many resorts)
  • 7,000 points = 1 free night at “Category 3″ hotels (large cities, premium resorts)
  • 10,000 points = 1 free night at “Category 4″ hotels (high demand areas, luxury resorts)
  • 20,000 points = free roundtrip U.S. plane ticket when transferred to an airline mile program for redemption

In addition, Starwood’s ‘Cash and Points‘ rewards offer you even greater value for your points — with around 3,000 points and $45 you can stay at a hotel valued in many cases at $150 or more. You also have many other redemption options, including $100 gift cards at Amazon, Nordstrom, Starbucks, and other retailers for 9,500 points.

Click here to apply for the card at American Express’ secure site.


This card lets you earn in a universal format (Starwood points) and convert the points into the airline miles of your choice. Just find out which airline has the availability you want, and transfer points to your airline account for redemption…usually without dilution. That way you can also add to your existing airline mile balances.

Starwood will enhance your points by offering 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points you transfer to your airline program. You in effect earn 1.25 miles per dollar spent versus 1 for most airline cards. You can see how it stacks up versus other cards by using our Card Finder tool.

Moreover, you can transfer points online and not deal with telephone operators . Starwood hotel redemptions also have no capacity controls. If there’s a room available to purchase at a Starwood hotel, you can use your points to buy it online or over the telephone. This is often the best use of your points.

Click here to apply for the card at American Express’ secure site.

Annual Fee

No fee the first year, $65 thereafter. The low fee makes this road warrior proven card great for even light travelers looking to earn points just through purchases.

Point bonuses

5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline. This makes this card better than many standard airline cards for earning points on your favorite airline…and is why it’s the choice of some of the most seasoned travelers.

Dollars spent before your first reward

$1. With a 10,000 point bonus for your first purchase, you’ve earned two nights at any Category 1 or 2 Starwood hotel…with no restriction…or a $100 gift card from many top retailers.

Click here to apply for the card at American Express’ secure site.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the company whose products are featured on this site. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or evaluations provided here are those of the author\’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the Advertiser. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser\’s affiliate programs.

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9 thoughts on “Best mile credit cards of 2014

  1. Mike

    Your illustration of the AMEX SPG card shows that it contains an EMV chip – why is that? I find no reference to this card having EMV capability on AMEX or other blog sites.

    1. MileCards

      @Mike- No EMV capability for the US card as far as we know. The image must have come from Amex UK where it does have that feature.

  2. Cy

    Non-US airline credit cards seem to be missing here. Are the British Airways Visa, Virgin Atlantic Amex, Lufthansa Miles and More card, and Asiana Amex (some of the major examples) discussed anywhere? Even the Virgin America card is missing, I believe.

    1. MileCards

      @Cy – We’re focused on U.S. card consumers but will be adding more non-US airline cards to the lineup of analysis. Virgin America…well…we aren’t big fans of their program but it’s worth an assessment at some point.

    1. MileCards

      @C. Garrett – No there is no fee at all for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Starwood American Express mile transfers. American Express Membership Rewards transfers sometimes have a small $0.0006 per mile fee.

  3. Paul

    I’ve pasted below a part of your website with a heading, followed by 3 sentences. The third sentence begins with “Click here”…. Nothing happens when I click. Do you have any suggestions on how I can see a list of the participating airlines?

    Top three reasons to choose

    Compatible with most airline mile programs. You can transfer your Starwood points almost always at 1:1 to over 30 top airline miles programs (United and Continental are diluted 2:1), making it the most flexible card. Click here to learn more about airline transfer and to see a list of participating airlines.


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