Travel Credit Card Comparison Calculator

by on Tue January 1, 2013 • 21 Comments
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You deserve better than 1% cash back

Our exclusive Travel Credit Card Comparison Calculator makes it simpler to find an airline, hotel, or general travel credit card that earns you more rewards than a basic cash back card. It automatically calculates the annual travel savings you can achieve factoring your monthly spending habits, the type of travel reward you’d like to earn, the cost in points of typical rewards, the value of introductory bonus offers, earning power from your spending, and more. We even factor baggage fee waivers.

[Click here for a revised, enhanced version of the Comparison Calculator]

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Click on the card name links to see more details, a review of other benefits, and learn how to apply.

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21 thoughts on “Travel Credit Card Comparison Calculator

  1. Cheapskate

    First, thanks for building this calculator! Second, could you incorporate some user input about bag fees into the formula? When I enter 60,000 annual miles flown, your formula adds $1,000 to my expected savings from UMP Explorer and others, presumably (60,000/1,500) * 40 * $25. But as it happens, all of my miles are on international flights, where the first checked bag is free anyway. The savings to me are exactly $0!

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Cheapskate – We are working on exactly that so you can enter the number of bag fees you expect to save per year (including entering zero). Stay tuned.

      Reply
  2. Presario1626

    Hi, can you add Hilton reserve card to the list? Also, have you updated the point value based on the recent Hilton devaluation?

    Thanks! This is very helpful tool to help decide which card fits me best!

    Reply
  3. crisp

    it would be helpful to know which of these cards have:

    1. points that never expire

    2. points one can use on any carrier/hotel chain

    thanks, crisp

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @crisp – Good point. For reference the most powerful ones with that feature are the Barclaycard Arrival and Capital One Venture.

      Reply
  4. pbr

    If the Capital One Venture gives 2:1 miles per dollar spent, United Mileage Plus gives 1.5:1 miles per dollar spent, and Chase Sapphire Preferred gives 1:1 (except 2:1 on dining and airfare, which are not big expense items for us), I do not understand why the Capital One Venture Card is does not have higher Year 1 and Ongoing cash value rates.

    We spend greater than 10k per month on our current card and pay off the full balance each month. As I run scenarios in the calculator, because of the Capital One Venture mileage reward ratio I would expect it to be the clear cash value leader,both in year 1 and ongoing, but it is not.

    Can you help me understand why the Capital One Venture card isn’t the clear cash value rate leader in the calculator?

    Thank you – the calculator is very helpful as we think about our next card.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @pbr- For Year 1 it’s the intro bonus – Venture has a very small bonus mile offer. For the ongoing, it’s a matter of how much you value the airfare you’re purchasing with the miles. At the bottom of the calculator you can adjust this. If you think that basic 25,000 mile ticket will get you only $200 in airfare value rather than the $450 we input you’ll see the numbers change if you input a lower number like $200.

      That’s because the airline mile cards use a fixed number of miles for each award, while the Venture’s miles required for an award are a direct function of the price of a ticket.

      Reply
      1. Pbr

        Thank you for the quick reply. So the Venture card redemption is based on the cash value of the ticket, whereas an airline card redemption is based on a pre-determined quantity of miles for domestic and international based on ticket class? If my thinking is correct, the more expensive price of the ticket redeemed, the more valuable the airline specific cards are. Is that right?

        Quick follow up question – is the redemption of Chase Sapphire rewards based on the ticket price similar to the Capital One Venture Card?

        Thanks again for your help.

        Reply
        1. MileCards

          @Pbr – Yes, the Venture and Barclaycard Arrival (interesting alternative) are based on the cash value of the ticket. And with regular airline miles the more expensive a ticket redeemed the more valuable airline miles are. The catch is, airline miles are subject to availability.

          As for Sapphire Preferred rewards – you have a choice. You can do it based on the cash value directly from Chase or you can transfer the points into traditional miles programs like United or British Airways.

          Reply
  5. KC

    Hello!

    My daughter (9 y.o. this year) and I go to Russia almost every summer for 2-3 months. I am looking for a credit card that would allow me to accumulate miles to get cheap/free flights every now and again. I have been looking into different cards and am utterly confused as to which one would be most beneficial. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you in advance!

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @KC – Where are you traveling from? That can make a difference in which program and card are best for you.

      Your best bet is probably going to be the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It earns points you can transfer to United miles which generally has the most availability to Europe, though summer is tough. It’s 60,000 miles for a roundtrip ticket on days that have ‘saver’ availability, which can be a decent deal especially if tickets are costing $1,000+.

      http://milecards.com/2566/how-chase-sapphire-preferred-mile-transfer-works-illustrated/

      If you don’t find availability with United (you can check at United.com before transferring points) you can always use the points as cash for dollars off your flight. That is, you can buy your tickets at Chase’s site, UltimateRewards.com, which works like Expedia or Travelocity or Orbitz. Then you can use as many or few points as you’d like to reduce the cost of the tickets. Every 10,000 points = $1,000 in this instance. Your points don’t go quite as far in savings as they would if you found a flight that has availability using United miles, but you get the flexibility of being able to choose any flight on any day.

      Reply
  6. Jr

    I currently spend about $5000/month ($3000 in rent) on my SPG Amex card. Looking to get upgrades to Korea, Japan & China. Is SPG the best value?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @JR – For business class travel to Asia, your best deal is probably to earn United miles. Recommend getting both the United Explorer and Sapphire Preferred. The Explorer will get you a 10,000 mile bonus for spending $25,000 each year, so if you spend exactly $25,000 on it a year it’s like earning 1.4 miles per dollar. Then use the Sapphire Preferred for the rest, and all dining / travel spend as those get 2x points.

      You also can get up to 70,000 miles in intro bonus for applying for both of them:

      http://milecards.com/2863/80000-united-bonus-miles-with-credit-card-strategy-continental-too/

      Reply
  7. Dave

    I am going to be traveling US to Saudi 12 times a year. Most likely United or Lufthansa. The company pays for economy seats. I want to be able to upgrade to business. What card will help me accomplish this the quickest.
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Dave – Recommend earning United miles. Catch is you’ll need to do a separate upgrade for the Lufthansa and United segments but both can be done with United miles. It’s 20,000 miles per upgrade on the United flights plus a copayment if you’re on a discount fare.

      Try to make sure your company books you in a “Y” or “B” fare so you avoid any copayments. The Lufthansa flights can only be upgraded from these two fares using miles.

      Also by flying 12 trips (over 100,000 miles in flying) you’ll reach “1K” status for United during the year which gives you 6 upgrade certificates that can be used instead of miles.

      The Chase Sapphire Preferred will get you started but also recommend getting the United Explorer to juice up the intro bonus by another 25,000 miles.

      Reply
  8. Steven

    can you tell us how this caculator works approximately? I am really confused by some of the numbers, my spending is 2100 a month. and the no fee Amex Hilton card provides 0% return value? or the UA explorer card provides a 9.4% return, how can that be possible? I don’t see any category it can provide close to 10% return. and the sapphire card has an 8.3% return while the AMEX PRG has 6.3% return. their rewards are pretty similar so i can’t understand the 2% difference.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Steven- The Hilton card won’t be zero if you select “Free Hotel Nights” as the reward you’re looking for.

      As for the other differences — it’s the intro bonus that’s the big driver. Sapphire Preferred offers the 50000 intro. Thats why we have that third column with the “ongoing” value to give a sense for its earning power without the intro bonus.

      For the United card — the return depends on the value of the ticket you place in the bottom fields. Since it’s a fixed number of miles regardless of the price of the ticket you could end up with very high return numbers, but those are rare.

      Email us at milecardinsider@milecards.com if you want more detail.

      Reply

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