Travel Freely CardGenie™
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We rank the cards below based on the overall value for a beginner. If you don't know anything about traveling for free, you need to know this: Sign-up bonuses are the #1 way to rack up points without traveling or spending a lot of money. Some people get more rewards in one bonus than they would in an entire year’s worth of spending on the same old card they’ve had for 5 years.
Please note: You can support Travel Freely by using our partner links when you sign up for a card, which may earn us a commission. See full advertising disclosure below. If there’s a better link we can offer that will not earn commission, we will always post the better offer. I hope that earns your respect and trust over time.
There are several factors that go into our rankings. It's important to know that we rank our cards with our average user in mind. So if you are an expert free traveler, you probably have your own system and don't need our recommendations anyway.
Here is the criteria we use:
- Value of points - Not all points and miles have the same value when it comes time to redeeming them. We take this seriously.
- Sign-up Bonuses - Travel Freely seeks to maximize sign-up bonuses, so if great sign-up bonus offers come out, those cards will move up in the rankings.
- Type of Card - We value airline cards higher than hotel cards because airfare never goes on sale (whereas hotel sites can get you almost 50% retail rates). So airfare is the highest value in free travel. So, if we see airlines and hotel cards as similarly great deals, the airline card will get the edge in the rankings.
- Bonus spending requirement- We rank cards lower that require major spending as part of sign-up bonus. For example: Some cards offer 50,000 points if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, but then they’ll offer an add’l 25,000 points if you spend $10-15k in additional spending over the course of the year. This is considered major spending to us and we do not factor that in for the normal free traveler. (We would recommend hitting the first bonus, and then moving on to another card that will get you more points with less spending.)
- Ease-of-use Intangibles - Factors such as customer service and redemption fees play a factor in our rankings. We don’t want you to spend hours on the phone with poorly trained, off-shore customer service when you have a question about your card. And ridiculous fees for redeeming free travel are also important to us. For example: Frontier - You might get a “free flight” on Frontier Airlines with 20,000 points. But, you have to spend a reward redemption fee, bag fee for carry-on or checked luggage, and a seat booking fee. You might spend $96 in fees for a $110 flight! Additionally, they have terrible customer service, which is outsourced to another country. Unless these factors change, you’ll never see Frontier cards (or those that fit this criteria) listed in any card recommendations.