Best All Around:Starwood Amex
Best Visa/MC:Capital One Venture Card
Co-Best All Around: Hilton Credit Card
Best 3rd Card: Amex Blue Cash Preferred
Special Use: The Platinum Card
This analysis assumes that you pay your balance off in full each month and spend enough on the card (say over $10k/year) that small annual fees aren’t too relevant. This also focuses on the recurring benefits, not the sign-up bonuses since the sign-up bonuses change from time to time and you also don’t usually have to do your primary spending on them to get the benefits.
Best all around card
Substantial bonus offer
1 Starwood point per dollar spent
Starwood points can be converted into Airline points (e.g., American) with a 25% bonus making this card clearly superior to all of the Airline cards
Even better is to use it on hotels. My analysis values a starpoint at over 4 cents, meaning this equates to 4% back.
You also get Starwood gold status when you spend $30k/year
Annual Fee: $65 (waived for first year)
Capital One Venture Card
Best Visa/MC. Some Amex cards do better, but they aren’t accepted everywhere
Ok upfront bonus
2 points per dollar spent
Each point is really worth a cent so basically like 2% cash back
International: zero currency exchange fees and Visa so accepted widely
Annual Fee: $59 (waived for first year)
See my post for more details
Amex Blue Cash Preferred
Best 3rd Card in the Wallet
6% Cash Back on Supermarkets, 3% Cash Back on Gas Stations
3% Cash Back on Certain Department Stores and 1% Everywhere Else
This is the best rate you can get on your Groceries. And probably equal (though for many better) than the Starwood Amex for Gas and Department Stores. 1% is just too little for everything else, so this shouldn’t be your only card.
Annual Fee $75
See my detailed review here
For certain people, this is a great card to have in your wallet, and offers a pretty good sign up bonus, but I wouldn’t put my normal spending on it. The Membership Rewards program is clearly inferior to all of the programs listed above.
You get 1 Membership Rewards per dollar spent which can be 1 airline point (Starwood converts to 1.25 airline points), which is at least better than their hotel rates. For example, you get 1/3rd of a Starwood Point for each point spent on the Platinum Card, while you get 1 Starwood Point for each dollar spent on the Starwood Card — that just doesn’t make sense!
There are tons of great benefits of keeping this card in your wallet (and not pulling it out). See my review for more information.
$450 annual fee