Which Card(s) for the NYC-based Traveler?

Recently, I was thinking about general advice that I might give an individual in New York City who was trying to decide on the best credit card option. To be honest, I couldn’t come up with just one answer, so what I decided to do instead was lay out the four best cards to have if you live in New York City.

NOTE:  This is purely my opinion! You may disagree with me, and that’s OK. Take all advice with a grain of salt, and tailor to your unique situation.

That being said, I looked for cards that would create a well-rounded wallet, covering flights, hotels, other travel, and miscellaneous expenses. I also tried to keep annual fees to a minimal cost; however, the four cards outlined below have annual fees totalling $227. I would argue that the benefits of having these cards, detailed below, outweigh, and pay for, the annual fees.

In addition, all of these cards make sense for people living in New York City (or the surrounding area):  jetBlue’s largest hub is at JFK, there is literally a Holiday Inn anywhere you might want to go, and Amtrak can get you anywhere in the country from New York’s Pennsylvania Station.

Without further ado, let’s examine the cards I’ve picked:

jetBlue Plus

jetblueplus-530x353

IHG Rewards Club Select

ihg_card

Amtrak Guest Rewards World

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Chase Freedom

freedom_card

Issuer: Barclaycard Chase Bank of America Chase
Annual Fee: $99 $49, waived the first year $79  $0
Bonus Points: 30,000 points after spending $1,000 in 90 days 60,000 points after spending $1,000 in 90 days 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in 90 days 15,000 points ($150) after spending $500 in 90 days
Features: – 6 points per dollar at jetblue.com

– 2 points per dollar at restaurants and gas stations

– 1 point per dollar on everything else

– Free checked bag

– 10% points redemption on award travel

– 5,000 points when you renew your card

– No foreign transaction fees

– 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels

– 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants

– 1 point per dollar on everything else

– Annual free night certificate

– Platinum Elite status

– No foreign transaction fees

– Read more about why I think this card is great here

– 3 points per dollar at amtrak.com

– 2 points per dollar on most travel expenses

– 1 point per dollar on everything else

– 5% points redemption on award travel

– Earn 1,000 TQPs per $5,000 spend in calendar year (up to 4,000 TQPs a year)

– A Companion Coupon and a One-Class Upgrade Coupon when you renew your card

– No foreign transaction fees

– 5% cash back on rotating categories (see 2016 calendar here)

– 1% cash back on everything else

– Use points for cash back, gift cards, or for travel expenses

Use For: – jetBlue flights – IHG stays – Amtrak Travel

– Non-jetBlue and IHG travel purchases

– groceries, restaurants, and gas stations, depending on the quarter

NOTE:  If you feel that $227 a year in annual fees is too high, you can substitute the Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum for the World card detailed above. The annual fee for that card is $0, bringing your total fees to $148. Differences are outlined here.

So you’re thinking to yourself, OK, $227 in annual fees is a lot. And I get that! Why should you pay for the privilege of using a credit card? With the cards outlined above, your annual fees actually get you benefits that mitigate or remove entirely the cost of the annual fee. For example:

  • The 5,000 jetBlue points you get when you renew your card are worth ~$65 in jetBlue travel;
  • The annual free night certificate from IHG can be used at ANY (and I mean ANY) property worldwide, including those that go for ~$900 a night;
  • The upgrade coupon and companion coupon for Amtrak can easily exceed $79 in value, depending on the price of an upgrade or additional ticket

Given all this information, I would definitely recommend these cards for New Yorkers–happy traveling!

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