Travel Hacking 101: Which card should I get first?

The Citi Premier® Card allows you to earn Reward Points on your travels through the Citi ThankYou® program, as well as at an attractive 3x point earning rate in various Rewards categories. In addition, Citi Premier® comes with a limited time offer for new applicants: 80,000 Bonus Points after $4,000 spent within the first three months of opening an account.

You’ll want to earn points to transfer to more than 15 Citi partner airlines and hotels, including Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Avianca LifeMiles, Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

For example, you can earn 7,500 one-way miles to Hawaii with Turkish miles, or a one-way business class flight to Europe for 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.

Tip: Most of Citi’s transfer partners are international airlines, but don’t worry. Using these airline loyalty programs is actually the best way to get huge benefits from your credit card rewards.


  • Increased welcome offer of 80,000 bonus points.
  • Strong rewards for daily purchases and travel.
  • No fees for foreign transactions.
  • Transfer of points to more than 15 Citi partner airlines and hotels.
  • $100 Annual Credit on bookings of $500 or more through


  • Annual fee $95.
  • There are no travel insurance benefits that come with competing premium cards.

Apply now or read our full Citi Premier® card review.

American Express® Gold Card

  • Required credit score: Good to Excellent
  • Annual fee: $250
  • Interest rate: 17.49-24.49% variable per annum
  • Welcome Bonus: Earn 60,000 Bonus Points after spending $4,000 or more within the first three months of opening an account.
  • What we like:
    • Up to $120 in Uber Cash credits per year.
    • Up to $120 per year in food credits for participating restaurants.
    • Earn 4x points at US supermarkets (up to the first $25,000 spent per year, then 1x), 4x points at restaurants worldwide, 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, and 1x more points on all other eligible purchases.

Last but not least, the Amex Gold Card is an amazing card that rewards both travel and everyday purchases. She earns a whopping 4 points in restaurants worldwide and US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year), making Amex Gold the go-to card for gourmets.

The card also participates in the American Express Membership Rewards® program, where you can transfer your points to issuing airlines and hotel partners such as Air Canada Aeroplan, Delta SkyMiles, Marriott Bonvoy and others. Travel hackers love Amex Gold as points accumulate very quickly and are shared with many helpful partners to squeeze out 2 cents (or more) of value per Membership Rewards® point.

Tip: American Express offers countless ways to redeem points on its portal, such as gift cards, Amazon shopping, and more. However, resist the temptation to spend your points on something other than transferring to travel partners – this is the only way to enjoy a high-priced business class flight at a fraction of the cost in points.


  • Access to over 20 Amex partner airlines and hotels.
  • Excellent reward rate for gourmets.
  • No fees for foreign transactions.


  • Steep annual fee.
  • High purchase per annum.

Read more: Amex Gold Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Best Travel Credit Cards to Hack: An Overview

Annual fee Interest rate Welcome Bonus Points cost
Pursuit of Unlimited Freedom® $0 16.49% – 25.24% Variable Get an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (up to $20,000 in the first year) – up to $300. 1 cent
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card $95 17.49% – 24.49% Variable Earn 60,000 Bonus Points after spending $4,000 or more within the first three months of opening an account. from 1.25 cents to 2 cents each
Citi Premier® Card $95 17.49% – 25.49% (variable) Earn 80,000 Bonus Points after spending $4,000 or more within the first three months of opening an account. About 2 cents each
American Express® Gold Card $250 17.49 – 24.49% variable Earn 60,000 Bonus Points after spending $4,000 or more within the first three months of opening an account. About 2 cents each

Step 4: Use Your Rewards

After 6-12 months of using the card, thousands of points will accumulate in your account. Now it’s time to redeem your rewards and make this journey possible!

It would be too long to list the benefits of every credit card transfer program, but fortunately, there are plenty of resources online to help you book your dream flight or hotel stay. Below we have listed some of the top transfer partners from the three programs we reviewed (Chase Ultimate Rewards®, Citi ThankYou® Points and American Express Membership Rewards®).

Chase Ultimate Awards®:

  • Air Canada airplane.
  • British Airways Executive Club.
  • Iberia Plus.
  • Singapore Airlines ChrisFlyer.
  • United Mileage Plus.
  • Virgin Atlantic Air Club.
  • World Hyatt.

Citi ThankYou® Awards:

  • Avianka LifeMiles.
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles.
  • Singapore Airlines ChrisFlyer.
  • Wyndham Awards.
  • Virgin Atlantic Air Club.

American Express® Membership Rewards:

  • Air Canada airplane.
  • ANA Run Club.
  • British Airways Executive Club.
  • Iberia Plus.
  • A frequent flyer for Qantas.
  • Singapore Airlines ChrisFlyer.
  • Virgin Atlantic Air Club.

Step 5: Think About Your Next Step

Redeeming your first points is a huge undertaking, and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not all that difficult. Not to mention, it’s incredibly rewarding to know that you paid for your entire flight or hotel stay with points and miles.

Travel hacking is an ongoing hobby and you’ll want to think about your next move. Do you want to keep spending your daily expenses on one (or two) cards? Do you want to add new cards to your wallet to earn a big welcome bonus or other unique travel benefits?

Read more: How many credit cards do you need to carry?

But if you’ve made it to this last step, congratulations! You have mastered the 101 travel hack and can open up a whole world of travel possibilities.


I am often asked the question: “How do you travel so often?” Photographs of champagne-in-the-sky recumbents and oceanfront resorts only tell part of the story. Travel Hack has made these inspiring journeys to places far and far possible possible – and you can do the same, too.

Featured Image: African Studio/

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