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Discover has added a new member of the ‘it’ family — the Discover it Miles card, an alternative to the issuer’s existing cash-back cards (which offer 5 percent back or 2 percent back, depending on the card you have). So does this new addition outshine its older siblings (and similar cards on the market)? Read on so you can decide for yourself.

Getting the card

According to a Discover spokesperson, Discover (as of February 24, 2015) was accepting new applications only for the it Miles card. In other words, you can’t product-change from an existing Discover card yet. If you already have a Discover account and would like to also open the it Miles, keep in mind that you can be the primary cardholder on two Discover cards simultaneously. However, your first account must be open for a minimum of 12 months before you can apply for the second. As these two accounts would be separate, you would have separate rewards balances, not a pooled one.

Benefits and rewards in a nutshell

The card is being marketed to travelers and offers fixed-value “miles,” which you can redeem for a statement credit for recent travel expenses. That puts it in the category of general-purpose travel cards like the Capital One Venture (and Venture One), the Barclaycard Arrival (and Arrival Plus), the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card and the Blue Sky card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner). You may remember the now-discontinued Miles by Discover card, but this new product is quite different.

Here’s a run-down of the card’s defining features:

  • No annual fee
  • 1.5 miles per dollar spent: Remember, these are generic miles you’ll cash in for statement credits – not miles tied to a specific airline.
  • Double miles after your first year: Following your first 12 consecutive billing periods, you’ll get a bonus equal to all the miles you earned during those billing cycles. Note that this benefit is one-time only – you don’t get it after your first year. There is no cap on the bonus miles you can earn.
  • In-flight Wi-Fi credit: If you purchase Wi-Fi access on a flight with your it Miles card, you’ll get a statement credit to cancel out your purchase within 7 days (up to $30 per year). This benefit renews with every cardholder anniversary.
  • Free FICO score: As with Discover’s other cards, you get free access to your TransUnion FICO score.
  • No foreign transaction fees

How much your miles are worth

Here’s where it gets interesting. For most cards marketed as travel cards, you’re either restricted to redeeming for travel purchases, or you get a better value for you points when you redeem for travel compared to cash back.

For the it Miles card, here’s how it works, according to the card’s terms and conditions:

Discover it Miles redemption

What this boils down to is that you can redeem for statement credits against travel expenses OR for cash back (deposited into an account) and get the same value of 1 cent per mile. Redeeming for statement credits is probably easier and faster. Yet, if you’re willing to link a bank account and wait for the electronic deposit, you don’t have sacrifice value if you want cash.

For reference, the travel expenses eligible for statement credits are: airline tickets, hotels, car rentals, cruises, tour operators, vacation packages (when purchased through airlines, travel agents and travel websites), local transit, ferries, rail tickets, taxis, limos and charter buses.

While some cards have redemption minimums, Discover is more flexible – you can redeem as little as 1 mile at a time.

How it compares

Which card is right for you is a complex decision, and no review will cover all the factors you should weigh. But here are a few things to consider:

Sign-up bonus or lack thereof: The card isn’t advertising any sign-up bonus in the traditional sense right now (as of March 2015). Instead, you get double your miles the first year. How much that will get you depends on how much you spend on the card. Spend $20,000 on the card in the first year? You’ll get 30,000 extra miles (valued at $300).

So, on one hand, the it Miles card gives you complete control over how big a bonus you get – if you can concentrate all your spending on the card, you may well end up with a lot of bonus miles.

On the other hand, other cards in the same field might get you a bonus with a lower spending threshold. For example, a card might give you 20,000 bonus miles/points or $200 cash back if you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Cards with annual fees might give you even more. If you spread out your spending across several cards, that type bonus structure may be a better fit, since you can rack up tens of thousands of points for only $1,000 in spending. Plus, with the it Miles card, you have to wait a full year to receive your bonus, so it may not serve your needs you if you were hoping for pile of bonus miles to use on a trip a few months from now.

The Wi-Fi reimbursement: While $30 a year isn’t much, this is a rare perk among no-annual-fee cards. Assuming you’d buy in-flight Wi-Fi anyway, it saves you money. If you wouldn’t, then you’re getting a small luxury for free.

No bonus categories: That’s good or bad, depending on how you look at it. On one hand, you’re getting a steady, competitive rate of return for a no-annual-fee card — 1.5 percent — without having to keep track of categories. That places this card in between the 1.25 percent you get back with the no-fee VentureOne and the 2 percent you get back with the $59-a-year Venture. The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card is probably the most similar, earning 1.5 percent back on everything (plus a 10 percent bonus on points earned if you bank with BofA).

The no-fee Barclaycard Arrival, meanwhile, gets you 1 percent back on most spending and 2 percent back on travel expenses and restaurants. If you spend a lot on travel and dining, those categories can really help you: a $5,000 travel purchase, for example, would get you 10,000 points with the Arrival and only 7,500 with the it Miles card.

And let’s not forget the regular old Discover it card – that gives you 5 percent back on certain rotating categories for up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter. Discover has a reputation for lucrative bonus categories, from gas, to restaurants, to home improvement and more. To put that in perspective, $1,500 in bonus-category purchases would get you $75 with the regular it and $22.50 with the it Miles.

The verdict

This card isn’t a bad fit if you’re looking for a low-maintenance workhorse of a card. For no annual fee, you’re getting a respectable 1.5 percent back with the flexibility of redeeming for travel or cash.

Just remember that the first-year bonus on this card is tied directly to how much you spend and requires you to wait an entire year. If you can funnel a lot of (if not all) you spending through this card for a whole year, its bonus structure may benefit you. If not, consider cards that reward you a surge of points after just a few months if you satisfy the minimum spending threshold.

If you do decide to go for the it Miles card, a good move might be to pair it with the regular Discover it card. That way, you can use the ‘it’ for bonus-category purchases and switch over to the it Miles for everything else.

However, remember that your existing Discover account must be open for 12 months before you can get a second card. So this strategy would work only for those who are willing to wait a year, or who have been Discover cardmembers for a year already. There are also some complexities with having two Discover cards, as your rewards pools remain separate. That’s a hassle for sure, but if you’re redeeming for cash back and statement credits, this may not matter, especially since Discover doesn’t have a redemption minimum.

Right now, there are two offers for the regular Discover it card:

Updated March 3, 2015

First things first: Most people won’t qualify for this card. It’s an invitation-only product for high-net-worth clients who have $10 million in assets with Merrill Lynch.Merrill lynch octave card

Just curious? Let’s take a closer look at what this card offers – and how you can get some of its fancy benefits for a lower cover charge.

The basics

The Octave is an American Express-branded card (American Express is a CreditCardForum advertising partner).

The annual fee is $950 (high indeed, but a bargain compared to the similarly exclusive American Express Centurion). Foreign transaction fees are waived.

The card is black (the color of choice, it seems, for exclusive cards and for cards that want to look exclusive). To see what it looks like, check out the shots one of our forum members posted here.

The benefits and rewards

Hat tip to MileCards for posting a run-down of the card’s benefits.

This card gets you:

  • 2.5 points per dollar spent. Via Merrill Lynch’s rewards program, you can redeem those points for cash back into an existing account, a statement credit, travel, experiences, gift cards and more.
  • $350 travel credit OR Delta SkyClub Executive Membership ($650 value). Each year, you get to pick one or the other. Executive SkyClub membership allows you to bring up to two guests into the lounge with you for free. For comparison, the lower tier (Individual membership) requires you to pay $29 per guest.
  • 20 percent off base fare for up to two round-trip airline tickets in coach every year. Plus you get an unpublished amount of “savings” on qualified international flights.
  • Savings on private jet flights.
  • A waiver for the Global Entry application fee: When you apply for the Global Entry program (which expedites your re-entry into the U.S. when going through customs), get the $100 fee waived via a statement credit.
  • Airport concierge service.

Worth it?

Whether a card is worth the annual fee is beside the point when it comes to high-end cards; much of their appeal comes from their reputation as status symbols, and you can’t really attach a cash value to that.

However, we can take a look at its rewards program. You get 2.5 points per dollar spent. If you redeem for travel on certain airlines, those points have a lot of potential:
Merrill lynch octave

Redemptions for American Airlines, British Airways, Delta and United flights start at 25,000 points for tickets of up to $500. That means your points have the potential to be worth 2 cents each – a 5 percent return on spending. For other carriers, your points are worth 1.7 cents each, for a 4.25 percent return on spending.

That’s a great rate of return, but keep in mind that $500 is the magic number here. Go below that, and your points are worth less. Go above it, and you’ll need to pay for rest at a 1-cent-per-point value:
Merrill lynch airfares above $500

As you can see, if you redeem your points for travel on specific airlines very strategically, you can get a lot of value. Plus, some of the card’s other benefits chip away at the annual fee: If you make use of the $650 worth of lounge access, book two $350 domestic tickets at 20 percent off and apply for Global Entry, the card provides $890 in value its first year.

How to get similar benefits on other cards

Don’t have $10 million to invest with Merrill Lynch? Private jet discounts probably aren’t that useful to most of us anyway. Besides, you can replicate some of the Octave’s perks with these open-to-the-general-public products.

American Express Platinum ($450 annual fee): The American Express Platinum gives you an Individual membership to the Delta SkyClub, as well as access to Airspace and Centurion lounges. There’s also no need to choose between getting lounge access and getting a travel credit — each year, you can pick an airline and request statement credits (up to $200) for things like checked bag fees and in-flight food. Finally, this card also reimburses you for Global Entry.

U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards ($49 annual fee, waived first year): Like the Octave’s redemption scheme for flights? You might like this card (which you can get as either a Visa Signature or an American Express): 20,000 FlexPoints get you a ticket of up to $400 on 150 airlines. In other words, you can get up to 2 cents in value for each point. Even better, you can preserve that elevated value if you go above $400. Thirty thousand FlexPoints get you a ticket worth up to $600, and 40,000 FlexPoints are worth up to $800. Your value might wane if your ticket price falls between thresholds, however.
In addition, the card gives you a $25 airline allowance each time you redeem, good toward baggage fees or in-flight food.

Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee, waived first year): If you like the idea of flexible redemption options and extra perks for travelers, this card may fit the bill. The Chase Ultimate Rewards program has a suite of options for redemption, from gift cards, to cash back, to travel. With a 20 percent discount on travel (when you redeem through Ultimate Rewards) and the ability to transfer your points into airline and hotel loyalty programs, you can squeeze a lot of value out of your rewards. Plus, the card gives you primary rental car insurance (most other cards provide secondary coverage, which kicks in only after your regular insurance pays out).

Updated Feb. 5, 2015

Review: U.S. Bank FlexPerks Select cards

The U.S. Bank FlexPerks Select Rewards Visa and the Flexperks Select+ from American Express are the no-annual-fee counterparts to the FlexPerks Travel Rewards cards (learn more about the FlexPerks Travel Rewards cards here). US bank flexperks Visa

There’s an important difference between the Visa and American Express versions, and our review will help you decide which is best for you. American Express is a CreditCardForum advertising partner.

The basics

If you were considering the FlexPerks Travel Rewards cards but want to avoid an annual fee, the ‘Select’ cards let you earn FlexPoints without paying every year. The Visa version has been around for several years, while the American Express version was launched in Oct. 2014.

Compared to the Travel Rewards cards, the ‘Select’ cards do not have boosted rewards in categories, nor do they have certain extras, such as reimbursements for airline fees, waived foreign transaction fees and annual bonuses.

Compared to each other, the cards have the following differences:

  • The American Express version allows you to earn 1 FlexPoint per dollar (on up to $120,000 in spending each year and 1 FlexPoint per $2 after that). The Visa version earns you 1 FlexPoint for every $2 spent from the get-go.
  • The American Express card has an EMV chip.

As you can see, the American Express version of the card lets you earn 2x as many rewards as the Visa on the first $120,000 you spend each year (and let’s face it, most people won’t pass that threshold). The advantage of the Visa is greater acceptance worldwide. Stateside, however, the American Express version is likely the best bet, since AmEx enjoys good acceptance here.

The other major difference lies in the cards’ benefits (insurance and warranty coverage, for example). Benefits on the American Express card will obviously be administered by AmEx, while Visa oversees the benefits on its card.

Now here’s what the cards have in common:

  • No annual fee
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty
  • Secondary rental car insurance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Travel emergency assistance

How much are the points worth?

The entire suite of FlexPerks cards allows you to redeem for hotels, car rentals, merchandise, gift cards and statement credits against airfare. The value of your points depends on the option you choose.

You’ll get the most value when redeeming for statement credits against air travel. When redeeming this way, you have to use either U.S. Bank’s online travel portal, or travel phone line (which has a consultation fee of $20).

More than 150 airlines participate in the program. Because you’re essentially using your points as cash-back statement credits, you can earn frequent flier miles on your free flights (assuming you’re enrolled in the airline’s frequent flier program), and you don’t have to worry about blackout dates.

The FlexPerks program has a unique tiered redemption structure for airfare:

US bank flexperks redemption for airfare

That means each point can be worth as much as 2 cents per point, which is really good for a no-annual-fee general-purpose travel rewards card.

But what happens if you redeem for a ticket that costs, say, $402? You’ll get bumped up into the next redemption level, meaning you’ll have to cough up 10,000 extra FlexPoints to cover that $2. That brings your redemption value down to 1.3 cents a point for that particular ticket (still a touch higher than the 1 cent per point you get with other general-purpose travel rewards cards).

The verdict

If you’re redeeming for air travel, the American Express version of the card is a solid deal – you’re getting up to 2 percent back on all your spending. The Visa card’s return of 1 point per $2 spent, though, is paltry by comparison, no matter how you redeem your rewards.

Even with the American Express card’s better rewards, you may be selling yourself short if you want to redeem for anything other than air travel. A more flexible route may be a cash-back credit card that lets use your rewards for anything you want to buy, without a reduction in rewards value. The Citi Double Cash card (no annual fee), for example, gives you 1 percent back on eligible spending and then another 1 percent back when you pay your balance.

Still want an AmEx? The EveryDay card (no annual fee) from American Express gives you 2X points at supermarkets as well as the opportunity to accelerate your rewards if you make more than 20 purchases each month. You’ll be earning Membership Rewards points, which you can turn into real frequent flier miles, or redeem for merchandise, gift cards and a variety of other rewards.

Review: Is Diners Club back in the game with its new cards?

As the first independent credit card company, Diners Club has a long history. But many may consider Diners Club to be history: after being dwarfed by the competition over the years and being acquired by Citi and then later by Discover, Diners Club has become a minor player, with just a handful of corporate and professional charge and credit cards to its name (albeit ones that cater to frequent, high-income travelers).

In Sept. 2014, however, it launched two new consumer credit card products on the MasterCard network: The Diners Club Card Premier and the Diners Club Card Elite. Unlike some of the other cards in the Diners Club portfolio, these are credit cards, not charge cards.

Do these cards herald a Diners Club comeback? And do they stack up with similar cards on the market? Read on to find out.

Compare the Diners Club 'Premier' and 'Elite' cards
Diners Club Card PremierDiners Club Card Elite
Annual fee$95$300
Rewards1 point/dollar3 points/dollar on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases

1 point/dollar elsewhere
Personal concierge?YESYES
Lounge access?YESYES
Rental car perksComplimentary Avis Preferred status, 25% off Avis rentals, complimentary Fastbreak status with Budget, 25% off Budget rentals

PRIMARY rental car coverage
Lost/damaged luggage coverageYES (up to $3,000)
Baggage delay insuranceYESYES
Travel accident insuranceYESYES
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance?NOYES
Purchase assuranceYES (within 90 days)
Extended warrantyYES (up to 1 additional year on warranties of 1 year or less)
Roadside assistanceYES, but you must pay for the services you receive.

As you can see, despite the discrepancy in annual fees, the cards offer similar benefits. The major differences are:

  • Rewards: With the Elite card, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption coverage: This is a useful benefit to have if your travel plans go awry. The Elite offers it, but the Premier does not.

How much are your points worth?

This is a vital question to ask with all rewards cards. Otherwise, you might find yourself racking up points only to find they’re not worth much.

Both of these cards enroll you in the “Club Rewards” program — the same rewards program tied to Diners Club’s professional cards. You can redeem your points for:

Merchandise: On the Club Rewards website, you’ll find everything from a mug for 3,000 points to a backpack for 12,000 points, to bikes for 32,000 points and more. To find the point value, simply find the item on another website and do the math. With the backpack, for example (a SwissGear computer backpack that’s $65 on, you’ll get a value of one-half cent per point. Expect value to vary with merchandise redemptions.

Cash: Cash out your points to be used against a statement credit or card fees. You get a value of 1 cent per point when redeeming for card fees and 0.66 cents per point when redeeming for a statement credit.
Diners club cash redemption

Gift certificates and eGift certificates:
There’s a selection of retail, dining and travel gift cards and eGift cards. The redemption value is a steady 1 cent per point for all the currently posted options.

Airfare, car rentals, vacation packages and cruise booking discounts: Redeem for a discount off your booking on certain airlines, cruise lines, custom vacations (that you book with the help of a customer service rep) as well as pre-packaged vacations. The various options posted on the website all have a value of 1 cent per point (10,000 points for a $100 vacation package discount, for example), but expect your value to vary when you get to the more customized trips.

vacation package redemption diners club

Real frequent flier miles and loyalty points with various programs: Turn your points into real loyalty points with a variety of hotel and airline programs. Currently, transfer partners and their transfer rates (Diners Club Rewards Points needed : Loyalty points obtained) include:

Aeroplan: 1:1
Alaska Airlines: 1:1
Amtrak: 1:1
Best Western: 1:2.64
British Airways: 1:1
Thai Airways: 1:1
Hawaiian Airlines: 1:1
Choice Privileges: 1:1.92
Delta SkyMiles: 1:1
El Al Airlines: 50:1
EVA Airways: 1:1
Frontier: 1:1
Hilton HHonors: 1:1.6
Hyatt: 1.67:1
Icelandair: 1:1
IHG: 1:1.2
Marriott: 1:1.2
SAS EuroBonus: 1:1
South African Airways: 1:1
Southwest: 1.25:1
Starwood Preferred Guest: 1.67:1
Virgin Atlantic: 1:1

The numbers in the list above are the transfer ratios. Most partners allow you to transfer at a 1-for-1 ratio. Others are better, others are worse. The actual value of your points will vary, depending on how wisely you redeem them after the transfer. Airline frequent flier miles, for example, can be worth well over 1 cent each.

A good value? In some areas (such as the loyalty-point transfers and redemptions toward card fees), you’ll get a competitive value for your points. Yet there are other options (such as statement credits) where your points are worth less than 1 cent each. You’ll have to determine which redemption options are most important to you and decide if you’re willing to take a cut in value in other areas.

Noteworthy benefits

Some of these cards’ benefits are easy to come by, while others are more rare. These are the four benefits that make the new Diners Club cards stand out:

  1. Lounge access: This is usually the domain of airline-specific cards or general-purpose travel cards that cost $400+ per year. Diners Club has a network of more than 500 lounges worldwide (and in 14 U.S. cities). Guest fees, and access rules vary by property.
  2. Primary car rental insurance: Most credit cards offer what’s called secondary coverage. That means you have to file a claim with your primary auto insurance company before the card’s coverage kicks in. Primary insurance kicks in right away, so you can avoid the claim with your primary insurer — and it’s a rare perk. Currently the only other cards offering it are the United MileagePlus card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
  3. Car rental discounts and status: Complimentary status with Avis and Budget means you won’t have to wait at the counter — and a 25 percent discount is a nice perk for travelers who frequently use those companies.
  4. Point transfer: The ability to transfer points into airline and hotel loyalty programs is a powerful and versatile tool. Not only can you top off your balance in other programs as you see fit, but you can get a lot of value out of your transferred points if you redeem for first-class airfares and pricey rooms. Other cards also give you this power. The Chase Sapphire Preferred, cards in the Membership Rewards Program from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) and the Starwood Preferred Guest card all let you transfer points. Diners Club has some transfer partners the others don’t have and vice versa. So make sure the card you choose partners with your favorite travel programs.

Are the Diners Club consumer cards a good choice?

When comparing these cards with each other, the Premier card (with the lower annual fee) likely packs more value. The only tangible extra perks you’re getting for the $300-per-year Elite card are extra rewards on category purchases, as well as trip cancellation coverage. While the Diners Club professional Carte Blanche charge card (also $300 per year) throws in international cellphone rental and private jet access, the Elite credit card does not. Meanwhile, the Premier has all of the four benefits that make these cards unique (listed above) — for just $95 a year.

So, how do the cards compare with others in the market? If lounge access and travel benefits are what you’re after, and you’re willing to pay a rather high annual fee, the American Express Platinum (which gives you access to Priority Pass Select lounges, the Delta Sky Club, Airspace lounges and AmEx’s own Centurion Lounges) might be a good fit. It throws in reimbursement for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, refunds you up to $200 in airline fees per year and gives you four free roadside assistance service calls per year.

If you’re eying the Premier card, it’s a solid choice. Yet if you’re not interest in lounge access and more interested in earning extra rewards, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It offers no lounge access benefits, but does offer primary rental car insurance, the ability to transfer points to travel loyalty programs and double points for dining and travel.

Review: Do the Citi Expedia+ and Expedia+ Voyager deliver?

In Sept. 2014, Citi launched two new credit cards to go with its updated rewards program: the Expedia+ Voyager Card and the Expedia+ Card. In addition to offering extra points on Expedia purchases, they offer extra perks for travelers. Yet, as with any card tied to a loyalty program, you need to make sure these cards provide extra value for your traveling habits.

Expedia+ Cards from Citi

What’s new?

You may already be familiar with the existing Citi PremierPass Expedia card, which lets you earn Citi ThankYou points. That card isn’t going away, but these new Expedia co-branded cards let you earn points in the Expedia+ rewards program.

Starting Sept. 29, eligible PremierPass cardholders will be invited to switch to one of the new cards, keep their old PremierPass account numbers and have their ThankYou points converted into Expedia+ points, according to a Citi spokesperson.

How does the Expedia+ Rewards program work?

We’ll get to the card-specific benefits in a moment, but first, it’s important to understand how Expedia’s rewards program works. After all, that’s where your earned points will go and where you’ll redeem them.

Expedia revamped its rewards program in July into Expedia+. The biggest change: new tiered membership levels (+blue, +silver and +gold), which come with a variety of perks, including hotel upgrades at certain properties, exclusive offers and dedicated customer service lines. The perks you get depend on the tier you’ve reached, of course.

Check out what you get for each tier here.

The new version of the program also allows you to earn double points on cruises.

By enrolling in the Expedia+ Rewards program (regardless of whether you have one of the co-branded Citi cards), you’ll earn:

  • 2 points per dollar spent on hotels, vacation packages that include hotel, activities and cruises
  • 1 point for every $5 spent on airfare
  • 1 point per $1 on flight + car packages

But the real question is what you can get from your points. Expedia’s reward program allows you to redeem for:

  • Hotels (by redeeming for hotel coupons worth up to $1,000 off a booking)
  • Packages (by redeeming for coupons worth up to $300 off a package)
  • Flights (for the full cost of the flight)
  • Charitable donations (every 3,500 points equals a $25 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)
  • Dining and entertainment experiences (at the time of this review, for example, you can see “Mamma Mia” on Broadway for 14,000 points)

What the cards offer

Both cards let you earn more points than what you’d earn with Expedia+ rewards membership alone, earn points outside of Expedia purchases, and accelerate your progress toward elite status. Here’s a closer look at both cards:

Expedia+ and Expedia+ Voyager: Breaking down the benefits
Expedia+ voyager card
Annual fee$0$95
Extra points (outside of Expedia+ Rewards base earnings)3 pts/dollar on eligible Expedia purchases (flights, hotels, activities, packages)

1 pt/dollar spent elsewhere
4 pts/dollar on eligible Expedia purchases (flights, hotels, activities, packages)

2 pts/dollar on restaurants and entertainment

1 pt/dollar spent elsewhere
Sign-up bonus15,000 Expedia+ Rewards bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 3 months.25,000 Expedia+ Rewards bonus points after spending $2,000 in first 3 months.
Anniversary bonusN/A5,000 points after spending $10,000 on the card in prior membership year.
Elite statusAutomatic +silver membership.

Earn 1 elite-qualifying night toward +gold status for every $2,500 in purchases on the card every calendar year.
Automatic +gold membership
Travel fee statement creditN/A$100 each year toward airline incidentals and fees on participating airlines
Other travel perksEMV chipEMV chip, no foreign transaction fees
Insurance and shopping benefitsLost baggage protection, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation/interruption coverage, Price Rewind, rental auto coverage and more

One of the most notable perks is the automatic status upgrade to +silver (with the Expedia+) and +gold with the (Voyager). Without these cards, you’d need to spend $5,000 on eligible bookings (or stay 7 nights in a qualifying hotel) in a calendar year to get +silver status OR spend $10,000 (or stay 15 nights) to get to +gold. In addition to travel-related perks, these status tiers will help you earn more points in the following ways:

  • 250 bonus points when you book a +VIP Access hotel. Expedia says it has 1,400 such hotels in its portfolio, and you can browse them here.
  • A bonus on base Expedia points earnings for eligible bookings. That bonus is 30 percent for +gold and 10 percent for +silver. So that 2 points per dollar you get on hotel bookings via the Expedia+ rewards program would turn into 2.6 points per dollar with +gold status and 2.2 points per dollar with silver.

Another unique benefit: The Voyager gives you a $100 statement credit every year, which you can use to cancel out airline incidentals and fees from participating airlines, including in-flight Wi-Fi, Global Entry Application, in-flight refreshments, checked bags and more. This isn’t a common perk, and it’s generally associated with higher-annual-fee cards like the Platinum card from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) and the Wells Fargo Propel World.

How much are my points worth?

In short, your points are worth about 0.6 cents each when you redeem for flights and 0.7 cents each when you redeem for coupons for hotels and travel packages. Read on for a more detailed break-down (and how you might squeeze some more value out of hotel redemptions).

Hotels: When redeeming for hotel coupons, you can get them in set increments. A $25 coupon costs 3,500 points, and a $1,000 coupon (the maximum value) costs you 140,000 points.

Expedia+ rewards hotel coupon redemption

So your point value is fixed at 0.7 cents per point when redeeming for hotels. However, if you are redeeming at a +VIP Access property (and are enrolled in the Expedia+ rewards program), your coupon is worth twice as much.

Packages: Same as hotels (0.7 cents per point), without the possibility to redeem for double value.

Flights: Pinning down the exact value for flights is trickier. Here’s what the fine print has to say about redeeming for flights:
expedia flight redemption point value

I ran a several itineraries (domestic and international) through Expedia’s rewards booker to get an estimate, and, for all of them, the point value was 0.6 cents per point.

Are these cards a good deal?

As with all rewards cards, that depends on what you’re looking for.

Looking for consistently good point value? The value of Expedia+ points is questionable. You can easily get a steady value of 1 cent per point with a variety of general-purpose travel rewards cards and even more with airline-specific cards – but Expedia offers you just 0.6 or 0.7 cents per point for most redemption options.

All those extra points you get with the Voyager card help with that somewhat, though. Earning 4 points per dollar spent on Expedia airfare means you’re getting a return of 2.4 percent back on your spending (plus a little more, thanks to the points you’re earning through Expedia+ rewards). That’s not bad – just remember that you get that rate of return only on Expedia purchases.

Looking for travel perks? These cards can’t compete with the perks offered by co-branded airline cards (you won’t get free bags or priority boarding, for example). But the $100 airline incidentals statement credit does give the Voyager an edge. Plus, the EMV chip (on both cards) and waived foreign transaction fees (on the Voyager) are nice touches for frequent travelers.

And don’t forget the automatic status upgrades. If you stay at +VIP Access properties enough and have +gold status, you might enjoy the occasional room upgrade.

Looking for flexibility? If you’re already a loyal Expedia fan, you probably value flexibility. After all, you’re using a site that lets you browse dozens of airlines, hotels and vacation packages, and book the lowest-cost option. Your points, therefore, are flexible currency.

Even so, what if you find a better deal with another online travel agency? Or even on the airline’s own website? You won’t earn those extra Expedia rewards if you opt for the better price. Your Expedia points can also be redeemed only for Expedia purchases – and you’re capped at $1,000 per hotel redemption.

So, if you’re an infrequent Expedia user, another option might be to get one of the general-purpose travel cards listed below (which both offer a respectable, steady redemption value and return on your spending). Both also give extra points on travel, including travel you book via Expedia.

Updated Sept. 25, 2014