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The best travel rewards cards "Do the Freddie"

by Peter Andrew

Freddie and the Dreamers may be history, but the Freddie Awards are back!

Okay, among the avalanche of awards ceremonies that hit each of us every year, you may not have noticed they ever went away. Or, indeed, ever existed in the first place. But actually the Freddies -- which honor the best programs in the travel loyalty industry -- may be one of the more worthwhile backslapping ceremonies.

That's because they're based on votes from consumers (more than a million of them worldwide) rather than pals and rivals from within the industry. And who else would host their glittering annual function in an airport hotel in Newark, N.J.?

Best travel credit cards -- by popular acclaim

What makes the Freddies relevant for this IndexCreditCards.com news blog is not just that consumers were able to vote for the best loyalty credit card as a separate category. No, many airline loyalty programs also come with associated travel credit cards, so this customer feedback may well influence your choice of plastic.

So let's explore this year's winners for the Americas region, which were announced on April 26.

Best loyalty credit card

The 2012 winner of the best loyalty credit card was the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. With this you get the following benefits on your Delta flight:

    1. Earn 30K bonus miles after you make $1K in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
    2. Earn As You Spend: Get 2X miles on Delta purchases and 1X miles for all other eligible dollars spent.
    3. Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
    4. Premium Travel Perks: Settle in sooner with Priority Boarding.
    5. $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
    6. Terms and Restrictions Apply.

Best airline credit cards?

The American Airlines AAdvantage loyalty scheme won a quadruple whammy at the awards ceremony:

      1. Program of the Year
      2. Best Promotion for Earning
      3. Best Customer Service
      4. Best Elite Program

Bet there were free (though tiny) bags of peanuts in the airline's marketing department next morning. The credit card most associated with this program is the Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®. In many ways, this is very similar to the Gold Delta SkyMiles product. A few key perks when you fly American Airlines are:

      1. Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of cardmembership*
      2. Your first eligible checked bag is free*
      3. Group 1 boarding and 25% savings on eligible in-flight purchases*

The annual fee is also $95, but again this is waived for the first 12 months. Those 30,000 bonus miles can be yours for signing up, but you have to spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months of cardmembership to qualify.

There are some differences, too. With the Citi product, you can earn $100 American Airlines Flight Discount every cardmembership year with qualifying purchases and cardmembership renewal. That more than covers the annual fee if you qualify.

So are these Citi and American Express products the best airline credit cards currently available in the U.S.? Well, that will depend on your personal needs and travel patterns. But according to the Freddie Awards, plenty of frequent fliers think they are.

*See card application page for information on terms and conditions

Published 05/02/12 (Modified 12/19/13)


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