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I’m a big fan of that one college basketball tournament going on right now whose name I can’t say for fear of violating their trademarks.  Last year, we did a “Top Travel Tool March Mayhem” tournament where we ranked the top miles and points tool, with Award Wallet beating out AutoSlash in the finals.

CardMadness

This year I thought I’d try a similar tournament to pick the “best” miles and points credit card.  While the definition of a “best” credit card is fairly impossible to judge, since there are so many factors that go into that decision, most importantly figuring out where you want to go before you just sign up for cards, but hey, let’s give it a try!

CardMadness bracket

Here is our CardMadness bracket for 2017.

card-madness-2017-bracket-original

You could certainly argue with some of the seeds I’m sure, but I think it’s a fairly reasonable list.

Card Madness First Round

Our first round of card matchups will finalize the bracket.  This is because I had a hard time knocking it down even to 16 cards.  Even so, there were several cards that got left out of the bracket.

#15 Chase IHG® Rewards Club card vs #18 Hilton HHonors Surpass® Card from American Express

Our first matchup pits the Chase IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card vs the Hilton HHonors Surpass® Card from American Express

Chase IHG#15 Chase IHG® Rewards Club card – The big advantage of the IHG card is the fact that you get a free night on your anniversary, in exchange for paying the annual fee of $49.  This free night (SEE ALSO: Why do people think “free” nights are a good idea?) is good at ANY IHG hotel worldwide, which is a huge advantage over some of the other cards that give free nights.  If you are playing this game in 2 player mode, I usually recommend both you and your partner signing up for this card at the same time of the year.  I would not generally recommend putting any extra spend on this card except maybe for paid stays at IHG hotels.  The card also gives IHG Platinum status, which is not worth even breakfast at most places.  Signup bonus has gone as high as 100,000 points though currently is at 60,000 plus a $50 statement credit.  Although this card is issued by Chase, it is NOT believed to be subject to the Chase 5/24 rule)

hilton-amex-surpass-card-logo#18 Hilton HHonors Surpass® Card from American Express – The Surpass card comes with an annual fee of $75 and the signup bonus has gone as high as 100,000 Hilton points.  This card gives 12x at Hilton properties, but the real magic of this card is the 6x on Hilton points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.  That means a mere $833 of spend on the card at one of those bonused categories is enough for a free night at a Category 1 Hilton, which is the lowest of any card / chain.  You also get complimentary Hilton Gold status and Diamond status through the next calendar year if you spend $40,000.

#16 Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®vs #17 U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card

cancel-flight-southwest-logo#16 Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® – The big benefit of the Southwest personal and business cards are the ability to get the Southwest Companion Pass, which you can get by earning 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year. [3 ways to get the Southwest Companion Pass in 2017 without flying].  Bonuses on the various Southwest cards usually go as high as 50,000 or 60,000 points, with a $69 – $99 annual fee.  These cards are not great for any additional spend after meeting your minimum spend and getting the companion pass.  If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card (#3 seed), even spend on Southwest flights would be better put on a Chase card. [Does the Chase Sapphire Reserve make Rapid Rewards obsolete?]

flexperkslogo#17 U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card – FlexPerks is a different way to use rewards points – you can get up to 2% cashback, but only at certain tiers.  For example, you can spend 20,000 FlexPerks to buy a flight worth up to $400.  Signup bonus is usually around 20,000 FlexPerks, with bonuses for the Olympics.  You also get 2x FlexPerks at gas stations, grocery stores or airlines – whichever you spend the most on each monthly billing cycle, and at most cell phone service providers

A note on shenanigans – this contest is meant to be in fun and there are no prizes for winning.  While I don’t mind if you encourage friends, family members and others to vote for a particular tool, please don’t try to rig the system by voting multiple times.  I do reserve the right to disqualify entries and/or just arbitrarily pick a winner if I feel like it.

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