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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.

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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

The results from our opening round are in:

  • #16 Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® defeated #17 U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card, 71.9% to 28.1%
  • #15 Chase IHG® Rewards Club card defeated #18 Hilton HHonors™ Surpass® Card from American Express, 74.6% to 25.4%

#4 Chase Ink Plus® card vs. #13 Chase Freedom® card

Our first opening round matchup is between 2 different Chase cards – the Chase Ink Plus card and the Chase Freedom

#4 Chase Ink Plus card – The Chase Ink Plus card is one of my favorite cards to have.  In fact, it was actually seeded higher until I remembered that it is actually no longer available for new signups OR product changes.

The Chase Ink Plus card has 2 big benefits.  First is 5x points at office supply stores, which includes some online gift card sellers.  There are a ton of opportunities to make lots of points there.  The second is that it counts as a premium Chase card, meaning that you are able to transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards cards to hotel and airline partners.  This unlocks usually the best redemption value of Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ink card comes with a $95 annual fee, generally waived the first year.  All of the Chase Ink cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule.

#13 Chase Freedom card – The Chase Freedom card is a no-fee Chase card that earns 1 Ultimate Reward per $1 spent.  It can be a great way to keep your Ultimate Rewards active if you don’t have a premium Chase card.

chase-freedom-q1-2017-categories-bonus-5

The real benefit of the Chase Freedom card is a rotating set of 5x categories.  The 2017 Q1 categories for the Chase Freedom card are gas stations and local commuter transportation.  So your first $1500 in spend this quarter in that category will earn 5x Ultimate Rewards.  If you maximize your categories for the whole year, that’s an extra 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points!

#5 Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card vs. #12 Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard®

alaska-airlines-status-match-logo#5 Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card – Even if you live in the Alaska Airlines “dead zone” (though with a recent flight to Indianapolis they’re getting closer!), Alaska miles can be very valuable.

I used Alaska miles as part of my first class trip around the world, flying in Emirates First Class (since devalued)

emirates-a380-first-class-review-suites-shower-clean

And the best part is that (for now), you are able to repeatedly sign up for Alaska Airlines cards, allowing you to get the bonus on these cards more than once, which makes it one of the last cards of its type.

#12 Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard® – The Arrival Plus is essentially a 2% cashback card when used for travel, which makes it a good one to put unbonused spend on.  They devalued the Arrival benefits a few months ago making it harder to redeem your miles and lowering the 10% rebate to a 5% rebate, but it still is a pretty good card.

[Using Barclay Arrival miles on small transactions under $25]

Signup bonus ranges from 40,000 to 50,000 Arrival miles and the annual fee of $89 is generally waived the first year.

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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