3 Best Credit Cards for a San Francisco-Based Traveler

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by parag
Last Updated: August 3rd, 2016
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KEYWORDS:#credit cards #tips #rewards #cash back
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When choosing a credit card, there are many factors to consider, such as the spending limit, percentage rate, annual fee and benefits. If you’re choosing a card for the sole purpose of offering travel rewards, then you need to add one more factor to the list: geography. Your location has a lot to do with which card you should choose, believe it or not. The airlines that do business at a specific airport can influence how easily you can use your frequent flier miles and other rewards. 

What if you live in San Francisco? With a main airport in San Francisco and two others in the nearby Oakland and San Jose, there are three airports you could fly out of to get to your destination. Which cards will work best in this situation? Which ones will help you rack up the most points or miles? Read on to find out which three credit cards are the best for San Francisco residents who travel frequently.


Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is featured on a couple best-of lists because it offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to redeeming your rewards. You can use your airline miles at Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Southwest and United Airlines. You can save more by booking an economy flight from San Jose or Oakland.

It’s easy to rack up the rewards, since Uber and street parking count as travel. You can earn double rewards just by buying a round of drinks at your favorite bar. Use the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card when renting a car and you’ll automatically receive insurance to protect you about theft or loss without the need to get your insurance company involved. 

Sign-up bonus: Spend $4,000 within three months after opening an account and you’ll receive 50,000 bonus points. Redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards and that’s equivalent to $625 in travel. When an authorized user makes a purchase within three months, you’ll earn an additional 5,000 points.

Earning rates: 2x points on dining and travel and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide

Other benefits: Car rental insurance; no fees for foreign transactions

Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first year)


United MileagePlus Explorer Card

United MileagePlus Explorer Card is rated on several lists as one of the best credit cards to have if you’re a frequent United Airlines flier. Of all the airlines, United has the largest presence in San Francisco, making it easy to rack up the miles. Plus, if you use this card to book your next United flight, you’ll save money and time thanks to a free checked bag and priority boarding. The additional award inventory is also a cool feature. It offers many ways for you to use your miles on future flights.

San Francisco International Airport has been expanding its offerings and has recently added flights to Singapore, Tel Aviv and Auckland. On top of that, it offers nonstop flights to approximately 100 destinations around the world. The United MileagePlus Explorer Card makes it easy to take advantage of United’s offerings at San Francisco International Airport.

Sign-up bonus: Spend $1,000 within three months after opening an account and you’ll receive 30,000 miles. When an authorized user makes a purchase within three months, you’ll earn an additional 5,000 miles.

Earning rates: 2 miles per dollar spent on United tickets and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases 

Other benefits: No fees for foreign transactions; Two United Club passes each year; free checked bag; priority boarding; 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 in a calendar year

Annual fee: $95 (waived for the first year)


Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card offers a variety of rewards for those who would rather travel Southwest. In the Bay Area, Southwest Airlines isn’t as ubiquitous as United Airlines, but it’s a great option for domestic travel. Plus, it services all three local airports. You can fly nonstop to 28 destinations from Oakland, 15 from San Jose and 11 destinations from San Francisco. There are 30 unique destinations in total. Southwest is a nice alternative to United because it allows you to change your travel plans at no charge. 

The 6,000 point bonus you’ll receive after being a loyal cardmember for one year is worth $90 alone, so that almost pays for your $99 annual fee. You have many options to use your 50,000-point signup bonus. With Southwest expanding its international destinations, you can enjoy exotic locations such as Aruba and Costa Rica for free. The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card allows you to earn points toward a Companion Pass. This lucrative and highly sought-after perk allows you to bring someone along to travel with you once you earn 110,000 points. Once this threshold is met, you just pay taxes and fees and you can bring a friend or family member along for a fun-filled vacation. 

Sign-up bonus: Spend $2,000 in the first three months and receive 50,000 points.

Earning rates: 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards car rental and hotel purchases and 1 point per dollar everywhere else

Other benefits: No foreign transaction fees; 6,000 points after you have been a cardmember for one year; 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) for every $10,000 spent in a year (maximum 15,000 TQPs per year)

Annual fee: $99


Travel perks are becoming more and more common with credit cards, so if you’re a frequent flier, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have one of these cards in your wallet. Unfortunately, the cards listed above all come with annual fees, but with all the money you’ll be saving – and all the rewards you’ll receive – the fee will be well worth the money. What’s in your wallet?

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