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Credit Card Rewards 101

Your go-to guide for choosing the perfect rewards card.

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Qantas International First Lounge provides a place of relaxation in Sydney Airport.

Carrying the right rewards credit card can be the key to unlocking premier travel benefits such as first-class award tickets, hotel upgrades, access to airport lounges, and even free Global Entry. Here are three to consider:

American Express Platinum Card

What do you get for the American Express Platinum Card’s $550 annual fee? Access to Centurion, Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass, and Airspace airport lounges, and potential upgrades with Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings. Cardholders earn five Membership Rewards points per dollar on airfare and prepaid hotel bookings through Amex Travel. Thanks to the program’s 20 travel partners, those points can quickly translate into airline awards such as Singapore Airlines’ first-class suites and Hilton hotel stays.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Though cardholders pay $450 per year for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, standout benefits include $300 in annual travel reimbursements that apply to a wide range of charges, from airfare to taxi rides. It also gets you into Priority Pass lounges, and earns three Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and dining purchases. Those points transfer instantly to partner programs including British Airways, United, Hyatt, and Ritz-Carlton.

Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige also comes with Priority Pass lounge access and Global Entry fee reimbursement that help offset its $450 annual fee. It earns three ThankYou Rewards points per dollar on airfare and hotel purchases, which transfer to 14 partners such as Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Hilton, and JetBlue. The card also confers $250 in travel credits toward airfare each year, and a fourth free night on hotel stays booked through Citi.

Eric Rosen is a frequent contributor about travel strategy for National Geographic Traveler. Follow his travels on Twitter.

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