There are now more travel credit cards out there than before. Cards offering travel insurance are a dime a dozen. That’s a fact. But these 10 cards below from certain banks truly set themselves apart from the rest.
So much has changed since I wrote about this topic for the first time in 2014. If you’d like to know what has changed regarding Philippine travel credit cards since then, it deals mostly with a lot of turnovers:
- Citibank Cebu Pacific cards no longer exist. Previous owners of this card type presumably now have a Citi Rewards card
- Cebu Pacific has now partnered with Unionbank for their exclusive airline credit card
- Standard Chartered has turned over all its cards business and accounts to local Eastwest Bank
- Security Bank has turned over its Diners’ Club cards business to BDO, and unlimited free airport lounge access is no longer possible (a minimum spend of around P50,000 is needed for 1 lounge access)
- Currently, the only card that has unlimited free airport lounge access is the Citibank Prestige Card that comes with a P12,000 non-waivable annual fee (but it’s totally worth it as explained below)
Here’s a quick recap of the top cards on this list:
Best Card for Variety of Mileage Program options:
Best Card for Unlimited, Free Airport Lounge Access:
Citi Prestige and Citi Premiermiles
Best Card for Earning Miles
on All (Local and Overseas) Spends:
Citi Premiermiles Platinum/Signature (P30 per mile)
Best Card for Earning Miles
on Airfare, Hotel and Overseas Spends:
Metrobank Travel Platinum Visa (P17 per mile)
This year’s edition of Best Travel Credit Cards has been confusing, to say the least. A lot of banks do not make 1 rewards point equivalent to 1 mile. It’s like they’re intentionally making it complicated for us. But after many, many calculations, I made a handy summary table which you can find and download at the end of this article. While only the top cards have free airport lounge access, note that the cards on this list all have non-expiring points and most have some travel insurance coverage.
Ideal for: International travelers who frequently visit cities where they can take advantage of the free access to JCB Plaza lounges
Although the Peso to Mile ratio for this card is atrocious (ranging from P150 to as much as P250 for 1 mile) and there is no airport lounge access, its redeeming quality that made it to the list is its FREE access to JCB Plaza lounges found in 9 cities worldwide, from Paris to Honolulu. I have personally visited their Tokyo lounge with its many Chinese staff and availed of the FREE baggage storage service, water and travel inquiry assistance.
Ideal for: First-time credit card owners; Cebu Pacific frequent flyers
This low-credit limit card earns 3x more points when used for dining, shopping and Cebu Pacific tickets, making its Peso to Mile ratio P30. Points may also be redeemed for miles of major frequent flyer programs.
Ideal for: Philippine Airlines frequent flyers; Mabuhay Miles members
This card has a low Peso to Mile ratio of P33 to 1 Mabuhay Mile. In addition, both card types give away a small but better-than-nothing sign-up bonus of 2,000 Mabuhay Miles and 10,000 Mabuhay Miles when you purchase P100,000 worth of PAL flights on your first year. The World Mastercard variety also allows priority Business Class check in at NAIA Terminal 2, making it perfect for the frequent PAL flyer.
Ideal for: Cathay Pacific frequent flyers; Asia Miles and OneWorld alliance members
Similar to the previous card, you gain a small bonus of 1,500 or 3,000 Asia Miles with your first purchase using your new card and with spending P250,000 within your first year. You can also “enjoy a first year enrolment fee waiver for Green tier membership of Marco Polo Club, giving you access to designated Club check-in counters, priority boarding and more.” However, the highlight of this card is its very low Peso to Mile ratio of P19 (Elite cards) to a maximum of P42.
Ideal for: any frequent international traveler to take advantage of the low Peso to Mile ratio of P17 for hotel, airfare and overseas spends
Although personally I found this travel-specific card to be very misleading in claiming to offer “unlimited airport lounge access” since they offer free Priority Pass membership only and not free lounge access, it has the lowest Peso to Mile ratio of P17 for airline, hotel and overseas spends. All other spends accrue 1 mile for every P50 spend which is equivalent to 2.5 points. In addition, this card offers exclusive discounts to Two Seasons properties and the Nobu Hotel Manila.
Ideal for: Delta Airlines frequent flyers; Delta Skymiles and SkyTeam Alliance members
The Platinum card earns 1 Delta mile for any P45 spend and 1 mile for every P22.50 spend (2 for every P45) on Delta tickets. More importantly, it offers FREE access to the Pacific Club lounge at NAIA Terminal 3.
Ideal for: Cebu Pacific frequent flyers
While both cards have a ratio of P30 to 1 GetGo point and get advance alerts to Cebu Pacific seat sales, the Platinum card has more tempting benefits that include: 1) Priority check in (which is very useful because lord knows how long the lines can be at Cebu Pacific check in counters); 2) 5kg extra baggage allowance on top of prepaid check-in baggage you purchased (which can be a lifesaver if you go over the limit) and 3) free lounge access at Skyview Lounge NAIA T3 and Davao Airport.
Ideal for: Any frequent international flyer
Although the Peso to Mile ratio of this card isn’t that low at P33.33 (hotel, airfare, overseas spends) to P50 (all spends), this card is preferable for the Filipino frequent flyer due to its free access to airport lounges at NAIA T1, T3 and Davao Airports.
Ideal for: Any frequent international flyer
Finally, the top card on the list is the Citibank Premiermiles Card and Platinum Premiermiles Card. Its low ratio of P30 to P40 and FREE access to NAIA T1, T3 and ALL Plaza Premium lounges worldwide from Toronto to Abu Dhabi makes it indisputably the #1 Travel Credit Card in the Philippines.
Special Mention: Citi Prestige Card
Ideal for: Individuals who travel 6x a year or every month or even more often
This card is not part of the list since unlike all other cards above that come with a waived annual fee on the first year, it comes with a non-waivable annual fee of P12,000 billed upfront on your first monthly statement. But it deserves a special mention because this card is built to be the ultimate travel credit card in the Philippines.
First of all, although you will inevitably be instantly billed the non-waivable P12,000 annual fee, there is a way to avoid paying for it. Citi holds an introductory offer of free 120,000 points (equivalent to the P12,000 annual fee) upon spending P25,000 on your card. I think this is quite manageable.
Even if you don’t manage to spend P25,000 and are billed the P12,000 annual fee, I believe it’s still worth it as long as you have this much to spare and you know you can maximize its main benefit of unlimited free access to 800+ Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide.
If you travel 12x a year, the P12,000 annual fee is equivalent to paying P500 (USD10) each time you use any of its 800+ airport lounges if you take a round trip flight 12x a year, or P1000 (USD20) if you do so 6x a year. Note that airport lounge access usually costs an average of at least USD20 per entry, and that paying for lounge entry instead gives you a much better deal than spending that much on overpriced and inedible airport food. That being said, the P12,000 annual fee is a bargain if you can make the most of it in terms of accessing airport lounges.
On top of the above card feature, there are even more perks of the Citi Prestige Card:
- 4 Priority Pass guest passes per year for your travel companion
- Complimentary Airport Meet and Assist Services at select airports for primary card members, twice (2x) per calendar year (at certain airports in the Asia Pacific region)
- Complimentary one-way Luxury Airport Transfers at select airports for primary card members, twice (2x) per calendar year (at certain airports in the Asia Pacific region)
- Three (3) complimentary rounds of golf for primary card members at participating courses per calendar year
- Unlimited 4th night free at any Hotels.com hotel booked through the (Citi) concierge (telephone number 02-995-9111)
- At a ratio of P18 to 1 mile this card is the second best card for overseas, dining and shopping spends
- An annual Relationship Points Bonus of 0.5% based on your spend in the last 12 months or 1.0% for Citi Prestige Card member and Citigold Clients
Finally, here’s the summary table: