The Best Credit Cards to get for travel


I know this subject has been covered by specific sites such as The Points Guy and Nerd Wallet but I wanted to throw my hat in the ring and give an opinion, as sometimes those sites are a bit biased due to their sponsorships and advertisements.

I have at one point or another owned almost every credit card related to rewards travel, but the picture above shows what’s currently in my wallet.  I’ll let you know why I have each one in there and give you some secrets.

Citi Prestige – This one is currently one of my FAVORITE.  The reason why?  They offer 4th night free!!.  You heard that right, everytime you book a hotel through their concierge service they give you the 4th night free.  Recently when I stayed at the Rosewood London and also the Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico I was able to save close to $700 on my stays because of this card. I HIGHLY recommend it, the yearly fee pays for itself, especially if you combine it with the travel credit

Barclays Black Card – This one i’m going to get rid of soon.  I originally got this purely for the novelty factor and to see how it compared to the Amex Centurion which I also carry.  Unfortunately the rewards system is terrible on this card, and the high yearly fee is not offset by any great benefits

Citi Aadvantage – This is also one of my favorites, it offers free checked bags and because I mostly fly American when I buy tickets I usually use this card to amass more American Airlines points.  Their points systems are one of the best when redeeming

Amex SPG (Not Pictured) – I currently use this card the most due to its rewards points system, which can be used with SPG hotels OR transferred over to American Airlines

Ritz-Carlton Rewards – The signup bonus on this card is great, with 3 free nights upon sign-up and Ritz gold status first year for free!

Chase Sapphire Preferred – I am going to switch this one over to the Chase Sapphire Reserve in about a month, but you cannot go wrong with either of these cards (Preferred or Reserve).  They offer some of the best signup bonuses and the rewards redemption process is very simple and the points are often worth a LOT!  If you have ONE card in your wallet I highly recommend this one.

Amex Centurion – This one gets asked about the most, because of its iconic status. It is a charge card, and not technically a credit card (meaning you have to pay off your entire balance in full every month).  It is incredibly hard to get in terms of spending requirements, but I highly recommend it if you get the chance to get one.  The platinum status you acquire on Delta pays off on its own, as I am almost always upgraded to first class or economy Plus even after buying a regular discount economy class ticket.  The other benefits are also SPG Gold and Hilton Honors Diamond status, all of which give you free room upgrades for when you stay at participating hotels.  Are these worth the $7500 initiation fee and $2500 yearly fee?  I would say they are if you travel often, as room and airfare upgrades are significantly expensive and add up quickly.

Chase Palladium – This is another card which I sometimes use for travel as I can combine the points with my other Chase card, but its high annual fee really makes me think twice about keeping it.  The United lounge access is great but I also tend to fly American so it doesn’t help me much in that regard.  The only really great thing about this card is its hidden credit line, which means that your FICO score isn’t impacted (it doesn’t show utilization ratios).



REVIEW: The Ritz-Carlton South Beach


When you think of South Beach you automatically conjure up thoughts of art-deco and 1980’s glamour.  All white decor and contemporary style.

The Ritz-Carlton in South Beach bucks this trend, severely.  The first thing you notice about the Ritz here is how large the lobby is.  Keeping in line with other Ritz properties this one is just as large, most of the other properties on Collins Avenue are relatively small in comparison, save for the Fontainebleau.  The hotel’s layout reminds me of a cruise ship with its multiple levels that jet out over each other, and the pool “deck” with rooms surrounding it on both sides with patios that mimic the look of outdoor balconies on upper level staterooms.  If you’re sitting at the pool it gives you the impression that you’re on a cruise perpetually on its way towards the Atlantic Ocean – and i’m ok with it.

The pool overlooks the ocean and is surrounded on both sides by hotel rooms, mimicking the outlook of a cruise ship

Overall, the hotel is luxurious and modern yet retaining much of the feel of a Ritz-Carlton with dark woods and darker furniture.

I think it’s a great place if you’re looking to stay within the Ritz-Carlton or Marriott chain while in South Beach, but I can’t recommend it over a few other options that are unique to Miami Beach, including the SOHO Beach HouseDelano South Beach, or the One Hotel.

If you DO want great service, and are used to a certain level of sophistication, then definitely check this out.  However, I feel that there’s other ways to experience the eclectic vibe of SoBe.


  • Cool pool area with a great view overlooking the ocean
  • Excellent service, which is tough to normally get in South Beach


  • You won’t be able to get the real South Beach feel, it doesn’t have the uniqueness that some of the other art-deco properties in South Beach offer


  • You won’t need a car, this hotel is RIGHT in the center of everything in South Beach


  • I’ve been to South Beach well over 20+ times so I have a long list, but always manage to walk down Ocean Blvd.  You can’t get the whole experience unless you do this

This is the quintessential part of South Beach – Ocean Blvd at night.  In all it’s Scarface glory

REVIEW: The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain


The Dove Mountain Ritz-Carlton is a pretty awesome place to visit.  The resort is a large property set in the side of Dove Mountain with lots of cool nooks and crannies to explore.  The feel is that of a modern hunting lodge, with high ceilings, large rooms with expansive views, and a rustic quality and vibe.

The Ritz here spent a lot of time and energy developing local activities such as sunset hikes, a traditional Native-American ceremony on certain days, and even outdoor games and a tangerine orchard.

A hunting lodge you ask?  Ritz-Carlton has their interpretation of it here at Dove Mountain

My personal favorite area of the hotel, though, is the pool.  There’s multiple decks, amazing views of the landscape around the hotel, and even a waterslide – if you feel so inclined.

Check out that waterslide!

Everything about this Ritz is a bit more special, and it reminds me a lot of a Ritz-Carlton Reserve.  The service is a slight notch above the other properties, and the build quality of the hotel itself is higher.  If you love the desert, I highly recommend visiting this property for a nice weekend getaway!


  • It’s one of the nicer Ritz-Carltons in the chain – similar in feel to a Reserve
  • It has lots to offer on the grounds and a wilderness center where you can book hikes and enjoy some really awesome desert activities


  • It’s quite a far drive from anything in the Tucson area


  • Check the events calendar or call before you book.  There’s usually lots planned and it’s a smart move to book your stay around special events to take advantage of them
  • The sushi is also really good here, trust me on this


  • Biosphere 2 is a really cool biosphere habitat that is basically one of two in the world (as the name suggests).  If you’re in the area you should definitely check it out!

REVIEW: The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel


This one’s a keeper – as they say.  The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is a mixture of old-world elegance and contemporary flair.  The hotel is large but the intimate spaces hidden within it make it feel homey and comforting rather than barren and excessive.

Ritz Laguna000621-23-freeform-pool
The Spanish villa look of the Ritz in Laguna gives it some old-world charm

The minute you walk in you’re wowed by the depth of the hallway.  It has a very similar feel to the Monarch Beach Resort in this respect, but with slightly lower ceilings which makes this hotel the perfect accessory for a romantic getaway.

The service here is impeccable, at the top of its class for Ritz-Carlton’s, and the lobby bar here is a cool place to hang out.  I had a chance to check out two of the restaurants here, EnoSteak and Raya and highly recommend both of them.  Raya’s floor to ceiling glass portals overlook the Pacific Coast and it’s a dazzling place to have breakfast at a leisurely pace.  Enosteak is the quintessential martini and ribeye spot which serves its purpose in this type of resort.

The rooms themselves are on the smaller side, and are not as new as the The Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point but they are definitely still clean and luxurious.  This is yet another hotel built with weddings in mind and as such there are breathtaking vistas throughout.

I recommend checking out The Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point and doing a spot compare between the two when booking to see which one is priced better during your stay as they both are comparable hotels, with the Ritz possibly edging on service, but slightly older in room quality.


  • Feels intimate yet maintains that large resort feel
  • The pool area is well thought out to include private secludes so that not everyone is staring at each other when you’re laying out
  • The service is impeccable and the dining establishments at this hotel are above average


  • It could use some room refreshes


  • Check out the view at 180 Blu while enjoying a drink.  It’s easy to miss this part of the hotel


  • Officially the second smallest church in the world, St Francis By the Sea is a pretty cool place to visit.  Plus it’s on the Guinness Book of World Records!
  • This one’s been written about but if you want to get around and you don’t want to hire an uber. Check out the Laguna Beach Trolley.  It’s fun to use it as a method of hopping around town and checking out the sights.

REVIEW: The Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point


The Monarch Beach Resort was formerly a SPG St Regis property, one of the top ones in the portfolio, but as of mid 2016 was purchased by KSL group after a lengthy renovation.  I went to stay at the hotel shortly after the renovation so this review reflects what the hotel currently is like (as of Q3 2016).

The common areas of this hotel are pretty amazing.  The lobby is grand, and the pool area has lots of space and two different pools to lounge at.  I didn’t get a chance to visit the spa, but did use the gym facilities and the equipment is new and the whole area feels spacious and well kempt.

Everything about this hotel feels grand, the scale of it all is pretty impressive

As you might know from a little bit of research, there are two other major competitors in the area – the Ritz-Carlton Dana Point and the Montage Laguna Beach both of which I have stayed at and of which you can find separate reviews of.via the hyperlinks.  If you had to ask me to choose, i’d say each one has a different feel and it depends what you’re looking for.  If you want a grand resort experience this is on par with what you would find at the Montage.  If you want something that is a bit more intimate the Ritz-Carlton at Dana Point will fit the bill.  If you want the newest hotel in the area, then this is definitely it.

There wasn’t much to say about the hotel, except that I felt that the updates were nice but they could’ve done a little more to update the rooms themselves.  With the caveat that i’ve never stayed at the St Regis version of the Monarch Beach before the renovation, it appeared to me that the bathrooms underwent very little during the transformation.  It also appeared that the hotel was heavily geared towards wedding parties, and this is something that is pretty apparent by the large open spaces which appeared odd when unused and without furniture.

Otherwise, this is a solid hotel and definitely gets my recommendation, but I suggest cross shopping with its closest competitor – the Montage to see which one is a better value at the time.  They’re both very similar in feel.

This place was built for wedding photographs, but it can often feel a bit too large at times


  • The stunning scale of the architecture is pretty cool to look at and definitely gives the Resort a unique feel
  • Newly updated (as of Q3 2016) with most of the common areas looking polished and luxurious
  • This is definitely a place built for weddings & other functions.  For couples looking for a quick getaway I would recommend also checking the Montage next door


  • Some spaces feel barren as they were built for functional meeting space but when unused have an odd appearance
  • The rooms are nothing spectacular, even though they are still very nice


  • This is actually a great place to have brunch – especially if you live in the Orange County area
  • For a slight upcharge you can get your own firepit on your patio, but ask for one of the rooms that is facing away from the pool so you can get more privacy