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Readers pick the best credit cards for the 2021 TPG Awards

Nov. 15, 2021
7 min read
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It's the first day of Credit Cards Week here at the 2021 TPG Awards — and that means it's time to give out some trophies. Readers cast their votes for six awards from Sept. 13 through Oct. 15, and the results are in.

Read on for a full breakdown of the winners — including a few surprises.

Best Premium Credit Card

The world of premium travel rewards cards — which we define as those with annual fees greater than $300 — went through some major shake-ups in 2021. There were increased annual fees on some of these products and an array of (at times unexpected) new benefits on popular products. This may have impacted the voting, as we have a surprise first-time winner of this award.

Winner: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

Taking home the trophy is American Airlines' top-tier credit card: The Citi AA Executive card.

This card has a number of perks that are especially appealing to American travelers, including free checked bags and Admirals Club access when traveling on American or its partners. But most importantly, it extends those lounge privileges to up to 10 authorized users (AUs) — including two guests or immediate family members. Even better? These AUs can be added at no additional charge.

Read more: Easiest way to get American Airlines Admirals Club airport lounge access (and share it, too)

It's possible that higher annual fees on cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card® from American Express helped push this unlikely winner to the top. It's worth noting that American also won many of the airline-related awards, so it stands to reason that AA flyers simply came out in large numbers during voting.

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Best Travel Rewards Credit Card

Cards with smaller annual fees ($300 or less) are even more appealing to the average traveler. And in this category, a familiar one came out on top.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Sapphire Preferred won the award as the best travel rewards card for the fourth-straight year.

While it's been a mainstay on TPG's list of best cards for years, it underwent a refresh to make it even more valuable in 2021. This included enhanced earning rates and a new $50 hotel credit every year (when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal). Its best-ever welcome offer that ran for a few months in 2021 may be in the past, but the Sapphire Preferred clearly still sticks in the minds of TPG readers.

Read more: 60,000-point bonus for a top travel card: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Card

Paying an annual fee on a credit card can unlock incredible value, but even those without a yearly cost can be an important part of your travel rewards strategy. And here again, it's a repeat winner.

Winner: Chase Freedom Unlimited

Defending its title as the best no-annual-fee credit card — also for the fourth year in a row — is the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

On the surface, it seems simple: You earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make. However, you can also effectively convert these rewards into fully transferable Ultimate Rewards points by carrying a higher-end Chase card — like one of the Sapphire cards. This translates into an effective return of 3% in rewards (based on TPG's most recent valuations), and TPG readers felt that the Freedom Unlimited offers a value proposition worthy of another award.

Best Business Card

Business credit cards provide an array of perks for small-business owners (though you may be surprised at what may qualify you for one), and in this category, we again had a first-time victor.

Winner: American Express® Business Gold Card

The Amex Business Gold card was voted as the best one for small businesses. While it's not as flashy as The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, the card nevertheless provides some solid value for a card with a $295 annual fee (see rates and fees). It offers great ways to maximize your earning rates across different categories of purchases, and you'll also enjoy a 25% rebate when using the Pay With Points feature to book travel reservations through Amex Travel (up to 250,000 points per calendar year).

Related: How American Express Travel can elevate your trip

Best Airline Cobranded Credit Card

We saw some incredible new offers launch on airline credit cards in 2021, but one card stood above the rest according to TPG readers.

Winner: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

One of American's mid-tier cards took home the honor as best airline cobranded card this year. The card could be a solid option for American Airlines travelers — especially if you're based in one of the carrier's hubs — as you'll enjoy a free checked bag on domestic itineraries plus a 25% discount on in-flight purchases.

American also added the ability for current elite travelers to requalify for status by spending $15,000 on a cobranded card from July 15 through Nov. 15, so that may have helped push the card to the top.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best Hotel Cobranded Credit Card

The final category for today is for hotel cobranded cards — and like in years past, the winner came from the same program that took home the hotel-related awards in 2021.

Winner: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Marriott's mid-tier card was voted as the best hotel card around by TPG readers.

While the Marriott Bonvoy program is popular for many road warriors, this card can appeal to even more casual fans. The Marriott Boundless card launched its best-ever bonus during voting, but it also provides value for cardholders after that initial haul of points — including a free-night certificate every year (up to 35,000 points) plus automatic Silver Elite status and 15 elite-night credits to help you hit an even higher tier.

Bottom line

There were some surprise winners for the readers' choice categories here at Credit Cards Week at the 2021 TPG Awards, but that's simply how the votes fell this year.

Do you agree with these picks, or did the readers miss the mark? Be sure to join the discussion in our TPG Lounge Facebook group — and then tune in to our Facebook Live this Thursday at noon Eastern Time to hear our editorial team members' take on the winners.

For rates and feed of the Amex Business Gold Card, please click here.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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