The 2022 TPG Awards are in the books — and an array of companies took home trophies tonight at our first live ceremony in three years. Some of the most interesting winners came courtesy of TPG readers, as many of you weighed in during voting from Oct. 11 through Nov. 11.
Note that these awards were decided entirely by reader votes — our editorial staff had no say in them.
Here’s a full rundown of the Readers’ Choice winners at the 2022 TPG Awards.
There were a total of six awards up for grabs in the credit cards category, and while the list looks familiar in some ways, we also saw some first-time victors.
Best Premium Credit Card: The Platinum Card® from American Express
While it can be tough to use some of the card’s perks in order to unlock its full value, there’s no understating the potential benefits available to Amex Platinum Card members. With more than $1,500 in annual credits available and the widest range of lounge access across premium credit cards, the Amex Platinum Card continues to set the standard for what a premium credit card can be.
Its $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) can be a tough pill to swallow for many who are new to credit card rewards, but perks like up to $200 in airline incidental credits, up to $200 in hotel credits and reimbursement for airport security programs like Clear, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck can offset the card’s annual fee each year. Enrollment is required for select benefits.
Then, there are the benefits like automatic elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, rental car elite status in several programs, great insurance perks and a fantastic earning rate of 5 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 of these purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar). With all of that, it’s easy to see why the Amex Platinum Card remains in so many wallets each year, despite its high annual fee.
Apply now: The Platinum Card from American Express
Best Travel Rewards Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
It’s often called the best starter card for points and miles, but it’s more than just that. The Sapphire Preferred comes with just a $95 annual fee but offers similar perks and benefits to cards with much higher up-front costs.
Cardholders can enjoy up to $50 in hotel credits each year, complimentary DashPass membership with DoorDash through the end of 2024, Instacart+ membership and purchase credits through July 31, 2024, and a 10% anniversary bonus each year. Plus, cardholders earn Ultimate Rewards points on each purchase, which have some incredibly valuable uses.
The Sapphire Preferred also offers a lucrative earning structure and strong insurance benefits. Cardholders earn 3 points per dollar spent on dining, streaming services and online grocery purchases, 5 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides through March 2025 and 5 points per dollar spent on travel purchased through the Chase travel portal (excluding purchases covered by the $50 hotel credit). Other travel purchases earn 2 points per dollar, and everything else earns 1 point per dollar. Plus, you’ll enjoy travel protections in case of delayed or canceled trips or damage caused to your rental car when you pay for these reservations with your Sapphire Preferred.
Apply now: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Card: Bilt Mastercard®
Millions of people pay rent each month, and a fair number of them don’t earn any rewards for doing so. Enter the Bilt Mastercard, which has no annual fee (see rates and fees) and offers the ability to earn points on rent — even when your landlord doesn’t accept credit cards.
Cardholders need to make five transactions per month to earn points, but then you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on dining, 2 points per dollar spent on travel and 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases (including rent). The ability to earn up to 50,000 points on rent per year and use those points with an interesting and growing set of transfer partners can be very lucrative when building a diverse points portfolio.
There are also insurance benefits, travel protections, cellphone protection and other World Elite Mastercard benefits available that provide value not common to a card with no annual fee. See here for rewards and benefits.
Editor’s note: TPG founder Brian Kelly is a Bilt advisor and investor.
Apply now: Bilt Mastercard
Best Business Credit Card: American Express® Business Gold Card
Small-business owners are busy. They may not have time to keep track of bonus spending categories to maximize their credit card strategies. Luckily, there’s a card that automatically adjusts to award bonus points where these business owners are spending the most: the Amex Business Gold Card.
Cardmembers earn 4 points per dollar spent in their top two categories each month (on the first $150,000 spent each year, then 1 point per dollar), and the categories cover common business expenses like shipping, advertising, software and more. The ability to earn up to 600,000 points (worth $12,000, according to TPG’s valuations) on a card with a $295 annual fee can be incredibly valuable (see rates and fees).
Additionally, there are benefits like Amex Offers that can provide discounts or bonus points, a 25% points rebate on airfare purchases and no preset spending limit, which can be a great feature for businesses that need increased spending power.
Apply now: American Express Business Gold Card
Best Airline Cobranded Credit Card: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Getting a free checked bag on your next flight may be the main reason you get an airline’s credit card, but the Delta Platinum Amex Card’s benefits go beyond this. In addition to a free checked bag for you and up to eight people on your reservation, you’ll enjoy Main Cabin 1 priority boarding on Delta flights, reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee and an annual companion certificate every account anniversary.
Plus, those pursuing elite status with Delta can take advantage of 10,000 bonus Medallion Qualification Miles after spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year. This benefit is available twice per year.
Best Hotel Cobranded Credit Card: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
Marriott has a massive collection of hotels around the world, which means that having points and free night awards with Marriott Bonvoy can be a great way to save money on your next hotel stay. The Boundless card comes with just a $95 annual fee but offers a free night award (worth up to 35,000 points) on each account anniversary.
The free night award alone can easily justify the Boundless card’s annual fee each year, but there are other perks as well. These include automatic Silver Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy, 15 elite night credits each year to help you earn higher levels of status and Chase Offers that can provide money-saving rebates through targeted offers on your card.
Apply now: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
We had just two airline-related awards voted on by readers this year, and one carrier swept the category.
Best US Airline Loyalty Program: Delta SkyMiles
Delta SkyMiles may not be the most valuable for international redemptions, but they’re remarkably easy to use. Generally, if a seat is available on a Delta flight, you can book it with your SkyMiles. Plus, the loyalty program offers consistently great deals on domestic awards, with short-haul flights sometimes starting at just 4,500 SkyMiles one-way.
The airline has also heavily invested in its elite status program. It’s getting more difficult to earn Gold, Platinum and Diamond tiers next year, but those who meet the requirements will enjoy benefits like a suite of Choice Benefits at the Platinum and Diamond tiers, which include confirmed upgrade certificates, companion status and more.
Speaking of elite status, Delta made waves when it announced that earning elite status on award tickets would become a permanent program benefit. With this benefit, members receive 1 MQM for each mile flown, plus 1 Medallion Qualification Segment per flight and $10 in Medallion Qualification Dollars per 1,000 SkyMiles redeemed.
Best Airport Lounge Network: Delta Sky Club
Delta has consistently gone above and beyond with its lounge offerings. The airline has revamped many Sky Clubs in the U.S. and abroad this year, opening brand new lounges in airports like New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD), among others. These lounges are larger and more modern than their predecessors, giving frequent flyers a place to relax and recharge preflight.
The food offerings stand out, too. Instead of the vegetables and cheese cubes you find in other domestic lounges, Sky Clubs often have sandwiches, breakfast plates and locally inspired cuisine, so you’ll leave the lounge with a full meal. The new O’Hare Sky Club even has a Chicago-style hot dog stand in the back of the lounge.
Finally, Delta is actively combatting lounge overcrowding. The airline recently added a priority access lane for top-tier elites and those flying in premium cabins. Next year, it plans to limit access to lounges, which will hopefully reduce the long lines we often see at Sky Clubs during peak travel times.
A total of three hotel awards were on the ballot this year, including a pair of brand-new awards. Here’s a recap of the winners.
Best Hotel Loyalty Program: Marriott Bonvoy
With its 30 brands and a portfolio of 8,000-plus hotels, Marriott Bonvoy has continued to provide ample benefits to its elite members. While the program made waves with a pivot away from award categories earlier this year, that wasn’t the doomsday scenario some were afraid of. Marriott Bonvoy members can still use their points for solid value, though it remains to be seen how significant a full transition to dynamic pricing in 2023 will be.
Additionally, the program saw a major overhaul of its cobranded credit card portfolio in 2022:
- The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card underwent a major revamp, with additional elite nights, higher status and a more valuable free night certificate.
- The Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card also underwent a refresh, with new bonus categories, higher status and a new discount on room rates for cardholders.
- The program launched two brand-new cards: the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful Credit Card.
More recently, Marriott announced that it would bring back personal “ambassadors” for Ambassador Elite members — a benefit that faded away during the coronavirus pandemic. For Ambassador Elite members, these agents serve as a single point of contact for everything Marriott.
The information for the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful 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 Luxury Hotel Brand: Ritz-Carlton
With addresses that span from the heart of Washington, D.C.’s posh Georgetown neighborhood to the Al Bustan Palace nestled in Oman’s Al Hajar Mountains, Ritz-Carlton remains a top pick for TPG readers in search of opulence and luxury. The brand continues to expand, adding The Ritz-Carlton New York, Nomad and The Ritz-Carlton, Amman to its portfolio in just the last year.
Ritz-Carlton guests have grown accustomed to the brand’s upscale, world-renowned service and amenities. Unlike other luxury brands, however, these locations participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program — even going as far as to offer space-available upgrades to suites for Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite members.
Best Affordable Hotel Brand: Holiday Inn Express
Best known for offering all guests a complimentary hot breakfast, Holiday Inn Express is a popular affordable hotel brand. While Holiday Inn Express has an impressive footprint in major cities throughout the U.S. and Western Europe, the brand can also be a great bet for vacation seekers visiting destinations like the Grand Canyon, Honolulu and Hilton Head, South Carolina. Interestingly, Holiday Inn Express is IHG’s fastest-growing brand, with new locations in 2022 including the Holiday Inn Express Krefeld – Dusseldorf in Germany and the Holiday Inn Express Beijing Tongzhou Tourism Zone.
When you combine the ability to purchase points for as low as 0.5 cents, free breakfast for everyone in the room and the fourth night free from cards like the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card and the IHG® Rewards Traveler Credit Card, it’s no wonder why Holiday Inn Express has drawn families and budget-conscious travelers in droves.
Finally, we had four awards in the cruise category — and the list included a first-time winner.
Best Mainstream Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line is a first-time recipient of a TPG Award, but it’s no surprise that the “Fun Ship” line is the people’s choice. Carnival makes cruising accessible to more vacationers with numerous U.S. departure ports, value-focused cruise fares and an emphasis on no-extra-fee fun. Not to mention, its crew is among the friendliest on the seven seas.
Carnival has some of the best complimentary food options of all the big-ship lines, with a variety of offerings ranging from Guy Fieri’s burgers and barbecue to Shaquille O’Neal’s fried chicken. Its ship-made pizza is among the best at sea, and its melting chocolate cake is legendary. Nightly song-and-dance performances turn dinners in the main dining room into a foot-stomping, napkin-waving party.
All Carnival ships cater to fun in the sun with multiple pools, onboard water parks and lots of poolside activities. Its larger, newer ships take that fun to new heights with ropes courses, outdoor game areas and the first roller coasters at sea. The line brews its own beer, keeps your schedule full with daily trivia and karaoke events, runs high-tech musical shows and pours craft cocktails with all the smoke and burnt herbs of your favorite big-city bar, too. After 50 years, it’s clear that Carnival knows how to show anyone a good time.
Best Family Cruise Line: Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line brings the same standard of magic and attentive service that Mouse fans have come to expect from the brand’s land-based theme parks and resorts. The line pays particular attention to families with children, which is why it’s not surprising that the line has taken the first-ever TPG Award for Best Family Cruise Line – the same year it debuted its largest and most amenity-filled ship, Disney Wish.
In addition to expansive kids clubs so impressive they make adults wish they were children again, Disney Cruise Line features top-deck waterslides, pool deck parties, a pirate-themed night with fireworks and even dedicated Marvel and “Star Wars” voyages. Meanwhile, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offers princess and pirate makeovers for the youngest cruisers, and character meet-and-greets abound throughout each sailing.
Parents will love the immersive dining rooms with dedicated menus for kids, childcare services that allow moms and dads to enjoy some alone time, smart cabin layouts that include a bath-and-a-half and a dividing curtain for bedtime, and jaw-dropping family-friendly entertainment with costumes and special effects of a caliber that only Disney can deliver.
Best Luxury Cruise Line, Best River Cruise Line: Viking Cruises
Founded just 25 years ago as a river cruise line, Viking Cruises has grown rapidly into more than just the biggest river cruise operator for Americans. More recently, it’s also become the biggest operator of upscale ocean voyages, too. The company fields a massive fleet of 80 river ships around the world (up from 29 a decade ago), as well as 10 upscale oceangoing ships that all have been launched in the past eight years.
The vessels include a new river ship for the Nile unveiled in August and the first Viking ship on the Mississippi River, which debuted in September. This year, Viking also rolled out its first expedition-style ocean ships designed to visit off-the-beaten-path places such as Antarctica and the Arctic, as well as two more traditional ocean ships. Plus, it launched its first Great Lakes cruises.
In short, it was a huge year for Viking, making the line a logical pick for two TPG Awards. It’s a line that, notably, caters to a certain type of thoughtful, inquisitive, generally older traveler who is looking to explore the world and learn a thing or two along the way.
TPG readers had a lot to say in this year’s awards, selecting 15 of the brands that took home trophies. If you think your favorite travel or loyalty provider was robbed or want to weigh in on the winners, feel free to join the conversation on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
Stay tuned for more TPG Awards content in the days to come.
Reporting by Ryan Smith, Andrew Kunesh, Kyle Olsen, Erica Silverstein, Ashley Kosciolek, Gene Sloan and Nick Ewen.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Gold, click here.
See Bilt Mastercard rates and fees here
See Bilt Mastercard rewards and benefits here