Best Travel Credit Cards: A Closer Look at the Details
Let’s review our choices for the best travel credit cards. Below is an overview of each card offering, so you can make a clear choice.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Yes, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® does come with a high annual fee. Still, the perks and bonus opportunities make it worthwhile.
Chase members can earn up to 10% on purchases, including dining, hotel stays, and airfare.
All other purchases that are not part of the higher rate bonuses earn 1 point per dollar, which cardholders can redeem when they want. Points never expire, and there is no minimum to use.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
When it comes to travel, members can earn 5% on all of their bookings when they go through Chase. All other travel booked outside of Chase still comes with a solid return of 2%.
Getting the most out of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, members can book through Chase and enjoy a 25% boost to their current rate, using that to take off and visit several dream destinations.
Capital One Venture Rewards
When it comes to travel, the Capital One Venture Rewards card is probably one of the top choices. All purchases with this card earn 2 miles and can be redeemed for travel expenses, including airfare and hotel stays.
Members will not have to worry about blackout dates and other restrictions when using the Capital One Venture card for travel. The sign-up bonus is solid, and the extra travel perks give it that extra special touch.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
If you’re all about living a luxe life, then the Platinum Card® from American Express could be the perfect travel rewards card for you.
With this card, members will score exclusive perks that they won’t be able to find anywhere else, like access to airport lounges, priority boarding, and even shopping credits to use each year for travel.
The more that is spent on this card, the better the rewards get, making it the perfect luxury travel companion.
American Express® Gold Card
Categories with the American Express® Gold Card stretch far and wide, allowing members to earn points on just about anything.
Each year, members can take their pick on a number of travel and dining credits as they trot the globe, with incentives making each step a little sweeter. The annual fee is one of the only downsides, though the rewards kind of balance it out.
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card allows you to Start your rewards card journey off with a bang, with a huge sign-up bonus and tons of opportunities to start earning rewards on the things you love.
Options to order cards for employees are there for business owners, and all cards connected with the account earn 2% cashback on everything. There are only a few bonus categories, but all the perks and rewards definitely make up for that.
Citi Premier® Card
Though it’s not a true travel rewards card, members can still get a solid return and use their bonus points to book travel. The Citi Premier® is a versatile credit card that can be used for everyday purchases, allowing you to earn some serious points.
Bonus points are earned each time that the card is used, including in gas stations, hotels, airlines, and more.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
For a flat-rate card, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card takes the cake. It is perfect for all kinds of travel, no matter which airline you prefer or what hotel group is your favorite.
Enjoy great reward rates on every single purchase and use them to book your preferred destinations all around the globe.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
If you’re a frequent flyer with Delta airlines, then the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card could earn you substantial points.
Delta flights earn the most points, but there are also options for everyday spending like groceries and more.
As a member of the AMEX family, members get their first checked bag free while flying and priority boarding. Plus, they can access one of many airport lounges, getting the best travel there is available.
Chase Freedom Flex℠
One of the coolest things about the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is that the bonus categories change. That means that all members have the opportunity to rack up points on several purchases, some of which include everyday necessities like groceries and gas.
New members get 0% APR for their first year and can also chance to score a ton of bonus points as a welcome offer from Chase.
Hilton Honors American Express Card
Unlike other hotel-specific cards, the Hilton Honors American Express Card is attached to one of the biggest hotel chains around the world.
With this card, when you stay with Hilton, you’ll score a long list of benefits, including free stays, exclusive deals, and unbeatable prices on hotel stays, flights, and more.
Sign-up offers give members the chance to earn 150,000 points in their first three months, which can be redeemed at any time and any amount.
World of Hyatt Credit Card
The only downside of this travel rewards card is that Hyatt isn’t the biggest hotel chain. Still, when booking with them and their partners, the return is sweet.
World of Hyatt Credit Card Members can get free nights throughout the year and even score perks that only members are eligible for.
If you’re always on the road and Hyatt is your choice, the World of Hyatt Credit Card can earn you lots of redeemable points.
Capital One Spark Miles for Business
For all purchases made on the account, members earn 2 miles per dollar. Capital One does not limit its partnerships to specific hotels or airlines, meaning that there are never any blackout dates and no other restrictions when it comes to booking travel to preferred destinations.
Apart from the sign-up bonus, Capital One Spark Miles for Business members can also enjoy other bonuses the longer that they stay with the company.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Every single purchase, no matter the category, scores members 1.5 points. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® welcome offer for new members slashes the APR, totaling 0% for the first year.
This card comes with a great sign-up bonus, lots of options to collect points, and several destinations to redeem them.
Are Travel Credit Cards Worth It?
Well, that depends. For those who often travel, yes. For those who would like to travel more, also.
Picking a travel credit card for either one is possible, and perhaps the best way to make each purchase worth it is to start paying less and getting more out of traveling.
How Travel Rewards Work
A travel card is a great thing to have, especially when traveling is what you do. As you spend money on travel and other necessities, you’ll collect reward points that can be redeemed for travel, whether it’s for airfare, hotel stays, or just everyday purchases.
Below, we’ll outline some of the specifics of each one, helping you decide which is the best one for you.
- Airline Cards: These cards score miles for each dollar you spend. Some of the best cards out there offer 2 miles per point that can be redeemed with any airline, while others will only allow miles to be redeemed with one specific airline.
- Hotel Cards: While these cards might come with more options to earn points, most of the rewards come in the form of free hotel stays. Like airline cards, some are for specific hotel groups while others are for travel needs in general.
- General Travel Cards: Most general travel cards will earn members points for all kinds of transactions. Whether it’s flights, hotels, or transit, they often have different reward points for different categories, rewarding at least 1 point per dollar spent for all purchases.
- Cash Back Travel Cards: Cashback travel cards work by giving members rewards in the form of cash for all eligible purchases. Instead of redeeming miles or hotel stays, purchases come with a percentage of the purchase as cash. Read our guide on how cash back credit cards work.
How to Compare the Best Travel Credit Cards
When trying to find the best travel card for you and your travel needs, we’ve listed a few things that you should consider below. Applying for a credit card takes time, and it starts with research and comparing all options.
#1. Review Annual Fees
While cards that offer the highest rewards tend to have the highest annual fee, that’s not the case with every card.
Some offer $0 in fees for the first year while others are feeless. Check the annual fee and your budget and make sure it’s worth the fee to score rewards.
#2. Review Foreign Transaction Fees
If you’re a domestic traveler, then no worries. However, if going abroad is your forte then, you should consider the fees you’ll pay for foreign transactions.
#3. Understand Travel Rewards Program
Not all cards reward their members in the same way, and it’s a good thing to know. Typical rewards fall into three categories, all of which we’ve listed below.
- Points: When you get points, you can usually redeem them on several things. From cash to flights and more, your points could earn you lots of things, just not cash.
- Miles: When you score miles, you can redeem them on airline tickets. Some cards will allow you to choose, while others are airline-specific.
- Cash Back: If it’s cash you’re after, you’ll want to go with a cashback card. The return is usually much lower but, you’re getting cash in hand.
>> More: Best Rewards Credit Cards
#4. Additional Luxury Benefits
Some cards out there come with perks that make becoming a member worth it. Perks can include free checked bags, access to airport lounges, and even free nights in hotels all around the US.
#5. Travel Protection and Rental Car Coverage
As an added bonus, some rewards cards will offer certain securities that are perfect for travel, like protection for canceled flights, stolen luggage, and even coverage for rental cars.
#6. Sign-up Bonus
All rewards cards come with some kind of offer for new members, though they are not all created equal. Some require members to spend a large sum to get points, while others slash the APR down to 0% for the first year.
#7. International Usability
Again, if you’re more into domestic travel, you don’t have to consider this. However, it’s always good to know where your card is accepted, making sure you can use it without huge fees as a consequence.
#8. Transfer Partners
Credit card companies partner up with all kinds of businesses to offer customers perks. Some cards have more connections than others and can offer their members exclusive deals on several things, including subscriptions, memberships, and more.
Comparing Travel Hotel Credit Cards
Here are a few typical rewards that you can expect to come your way for those looking into hotel credit cards.
#1. Free Nights
The most common reward is a free night’s stay in one of the many partnering properties. Some cards give them as an anniversary gift, while others give members a certain number free per year.
#2. Elite Status
Elite status comes with lots of perks, including dining experience, luxury rooms, and even transportation services.
#3. Free Room Upgrades
Another perk of hotel rewards cards is the opportunity to get a free upgrade. Pay the price of a standard room and stay in one of the hotel chain’s most luxurious abodes.
#4. Early Check-In and Late Check-Out
Check-in as soon as you land and take a few extra hours to relax before you head back home. Ah, the perks of being a member!
#5. Number of Hotel Locations
While some hotel cards are with huge chains, others are connected to smaller chains that might not have rooms in every desired location you’d love to visit.
Compare Airline Credit Cards
Airline cards are another popular rewards card, which comes with a whole different set of considerations.
#1. Priority Boarding
Who doesn’t like to board first? Depending on your card, it could be a perk that comes along when you sign up.
#2. Free Checked Bags
Some cards will offer their members their first checked bag free, allowing them to avoid all of the high costs.
#3. Flight Discounts
Flight discounts can vary, and some cards offer great ones while others just knock off a bit. Be sure to check the discounts that each card offers before you choose one.
#4. Seat Upgrades
With a seat upgrade, you could score a seat in first class even if you paid economy prices.
#5. Elite Status
As an elite member, you can get access to exclusive lounges, priority boarding, and several other benefits when you book air travel.
#6. Airport Lounge Access and Luxury Amenities
Noting feels better than a quiet and relaxing atmosphere while waiting for your next flight. Check what kinds of luxury perks you can score as a member of the airline cards you’re looking for.
How Do Points and Miles Work on Travel Credit Cards?
Not all travel credit cards offer the same deals, with some rewarding points and other rewarding miles. While they both typically reward for travel, the ways they are redeemable are different.
How Travel Points Work
With each purchase made, members collect points that can be redeemed for travel. The points must first be used with eligible airlines and hotels, and second, transferred and accepted from the participating company.
How Travel Miles Work
Instead of points, members can earn miles, which they can use to purchase flights.
>> More: Difference Between Cash Back and Travel Rewards
Do Travel Points or Miles Expire?
With most cards, no. As long as you’re a member, the points will continue to build up until you’re ready to use them.
Who Should Get a Travel Credit Card?
If you love to travel or usually travel for work, a travel credit card is essential. It gives you rewards for purchasing, deals on travel and encourages you to keep on traveling.
What Is the Best Travel Credit Card for Students?
Students don’t usually have a ton of time to travel unless it’s a week for spring break or Christmas. That’s why a card that rewards all kinds of purchases is key. They can earn points for everyday purchases that they can redeem later for travel.
What Is the Best Travel Credit Card for Active-Duty Military?
Active military receives benefits in most hotels, which is why they should go with a card that maximizes their rewards. Collecting cashback from their travels or taking the miles to save up for a trip back home.
Pros and Cons of Travel Credit Cards
- Huge discounts on travel
- Opportunity to score exclusive perks
- Discounts on everything from flights to hotel stays and even food.
- Redeeming points can be a hassle with some cards.
- Annual fees can add up.
- Some of the offers are limited
How to Choose a Travel Credit Card
When choosing a travel card, you should first consider how much you travel and which airline you typically fly with. Then, check out the annual fees and sign-up offer to find the one that suits your goals and your budget.
What Credit Score Do I Need to Get a Travel Credit Card?
Most travel rewards cards require a mid to high-range credit score for approval.
Bottom Line: Best Travel Credit Cards
Collecting rewards while you travel or collecting points to travel more is possible with a travel rewards card.
Before you choose your preferred card, take a step back and think about your goals. Then, choose the one that will help you get closer to them.
Not all rewards cards are made the same, and there is surely one that will give you the most bang for your buck.
To evaluate and select the best travel credit cards, we analyzed a myriad of factors that are key for consumers to consider and understand. We rated travel credit cards based on their rewards potential, annual fees, sign-up bonuses, credit score requirements, foreign transaction fees, and cardholder benefits. Read our strict editorial guidelines and credit card rating methodology to better understand the integrity of our reviews.