There are so many great credit cards out there, and so much conflicting information that it can be hard to know where to begin. Luckily, I’ve spent the last few years studying credit cards, hotel loyalty prgrams, and frequent flyer programs, and today I’m here to share with you 11 of the best travel credit cards that are currently available. I’ll let you know the details of each credit card as well as what the card is best for.
Before you decide what card to apply for, note that many of the cards listed below offer some type of welcome bonus when you apply for the card and spend a certain amount of money. These bonuses can be very rewarding, and are definitely worth taking into consideration before you decide on which card is the best fit for you. Since these bonuses change, we won’t mention them below.
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#1 Overall Best Travel Credit Card – Chase Sapphire Preferred
Annual Fee: $95
Bonus Spending Categories: Earn 2x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1x Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Other Perks: Chase offers 13 transfer partners, including standard providers with plenty of options such as United, Hyatt, and Marriott, that you can take advantage of with your Ultimate Rewards points.. Or take advantage of booking travel arrangements through the Chase travel portal, where Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents apiece. The Chase Sapphire Preferred also offers trip delay and cancellation and delayed and lost baggage insurance, and car rental insurance coverage.
Who This Card is Best For: Chase Sapphire Preferred is consistently voted one of the best mid-tier travel cards available, and the low annual fee makes it extremely accessible. This card is ideal for a newer cardholder, especially with the extremely flexible 2x points categories, so you can earn points on everything from Uber rides to quick lunches. In addition, their list of travel partners is solid if you travel domestically, as well as trips overseas. Overall, you can’t go wrong with this card and all the benefits that will add up quickly.
2. Best Travel Credit Card for frequent travelers – Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual Fee: $450
Bonus Spending Categories: Earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1x Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Other Perks: One of the biggest perks is a annual $300 travel credit, which covers more than half of the membership fee, and is valid on any and all travel-related purchases. Reserve cardholders also have access to booking travel through the Chase portal where points are worth 1.5 cents each, and access to the impressive list of transfer partners to make your Ultimate Rewards points go further. You’ll also have access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across the world with a Priority Pass membership. Cardholders can also have their Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursed every four years. As a Visa Infinite card, the Sapphire Reserve also gives you perks such as trip cancellation coverage, concierge service, and primary rental car insurance.
Who This Card Is Best For: Chase Sapphire Reserve competes with other premium cards, but its earning potential significantly outweigh the annual fee. This is a great card for an avid traveler, because the lounge visits alone can save you a few bucks every time you visit the airport. Overall, I’d say this card it a better choice than the Sapphire Preferred for anyone that travels more than three or four times per year.
Annual Fee: $550
Bonus Spending Categories: The American Express Platinum Card earns 5x Membership Rewards points on air travel and 1x Membership Rewards points on all other purchases.
Other Perks: American Express gives Platinum cardholders an annual $200 air travel fee credit, but unlike the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s credit, this is only valid for airline incidentals with a pre-selected airline each year. Membership Rewards points transfer to an extensive 17 list of travel partners. In addition, cardholders have access to a range of airport lounges across the world, including Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, American Express Centurion Lounges, and a Priority Pass lounge membership. The Amex Platinum also reimburses your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. Cardholders also receive a total of up to $200 in Uber credits over the course of the calendar year. Last but not least, enjoy complimentary Gold status with Marriott and Hilton hotels.
Who This Card is Best For: As a premium option, American Express Platinum is designed for frequent flyers and high spenders. Between the annual fee and the membership requirements, this is a good first travel card for someone with high credit and an established credit history. Where this card really differentiates itself from other premium credit cards is with its Centurion Lounge access. If you regularly fly out of or through airlines with a Centurion Lounge including New York LGA, Miami, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle, and a few others, you may want to choose to get this card instead of another premium card.
Annual Fee: $250
Bonus Spending Categories: The American Express Gold Card offers unlimited 4x Membership Rewards points at US and International restaurants and at US supermarkets on your first $25,000, 3x Membership Rewards on flights, and 1x Membership Rewards on all other purchases.
Other Perks: Earn 35,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $2,000 within your first three months as a cardholder. If you choose your domestic vacation destinations based on a bucket list dining experience or wanting to try all the local cuisine you can, the American Express Gold Card is for you. This is the best card for dining perks, and you get a $100 statement credit for airline fees with a pre-selected airline each year, which gives you a little additional boost to help make this card worth it.
Who This Card is Best For: If you’re serious about dining and travel, and traveling to dine, the American Express Gold card could help you rack up points the fastest. This travel card has a narrower rewards structure than some of its competitors and doesn’t offer quite as many additional benefits, but will definitely pay off for food lovers.
5. Easiest Redemption Card – Capital One Venture Rewards Card
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
Bonus Spending Categories: Earn 2x Venture miles for every dollar spent, and earn 10x Venture miles when you make and pay for hotel reservations on Hotels.com by going to hotels.com/venture.
Other Perks: Capital One will give you a statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, meaning that the cost of the fee will be reimbursed when you use your Venture Rewards for payment. For a card with a low annual fee compared to others, the standard perks are excellent for cardholders who plan on traveling and don’t care about ultra-premium benefits like lounge access. Capital One has 12 airline transfer partners with a generally less desirable rate than other transferrable points currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. That said, there can still be great value to be had with partners Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles, and Air France-KLM Flying Blue.
Who This Card is Best For: Venture Rewards is an excellent credit card for a cardholder who wants to earn miles on everyday purchases and doesn’t want to have to think about which card earns points in what categories. It’s also an excellent card for anyone that books hotels through hotels.com or is willing to start.
Annual Fee: $0
Bonus Spending Categories: Get 1.25x Venture miles per dollar spent on everyday purchases, and 10x Venture miles per dollar when booking and paying for hotel reservations on Hotels.com, by going to hotels.com/venture.
Other Perks: Being a no-annual fee card, this Capital One VentureOne card doesn’t offer much in the way of additional perks, but you still will have access to Capital One’s 12 transfer partners.
Who This Card is Best For: The VentureOne Rewards card is an excellent first travel rewards card, especailly for anyone that’s intimidated by an annual fee. You shouldn’t ignore other cards just because they do have an annual fee, but if you’re a low spender or need to build your credit history a bit more this card can be a great option. The simple structure and being able to earn miles on all your purchases makes having this card extremely low maintenance.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
Bonus Spending Categories: Unlimited 4% cash back on dining, 2% cash back on grocery stores, and 1% on all other purchases.
Other Perks: Since this is a cash back card, you can definitely use your rewards for travel, but you also have a lot more flexibility on how you choose to use them! Either way, you won’t have to worry about paying foreign transaction fees for when you take your adventures abroad.
Who This Card is Best For: If you want to keep things simple and focus on getting cash back instead of miles, this card will give you plenty of rewards for a relatively low annual fee. Keep in mind that the categories can be pretty broad, such as entertainment applying to everything from theater tickets to record store purchases.
Annual Fee: $0
Bonus Spending Categories: Earn 3x points on dining, gas, rideshares, transit, streaming services, and trave and 1x points on all other purchases.
Other Perks: Earn 30,000 Go Far points after spending $3,000 within your first three months as a cardholder. The card also gives you travel accident and lost luggage insurance.
Who This Card is Best For: It’s unusual to see an American Express card without an annual fee, but this card from Wells Fargo is a solid, well rounded points card with earning potential on many categories. This card’s system for earning points is easy to track as well as earn, which can be a bonus for newer travel cardholders. If you travel and dine out frequently but aren’t necessarily a high spender in just one category, this unique card might be perfect for you. The range of earning categories, and flat rate, make this a well rounded card to help you earn more perks from your everyday spending.
Annual Fee: $95
Bonus Spending Categories: The Citi Premier Card earns 3x Citi ThankYou points on travel and gas, 2x ThankYou points for restaurants and entertainment, and 1x ThankYou point for all other purchases.
Other Perks: Citi ThankYou points can be redeem through Citi for 1.25 cents each toward airfare or transferred to any of Citi’s transfer parnters. This travel card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees, and you have a series of travel protections such as trip delay protection and primary auto rental insurance when traveling internationally.
Who This Card is Best For: If you are planning to get serious about your travel, the Citi Premier Card is a great fit for your wallet. The comprehensive travel protections paired with a solid range of benefits make this card a great addition to an existing few travel cards, or a first travel rewards card. Many people report that if you have to file a travel insurance claim, it’s an easier process with Citi than with Chase (and American Express notorously doesn’t offer great travel protections with their credit cards).
10. Uber Visa Card
Annual Fee: $0
Bonus Spending Categories: Earn 4% cash back on dining, 3% cash back on travel, 2% cash back on online purchases, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Other Perks: In addition to earning points, when you pay for your cell phone bill with your Uber Visa card, you’ll get up to $600 in insurance coverage for your mobile phone. You can also receive a $50 online subscription service credit after spending $5,000 or more on purchases each year. Additionally, the Uber card has no foreign transaction fees, which is a great benefit for a no-annual fee card.
Who This Card is Best For: Though using this card to pay for Uber is surprisingly not the highest cash back reward (with the exception of UberEats, which is covered under dining), this card covers all the bases for a solid cash back rewards card. However, you can also use your cash back for points for Uber rides, and access using points for payment directly through the app. Due to a lack of annual fee and comprehensive cash back on popular categories, this card is an excellent first travel credit card for someone who wants to start small and see how they spend on certain categories.
Annual Fee: $0
Bonus Spending Categories: Earn unlimited 1.5x miles on every dollar spent.
Other Perks: The DiscoverIt Miles card does not have foreign transaction fees, though you may find that many stores outside of the US do not accept Discover cards. Discover also offers an essential service for anyone closely monitoring their finances: free FICO credit scorecard and social security number alerts to prevent fraud.
Who This Card is Best For: Discover offers a great deal for a flat rewards card that doesn’t require a whole lot of active thought making this a great card for anyone that wants to keep it simple. If you’re planning to travel outside of the US, you may not want this to be your only credit card, however, because Discover does not have as good of Worldwide acceptance as Visa or Mastercard. Overall, this is another excellent introductory card with no annual fee, and a perfect way for you to start earning miles without needing to commit to a premium card if you’re not yet sure what premium benefits are most important to you.
As you can see, each credit card has different perks and it can be very tough to analyze what card is the best option in any given situation. What I recommend is that you first decide if you value lounge membership, travel insurance, and TSA PreCheck/Global Entry fee credits. If you do, decide how much each of those benefits is worth to you each year. Then take a look at your last three to 12 months of expenses (or at least estimate your monthly expenses if you don’t have exact numbers) and decide what cards would earn you the most points. Finally, consider complexity; it may be worth it to give up a few thousand points for a simpler credit card strategy.
Caroline has traveled all over the world on miles and points. She joins us today from Travel Freely – a free service that takes the guesswork out of finding the best travel rewards credit cards. The Travel Freely system is for beginners who have no idea how easy it is to travel for free.