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Best credit cards for travel rewards from our partners

By , Editor-in-chief

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GENERAL TRAVEL REWARDS | AIRLINE REWARDS | HOTEL REWARDS

It's time to travel better and less expensively and to not have to jump through dozens of hoops to make it happen. Whether you're looking for general travel rewards, airline-specific rewards or are more focused on cushy hotel stays, there are credit card options out there that will reward you for your everyday purchases.

Think about it, your mundane walk through the grocery store aisles could be the first step toward a stunning walk along a beach very, very far away from your local supermarket.

Best General Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

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Why We Like It: The simplicity of earning two miles for every $1 spent means you can use your card for any purchase and know you're racking up rewards. On top of that, receiving 5 percent of your points back when you redeem means these points are actually more valuable than they appear.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. That's enough for a $500 travel statement credit.

The Annual Fee: $89 (waived the first year).

The Rewards: Receive two miles per $1 spent on all purchases with no caps or categories and receive 5 percent of your miles back each time you redeem to be used on a future redemption. Read our full review

Credit Needed: Excellent


Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Why We Like It: Chase Utlimate Rewards® points are transferable to many frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, so you aren't tied down to a single brand with this card. Furthermore, you're points are worth 20 percent more when you redeem them for travel, making them even more valuable than they are at face value.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. That's worth $625 in travel. Plus earn 5,000 additional Ultimate Rewards® points if you add an authorized user and make at least one purchase in the first three months.  

The Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year).

The Rewards: Earn 2x the points on travel and entertainment and one point on everything else. Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are transferable to numerous frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs. Read our full review

EXPERT TIP: Combine this card with Chase Freedom® and/or Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ to earn top rewards in categories beyond travel and entertainment. Use Chase Freedom® strategically to earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly rotating categories (you must sign up quarterly), use Chase Freedom UnlimitedSM to earn 1.5 percent back on everything that doesn't earn more with Chase Freedom® or Chase Sapphire Preferred® and then transfer all your points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® card where your points are worth 20 percent more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Credit Needed: Excellent/Good


Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Why We Like It: There's a ton of flexibility with this card when it comes to redeeming those points; plus, the annual fee is less than what you might expect to pay for a card with this kind of earning and redemption power.

The Bonus: Snag 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

The Annual Fee: $59 (waived the first year).

The Rewards: Another card with which you earn two miles for every $1 you spend. Redeem miles for any flight or hotel stay, as well as car rentals, cruises, and more. Learn more

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles

Why We Like It: In a word, the match. Earning what amounts to three points per $1 spent during your first year makes this card even more lucrative than cards with sky-high annual fees. Make sure you rack up those points during your first year.

The Bonus: Discover will MATCH all the miles new cardholders earn during their first year, effectively meaning that 10,000 miles earned is actually 20,000 miles earned.

The Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Because of the match bonus, you effectively earn three miles per $1 spent during your first year. The ongoing rewards rate is a respectable 1.5 miles per $1.

Added Perk: Cardholders can be reimbursed up to $30 annually for in-flight Wi-Fi fees. Read our full review

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

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(American Express is a CardRatings advertiser)

Why We Like It: This card offers a number of luxury perks without the through-the-roof annual fee of other luxury cards. Consider, for instance, that taking full advantage of the $100 per year airline fee credit essentially reduces your annual fee to just $95. And there are plenty of perks with this card that certainly make that worthwhile.

The Bonus: Earn 25,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points after spending $2,000 in the first three months.

The Annual Fee: $195 (waived the first year).

The Rewards: You'll earn three times the points for flights booked directly with airlines; two times the points at U.S. restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets; and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

Added Perk: Receive up to $100 annually to cover incidental airline charges, like baggage fees, with a pre-selected airline. Read our full review

Credit Needed:  Excellent, Good


PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card

PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card

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Why We Like It: This card offers the kind of airline rewards earning that you won't find without getting an airline-specific card. In this case, you earn those high rewards without being tied down to a single airline. 

The Bonus: You can earn 20,000 bonus points if you spend $2,500 on your new card in the first three months.

The Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn five points per $1 spent on airfare and one point per $1 spent for all other purchases. *Note that you'll need to be a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to qualify for this card (membership does not guarantee approval). You can qualify with various military, government and organizational affiliations or by making a one-time donation to a qualifying organization. Read our full review

Credit Needed: Excellent


Best Airline Rewards Cards

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express 

Why We Like It: If you're brand-loyal, it pays to pick up a card that supports that. In this case, the bonus and perks like a free checked bag make this a card we can appreciate.

The Bonus: Receive 30,000 bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases in the first three months. Also, earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first three months. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

The Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year).

The Rewards: Rack up two miles per $1 spent directly with Delta and one mile per $1 on all other purchases. Read our full review

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

Best Hotel Rewards Cards

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

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Why We Like It: Starpoints® are incredibly valuable since they can be transferred to a number of airline partners or used at Starwood properties (of course) and at participating Marriott properties. Basically, this is a branded card that doesn't insist on unwavering brand loyalty.

The Bonus: Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

The Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year).

The Rewards: Earn five points per $1 spent at Starwood hotels, two points per $1 at participating Marriott hotels and earn one point per $1 on all other purchases. Read our full review

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

Excellent, Good


Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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The Bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spent $3,000 in the first three months.

The Annual Fee: $85

The Rewards: This card allows you to rack up five points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards and SPG (Starwood) hotels. Beyond that, earn two points per $1 spent on airfare purchased directly with airlines, on car rentals and at restaurants. Earn one point per $1 everywhere else. Read our full review

Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

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