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Best vacation credit cards of September 2020

The right credit card could greatly reduce the cost of your next vacation. CardRatings editors reveal the best hotel credit cards, airline cards, and more.
Jennifer Doss, CardRatings Editor Last Updated, September 18, 2020

Our credit card articles, reviews and ratings maintain strict editorial integrity; however we may be compensated when you click on or are approved for offers (terms apply) from our partners. How we make money.

best vacation credit cardsYou probably don't plan your vacation around your credit cards, but you likely pay for it with them. After all, vacations aren't cheap, and if you don't have a card that offers much in the rewards department, you're paying more for your trip than you need to.

If you're a consistent credit card user you have might have already earned yourself enough points to help you book your next trip. Airline miles and free hotel stays really come in handy when planning a vacation. If this isn't the case though, when it comes to planning your next vacation, a rewards credit card from our partners could be your new best friend. Three points per dollar spent at the gas pump can really add up when you're taking a cross-country road trip. So could four points per dollar spent on flights. Especially if you're buying tickets for the whole family.

Knowing you're earning some money back while enjoying a much-deserved trip only makes vacation that much sweeter. And who knows, you might even earn enough rewards off that one vacation alone that you can start thinking about where you'll go next...

Or maybe you aren't going anywhere this season... If that's the case, you're still presumably going to go out and have some fun (hopefully). Maybe you'll dine out a lot, or drive out to the beach or to the swimming pool, or ski resort every chance you get. If your credit card is weak with its rewards, once again, you could be missing out.

LIST OF WINNERS

Using a credit card on vacation is much safer than carrying around loads of cash, or even using a debit card. The security benefits credit card companies offer these days are top-notch, and purchases made with a credit card are much more secure. At the very least, even if it won't be the main way you make purchases, it's smart to have a credit card with you while on vacation (and arguably, at all times) just in case. If you lose your cash, it's gone. If someone gets a hold of your debit card information and makes purchases, well, chances are, most of that money will be gone as well. Debit and credit cards are treated differently by consumer protection laws, and under federal law, your personal liability for fraudulent charges on a credit card can't exceed $50 (or $0 depending on your credit card issuer). However, if a fraudster uses your debit card, you could be liable for $500 or more, depending on how quickly you report suspicious activity. And since many credit cards offer security and account alerts, automatically notifying you of any suspicious behavior, chances are, fraudsters won't get far if they do happen to come across your credit card account information.

If you're looking for the best credit cards for summer vacation, here are some ideas — and afterwards, we'll regroup with a few credit card money saving strategies you'll want to utilize, no matter which credit card you choose.

BEST VACATION CREDIT CARDS WITH FLEXIBLE REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The great thing about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is that it earns users unlimited two miles back on every purchase made, no matter the category. So whether you're using the card to pay for new luggage, plane tickets, dinner, gas, or road trip snacks, you can rest easy knowing you're being rewarded for every single vacation purchase you make. 

Another big reason to consider including this card in your vacation plans is because of its numerous travel benefits. Not only do Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card holders receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®, but they also have access to travel accident insurance, 24-hour travel assistance services, and auto rental collision damage coverage. Plus, this card has no foreign transaction fees, making it a great vacation companion whether you're traveling near or far.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

The Rewards: Earn an unlimited two miles on all purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Miles earned with this card can be redeemed to cover almost any travel purchase, so whether you want your miles to cover a car rental, hotel or Airbnb stay, or plane tickets, the world is your oyster.
  • Staying in a great Airbnb but don't feel like cooking? Through Jan. 31, 2021 enjoy 5X miles on Uber Eats purchases.
  • Venture Miles come with several flexible redemption options including the opportunity to transfer miles to the hotel and airline loyalty programs.
  • The card comes with additional perks such as 24-hour travel assistance services and travel accident insurance.

CONS:

  • If you spend a lot in specific categories, you might be able to earn more with a tiered or rotating-category rewards card.
  • The card comes with a $95 annual fee that is easily offset by its valuable benefits.

Read our full Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Planning a vacation can be hard work. This card gives you one less thing to worry about. It earns unlimited 1.5% cash back on all non-bonus category purchases, so you can use it for everyday needs, and know that you're accumulating cash back that can be used towards your next trip, without even thinking about it. Plus, you get 5% cash back on all travel purchases purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. 

The Bonus: Earn a $200 cash-back bonus once spending just $500 within the first three months of account opening. Plus, enjoy 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then 14.99% - 23.74% Variable.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

The Rewards: Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining at restaurants and on drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. Additionally, earn 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent at grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) in your first year of card membership.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • The welcome bonus alone could be enough to cover one night at a hotel, or perhaps one leg of your flight, depending on how far you're traveling.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This is a great way to help offset vacation expenses. 
  • If you need to carry a balance, the intro 0% APR for 15 months on new purchases is an added bonus. After the intro period, 14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR applies.

CONS:

  • The 1.5% cash back rate is good for a flat-rate no-annual-fee card, but you'll need to strategize a bit, taking advantage of the bonus categories, to really make the most of this card. 
  • This isn't the best card for traveling internationally with as it charges a foreign transaction fee on all purchases made in a foreign currency.

Read our full Chase Freedom Unlimited® review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Every quarter has a new category in which you'll earn bonus rewards (5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter you activate), plus there are a number of static bonus categories such as 3% back on restaurant purchases, so this card has a ton of cash-back earning potential. There's also no annual fee, and no matter what you're buying, no matter what the season, you'll always get an automatic unlimited 1% cash back on all of your other non-bonus purchases.

The Bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months. Plus, earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) for the first $12,000 spent during your first year as a cardholder.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

The Rewards: Earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases in quarterly bonus categories when you sign up (then 1%). Additionally, earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, 3% at restaurants and on drugstore purchases, and 1% on all other eligible purchases.

PROS:

  • Combine this card with Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to earn top miles in the 5% category with Flex℠ and then two times the points on travel with the Preferred® card. Plus, when you redeem all those Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for travel through your Preferred® card, you'll receive 25% more value.
  • This card offers a 0% introductory offer for 15 months on new purchases (then 14.99% - 23.74% Variable). This can be quite helpful for paying off a big vacation.
  • Even though it's not specifically a travel card, this card offers 5% cash back on travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.

CONS:

  • Earning 5% back on Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel purchases is nice, but remember, this isn't a true travel card so travel purchases outside of this portal will only earn 1%.
  • This card doesn't make the best international companion as it charges foreign transaction fees.

Read our full Chase Freedom Flex℠ review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is another great card to use if you want to simply earn cash back, without much thought to it. It earns 1% when you make a purchase, and then another 1% when you pay for those purchases (just make sure to pay the minimum amount due on time.) Citi is a CardRatings advertiser.

The Bonus: There is not a tradtional bonus offered with this card, however, you can enjoy an intro period of 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers (then 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)) which is a nice bonus of sorts.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%

The Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on all purchases made, and then an additional 1% when you pay for those purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • Perhaps you recently took a large vacation and need some time to pay off that balance interest free? With 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers, this is one of the top balance transfer cards available. After the intro period, regular 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable) applies.
  • Earning 1% when you make a purchase, and an additional 1% when you pay your purchases off encourages responsible credit card use, which is something we're always supportive of.
  • Should you make a late payment, you won't have to worry about paying a fee the first time.

CONS:

  • There is no cash-back welcome offer for new cardholders which could be a bummer if you're looking for a nice upfront cash-back bonus to put towards your vacation.
  • This card is better for domestic travel as it charges a fee on foreign transactions.

Read our full Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Points earned with this card can be redeemed in a number of ways, including for travel, gift cards, or merchandise. Plus, it offers a couple of unique perk that we've not seen with any other cards on this list (read on to learn more).

The Bonus: Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within three months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com. Plus, enjoy 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49% (Variable), based on your creditworthiness.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%

The Rewards: Earn 2X ThankYou® points at supermarkets and gas stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X point thereafter, as well as 1X point on all other purchases. What's unique about this card is that rounds up points to the nearest 10 on all purchases. For example, if you spend $21 filling up your car with gas, you'll actually earn 50 points on that purchase instead of 42.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • Enjoy a 10% rebate on the first 100,000 points you redeem each year. For example, if you redeem 40,000 points, Citi will put 4,000 points back into your account.
  • This card does not charge an annual fee, which is always a nice perk.
  • The point round up offer can help your points to add up in a hurry, especially on those purchases that don't earn bonus rewards.

CONS:

  • Perhaps you eat out more than you cook, or you live in a city and don't even own a car. If you don't spend much at supermarkets or gas stations, this likely isn't the card for you.
  • If you're traveling internationally you'll probably want to leave this card at home since it charges fees on foreign transactions.

Read our full Citi Rewards+ Card review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: A welcome bonus can go a long way when it comes to planning a vacation, and with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, new cardholders can look forward to a whopping $1,000 bonus when opening an account.

Thanks to Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card's new and improved bonus offer of 80,000 bonus points (worth $1,000 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®), vacation planning just got a bit less expensive, and more fun. Alternatively, you could redeem for cash (worth $800), or transfer your points to popular hotel and airline partners at a 1:1 ratio, but we think having $1,000 to put toward your trip sounds like a whole lot more fun!

The Bonus: Earn 80,000 points once spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening an account. Points are worth $600 when redeemed for cash, or $1,000 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn an unlimited two points on travel and dining purchases, and one point on everything else. Plus earn five points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's three points in addition to the two points you already earn on travel.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

PROS:

  • The 80,000 bonus points new cardholders can earn (worth $1,000 in travel rewards) can go a long way towards your next vacation.
  • There are flexible redemption options including the opportunity to boost point values by 25% by redeeming for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
  • Travel and dining purchases earn double points, making it a great card to use on plane tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, etc., as well as on dining purchases all year long.

CONS:

  • Although the welcome offer is lucrative, cardholders need to spend $4,000 within three months to earn it which may be out of reach for some people. Before applying, consider whether or not reaching this threshold is a realistic goal.
  • This card charges a $95 annual fee, but it's numerous perks easily help to offset this.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

 

FREE TOOL

Dreaming of traveling more, but fear your budget can't handle it? You may be surprised at how far your rewards can take you when you're using the right credit card. Follow our lead to greater travel savings through 19 FREE lessons in our easy-to-use Travel Rewards 101 guide.


BEST VACATION CREDIT CARDS FOR HOTEL REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: For a limited time, new cardholders can earn an impressive 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening an account. Considering the fact that the standard base redemption rate is 7,500 points for hotel stays, that bonus alone could get you a lot of free nights. If you're loyal to the Marriott brand (or really, even if you're not and you just like to travel), you might want to give this card some serious thought. Plus, as an added bonus, cardholders earn an additional Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after their account anniversary.

As great as that welcome bonus is, we don't like to recommend cards based on bonuses alone... even with that said though, we'd still recommend this card for your vacation plans. Here's why: with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card, you can earn six points per dollar spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels, so if you plan to do some spending with Marriott, you've got a serious opportunity to rack up some points. And even when you're not spending money with Marriott you'll still earn points with this card - two points for every dollar spent on all other purchases.

The Bonus: For a limited time, earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn six Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and two Bonvoy points on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Depending on your dates of travel and destination, the welcome bonus alone could be enough for multiple free night stays.
  • Automatic Silver Elite Status means you'll get perks such as priority late checkout and free wifi at Marriott brand hotels.
  • You'll receive a free award night every year after your account's anniversary. Plus, cardholders receive 15 elite night credits each year.

CONS:

  • Though it's easily offset by the card's many benefits, there is a $95 annual fee to consider.
  • While the 75,000 bonus point offer is great, you have to spend $3,000 within three months of opening an account to receive it which may not me realistic for everyone.

Read our full Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card review.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Another popular hotel chain card with an impressive welcome bonus, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card should be a strong card contender for anyone loyal to the Hilton brand. New cardholders can earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points once using the card to make just $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of account membership. That bonus could potentially be good for over two dozen hotel stays, depending on your location and dates. Minimum points per night start at just 5,000 points, with peak dates and locations requiring a bit more. If you plan things right though, this bonus could save you a lot of money. When using the card at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio, you can earn a whopping 12 points per $1, and impressive still, six points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. Also, three points on all other purchases, which is a big selling point, especially considering the fact that most credit cards usually only offer one or maybe two points for purchases in the "other" category. American Express is a CardRating advertiser.

The Bonus: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a Weekend Night Reward after you spend $15,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

The Rewards: Earn 12 points for each dollar spent directly at a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio; six points on eligible U.S. restaurant, supermarket and gas purchases; and three points on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • Earning a Weekend Night Reward after spending $15,000 in a calendar year is a great incentive to keep card membership going.
  • This card earns a really solid amount on purchases outside of the hotel category. Spending at grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants in the U.S. earn six points per dollar and all other spending earns three points per dollar. That makes this card a great option for more than just travel purchases.
  • Enjoy Hilton Honors Gold Status through card membership.

CONS:

  • Though it's reasonable with all the solid benefits offered, there is a $95 annual fee to think about before applying for this card.
  • The six points per dollar earned at restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations is only for U.S. restaurant, supermarket, and gas station purchases, so if you spend heavily in these categories abroad, it might not be the best card for you.

Read our full Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card review.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: In addition to earning rewards on hotel stays, this card also earns two points per dollar at restaurants, on gym memberships, and more, making it a solid everyday card.

The Bonus: Earn up to 50,000 Bonus Points - 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening - free nights start at 5,000 points.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn nine points per $1 spent at Hyatt (that's four bonus points for using your card and five base points per $1 you'll earn as a World of Hyatt member). Earn two points per $1 at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly with airlines, on local transit and commuting, and on fitness club/gym memberships.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • You'll receive a free night at a Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort every year after your account anniversary.
  • Earn a second free night if you spend at least $15,000 in your anniversary year on the card.
  • Take advantage of your automatic World of Hyatt Elite status as a cardholder and receive five qualifying nights every year toward your next status tier.

CONS:

  • To earn all 50,000 bonus points available to new cardholders, you'll need to spend $3,000 within three months of opening an account and a total of $6,000 within six months of opening an account. This is likely manageable for heavy credit card users, but that level of spending may be hard for some households to achieve.
  • There is a $95 annual fee to consider.

Read our full review of The World Of Hyatt Credit Card.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: With popular brands such as Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, IHG® hotels are often associated with more affordable options, making it a practical choice for families.

The Bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.  

Annual Fee: $89

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn 25 points per $1 spent at IHG® hotels; two points per $1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants; and one point per $1 on everything else.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • This card has a great welcome offer for new cardholders. New cardholders can earn 125,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of opening an account.
  • An earn rate of 25 points per dollar spent at IHG® hotels and resorts is hard to beat. Plus, purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants earn two points per dollar while all other spending earning one point per dollar.
  • The card comes with valuable perks such as Platinum Elite status, a free reward night on your account anniversary and a free reward night when you redeem points for a stay of four or more nights.

CONS:

  • This card charges an $89 annual fee so it's worth considering whether you'll utilize the perks offered with the card enough to offset this.
  • You won't be eligible for the current bonus point offer if you've received a new cardmember bonus from this card in the past 24 months.

Read our full IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card review.

BEST VACATION CREDIT CARDS FOR AIRLINE REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This is a great option for frequent American Airlines travelers thanks to free checked bags on domestic flights, preferred boarding, in-flight savings, and more.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 on your card in the first three months of account opening.

Annual Fee: $99, waived for first 12 months

Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

The Rewards: Earn two AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • Earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card.
  • There are no foreign transaction fees and your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation.
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights and receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.

CONS:

  • Although the annual fee is waived the first 12 months, you’ll still want to be sure you get enough from the rewards and card benefits to cover it afterward.
  • Double miles earned on purchases at gas stations, restaurants and American Airlines is nice, but if most of your spending is in other categories or you frequently travel with other airlines, you’ll likely want to consider a more general travel rewards card.

Read our full Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Not only does Southwest Airlines allow each passenger to check two bags for free, but with a Southwest Airlines credit card, you can also work toward bringing a friend along on your flights for free (except for taxes and fees). That's a hard offer to beat.

The Bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

Annual Fee: $149

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

The Rewards: Receive two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and those with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners. Earn one point per $1 on your other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Companion Pass is the gold standard of rewards air travel. This card can help you to earn a pass in a given year and which means a friend can fly free with you for the remainder of that year as well as throughout the following calendar year. You can earn a pass by taking 100 one-way flights in a year or by accruing 125,000 points, which is where a credit card comes in. Points earned through your card purchases count toward your Companion Pass threshold.
  • Enjoy a $75 Southwest travel credit each year as well as up to four upgrade boardings, when available.
  • Receive 7,500 bonus points each year after your account anniversary.

CONS:

  • The $149 annual fee is slightly higher than other airline rewards credit cards that offer similar benefits.
  • Of airline travel cards, this one offers pretty standard rewards and benefits, especially for the annual fee. Plus, you only earn rewards on Southwest flights and purchases with partners. If your spending varies or you often fly with other airlines, you might find a general travel rewards credit card to be more valuable.

Read our full Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card review.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card offers a lot of benefits for the price (especially considering the fact that the annual fee is waived the first year.) Receive up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ statement fee credit every four years as reimbursement for the application fee for either program when charged to your card. Also, get 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights when you pay with your Explorer Card, and check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket.

The Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn two miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services including GrubHub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash, on hotel accommodations, and on purchases from United, and one mile per $1 spent on everything else.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Not many cards offer a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ statement fee reimbursement, which really makes this card stand out.
  • This card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees so it's great for international travel.
  • Other travel benefits include 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights, first bag free and many others, which are all worth way more than the annual fee.

CONS:

  • There are a lot of perks to help offset it, but an annual fee is always something to consider.
  • You'll benefit most if United Airlines is actually a preference of yours. If you don't use United Airlines often, you'll likely miss out on the numerous perks this card has to offer.

Read our full United℠ Explorer Card review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Frequent flyers willing to buck the trends of flexible redemption options can lock in some substantial rewards from Chase and British Airways. The current promotional bonus offer features the opportunity to earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios— 50,000 after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account, plus an additional 50,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 within your first year. That amount of points could go a long way towards paying for a flight or two. (If are puzzled by the word "Avios," that's just another word for points or miles, using the British Airways lexicon.) And, you'll receive 10% off British Airways flights that start in the U.S.

The Bonus: Earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios— 50,000 after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account, plus an additional 50,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 within your first year.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

The Rewards: Earn three Avios per $1 spent on British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and LEVEL purchases; earn two Avios per $1 on hotel accommodations; and earn one Avios per $1 on other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Cardholders can score an annual Travel Together ticket, good for two years, after spending $30,000 or more on purchases on the card every calendar year. Cardholders must still pay taxes and fees out of pocket, but that perk can be worth a substantial amount of money when redeemed for a first-class ticket on a long-haul flight.
  • This card also earns bonus rewards on hotel stays, which isn't common for an airline credit card.
  • This card includes 10% off British Airways flights that start in the U.S., which can save you some money if you frequently travel from the U.S.

CONS:

  • The potential to earn up to 100,000 bonus Avois is great, but the spending threshold may be hard for some users to reach.
  • Except for the bonus rewards on British Airways purchases, you can earn similar rewards with other airline credit cards with similar annual fees so unless you are really loyal to the British Airways brand, you might be better off with a more general travel rewards card.

Read our full British Airways Visa Signature® Card review.

Discover it® Miles

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The great thing about this card is that you'll earn miles on every purchase made, with no caps. Earn 1.5 miles on flights, hotel stays, restaurant purchases, etc. This is a solid offer for a card with no annual fee. Plus, Discover will match all of the miles you earn at the end of your first year, so if you accumulate 35,000 miles, you'll actually walk away with 70,000 at the end of the year. That's $700 towards travel! Redeeming miles is a breeze as well. Just redeem them as a statement credit towards your travel purchases. It'll almost be as if those expenses never happened - except you know that they did, because you have awesome vacation memories because of them. 

The Bonus: Discover will match ALL the miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Annual Fee: See Terms

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

The Rewards: Earn unlimited 1.5 miles on every dollar spent with the card.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Because this card matches all of the miles earned the first year for new cardholders, you essentially earn three miles per $1 spent on all your purchases your first year.
  • Depending on how often you use the card in the first year, you have the potential to earn a ton of bonus miles. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That's $700 towards travel!
  • There’s no annual fee, which is rare with airline rewards cards. The benefit of this is you won’t have to make sure you meet certain requirements to cover the annual fee often charged by other cards.

CONS:

  • The flat rewards rate of 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all purchases is convenient, but it’s also a fairly low rate. If you spend a lot in specific categories you may be better off with a tiered or rotaing category rewards card.
  • Because of the non-traditional offer to match your spending the first year, you won’t earn your bonus until the end of the year. This might not matter much for some, but if you want the rewards immediately for upcoming travel, this card may not be the best option.

Read our full Discover it® Miles review.

Citi Premier Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The Citi Premier Card rewards you for it all - airfare, gas purchases, toll fees, boat rentals, movie tickets, amusement park visits, you name it. It's an all around good companion to have during your summer vacation, as well as any other time of the year. The welcome bonus is great too. New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® points, worth $750 in airfare when redeemed through the ThankYou® Travel Center, after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. If you open an account soon enough, that $750 bonus could really come in handy when it comes time to book airfare for your vacation.

The Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Points are worth $750 in airfare when redeemed through the ThankYou® Travel Center.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

The Rewards: Earn an unlimited three points on travel and gas purchases, two points at restaurants and on entertainment, and one point on everything else.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • The welcome bonus alone can go a long ways towards your next vacation.
  • There is no foreign transaction fees, making this a great card for international travel.
  • This card earns bonus rewards on popular everyday categories, making it a good go-to card option.

CONS:

  • There is an annual fee to consider when applying for this card.
  • As this isn't strictly an airline card, the benefits are somewhat limited when it comes to flying.

See our full Citi Premier Card review.

BEST VACATION CREDIT CARDS FOR GAS REWARDS

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: If you're a Costco member and you travel a lot, especially by car, then this might be a good fit for you and your vacation plans. This card earns users 4% cash back on gas purchases made at Costco up to $7,000, then 1%. Otherwise, earn 3% back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2% back on all other purchases from Costco, and 1% on everything else. So not only is it a great card to use to fill up at the pump, but also for travel expenses and dining out, and for road trip snacks and maybe a handful of new DVDs to keep the kids entertained on the road as well. Plus, with many families choosing to rent an apartment or house while on vacation instead of going the traditional hotel route, grocery purchases are going to have to be made, even though it's vacation. You might as well earn money on the groceries you'll buy that week - and all year long as the rewards don't stop once vacation is over.

The Bonus: NA

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

The Rewards: Earn 4% cash back on gas purchases made at Costco on the first $7,000 in purchases a year, 3% back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2% back on all other purchases from Costco, and 1% on everything else.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • This card is free to hold for Costco members, so if you regularly shop at Costco, there's really no reason not to have this card in your wallet if your credit qualifies.
  • Even if you don't regularly shop at Costco, this card can be an excellent choice for gas rewards. Cardholders receive 4% cash back on up to $7,000 of eligible gas purchases each year, including those made at Costco.
  • This card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, so it's great for international travel.

CONS:

  • Cardholders forfeit rewards if they close their account prior to a rewards certificate being issued or if they fail to redeem a certificate by December 31 of the year it was issued.
  • Gas purchases made at other supermarkets, superstores, convenience stores or other warehouse clubs will only earn 1% cash back instead of 4% cash back.
  • Rewards are issued only once a year and sent in the form of a certificate that can be redeemed for cash or merchandise at Costco.

Read our full Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi review.

4
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Pair 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit with 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and you're set for a stellar summer road trip. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.

The Bonus: Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first three months.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.

The Rewards: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit like parking, tolls, bus fares and more; and 1% on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Good/Excellent

PROS:

  • If you're road tripping, well, naturally you'll be frequenting the gas pump, which makes the 3% cash back feature great, but what really stands out about this card is the fact that you can pair that with 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6k spent each year, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. Eating out three times a day while on vacation can quickly add up, especially if you're traveling with your whole family. Food shopping while on vacation might not always be quite as fun, but it's practical, and oftentimes, a necessity. You might as well earn yourself some cash back in the process to help offset the cost of your trip.
  • If you find yourself parking your car for a bit to explore  a city, you're sure to appreciate the 6% back on transit like taxis, bus fares, parking and more.
  • This card offers 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months after opening an account (then 13.99%-23.99% Variable).

CONS:

  • American Express doesn't consider Walmart or Target to be a supermarket so you won't get 6% cash back on grocery purchases there, or on gas purchases at Walmart.
  • There is a $95 annual fee to take into consideration.
  • There is a 2.7% foreign transaction fee for any purchase made in a foreign currency so it's not the best card for international travel.

Read our full Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: With five points earned on gas purchases, and no annual fee, this is an excellent card to have in your wallet when it's time to fill up your tank with gas.

The Bonus: Earn a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days of account opening.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

The Rewards: Rake in five points per $1 spent (the equivalent of 5% back) on gas purchases paid at the pump as well as three points per $1 on supermarket purchases and one point per $1 on your other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent

Editor's Note: Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) is fairly easy to join, so don't count this card out without reading the options for qualifying for membership.

PROS:

  • When it comes to cash back rewards on gas purchases, very few cards can match this one. You earn five points on every dollar spent on gas, and plus, you also earn three points for every dollar spent on groceries.
  • This card doesn't charge an annual fee so it's a great option to have in your wallet even if it's not your everday, go-to card.
  • If your vacation plans are taking you abroad, don't forget to pack this card. It doesn't charge foreign transaction fees so it's great for internationl travel.

CONS:

  • It's nice that there is a welcome bonus for new cardholders, but it's somewhat minimal. You can earn a modest $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days of account opening. Still, this bonus could really help you out on your next vacation, so it's not to be overlooked.
  • You must be a PenFed member to apply for this card, but fortunately, joining is easier than you might think.

Read our full PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card review.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Whether you're dining out or ordering in, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card will reward you for it with three points earned on all dining purchases. Plus, you'll also earn three points for gas station purchases, rides shares, and transit, as well as for travel purchases including flights, hotels, home stays, and car rentals. Sounds like a really good vacation companion to us! Beyond these categories, you'll earn one point on all other purchases.

The Bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points once spending $1,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership. Plus, enjoy an introductory 0% APR period for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then 13.99%-25.99% Variable.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

The Rewards: Earn three points on dining and gas purchases, ride shares, transit, flights, hotels, home stays, car rentals, and popular streaming service, and one point on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • The welcome bonus is decent, especially considering the fact that this is a no-annual-fee card. New cardholders can earn 20,000 bonus points once spending $1,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership - that's a $200 cash redemption value.
  • There's also an introductory 0% APR period for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then 13.99%-25.99% Variable.
  • If you pay your wireless bill using this card, your phone is eligible for cell phone protection. That will pay up to $600 per claim and $1,200 per year should your phone be stolen or damaged.

CONS:

  • Cash back can't be redeemed in any amount and must be withdrawn in $20 or $25 increments depending on the redemption method.
  • Though balance transfer fees are common with card offering an intro 0% APR period, the balance transfer fee (3% for 120 days, then 5%) is something to consider.

Read our full Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card review.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Since you get to choose a category in which you earn 3% cash back, and gas happens to be one of the options, this card could be the perfect companion for your summer (or anytime!) road trip.

The Bonus: Earn $200 in online cash rewards after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days from opening an account. 

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%

The Rewards: Earn 3% back in a category of your choosing from this list: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. Also earn 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

PROS:

  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards has a three-tiered cash back system which allows you to choose a category each quarter to earn 3% cash back. These include gas, home furnishings, drug stores, online shopping and dining, making this a great option for more than just gas purchases.
  • There is no annual fee, which is great considering the value of rewards this card offers.
  • if you’re a Bank of America Premier Rewards member you could earn up to 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase made. That means the 3% choice category rewards could be worth as much as 5.25% and the 2% categories could be worth as much as 3.5% back!

CONS:

  • Attention to detail pays off with this card. If you don't like to think about which categories you're spending in, or how, where, or when you're earning rewards, this might not be the best option for you.
  • The added perk of earning an extra 25-75% cash back on each purchase is a great offer, but this is only available to Preferred Rewards Members.
  • This card charges foreign transaction fees which could really add up if you do a lot of traveling abroad.

Read our full Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card review.

Discover it® Student chrome

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: If you're a college student, you know just how valuable gas rewards can be, especially when it comes to summer vacation plans. Be it a cross country road trip with friends, weekend drives to the beach or lake, visits home to see family, or just drives around town for things like movies, or dining out, the Discover it® Student chrome can help. This card earns users 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases, automatically.

The Bonus: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Annual Fee: See Terms

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

The Rewards: Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and unlimited 1% back on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Fair, New to Credit

PROS:

  • There's a "good grades reward" which offers students a $20 statement credit each school year their GPA is a 3.0 or higher, for up to the next five years
  • Matching cash back for new cardholders is what sets Discover cards apart. The card will match, dollar for dollar, all the cash back you've earned during the first year you have the card. This is a great way to earn some serious rewards.
  • This card doesn't charge an annual fee, or a foreign transaction fee, making it a great option for international travel.

CONS:

  • The $1,000 combined quarterly spending cap on the 2% cash back category of dining and gas could be limiting.
  • While their reach is growing, Discover cards are still not as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard cards. This is especially true outside of the United States.

Read our full Discover it® Student chrome review.

BEST VACATION CREDIT CARDS FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURCHASES

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Who doesn't like to be treated like a VIP? Especially while on vacation. This card offers access to Citi Entertainment®, which provides cardholders special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events annually, including presale tickets and exclusive experiences for the year's most anticipated concerts, sporting events, and more.

The Bonus: Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer (then 14.74% - 24.74% Variable).

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%

The Rewards: This isn't a traditional rewards card, but the intro 0% APR periods are a huge reward in and of themselves.

Credit Needed: Excellent

PROS:

  • While a credit card can be helpful in planning a vacation, it can also be dangerous if you aren't careful. It won't be much fun to take a nice vacation, only to spend months after trying to recover from it. This is where a 0% intro APR period could come in handy. This card gives you some extra time to pay off balances interest free. Just be sure to pay them off before the intro period ends as regular 14.74% - 24.74% Variable APR will then apply.
  • This card doesn't charge an annual fee which is always a nice perk.
  • Citi Entertainment® can help you feel like you're on vacation even if you can't go anywhere. Staycation anyone?

CONS:

  • This card doesn't come with any traditional rewards.
  • If you choose to take advantage of the balance transfer offer, be aware that there is a 3% fee (minimum $5) on transfers.
  • You'll also want to be aware of the 3% foreign transaction fee if plan to travel overseas.

Read our full Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card review.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: If your vacations tend to focus on food (we wouldn't blame you) and entertainment, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card might be the perfect option for your travels. With this card dining and entertainment purchases earn a solid 4% cash back which will quickly add up if you're going out a lot. And when we say entertainment, we don't just mean movie or theater tickets. "Entertainment" means concert tickets, amusement parks, festivals, etc., so your fun isn't limited, and neither are the rewards you'll earn while you're having it.

The Bonus: Earn a $300 cash bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

The Rewards: Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you don't want to pay an annual fee you might consider the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. With this no-annual-fee card you can still earn a respectable 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores and 1% back on everything else. The new cardholder bonus is lower at $150, but so is the amount you must spent to receive it - $500.

PROS:

  • Eating is half the fun of a vacation, and this card will reward you for just that. What's great is that there are bonus rewards on grocery purchases, in addition to dining out, so say you're staying in an Airbnb or doing a big grocery trip for something like camping, you can rest easy knowing you'll get rewarded for it.
  • Need a night in to enjoy your fabulous accommodations but don't feel like (or have the space) to whip up a delicious meal? Through Jan. 31, 2021 enjoy 5% back on Uber Eats purchases.
  • We love that the entertainment purchase categories are vast. From amusement park to concert tickets, there's a lot to earn bonus rewards on.
  • This card has flexible redemption options, including the opportunity to use cash back to make purchases on Amazon.

CONS:

  • It's waived the first year, but you'll pay $95 a year for this card moving forward. With regular use, you'll likely easily offset this, but it's something to think about.
  • If you really only dine or go out while on vacation, this might not be the card for you. But hey, if you can't go on vacation, this card could also make staying in town fun, so don't be so quick to rule it out.

See our full Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Thanks to a bonus offer of 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in eligible net purchases each quarter on the combined TWO categories of your choice, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card makes a strong contender on our list of the best vacation credit cards. The fact that you can choose two categories is huge here as it allows you to truly maximize the amount of rewards you'll earn - in categories you actually spend a lot in.

The Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of opening an account. Plus, enjoy an introductory 0% APR offer on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles. After that, a 13.99% - 23.99%* Variable APR will apply.

Annual Fee: $0*

Foreign Transaction Fee: 2% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in U.S. Dollars 3% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in a Foreign Currency

The Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on the first $2,000 you spend on qualifying combined purchases in two bonus choice categories, unlimited 2% cash back on all qualifying purchases in an "everyday" category of your choice, and unlimited 1% back on everything else. Some sample bonus categories include: TV, internet, and streaming services; fast food; movie theaters; sporting good stores; ground transportation; gym/fitness centers; and many more. "Everyday categories" include grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants.

Credit Needed: Good,Excellent

PROS:

  • That fast food category could really come in handy on a road trip, and since ground transportation includes everything from taxi rides to train tickets, you could be pocketing a lot of extra cash if you're heading to a big city such as Chicago or New York.
  • If your summer plans are keeping you close to home, having a bonus on TV, internet, and streaming services might really be appreciated, as might cash back at movie theaters and fitness centers.
  • Earning the welcome bonus is a breeze. You can earn $150 when you spend just $500 in the first three months after account activation.

CONS:

  • You need to stay on top of your category choices each quarter. If you fail to chose your categories for a new quarter, you drop to the default of 1% cash back on all purchases, so this may not be the best card for someone who doesn't like to keep up with these type of things.
  • This card charges foreign transaction fees so it's not the best for traveling abroad.

Read our full U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card review.

Discover it® Cash Back

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

<5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The Discover it® Cash Back card allows users to earn 5% cash back on popular rotating categories such as restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Discover announces a full year's worth of bonus categories up front, so you can best plan your spending. Check out the current categories. Plus, Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year ($300 cash back automatically becomes $600 cash back, $400 becomes $800, etc.), which is a really nice perk for a card that has no annual fee.

The Bonus: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Annual Fee: See Terms

Foreign Transaction Fee: See Terms

The Rewards: Earn 5% cash back each quarter on rotating categories such as gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, and unlimited 1% on everything else.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • This card does not charge an annual fee, which is something we always like to see.
  • With regular use of the card, there's some serious potential for a hefty bonus your first year as a cardholder.
  • Thanks to no foreign transaction fees, this card is safe for traveling internationally with.

CONS:

  • While the welcome bonus has potential to be worth the wait, those looking for instant gratifaction may want to look elsewhere.
  • To make the most of the rewards you have to keep up with rotating categories, which may not be ideal for some credit card users.

Read our full Discover it® Cash Back review.

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The annual fee associated with this card might be a bit steep, but before you rule it out, hear us out: the American Express® Gold Card runs deep with extras. Read on to learn more.

The Bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first three months.

Annual Fee: $250

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

The Rewards: Earn four points per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide as well as four points earned at U.S. supermarkets, up to $25,000 per year in purchases (then one point). Plus, earn three points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, and one point on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • Earn up to $10 total in statement credits monthly when you use this card to make purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Boxed, Ruth's Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations. That is an annual savings of up to $120 (enrollment required).
  • Cardholders are eligible for up to $100 in statement credit to cover incidental fees with a pre-selected qualifying airline each calendar year.
  • This is a good card for international travel as it does not charge fees on foreign transactions.

CONS:

  • This card has an annual fee of $250 which can be expensive if you aren’t earning enough rewards to offset it.
  • This is a charge card, so you’ll have to pay the balance in full each month.

Read our full review of the American Express® Gold Card.

WHAT IS THE BEST VACATION CREDIT CARD?

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are two cards that are hard to beat when it comes to planning a vacation. Here's why:

The Capital One® Venture® card earns two miles on every purchase made, so whether you're paying for groceries or plane tickets, you're earning rewards. Plus, these rewards can be redeemed for almost any travel purchase. Whether you're staying in a hotel or an Airbnb your miles are good for this. They can even be used for more unique options such as campsite reservations or guided tours. This card offers so much flexibility in how you redeem your rewards. Simply make a travel purchase, and then use your miles to "erase" that purchase from your statement. It's a simple as that. Plus, there's even an option to transfer miles to a number of hotel and airline loyalty programs.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, travel and dining purchases earn two points, while all other purchases earn one point. So you'll earn most on your vacation purchases, but what's great about this card is that points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. Plus, if you have other Chase-Ultimate-Rewards®-earning cards, such as Chase Freedom Unlimited® or Chase Freedom Flex℠, you can pool those points under your Chase Sapphire Preferred® account so that they are worth 25% more in travel as well. This is a great strategy as it allows you to quickly rack up points with ease, making your next vacation that much closer. There's an opportunity to transer points to leading travel partners with this card as well. The information related to Chase Sapphire Preferred® has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.

When it comes to vacations though, everyone's plans will look different. That's why what's best for one traveler might not be best for another. If you strictly stay in Hilton hotels when you travel, the flexibility of the Venture® card might not mean much to you. You'd likely be better off with a Hilton-loyalty card such as the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card instead. Say you never fly... well, then an airline-loyalty card probably won't be the best fit. Or possibly you only travel once a year and only plan to use your card on your trip. You probably don't want a card with an annual fee then. You get the idea. When it comes to shopping for the best vacation credit card, consider your spending and lifestyle habits to help you determine which card will truly be best for your unique needs.

HOW CAN A CREDIT CARD BENEFIT YOUR VACATION?

SECURITY BENEFITS

For starters, as we already mentioned above, the peace and mind that credit card use while on vacation can bring is huge. Of course there is always the risk of losing your credit card while on vacation, but at least if this happens, it can be replaced, oftentimes within 24-48 hours, even if you're traveling internationally. And if someone steals your card and makes fraudulent charges, you've covered. On the other hand though, if you lose cash, that money is gone. You could always withdraw more from an ATM or at the bank, but still, you're spending more money on your vacation than you planned to, and that's never any fun.

Credit card issuers these days make credit card security a huge priority. Oftentimes you can set up account alerts so you'll get automatic security updates - via text, email, or phone - and you can choose to sign up for personalized emails or texts to stay on top of account information. You'll oftentimes see issuers offering $0 fraud liability as well if your card is ever lost or stolen. No one wants to pay for a purchase they didn't make, and thanks to top-notch credit card security, with most credit cards, you won't have to.

REWARDS AND BONUSES

Welcome bonuses are an easy way to make your credit card work to your advantage. If you want to cash in on travel rewards credit card perks, it'll help to follow these tips:

  • If you apply for a credit card with a large welcome bonus, be sure to meet the qualifying spend threshold before the promotional deadline. A large bonus can go a long way when it comes to planning a vacation. Depending on the size of the bonus, your travel location, and your travel dates, you may even be able to cash in on free hotel stays or airfare. Just be sure to plan your application date accordingly and don't expect to book plane tickets for your trip in July with your bonus if you don't apply for the card until June.
  • Funnel all the personal expenses you can on your rewards credit card leading up to your trip (and all year long if feasible). As long as you're paying your credit card bill off each month, this can be a great way to seriously rack up some rewards points which you can use towards your next vacation. If you can't pay off your bill every month though, ease up. Rewards points will only technically benefit you if you didn't go into debt to earn them.
  • Build loyalty with travel industry brands that offer generous redemption options, elite status upgrades, and comprehensive destination lists. The more you travel within these brands, the more rewards you'll earn to use towards future trips.
  • Research all the benefits your credit card offers. Did you know that some credit cards offer car rental insurance? How about insurance for lost baggage, or reimbursement for delayed or canceled trips? Some credit cards even offer travel accident insurance and roadside assistance services, as well as statement credits for things like Global Entry or TSAPre✓® Approved. Knowing these details could save you a lot of money when it comes to your vacation.

If you've got excellent credit, you can usually find significant welcome bonus offers for new credit card customers. The biggest deals usually come from airline credit cards issued by major national banks. Many of these partnerships offer enough frequent flier miles or rewards points to cover one or two round trip domestic tickets.

On the other hand, if you've got enough time to play a longer game, you can turn your everyday purchases or reimbursed business expenses into discounted airfares and hotel nights. Hotel chain credit cards multiply rewards points for purchases at participating properties, speeding you toward exclusive status along the way. With many hotels adopting flexible, market-based redemption programs, picking an off-season date or a less central property for your vacation can stretch your rewards balance even further.

When searching for the best credit card that fits your needs for your vacation, remember that credit card companies don't set up rewards points programs just to be generous. Annual fees and finance charges on travel rewards cards tend to come in significantly higher than similar "no frills" credit cards. Squeezing maximum value from your rewards card means redeeming far more in value than the cost of your annual fee. Likewise, paying your bill in full at the close of each statement cycle can prevent high APRs from diminishing your card's rebate credits. Map out a sample reward itinerary to see just how much you'll need to spend if you want to fly, dine or lodge using your rewards.

In other words, getting the most of out of the best credit cards for vacation takes about as much work as you're doing to plan your vacation itself. That's the bad news. The good news is that by planning both, and really looking over the details, it should pay off. Your memories may be priceless, but that doesn't mean you have to pay a fortune for them.

SHOULD YOU PAY FOR A VACATION WITH A CREDIT CARD?

The short answer: it depends. There's a not-so advised way to pay for a vacation with a credit card. There is also a very strategic smart way to pay for a vacation with a credit card.

The not-so advised approach: You know that you don't have the money for a vacation, but you throw caution to the wind, anyway, and you max out your credit card and go on a vacation in the summe. By the end of the year, you're still struggling to pay off the vacation.

The strategic smart way: You do have money for your vacation, and what's more, you've put some savings aside because you have a cash-back rewards credit card - and every time you saved money on purchases earlier in the year, you made sure some of that savings went into a bank account. What's more, you bought your airline tickets or hotel rooms or what have you through your credit card's travel portal, and because of that, you saved even more money.

Now, we don't begrudge the vacationers who maxed out their credit cards to go on a vacation. The memories are priceless, and if you needed a vacation, well, you needed one. This is where intro 0% APR offers could come in handy. If you need some extra time to pay off vacation expenses, or need to transfer a balance, be sure to utilize these offers as they'll give you some extra time to pay off balances interest fee.

Obviously though, it's better if you can use your credit cards to help you save money on the vacation, rather than utilizing credit cards to make a vacation more expensive, due to interest charges.

For instance, if you have a travel rewards credit card that offers you airline miles for the money you spend, you could collect enough in airfare to fly somewhere for "free." We say "free" since, as we know, nothing is free, and you had to spend a lot to get those tickets. But, still, it is very possible to use your credit cards so that paying for a vacation is strategically worked into your budget and cash flow - so that paying for it isn't too crazy of an undertaking.

Another thing to remember - you're more safeguarded when you pay for things like flights and hotels with a credit card than a debit card. If you have a dispute later with a merchant you did business with in some far-flung land or maybe on a cross country road trip, it's generally easier to get your money back when you pay for the item with a credit card.

Also, many credit cards offer perks such as lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance and travel emergency assistance services, and so using your credit card to pay for your vacation could pay off for you in ways you haven't considered.


To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: See Rates and Fees; Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: See Rates and Fees; American Express® Gold Card: See Rates and Fees.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

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