Best travel rewards credit cards of November 2020
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- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card - Best for no Annual Fee
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card - Best for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Reimbursement
- Discover it® Miles - Best with 0% Intro APR
- American Express® Gold Card - Best for Dining Out
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - Best for Transferring Rewards
- Citi Premier® Card - Best for Gas Rewards
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Best for Airport Lounge Access
- The Platinum Card® from American Express - Best for Premium Travel Benefits
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® - Best for Airline Perks
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card - Best for Free Companion Travel
- Hilton Honors American Express Card - Best Hotel Credit Card for Everyday Purchases
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card - Best Hotel Credit Card for Free Night Rewards
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - Best for Travel Insurance
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Best for First/Business Class Air Travel
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way many of us live our lives, but a travel credit card can still be beneficial whether you're traveling right now or not. That's because many of the best travel credit cards also offer rewards on everyday purchases, and not just on travel purchases. Furthermore, many issuers have recently added redemption options which allow you to redeem your rewards for everyday expenses such as grocery store, home improvement, food delivery and takeout, and streaming service purchases. By doing this, travel credit cardholders are allowed a new level of flexibility never seen before with travel rewards credit cards. Whether you've cut back on traveling or not, it's still easy to earn rewards, and equally as important, those rewards are still incredibly valuable. Continue using your rewards for travel, or, if your travel plans are put on hold right now, use them to help make your everyday expenses a bit easier to handle. Plus, if you're planning future travel, a travel rewards credit card is a fun way to prepare. With the help of the top travel rewards cards from our partners, you can travel better and less expensively and not have to jump through dozens of hoops to make it happen. Whether you're looking for the best travel rewards credit card, an airline card or are more focused on the best hotel credit cards, there are options out there that will reward you for your everyday purchases and help make your next dream vacation a reality.
Think about it, if you use your American Express® Gold Card, 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. Or, if you're more interested in making your business travel less expensive, your everyday business purchases with your Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card could help you rack up points toward a future business trip.
The key to all of this is understanding how travel credit cards work, what you should think about when comparing the many options on the market and, at last, looking at the best travel rewards credit cards on the market to determine which will best fit into your lifestyle. CardRatings experts consider the rewards, the fees, the perks/features, the ease of use and more to come up with our list of top travel rewards credit cards. This list is dynamic; credit card issuers sometimes change their terms, so we keep an eye on those terms and update our recommendations accordingly.
Whatever your wanderlust is dreaming of, we have a suggestion that will help you get there. Bon voyage!
Why We Like It: If simple travel rewards and avoiding an annual fee are your goal, this could be your card. You can transfer your miles to numerous leading travel loyalty programs, and miles are earned on every purchase you make. There is also a nice bonus for a card with no annual fee, as well as some solid features sure to make the periodic traveler glad to have this card in their wallet.
Bonus: Receive 20,000 bonus miles after spending just $500 on purchases in the first three months; that's worth $200 in completely flexible travel rewards.
Annual Fee: $0
Rewards Rate: Earn a simple-to-remember 1.25 miles for every $1 you spend, with no caps or categories to worry about. Your miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to what you can earn.
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
- No foreign transaction or annual fees.
- Earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase with no caps or categories to worry about.
- Transfer your miles to multiple leading loyalty programs, or fly any airline or stay at any hotel by using the “purchase eraser” feature.
- Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months (then 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)).
- There’s no annual fee, which is great, but if you plan to spend $10,000 or more annually with the card the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card might be a better choice. It charges an annual fee, but offers unlimited 2X miles on all purchases instead of 1.25.
- For a card with no annual fee, the rewards rate is fine. However, if you’re looking to take a trip fast using rewards, it might take a while to rack them up at a 1.25 mile per dollar rate.
Read our full Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review.
See more no-annual-fee credit cards.
Why We Like It: There's a ton of flexibility with this card when it comes to redeeming miles earned; plus, the annual fee is less than what you might expect to pay for a card with this kind of earning and redemption power. For example, you can fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime and not have to worry about blackout dates. Plus, you can transfer your miles to multiple leading travel loyalty programs. Lastly, cardholders are eligible for a reimbursement of their Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® application fee, a perk worth up to $100 and not common among cards with this low of an annual fee.
The Bonus: Snag a whopping 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $20,000 on your card within the first 12 months of opening the account, or earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. That's some serious mile-earning potential!
The Annual Fee: $95
The Rewards: This is a 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. Plus, through Dec. 30, 2020 redeem miles for eligible restaurant delivery, takeout and streaming service purchases. Simply make a purchase, then use your miles to cover the cost within 90 days.
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
- From airfare to grocery purchases this card earns 2X miles on it all. This is a great option for anyone looking to rack up rewards fast.
- This card offers reimbursement for most travel purchases so you aren’t limited to traveling with a specific airline or hotel brand. From Airbnb stays, to car rentals, to National Park campsite bookings, your miles are good to cover almost any travel purchase– even out-of-the box-ones!
- Additionally you can transfer miles to over 10 leading travel loyalty programs, offering even more flexibility with how you redeem your rewards.
- This card does not charge foreign transaction fees so it’s great to use domestically as well as internationally.
- This card charges an annual fee. If you’re a casual credit card spender you may find it difficult to offset this cost.
- If you’re loyal to a particular airline or hotel you might benefit more with a card that earns extra rewards on purchases with that brand.
Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.
See more great travel rewards credit cards offering Global Entry and TSA Pre✔® reimbursement.
Why We Like It: In a word, the match. Earning what amounts to three miles per $1 spent during your first year makes this card even more lucrative than cards with sky-high annual fees. Plus, cardholders can enjoy a lengthy 14-month 0% APR intro period on new purchases (then 11.99% - 22.99% Variable).
- UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover will automatically match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There's no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
- Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
- Turn Miles into cash in any amount, any time. Or redeem as a statement credit for travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more with no blackout dates. However you redeem, Miles keep the same value. And Miles never expire.
- The match bonus Discover offers is unique, and has the potential to reward you big time. If you plan your spending right, you have the potential to walk away with thousands of extra miles at the end of your first year as a cardholder.
- You can redeem your rewards in any amount for travel credit or cash back.
- No annual fees or foreign transaction fees.
- While the mile match bonus has potential to pay off big, it requires patience. If you’re looking to earn a welcome bonus that you can use almost immediately, this might not be the card for you.
- Because of the match bonus, you effectively earn three miles per dollar spent, but after your first year as a cardholder, the 1.5X earn rate might not seem as desirable.
Read our full Discover it® Miles review.
Why We Like It: This card offers a number of luxury perks without the through-the-roof annual fee of other luxury cards, with a high rewards rate earned on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, as well as on everyday purchases like at U.S. supermarkets and at restaurants. Consider, for instance, that taking full advantage of the limited time $100 per year airline fee credit offer (with a pre-selected airline) essentially reduces your annual fee to $150. And there are plenty of other perks that certainly make the fee worthwhile. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.
The Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within your first six months as a cardholder - this is the largest welcome bonus we've ever seen from this card!
The Annual Fee: $250
The Rewards: You'll earn four times the Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases at supermarkets, then one point per $1). Earn three times the Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com; and one point per $1 on your other purchases.
Added Perks: Receive up to $100 in statement credits annually to cover incidental airline charges, like baggage fees, with a pre-selected airline (please note, this perk is expected to expire in 2021). Plus, take advantage of up to $10 total monthly in statement credits when you use your card to pay for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required).
Credit Needed: Good, Excellent
- The rewards rate on restaurant purchases worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets is quite high, making it a solid option for anyone who spends heavily in those categories in addition to travel.
- Enjoy up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline (offer expires in 2021).
- This card does not charge foreign transaction fees so it’s a great option for trips abroad.
- Get a $100 hotel credit to spend on qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, if available, when you book a stay of at least two consecutive nights with American Express Travel at over 600 properties.
- This card is a charge card so you’ll be expected to pay your balance in full each billing cycle.
- The $250 annual fee isn’t horrendous; however, if you don’t travel often, it likely won’t be worth it.
Read our full American Express® Gold Card review.
See our picks for the top credit cards for dining out for more.
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
Why We Like It: Chase Ultimate 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, your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel, making them even more valuable than they are at face value.
The Bonus: Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. That's worth $750 in travel.
The Annual Fee: $95
The Rewards: Earn two times the points on travel and dining at restaurants 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. Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are transferable to numerous frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.
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.
- When redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, the 60,000 bonus points new cardholders can earn once spending $4,000 in the first three months as a cardholder, is worth a whopping $750 toward travel!
- Chase has a number of travel partners so there’s a lot of flexibility in how you’re able to redeem your rewards.
- This card earns bonus points on all travel purchases, not just with a specific hotel or airline brand.
- The card does not charge foreign transaction fees, so it’s great whether you’re traveling near or far!
- Through April 30, 2021 you can redeem rewards to "erase" dining (including delivery and takeout), grocery store and home improvement store purchases, and contributions to a dozen eligible charities. The rewards will erase at the same value as your rewards are valued when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal, so in this case, at a rate of 1.25 cents per point.
- The 2X point earn rate is limited to travel and restaurant purchases. If you’re looking to rack up rewards quick and don’t spend often in these categories, this might not be the best card for you.
- This card charges an annual fee, so if you’re just a causal spender you might find it difficult to offset this.
Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.
Combine this card with Chase Freedom Flex℠ and/or Chase Freedom Unlimited® to earn top rewards in categories beyond travel. Use Freedom Flex℠ strategically to earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly rotating categories when you activate (check out the current bonus categories) and use Chase Freedom Unlimited® to earn 1.5% back on everything that doesn't earn more with Freedom Flex℠ or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Finally, transfer all your points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card where your points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Why We Like It: Whether you drive, fly, dine out, or dine in, this card rewards you for it all. Plus there's an annual hotel savings benefit so it's great for hotel stays as well. Citi is a CardRatings.com advertiser.
Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, worth $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com.
Annual Fee: $95
Rewards Rate: Earn three points at gas stations, air travel and hotels; three points at restaurants and supermarkets; and one point on all other purchases.
Added Perks: Enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com once per calendar year.
Credit Needed: Excellent
- This card does not charge foreign transaction fees so it's a good one to use abroad.
- Transfer ThankYou® Points to participating airline loyalty programs to get flights fast. There is no fee, and the minimum transfer is only 1,000 points.
- Points can also be redeemed for gift cards including for department and home stores, restaurants, and more. Or, use ThankYou® Points to shop online at Amazon.com or BestBuy.com.
- Enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com once per calendar year. This alone offsets the annual fee.
- This card does carry an annual fee, so that's something to consider if you were hoping for a no-annual-fee credit card.
- If you prefer the flexibility of cash-back rewards, you might want to consider another card.
Read our full Citi Premier® Card review.
For even more options, check out our full list of best gas rewards credit cards.
Why We Like It: Take what you love about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and up it a notch. This is the luxury sibling of that card and, while the annual fee could come as a bit of a shock, when you consider what you get for the fee, we think it's worth it.
The Bonus: You can earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. With this card, however, your points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, so that bonus alone could be worth as much as $750 in travel.
The Annual Fee: $550
The Rewards: Earn three times the points on dining at restaurants, and three points on travel charges after earning your annual travel reimbursement statement credit, and one point on everything else. Those Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are transferable to numerous frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs and, as mentioned above, they're worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal. Plus, through April 30, 2021 you can redeem rewards to "erase" dining (including delivery and takeout), grocery store and home improvement store purchases, and contributions to a dozen eligible charities. The rewards will erase at the same value as your rewards are valued when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal, so in this case, at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.
Added Perks: Cardholders are for up to $300 each account anniversary year in travel reimbursement – that alone significantly helps to offset the annual fee. Additionally, you'll be eligible for a reimbursement of your Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™ application fee every four years and you'll enjoy a complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership that allows access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world.
Credit Needed: Excellent
- Points are worth a whopping 50% more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. That means the 50,000 bonus points you can earn once spending $4,000 within three months can be worth up to $750!
- Enjoy access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select.
- Cardholders receive up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™.
- This card offers some solid travel insurance protections such as trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, emergency evacuation and transportation coverage, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and more.
- This card does not charge foreign transaction fees so it’s a great for purchases near and far.
- This card offers a lot of bang for its buck, but there’s no ignoring its sizable annual fee. If you don’t plan to use the card often enough to truly reap its benefits, this might not be the best option for you.
- There’s also an annual fee for each additional authorized user added to the account.
Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve® review.
See our full list of the best credit cards for airport lounge access for more options.
Why We Like It: A card with this large of an annual fee as a top pick for a travel rewards credit card?! Astounding, but we believe for the right frequent traveler who enjoys comfort and enjoys the exclusive perks that come with this card, it’s worth it. Let’s dig in.
Is the Platinum Card® from American Express Worth the Annual Fee? In addition to the opportunity to earn a hefty welcome bonus you get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) as well as on prepaid hotels that you book through amextravel.com. The card comes with an annual $200 airline fee credit, $200 annually in Uber credits, $100 annually in statement credits at Saks Fifth Avenue or Saks.com, and a Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✔™ ($85) application fee waiver every four years. It's well known for access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, including Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, and Delta Sky Clubs when flying with Delta. Plus complimentary Marriott Bonvoy™ Gold Elite status and Hilton Honors Gold status.
The Bonus: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
The Annual Fee: $550. If you happen to be active duty military or a spouse of one, American Express will waive the annual fee.
The Rewards: Earn 5X points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com and on prepaid hotels booked through American Express travel. Plus earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new card at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first six months of card membership. You earn one point per $1 spent on all your other purchases.
Added Perks: Cardholders will save money with up to $200 annually in Uber savings via a $15 per month Uber credit ($20 in December) and for a limited time, up to $200 each year in airline fee credit with your pre-selected airline. You can also take advantage of complimentary access to airport lounges around the globe and a reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™ application fee.
Credit Needed: Good, Excellent
- Enjoy a $200 airline fee credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying pre-selected airline.
- Cardholders receive up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- This card offers a few travel insurance protections such as car rental loss and damage insurance and baggage insurance plans.
- This card does not charge foreign transaction fees so it makes a great international travel companion.
- This card carries a hefty annual fee. It offers a lot of benefits to offset its cost, but if you don’t travel enough to utilize these benefits, the cost likely won’t be worth it.
- If you anticipate needing to carry a balance, you’ll want to look for another option as this is a charge card, which requires the balance to be paid in full each billing cycle.
Read our full review of The Platinum Card® from American Express.
See the best luxury credit cards for more options.
Why We Like It: Shopping for an airline rewards card doesn't have to mean you only earn top rewards when you shop with that particular airline. This card offers you bonus rewards on some everyday purchases as well, in addition to rewarding you generously when you fly.
The Bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 on your new card in the first three months.
The Annual Fee: $99, waived for first 12 months
The Rewards: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants and on eligible American Airlines purchases.
Added Perks: You and four companions traveling with you can check your first bags for free on domestic American Airlines itineraries. You'll also enjoy 25% off in-flight food and drink purchases on American Airlines flights when you use your card. Plus, earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount after your spend $20,000 or more on your card in an anniversary year and renew your card.
Credit Needed: Excellent
- 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.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- 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.
- The bonus mile earning opportunities are somewhat limited. If you’re not loyal to American Airlines or don’t eat out often or have high gas expenses, you might be better off with a more general travel rewards credit card.
- It’s offset the first year, but there is an annual fee to think about moving forward.
If you are a small business owner you might consider the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® instead. This card offers two AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations and 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases. It also offers new cardholders the opportunity to earn a 65,000-mile welcome bonus after spending $4,000 in the first four months of opening an account plus generous airline perks. Spend at least $30,000 annually on the card and you'll receive a $99 companion ticket for domestic travel. Plus, enjoy a number of airline benefits such as a free first checked bag on domestic American Airlines itineraries, 25% savings on American Airlines inflight Wi-Fi when you use your card, and preferred boarding on American Airlines flights.
Why We Like It: If you're brand-loyal, it pays to pick up a card that supports that. In this case, the welcome offer helps you take a giant step toward the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which is a nice jump start on your earning.
The Bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
The Annual Fee: $99
The Rewards: Rack up two points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and on purchases with Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners.
Additional Perks: Card members will have their loyalty rewarded with 6,000 bonus points each year after the cardholder anniversary.
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
- Enjoy 6,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary.
- Once you earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® points or travel on 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights in a calendar year, you'll be able to take a designated companion along with you on Southwest flights for only the cost of taxes and fees. This card can help you to easily reach that 125,000 threshold.
- This card does not charge foreign transaction fees so it's a great one to use when traveling abroad.
- It's manageable, but there is an annual fee to consider.
- This card doesn’t offer some of the benefits found on some other airline cards, such as access to airport lounges or discounted reward travel options.
- Frequent international travelers might find Southwest’s offerings to be limited.
Read our full Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card review.
For more, check out our full list of the best airline rewards credit cards.
Why We Like It: For a no-annual-fee card, it does a solid job rewarding those loyal to the Hilton brand, plus rewards users generously for everyday purchases as well.
The Bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points once spending $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
The Annual Fee: $0
The Rewards: Earn 7X Hilton Honors points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands. Earn 5X points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations. Earn 3X points for all other eligible purchases on your card.
Added Perks: Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
Credit Score Needed: Good, Excellent
- The earn rate is very solid for a card with no-annual-fee. Not only does this card generously reward you for stays within the Hilton portfolio, but it also offers bonus rewards on everyday purchases as well as on all "other" purchases, which is rare for no-annual-fee cards.
- If you plan to travel internationally, this is a great card to travel with as it does not charge foreign transaction fees.
- If you frequently stay at Hilton hotels, earning 7X points at eligible properties is an easy way to rack up rewards fast.
- Spend $20,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
- As is usually the case with brand-specific credit cards, you’ll reap the most benefit if you’re truly loyal to those brands. If you aren’t, you would likely be better off with a more general travel rewards card.
- If you're willing to pay an annual fee and would utlize the extra perks offered with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card it could be worth upgrading to this annual-fee version.
Read our full Hilton Honors American Express Card review.
Why We Like It: With the combining of the Marriott, SPG and Ritz-Carlton hotel rewards program, guests have more options than ever when it comes to using points earned with this card.
The Bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Cardholders will also enjoy an additional free night award (up to a 35,000-point value) after each account anniversary.
The Annual Fee: $95
The Rewards: This card allows you to rack up six points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. Beyond that, earn two points per $1 spent on everything else.
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
- Enjoy one free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after your account anniversary, easily offsetting the annual fee.
- Automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year.
- Enjoy 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
- As with all brand-specific credit cards, you’ll reap the most benefit if you’re truly loyal to those brands. If you aren’t, you would likely be better off with a more general travel rewards card.
- It’s manageable, and can easily be offset with proper use of the card (or that annual free night reward), but there is an annual fee to consider.
Read our full Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card review.
For more hotel credit card options, check out our full list of the best hotel rewards credit cards.
Why We Like It: Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are extremely flexible and valuable; it's nice to be able to earn them easily with a card designed for your small business needs. Plus, there are a number of travel perks offered with this card, including travel insurance which could really come in handy for business travel.
The Bonus: Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The Annual Fee: $95
The Rewards: Earn three points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel; shipping costs; Internet, cable, and phone services; and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. After reaching the spending cap, and on all your other purchases, you'll earn one point per $1 spent. When you redeem your points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal, they're worth 25% more.
Additional Perks: Pay your cellular bill on your card and you'll be protected against covered damage and theft to the phone (subject to a deductible and terms). The protection applies to the primary phone as well as the other phones listed on the account. Furthermore, this card features a number of travel perks like trip cancellation and interruption insurance, roadside dispatch service, and auto rental collision damage waiver.
Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
- For a card with such an affordable annual fee, it offers a really nice welcome bonus. Sure, the spend threshold to receive it is a bit high, but considering the fact that the bonus is worth $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, it’s worth planning ahead to make sure you do what you need to do (within reason, of course) to earn it.
- This card is perfect for travel with no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, auto rental collision damage waivers, and more.
- Pay your cell phone bill with your card and enjoy cell phone insurance for the primary cardholder and employee phones on the same account.
- The welcome bonus offered with this card is huge, but the spend threshold to receive it is a bit high. If your business doesn’t regularly spend much, or doesn’t have a large purchase on the horizon, this might not be the card for you.
- There is an annual fee, but at $95, it’s quite modest for the amount of perks offered with this card.
Read our full Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card review.
Why We Like It: Road-weary business travelers deserve to be taken care of as much as possible while they crisscross the country (or world). This card does that for you. It also offers healthy rewards, which means you can put a little something back toward your business' bottom line by way of a reward flight here and there.
The Bonus: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of card membership.
The Annual Fee: $595
The Rewards: Earn five points per $1 spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com. You'll also earn an extra half-point (so, 1.5 points) per $1 spent on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million points per year) and one point per $1 on all your other purchases. Additionally, when you Pay with Points for a first or business class flight with any airline through amextravel.com, or book any class ticket through the portal on your pre-selected airline, you'll receive 35% of your points back to use on a future redemption (up to 500,000 points back each year).
Additional Perks: Save money with up to $200 in statement credit each year to cover incidental charges with your pre-selected airline. You'll also be able to wait for your flights in comfort thanks to complimentary airport lounge access. And, once every four years, you'll be eligible to have your Global Entry or TSA Pre✔™ application fee reimbursed via statement credit.
Credit Needed: Good, Excellent
- Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That’s an extra half point per dollar on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
- Enjoy a 35% airline bonus. Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of those points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when you book on amextravel.com.
- This card gives you access to more than 1,200 airport lounges across 120 countries and counting through the Global Lounge Collection℠.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- There are a lot of benefits to help offset it, but the annual fee is substantial. If you don’t expect to use the card enough to offset this fee, you might be better off with a lower-annual-feel card.
- The welcome bonus for new cardholders is a great offer, but the spending threshold may be out of reach for some users.
Check out our full list of business credit cards for more options.
WHAT IS THE BEST TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARD?
Chase Sapphire Preferred® has long been a CardRatings favorite for travel rewards. This card offers a huge welcome bonus opportunity to new cardholders, and on an ongoing basis, earns two points on all travel and restaurant purchases. Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are consistently recognized as one of the most valuable point currencies on the market thanks to their flexibility, and with this card, points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. Points can also be transferred directly to a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs, so this card truly is hard to beat when it comes to planning a vacation. (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.)
Furthermore, if you have another Chase-Ultimate-Rewards®-earning card, such as Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you can pool all of your points under your Chase Sapphire Preferred® account, making them worth 25% more towards travel. The no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you active, and the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns 1.5% cash back on all non-bonus purchases. Pairing these cards with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is a great rewards strategy and can help you rack up a ton of points for your next vacation with ease.
When it comes down to it though, all of our travel needs are unique, so the best card for one traveler might not be the best option for the next. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is great for travelers craving flexibility, but flexibility might not be an important trait for everyone. If you're loyal to a particular airline, for instance, you'll likely fare better with a branded airline card thanks to perks like free checked bags, lounge passes, and priority boarding. Or if you stay at the same hotel every time you travel, free night stays or room upgrades may mean more to you. Choosing the best credit card for travel rewards really just depends on how you travel, and how you spend your money. Continue on to learn more about how to compare and choose the best travel credit card for your needs.
HOW DO TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARDS WORK?
"Travel rewards credit card" is a broad term that actually takes in a far ranging variety of credit cards. In fact, cards you wouldn't necessarily think of as travel rewards cards can actually function that way if you use your rewards a particular way (see the editor's note above about Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom Unlimited® for a good example).
In a pure sense, though, travel rewards credit cards generally fall into a few specific boxes, so let's take closer a look at those.
TYPES OF TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARDS
These are cards that allow you to rack up rewards, often they're called something proprietary like Ultimate Rewards® (Chase's program) or Membership Rewards® (American Express' program), and either use your rewards within that proprietary system or transfer them to other travel loyalty programs such as airline frequent flyer accounts or hotel frequent stay programs.
If you have a points/rewards-value travel rewards credit card, it basically means that your rewards don't always have a direct relationship to the actual cost of whatever you want to redeem them for. This situation is most apparent for things like airline reward flights. Usually, the number of points you need to redeem for a particular flight doesn't change as the actual monetary cost of the flight fluctuates (which you probably know can happen often and vary widely). A flight that requires 15,000 miles will likely require 15,000 miles whether the actual cost of that flight is $250 or $500.
In some cases, such as with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and other cards that operate on the Chase Ultimate Rewards® point system, the rewards can can have both cash-value (if you redeem your points through the Ultimate Rewards® travel portal) or points-value (if you choose to transfer your Ultimate Rewards® points to one of a number of airline or hotel loyalty programs). Learn more in our Guide to Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
PROS OF THIS TYPE: You can often get even better value for your rewards when you transfer them to branded loyalty programs.
CONS OF THIS TYPE: It can be complicated to figure out how to get the most value out of your rewards.
FIXED VALUE/CASH VALUE
These cards are likely the ones that offer you the greatest range of flexibility when it comes to your travel rewards. In general, they aren't tied to a particular hotel or airline brand so you don't have to worry about things like maximizing your rewards by only staying with a specific hotel group or only flying on one airline; instead, your points or miles or rewards (different issuers call their rewards different things) are worth a fixed value, typically $.01 each. An example of this type is Discover it® Miles.
With these cards you typically pay for your travel purchase on your card and then redeem your rewards as statement credit to cover that purchase. So, for instance, let's say you need to book a flight and it costs $500 round-trip. You'll pay for your purchase on your Discover it® Miles card and, if you have 50,000 miles in your rewards account, you'll then redeem those 50,000 miles as statement credit to cover the cost of that ticket. Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime – no blackout dates.
PRO OF THIS TYPE: These cards allow you to "double-dip" when it comes earning rewards. Since you purchase your flight or hotel stay on a credit card, you can still earn rewards within that airline's or hotel's loyalty program, but then you can redeem credit card rewards to cover the cost. If you redeem rewards directly with a hotel or airline, you won't earn rewards for that flight or stay.
CONS OF THIS TYPE: These rewards are worth what they're worth; you can't transfer them to other loyalty programs to take advantage of discount loyalty reward fares or prices.
Airline rewards credit cards are attached to a specific airline frequent flyer program. Your credit card rewards are frequent flyer miles/points for that specific airline. Often these types of cards offer the highest rewards when you make purchases with the specific airline, but more and more we're seeing additional categories for rewards added to these cards as issuers compete for cardholders.
PROS OF THIS TYPE: Your credit card purchases or any welcome bonus you earn can help you work toward status tiers within your airline of choice. This is even true of the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which your bonus and earnings with any one of Southwest's several credit cards can help you earn.Another pro is that, should you close the credit card, you generally get to keep any rewards you've earned because they are housed within your frequent flyer account and not within your credit card account.
Lastly, airline-branded credit cardholders often enjoy a variety of loyalty perks like upgrades, free checked bags, access to heavily discounted tickets and more.
CONS OF THIS TYPE:These rewards are fairly limited in terms of how you can redeem them; furthermore, you often have to have a fairly large chunk of points/rewards accumulated before you can redeem them for much travel.
Again, the rewards you earn accumulate within your hotel loyalty account and not on your card.
PROS OF THIS TYPE: Like with airline rewards cards, your purchase can help you earn status with your hotel brand of choice, and you can generally hold onto your points/rewards if you close your credit card account. Additionally, many hotel-branded credit cards offer cardholders a free night stay each year after you renew your card.
CONS OF THIS TYPE: As with airline cards, redeeming your rewards – particularly if you're interested in top value – is limited to stays with your hotel brand.
WHO SHOULD GET A TRAVEL REWARDS CARD?
Sit down. You won't believe this. These types of cards are best for… travelers.
Yeah. Who knew?
But, actually, it's not silly to point that out. Travel is fun and exciting, and almost everyone travels at one point or another, so it's easy to get caught up in the idea that you need one of these cards. But if you just travel occasionally, going here and there but sometimes a couple years pass without you going very far, then a different type of rewards credit card, one that doesn't focus on travel, is probably a much better idea.
You should, however, considering applying for a travel rewards credit card if you are one of these types of travelers:
- You're a globe-trotter. If you're the sort of person who travels all the time for business or pleasure, then, of course, you can make a very solid argument for applying for a travel rewards credit card. As for what type of card - a general travel rewards credit card, an airline credit card, a hotel branded one - the smart choice is whatever you prefer and seems to make sense. If you only fly one type of airline, then take a good look at applying for a credit card from your favorite airline. If you're up for anything and don't care where you're staying, maybe a general, all-purpose travel rewards credit card is best. But the main thing is - if you're traveling all the time and spending money, you might as well get some of it back with things like airline miles and no fees for your luggage.
- One big trip a year-ers. Yeah, that's a real phrase. (Er, don't look it up. Just take our word for it.) So you tend to go on a big vacation once a year? And you spend a small fortune every time? Then, sure, get some of that money back with your travel rewards credit card. You're a good candidate for one of these cards, though you should probably stick to the cash-value rewards category discussed above.
- Someone who lives far from your family. Assuming you wish you could see your parents or siblings or other relatives, a travel rewards credit card could be your ticket for seeing them more often. Or at least when you do visit your family, you'll rack up points and miles that can go toward other trips (or more trips to see the family). So if this is your situation, once again, a travel rewards credit card is probably something you should apply for.
HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR REWARDS WITH A TRAVLE REWARDS CARD
Now if you're getting to this section, and you follow some of the advice here, and you're excited about it, you probably should apply for a travel rewards credit card. At least you plan on really utilizing it.
Some strategies you may want to consider…
Double dipping. That's when you can use your credit card to get points but also with the same purchase get points in another way. For instance, let's say you get a welcome bonus of 30,000 points. You can put them toward anything you buy, but if there's an online shopping portal that your credit card encourages you to use, and if you get a steeper discount there, you can go there instead and get even more bang for your buck. (Just make sure that what you're buying at the online portal is stuff you need. That's an obvious statement, but it's easy to get excited and carried away over a deal, only to later realize that without the deal in place, you weren't likely to buy the item.)
Or if you pay for your trip with your travel rewards credit card, you might earn loyalty points with an airline or hotel - and then you may possibly be able to also redeem your credit card rewards for a statement credit for that same purchase. If nothing else, you'll earn rewards on the purchase that you can then use for a future trip.
Of if you're shopping at a cash-back site with your travel rewards credit card, you might save money from the cash-back site and rack up points with your credit card. Yet another form of double dipping.
Make sure you're still signed up for brand loyalty and frequent flyer programs. One, this is a good idea anyway if you've been using the program and you have a lot of points you don't want to lose. But even better, some credit cards let you transfer your points to an airline frequent flyer program. So even if your travel rewards credit card isn't an airline-branded one, you may be able to, in effect, make it one by sending those points over to your frequent flyer program.
Keep track of incentives to redeem in specific ways. Sometimes you get more savings if you redeem your points or miles in a certain way. Like maybe it's worth more to redeem your points for cash than it is a gift card. Or maybe if you redeem your points for travel, you'll get a steeper discount than you would if you redeemed them for anything else. You just want to pay attention to how you redeem your points, so you can get the highest bang for your rewards buck that you can. In some cases, for instance, your points will be worth more if you redeem them through a proprietary site.
Use your credit card for purchases in categories in which you earn the most rewards. If you have one credit card, you'll use it to pay for whatever you darn well please, of course, but if you really want to maximize the heck out of the rewards you may want to, say, get a cash-back rewards credit card for bonus points on purchases like those at supermarkets or gas stations and use that card every time you fill up or stock the pantry. Then, use your travel rewards credit card for all of your airline and hotel purchases.
Travel in the off-season. If you can. Many people, especially parents with kids in school, can't vacation any other time but during the summer or spring break or during the end-of-the-year holiday season. But if you can swing it and go on that big vacation in September or January or some other time of the year when few people go get R&R, you'll save money on your vacation - and you can rack up points and discounts with your travel rewards credit card. Plus, those cash-value points will take your further in the off-season.
Be financially responsible. In other words, don't apply for several credit cards if you aren't sure you can manage your money with multiple credit cards. And hopefully this goes without saying, but unless it's an emergency and you have to have cash right now, do not use your credit card for cash advances. Due to the high interest that kicks in immediately, it's just a bad idea. You also want to make sure that you pay your balance in full, every billing cycle.
If you can't pay the balance every time on each billing cycle, you can't. But carrying interest on a credit card is an effective way to undo all the work you've been doing to save money and reap rewards by using your travel rewards credit card.
And it is, in a way, work, making sure that you're maximizing your rewards with travel credit cards. Still, if researching, applying for and using your travel rewards credit card really does wipe you out, the good news is that you can take all of your points and use them to go find somewhere to relax and recover - like on a Caribbean beach.
HOW TO CHOOSE A TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARD
Travel rewards credit cards sound amazing, but you have to understand how to make them work for you in order to maximize their benefits. Here are some things to keep in mind when you're comparing travel rewards cards and looking for the one that's right for you.
Know your credit score and history. We always have to start with this recommendation regardless of the type of credit card you're looking for. The first step when comparing credit cards is to narrow down your options based on your credit score and history. If you have excellent credit, this probably won't narrow down your options much since most cards will be available to you. If, however, you have fair or average credit, this step will probably narrow your options considerably, especially when it comes to rewards cards. Don't grow discouraged! Just work with the credit score you have, use responsibly the credit cards for which your eligible and you may soon qualify for a card designed for those with good or excellent credit. DON'T apply for cards that require excellent credit if you simply don't have excellent credit as that could very well damage your score.
Assess your travel goals. Are you someone who takes a mega-trip once a year? Or are you a person who escapes for weekend getaways whenever possible? Do you care about things like airport lounge access and VIP perks, or are you primarily concerned with top rewards for the lowest possible annual fee? Be honest about how you travel and don't convince yourself you will change your travel habits to fit a new credit card. Instead, find the card that fits the travel patterns you've already established.
Be honest about your spending habits. As with any rewards credit card, you want to find the one where the top rewards-earning most closely aligns with your regular spending habits. If, for instance, you rarely dine out than you aren't going to reap the full benefit of a travel rewards card that offers top rewards at restaurants. Likewise, if you prefer road trips to transatlantic flights, an airline rewards card probably isn't for you. Now, that sounds pretty basic, but it can be more nuanced. Let's say, for instance, that you are a bargain shopper who will fly any airline that offers you the cheapest airfare to your destination; conversely, maybe you are an airline loyalist who is prepared to pay a little bit more to fly the airline you've come to know and love.
Consider the fees. This is very important to look at - especially annual fees and foreign transaction fees. Some annual fees can be pretty steep, although often in the first year they're waived. But, still, next year, do you want to pay the annual fee? Maybe it's not a big deal if it's less than $100; maybe it's a bigger deal if it's $500.
Often, the more sizable the annual fee, the more perks you'll have with the card, but you want to make sure you're going to use the card enough and get enough perks, points and amenities to justify spending money on an annual fee. If you spend $495 on an annual fee, and you only land about $300 in discounts in a year, that's not math you can get excited about. On the other hand, if you spend $495 on an annual fee and the perks and discounts add up to $750 in a year, well, you're coming out well ahead.
As for foreign transaction fees, those are fees that your credit card issuer will sometimes add onto purchases you're making abroad. Not all travel rewards credit cards have them - in fact, more and more of them don't - but some do. Usually the fees are between 3 and 5 percent. So if you travel abroad and use your travel rewards credit card for all of your purchases in another country, you may add 2 or 3 percent to the cost of your entire trip, which, of course, can eat into the discounts you're accruing when you use your card to begin with.
That might lead you to think, "Well, fine. I won't use my travel rewards credit card when I travel abroad." But then you're missing out on discounts, earning rewards and the security of using a card as opposed to cash, all of which are kinda the whole idea behind travel credit cards.
There are reasons you really should use your travel rewards credit card when you travel internationally. For one, you may get a better exchange rate when you use your credit card for purchases than if you use cash. And then if someone steals your credit card and spends, say, $5,000, the most you can be liable for is $50, and your bank or credit card may be able to get you a replacement overnight, if not sooner. If your debit card is stolen, or you have $5,000 in euros or dirhams in your wallet, and that's taken, you could lose it all and have nobody, other than friends or family who may or may not be able to wire you money, to help you get back home.
So, yes, it's much safer to use a travel rewards credit card than a debit card or cash. If the foreign transaction fees bug you that much, find a credit card that doesn't have them. There are plenty that don't, including all the choices on this Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards list.
>MORE: Looking for cash back or other cards that don't have foreign transaction fees? Check out Best no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards
Look at the extra perks and features. The top travel rewards credit cards offer cardholders more than just rewards and the conveniences and security of paying with plastic. instead, they feature "fine print" benefits like included car rental insurance, lost luggage insurance or even trip cancellation/interruption insurance. Some cards reimburse you for some travel expenses or offer statement credit to cover Global Entry or TSA Pre✓™ application fees. And, of course, there are cards that offer complimentary checked bags on flights and/or airport lounge access or free room upgrades. Decide which of these features is important to you and search for a card that meets those needs. Here's a look at some of the most common "fine print" perks.If you've been zeroing in on a travel rewards credit card, and you like the fact that the annual fee isn't crazy (or it's crazy, but you feel it's worth paying), and you aren't bothered by the foreign transaction fee (or better yet, there is none), and you do travel, and you like all of the perks and amenities, then these extra features we're about to discuss probably shouldn't change your mind. But if you're on the fence on a card, these features may get you to an enthusiastic yes - or the lack of them may bring you to a hard no.
Regardless, do your due diligence and see what your travel rewards credit card offers when it comes to …
Car rental insurance. Do you rent a lot of cars? Do you cringe when you're asked at the counter if you want the car rental's insurance? (It always sounds great to have, but it can significantly jack up the price of the rental.) Many credit cards offer rental car insurance. It generally won't provide as good as coverage as your own car insurance, or the rental car's protection, but sometimes it will cover things like theft and collision or will pick up the rest of your deductible. If you feel like your credit card's car insurance is solid, then between that and your own insurance (assuming you have car insurance), when asked if you want to pay extra for insurance, you may be able to finally confidently tell the inquiring rental car associate, "No, thanks."
Travel interruption/cancellation insurance. Just before you fly out to your brother's wedding, you wind up with walking pneumonia and have to eat the cost of the airline ticket, or fly out there and expose everyone to your germs. Except now in this alternate future, you'll get reimbursed for those tickets - assuming your travel rewards credit card offers good travel interruption or cancellation insurance and you bought the ticket on that card (or redeemed card rewards for the ticket). Unfortunately, sometimes you won't be able to get the full details on perks like these until after you've applied for the card, and they're sending you a guide to all of your benefits. Still, if your travel rewards credit card offers this, whether or not it does everything you'd like, it's a worthy benefit. It could save you hundreds in third-party trip insurance.
Lost luggage insurance. Some cards will pay you up to a certain amount (say, $500) for any lost or stolen luggage while you're on a trip. So you don't want to put your most expensive jewelry or rare coin collection in a suitcase, especially if it's uninsured, but it is a reassuring perk to know that if you have a suitcase jam packed with shirts, sweaters and undergarments, and you lose it all, your credit card can help you out.
Concierge services. These services can be a little like having a personal assistant. A little. You won't be able to get the concierge on the other end of the phone to come to your house and wash your car, but if your request will end with you spending money on your credit card, then, hey, the credit card's concierge is naturally here to help. Do you want reservations at a restaurant? Your concierge can do that for you for free (assuming it's like most cards; read the guide to your benefits). Do you have some sightseeing excursions you want to set up? Your concierge can handle that. Need a hotel room but everything seems to be booked up? Let your concierge worry about that. The spending money snark aside, this can be a wonderful perk for the time crunched.
WHAT CAN A TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARD DO FOR YOU?
When used correctly a travel rewards credit card can help you earn free or heavily discounted flights, hotel stays, and more. And these cards aren't just for the world-traveling jetsetter! Many of the best credit cards for travel rewards earn points and mi--les on everyday purchases such as groceries, gas, and online spending, making them a great choice even if you only travel once a year. CardRatings senior manager and site editor Brooklyn Lowery has more:
To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (See Rates and Fees); The Platinum 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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