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Best travel rewards credit cards of 2019 from our partners

Updated, December 12, 2018

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Best travel rewards credit cards of 2019With the help of a top travel rewards card, it's time to travel better and less expensively and to not have to jump through dozens of hoops to make it happen. Whether you're looking for the best travel rewards credit card, airline rewards card or are more focused on the best hotel rewards cards, there are options out there that will reward you for your everyday purchases...

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

VIDEO: What can a travel rewards credit card do for you?

And, one last note: None of the cards on this list charge foreign transaction fees, so get ready to explore!

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards – Transferable Points

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards: Chase Utlimate Rewards® points are transferable to many frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs, so you aren't tied down to a single brand with this card. Furthermore, you're points are worth 25 percent more when you redeem them for travel, making them even more valuable than they are at face value.

The Bonus: Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. That's worth $625 in travel.  

The Annual Fee: $0 Intro for First Year, then $95

The Rewards: Earn two times the points on travel and dining at restaurants and one point on everything else. Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are transferable to numerous frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs. Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

EXPERT TIP: Combine this card with Chase Freedom® and/or Chase Freedom Unlimited® to earn top rewards in categories beyond travel and dining. Use Chase Freedom® strategically to earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly rotating categories when you activate (check out the current bonus categories), use Chase Freedom Unlimited® to earn 1.5 percent back on everything that doesn't earn more with Chase Freedom® or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and then transfer all your points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card where your points are worth 25 percent more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

One more thing to note: Both Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Unlimited® are no-annual-fee cards that feature 15 months of no interest on purchases and balance transfers for new cardholders (then, 16.99% - 25.74% Variable for Chase Freedom® and 16.99% - 25.74% Variable for Chase Freedom Unlimited®).

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards: A card with a $550 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 60,000 welcome bonus you get 5x membership rewards points on a) flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express travel and b) prepaid hotels that you book through amextravel.com.  The card comes with an annual $200 airline fee credit, annual $200 in Uber credits, annual $100 in statement credits at Saks Fifth Avenue or Saks.com; Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($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 Gold Elite status at Hilton and Starwood (which matches to Marriot Gold).  The Points Guy estimates these elevated hotel statuses to be worth $1,958.  There’s also no foreign transaction fees, and the card is a very attractive and recognizable metal card that many will be proud to carry.  While not for everyone (i.e. the frugal traveler), you can find a solid contingent of Platinum cardholders who devotees, and find the benefits not only defray the annual fee but bring travel comfort to the next level.   (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser)

The Bonus: New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 on the card in the first three months of membership.  This is worth $600 toward airfare booked through Amex partners.

The Annual Fee: $550.  If you happen to be active duty military or a spouse of one, American Express will waive the annual feeTerms apply. See Rates and Fees

The Rewards: Earn five points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com and on prepaid hotels booked through American Express travel. You earn one point per $1 spent on all your other purchases. Read our full review of The Platinum Card® from American Express.

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 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


American Express® Gold Card

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards: This card offers a number of luxury perks without the through-the-roof annual fee of other luxury cards. Consider, for instance, that taking full advantage of the $100 per year airline fee credit essentially reduces your annual fee to $150. And there are plenty of perks with this card that certainly make that worthwhile.

Plus, this card offers the new Instant Card Number feature. With Instant Card Number (ICN), eligible new cardholders can instantly receive their credit card number and CID so that you can begin using the card (and racking up rewards!) on any purchase that doesn't require a physical card (like online or through mobile wallet) immediately after being approved; it means you don't have to wait for your card to arrive in the mail in the typical three to five business days. Note: the Limited Edition Rose Gold card is only available until 1/9/2019. 

The Bonus: Receive 20% back as a statement credit on charges at U.S. restaurants within the first three months, up to $100 back -- offer available to new card members who apply by 1/9/2019 -- also, earn 25,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points after spending $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first three months.

The Annual Fee: $250 Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

The Rewards: You'll earn three times the Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com; four times the Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants, and four times the Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required. Read our full American Express® Gold Card review.

Added Perks: Receive up to $100 annually to cover incidental airline charges, like baggage fees, with a pre-selected airline.

Credit Needed:  Good, Excellent


Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards: Easy to earn rewards plus a percentage of your miles back each time you redeem make this a solid travel rewards credit card choice.

The Bonus: For a limited time, earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days as a cardholder (which is a generous welcome bonus, by the way).

The Annual Fee: $89 (waived first year). See Rates and Fees

The Rewards: Receive two miles per $1 spent on all purchases with no caps or categories. Then, each time you redeem your miles, you'll receive 5 percent of them back to use for a future redemption. Read our full Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® review.

Credit Needed: Good/Excellent


Fixed Value Travel Rewards Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards: There's a ton of flexibility with this card when it comes to redeeming those miles; plus, the annual fee is less than what you might expect to pay for a card with this kind of earning and redemption power. 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 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

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

The Rewards: This is a card with which you earn two miles for every $1 you spend. Plus, thanks to a partnership, cardholders who book a stay through Hotels.com/Venture will earn 10 miles per $1 spent on the booking (this promotion ends January 31, 2020). That's in addition to the regular Hotels.com rewards program through which you earn a free night stay for every 10 nights booked on the site.

Redeem miles for any flight or hotel stay, as well as car rentals, cruises, and more. Read our full Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card review.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


Discover it® Miles

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards: 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. Make sure you rack up those miles during your first year.

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

The Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Because of the match bonus, you effectively earn three miles per $1 spent during your first year. The ongoing rewards rate is a respectable 1.5 miles per $1. Read our full Discover it® Miles review.

Added Perks: Cardholders can be reimbursed up to $30 annually for in-flight Wi-Fi fees.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards: There are perks galore with this card and a stellar rewards-earning rate that you just don't find on a card with no annual fee.

The Bonus: You can earn 25,000 bonus points if you spend $2,500 on your new card in the first 90 days.

The Annual Fee: $0

The Rewards: Members of the PenFed Honors Advantage program earn four points per $1 spent travel purchases (three points for per $1 for those purchases for all other cardholders) and 1.5 points per $1 on all other purchases. *Note that you'll need to be a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to qualify for this card (membership does not guarantee approval). You can qualify with various military, government and organizational affiliations or by making a one-time donation to a qualifying organization. Read our full PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card review.

More Details: Cardholders are eligible for a $100 travel reimbursement annually as well as a reimbursement for your Global Entry or TSA Pre?® application fees every five years.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


Best No-Annual-Fee Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Why We Like It: This card offers a broad range of categories that earn three times the points per $1 spent and there's no annual fee to worry about. That means this is a good card for a lot of different types of spenders/credit card users.

Bonus: New! Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months which amounts to a $300 cash redemption value. Additionally, if you are considering a balance transfer, you can take advantage of 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.49%-26.99% Variable variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee.

Annual Fee: $0

Rewards Rate: Earn three points per $1 spent on your eating out and ordering in purchases; your gas station, rideshare and transit purchases; and your travel purchases, including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals. Earn one point per $1 on everything else.

Added Perks: If you pay your cellular phone bill on your card, the primary phone and up to three other phones on the same bill will be protected against covered damage and theft (terms and deductibles apply.) It's a nice added benefit that won't cost you a thing and will save you money if you're used to paying for cell phone insurance. Read our full Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card review.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Why We Like It: If simple travel rewards and avoiding an annual fee are your goal, this could be your card. There is a nice bonus for a no-annual-fee card as well as some solid features sure to make the periodic traveler glad to have the card in their wallet.

Bonus: Receive 20,000 bonus miles after spending just $1,000 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. Read our full Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card review.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Business

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Business: 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's the added perk of cellular phone protection with this card.

The Bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months as a cardholder.

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. Read our full Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card review.

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.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Business: A simple rewards-earning and redemption structure as well as a manageable annual fee make this the kind of small business credit card that busy business owners can truly embrace.

The Bonus: Earn up to 200,000 miles. Earn a bonus of 50,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account, then earn 150,000 miles when you spend $50,000 within the first 6 months. Limited Time Offer.

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

The Rewards: Earn two miles for every $1 spent on all your purchases. Rewards won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit on the miles you can earn. Read our full Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business review.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Business: 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. By the way, this is another card that offers eligible new cardholders the Instant Card Number feature, which means you can begin using your new card immediately upon approval for purchases that don't require a physical card. Read more about it above.

The Bonus: Earn up to 75,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after your spend $10,000 and earn another 25,000 points after you spend another $10,000 all in the first three months.

The Annual Fee: $450. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

The Rewards: Earn five points per $1 spent on flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com. You'll also earn 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 percent 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. Read our full review of The Business Platinum® Card from American Express.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

Top Premium Travel Rewards Cards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards: Take what you loved 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. Well, not only us: MONEY® Magazine named this card the "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018.

The Bonus: Just as above, you can earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. HOWEVER, with this card, your points are worth 50 percent 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: $450

The Rewards: Earn three times the points on dining at restaurants and on travel charges after earning your annual travel reimbursement statement credit and one point on everything else. Once again, those Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are transferable to numerous frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs and, as mentioned earlier, they're worth 50 percent more when you redeem them for travel through the Ultimate Rewards® portal. And, yes, this is another option if you're considering following the advice in the Expert Tip box above and opening a couple of cards that work on the Ultimate Rewards® system. Keep in mind, however, that you can't collect the welcome bonus on both Sapphire cards, as per Chase rules, unless it's been at least 24 months since you receive your first Sapphire bonus. Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve® review.

Added Perks: Cardholders are eligible 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


The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why It's Among the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards:  Another option for people who like to travel in comfort and luxury, this card also offers transferable points and plenty of money-saving perks that will help offset that annual fee. It also offers the Instant Card Number feature so eligible cardholders can get started racking up rewards immediately upon approval rather than waiting for your new card to arrive in the mail three to five days later. Learn more about this feature above.

The Bonus: New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 on the card in the first three months of membership.

The Annual Fee: $550. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

The Rewards: Earn five points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com and on prepaid hotels booked through American Express travel. You earn one point per $1 spent on all your other purchases. Read our full review of The Platinum Card® from American Express.

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 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


Best Airline Rewards Cards

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

(Citi is a CardRatings.com advertiser)

Why It's Among the Best Airline Rewards Credit Cards: 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.

The Bonus: Earn up to 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles: 40,000 AAdvantage® miles after making $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months and 10,000 after making a total of $6,000 in purchases in the first 12 months of account opening

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.* Also earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card.* Read our full Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® review.

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 percent off in-flight food and drink purchases on American Airlines flights when you use your card. Plus, earn a $100 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, Good


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Why It's Among the Best Airline Rewards Credit Cards: 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 3 months your account is open. Plus earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year.

The Annual Fee: $149

The Rewards: Rack up two points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and on purchases with Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners. Earn one point per $1 on your other purchases. Read our full Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card review.

Additional Perks: Card members will have their loyalty rewarded with 7,500 bonus points each year after the cardholder anniversary. Additionally, you'll receive a $75 Southwest® travel credit each year and four upgraded boardings per year as available.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

Best Hotel Rewards Cards

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Why It's Among the Best Hotel Rewards Credit Cards: This one rewards you even if you don't stay in hotels all the time, so it's a good everyday card. Plus – and this is unusual – there are airport lounge visits included with this card.

The Bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on the card in the first three months. Plus, receive a weekend night reward stay each calendar year you spend at least $15,000 on the card, an ongoing opportunity that could more than offset your annual fee.

The Annual Fee: $95. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees

The Rewards: Earn 12 points per $1 spent directly with participating Hilton properties. Enjoy everyday earnings with six points per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations and three points per $1 on all your other purchases. Read our full Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card review.

Added Perks: Cardholders receive 10 airport lounge visits each calendar year after a one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select. Visits beyond your 10th will incur a $27 fee, but those 10 complimentary visits are basically unheard of for a card with just a $95 annual fee.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent


Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card

Why It's Among the Best Hotel Rewards Credit Cards: Welcome bonuses are nice, but they're a one-time deal. This card, however, rewards you every year after your account anniversary with a free night stay at a participating hotel – valued at up to 35,000 points.

The Bonus: Earn two Free Night Awards (each valued up to 35,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.

The Annual Fee: $95

The Rewards: This card allows you to rack up six points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards® and SPG® (Starwood) hotels (and The Ritz-Carlton properties, for that matter). Beyond that, earn two points per $1 spent on everything else. Gain automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year. Then, coming in 2019, 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year. Get the card that helps you earn more with U.S. News & World Report's No.1 Hotel Rewards Program, Marriott Rewards. Read our full Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card review.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

What can a travel rewards credit card do for you?

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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