Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards 2019

Brendan Harkness

Author

Brendan Harkness

Updated May 23, 2019

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Travel credit cards can help you travel for free, while making your trips a bit less stressful and more enjoyable.

You can earn valuable rewards — like points and miles — and, depending on your card, you’ll get perks that can elevate your experience, like airport lounge access and elite hotel status. Travel cards also come with a variety of handy protections and insurance benefits, which can help if your trip is delayed or your bags are lost.

Browse our top picks to find the right travel credit card for you today.

Best pick for

General Travel

Why we picked this card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review) makes a great first travel card.

It’s popular as an inexpensive and flexible way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs. It has an excellent signup bonus which could be worth over $1,000, and it’s also known for being made out of metal.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on:
    • Travel
    • Dining at restaurants
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent everywhere else
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $600–$1,200 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 15–30%

Use this card when you pay for travel or restaurants, whether you’re in the U.S. or traveling abroad.

You can get a 25% point bonus by redeeming for travel expenses through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal, which would give you a value of 1.25 cents per point. At that rate you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of 2.5% on travel and dining.

But to maximize your point value you’ll need to transfer them to a partner airline or hotel. That could give you upwards of 2 cents per point, which comes to a cash back equivalent of 4% on travel and dining.

At 2 cents per point, the signup bonus of 60,000 points would be worth $1,200, quite a nice return on your spending. With travel cards like these it generally pays to hold your points until you can redeem them at a good rate; otherwise you should just pay with your card as normal to earn more points.

Key Features & Terms

  • Point Transfer: Transfer points at a 1:1 rate to leading airline and hotel frequent travel programs, like Marriott Bonvoy or United MileagePlus.
  • 10,000-point referral bonus: Get 10,000 points for every friend you refer who applies for the card and is approved.
  • Luxury Hotel Collection: Book eligible rooms to get perks like daily breakfast for two, complimentary WiFi, room upgrades, early check-in, late check-out, and unique gifts.
  • Shop through Chase: Earn more points by shopping at participating retailers with the Shop through Chase marketplace.
  • Visa Signature Concierge: Call to speak with your Visa Signature Concierge, any time, day or night.
  • Premium Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Get primary coverage on eligible rental vehicles so your premiums won’t go up after an accident.
  • Annual fee: $95

Read more in our Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

 

Runner Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 2X points per dollar on Travel and Dining
  • 1.5X points per dollar on everything else
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first 90 days after account opening
  • $100 Annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit: Good for incidental airline costs, like baggage, seat upgrades, and WiFi (not flight tickets).
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit: A statement credit to offset the cost of applying for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every four years.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $95

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card.

Key Features & Terms

  • 10X miles per dollar on purchases from Hotels.com/venture (until 01/31/20)
  • 2X miles per dollar on all other purchases
  • 50,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® Venture Rewards® Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 10X miles per dollar on purchases from Hotels.com/venture (until 01/31/20)
  • 1.25X miles per dollar on all other purchases
  • 20,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Purchase APR: 0% intro on purchases for for 12 months, then 14.24% - 24.24%
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card.

We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card »

Best pick for

No Annual Fee

Why we picked this card

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card (Review) is an excellent no-fee choice for general travel expenses, although hotels are its strong suit.

Check out the runners up below for some options that provide equal rewards for hotels, airlines, and other types of travel.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 1.25X miles per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 20,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $200–$400 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 20–40%

The Venture miles you earn with this card are typically worth 1 cent each, but Capital One recently introduced the ability to transfer your miles to a variety of airline partners.

Transfers could provide 2 cents per mile or more, which would give you a cash back equivalent of 20% at Hotels.com (a very high rate!), and 2.5% everywhere else.

So, although this card’s base rewards are fairly small, it has valuable airline and hotel-related features that some travelers could find very useful.

Key Features & Terms

  • Point Transfer: Transfer points to a dozen airline partners at a rate of either 2:1.5 or 2:1, depending on the airline.
  • Luxury Hotel Collection: Get perks for eligible hotel stays, including a $25 food and beverage credit, room upgrades when available, complimentary in-room WiFi, and more.
  • Visa Signature Concierge: Call any time for non-emergency assistance, like help making reservations or finding gifts.
  • Purchase APR: 0% intro on purchases for for 12 months, then 14.24% - 24.24%
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 3X points per dollar at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • 1.5X points per dollar for every other purchase
  • 25,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening
  • Bank of America Customers and Preferred Rewards: 10% rewards bonus if you have an active BofA checking or savings account; Preferred Rewards clients can get a 25–75% bonus.
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles, then 17.24%–25.24% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America Travel Rewards® Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 3X points per dollar on:
    • Dining
    • Gas
    • Travel
    • Streaming services
  • 1X point per dollar for every other purchase
  • 30,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 months, then 16.24%-27.24% Variable (for transfers requested within 120 days)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 3% cash back in your choice of one category every month:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at Grocery stores and Wholesale clubs
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Spending limit: 3% and 2% categories are limited to the first $2,500 in combined spending per quarter (then 1%).
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles, then 16.24%–26.24% Variable (for transfers made during the first 60 days)
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 4% cash back on Dining
  • 3% cash back on Hotels and Airfare
  • 2% cash back for Online purchases
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Uber Visa Card.

We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card »

Best pick for

Premium Travel Rewards

Why we picked this card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) is the better (and more expensive) cousin of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

It earns points at higher multiples for dining and travel, has a better redemption bonus, and comes with a variety of perks and services that can help you save money and access interesting experiences.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on:
    • Travel (after using the full $300 travel credit)
    • Dining
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$1,000 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 12.5–25%

The Sapphire Reserve provides a 50% point bonus when redeeming for travel expenses through the Ultimate Rewards portal, which would make your points worth 1.5 cents each. That’d give you a cash back equivalent of 4.5% on travel and dining, which isn’t too bad.

But the best way to use Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer them to a partner airline or hotel loyalty program. That could give you 2 cents per point or potentially quite a bit more, depending on how you use them.

At 2 cents per point you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of 6% on travel and dining, which is pretty competitive with the best credit cards.

Key Features & Terms

  • Point Transfer: Transfer your points at a 1:1 rate to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs, like United, JetBlue, and Marriott.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit: A $300 travel credit every year that will be automatically applied toward a broad range of travel-related expenses charged to card.
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Provides access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide plus a selection of restaurants. The cardholder and two guests can enter for free; additional guests cost $32 each.
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Provides complimentary services and benefits at participating hotels and resorts, including room upgrades, daily breakfast for two, and special gifts.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit: Get a statement credit to offset the cost of applying for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every four years.
  • Elite Hotel Benefits at Relais & Châteaux: Accelerated progress toward Club 5C member status with Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel and resort properties.
  • Visa Infinite Concierge: Call for non-emergency help of all kinds, like making dinner reservations or finding good tickets to a show.
  • Special Car Rental Privileges: Rental upgrades, discounts, and promotional offers at Avis, Silvercar, and National Car Rental.
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: You’ll get Purchase Protection, a Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Trip Delay Reimbursement, and more.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

Read more in our Review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar on:
    • Flights booked directly through airlines or through American Express Travel
    • Prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on other eligible travel expenses booked through American Express Travel
  • 60,000 Membership Rewards points for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Global Lounge Collection: Complimentary access to Priority Pass, Centurion, American Express International, Delta Sky Club, Escape, Airspace, Lufthansa, and Plaza Premium Lounges.
  • $200 Annual Airline Fee Credit: Good for incidental costs like checked bags and inflight food (not flight tickets) at your selected airline.
  • $200 Annual Uber Credits: $15 in statement credits for Uber rides each month, except for December which gets $35.
  • $100 Annual Saks Credit: Up to $100 in statement credits each year for Saks Fifth Avenue: $50 from January through June, and $50 from July through December.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit: A statement credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100 every four years) or TSA PreCheck ($85 once every four and a half years).
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Charge card: You must pay your balance in full each billing period.

Read more in our Review of The Platinum Card® from American Express: Is It Worth the $550 Annual Fee?

Want to see how these two premium travel cards compare? Check out The Chase Sapphire Reserve vs Amex Platinum: Which One Is Better for You?

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 5X ThankYou points per dollar spent on Air travel and Restaurants
  • 3X ThankYou points per dollar spent on Hotels and Cruise lines
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Annual $250 Travel Credit: Good for airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, and other travel expenses.
  • Complimentary 4th Night Stay: Get your fourth night free when booking four nights in a row through ThankYou.com or the Citi Concierge, and paying with your card, ThankYou points, or a combination of both (starting September 2019, this perk is capped at two uses per year; uses before that date don’t count toward the cap).
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Access to over 900 Priority Pass airport lounges and restaurants around the world.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit: A credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every five years.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $495

Read more in our Review of the Citi Prestige® Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 3X points per dollar for Travel and Mobile wallet purchases
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,500 in the first 90 days
  • Annual $325 Travel Credit: Good for airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, and other travel expenses.
  • Limited Priority Pass Select membership: A 12-month membership for Priority Pass Select airport lounges and restaurants around the world.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit: A credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every four years.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $400

Read more in our U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card Review: Is It Worth the $400 Annual Fee?

We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about Chase Sapphire Reserve® »

Best Pick For

Airport Lounge Access

Why we picked this card

When it comes to lounge access, there’s really no beating The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review) and its Global Lounge Collection.

There are quite a few cards offering the popular Priority Pass Select membership, but the Platinum card grants access to that along with a host of other lounge brands, including Delta Sky Clubs and Amex’s own exclusive Centurion lounges.

The business version of this card provides the same excellent lounge access, though some other card features are different: The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Review).

Premium credit cards aren’t your only options for lounge access; check out the full marketplace of Credit Cards that Provide Airport Lounge Access.

Global Lounge Collection Access

Lounge Brand Access Details
Airspace Lounges
  • Spouse, children under 21, and up to two guests can enter for free
International American Express Lounges
  • One guest can enter for free
The Centurion Lounge
  • Up to two guests can enter for free
Delta Sky Club
  • Up to two guests can enter for $29 per person
  • Same-day Delta boarding pass required
Escape Lounges
  • Up to two guests can enter for free
Lufthansa Lounges
  • Some locations allow guests for a fee
  • Same-day Lufthansa boarding pass required
Plaza Premium Airport Lounges
  • Up to two guests can enter for free
Priority Pass Select
  • Up to two guests can enter for free
  • Additional guests cost $32
  • Enrollment required
  • Some lounges do not admit guests

Authorized users of this card can access most of these lounges as well, although there may be restrictions in some cases. If you plan on bringing or entering as an authorized user, you may want to call ahead to check.

Up to three authorized users can be designated for this card for a total price of $175 per year. After that, each authorized user will cost $175 per year.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar on:
    • Flights booked directly through airlines or through American Express Travel
    • Prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • 2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on other eligible travel expenses booked through American Express Travel
  • 1X Membership Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 60,000 Membership Rewards points for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $600–$1,200 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 12–24%

Normal redemptions for flights will yield 1 cent per point, which is a poor way to use your rewards. It would be better to save up for point transfers, which could provide upwards of 2 cents per point.

At 2 cents per point you’d earn a cash back equivalent of 10% in the 5X categories. But take note that those bonus categories are a bit limited compared to what you’ll get from some other premium travel cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) or Citi Prestige® Card (Review).

Key Features & Terms

  • $200 Annual Airline Fee Credit: Good for incidental costs like checked bags and inflight food (not flight tickets) at your selected airline.
  • $200 Annual Uber Credits: $15 in statement credits for Uber rides each month, except for December which gets $35.
  • $100 Annual Saks Credit: Up to $100 in statement credits each year for Saks Fifth Avenue: $50 from January through June, and $50 from July through December.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit: A statement credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100 every four years) or TSA PreCheck ($85 once every four and a half years).
  • The Hotel Collection: A $100 hotel credit and room upgrades when available for every eligible two-night stay.
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts Program: Daily breakfast for two, room upgrades when available, amenities valued at $100, and more at eligible properties.
  • Complimentary Elite Hotel statuses: Hilton Honors Gold status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold status.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Charge card: You must pay your balance in full each month.

Read more in our Review of The Platinum Card® from American Express: Is It Worth the $550 Annual Fee?

 

Runners Up

Authorized users for the Sapphire Reserve cost $75 each per year, and they get their own Priority Pass Select memberships.

Key Features & Terms

  • Priority Pass Select membership: Provides access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide plus a selection of restaurants. The cardholder and two guests can enter for free; additional guests cost $32 each.
  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on Travel (after using the full $300 travel credit) and Dining
  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit: A $300 travel credit every year that will be automatically applied toward a broad range of travel-related expenses charged to card.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit: Get a statement credit to offset the cost of applying for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every four years.
  • Elite Hotel Benefits at Relais & Châteaux: Accelerated progress towards Club 5C member status with Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel and resort properties.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

Read more in our Review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

 

Authorized users for the Citi Prestige cost $75 each, and they get their own Priority Pass Select memberships.

Key Features & Terms

  • Priority Pass Select membership: Access to over 1,200 Priority Pass airport lounges and restaurants around the world. Free access for you and two guests; additional guests cost $32 each.
  • 5X ThankYou points per dollar spent on Air travel and Restaurants
  • 3X ThankYou points per dollar spent on Hotels and Cruise lines
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Annual $250 Travel Credit: Good for airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, and other travel expenses.
  • Complimentary 4th Night Stay: Get your fourth night free when booking four nights in a row through ThankYou.com or the Citi Concierge, and paying with your card, ThankYou points, or a combination of both (starting September 2019, this perk is capped at two uses per year; uses before that date don’t count toward the cap).
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit: A credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every five years.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $495

Read more in our Review of the Citi Prestige® Card.

 

Authorized users of this card do not get their own Priority Pass Select memberships.

  • Priority Pass Select membership: Complimentary airport lounge and restaurant access for you and up to two guests (additional guests cost $32).
  • 34X points per dollar at Hilton properties
    • 14X Bonus points per dollar from the card
    • 20X Base points per dollar for being a Hilton Diamond member
  • 7X Bonus points for Flights booked on Amex Travel or directly with airlines, Car rentals from select companies, and U.S. restaurants
  • 150,000 Bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond Status: With a 100% bonus on Base points, digital check-in, gym access, and more.
  • $250 Annual Hilton Resort Statement Credit: Good for charges from Hilton resorts.
  • $100 Hilton On-Property Credit: Good for incidental charges at participating Hilton properties, for every eligible stay of two-nights or more.
  • $250 Annual Airline Fee Credit: Good for incidental airline fees, not ticket prices.
  • Two Annual Weekend Night Rewards: One free weekend night per year, and you can earn an additional night by spending $60,000 in a given year.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

 

Authorized users of this card do not get additional free visits.

  • Priority Pass Select membership: Five free lounge/restaurant visits per year; additional visits cost $27 per person.
  • 2X points per dollar spent at Grocery stores, Restaurants, and for Online food delivery
  • Visa Concierge: Call your personal Visa assistant at any time for non-emergency help.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 6 months, then 11.65% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $50
We're currently unable to link directly to an application for this card.

Learn more about The Platinum Card® from American Express »

Best Pick For

Long Hotel Stays

Why we picked this card

Frequent travelers have had a long-lasting love affair with the Citi Prestige® Card (Review).

This card offer is unique for its fourth night free on hotel stays of four nights or more, a valuable perk that could help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year, if you stay at high-end properties.

The Prestige used to be a powerhouse because you could use that benefit as often as you wanted, but starting September 1, 2019, it will be capped at two uses per year. Uses before that date don’t count toward the cap.

This new limitation is a bit of a downer, but most people shouldn’t mind too much because Citi stated that the average cardholder didn’t use that perk more than twice per year anyway.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 5X ThankYou points per dollar spent on:
    • Air travel
    • Restaurants
  • 3X ThankYou points per dollar spent on:
    • Hotels
    • Cruise lines
  • 2X ThankYou points per dollar spent on Entertainment (former cardholders only, through 8/31/19)
  • 1X ThankYou point per dollar spent on everything else
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 ThankYou points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$1,000 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 12.5–25%

ThankYou points are only worth 1 cent each when redeeming for past travel expenses, and so, like with many travel cards, the best way to use your rewards is a point transfer.

Citi has a variety of airline partners, but unfortunately there are no hotel partners. You’ll find some popular and some less-popular airlines, and point values could reach 2 cents per point or higher.

At 2 cents per point, you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of 10% in the 5X categories, and 6% in the 3X categories. That’s as good or better than what you’ll get from other top travel cards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review) and Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review).

The Prestige has a decent split of airline and hotel-related features. You’ll get the 5X airline bonus category and airline transfer partners, along with Priority Pass Select membership and a fee credit for expedited airport screening. And then you’ll get 3X points and the fourth night free perk at hotels.

Key Features & Terms

  • Point Transfer: To a variety of airline loyalty programs, including Etihad Guest, JetBlue TrueBlue, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
  • Annual $250 Travel Credit: Good for airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, and other travel expenses.
  • Complimentary 4th Night Stay: Get your fourth night free when booking four nights in a row through ThankYou.com or the Citi Concierge, and paying with your card, ThankYou points, or a combination of both (starting September 2019, this perk is capped at two uses per year; uses before that date don’t count toward the cap).
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Access to over 900 Priority Pass airport lounges and restaurants around the world.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit: A credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every five years.
  • Citi Prestige Concierge: Call for non-emergency help any time you need it.
  • World Elite Car Rental Program: Elite memberships at Avis, Silvercar, and National.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $495

Read more in our Review of the Citi Prestige® Card.

 

Runners Up

Both of the Capital One Venture cards are great for general hotel spending thanks to their 10X category with Hotels.com, and the fact that Hotels.com gives you a free night for every ten nights you stay. Together, those two features can provide massive savings compared to what you typically find on low or no annual fee cards.

Key Features & Terms

  • 10X miles per dollar on purchases from Hotels.com/venture (until 01/31/20)
  • 2X miles per dollar on all other purchases
  • 50,000 bonus miles for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® Venture Rewards® Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 10X miles per dollar on purchases from Hotels.com/venture (until 01/31/20)
  • 1.25X miles per dollar on all other purchases
  • 20,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Purchase APR: 0% intro on purchases for for 12 months, then 14.24% - 24.24%
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card.

Best pick for

Premium Co-Branded Hotel Rewards

Why we picked this card

You can get a lot out of the Hilton Honors Aspire Card if you’ll stay at Hilton properties several times per year. You’ll be able to earn lots of points, and there are a variety of hotel credits and perks to make your stays less expensive and more enjoyable.

See The Best Hotel Credit Cards for more hotel cards for different travel brands.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 34X points per dollar at Hilton properties
    • 14X Bonus points per dollar from the card
    • 20X Base points per dollar for being a Hilton Diamond member
  • 7X Bonus points for:
    • Flights booked on Amex Travel or directly with airlines
    • Car rentals from select companies
    • U.S. restaurants
  • 3X Bonus points for all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 150,000 Bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $600–$1,500 (assuming 0.4–1 cent per point)
    • Return on spend: 15–37.5%

You can earn tons of Hilton points per dollar with this card, but Hilton points aren’t usually valued as highly as points with other hotel reward programs.

At a value of 0.4–1 cent per point, you’ll be earning a cash back equivalent of 13.6–34% at Hilton properties, and 2.8–7% in the three 7X categories.

Key Features & Terms

  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond Status: With a 100% bonus on Base points, digital check-in, gym access, and more.
  • $250 Annual Hilton Resort Statement Credit: Good for charges from Hilton resorts.
  • $100 Hilton On-Property Credit: Good for incidental charges at participating Hilton properties, for every eligible stay of two-nights or more.
  • $250 Annual Airline Fee Credit: Good for incidental airline fees, not ticket prices.
  • Two Annual Weekend Night Rewards: One free weekend night per year, and you can earn an additional night by spending $60,000 in a given year.
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Complimentary airport lounge and restaurant access for you and up to two guests. Additional guests cost $32 per person.
  • Personal Concierge: Call for assistance with a variety of tasks, like making reservations at restaurants or for travel.
  • Purchase and Travel Protections: Like Premium Roadside Assistance, Travel Accident Insurance, and Return Protection.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

 

Runner Up

This card was formerly called the Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card.

Key Features & Terms

  • 18.5X points per dollar at Marriott Bonvoy properties
    • 6X Bonus points per dollar from the card
    • 12.5X Base points per dollar for being a Marriott Bonvoy member
  • 3X Bonus points per dollar:
    • For flights booked directly from airlines
    • At U.S. restaurants
  • 2X Bonus points per dollar for all other purchases
  • 75,000 Bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • $300 Annual Marriott/SPG Hotel Credit: Up to $300 in statement credits for eligible purchases, including hotel stays.
  • Free Night Award: Every year after your account anniversary you’ll get a Free Night Award, good for redemption values of 50,000 points or less.
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Free access to Priority Pass airport lounges and restaurants for you and up to two guests. Additional guests cost $32 each.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit: A statement credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every four years.
  • Complimentary Marriott/SPG Gold hotel status: Includes perks like a 25% bonus on base points, 2 p.m. late checkout, room upgrades when available, and more.
  • 15 Elite Night Credits: Each year you’ll get 15 Elite Night Credits toward a higher member status.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

Read more in our Review of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.

Best Pick For

Premium Co-Branded Airline Rewards

Why we picked this card

The United MileagePlus® Club Card (Review) is the premier card for flying United, with perks like access to the United Club lounge, free first and second checked bags, and priority treatment at the airport.

See The Best Airline Credit Cards for more airline cards for different travel brands, or learn more about the other co-branded cards available from United.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 7X miles per dollar for United Airlines purchases
    • 5X miles per dollar or more as a United member
    • 2X miles per dollar from the card
  • 1.5X miles per dollar spent everywhere else
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$750 (assuming 1–1.5 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 16.67–25%

This card isn’t too valuable when it comes to spending rewards — only providing a cash back equivalent of about 7–10.5%. The real value of this card comes mainly from the airline perks.

Key Features & Terms

  • United Club membership: Complimentary membership to the United Club airport lounge, with free access for you and two guests.
  • Premier Access airport travel services: Includes priority check-in and security screening, and boarding/baggage handling privileges.
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Hotel perks like daily breakfast for two, complimentary WiFi, and room upgrades when available.
  • World of Hyatt Discoverist status: A 10% point bonus, room upgrades, and other benefits at Hyatt properties.
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle Elite Status: Get a 25% point bonus, upgrades, and exclusive offers at Hertz.
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades on United award flights: MileagePlus Premier members can get award ticket upgrades when available.
  • Free first and second checked bags: For you and one traveling companion on United flights.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

Read more in our Review of the United MileagePlus® Club Card.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 7X miles per dollar for purchases made directly with Delta Airlines
    • 5X miles per dollar or more as a Delta member
    • 2X miles per dollar from the card
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 75,000 bonus miles and 5,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • Delta Sky Club membership: Complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs, with up to two guests at $29 each.
  • Annual Companion Certificate: A certificate for a Domestic First Class, Delta Comfort+, or Main Cabin round-trip flight.
  • Miles Boost tier 1: Spend $30,000 on purchases in a given year to earn 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs.
  • Miles Boost tier 2: Spend $60,000 on purchases in a given year to earn an additional 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs.
  • First checked bag free on Delta flights: For you and up to eight traveling companions.
  • Priority Boarding on Delta flights: Get on the plane more quickly with Zone 1 priority boarding.
  • Priority Checkpoint on Delta flights: Access the Sky Priority security lane at participating airports.
  • 20% in-flight discount on Delta flights: A 20% discount on eligible in-flight purchases, like food, beverages, movies, and audio headsets.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 7X miles per dollar for American Airlines purchases
    • 5X miles per dollar or more as an AAdvantage member
    • 2X miles per dollar from the card
  • 1X mile per dollar spent everywhere else
  • 50,000 bonus miles for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • Admirals Club membership: You and up to ten authorized users have access to the Admirals Club airport lounge.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application credit: Get a credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) once every five years.
  • Elite Qualifying Miles: Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after spending $40,000 on purchases in a given year.
  • Reduced Mileage Awards: Get discounted travel for round trip (7,500 miles off) and one-way flights (3,750 miles off).
  • Enhanced Airport Experience: Including priority check-in, screening, and boarding privileges.
  • 25% discount on in-flight purchases on AA flights: The 25% discount will be applied to in-flight purchases of food and beverages only.
  • First checked bag free on AA flights: For you and up to eight traveling companions.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $450

Best pick for

Chip-and-PIN Card

Why we picked this card

If you’ll be traveling outside the U.S., you’ll probably want a credit card or two with Chip-and-PIN capability.

Most cards in the U.S. are only Chip-and-Signature, and, although many checkout terminals in foreign countries accept both Signature and PIN cards, some terminals only accept PIN cards (like some automated kiosks in Europe and other regions). So if you’re looking for the best credit cards for international travel it’s useful to have some Chip-and-PIN cards in the mix.

A few U.S. issuers offer Chip-and-PIN cards (see a full list here), and out of those options it’d be tough to beat the Citi Prestige® Card (Review). Although this premium credit card is known for its fourth night free perk on hotel stays, its PIN capability will come in handy while traveling abroad.

If these bonus categories and benefits aren’t very appealing, check out the runners up below for some other PIN card options with different features, including some cards without annual fees.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 5X ThankYou points per dollar spent on:
    • Air travel
    • Restaurants
  • 3X ThankYou points per dollar spent on:
    • Hotels
    • Cruise lines
  • 2X ThankYou points per dollar spent on Entertainment (former cardholders only, through 8/31/19)
  • 1X ThankYou point per dollar spent on everything else
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 ThankYou points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$1,000 (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 12.5–25%

Your ThankYou points will be worth from 1 cent to potentially over 2 cents each, depending on how you redeem them. Point transfers will be your best option.

At a rate of 1–2 cents per point, you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of 5–10% in the 5X categories, and 3–6% in the 3X categories.

Key Features & Terms

  • Point Transfer: To a variety of airline loyalty programs, including Etihad Guest, JetBlue TrueBlue, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
  • Annual $250 Travel Credit: Good for airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, and other travel expenses.
  • Complimentary 4th Night Stay: Get your fourth night free when booking four nights in a row through ThankYou.com or the Citi Concierge, and paying with your card, ThankYou points, or a combination of both (starting September 2019, this perk is capped at two uses per year; uses before that date don’t count toward the cap).
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership: Access to over 900 Priority Pass airport lounges and restaurants around the world.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit: A credit for the application fee of either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every five years.
  • Citi Prestige Concierge: Call for non-emergency help any time you need it.
  • World Elite Car Rental Program: Elite memberships at Avis, Silvercar, and National.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $495

Read more in our Review of the Citi Prestige® Card.

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 2X points per dollar on Travel and Dining
  • 1.5X points per dollar on everything else
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 in the first 90 days after account opening
  • $100 Annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit: Good for incidental airline costs, like baggage, seat upgrades, and WiFi (not flight tickets).
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Application Fee Credit: A statement credit to offset the cost of applying for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85), once every four years.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $95

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 3X points per dollar at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • 1.5X points per dollar for every other purchase
  • 25,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening
  • Bank of America Customers and Preferred Rewards: 10% rewards bonus if you have an active BofA checking or savings account; Preferred Rewards clients can get a 25–75% bonus.
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 12 billing cycles, then 17.24%–25.24% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America Travel Rewards® Credit Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 3X ThankYou points per dollar spent on Travel (including gas stations)
  • 2X ThankYou points per dollar spent at Restaurants and on Entertainment
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $95, waived for first 12 months

Read more in our Review of the Citi Premier℠ Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 2% cash back on every purchase
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% 18 months on Balance Transfers* for 18 months, then None
  • Annual fee: $0*

Read more in our Review of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 4% cash back on Dining
  • 3% cash back on Airfare, Hotels, and Travel agencies
  • 2% cash back for Online purchases
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Uber Visa Card.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 2X miles per dollar for every purchase
  • 70,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in the first 90 days on purchases
  • Annual fee: $89, $0 first year

Read more in our Review of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®.

Best Pick For

Student Travelers

Why we picked this card

Student travelers actually have several good options here, of travel cards designed for people with limited credit histories.

The Bank of America Cash Rewards™ Credit Card for Students (Review) is the best all-around student card for travel, but you’ll need to plan your travel spending a bit in advance to get the most out of it. That’s because this card allows you to choose your 3% bonus category each month, and you’ll need to set it to Travel for the appropriate time frame before making purchases.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 3% cash back in your choice of one category every month:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at:
    • Grocery stores
    • Wholesale clubs
  • 1% cash back for everything else
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $150 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days

Take note that your 3% and 2% cash back categories are limited to the first $2,500 in combined spending per quarter; after that you’ll earn 1% back.

With this flexible card you can adjust your bonus category each month to fit your expected spending. So if you’re going on a trip beginning at the end of a month, for example, you could use the Travel category to get 3% back on your airfare and hotels, and even a car rental. Then, when the new month begins, you can switch your category to Gas to help fuel your adventure.

Key Features & Terms

  • Bank of America Preferred Rewards: Eligible bank account holders get a 25–75% bonus on rewards earned, depending on how much money you have in BofA bank accounts.
  • Free Credit Score: Check your FICO Score 8 for free, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Visa Platinum or Signature benefits: Depending on creditworthiness.
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 12 months, then 16.24%–26.24%Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Runners Up

Key Features & Terms

  • 3X points per dollar on purchases from the Bank of America travel center
  • 1.5X points per dollar for all other purchases
  • 25,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • Bank of America Customers and Preferred Rewards: Get a 10-75% bonus on rewards earned, depending on how much money you have in BofA bank accounts.
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 12 months, then 17.24%–25.24% Variable
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Applicants of Deserve credit cards have a better chance of approval because Deserve checks factors like education and income potential, in addition to the typical credit scoring criteria.

Key Features & Terms

  • 1% cash back for all purchases
  • Limited one-year Priority Pass Select membership for spending $1,000 in 120 or 155 days; $27 fee per visit, per person (not all cardholders will receive this offer).
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our .

Take note that Deserve will need to connect to your bank account to verify your balance. If you have privacy or security concerns this might worry you, but it seems logical because Deserve bases its decision on more than just an applicant’s credit history.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 1% cash back on every purchase
    • 1.25% cash back when you pay on time
  • Higher Credit Line: Access a higher credit line after making your first five monthly payments on time.
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®.

 

Key Features & Terms

  • 2X points per dollar on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1X), at Supermarkets and Gas stations
  • 2,500 bonus points for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Point Round Up: All purchases will round up to the nearest 10 points.
  • Purchase APR: 0% 7 months on Purchases for 7 months, then 16.74% - 26.74% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

Is a Travel Credit Card Right For You?

As long as you’re a responsible credit card user, a credit card with travel rewards can help you travel for free and have a better time while you’re at it.

The best travel card for you depends on your preferences and travel habits. It could make sense for you to get more than one card (if you travel a lot, this is probably the case). 

Travel credit cards come in several types:

If you travel infrequently, like once per year or less, you should probably consider a card with no annual fee. If you spend a lot of time in the air, an airline-oriented card might be right. And if you stay at hotels — that’s right, there are hotel credit cards for you.

Do you have a favorite airline or hotel brand? You might enjoy using a co-branded credit card, which offers rewards and special perks with that company. If you don’t have any favorites, that’s OK too — there are plenty of general-use travel cards that are good for a variety of travel spending.

Consider A Travel Credit Card If You:

  • Travel at least occasionally, or plan to (otherwise, you may want a cash back card instead).
  • Can understand the rewards program, including how to redeem or transfer your points.
  • Plan to take advantage of the benefits, like airport lounge access, hotel room upgrades, and travel protections.
  • Will use the card enough to make the annual fee worthwhile, if it has one.

Are you a student traveling abroad? Check out The Best Credit Cards for Studying Abroad.

If you’re planning to travel to a different state or country, be sure to set a travel notice ahead of time to prevent your card from being declined while making purchases away from home.

Selection Criteria: What Makes a Great Travel Rewards Card?

  • Earning rewards: How many points or miles will you get, and for what kinds of purchases? Your card should reward you for the types of purchases you plan to make while booking travel and during trips.
  • Redeeming rewards: Do you know how to get a good value for your rewards? This usually means redeeming for flights or hotel rooms, but take note that point values can vary widely. You should be able to redeem for purchases or experiences that fit with your travel plans. Figure out which redemption options are the most valuable, and if there are any restrictions, like blackout dates for flights booked with points.
  • Introductory bonus: Introductory bonuses (or signup bonuses) are great ways to earn a ton of points fast. Most travel cards offer rewards for spending a certain amount, like 50,000 points for spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. These bonuses often give you a return on your spending of around 20%, but are sometimes as high as 50% or even more, making them some of the most lucrative offers in the credit card game.
  • Fits your travel habits: Do you love Delta, Southwest, Marriott Bonvoy, or any other travel brand? Then one of their co-branded cards might be for you. If you don’t have a favorite, consider a general travel rewards card instead.
  • Travel perks: Premium and mid-range travel cards tend to have valuable, cost-saving benefits like travel credits, airport lounge access, elite hotel status, or fee credits for expedited airport screening. Understand what you’ll be getting before you apply so you can make the most of your new card.
  • Protection benefits: When something goes wrong, it’s good to have some backup. The best travel cards will help in certain unfortunate circumstances, with reimbursement for delayed trips or damaged bags, for example. Some even provide primary auto insurance for rental vehicles so your premiums won’t go up if you get in an accident (but that’s just one of many reasons you should choose a credit card over a debit card next time you rent a car).
  • Annual fee: Many travel cards have annual fees, which could range anywhere from $50 to over $500. Generally, cards with annual fees offer more value than no fee cards, including travel credits to help offset the cost. Don’t be afraid of cards with annual fees, but make sure you’ll get a positive expected value if you choose to use one.
  • Foreign transaction fees: Most travel cards don’t have foreign transaction fees, but some do. If you’re going to be traveling outside the U.S. or purchasing anything in foreign currency, be sure to use a card without a foreign transaction fee.
  • Chip-and-PIN EMV technology: If you’ll be traveling abroad it’s often a good idea to bring along a card with Chip-and-PIN capability. Although regular Chip-and-Signature cards are accepted at many locations, some terminals outside the U.S. only accept PIN cards.
Ready to check out some other types of cards? See The Best Credit Cards for our top card picks in a variety of categories.
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