Best Credit Cards for Travel

Updated on Apr 12, 2017

*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

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When it comes to travel rewards credit cards, there will never be a one-size-fits-all piece of plastic that proves to be the best option for every consumer. Nonetheless, it’s clear that some cards are better than others in terms of the rewards and perks they offer.

There are a lot of factors to consider when picking a rewards credit card, so it helps to identify the specific strengths of each card. Here are our favorite travel rewards credit cards from our partners in four different categories:

Best Overall: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

This credit card is a common favorite among travel enthusiasts, and for good reason. Instead of being associated with one particular airline or hotel, your Chase Ultimate Reward points can be redeemed in a number of ways. While 1 point can be worth 1 cent if you redeem them for cash, you’ll get 20% more if you use them to book travel through Chase’s online portal. This means that the 50,000 points new cardholders can receive if they spend $4,000 in 3 months is worth at least $625 in travel when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards! But savvy consumers can get even more for their points if they transfer them to one of the airline or hotel loyalty programs available.

A few of the transfer partners include, United MilagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, & Marriott Rewards. Let’s use United Airlines as an example of how transferring your points can get you a better value; a round trip ticket to Europe can easily cost $1,400, but it only takes 60,000 miles on United Airlines. That means if you transfer points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you would get 2.33 cents per point!

Best for Airlines: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express 

For consumers who spend lots of time in the air, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express may be your best option. Since this card gets 3x points for flights booked with airlines, you can rack up a ton of rewards if you’re frequently spending large amounts of money on travel. On top of that, cardholders will receive 2x points at US supermarkets and US gas stations, and 1x points on other purchases. Another reason this card this is our favorite airline card is the $100 Airline Fee Credit. To help offset those annoying incidental charges, like baggage fees, you get $100 a year with your selected airline.

Finally, just like the Chase Ultimate Rewards, the American Express Membership Rewards you earn with this card can be transferred to a number of frequent flyer programs to maximize the value of your points. A few of the popular transfer partners include Delta Skymiles, British Airways Executive Club, and Air Canada’s Aeroplan. So every time you use your  Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express to purchase flights, you’re on your way to earning your next free ticket!

Best for Hotels: Citi® Hilton HHonors ™ Reserve Card

There’s certainly no shortage of options when it comes to hotel rewards credit cards. In fact, Hilton has four different credit cards associated with its HHonors program! But the main reason the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is our favorite is the sign-up bonus. New cardholders can receive 2 weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening. If you choose to redeem your 2 free nights at one of Hilton’s luxurious resorts, like the Conrad Maldives, then this sign up bonus could easily be worth over $2,000!

But apart from the incredible sign up bonus, the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card is still a great card to carry for anyone looking for hotel perks. Out of all the hotel chains in the world, Hilton has the second largest footprint across the globe, so you can usually find a place to rest your head no matter where travel takes you. This card earns you 10 HHonors points on stays with Hilton, 4 points on airline and car rental purchases, and 3 points on all other eligible purchases.

Best for Budget Travelers: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to plan your vacations around the best discounts, then the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card might be the perfect fit for you. This card earns 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, and those miles can be redeemed for almost any travel expense. This means you don’t have to worry about using a specific airline or be bothered with hotel blackout dates; just search for the best deal and redeem your miles to cover the purchase. Unlike other travel credit cards, you can redeem your miles for miscellaneous travel expenses like trains, taxis (including Uber), airline fees, and more.

This card would be ideal for travelers who love to use services like AirBnB! Of all the cards mentioned here, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has the lowest annual fee at just $59, and it’s waived the first year. New cardholders can also receive 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 with their card in the first 3 months; that’s $400 in travel!

Everyone’s needs differ, even for the frequent traveler! Use our credit card comparison tool so you can choose your next card wisely.

*Editorial Note:This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.

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