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|Best travel credit cards|
|Best overall||Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express|
|Best sign-up bonus||Discover it® Miles|
|Best for redemption value||Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card|
|Most flexible||Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card|
|Most flexible with perks||Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card|
|Best perks||Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express|
How we chose the best travel credit cards
We looked at cards we felt would give you the most ways to use your points/miles on things like flights, hotels, car rentals and vacation packages. As a frequent traveler, you likely want a card that allows you to transfer your points/miles to airline and hotel loyalty programs. And, most important, you want a card that lets you earn the maximum points/miles per $1 spent in the popular travel, dining, groceries and gas categories. Our list below shows which cards do the best job offering the things valued most by credit card users who travel.
- Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Discover it® Miles
What’s the best
Best overall & perks: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
This card ticks off almost all the boxes for what you want in a travel credit card. There’s a good welcome offer, a high rate of points per $1 spent on air travel, the chance to earn more Membership Rewards® points by booking travel on the American Express website and an Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195.
But the biggest benefit is the chance to transfer your points to 16 airlines or three hotel loyalty programs. The points needed to make a transfer range from 250 to 1,000, depending on the airline. Most times, it’s 1,000 points for 1,000 miles, but there are exceptions, again, depending on the airline. You can also use a mix of points and cash to pay for all or part of your flight, hotel booked and paid in advance, vacation or cruise booking with American Express Travel.
American Express is known for the perks that come with many of its cards, and this one is no exception. If you need help with travel arrangements, you have the card’s Personalized Travel Service. If you get into an accident with a rental car paid for with the card, you’re covered with car rental loss and damage insurance. If you get a flat tire or your battery dies, there’s roadside assistance. If your baggage is lost or damaged while flying, you’re covered. There’s also travel accident insurance, access to a Global Assist Hotline for emergency services and a $100 airline fee credit to cover airline-related expenses.
Card details: The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express starts with a welcome offer where you can earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Once you have it, you earn 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines, 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. And you get up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits when you use the card to pay for things like checked bags, in-flight refreshments, flight-change fees and airport lounge day passes.
Why we like it: The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offers 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines, 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. This is better than what’s available from most co-branded airline cards.
Things to watch out for: There are other cards that are more generous with points per $1 spent in the popular dining, gas and grocery categories. You will be charged a fee of $0.0006 per point, with a maximum fee of $99, to transfer your Membership Rewards points to airline loyalty program miles. The statement credit for airline fees is only available to the cardholder. In order to get that credit, you must choose one qualifying airline, here. You don’t get 2 points per $1 spent for travel booked with the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express at amextravel.com for rental car reservations or non-prepaid hotels.
Sign-up bonus: Discover it® Miles
This card has a compelling offer: Discover will automatically match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, all with a $0 annual fee. If you spend regularly with this card during a year, it can add up nicely.
Why we like it: The card has a $0 annual fee. You don’t have to worry about keeping track of purchases, since there’s only one rewards rate for all spending categories. Having the miles you earn in the first year automatically matched is a nice alternative to the usual set number of sign-up bonus point/miles offered by other cards.
Redeeming miles is pretty easy. You can get cash back as an electronic deposit to a bank account or as a credit for travel purchases, including airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites and commuter transportation. Your miles don’t expire, and there’s no cap on how many you can earn.
You can check your FICO® score online for free, though this perk is available to anyone, not just Discover cardholders. And if you misplace your Discover it® Miles, you can use the Freeze ItSM on/off switch to stop unauthorized users from making new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers.
Things to watch out for: You only get the mileage match the first year you have the card. The miles you earn for spending in the most popular categories — travel, dining, groceries and gas — are lower compared with other cards. You don’t get any of the travel and purchase protection perks that are offered by other travel-branded cards. As you should with any bonus rewards, you must avoid the temptation to overspend on the card in the quest to build up miles in order to get that match after the first year.
Fees: There’s a $0 annual fee. New cardmembers start with a 0% for 14 Months purchase intro rate and a 10.99% for 14 Months balance transfer intro rate. After the intro rates end, the Discover it® Miles goes to a 13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR and a 13.49% - 24.49% Variable balance transfer APR, along with a 3% balance transfer fee. Foreign transaction fee: None.
Redemption value: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
We chose this card because it allows you to transfer your Chase points 1:1 to nine airline and four hotel loyalty programs, which gives you a lot of flexibility. It also gives you a 25% more value on your points used in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. Once there, you can redeem those points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises.
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. This is a generous offer — if you know how to maximize the points. That adds up to $625 toward travel if you spend the required amount needed to earn the bonus points. Earn another 5,000 bonus points after adding an authorized user and making a purchase in the first three months from account opening.
Why we like it: The 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases offered by the card is slightly better than ones out there because it covers two popular spending categories.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also has perks like auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement and travel and emergency assistance services when you book your travel with the card. You get purchase protection and extended warranty protection, and you can earn 10,000 points — to a maximum of 50,000 — for each friend you recommend and is approved for the card.
Your points don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
Things to watch out for: You only get the 25% more value with your points if you spend them at Chase Ultimate Rewards® for travel. The 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases is lower for gas and groceries. If you’re more focused on getting cash back rather than spending your points on traveling or dining, this card may not be worth it.
Fees: You’ll pay a $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95 annual fee. There’s a 17.49% - 24.49% Variable APR for both purchases and balance transfers. You’ll pay a balance transfer fee of Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. Foreign transaction fee: $0
Flexibility: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on purchases without registering for different categories. When you’re ready to redeem your points, you pay for items on any website or app with the card, and get a statement credit based on what you spent. You pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees, then get a statement credit based on the number of points in your account. And you can do this without blackout dates or restrictions.
Why we like it: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card offers 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. This adds up to a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases. You can earn unlimited points, and they don’t expire.
If you have a Bank of America checking or savings account, you get a 10% customer points bonus on every purchase. And if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client, that bonus rises to between 25% and 75%, depending on whether you have gold, platinum or platinum honors status.
You do get access to a free FICO® score.
Things to watch out for: The points per $1 spent on the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card is lower than other cards, especially in the most popular categories — travel, dining, groceries and gas. If you’re looking for perks, they’re just not there with this card, unless you count the free FICO® score. You can’t transfer your points to airline or hotel loyalty programs.
Fees: There’s a $0 annual fee. You start with a 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles, then go to a 16.49% - 24.49% Variable APR. There’s a 16.49% - 24.49% Variable APR balance transfer rate. The balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount of each transaction or $10, whichever is greater. Foreign transaction fee: None.
Flexibility with perks: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers new cardmembers a One-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel. This is another card with a simple way to earn miles — 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. But unlike the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card, this card offers travel and purchase perks.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card gives you access to Visa Signature® benefits, starting with complimentary upgrades and special savings at hotels, resorts and spas when you use the card. Get customized help 24/7 from Visa Signature® Concierge for services like finding tickets to top sports and entertainment events, booking travel, making dinner reservations and getting help to find gifts.
You can double the length of an original manufacturer’s U.S. repair warranty up to a year on warranties of three years or less for purchases on eligible items paid for with the card. The card also comes with purchase security, meaning that eligible items of personal property can be replaced, repaired, or reimbursed for up to $500 per claim for 90 days from the date of purchase due to covered reasons. And when you book trips with the card, you get travel accident insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, roadside assistance, travel and emergency assistance and auto rental collision damage waiver.
Why we like it: The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card’s rewards cover every category, though there are cards that offer more for the popular categories — travel, dining, gas and groceries. And thanks to a partnership with Hotels.com, you can earn 10 miles per $1 spent when you pay with the card there.
The simplicity in earning miles also applies when redeeming them. Just pay for travel purchases on any website or app. Then go to capitalone.com or call the card’s rewards center to use Purchase Eraser to redeem your miles and receive an account credit for the cost of your travel purchases. You can also go directly to capitalone.com or call the Rewards Center to book a flight, car rental or hotel, and use your miles to pay for it at a rate of 10,000 miles per $100.
If travel isn’t your thing, just redeem your miles for cash as a check or account credit, gift cards and more. Your miles don’t expire and there’s no cap to the amount you can earn on purchases.
Things to watch out for: The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has a $0 intro for first year; $95 after that annual fee. Some may be put off over the amount of spending you need to do in order to get the card’s bonus miles. Other cards offer more miles per $1 spent in the top spending categories. And if you want to transfer your miles to airline or hotel loyalty programs, you’re out of luck here.
Fees: The card has an annual fee of $0 intro for first year; $95 after that. You’ll pay a 14.49% - 24.49% (Variable) purchase APR and a 14.49% - 24.49% (Variable) balance transfer APR with a $0 balance transfer fee. Foreign transaction: None.
How to choose the right travel card
With so many travel-branded credit cards out there, you need to decide what things are most important to you before making a choice. Are you willing to pay an annual fee? How are you going to use the card? Are you willing do some spending on the card to get a sign-up bonus? Are having travel- and purchase-related perks important to you? Below, we ask and answer these questions and more.
How much is the annual fee?
Most — but not all — of the cards we cover on this list charge an annual fee and some will waive that fee in the first year. If there’s a fee, make sure the benefits and the ability to earn points/miles balance that out.
What’s the sign-up bonus for new cardmembers?
These can be a very attractive way to get an instant points/miles boost in the account of your airline loyalty program, with some bonuses enough for an instant travel award.
What spending is needed for sign-up bonus?
Credit card companies want to lure you in with the chance to earn a bonus large enough to spend on travel. But it’s important to balance the number of points/miles being offered with how much you’ll have to spend to get them.
Can I transfer or use my points/miles with other airline or hotel loyalty programs?
This is a big perk that can give you flexibility if you’re wedded to particular airline or hotel loyalty program. It’s also good if you can use your points/miles to pay for things like air travel, hotels, vacation packages and rental cars.
Do my points expire?
You want points that don’t expire. But if they do, make sure the card offers easy options — like making a purchase — to preserve your miles.
Is there a cap on how many points I can earn?
You want to be able to earn as many points as you can, so check to see if there are any earnings caps before applying for a card.
Which card offers the best miles per $1 spent?
Look for cards that offer the most points/miles per $1 spent in the categories where you tend to spend the most, like travel, dining, groceries and gas.
What perks does it offer?
Although you may not always use them, it’s nice if a card has perks like car rental loss/damage insurance, lost luggage/trip interruption insurance, roadside assistance and access to a concierge.