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How to Pick a Travel Rewards Credit Card

How to Pick a Travel Rewards Credit Card

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It 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.

This article was last updated Jun 27, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Travel rewards credit cards can be your ticket to a free vacation, but the sheer number of options available can make it tough for travelers to choose the right card that will be a perfect fit for them.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to do your research before applying for a card. Travel rewards cards offer the ability to leverage your everyday spending into trips that might otherwise have remained bucket-list dreams. Savvy travelers use travel rewards cards to take trips around the world, fly first class on renowned airlines and sip cocktails at five-star luxury resorts jutting out over the ocean.

In this post:

But before you start shopping for a card to make that dream trip a reality, you should know that travel rewards cards tend to carry higher interest rates than some other types of credit cards, so the key to using a travel rewards card smartly is to never carry a balance. If you don’t pay off your bill in full each month, the high interest charges will negate any rewards points or miles you earn.

When shopping for a travel rewards card, keep in mind that you have three main categories of cards from which to choose:

  1. General travel credit cards — All-purpose travel credit cards offer the most flexibility, with points that can be redeemed for a variety of travel purchases or transferred to partner airline or hotel programs for even more options.
  2. Airline credit cards — Co-branded airline credit cards reward travelers loyal to a specific airline, with special airline benefits and miles that can be redeemed for flights with that airline and its partners.
  3. Hotel credit cards — Co-branded hotel credit cards reward travelers who prefer a specific hotel chain with hotel-centric benefits like hotel spa credits and points that can be redeemed for free hotel stays, meals, late checkout times and other rewards.

Other travel-centric co-branded cards, such as those affiliated with cruise lines or Disney, may work well for a specific vacation or travel purpose, but generally lack the generosity and flexibility as other travel rewards cards.

Travel rewards cards offer the ability to leverage your everyday spending into trips that might otherwise have remained bucket-list dreams.

General travel cards

General travel credit cards typically offer a tiered rewards earning structure that allows you to earn extra points on travel and restaurant purchases. Most allow you to redeem rewards for travel through the card issuer’s portal or to transfer the points to a wide array of airline and hotel program partners. These cards are best for travelers who don’t always fly the same airline or stay in the same hotel and want plenty of options.

Here are some of the most popular general travel cards along with the highlights of each card:

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
  • Earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

See additional details for Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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Annual fee: $550 plus $75 for each user.

Foreign transaction fee: $0

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That is worth $750 in travel when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.

Special benefits: 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases Airport lounge access through Priority Pass™ Select, purchase protection, return protection and extended warranty protection.

How rewards can be redeemed: Redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to get 50% more value or transfer to 12 partner airline and hotel programs at a 1:1 value.

Why travelers love this card: The travel credit and rich benefits that include airport lounge access more than cover the Chase Sapphire Reserve® annual fee for frequent travelers. The robust travel insurance coverage includes $100,0000 in emergency evacuation and transportation, an insurance benefit not found on most cards. Travel blogger Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie, of the Globetrotting Teacher, loves the card for its fat travel bonus, which can be used for everything from flights to train tickets to parking, as well as its generous welcome bonus.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases

  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

See additional details for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Annual fee: $95

Foreign transaction fee: $0

Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Special benefits: 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases Travel insurance includes trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement and a primary auto rental collision damage waiver.

How rewards can be redeemed: Redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to get 25% more value or transfer to 12 partner airline and hotel programs at a 1:1 value.

Why travelers love this card: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers flexibility and a range of travel benefits for a modest annual fee. Before the Chase Sapphire Reserve® came out, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card was Sills-Dellegrazie’s favorite card because of its strong travel benefits and the fact that points redeemed for travel have a solid value.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel

  • 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Redeem on travel—including flights, vacation rentals, car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees

See additional details for Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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Annual fee: $95

Foreign transaction fee: None

Sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel.

Special benefits: 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, plus 10 miles per $1 spent on thousands of hotels through January 2020. Travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver and extended warranty coverage.

How rewards can be redeemed: Redeem for travel through Capital One portal or transfer to more than 14 airline partners.

Why travelers love this card: The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is great for travelers who love a bargain, with an annual fee waived for the first year and tools that include Wikibuy, which scans the internet for deals, and Paribus, which looks for savings on your previous online purchases and gets you money back.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening

  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire

Highlights
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening -  that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases. After the intro APR ends, 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR will apply.
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more points on every purchase.  That means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 spent.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap

See additional details for Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

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Annual fee: $0

Foreign transaction fee: None

Sign-up bonus: 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Special benefits: unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire. Offers a Preferred Rewards program for customers with at least a $20,000 three-month combined average balance in eligible Bank of America and/or Merrill accounts. The program, which has three tiers, allows you to earn 25%-75% more rewards on credit card purchases, depending on your balance total. The program also offers other benefits such as a savings account interest booster and auto loan discount.

How rewards can be redeemed: Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees. Redemptions can also be used for cash or gift cards at a lower value.

Why travelers love this card: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is a great choice for travelers looking for a travel card with no annual fee and may be a good fit for loyal Bank of America and Merrill customers.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.

Highlights
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Now there are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on select Equinox memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for The Platinum Card® from American Express

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Annual fee: $695 for the first card plus $175 extra for up to three additional cards, then $175 per card.

Foreign transaction fee: None

Welcome Offer: 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Special benefits: 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and 5X Membership Rewards® points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. Terms apply. You get up to $200 in Uber Cash per year for U.S. rides, up to $200 a year in airline fee credits for incidental charges such as checked bag fees and in-flight refreshments, Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit, free airport lounge access through the American Express Global Lounge Collection, $100 in statement credits annually when you shop Saks Fifth Avenue or saks.com, and purchase protection. Enrollment may be required to access certain benefits.

  • Extended warranty
  • Return protection
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • Baggage insurance
  • Global Assist
  • Trip delay, cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Cellphone protection

How rewards can be redeemed: Points can be transferred to the Delta SkyMiles® program, used for eligible charges on current online statement or redeemed on rewards from over 500 travel, shopping and entertainment brands.

Why travelers love this card: The Platinum Card® from American Express offers cardholders VIP treatment, including concierge service, an automatic upgrade to Gold status at Hilton and Marriott Bonvoy™, complimentary upgrades on car rentals, invitations to special events through By Invitation Only and preferred seating at select cultural and sporting events. It’s great for travelers who don’t mind paying a higher annual fee in exchange for maximum benefits. Travel blogger Tim Wenger at Zero to Travel loves the 5 points per $1 on flights booked with airlines, which, in his opinion, helps to put this card among the best travel rewards credit cards.

To see rates & fees for The Platinum Card® from American Express please click here.

Airline credit cards

Airline credit cards may be a good fit for travelers who stay loyal to one airline or who live in or near a hub city. These cards typically allow you to earn extra miles for purchases made directly from the airline, and miles may go directly into your frequent flyer account. These cards sweeten the deal with airline benefits that may include free checked bags, upgrades, priority boarding and, in the case of premium airline cards, lounge access.

Here are some of the most popular airline travel cards along with the highlights of each card:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.

  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary each year.
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • All points earned count towards Companion Pass®.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • Your points never expire, a benefit of the Rapid Rewards® program.

See additional details for Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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Annual fee: $99

Foreign transaction fee: $0

Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year. Plus you get a 6,000-point anniversary bonus points after your account has been open for one year.

Special benefits: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Earn a Companion Pass after you make 100 qualifying one-way flights or accrue 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Insurance coverage includes auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, travel and emergency assistance insurance, and roadside dispatch. Extended warranty protection and purchase protection.

How rewards can be redeemed: For Southwest flights or international flights on over 50 carriers, for hotel stays, car rentals, or on merchandise or gift cards to over 70 merchants.

Why travelers love this card: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers solid travel benefits at a reasonable annual fee as well as a chance to earn the coveted Companion Pass. Travel blogger John Ma at LoungeBuddy.com loves the Companion Pass, which allows you to pick a companion to fly for free with you for a whole year. And he likes that Southwest allows you to change your companion three times a year, providing an “escape hatch” if you have a falling out with your travel buddy.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases & 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

See additional details for Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

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Annual fee: $450

Foreign transaction fee: 0%

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening plus an Admirals Club airport lounge membership that includes access for authorized users.

Special benefits: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases & 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases. Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee credit. First checked bag free on domestic AA flights for you and up to eight travel companions, priority boarding and check-in for you and up to 8 companions on the same reservation. Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases.

How rewards can be redeemed: Redeem for flights on AA or more than 25 partner airlines through aa.com or AA reservations.

Why travelers love this card: The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® offers plenty of benefits for loyal American Airlines flyers, especially those who travel in groups and want lounge access and other benefits for traveling companions.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.

  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.

  • Check your 1st bag free on every Delta flight*

Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • $100 Delta Flight Credit: After you spend $10,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year, receive a Credit to use toward future travel.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

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Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.

Foreign transaction fee: None

Welcome Offer: Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.

Special benefits: Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets. Enjoy a free checked bag, foreign transaction fee of none, priority boarding, 20% off in-flight purchases, car rental loss and damage insurance, extended warranty, purchase protection, cellphone protection, baggage insurance, trip delay, cancellation and interruption insurance, Global Assist, return protection and free 2-day shipping with Shoprunner (enrollment required).

How rewards can be redeemed: Redeemable toward travel with Delta and more than 30 airline partners.

Why travelers love this card: The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card offers plenty of benefits for loyal Delta flyers who especially love the discounted lounge access.

To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card please click here.

United℠ Explorer Card

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays and United purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • Priority boarding, free first checked bag, & $0 foreign transaction fee

Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining including eligible delivery services

See additional details for United℠ Explorer Card

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Annual fee: $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95

Foreign transaction fee: $0

Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Special benefits: Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays and United purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee reimbursement, free checked bag, 25% statement credit on in-flight purchases, priority boarding, 2 United Club one-time airport lounge passes on your account anniversary, insurance including auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/ interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, purchase protection and extended warranty protection.

How rewards can be redeemed: Flights on United or on Star Alliance and other partner airlines, or for upgrades, inflight Wi-Fi, hotel stays, car rentals, merchandise, gift cards or events.

Why travelers love this card: The United℠ Explorer Card is great for loyal United flyers who want all the benefits the airline has to offer.

Hotel credit cards

Hotel credit cards allow you to earn extra points for purchases made directly with the hotel, and they’re great for travelers who tend to stick with a particular hotel brand. Hotel cards typically offer benefits including complimentary status with the hotel brand, late check-in and checkout, free breakfast, upgrades and possibly a free night stay.

Here are some of the most popular hotel travel cards along with the highlights of each card:

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

  • Limited Time Offer: 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.

  • Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.

  • Receive 1 free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary.*

Highlights
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.  
  • Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program.
  • Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive 1 free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points) at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select membership.

See additional details for Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

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Annual fee: $450

Foreign transaction fee: None

Welcome Offer: Limited Time Offer: 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021.

Special benefits: $300 annual statement credit for eligible Marriott Bonvoy hotel purchases, one free night per year after account anniversary, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, airport lounge access through a Priority Pass™ Select membership. Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee credit. Foreign transaction fee of none. Free in-room premium internet access, car rental loss and damage insurance, baggage insurance, cellphone protection, trip delay, cancellation and interruption insurance, Global Assist, extended warranty, purchase and return protection.

How rewards can be redeemed: Free nights at over 6,900 Marriott Bonvoy hotels, or for flights or car rentals with Air + Car, or transfer points to over 40 airline partners.

Why travelers love this card: The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card may be a good fit for Marriott Bonvoy loyalists who enjoy the hotel benefits and also want robust travel insurance and other travel benefits.

To see rates & fees for Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card please click here.

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Annual fee: $450

Foreign transaction fee: None

Welcome Offer:

Special benefits: at participating Hilton hotels or resorts, 7 points per $1 spent at U.S. restaurants, on flights booked directly with the airlines or at AmexTravel.com or on eligible car rentals booked directly with car rental companies and 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. Hilton Diamond status, one weekend night reward each year after account anniversary, $250 Hilton resort statement credit, $250 airline fee credit for incidental charges, $100 Hilton on-property credit, unlimited Priority Pass™ Select lounge visits for up to 2 guests, no foreign transaction fees, insurance including car rental loss and damage insurance, baggage insurance, extended warranty, purchase protection, trip delay, interruption and cancellation insurance, cellphone protection, Global Assist and Shoprunner two-day free shipping.

How rewards can be redeemed: Free nights at participating Hilton hotels, flights, car rentals, or transfer points for travel program rewards with over 40 airline partners. Can be redeemed as a statement credit on eligible charges.

Why travelers love this card: The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is a good fit for travelers who frequently stay at Hilton hotels and who will earn enough in credits to cancel out the annual fee.

World of Hyatt Credit Card

  • Earn up to 60,000 Bonus Points - Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.

  • Earn up to 9 points total per $1 spent at Hyatt - 4 Bonus Points per $1 when you use your card at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member

  • No Foreign Transaction Fee

Highlights
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent
  • Enjoy complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist status for as long as your account is open.
  • Get 1 free night each year after your Cardmember anniversary at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort
  • Receive 5 tier qualifying night credits towards status after account opening, and each year after that for as long as your account is open
  • Earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel if you spend $15,000 in a calendar year
  • Earn 2 qualifying night credits towards tier status every time you spend $5,000 on your card
  • Earn up to 9 points total for Hyatt stays – 4 Bonus Points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member
  • Earn 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships

See additional details for World of Hyatt Credit Card

More Info

Annual fee: $95

Foreign transaction fee: $0

Sign-up bonus: Earn up to 60,000 Bonus Points - Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.

Special benefits: Earn up to 9 points total per $1 spent at Hyatt - 4 Bonus Points per $1 when you use your card at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member. A free night every year after your account anniversary plus an additional night if you spend $15,000 during your anniversary year.

How rewards can be redeemed: Free nights and upgrades at participating World of Hyatt locations or redeem during checkout for incidentals such as spa, dining, parking, transportation and in-room movies

Why travelers love this card: World of Hyatt Credit Card may be a great fit for loyal Hyatt customers who prefer a card with a modest annual fee.

Other travel cards

There also are other travel cards that can enhance a specific travel experience. For example, you can get a co-branded Disney credit card that offers points that can be redeemed toward air travel, Disney theme park tickets, resort stays and Disney merchandise. You can also get co-branded cruise line credit cards that allow you to redeem rewards toward flights, cruises and purchases on the ship.

These cards might work well if you have a specific travel goal, such as a family trip to Disneyland or an anniversary cruise. They sometimes offer sign-up bonuses and discounts that can trim the cost of your vacation. However, these cards generally don’t offer enough flexibility or redemption value to make a good primary rewards card for most travelers.

Bottom line

Taking some time to delve into the types of travel rewards cards along with their benefits can be a worthwhile time investment that will pay off down the road. A well-chosen travel credit card will allow you to turn your everyday purchases like groceries, gas and takeout into dream vacations in swanky hotels in exotic destinations around the world.

The information related to the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express offers. See americanexpress.com for more details.


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