Travel rewards credit cards fall into several broad categories. First, airline rewards credit cards are designed to reward spending with specific airlines or airline partnerships. When purchasing airfare, in-flight incidentals, and possibly other travel-related items, cardholders earn points at accelerated rates. Once enough points are racked up, they can be redeemed for free or discounted flights, free or reduced baggage fees, and other goodies. Some airline rewards cards offer additional perks and benefits, such as airport lounge access, discounts with hotel partners, and bonus miles for reaching certain travel milestones.
Hotel credit cards focus their rewards firepower on hotel stays and related expenses. Many major hotel brands and brand families offer at least a handful of credit cards that reward cardholders for room, food, and incidental purchases (such as spa treatments) at properties they own. Many hotel rewards credit cards also accumulate points for everyday outlays, such as regular restaurant meals, gasoline, and supermarket purchases. Cardholders can redeem their points for free or discounted nights and other hotel expenses.
Lately, growing numbers of cash back credit cards have jumped into the travel rewards game. General-purpose cards often offer accelerated cash back earnings on gasoline, airfare, and restaurant purchases – all critical, and sometimes costly, expenses for frequent travelers. Cash back rewards can be redeemed for merchandise and gift cards purchased online, airfare and hotel stays purchased directly through providers, and actual cash or statement credits.
If you’re a frequent traveler, you likely stand to benefit from all of these card types. And if you own your own business, you can count on many consumer travel credit cards having small business credit card counterparts – often with additional features and benefits for small business owners. Whether you’re an individual or business customer, many come with attractive promotions and sign-up bonuses or welcome offers that can be hard for deal-seeking applicants to resist. Incidentally, we outline some of the best small business travel cards toward the bottom of this list.
Here’s a look at today’s best travel rewards credit cards.
Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards
1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
2 Points per $1 Spent on Dining & Travel; One-to-One Transfer to Participating Frequent Flyer & Hotel Guest Programs
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the most popular travel rewards credit cards around, and for good reason. It earns an unlimited 2 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on dining and travel purchases, plus 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. Like Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned with Sapphire Preferred to participating travel loyalty programs at a coveted one-to-one ratio.
Ultimate Rewards points are worth up to $0.0125 apiece when redeemed for travel purchases (such as airfare, hotels, cruises, and car rentals) through the Ultimate Rewards portal – a 25% boost to their cash redemption value. Points are worth $0.01 or less when redeemed for non-travel purchases and cash equivalents, such as gift cards, statement credits, direct deposits, checks, and physical merchandise.
Oh, and don’t miss Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s awesome solid sign-up bonus. When you spend at least $4,000 in eligible purchases in 3 months, you get 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points.
- Sign-up Bonus: You get 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points, which can be worth as much as $750 when used to purchase airfare and hotels through Ultimate Rewards, when you spend at least $4,000 in eligible purchases within 3 months.
- Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on qualifying dining and travel purchases, and unlimited 1 point per $1 in all other eligible purchases.
- Redemption: Redeem for travel purchases made through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal at a $0.0125-per-point value. Or redeem for cash, gift cards, checks, and other items, at a per-point value of $0.01 or less.
- Introductory APR: There’s no intro APR.
- Important Fees: The annual fee is $95. There’s no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5%, and cash advances cost the greater of 5% or $10.
- Other Perks: You get VIP treatment and exclusive deals for select entertainment and sporting events, including the PGA Championship.
2. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
2X miles per dollar on every purchase; 50,000 Miles bonus
Capital One Venture Rewards earns you 2 miles per $1 spent on eligible purchases, no matter how much you spend or where you shop. Miles are worth $0.01 on travel redemptions and variable amounts on non-travel redemptions.
Like Discover it Miles and BankAmericard Travel Rewards, Venture Rewards allows you to redeem points for statement credits on a wide range of travel purchases, including flights, rental cars, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, and incidental expenses. You can also redeem for general statement credits or paper checks.
This card has a very good early spend bonus: 50,000 bonus miles when you spend at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. That’s worth up to $500. Just be aware that the annual fee is $95 (waived in the first year).
- Early Spend Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, worth $500 in travel expenses, when you spend at least $3,000 in eligible purchases during the first 3 months of card membership.
- Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 2 miles per $1 spent on all eligible purchases. Through January 2020, earn unlimited 10 miles per $1 spent on eligible purchases at hotels.com/venture.
- Redemption: Redeem for statement credits against virtually any type of travel purchase, or non-travel items such as statement credits and paper checks. Points are worth $0.01 apiece when redeemed for travel.
- Introductory APR: There’s no intro APR.
- Important Fees: There is a $95 annual fee after the first year. There’s no balance transfer fee or foreign transaction fee. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 3%.
- Other Perks: Capital One offers free and unlimited credit score access through the CreditWise feature.
3. Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
3 Points per $1 Spent on Dining & Travel Worldwide; One-to-One Transfer to Participating Frequent Flyer & Hotel Guest Programs; $300 Annual Travel Credit
Chase Sapphire Reserve is an exclusive card designed for frequent travelers who enjoy flying and staying in style. If you can earn rewards quickly enough to offset the $450 annual fee, this is one of the best travel cards you can carry in your wallet – period.
Highlights include a generous sign-up bonus worth up to $750 when redeemed for travel, a $300 annual travel credit, access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, and a one-to-one point transfer program that boasts some of the world’s top travel vendors, including Southwest Airlines and the Intercontinental Hotel Group. When you transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned with your Sapphire Reserve card to participating loyalty programs, you get an equivalent number of points – 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points becomes 1,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, and so on.
Everyday spending pays off with Sapphire Reserve too. This card earns an unlimited 3 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on dining and travel purchases. All other eligible purchases earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent. Ultimate Rewards points are worth up to $0.015 apiece when redeemed for travel purchases (with no blackout dates or seat restrictions) through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Other redemption methods, such as statement credits and gift cards, are worth $0.01 per point or less.
- Sign-up Bonus: When you spend at least $4,000 in qualifying purchases within 3 months, you earn 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points. That’s worth up to $750 when redeemed for airfare, hotels, and other travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 3 points per $1 spent on qualifying dining and travel purchases. All other qualifying purchases earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent.
- Redemption: Points are most valuable ($0.015 per point) when they’re redeemed for travel purchases at the Ultimate Rewards portal. That’s a 50% boost to the standard cash redemption value. You can also redeem for statement credits, bank account deposits, gift cards, merchandise, and other items, at a per-point value of $0.01 or less.
- Introductory APR: There’s no intro APR.
- Important Fees: The annual fee is $450. Additional cards for authorized users cost $75 per card, per year. There’s no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5%. Cash advances cost the greater of 5% or $10.
- Other Perks: $300 annual travel credit against qualifying travel purchases (including airfare and hotel stays); 1-to-1 point transfer privileges with popular travel vendors; complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which confers access to more than $1,000 airport lounges worldwide; Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee credits, up to $100 value every four years.
4. The Platinum Card® from American Express
5x Membership Rewards Points Per $1 Spent; Travel Benefits Worth $1,000+ Annually
It’s hard to overstate the generosity of the American Express Platinum Card. Once you get past the hefty $550 annual fee – the highest of any card on this list – you’ll find a singular travel rewards credit card that redefines “premium.”
The Platinum Card’s rewards scheme is almost beside the point. Yes, eligible airfare purchases made directly with the airline and airfare and prepaid hotel purchases made through the American Express Travel portal earn unlimited 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent, and all other purchases earn unlimited 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Among other perks, this card boasts:
- An annual $200 airline fee credit with the airline of your choice
- Up to $200 in annual credits on Uber rides
- Complimentary elite status (Gold) with Hilton Honors, a popular travel loyalty program
- Complimentary access to more than 1,100 airport lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection, the world’s largest airport lounge league
- Stays at Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection properties include up to $550 (on average) in exclusive benefits, such as room upgrades and complimentary breakfast.
The list goes on. (We haven’t even gotten to the generous welcome offer yet.) If you’re in the market for a truly distinctive card and you’re confident you can get your money’s worth out of this card, it’s worth a closer look. Just remember that The Platinum Card is a charge card, so you need to pay your balances off in full each month or risk account closure………Read More>>