Travel credit cards are your best bet if you want to greatly cut the cost of your next vacation. One big reason why I like travel rewards cards is because they reward you in miles, points or cash for every dollar you spend on everyday purchases, which means you rack up rewards very rapidly. These credit cards also give you special travel perks, such as travel insurance, free check-in of your first bag, access to VIP airport lounges or hotel room upgrades.
Because credit card issuers frequently change their travel card promotions, it can be a challenge for you to find the right travel card for yourself. To help you cut through the fine print and mass of offers, we have compiled a list of our best rated travel credit cards that offer the most attractive rewards out there. You need a very good to excellent credit score for these cards.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. This Capital One card rewards you with a one time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. These bonus miles are worth $400 in travel. Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on all purchases. Earn unlimited miles that don't expire. Fly anytime, on any airline, without any blackout dates. No foreign transaction fees. Enjoy extended warranty, purchase protection, auto rental insurance, travel accident insurance, advanced ticket sales to entertainment events, 24/7 concierge service, and much more. No annual fee for the first year, $59 after that. Read our review of Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card here.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Receive 40,000 points when spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, worth up to $500 in travel bookings through Ultimate Rewards. Earn 5,000 bonus points after adding an authorized user to your account and making a purchase within the first 3 months of card membership. Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining at restaurants, and 1 point per $1 for every other purchase. No foreign transaction fees. $95 annual fee waived the first year. Read our review of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card here.
The Platinum Card® from American Express, a GET.com advertiser, is a prestigious rewards card that gives you complimentary access to over 600 airport lounges (The CenturionSM Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs®, Airspace Lounges, and you can enroll in Priority PassTM Select). Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases with your new Card within your first three months of Card Membership. Enjoy savings on a ticket for a companion booked on your same reservation on international first or business class flights that are purchased through the American Express travel website. Get complimentary benefits and competitive rates at over 750 hotel and resorts with FINE HOTELS & RESORTS bookings. You can earn 2 points per $1 spent on eligible travel purchases booked through American Express Travel. Receive up to a $200 airline fee credit annually (in the form of statement credit) which can be used towards the qualifying airline purchases you select. Travel with no foreign transaction fees. Benefit from 24/7 assistance while traveling with the Premium Global Assist® Hotline. The annual fee of this travel card that comes with many exclusive perks and benefits is $450. Terms and restrictions apply. Read our detailed review of The Platinum Card® from American Express here.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card rewards you with points that can be redeemed towards travel purchases. You can qualify for 20,000 online bonus points when you use your new credit card to make at least $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of the account opening date. Those 20,000 online bonus points can be a $200 statement credit towards travel purchases. You earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases you make with this card. The total amount of points you can earn is unlimited and points do not expire. Redeem points for statement credit towards your travel purchases. Bank of America customers with an active Bank of America checking or savings account benefit from an additional 10% points bonus on every purchase. Preferred Rewards clients can increase that bonus to 25%-75%. Enjoy 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 billing cycles, then 14.99% - 22.99% variable APR on purchases. Benefits include no foreign transaction fees and chip technology. This card has no annual fee. See Terms. Learn more in our review of BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card.
Citi Prestige® Card is a prestigious travel rewards credit card for cardholders with excellent credit. Earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. You will also receive $250 Air Travel Credit each year as well as complimentary access to hundreds of VIP Priority Pass Select lounges and nearly 40 American Airlines Admirals Club® lounges. Enjoy a free 4th night stay every time you book a hotel stay (of four consecutive nights) through Carlson Wagonlit Travel and pay with this card. Other travel benefits include a $100 Global Entry application fee credit, lost/delayed baggage protection, travel insurance coverage, Citi Prestige® Global Concierge, and more. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on hotel and air travel purchases, 2 points per $1 on restaurant dining and entertainment purchases, and 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 on your other purchases. If you spend a lot in these categories this may be a rewarding card for you. Travel with ease with chip-based technology and no foreign transaction fees. This card has an $450 annual fee. Read our review of Citi Prestige® Card here.
United MileagePlus® Explorer Card. This card issued by JPMorgan Chase gives you 30,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Earn double miles for every $1 spent on tickets purchased directly from United Airlines, and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. Earn unlimited miles that never expire. Get 10,000 bonus miles when you spend more than $25,000 yearly. You will qualify and receive 5,000 bonus miles after your first purchase and addition of an authorized user to your account; both must occur during the first 3 months from account opening. Miles can be redeemed for airfare, hotel stays or auto rentals. Enjoy 2 annual complimentary one-time use lounge passes to the United Club lounge. First bag checked-in is free which saves up to $100 per round-trip. No foreign transaction fees. $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. Read our review of United MileagePlus® Explorer Card here.
Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card. This hotel credit card rewards you, for a limited time, with 80,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. You will also earn 5 points per $1 spent at 3,800 Marriott locations, 2 points on airline tickets purchased directly from airlines, car rentals at car rental agencies and dining purchases, and 1 point for every dollar you spend on other purchases. Enjoy unlimited points. You will also earn 1 free night stay at a (category 1-5 location) annually after each account anniversary date. $85 annual fee. Travellers will benefit from global chip and signature technology and no foreign transaction fees. Read our review of Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card here.
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card. Receive 75,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 during the first 3 months after account opening (limited time offer). Earn 6 points for every $1 you spend at any participating Hilton Portfolio hotel around the world, 3 points for every $1 you spend on gas stations, supermarkets and drugstores; and 2 points for every $1 you spend on all other purchases. You also have the option of purchasing bonus points if you're short of points in order to redeem them. Enjoy the benefits of HHonors Silver status for as long as you are a cardmember. No annual fee. Read our review of Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card here.
Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card. This card has a $95 annual fee, but you earn 10 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on hotel stays within the Hilton Portfolio, 5 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on airline and car rental purchases and 3 HHonors Bonus Points per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases. Earn 2 weekend night certificates after you make $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening. You can redeem these certificates at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton Portfolio. You will benefit from no foreign transaction fees on purchases. Chip technology makes it easier to pay with this card when traveling outside of the US. One of the highlights of this card is that you get HHonors Gold status as long as you are a cardmember.
Read our complete Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card review.
British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers 50,000 bonus Avios after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. You’ll also earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years each calendar year that you make $30,000 in purchases on your card. Get 3 Avios for each $1 you spend on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for each $1 you spend on other purchases. When traveling abroad you will pay no foreign transaction fees. Since this card comes with smart chip technology you can use it abroad for chip-based purchases. $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Read our review of British Airways Visa Signature® Card.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®. Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn double AAdvantage® miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines and US Airways purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every dollar you spend on other purchases. Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back, up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first 12 months. Read our review of Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® here.
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card is a hotel credit card for people with excellent credit. You will earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. After your card renewal anniversary you will get to enjoy a free night at over 4,900 hotels around the globe. Earn 5 points per $1 spent at IHG hotels, 2 points per $1 spent on gas station, restaurant and grocery store purchases, and 1 point for the rest of your eligible purchases. You can redeem your bonus points at Holiday Inn®, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts. Enjoy automatic platinum elite status while you're a cardmember. $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49.
Read our review of IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, a GET.com advertiser. Earn 2 miles on your Delta purchases and 1 mile for every dollar you spend on other eligible purchases. After you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months you will earn 30,000 bonus miles, and you will earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with this Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Enjoy Priority Boarding, and your first checked bag is free on every Delta flight for you and up to 9 other people in your reservation. $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms and restrictions apply.
Read our review of Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, a GET.com advertiser, rewards you with 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Earn 3X points when you book flights directly with airlines, 2X points at US supermarkets, US gas stations and US restaurants, and 1X points on your other purchases. You can redeem your points for rewards from over 500 leading brands (travel, merchandise, entertainment, gift cards) or transfer them to a selection of frequent traveler programs. $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195. Terms and limitations apply.
Read our review of American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Receive 25,000 bonus points (one round trip flight) when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Receive 6,000 anniversary bonus points after each Cardmember Anniversary. Earn 2 points for every $1 you spend on Southwest Airlines® purchases made directly with the airline, as well as Rapid Rewards car rental and hotels partner purchases, and 1 point for every $1 you spend on all other purchases. Receive 1 point for every dollar you balance transfer onto this card during the first 90 days, up to 15,000 points. Points never expire and can be redeemed for hotel stays, gift cards, car rental, international travel and more. First and second checked-in baggage are free on Southwest, and there are no seat restrictions or blackout dates. Benefit from Chip technology and 24/7 fraud monitoring. Annual fee of $99. Read our review of Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card here.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is an exclusive American Airlines credit card issued by Citi. This card has a limited time bonus offer which lets you earn 75,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months after account opening. You earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every dollar you spend on eligible American Airlines and US Airways purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on your other purchases. American Airlines perks include Admirals Club® membership (with guest privileges), first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines and US Airways itineraries (for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation when traveling domestically) and 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles from American Airlines after $40,000 spent in purchases each calendar year. When you fly American Airlines and US Airways, you enjoy priority check-in, airport screening where available, early boarding, and 25% savings on eligible in–flight purchases. Other travel benefits include a statement credit towards your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® of up to $100 every 5 years, trip cancellation and interruption protection of up to up to $5,000, lost baggage protection of up to $3,000, up to $100,000 worldwide car rental insurance, and up to $1 million worldwide travel accident insurance. You also get access to a personal concierge service. No foreign transaction fees on purchases. Embedded Chip technology. This card has a $450 annual fee.
U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards American Express® Card lets you earn 20,000 enrollment FlexPoints (up to a $400 ticket value) after spending $3,500 on net purchases with your new card within the first 4 months of account opening. You get 2 points per $1 for purchases at restaurants and fast food outlets. You also earn 2 points on gas, grocery or airfare (whichever you spend most on each billing cycle) and on most cell phone expenses. This card has no foreign transaction fee. You get a $0 annual fee for the first year, then $49. Read our review of U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards American Express® Card here.
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card is a travel rewards credit card that rewards you with 20,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 in the first 3 months. Earn 5 points per $1 you spend on airline tickets and 1 point for each $1 you spend on the rest of your purchases. Enjoy a 4.99% intro balance transfer APR for 12 months for balance transfers you make between January 01, 2015 through January 31, 2015. After that the variable balance transfer APR is just 9.99%. Once you spend $15,000 in a calendar year, you get access to 2 stays at VIP airport lounges anywhere in the world. This card also gives you access to exclusive discounts and travel deals through the American Express Travel Privileges program. 24-hour concierge service. This card has no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee.
Read our review of PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express Card here.
What Is A Travel Credit Card?
A travel credit card is a credit card that gives you special travel benefits. These include airline credit cards, hotel credit cards, and cards that let you earn rewards which can be redeemed for travel.
Flexible Travel Cards
These cards let you earn rewards which can be redeemed for travel with many different airlines and hotels. You can usually also redeem points (or other rewards) for travel purchases like cruises or vacation packages.
These cards often let you earn points for purchases you make every day, rather than purchases from a specific airline or hotel. So a card like this is a good choice if you want to earn miles or points fast just by using the card for your daily spending.
Airline Credit Cards
Airline credit cards usually work with specific airlines or frequent flyer programs and can be a good choice if you do a lot of flying with the same airline. The main benefits of cards like these is that you earn actual frequent flyer miles or points that you can redeem for flights directly with the airline.
These cards usually give you special benefits when you fly with their airline, such as free checked baggage, priority boarding, on-board credit (for food, beverages, upgrades), or even airport lounge access.
United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, a GET.com advertiser, are all examples of airline credit cards. The downside of these cards is that the miles you earn may not be as flexible as the miles or points you earn with other travel cards.
Hotel Credit Cards
Many large hotel groups offer credit cards that let you earn rewards through their customer loyalty programs. Many of these cards come with large bonus offers that let you earn bonus points when you successfully apply and fulfil certain requirements. A hotel credit card will usually also give you benefits that can help you get more out of your hotel stays.
These perks may include free breakfasts, free room upgrades, access to a higher customer status without fulfilling minimum hotel stay requirements, and in some cases even free hotel stays every year.
Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card, Citi® Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card and Club CarlsonSM Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card are all rewarding hotel credit cards.
What Should I Look For In A Travel Card?
Rewards are the reason why most people get travel credit cards, but there are other perks that can save you just as much money if you travel often.
Here I list the main benefits that you should look for when choosing a travel credit card:
Many travel credit cards have good bonus offers which let you earn a large number of points (or miles, cash back, etc.) by successfully applying for the card and fulfilling additional requirements like spending a certain amount in the first few months, applying for a secondary card or even just making 1 purchase with your new card.
These bonus offers can add up to big savings because you can redeem those points or miles for flights, hotel stays or other travel basics.
This is where you will want to look at the card more closely. Although almost all travel cards will let you earn some travel rewards on all your purchases, if you want to earn higher rewards (and you probably will) you will have to spend in certain categories.
Cards that let you earn higher miles or points for everyday purchases like gas, restaurant dining, grocery shopping and other basics are a good choice because you will earn rewards for purchases you already make.
If a card only gives you higher rewards for purchases with a specific airline or hotel, you probably won’t earn a lot of points unless you spend a lot of money on purchases from those specific travel companies.
If you do any serious amount of traveling, you probably spend a lot of money on things like airport lounges, internet, upgrades, hotel breakfasts, and hotel stays. These are all benefits that you could get on a complimentary basis by using the right travel credit card to pay for your travel bookings.
Citi Prestige® Card, for example, gives you a complimentary 4th night for any hotel stay and complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Club® lounges and hundreds of VIP lounges through Priority PassTM Select. United MileagePlus® Explorer Card lets you check your first bag for free and lets you enjoy priority boarding privileges.
Travel insurance is another cost that you can avoid by using the right travel card. For example Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you complimentary primary auto rental coverage, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000, lost luggage reimbursement (up to $3,000 per passenger), trip delay reimbursement (up to $500 per ticket), and baggage delay insurance (for delays of over 6 hours).
All you have to do to enjoy complimentary insurance coverage is use the right credit card to purchase your travel bookings.
Foreign Transaction Fees
A travel card should be made for travel. If you travel outside of the US, then you can save a lot of money by using a card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. A foreign transaction fee is a fee you pay every time you use your card to make a payment in a foreign currency. This usually comes to 3% of each transaction, which can add up to a lot of money. Many good travel cards do not charge foreign transaction fees.
It’s important to choose a card that really suits your travel needs. A card with a high annual fee may be the best choice if it has benefits that save you hundreds of dollars. If you don’t travel outside of the US, things like no foreign transaction fees and chip technology are not that important. What you do want is a card that will give you the most travel savings and perks for your personal needs.
Travel Credit Card Tips
Travel rewards cards, hotel credit cards and airline credit cards let you earn reward points or air miles whenever you spend on them, and these points or miles can be accumulated towards free flights, hotel nights, car rentals, cruises and other merchandise.
If you are a frequent flyer who is not so particular about which airline to fly with or which hotel to stay at, it may be a smarter choice to get a general travel credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card, since all of the points you earn can be redeemed towards any airline of your choice.
On the other hand, if you tend to fly with a particular airline such as United or Delta, it is better to get specific airline credit cards since they come with many travel benefits such as free check-in for the first bag. Travel credit cards have generally flexible reward redemption options, which may let you redeem your miles or points for merchandise, gift cards, hotel stays and others.
All travel cards vary in their rewards programs, and have their own point system. Generally, you can expect 1 or 2 points for every dollar spent on these cards. Many cards listed on this page let you earn bonus points or miles when you spend a certain amount after getting your card. Some cards also don't impose any foreign transaction fees and/or annual fees.
Many of these cards tend to charge higher interest rates compared to other types of credit cards, so you should always pay your balance in full by the due date each month so as to avoid paying any interest. Use your card wisely, and you will be richly rewarded!
To see our full selection of Travel Credit Cards click here.
How We Rate Travel Credit Cards
Travel credit cards are rated by GET.com based on the benefits and added value that they offer to travelers in relation to their card fees.
We look at the value of travel rewards when redeemed for travel in different ways to determine the average cash value of travel rewards. We look at whether a card offers 1:1 conversion to frequent traveler programs, actual frequent traveler points, rewards that must be redeemed through a rewards program, or rewards that can be redeemed towards any travel purchases as a statement credit.
We also look at whether or not rewards expire, and if there are any limits or caps on the amount of rewards you can earn.
Other important travel benefits like travel insurance, car rental insurance, lounge access, concierge services, chip technology, no foreign transaction fees, hotel and airline benefits and other travel perks also influence our ratings.
Additionally, we also take basic card features like APR, introductory APR periods, annual fees, other card fees and the availability of the payment network into consideration before settling on a card rating.