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Best Travel Credit Cards of October 2023

Review Updated
Matt Koppenheffer
Lyle Daly
By: Matt Koppenheffer and Lyle Daly

Our Credit Cards Experts

Nathan Alderman
Check IconFact Checked Nathan Alderman
Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Whether planning a trek across the globe or a simple staycation, the best travel credit cards can give you unparalleled access to exclusive perks. Imagine swimming in cliffside pools at luxury hotels, flying in style with first-class airfare, or simply saving money and hassle while traveling as a family.

The top cards give you high earn rates for credit card travel rewards, which can be redeemed directly or turned into airline miles or travel points. If you're a frequent traveler with good credit, there are a lot of great options right now.

Our globetrotting credit card experts and travel connoisseurs researched stacks of travel cards, comparing rewards earn rates, perks, welcome bonus offers, annual fees, and more.

Together, we've accumulated over 1 million reward points. We've visited airport lounges in countless countries. We've checked into the finest hotels using rewards instead of cash. From Casablanca to Kyoto (literally), we've tested where travel cards can take you. All so we can recommend the best rewards cards for travel.

Note that we don't simply list credit cards that we're paid to list. The cards you find here are travel cards that we use ourselves and recommend to our family and friends.

The best travel credit cards

If you're short on time, here's a quick run-down of our top five travel cards right now.

  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees): In our view, this is the overall best travel credit card because it's a dead simple way to boost your travel credit card game with a single card. You get two points per dollar spent and a great $750-mile welcome offer.
  • Bank of America? Travel Rewards credit card (see rates and fees): Our top no annual fee travel card. You get 1.5 points per dollar spent and a welcome offer of 25,000 points. The card also features matching introductory purchases and balance transfer APR offers.
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees): Our favorite premium travel card. Yes, there's a premium annual fee here, but you get what you might expect from a luxury card, like up to 10x points on spending, a $300 travel credit, lounge access, experience credits, and a big welcome bonus offer.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred? Card: This is our favorite travel card for flexible redemption options. It earns Ultimate Rewards points, which you can transfer to over a dozen airlines and hotels or redeem at a competitive fixed rate for travel bookings, experiences, and more.
  • American Express? Gold Card (see rates and fees): This travel card is our pick when dining out. There is an annual fee of $250 but with no foreign transaction fees, the rewards continue with 4x points at restaurants worldwide, 4x points at grocery stores, uber cash, and dining credit.
  • Lyle:

    I also love using travel cards in my personal life, so I have quite a bit of firsthand experience with them. Many of the cards I write about are ones that I've used myself.

    I'm passionate about travel rewards cards because I've seen just how much better and more affordable they make the travel experience. So far, I've earned well over 1 million points, relaxed in airport lounges around the world, and paid for dozens of travel bookings with rewards instead of cash. That includes business-class airfare and luxury hotel stays that would normally cost $3,000 or more.

    Matt is the General Manager of The Ascent and was formerly based in Berlin as the head of The Motley Fool Germany. He's an investor at heart and brings that rigor to how he analyzes travel credit cards and their points programs. But he's also an avid optimizer of credit-card usage in his personal life.

    Matt:

    I've traveled all over the world and used a wide variety of credit cards in a lot of different places -- from a rifugio in the Italian Alps and street markets in Fez to the sushi stand outside the Grand Sumo tournament in Fukuoka. I've earned and redeemed a boatload of points, cashed in big welcome offers, and made the most of perks. But I've also made plenty of mistakes!

    At the end of the day, though, I find it fun, and I love helping others use their cards wisely -- whether they want to get the very most of out their cards or just earn points without taking time away from the rest of their life.

Rating image, 5.00 out of 5 stars.
5.00 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)

Welcome Offer

Earn $750 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.

Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Regular APR

21.24% - 29.24% (Variable)

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

2X-5X miles

Annual Fee

$95

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

75,000 miles

  • Unlimited 2X miles, TSA Pre?? credits, and a big sign-up bonus make this credit card one of the best travel companions. Read Full Review

    • Excellent sign-up bonus
    • Unlimited miles on purchases
    • Travel credit
    • Multiple ways to use miles
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Annual fee
    • No 0% intro APR offer
    • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
    • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
    • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
    • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
    • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck?
    • Enjoy two complimentary visits per year to Capital One Lounges or to 100+ Plaza Premium Lounges through the Partner Lounge Network
    • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
    • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
    • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Great for: Travel card with no annual fee

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)

Welcome Offer

Earn 25,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.

Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR Circle with letter I in it. 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases. 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.

Purchases: 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases

Balance Transfers: 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

Regular APR

18.24% - 28.24% (Variable)

Rewards

1.5 points per dollar

Annual Fee

$0

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. 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

25,000 points

  • No annual fee travel cards typically skimp on the sign-up bonus, but this card delivers with its intro bonus offer, unlimited rewards on purchases, and a generous 0% intro offer on purchases and balance transfers. Read Full Review

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • No annual fee
    • Competitive rewards rate on purchases
    • Great 0% intro APR offer on purchases and balance transfers
    • No bonus categories
    • Limited ways to use points
    • 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, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
    • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
    • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
    • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Award Icon 2023 Award Winner
Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Excellent (740-850)

Welcome Offer

Earn $750 miles when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Excellent (740-850)

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Regular APR

22.24% - 29.24% (Variable)

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel, plus unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases

2X-10X miles

Annual Fee

$395

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

75,000 miles

  • This is a strong premium level travel card with a big sign-up bonus, robust rewards program, and rich travel credits. Read Full Review

    • Big travel rewards bonus
    • High rewards rate
    • Travel credits
    • Airport lounge access
    • Easy-to-use miles
    • Annual fee
    • Small selection of travel partners
    • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
    • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
    • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
    • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
    • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
    • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
    • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
    • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more
    • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck?

Great for: Bonus points from travel portal

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)

Welcome offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in 3 months.

Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR Circle with letter I in it. N/A

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Regular APR

21.49%-28.49% Variable

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. Enjoy bene?ts such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards?, 3x on dining, and 2x on all other travel purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, plus more.

1x - 5x points

Annual Fee Circle with letter I in it. N/A

$95

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. 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®.

60,000 bonus points

  • With a big sign-up bonus, the sky's the limit for this top-rated travel rewards card. Plus, the premium points program for travel and dining offers even more value for travel enthusiasts everywhere. Read Full Review

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • Travel rewards
    • Dining rewards
    • Flexible travel points
    • Consumer and travel protections
    • Annual fee
    • 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 bene?ts such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards?, 3x on dining, and 2x on all other travel purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 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.
    • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
    • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
    • Member FDIC
Award Icon 2023 Award Winner

Great for: Points and perks for dining out

Apply Now for American Express? Gold Card

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

Rates & Fees External Link Icon

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Apply Now for American Express? Gold Card

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

Rates & Fees External Link Icon

Welcome offer

Earn 60,000 after spending $4,000 within the first 6 months.

Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR

Purchases: n/a

Balance Transfers: n/a

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. Earn 4X Membership Rewards? Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards? Points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards? Points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. Earn 1X Membership Rewards? Points on other eligible purchases.

1X - 4X points

Annual Fee

$250

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards? Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

60,000

  • The welcome offer, plus lucrative rewards at restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and on travel more than justify the annual fee for consumers who spend heavily in these areas. Read Full Review

    • Impressive welcome offer
    • Restaurants rewards
    • U.S. supermarket rewards
    • Travel and dining credits
    • High-value rewards points
    • Annual fee
    • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards? points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
    • Earn 4X Membership Rewards? Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards? points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
    • Earn 3X Membership Rewards? points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
    • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
    • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express? Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
    • Get a $100 experience credit with a minimum two-night stay when you book The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel. Experience credit varies by property.
    • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • Annual Fee is $250.
    • Terms Apply.

Our top pick: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Rewards rate: Unlimited two miles per dollar on every purchase.

Why we picked it: With two miles for every dollar spent, plus a 75,000 miles bonus offer (after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months), this card is an excellent way to up your travel game while keeping it simple.

My first-hand review:

The Capital One Venture Card was the anchor of my wallet for a long time, notably while I was living in Europe. The beauty of this card is in its generous rewards combined with its simplicity.

Because the rewards are a flat two miles per dollar spent, there's no need to juggle cards and remember which card to use when. Every purchase, no matter whether at a coffee shop, electronics retailer, or music streaming service – two miles per dollar.

Now this doesn't mean that you can't juggle cards. I did. The two miles per dollar is a great baseline rewards rate, so I would use this as my default card, but then pull out other specific cards only for focused categories, for instance keeping my Amazon spending on my Amazon card. But in my view, you can get away with a single card if you have this one.

Capital One Venture Rewards interface screenshot

Rewards redemption is another way this card is extremely easy. There are a wide variety of ways you can use miles, including booking travel on the Capital One travel portal, transferring to one of Capital One's partners, and using miles to cover travel purchases on your card statement. I did mostly the latter – it's not the highest opportunity redemption, but it was ridiculously easy.

I will admit I didn't make the most of the perks on this card, but there are quite a few. Traveling around Europe, the no foreign transaction fees were critical. And I always make use of card protections when available – like the rental car coverages and extended warranty on this card. And though I'm more of a "get in and out of the airport fast" kind of person, the card does provide limited lounge access for the Capital One lounges and certain partner lounges.

There's a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees), which I never balked at because I got so much value out of the card. Right now, with a welcome offer of $750 miles, it's even easier to justify that fee.

Apply for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card on Capital One's website.

Pros:

  • Unlimited flat-rate rewards of 2X miles on every purchase
  • $750-mile bonus offer
  • Easy miles redemption
  • Many useful travel perks, including lounge access

Cons:

  • $95 annual fee
  • Higher rewards rate possible with tiered systems

Best no annual fee travel credit card: Bank of America? Travel Rewards credit card

Rewards rate: Unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on per $1 spent on all purchases

Why we picked it: Many of the top travel cards come with an annual fee. This card proves that you don't need to pay an annual fee to get solid travel rewards.

What we think you need to know about the Bank of America Travel Rewards:

I haven't used this card in particular, but I do have and use its sister card – the Bank of America? Customized Cash Rewards credit card. The rewards program is different, but the core of these cards, as well as the Bank of America? Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card, is very similar. Namely, they're all really great rewards cards with no annual fee, and all get a significant bump in rewards if you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member (as I am).

The rewards here are simple: You get 1.5 points for every dollar spent, no matter the category. Points can be redeemed as a statement credit to pay for travel-related expenses like flights, hotels, rental cars, and restaurants. Each point credits $0.01, so every $1,000 spent on the card gets you 1,000 points, which gets you $10 in potential credits for travel spending.

The 25,000 points you can earn via the card's welcome offer (after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days days after account opening) work the same way. So that welcome offer is worth $250 towards travel.

Bank of America app screenshot

You generally can't expect a huge number of extra perks on a card with no annual fee, and that's the case here. However, there is an introductory 0% interest offer, currently at 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases and 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (after that, the go-to variable rate applies, which is currently 18.24% - 28.24% (Variable)).

I don't always enjoy trying to manage my financial accounts via app, but the Bank of America app is one that I do use regularly. I could quibble a bit about the design, but I think the usability is great. It's easy to navigate between multiple types of Bank of America accounts. I can see card balances, due dates, rewards earned, and easily sign up for partner deals that often feature 10% to 15% savings.

Also, Bank of America Preferred Rewards members get a 25% to 75% boost on the rewards that this card earns. That means that they're getting between 1.87 and 2.62 points per dollar spent. That, combined with no annual fee (see rates and fees), makes this card or one of its sister cards basically a no-brainer for Preferred Rewards members.

Apply for the Bank of America? Travel Rewards credit card on Bank of America's website.

Pros:

  • No annual fee
  • Unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on every purchase
  • 25,000 points bonus offer
  • 0% intro APR offer for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers (after which the go-to rate of 18.24% - 28.24% (Variable) applies)
  • 25%-75% rewards boost for Preferred Rewards members

Cons:

  • Higher rewards rates available on cards with an annual fee
  • Limited perks

Best premium travel credit card: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Rewards rate: Earn 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel. 2X miles on all other purchases.

Why we picked it: High rewards rates, hefty welcome bonus offer, travel credit, anniversary miles, and travel perks that you'll actually use. For frequent travelers, the benefits of this card can easily justify the high annual fee.

What we think you should know about the Capital One Venture X Card:

The first question you should ask with a premium travel card is whether the big annual fee (see rates and fees) is justified. For frequent travelers, we think the answer is most likely yes for the $395 fee on the Capital One Venture X Card.

It'd be hard to not get more than that value back in the first year, as the card has a welcome offer of 75,000 miles (after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months). We'd say that's conservatively worth $750 in travel, and possibly more if you redeem well.

Past the first year though, we still think the value of the card holds up well. For one, you get an annual $300 in statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel. Plus, you get a 10,000 mile anniversary bonus, worth $100. So right there, you've got $400 in value to weigh against the $395 annual fee. We could argue that everything else is gravy.

In any case, the rest of the features just further bump up the value of the card on an ongoing basis. That includes the high rewards rates you get booking through Capital One Travel – 10X miles for hotels and car rentals and 5X miles for flights. It also includes the solid 2X miles per dollar that you get on the rest of your purchases. And it includes premium travel perks like unlimited access to lounges for you and two guests (there aren't many Capital One lounges, but you also have access to the 1,300+ lounges available in its partner network).

There is a longer list of perks for many of the competing premium travel cards. This dings the Capital One Venture X Card a bit, but a lot of those perks get more targeted and won't be a fit for everyone. Plus, many competing premium travel cards have an even higher annual fee.

It's also worth pointing out that additional cardholders can be added with no fee. That's not always the case, especially with premium-level cards.

And of course rewards points and miles are only as good as your ability to actually use them. In this case, there are multiple options, including the extremely easy option of using miles to cover travel expenses on your statement.

Apply for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card on Capital One's website.

Pros:

  • High rewards rate, including strong baseline rate
  • $750-mile welcome offer
  • Annual $300 travel credit and bonus 10,000 anniversary miles
  • Premium travel perks, including worldwide lounge access
  • No fee for additional cardholders

Cons:

  • High annual fee
  • Highest rewards rates annual travel credit require using Capital One Travel portal
  • Not as many perks as other premium travel cards

Runner-up: best premium travel card with flexible redemption options: Chase Sapphire Preferred? Card

Rewards rate: 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards?, 2X points on other travel, 3X points on dining, online grocery orders, and select streaming services, 1 point per $1 on other purchases

Why we picked it: It earns bonus rewards across a variety of categories and has a welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points. Plus, this card's Ultimate Rewards points give you lots of high-value redemption options.

What we think you should know about the Chase Sapphire Preferred? Card: Both Chase Sapphire cards are loaded with benefits, but there's one in particular that makes them special -- their rewards program. Chase Ultimate Rewards is The Ascent's pick for the best credit card rewards program.

I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve?, and I also had the Chase Sapphire Preferred? Card, back when you could have one of each. I got both because they each have fantastic welcome offers and rewards rates, so they're great for earning lots of points.

With either card, you can transfer your points to many airline and hotel loyalty programs, and there are some incredible savings opportunities this way. For example, I've transferred Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and booked a stay at a four-star hotel in New York, paying in points for what would have been a $5,634 stay. I've also transferred points to book business-class airfare, once saving $4,142 in the process.

Our first-hand review

I initially got this card for the sky high welcome bonus, but have kept it due to several of its unique features and benefits — which make it well worth the $95 annual fee. One of the highlights is Trip Delay Reimbursement. If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.


-Ethan Mellin, team member at The Motley Fool Ascent

Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred? Card on Chase's website.

Pros:

  • 2x to 5x points in bonus categories that include dining, travel, and online grocery orders
  • Welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points
  • Transferable points with over a dozen travel partners

Cons:

  • Charges a $95 annual fee
  • Non-bonus purchases earn standard rate of 1x point per $1

Also good for: best premium travel card for dining out: American Express? Gold Card

Rewards rate: 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases) and restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1x point per $1 on other purchases, terms apply.

Why we picked it: There aren't many travel cards that earn high rewards rates on groceries and dining. This American Express card does, offering outstanding rewards on your U.S. supermarket and restaurant spending. Terms apply.

What we think you should know about the American Express? Gold Card: The American Express? Gold Card seems expensive at first, with a $250 annual fee. (see rates and fees). But if you can take advantage of its benefits, it's practically a steal.

Case in point, it offers $10 per month in dining credits at participating restaurants and $10 per month in Uber Cash. That's up to $240 in annual credits. Use those, and this card is only costing you $10. Select enrollment required, terms apply.

American Express cards are usually a good fit for big spenders, and this one's no exception. If you have high spending in its bonus categories, you'll earn points quickly. And its bonus categories cover some of the biggest monthly expenses for many households.

Many of this card's benefits are designed with U.S. consumers in mind, including the spending credits and bonus rewards at U.S. supermarkets. That's something to keep in mind if you travel often or live abroad.

Apply for the American Express? Gold Card on American Express's website.

Pros:

  • 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases) and restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • Transferable points with many airline and hotel partners
  • Up to $120 in annual dining credits
  • Up to $120 in annual Uber Cash

Cons:

  • Expensive with a $250 annual fee
  • U.S.-centric benefits that may not be as useful for frequent travelers

Best Airline Card: Delta SkyMiles? Gold American Express Card

Rewards rate: 2X miles on U.S. supermarkets and at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S..

Why we picked it: 40,000-mile welcome offer, free checked bags, and a variety of useful travel perks make this a top airline-specific credit card. (terms apply).

My first-hand review:

Choosing an airline credit card is fairly simple: choose the card of the airline you fly a lot. The rewards rates on airline cards are generally not that great, the ones that are even halfway worthwhile have annual fees, and the rewards are focused on that airline's frequent flyer program.

So if you don't regularly fly the airline of the card, it's going to be very hard to justify having that card. Past that, there are some airline cards that are just not that good, whether or not you fly that airline.

Which brings us to the Amex Delta SkyMiles Gold. This card meets the sweet spot of being an airline that has broad enough route coverage that it's a good option out of many airports, plus the credit card itself is good. Which is why I used to have this card in my own wallet.

The welcome bonus offer is a big part of the value here. Currently 40,000, this could be worth significant travel value on Delta flights.

For ongoing value though, the free checked bags, the $100 flight credit (after spending $10,000 in a calendar year), and the potential Delta-specific savings are what could easily justify the card staying in your wallet. (Terms apply; enrollment may be required.)

Starting with the checked bag fee waiver, this alone can make the card very valuable for a family. We are a family of four, with young kids. It's basically impossible to travel carry-on only like when my wife and I were child-free and globetrotting. The first checked bag on a Delta flight is $30 each way. If you take one flight per year and check two bags round trip, the $120 that you save already more than pays for the annual fee of this card in years 2+.

Then we can add on the $100 flight credit. You have to spend $10,000 to earn this, but this isn't points that you have to redeem -- it's a much simpler Delta Flight Credit. And then the card also gives you access to TakeOff 15, which takes 15% off the price when you book Award Travel with Delta points on delta.com or the Delta app.

But what about earning rewards? Well, that's not as great. 2X miles per dollar on select categories – in this case Delta purchases, restaurants, and U.S. supermarkets – is not all that great, especially for a card that (after the first year) carries an annual fee. (Terms apply; see rates and fees.)That said, it's nice that this card offers higher earning rates on spend other than with the airline, as many airline cards only give elevated rewards rates for spend with that airline.

I mentioned above that I "used" to have this in my wallet. Why don't I have it anymore? We got sick of driving to Atlanta (a Delta hub) for flights, so we don't fly Delta much anymore. Which brings me back to my original point: If you're going to get an airline card, the best one is the one of the airline you fly most (or at least fly a lot).

And if you happen to fly Delta a lot? You're in luck, because this is a very good card for Delta fliers.

Apply for the Delta SkyMiles? Gold American Express Card on American Express's website.

Pros:

  • First checked bag fee waived for main cardholder and up to eight others (nine waivers total)
  • 40,000-mile bonus offer (after spending $2,000 in the first 6 months)
  • 15% savings on Delta Award Travel when booked through delta.com or Delta app
  • Higher rewards rate on restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, in addition to Delta spend

Cons:

  • Uninspiring 2X miles is the higher rewards rate
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.

Best hotel credit card: Hilton Honors American Express Card

Rewards rate: 7X points on Hilton purchases, 5X on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations, 3X for all other purchases.

Why we picked it: This is a no annual fee card with decent rewards earning rates and a welcome offer of 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points. If you stay at Hilton properties, this card can be a great fit. (Terms apply; see rates and fees.)

What we think you need to know about the Amex Hilton Honors Card:

As with airline cards, choosing a hotel credit card really comes down to two factors: 1) Which hotels do you usually choose? and 2) Does that hotel group offer a decent card?

If you don't stay at a certain hotel group's properties, that hotel-brand card isn't going to make much sense for you. And even if you do stay at the brand's properties, some hotel credit cards just aren't that good.

If you do happen to stay at Hilton properties though, this is a quality card that brings some nice perks.

Before we talk about rewards, it's important to note that Hilton Honors points don't value out as highly as other points systems (this is true of most hotel points programs). It's basically fair to think of points as worth about half of other non-hotel points, depending on what exactly you're comparing it to.

That means that the points-earning on this card isn't as wildly high as it may seem at first glance. However, even after cutting the rates in half – 3.5x on Hilton spend, 2.5x on dining, 2.5x on U.S. supermarkets and gas stations, etc. – it's still very reasonable for a card that has no annual fee.

Right now there's also a welcome offer of 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.

The card also gives holders Hilton Honors Silver Status, which unlocks Hilton property bonuses like a 20% boost on points-earning on stays, free bottled water, and a fifth night free on reward stays.

There aren't all that many beyond this, but for those that stay more often at Hilton properties and are willing to pay an annual fee, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass? Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offer higher earn rates, bigger welcome bonuses, a higher status boost, and more perks.

Apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Card on American Express's website.

Pros:

  • No annual fee
  • Welcome offer of 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points (after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months)
  • Hilton Honors Silver Status boost
  • 7X points on purchases at hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio

Cons:

  • Limited perks
  • Lower comparative rewards value after adjusting against other (mainly non-hotel) points systems

More of our top travel credit card picks

Though these cards didn’t make our top picks list above, they are still high-quality travel cards in our view. Depending on your personal situation, these could easily be a better fit for you than the cards above.

Here’s a look at some of our other favorite travel cards:

Hilton Honors American Express Card
Apply Now for Hilton Honors American Express Card

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

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Great for: Hotel rewards and benefits

Apply Now for Hilton Honors American Express Card

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

Rates & Fees External Link Icon

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Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
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Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Apply Now for Hilton Honors American Express Card

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

Rates & Fees External Link Icon

Welcome offer

80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.

Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR

Purchases: n/a

Balance Transfers: n/a

Regular APR

20.99%-29.99% Variable

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio. Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations. Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.

3X - 7X points

Annual Fee

$0

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.

80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points

  • A fantastic option for earning Hilton Honors points with a lucrative rewards program and nice welcome offer. Read Full Review

    • Nice welcome offer
    • Bonus points on Hilton Hotels purchases
    • U.S. restaurants rewards
    • U.S. supermarkets rewards
    • U.S. gas rewards
    • Limited travel protections
    • Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
    • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
    • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
    • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
    • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
    • No Annual Fee.
    • Terms Apply.

Great for: Airline rewards and benefits

Apply Now for Delta SkyMiles? Gold American Express Card

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

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Rating image, 4.00 out of 5 stars.
4.00 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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= Excellent
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= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Apply Now for Delta SkyMiles? Gold American Express Card

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

Rates & Fees External Link Icon

Welcome offer

Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.

Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR

Purchases: n/a

Balance Transfers: n/a

Regular APR

20.99%-29.99% Variable

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at U.S. Supermarkets and at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S. Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

1X - 2X miles

Annual Fee

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

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.

40,000

  • An excellent option for most Delta travelers, given the balance of a nice welcome offer, premium rewards program, and a low annual fee. Read Full Review

    • Welcome offer
    • Free checked bag
    • Priority boarding
    • Earn a Flight Credit
    • Annual fee
    • No premium travel benefits
    • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.
    • Enjoy a $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $99.
    • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
    • Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
    • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at U.S. Supermarkets and at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S.
    • 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.
    • Want even more flexibility? Take up to $50 off the cost of your flight for every 5,000 miles you redeem with Pay with Miles when you book on delta.com.
    • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit on eligible Delta in-flight purchases after using your Card.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • With Send & Split?, you can send money and split your Card purchases with any other Venmo or PayPal user, directly from the Amex App. Enroll today.
    • Terms Apply.

Great for: Premium perks and rewards

Apply Now for Chase Sapphire Reserve?

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Apply Now for Chase Sapphire Reserve?

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Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR Circle with letter I in it. N/A

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Regular APR

22.49%-29.49% Variable

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. 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

1x - 10x points

Annual Fee Circle with letter I in it. N/A

$550

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

60,000 bonus points

  • The sign-up bonus, premium rewards for travel and dining, and a wide array of travel benefits give this card quite a bit of value. Read Full Review

    • Sign-up bonus
    • Travel credits
    • Airport lounge access
    • Travel and dining rewards
    • Flexible travel point
    • Annual fee
    • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 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.
    • Earn 5x total points on flights 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, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
    • 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 every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck?
    • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
    • Member FDIC

Great for: Premium travel card experience

Apply Now for The Platinum Card? from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

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Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Apply Now for The Platinum Card? from American Express

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Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR

Purchases: n/a

Balance Transfers: n/a

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. 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. Earn 1X Membership Rewards? Points on other purchases.

1X - 5X points

Annual Fee

$695

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards? Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

80,000 points

  • The high annual fee is justifiable for frequent travelers who can take full advantage of a deep bench of valuable perks, including the big welcome offer, robust rewards, and lucrative annual travel credits. Read Full Review

    • Big welcome offer
    • Substantial spending credits
    • Airport lounge access
    • Hotel benefits
    • Flexible travel points
    • Annual fee
    • Limited bonus categories
    • Spending credits can be complicated to manage
    • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards? Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card?, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
    • 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 up to $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?. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
    • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card? on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
    • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership (subject to auto-renewal) with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card?. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Up Benefits are excluded.
    • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card?.
    • $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 $300 back in statement credits per calendar year on an Equinox membership, or an Equinox club membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you pay with your Platinum Card?. Enrollment required. Visit https://platinum.equinox.com/ to enroll.
    • $189 CLEAR? Plus Credit: Breeze through security with CLEAR Plus at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Platinum Card?. Learn more.
    • $100 Global Entry Credit: Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck? (through a TSA official enrollment provider) application fee, when charged to your Platinum Card?. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
    • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at saks.com on your Platinum Card?. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
    • $300 SoulCycle At-Home Bike Credit: Get a $300 statement credit for the purchase of a SoulCycle at-home bike with your Platinum Card?. An Equinox+ subscription is required to purchase a SoulCycle at-home bike and access SoulCycle content. Must charge full price of bike in one transaction. Shipping available in the contiguous U.S. only. Enrollment Required.
    • Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card? to your Resy profile.
    • $695 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.

Great for: Hotel rewards and perks

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR Circle with letter I in it. N/A

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Regular APR

21.49% - 28.49% Variable

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. Earn 5 points per $1 spent on purchases on travel, at gas stations, and restaurants. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases

3X - 5X points

Annual Fee Circle with letter I in it. N/A

$99

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Earn 140,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn up to $100 in IHG® statement credits on purchases at IHG® Hotels and Resorts during the first 12 months from account opening.

Earn 140,000 bonus points + up to $100 in IHG? statement credits

  • This card has a very lucrative bonus you can earn after opening an account, and allows you to rack up tons of point on hotel stays.

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • Free night award
    • Automatic elite status
    • Bonus IHG? rewards
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Annual fee
    • Earn 140,000 Bonus Points plus up to $100 in IHG? statement credits.
    • Enjoy an Anniversary Free Night at IHG Hotels & Resorts. Plus, enjoy a reward night when you redeem points for a consecutive four-night IHG? hotel stay.
    • Earn up to 26 points total per $1 spent when you stay at IHG Hotels & Resorts
    • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on purchases on travel, at gas stations, and restaurants. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
    • Automatic Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
    • Global Entry, TSA PreCheck? or NEXUS Statement Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
    • IHG One Rewards Bonus points are redeemable at Hotels & Resorts such as InterContinental?, Crowne Plaza?, Kimpton?, EVEN? Hotels, Indigo? Hotels & Holiday Inn?
    • Member FDIC

Great for: Tiered travel-focused points

Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50 stars
Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
= Best
= Excellent
= Good
= Fair
= Poor
Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR Circle with letter I in it. N/A

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Regular APR

21.24% - 29.24% (Variable)

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. Earn 5x points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked in the Altitude Rewards Center, 4X points on travel and at gas stations, 2X points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, dining and streaming services, 1x points on other purchases

1x - 5x points

Annual Fee Circle with letter I in it. $0 intro for the first year, then $95

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. 50,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening

50,000 points

  • A quality choice with bonus rewards in a variety of areas, including groceries, dining, and travel. It also has some great extra perks, including an annual streaming credit.

    • Big welcome bonus
    • Robust rewards program
    • Streaming credit
    • Airport lounge access
    • Cellphone and travel protections
    • Annual fee
    • Can't transfer points
    • Intro Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening. That's a $500 value redeemable towards travel, gift cards, cash back, merchandise and more.
    • 5X points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center.
    • 4X points on travel, gas stations, and EV charging stations.
    • 2X points on streaming services. Plus, a $30 credit for annual streaming purchases like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify?, Apple Music, Disney+, HBO Max and more!
    • 2X points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, and dining.
    • Receive up to $100 in statement credits for reimbursement toward your TSA PreCheck? or Global Entry? application fee once every four years.
    • 1X point on all other eligible purchases.
    • Points never expire.
    • Pay over time by splitting eligible purchases of $100+ into equal monthly payments with U.S. Bank ExtendPay? Plan.
    • Protection and assistance when traveling with Trip Cancelation/Interruption, Trip Delay Reimbursement and SmartDelay.
    • Complimentary Priority Pass? Select membership that gives access to more than 1,300 VIP lounges worldwide.
    • Terms and conditions apply.

Great for: Airline points and perks

Aeroplan? Credit Card
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4.50 stars
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Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR Circle with letter I in it. N/A

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Regular APR

21.74% - 28.74% Variable

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. 3x points for grocery stores, restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery), and Air Canada purchases, 1x points for each dollar spent on all other purchases

1x - 3x points

Annual Fee Circle with letter I in it. N/A

95

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Earn up to 100,000 bonus points – 75,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, 25,000 points after you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months.

Earn up to 100,000 points

    • Unique sign-up bonus
    • Elite status for new cardmembers
    • Bonus rewards in multiple spending categories
    • Free first checked bag perks
    • $100 statement credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Annual fee
    • Bonus offer is in the form of flight reward certificates
    • Redemption limitations
    • Earn up to 100,000 bonus points
    • Earn 75,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
    • Plus, 25,000 points after you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months.
    • $95 Annual Fee
    • Redeem points for both international and domestic flights with the Aeroplan? Credit Card.
    • Fly to another continent and travel the world with the Aeroplan? Credit Card.
    • Earn 3X points for each dollar spent at grocery stores, on dining at restaurants, and Air Canada directly. Earn 1X point for each dollar spent on all other purchases.
    • 500 bonus points for every $2,000 you spend in a calendar month - up to 1,500 points per month.
    • Member FDIC
The information related to Aeroplan? Credit Card has been collected by The Ascent and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer.
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Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Excellent (740-850)
Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Excellent (740-850)

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: N/A

Regular APR

20.49% (Variable)

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. 4% back on gas and EV charging ($7,000 annual spending cap), 3% back on restaurants and travel, 2% back on Costco purchases, 1% back on other purchases

1% - 4% back

Annual Fee

$0 for Costco members

Welcome Offer

N/A

  • Hard to beat for Costco shoppers with the lucrative rewards program and no annual fee for members. The cash back rates on gas and EV charging are among the highest you'll find. Read Full Review

    • Gas and EV charging cash back
    • Costco cash back
    • Travel and dining cash back
    • Purchase protections
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • No sign-up bonus
    • No intro APR offer
    • Clunky cash back redemptions
    • Discover one of Citi's best cash back rewards cards designed exclusively for Costco members
    • 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
    • 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
    • 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • No annual fee with your paid Costco membership and enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases
    • Receive an annual credit card reward certificate, which is redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses, including Puerto Rico

Great for: Airline points and perks

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Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months

Regular APR

17.49% - 26.49%, variable

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. 2X miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1X miles on all other purchases

1X - 2X miles

Annual Fee

$99

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. Earn 60,000 AAdvantage? bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full within the first 90 days

60,000 AAdvantage miles

  • The sign-up bonus and companion certificates are nice perks that make up for what is otherwise a middle-of-the-road rewards program. Read Full Review

    • Bonus miles with no spend requirement
    • Free checked bag
    • Early boarding
    • Anniversary companion certificate
    • 0% intro APR on balance transfers
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Earn 25% statement credit on in-flight purchases
    • $25 annual wifi credit
    • Annual fee
    • 0% intro APR offer not valid on purchases
    • Earn 60,000 AAdvantage? bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full within the first 90 days
    • Anniversary Companion Certificate each anniversary year, earn a Companion Certificate good for 1 guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees) after spending $20,000 on purchases and your account remains open for 45 days after your anniversary date
    • Get up to $25 back as statement credits on inflight Wi-Fi purchases every anniversary year on American Airlines operated flights
    • Inflight savings receive 25% inflight savings as statement credits on food and beverages when you use your card on American Airlines operated flights.
    • Earn 2X miles for every one dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
    • Earn 1X AAdvantage? miles for every one dollar spent on all other purchases
AAdvantage? Aviator? Red World Elite Mastercard is unavailable on The Ascent. All information was collected independently from the issuer. Some items may be out of date.

Great for: Travel protections

AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature? Card
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Credit Score: Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Recommended Credit Score required for this offer is: Good/Excellent (670-850)
Credit Score Circle with letter I in it. Falling within this credit range does not guarantee approval by the issuer. An application must be submitted to the issuer for a potential approval decision. There are different types of credit scores and creditors use a variety of credit scores to make lending decisions.

Good/Excellent (670-850)

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A

Balance Transfers: 0%, 12 months

Regular APR

13.99% - 23.99%, variable

Rewards Circle with letter I in it. 3% cash back on eligible travel and AAA purchases; 2% back on gas, grocery store, wholesale club and drugstore purchases; 1% back on other purchases.

1% - 3% cash back

Annual Fee

$0

Welcome Offer Circle with letter I in it. $200 statement credit after you spend at least $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening.

$200

  • A well-rounded credit card that goes toe to toe with offers from big national issuers. The sign-up bonus and rewards program are particularly competitive.

    • No annual fee
    • Big sing-up bonus
    • Travel accident coverage
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Intro 0% APR on balance transfers
    • Rewards expire
    • Minimum redemption amounts
    • No intro 0% APR on purchases
    • Intro APR of 0% for 12 months on balance transfers
    • $200 statement credit after you spend at least $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • $0 foreign transaction fees
    • No annual fee

Compare the best travel cards

The Picks
Card Rating Great For
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Unlimited rewards

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Travel card with no annual fee

Award Icon 2023 Award Winner
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Premium travel rewards

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Bonus points from travel portal

Award Icon 2023 Award Winner
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Points and perks for dining out

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Hotel rewards and benefits

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Airline rewards and benefits

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Premium perks and rewards

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Premium travel card experience

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Hotel rewards and perks

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Tiered travel-focused points

Aeroplan? Credit Card
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Airline points and perks

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Costco shoppers

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Airline points and perks

AAA Member Rewards Visa Signature? Card
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Travel protections

The information related to Aeroplan? Credit Card has been collected by The Ascent and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer.
AAdvantage? Aviator? Red World Elite Mastercard is unavailable on The Ascent. All information was collected independently from the issuer. Some items may be out of date.

How to compare travel credit cards

Start by figuring out which types of travel credit cards you're interested in to narrow down your options.

Once you have the best credit cards ready, here are the things to look at:

  • Annual fee: Most of travel credit cards charge annual fees, but amounts can vary from $100 up to $500 for a premium credit card. Make sure the card you choose works for your budget or stick to the best travel credit card with no annual fee if you'd prefer.

  • Sign-up bonus: Many travel cards offer some of the biggest sign-up bonuses on the market. Compare both the bonuses that your chosen cards offer and the amount you'd need to spend on eligible purchases to receive each bonus.

  • Rewards rate: The best credit cards for travel rewards often have bonus categories where they earn more rewards, such as 3 points per $1 on dining. Others earn the same rate on purchases, such as 2 points per $1 on all eligible purchases no matter the category. See which travel credit cards have rewards rates fit for your spending habits.

  • Additional benefits: There are all kinds of features available with credit card travel rewards, from complimentary elite status with airlines and hotels to travel insurance policies. Review each card's extras to figure out how much value it would offer you.

Choose some of the top travel credit cards that stand out to you. If you're looking for the best travel credit cards for beginners, the simplest way to evaluate them is to use The Ascent's tool to compare credit card offers for a feature-by-feature review.

Is a credit card with travel rewards right for me?

The more that you travel, the better a travel points credit card will work for you. If you go on two or three trips per year, you should be able to make the most of the benefits that the best travel card offers. If you're traveling even more frequently than that, then the best travel rewards card will likely be extremely valuable to you. If you don't travel that much, other rewards credit cards would be a better option.

Points vs. miles: what's the difference?

Points and miles are two ways of referring to travel rewards. The term that's used depends on the credit card issuer, and neither has a set definition. In general, credit card points is the more common term. Credit card miles is a term used primarily by airlines. However, neither is set in stone. There are other types of travel cards that refer to their rewards as miles, and there are credit cards with airline miles that refer to their rewards as points.

How much are travel rewards worth?

There are a lot of different loyalty programs, and they all have their own travel rewards. The tricky part is figuring out how these travel rewards compare to each other. For example, are miles with Delta and Southwest worth the same amount, or is one more valuable?

Although airline and hotel rewards don't have a fixed value, we've calculated approximate values based on what they're usually worth. You may get more or less depending on how you redeem them, but these are the usual values with the major airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Airline rewards values

Airline Value per mile
Alaska Airlines $0.016
American Airlines $0.014
Delta Air Lines $0.014
Frontier Airlines $0.010
JetBlue Airways $0.014
Southwest Airlines $0.014
Spirit Airlines $0.011
United Airlines $0.013
Based on The Ascent's valuation

Hotel rewards values

Hotel Value per point
Best Western $0.007
Choice Hotels $0.006
Hilton $0.005
Hyatt $0.016
IHG $0.006
Marriott $0.007
Radisson $0.004
Wyndham $0.009
Based on The Ascent's valuation

Love Rewards? If you do, you should check out The Ascent's guide to the best rewards checking accounts.

Benefits of travel credit cards

A credit card with travel points offers all kinds of perks that make traveling more enjoyable and easier on your wallet. Below are the types of benefits available with travel cards. Once you know which benefits you want, you can look for cards that have those features.

Purchase rewards: The best travel credit cards earn rewards on purchases, and you can redeem them for free travel. Many of the most popular travel cards also have bonus categories in which you earn more rewards than the standard rate. If you find a card with bonus categories that match your spending habits, you can maximize your rewards.

Sign-up bonus: Most travel cards include a sign-up bonus offer, which is a big chunk of rewards you can earn as a new cardholder. To get the bonus, you need to complete the terms. This usually requires spending a certain amount on the card within a timeframe, such as $3,000 in the first three months.

Airport lounge access: Airline credit cards and premium travel credit cards often include complimentary access to airport lounge programs. If you spend a lot of time at the airport, this perk can make waiting for your flight more comfortable.

Free checked luggage: Many airline credit cards allow you to check one or more bags for free. Depending on the card, companions traveling on the same itinerary may get to share in this benefit.

Free night certificate: A common feature of hotel credit cards is a yearly free night certificate. Terms apply on when and where you can use these certificates, and they usually don't work at the most expensive properties. However, they can still save you $100 or more.

Travel protections: Many of the best travel credit cards often include complimentary protections on eligible purchases such as:

  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Trip delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement

Spending credits: Premium travel credit cards with high annual fees typically have spending credits to balance out their fees. These credits automatically apply on eligible purchases. Here are a few examples:

Elite loyalty program status: Gaining elite status in airline and hotel loyalty programs normally requires that you make quite a few bookings. Some of the top travel credit cards let you cut the line by offering cardholders complimentary elite status with one or more loyalty programs.

Types of travel rewards credit cards

There are four types of travel rewards credit cards. You'll find a description of each type below.

Airline credit cards

An airline credit card is tied to an airline loyalty program, also known as a frequent flyer program. When you use the best credit card for frequent flyers, it earns miles in that program. You can redeem your miles for award airfare. Instead of paying $250 for a ticket, you may be able to buy it for 25,000 miles. The best credit card for airline miles often include additional perks with the airline, such as free checked luggage or airport lounge access.

Hotel credit cards

A hotel credit card is tied to a hotel loyalty program. When you use a hotel credit card, it earns rewards points in that program. You can redeem your points for award hotel stays, such as paying 30,000 points per night instead of $150 per night. Hotel credit cards also frequently offer extra perks with the hotel chain. These could include a complimentary late checkout, elite status in the hotel's loyalty program, or a free night award every year.

Travel credit cards with fixed-rate rewards

A travel credit card with fixed-rate rewards lets you redeem your rewards for cash travel purchases. Rewards are always worth the same amount toward travel this way. For example, if your card offers $0.01 per point, then 10,000 points will always be worth $100 in travel. Depending on the card, you can either use your rewards as a statement credit toward previous travel purchases, use them in the card issuer's travel portal to book travel, or both.

Travel credit cards with transferable rewards

A travel credit card with transferable rewards lets you send your rewards to other loyalty programs. For example, if your travel card has rewards you can transfer to Hyatt Hotels, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines, then you could send your points to any of those programs. You would then be able to book travel through that loyalty program using your points.

They're great if you don't have any specific airlines or hotels you like more than the rest. Specifically, look for travel cards in a major credit card rewards program:

Since these card issuers have large rosters of airline and hotel partners, they offer the best international travel credit cards.

Alternatives to travel credit cards

Not sure if a credit card with travel points is what you need? Here are the most popular alternatives.

Cash back credit cards

A cash back credit card earns rewards on purchases. The difference is that instead of rewards you can use for travel, it earns cash rewards. You can typically redeem your cash back as a statement credit on your credit card bill, a deposit to your bank account, or a check. Cash back cards are great for consumers who want to earn credit card rewards but aren't big travelers. The reward can also be much easier to use, and many cash back credit cards don't have annual fees.

Credit cards for bad credit

A credit card for bad credit is one that you can get even if you have a low credit score or no credit history. In that situation, it's unlikely you'll qualify for a travel card. The better route is to get one of these credit cards for bad credit, use it to build your credit, and apply for a travel card once you have a higher credit score.

Travel credit card terminology

Airport lounge access: A credit card feature that allows the cardholder to visit certain airport lounges free of charge or at a discounted rate.

Annual fee: A fee charged once per year for a credit card. Annual fees for travel credit cards range from $0 to over $500.

Bonus category: A spending category in which a credit card earns bonus rewards. For example, a travel credit card may earn 5 points per $1 on air travel, compared to 1 point per $1 on regular purchases.

Credit card rewards program: A loyalty program offered by a credit card company. The most popular credit card rewards programs are:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Capital One Venture Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Rewards

Elite status: Any status above the basic, introductory tier in a travel provider's loyalty program. Airlines and hotels usually have multiple tiers in their loyalty programs, and elite status tiers offer more benefits. Each tier has its own entry requirements, such as spending a minimum amount or making a minimum number of bookings. Some travel cards include elite status in a loyalty program as a complimentary perk.

Foreign transaction fee: A credit card fee charged on transactions made in foreign currencies or transactions that go through international banks. Most travel credit cards don't charge foreign transaction fees.

Loyalty program: A program offered by a business to encourage customer loyalty. Loyalty programs offer special rewards for members. These programs are common with travel providers such as airlines and hotels, and allow travelers to earn rewards to use for free bookings. They're also referred to as rewards programs, and airline loyalty programs are also referred to as frequent flyer programs.

Redemption options: The ways that travel rewards can be used. These options depend on the type of travel rewards and the loyalty program.

Rewards rate: The amount of rewards a credit card earns per $1 spent. Some credit cards offer the same amount on every purchase, such as 2 points per $1 on all eligible purchases. Other cards offer more in bonus categories.

Sign-up bonus: A credit card bonus offer available to new cardholders. Most sign-up bonuses include a requirement to earn the bonus amount, such as spending a certain amount within a set time period. Another common term for a sign-up bonus is a welcome bonus or welcome offer.

Spending credit: A statement credit towards one or more purchases on your credit card bill. Some travel credit cards offer spending credits, and they generally apply to specific types of purchases over a certain time. For example, a travel card could offer a $300 annual credit towards travel purchases.

Transferable rewards/points/miles: Rewards that can be transferred to the loyalty programs of multiple travel providers. Transferable rewards are widely considered the most valuable, because they can be used for travel bookings with different airlines and/or hotels.

Travel portal: An online platform for booking travel. Many major credit card issuers have travel portals cardholders can use to book trips.

Travel rewards: A loyalty program currency that can be redeemed for travel. Travel rewards are usually referred to as points or miles, depending on the loyalty program.

FAQs

  • The first thing you should do is figure out which card's rewards program will work best for your travel habits. When in doubt, get a travel card with transferable rewards. These give you the most ways to book travel, so they're great if you don't have any specific airlines or hotels you like more than the rest.

    Pick a card that will earn you lots of travel rewards. If possible, it's great to get a card with a high rewards rate and a large sign-up bonus. Even if you can't get that, any card you're considering should offer at least one of the two. The more reward points you earn, the more money you'll save on travel.

  • Take advantage of as many benefits as possible. Go through your travel card's features to make sure you don't forget to use any of them. If it has airport lounge access, see which lounges you can get into and if there's a registration process required first. If your card has travel protections, such as trip delay or lost luggage reimbursement, learn how they work in case you ever need to use them.

Ask the Experts

Andrew O. Coggins, Jr., Ph.D.

Andrew O. Coggins, Jr., Ph.D.

Clinical Professor, Management Department, at Lubin School of Business, Pace University

Dr. Coggins is a internationally renowned cruise industry analyst. His insights have been featured in The New York Times, MSNBC, and NPR. He serves as a clinical professor at Pace University's Lubin School of Business.

Who should sign up for a travel credit card?

It depends on how often you travel with that particular company. If you travel a lot, the card might make sense.

What should one consider when selecting a travel credit card?

Two major points are the interest rate and the benefits, i.e. priority check-in, upgrades, club membership, fee waiver, etc. Other considerations are: Can you earn points on non-travel spending? How often do you fly or stay with that brand? In the end, it comes down to what’s important to you. In my case, most of my air travel is through hub connections, so club membership is a big plus.

Our Credit Cards Experts