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Best Travel Credit Cards for Winter 2014

Last update: Nov 13, 2014
Best Travel Credit Cards for Winter 2014
Despite the fears over Ebola, the winter travel season is expected to be as busy as ever. And while American wallets are getting a bit of a break these days thanks to low oil and gas prices, a volatile stock market and economic growth concerns are likely to send consumers searching for deals. As such, lucrative travel rewards credit cards figure to receive a great deal of consumer attention in the coming weeks and months. Initial rewards bonuses, in particular, have displayed impressive and continued growth in the post-Great Recession environment. It is now possible to get $400 cash, a couple of free flights, or weeks of free hotel nights just by opening the right new credit card.
But in order to leverage plastic to maximum benefit this winter travel season, you’ll need to find a card that complements your spending and payment habits and then open it far enough in advance of your trip to qualify for your rewards bounty.
In the interest of helping in that endeavor, CardHub compared more than 1,000 credit card offers (some of which originate from CardHub advertising partners) in order to identify the most rewarding cards for winter and holiday travel. You can find our best in class selections below, followed by CardHub’s money-saving travel tips and expert insights on the outlook for winter and holiday travel.
  • All-Around

    Spending $3,000 in the first 3 months will award you with 40,000 bonus points, which can be redeemed for a $400 statement credit attributable to any travel-related expenses. The ongoing reward rate is 2 miles per $1 spent, with no limits or expiration dates. This card charges a $59 an annual fee, beginning with the second year and does not assess foreign transaction fees for purchases processed abroad.
  • All-Around

    Spending at least $3,000 during the first three months your account is open will trigger a 40,000-point rewards bonus, which can be redeemed for $500 in travel accommodations booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program or a $400 statement credit. This card does not charge an annual fee during the first year ($95 thereafter) and does not assess foreign transaction fees for purchases processed abroad.
  • Airline Rewards

    Spending or making a balance transfer worth $500 or more with this card during the first 90 days that you have it will get you 40,000 bonus miles, which can be redeemed for 2 round-trip domestic flights. You’ll also get 2 miles per $1 spent on FlyFrontier.com and 1 mile/$1 on all other purchases. The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard charges a $69 annual fee.
  • Airline Rewards

    In addition to a $200 initial bonus for spending at least $2,500 during the first three months, this card also provides you with 5 points per $1 spent on airfare and 1 point per $1 on everything else. It does not have an annual fee, but you might have to pay a one-time $15 to join an eligible association, if you don’t initially meet PenFed’s eligibility requirements.
  • Hotel Rewards

    While you may not have heard of Club Carlson, it represents a number well-known hotel brands such as the Radisson, Park Plaza, and Country Inn & Suites. The Club Carlson Credit Card offers 50,000 bonus points with your first purchase and 35,000 additional points for spending at least $2,500 within 90 days. You can redeem the 85,000 points for up to 18 free hotel nights, depending on the category of hotel you select and the number of consecutive nights you book. (The last night of your stay is free when you use rewards to book at least two consecutive nights.) There is a $75 annual fee and a 3% foreign transaction fee.
  • Hotel Rewards

    You’ll get 60,000 bonus points in return for spending at least $1,000 during the first three months you have the IHG Credit Card. That bounty is redeemable for up to 12 free nights, as IHG offers rewards nights for as low as 5,000 points through its PointBreaks program. IHG card users also receive one additional free night each year on their account anniversary, in addition to 5 points per $1 spent at IHG hotel chains, 2 points per $1 spent at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, and 1 point/$1 on everything else. This card does not have an annual fee during the first year ($49 thereafter) and does not charge a foreign transaction fee. Hotels operating under the IHG umbrella include the Holiday Inn family of hotels and Crowne Plaza.
  • Hotel Rewards

    Charging $3,000 to this card over the first three months that you have it will trigger a 60,000-point initial bonus – redeemable for up to 12 free hotel nights, depending on how your hotel of choice is classified. This card has a $75 annual fee as well as a 2.7% foreign transaction fee that makes it best suited to domestic travel.
  • Hotel Rewards

    You earn a 10,000 points bonus after making your first purchase with the card and an additional 15,000 points after charging $5000 on the card in the first 6 months. These points will get you 8 free hotel nights, depending on your hotel choice. Another interesting feature of this card’s reward program are the varied point transfer options, which are sweetened by the 25% bonus points offered with each 20,000-point transfer. The point transfer ratio is 1:1, so transferring will only bring more benefits. The card has no annual fee in the first year, but will charge $65 after and has a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.
  • Road Trip Rewards

    This Pentagon Federal Credit Union product offers 5 points per $1 spent on gas, 3 points/$1 on groceries, and 1 point/$1 on everything else through the end of the year. Points can be redeemed for gift cards at a 0.8% rate (i.e. 5,000 points = $40). The Platinum Rewards Card doesn’t have an annual fee, but you might have to pay a one-time $15 to join an eligible association, if you don’t initially meet PenFed’s eligibility requirements.
  • Road Trip Rewards

    This card offers 6% cash back on groceries for up to $6000 per year, 3% on gas and department store purchases, and 1% on everything else, making it a great card for everyday spending as well as road trips. While it charges a $75 annual fee and a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, you also get a $150 initial rewards bonus for spending at least $1,000 during the first three months.
  • Financing Travel

    This card charges 0% interest on new purchases for the first 18 months and does not have an annual fee, thereby offering a lot of flexibility to families who plan on paying off holiday costs over time. It also offers 10,000 bonus points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening, which is worth $100 in cash back. Keep in mind that this card charges a 2% foreign transaction fee, which means another offer might be better suited to in-trip spending if you’re headed abroad. Those who are traveling internationally should instead consider the Capital One Platinum Prestige Card, which has a slightly shorter 0% period but does not charge foreign fees.
  • Financing Travel

    If you have existing credit card debt, you could transfer what you owe to the Slate Card before using it to pay for your trip in order to take advantage of its lack of a balance transfer fee (for the first 60 days) as well as its 15-month interest-free introductory period. While this card does not have an annual fee, it does charge a 3% premium for purchases that are processed internationally.

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Our editors' recommendations for the Best Travel Credit Cards for Winter 2014 are a reflection of their own subjective opinions, and they should not be relied upon as the sole basis for choosing your credit card. We work hard to present you with the most accurate credit card information, however, the credit card terms and conditions do not originate from us and thus we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information. Before applying for a credit card we recommend that you verify the credit card terms and conditions on the credit card company's web site. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Ad Disclosure: Certain offers originate from paying advertisers, and this will be noted on a card's details page using the designation "Sponsored Card", where applicable. Advertising status does not affect which cards show up on this page but may impact the order in which they appear. At CardHub we try to list as many credit card offers as possible and currently have more than 1,200 offers, but we do not make any representation of listing all available offers.