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Travel Rewards Credit Cards

There are three types of travel credit cards commonly available: those offering points redeemable only with particular hotel chains, those with miles tied to particular airlines, and those offering generic points or miles that can be redeemed for most types of travel expenses. With that being said, one of the biggest mistakes that consumers make is becoming too hung up on colorful marketing copy, even if that means applying for a card tied to a hotel or airline with which it would be very difficult to ultimately redeem.

Instead, we recommend applying for a travel rewards card that complements…show more

    Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card


    capital one ventureone
    • 0% Purchases until March 2016
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 11.9% - 21.9% (V)
    • Annual Fee None
    • Rewards Rate 1.25 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 20,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent, Good
    • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $200 in travel
    • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
    • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime.
    • Travel when you want—no blackout dates.
    • Miles don't expire and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

    Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®


    barclaycard arrival world mastercard credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers 12 months3% Transfer Fee
    • Regular Rate 14.99% or 18.99%
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $89 after
    • Rewards Rate 2 miles/$1
    • Rewards Bonus 40,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that’s enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit.
    • Earn 2X miles on all purchases - Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
    • Get 10% miles back to use toward your next redemption every time you redeem for travel statement credits
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

    Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card


    capital one venture
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 12.9% - 22.9% (V)
    • Annual Fee $0 for 1st yr, $59 after
    • Rewards Rate 2 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 40,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent, Good
    • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel.
    • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
    • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime.
    • Travel when you want—no blackout dates.
    • Miles don't expire and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

    Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card


    chase sapphire preferred
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 15.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $95 after
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 points / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 40,000 points
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $500 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
    • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
    • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value – that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

    Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard®


    barclaycard credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 24.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee None
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 points/$1
    • Rewards Bonus None
    • Minimum Credit Fair

    American Express ® Premier Rewards Gold Card


    premier rewards gold card american express
    • Charge Card Balance must be paid in full each month
    • Regular Rate Not Applicable for Charge Cards
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $175 after
    • Rewards Rate None
    • Rewards Bonus 25,000 points
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership
    • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines, 2X points at US gas stations and US supermarkets, 1X points on other purchases
    • With the Membership Rewards® program, you can use points for rewards from over 500 leading brands in travel, gift cards, merchandise, or entertainment
    • You can also transfer points to our selection of frequent traveler programs
    • See All Reviews & Details About The American Express ® Premier Rewards Gold Card

    United MileagePlus® Explorer Card


    united credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 15.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $95 after
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 30,000 miles
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Start with 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
    • Check your first bag for free – save up to $100 per roundtrip
    • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club with two one-time-use passes every year
    • Earn double miles on United ticket purchases, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
    • Your miles don’t expire as long as you’re a Cardmember, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn
    • Use your miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight
    • See All Reviews & Details About The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card

    Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express


    gold delta skymiles
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 15.24% - 19.24% (V)
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $95 after
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 miles / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 30,000 miles +$50 statement credit
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months.
    • Earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
    • Earn 2 miles on Delta purchases. 1 mile for each dollar you spend on other eligible purchases.
    • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
    • Settle in sooner with Priority Boarding
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

    Amex EveryDaySM Credit Card from American Express


    amex everyday credit card
    • 0% Purchases 15 months
    • 0% Transfers 15 months3% Transfer Fee
    • Regular Rate 12.99% - 21.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee None
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 points / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 10,000 points
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Earn 10,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
    • Earn 20% more points: Make 20 or more purchases with your Card in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits. Terms and limitations apply.
    • 2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x); 1x points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
    • You can use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points to pay for all or part of your flight, hotel booked and paid in advance, vacation or cruise booking.
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Amex EveryDaySM Credit Card from American Express

    Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card


    starwood preferred guest credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 15.24% - 19.24% (V)
    • Annual Fee None 1st yr, $65 after
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 Starpoints
    • Rewards Bonus 25,000 Starpoints
    • Minimum Credit Excellent
    • Earn up to 25,000 bonus Starpoints®
    • Earn 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase on the Card and an additional 15,000 Starpoints after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months.
    • Redeem Starpoints for free nights at over 1,100 hotels & resorts in nearly 100 countries and for free flights on over 150 airlines with SPG Flights - all with no blackout dates.
    • Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
    • Starpoints stay active as long as you continue to spend on your Card.
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card
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    Expert’s Answers

    Do I have to be a frequent traveler to get a travel rewards credit card?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOWell, it depends on your motivation in opening a credit card with travel rewards. If you simply wish to take advantage of an offer with an attractive initial bonus (e.g. a free flight or free hotel), then by no means do you need to be a frequent traveler. Everyone takes vacations, after all. However, you should be a frequent traveler if you plan on using a travel credit card on an ongoing basis because not only do you want your rewards credit cards to match your biggest expenses, but you also need to be in a position to minimize the threat of rewards devaluation, which is only possible via frequent redemption. A frequent traveler is someone who compiles at least 30,000 air miles or 20 hotel nights a year.

    What type of travel rewards credit card should I get?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOObviously, if you’re just after an initial bonus, get whichever card offers the most free stuff that you can use. As explained above, only frequent travelers should use travel reward cards on an ongoing basis. So, assuming you are a frequent traveler, the type of card you get depends on your brand loyalty. If you always use the same airline or hotel, get the card affiliated with that company. If you use different accommodations, get the most lucrative generic travel credit card. Finally, if you do not travel that often, your best bet is a cash back credit card, since cash back is the most straightforward rewards currency and you can obviously use it for any type of purchase, including travel.

    How do I compare travel rewards programs?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOThe following are some important terms to watch out for when comparing travel rewards programs, as each impacts the usability and ultimate value of any such program:
    1. Rewards Value: Travel rewards are not only fragmented between points and miles, but also within each of these main rewards currencies. For example, one card might offer Hilton points, while another might have Capital One No Hassle Miles, and still another might provide American Airline AAdvantage miles. Given that this can make comparison difficult, it’s a good idea to reference your spending in past months in order to see how lucrative a given travel rewards card will be in dollar figures. In other words, determine how many points or miles you can expect to compile in, say, a month and what you can redeem them for. The price of this good or service is therefore the card’s monthly cash value, which you can, of course, compare to that of other cards. When doing your comparison, look out for any earning tiers -- which dictate the rate at which you earn points/miles, depending on how much you have spent in a certain period of time -- or earning caps -- which limit the rewards you can earn, typically in a month, quarter or year. Both obviously can affect how lucrative a particular travel reward credit card offer will be.
    2. Initial Bonus: The number of points/miles that certain travel rewards credit cards provide in return for new customers signing up and spending a certain amount within the first few months may exceed the rewards one could ordinarily earn during an entire year of card use. Gravitating toward such cards is therefore advisable. Just make sure you’ll be able to meet any spending requirements that may exist.
    3. Redemption Limitations: While rewards that do not expire are becoming increasingly popular as different credit card companies jockey for the business of the best consumers, if expiration is part of a particular travel rewards program, it will likely be tied to the passage of time or account inactivity. Similarly, things like blackout dates and limited room/seat availability are now less in evidence, but it’s worth double-checking to verify that your rewards will be practically beneficial and not just good on paper.
    4. Status points: In addition to points and miles redeemable for free stuff, certain hotel-affiliated and airline-affiliated credit cards also give you status points, which help you move up the loyalty ladder and get additional benefits. The inclusion of status points is a key factor for many brand-loyal travelers, especially when one airline or hotel chain offers multiple credit cards.

    What other travel-related benefits can I get from a credit card?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOWhile free flights and hotel stays are travel rewards cards’ most-talked-about benefits, you’ll usually get a few other perks as well. While the specifics depend on your card, the following are some of the most common ancillary benefits:
    1. Car rental collision damage insurance
    2. Roadside dispatch
    3. Emergency card replacement
    Other benefits that you can expect to receive with certain cards include:
    1. Free upgrades
    2. Priority check-in
    3. Free checked baggage
    4. Airport lounge access
    5. 24/7 concierge service
    6. Travel accident insurance
    7. Free companion tickets

    Can I have more than one travel rewards credit card?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOEven if you have the best travel rewards credit card for your lifestyle, there will inevitably be other rewards cards that you can use strategically to maximize the free money you bring in. There are two ways to supplement your travel rewards: 1) via lucrative initial bonuses; 2) by opening a couple of different cards, each providing the best possible rewards on one of your biggest expenses (e.g. airfare, hotel stays, groceries). For example, if you stay at Marriott hotels regularly for business, spend a lot on groceries, and wish to fly your family to your in-laws’ house this summer, having a Marriott credit card, a card like the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express (3% cash back at supermarkets), and an airline miles card offering a free flight for signing up will be extremely beneficial. Using multiple cards that excel in certain areas in order to garner the best possible overall terms is called the Island Approach to credit card use.

    What exchange rate do I get when I travel abroad?

    By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorWhen using a travel reward card abroad, your purchases are automatically converted into U.S. dollars using your card network’s exchange rate. This is a good thing because Visa and MasterCard (the world’s most widely-accepted card networks) offer exchange rates that are roughly 8% lower than the cash exchange services at banks and around 15% lower than the services offered at airport kiosks, according to our Currency Exchange Study. On top of the exchange rate, a lot of travel credit cards charge fees for purchases processed abroad. If you plan on traveling outside the country, you should therefore focus your travel credit card search on the no foreign transaction fee credit cards section.

    Community Discussion

    Ask a question or help others find the best travel rewards credit cards by sharing some tips.

     
    Mar 24, 2015
    By:
    Honestly, my favorite travel car is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. Not only is the sign on bonus larger than most, but the annual fee waiver for the first year is very nice. Points per mile are on par with the other cards, but what i honestly like most about the card, is that it syncs seamlessly with every online vendor I choose to use with it. Amazon being one of the big ones.
    Feb 20, 2015
    By:
    I have the Disney Visa Rewards card by Chase. There is no "fee" to have this card. At first the benefits don't seem that impressive, as you do not get theme park or resort discounts, but you do get an overall 10% discount on anything Disney, at the stores and at the theme parks and resort restaurants. We all know that any help counts when it comes to Disney! The best benefit is the exclusive meet and greet with characters at Epcot. It's nice to be able to go to something "exclusive" with Disney, especially when it's crowded.
    Jan 8, 2015
    By:
    I have a Delta SkyMiles card. I have applied this card because me and my wife are the frequent flyers in Delta Airlines. I will earn points for each of my travel. I can redeem the points while booking the next trip. Also each time when I make a reservation and book a Delta flight with my card, the first bag I check in will be free.
    Nov 30, 2014
    By:
    I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. You get 2 points per dollar you spend on travel which is nice. By travel, it doesn’t have to be just flights. It could also include hotels, car rentals and parking as well. The only downside is the annual fee but it is waived in the first year.
    Jun 23, 2014
    By:
    I really enjoy using my Citi ThankYou Preferred Card. It gives 2 ThankYou points for dining and entertainment purchases. I'm single and can't cook, so I eat out almost everyday. This is the perfect card for me. What I like most about this card is the options they give you at redemption time. I can redeem points for merchandise, gift cards, and travel rewards. I just wish they also gave bonus points, but it seems like mostly the cards that offer only travel gives bonus points. I prefer to have the redemption variety.
    Feb 25, 2014
    By:
    I have a Delta SkyMiles card. Back when more online billpay services would allow you to use a credit card without any fee, I would pay my utilities and car loan using it and would rack up tons of miles, then pay it off every month. I paid my graduate school tuition with it and then paid off the card using the tuition reimbursement check. I got several free airline tickets this way. Now that it's hard to pay bills using a credit card though, I think most of us wouldn't have enough purchases to earn miles very fast, except maybe for people who own small businesses. Most of the rewards cards have a high interest rate, so they don't make a lot of sense except for people who are going to pay them off every month.
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