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Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Travel Reward Credit Cards

There are three types of travel rewards 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. Regardless of the exact bucket they fit into, most of the travel rewards cards listed below also provide some form of travel insurance and some may be classified as no foreign transaction fee credit cards, meaning they do not charge the 2-3% fees for purchases processed internationally that Card Hub has determined are part of over 90% of credit card offers. While it’s important that you compare all of the available travel reward credit cards in order to see exactly what the market has to offer, if you’re brand loyal to a particular airline or hotel chain, you’ll probably want to get the card tied to that company. If not, you should get the card that offers the most lucrative rewards while allowing you to redeem often. Once you identify the right card for your spending habits and lifestyle, we will redirect you to the respective issuer’s website so you can get to saving.

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    3.5

    Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

    capital one ventureone rewards credit card
    • 0% PURCHASES until August 2015
    • 0% TRANSFERS Not Offered
    • REGULAR RATE 11.9% - 19.9% (V)
    ANNUAL FEE None
    REWARDS Miles
    BASE EARN 1.25 miles / $1
    MAX EARN 1.25 miles / $1
    • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles on every purchase, every day.
    • 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.
    • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime.
    • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases.
    • Travel when you want—no blackout dates.
    • Miles don’t expire.
    • No limit to the miles you can earn.

     
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    4.5

    Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

    chase sapphire preferred credit card
    • 0% PURCHASES Not Offered
    • 0% TRANSFERS Not Offered
    • REGULAR RATE 15.99% (V)
    ANNUAL FEE None 1st yr, $95 after
    REWARDS Points
    BONUS 40,000
    BASE EARN 1 point / $1
    MAX EARN 3 points / $1
    • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 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 Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points.

     
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    4.5

    Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

    capital one venture rewards credit card
    • 0% PURCHASES Not Offered
    • 0% TRANSFERS Not Offered
    • REGULAR RATE 13.9% - 20.9% (V)
    ANNUAL FEE $0 for 1st yr, $59 after
    REWARDS Miles
    BASE EARN 2 miles / $1
    MAX EARN 2 miles / $1
    • 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.
    • No limit to the miles you can earn.

     
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    4

    Sony Card from Capital One®

    sony credit card
    • 0% PURCHASES until June 2015
    • 0% TRANSFERS Not Offered
    • REGULAR RATE 13.9% - 24.9% (V)
    ANNUAL FEE None
    REWARDS Points
    BASE EARN 1 point / $1
    MAX EARN 5 points / $1
    • Earn 5,000 bonus points after first purchase in your first 90 days.
    • 5 points per $1 at Sony Store and store.sony.com.
    • 3 points per $1 on dining out and movie purchases.
    • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Redeem for Sony products, movies, music & more

     
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    4

    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 Miles
    BASE EARN 1 mile / $1
    MAX EARN 2 miles / $1
    • 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

     
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    4.5

    Chase Sapphire® Card

    chase sapphire credit card
    • 0% PURCHASES Not Offered
    • 0% TRANSFERS Not Offered
    • REGULAR RATE 15.99% (V)
    ANNUAL FEE None
    REWARDS Points
    BASE EARN 1 point / $1
    MAX EARN 3 points / $1
    • 10,000 bonus points when you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening - that's $100 in travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards℠!
    • 2,500 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
    • 2X points on dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
    • Points never expire, and there are no limits on how many points you can earn.
    • Redeem points for travel, gift cards, merchandise, cash back and more.
    • Earn an additional point per dollar spent when you book airfare and hotel accommodations online through Chase Ultimate Rewards℠.

     
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    4

    Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

    gold delta skymiles credit card
    • 0% PURCHASES Not Offered
    • 0% TRANSFERS Not Offered
    • REGULAR RATE 15.24% - 19.24% (V)
    ANNUAL FEE None 1st yr, $95 after
    REWARDS Miles
    BASE EARN 1 mile / $1
    MAX EARN 2 miles / $1
    • Earn 30K bonus miles after you make $1K in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
    • Earn As You Spend: Get 2X miles on Delta purchases and 1X miles for all other eligible dollars spent.
    • 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.
    • Premium Travel Perks: Settle in sooner with Priority Boarding.
    • Terms and Restictions Apply.

     
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    4.5

    The Platinum Card® from American Express

    platinum card
    • BALANCE MUST BE PAID IN FULL EVERY MONTH
    • REGULAR RATENot Applicable for Charge Cards
    ANNUAL FEE $450
    REWARDS Points
    BASE EARN 1 point / $1
    MAX EARN 2 points / $1
    • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
    • Up to a $200 Airline Fee Credit Annually.
    • To receive the statement credit, you need to select a qualifying airline.
    • There are no foreign transaction fees with purchases made on your Platinum Card.
    • Platinum Card Concierge is your personal resource to help secure a last minute restaurant reservation, or shop for a hard-to-find gift.
    • Terms & restrictions apply

     
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    2.5

    Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card – Low Intro APRs

    thank you credit card
    • 0% PURCHASES 15 months
    • 0% TRANSFERS 15 months ;   Fee.....3% (min $5)
    • REGULAR RATE 12.99% - 22.99% (V)
    ANNUAL FEE $0*
    REWARDS Points
    BONUS None
    BASE EARN 1 point / $1
    MAX EARN 2 points / $1
    • 2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on dining at restaurants and entertainment.
    • 1 ThankYou Point on other purchases.
    • Points do not expire and earn unlimited Thank You Points.
    • Redeem ThankYou Points for merchandise, travel rewards, gift cards, cash and more.

     
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    4

    Blue Sky from American Express®

    blue sky credit card
    • 0% PURCHASES 15 months
    • 0% TRANSFERS 15 months ;   Fee.....3%
    • REGULAR RATE 17.24% - 22.24% (V)
    ANNUAL FEE $0
    REWARDS Points
    BASE EARN 1 point / $1
    MAX EARN 1 point / $1
    • Welcome Bonus: Earn 7,500 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
    • Unlimited Travel Options: Every 7,500 points that you earn can be redeemed for a $100 statement credit toward airline tickets, hotel stays and other type of travel.
    • Flexible Ways to Earn: earn 1 point for virtually every dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
    • Terms and Restrictions Apply.

     
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    Ask our Experts
    EXPERT’S ANSWERS

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

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou Well, 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 Obviously, 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 The 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 While 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 Even 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 When 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

    Help others find the best travel rewards credit cards by sharing what your deciding factor was when choosing your card (customer service, interest rate, fees, convenience, rewards, etc.)

     
    June 23, 2014
    Photo of Brutus S.
    By: Brutus Smith
    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.
    February 25, 2014
    Photo of Erika S.
    By: Erika Shira
    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.