Looking over the sheer number of travel credit cards available is enough to overwhelm anyone. With so many cards offering points, miles or cash back, what should you look for in a new travel rewards credit card?
While having options is a good thing, trying to decide which travel rewards credit card to apply for can be a difficult decision. Consider these four factors before you hit that â€śapply nowâ€ť button:
No foreign transaction fees. While up to 3% in foreign transaction fees may not sound like much, it can add more than 30 cents to every $10 you spend abroad. If you plan on traveling abroad, choose a card that doesnâ€™t charge a foreign transaction fee.
Good rewards for spending. For every dollar you spend, you should be able to earn rewards that you can apply directly to your next trip: either flights, hotel rooms or other experiences.
Sign-up bonuses. Most cards offer a sign-up bonus after a required minimum spend. The sign-up bonus should offer a substantial award that justifies the spending needed to get it.
Annual fee. Although most travel cards come with an annual fee, the perks, along with the points or cash back you could earn, should outweigh the cost.
Instead of getting lost looking for the perfect travel rewards card, start with this guide. We found the best travel cards for every lifestyle, each of which offer you some of the best rewards now and over time. If you want good travel rewards for the money you spend, consider adding these credit cards to your wallet.
Why we like it: Because you automatically receive up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year, the Chase Sapphire ReserveÂ®<!–Chase Sapphire ReserveÂ®–> offers solid rewards for what effectively turns into a $150 annual fee ($550<!–Chase Sapphire ReserveÂ®–> annual fee minus up to $300 in statement credits for travel purchases). Additionally, if you renew your card membership from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, your annual fee will be reduced to $450.
Cardholders also receive up to a $100 application fee credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. In addition, you will earn three Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining worldwide, and one point per dollar spent everywhere else. If you make this your primary card, you could earn rewards which value more than the annual fee every year.
Rewards program: Purchases earn points in Chase Ultimate RewardsÂ®, a flexible point program that can be used for travel rewards. One point has a value of 1 cent, but when redeeming for travel through the Chase travel portal, points have a fixed value of 1.5 cents. You can get an even greater value by transferring points to one of Ultimate RewardsÂ® nine airline partners or four hotel partners.
Flexible points that offer good value. Chase Ultimate Rewards are among the most flexible in the travel space, with nine airline and three hotel rewards transfer partners â€“ giving you many different ways to use your points. You can also use points through the Chase travel portal at a fixed rate of 1.5 cents each towards airfare and hotels of your choice.
Exceptional rewards for travel and dining. The Chase Sapphire ReserveÂ®<!–Chase Sapphire ReserveÂ®–> offers a generous amount of points per dollar spent for both travel and dining. If you primarily use this card when you travel, you would earn unlimited triple points on most of your big expenses.
Great travel insurance options. In addition to points earning opportunities and flexible points, this card also offers one of the best travel insurance plans available. When you use your card or Ultimate Rewards points to pay for your trip, you are automatically covered with baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, emergency evacuation insurance and roadside assistance.
High annual fee. One of the biggest cons of this card is the $550<!–Chase Sapphire ReserveÂ®–> annual fee, due immediately in the first year. However, if you renew your card membership from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, your annual fee will be reduced to $450.
Points limit. You wonâ€™t earn higher Chase points for travel until you spend the cardâ€™s $300 annual travel credit before the end of your cardmember anniversary.
Limited travel lounge access. For the high price tag, this card only offers lounge benefits through Priority Pass, a network of lounges around the world. It does not allow entry into any carrierâ€™s lounges and comes with some surprising rules, including limited accommodation during busy times.
No elite status with travel partners. Unlike its nearest competitor, the Chase Sapphire ReserveÂ®<!–Chase Sapphire ReserveÂ®–> does not come with any elite status with partner brands. If you get accepted for this card, donâ€™t expect to get to the front of the line at any hotels or car rental locations.
5X Membership RewardsÂ® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X Membership RewardsÂ® points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
Why we like it: Considered one of the oldest and most prestigious awards cards, The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express<!–The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express–> offers the most elite status, luxury experiences and credits for your spending. When you book trips directly with airlines or American Express Travel, you can also earn five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent, allowing your rewards to rack up quickly. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. If you value luxury experiences and airline lounge access, this card could be a better choice.
Rewards program: Your purchases will earn Membership Rewards points, which can be used with American Express or transferred to their travel partners. When using Membership Rewards points at American Express Travel, your points are valued at 1 cent each, so your best use of points is through transferring to their airline or hotel partners. Points transfer to 18 airline and two hotel loyalty programs, offering the most choices for award travel.
Best lounge access programs. The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express<!–The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express–> offers you the most ways to get into lounges when you travel around the world. In addition to Priority Pass, you can also enter Centurion Lounges and the International American Express lounges on arrival or departure at select airports, as well as Delta Sky Clubs when you are flying on Delta.
Elite status for holding the card. The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express<!–The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express–>also comes with elite status at three car rental and two hotel loyalty programs: Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, National Car Emerald Club, Hilton Honors Gold Elite and Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.
Credits for Boingo Wi-Fi, Global Entry, Shoprunner and Uber. Even with the high annual fee, this premium card also comes with several credits and free services for frequent travelers. Cardholders get free Boingo Preferred Plan membership, free Shoprunner two-day delivery, along with monthly credits for Uber rides and one Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee waiver every five years.
High annual fees. While the card may offer the most status and immediate benefits, it also comes with an expensive annual fee. At $550<!–The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express–> for the annual fee, you will be pay for all your benefits in the first month, before you can get any value from them.
Only one bonus category. Another major downside of this card is that there is only one bonus category: five points per dollar spent directly with airlines or travel booked through Amex Travel. If you do not spend much on prepaid hotel reservations or airfare, you canâ€™t maximize this bonus category effectively.
Limited airline fee credit. For years, The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express<!–The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express–> was the only card to offer an airline fee credit. Today, it is one of the most limited: $200 only usable towards airline fees, available for only one airline you choose at the beginning of the year.
To see rates & fees for The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express<!–The Platinum CardÂ® from American Express–>, please click here.
Best travel cards for simple rewards
While earning points and miles can be rewarding, some of the best programs are simple and straightforward. When we looked for the best simple rewards credit cards, we looked for those that not only offered cash back, but also bonuses for spending and redeeming, along with a low annual fee. After considering all our options, these are the best travel rewards cards for simple rewards.
Best cashback travel rewards card
Capital OneÂ® VentureÂ® Rewards Credit Card
Why we like it: The Capital OneÂ® VentureÂ® Rewards Credit Card has a simple rewards program earning you the same amount of miles for all your spending. So, no need to worry about bonus categories â€” simply use your card on all purchases to rack up miles.
Rewards program The Capital OneÂ® VentureÂ® Rewards Credit Card offers 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. You can redeem miles in several ways: as a statement credit for travel purchases via Purchase EraserÂ®, for new travel purchases made with the Rewards Center, for a check, account credit, gift card and more. Travel purchases eligible for Purchase EraserÂ® include: airlines, hotels, rail lines, car rental agencies, limousine services, bus lines, cruise lines, taxi cabs, travel agents and timeshares. Keep in mind that these redemptions must be made within 90 days from the date your travel purchase posts to your account.
Easy to use rewards. You can easily redeem your points in a variety of ways and Purchase EraserÂ® makes is simple to get a statement credit for travel purchases made within the past 90 days.
New points transfer. You can now transfer the miles you earn to 15 travel loyalty programs.
Visa SignatureÂ® benefits. As a Visa SignatureÂ® card, you can benefit from travel perks including lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, the Visa SignatureÂ® Luxury Hotel Collection with over 900 properties and more when you use your card. Certain restrictions, limitations, and exclusions apply.
Annual fee. The card is slightly expensive for earning two miles per dollar toward travel, currently $95. If you donâ€™t travel abroad often, there are other cards that offer the same cash back with no annual fee, though they may lack some of the travel perks this card offers.
Fewer points. There are other cards on the market that offer more miles for travel-related spending.