Travel is making a comeback as more and more people are getting vaccinated. Do you have the right credit card to book your first vaccine vacation?
I can’t tell you how much I miss traveling. Exploring places I’ve never been, trying foods only locals know how to cook right, filling my phone with views I fell in love with until it begs for mercy and freed space.
Naturally, as soon as I got my COVID-19 vaccination appointments, I started making travel plans.
I’m sure many people are doing the same thing – and I love that for us! Now, I consider it my responsibility to help you prepare for your vaccine vacation by using the right card for it. Read on to learn about the best credit cards to book and take on your post-vaccination trip.
Best credit cards for vaccine vacation
|Card||Rewards||Key features||Annual fee|
|American Express® Gold Card||$250|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||$550|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||$95|
American Express® Gold Card: Best for foodies
The American Express® Gold Card is the card I’m using for my vaccine vacation because it makes it so easy to earn travel rewards. With 4 points per dollar on U.S. supermarket purchases and dining at restaurants (4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar), 3 points per dollar on airfare booked through the American Express Travel Portal and 1 point per dollar on everything else, you’ll collect thousands of points in no time.
I consider the Amex Gold’s 4-point-per-dollar categories very lucrative. A girl has got to eat, and the card rewards me whether I’m eating out or buying groceries to cook. I also ramp up my supermarket spending by buying Amazon and Barnes & Noble gift cards.
See related: Things to do when you get the Amex Gold
There’s also an incredible welcome bonus: The card is currently offering 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first six months of card membership. You might also qualify for a special offer from CardMatch and get 75,000 points with the same spend requirement. That’s $750 in airfare if you redeem through the issuer’s travel portal. You can also stretch your points even further when you transfer them to one of Amex’s travel partners, which include Delta, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and more.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for comfortable travel
Yes, it costs $550 per year, but hear me out: This card is bursting at the seams with perks and benefits which easily justify its annual fee. I’d like to start with the $300 annual travel credit that reimburses you for many types of travel expenses during the year. Buying plane tickets? The travel credit applies. Booking a hotel? Check. Riding a Lyft or Uber? The travel credit covers that, too.
Further, the Chase Sapphire Reserve makes traveling really comfortable. You get a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership that offers access to airport lounges in over 1,200 locations around the world. You get credits to cover either a Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership – two programs that simplify your airport experience when you’re going through security lines. On top of that, you get a free Lyft Pink membership that comes with 15% off Lyft rides, relaxed cancellations, priority airport pickups and more.
If you’re a foodie, the Chase Sapphire Reserve also won’t disappoint. With this card, you’ll get a free DashPass membership for a year if you enroll by Dec. 31, 2021, and $60 in DoorDash credits in 2021.
As for the rewards rate, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on dining and travel (after using your $300 travel credit) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The sign-up bonus is pretty generous – 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months with the card. That’s $900 in travel when you redeem through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal since your points are worth 50% more with this redemption option. Not too bad, isn’t it?
Alternatively, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to one of Chase’s transfer partners to get great value. Your best options include Singapore Airlines, World of Hyatt, Southwest Airlines and others.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for simple travel rewardsIf you’d rather have a travel credit card with a lower annual fee and simpler rewards structure, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can be a decent choice.
The Venture earns 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, which means it’s incredibly easy to earn travel rewards with this card. The annual fee is $95, and while it may still seem rather steep, it’s considerably lower than what luxury cards like the Amex Gold and the Chase Sapphire Reserve charge.
Rewards redemption is also simple with the Venture. You can use your miles to book travel through the Capital One Travel Center or redeem them as a statement credit for any previous travel purchase from the last 90 days. That’s as convenient as it gets! There are other redemption options but, as is usually the case with travel cards, they offer a much lower value.
At the same time, consider that the Capital One Venture also doesn’t offer as many impressive perks as those cards. You get your Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee covered, but the rest of the benefits are typical for any travel credit card on the market, including travel accident insurance and secondary car rental insurance.
Currently, you can get a whopping 100,000 miles sign-up bonus after spending $20,000 in the first year with the card. That’s $1,000 in travel when redeemed for travel purchases. If $20,000 feels like a bit much to spend on a single credit card, Capital One offers an alternative: The Venture’s regular welcome offer of 50,000 miles for spending $3,000 in the first three months.
Capital One has an ever-evolving list of transfer partners, and it recently added options with a more favorable 1:1 transfer ratio. Other available options have a 2:1.5 transfer ratio (or 2:1 in select cases), which reduces the value of your rewards compared to redeeming for travel through the Capital One Travel Center or for previous travel purchases.
What I’m doing on my ‘vaxication’
I’ve received the 75,000 points offer on my Amex Gold and got tickets to Russia in August to see my family purely on points. I’m invited to my cousin’s wedding, after which I’m planning to go to St. Petersburg with my mom. St. Petersburg is stunning in summer with its historic architecture, gorgeous bridges and dark blue waters of the Gulf of Finland. I’m so excited!
Needless to say, I love my Amex Gold to pieces and recommend it for your vaccine vacation.
I also used it to book a trip to Chicago in September where I was going to see My Chemical Romance at the Riot Fest. But since the band rescheduled all their tour dates to 2022, I scrapped these plans.
Now my friend and I are thinking to go to Washington state in July. Seattle bookstores, “Twin Peaks” filming locations and Forks are on the agenda (major nerd alert!). I’m probably booking the tickets with my Amex again since the said friend has got the Gold through my referral link, getting me a referral bonus of 30,000 points. With around 10,000 points that I already had in my account, I’ve got about 40,000 points or $400 worth of airfare if I book with Amex.
Do you see why I’m so obsessed with credit cards?
Vacation is always exciting, especially if it’s your first vacation after a yearlong pandemic full of lockdowns and self-quarantining. Prepare for it by getting a travel credit card that will fit your lifestyle and spending. You can check CardMatch for credit card offers tailored to your credit profile – it’s free and doesn’t impact your credit.