BACK

Cashing In Q&A columns

What counts as travel on a travel rewards card?

Summary

Find out how to make sure you’re getting the points you are expecting for certain travel-related purchases.

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Dear Cashing In,

What constitutes “eligible purchases” for travel purchases? Does it include buying airline tickets? – Malcolm

Dear Malcolm,

When it comes to categories that can earn you extra rewards points, travel is one of the most common. Some of the best known cards from the biggest banks, including Chase, Citi and American Express, offer category bonuses for travel expenditures. Other card companies, including Capital One and Bank of America, offer cards that allow you to redeem points to pay for travel-related purchases.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Tony a question.

See related: Maximizing card rewards after you’ve earned the sign-up bonus

Don’t rely on just one card

One smart technique for racking up reward points quickly is to have a few cards with different category bonuses, then orient your spending on those cards toward those categories. For instance, you might have one card that gives bonuses for travel, a second that gives bonuses for groceries and maybe a third that gives bonuses on gas. If you can remember to use the correct card when paying, your rewards can quickly multiply.

Travel tends to be a popular category for card issuers because people who express interest in travel and spend money on traveling tend to be desirable customers for banks.

Of course, as you point out, anytime a card offers a category bonus, there’s always the question of what expenditures qualify in that category. The answer is not always clear, and different issuers can define their categories differently. Let’s look at what some of the different banks say about how they define the travel category:

Chase

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred both offer bonuses on travel expenses. On its website, Chase says that the travel category includes “airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.” It lists some exceptions, too, such as tourist attractions and merchants located inside hotels.

Citi

For bonus points on the Citi Costco Anywhere Visa, the travel category includes “airfare, hotels, car rentals, travel agencies, cruise lines and Costco Travel.” For the Citi ThankYou Premier card, the list is more expansive: “purchases at airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators, gas stations, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, subways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages, campgrounds and trailer parks, timeshares, bus lines, motor home/recreational vehicle rentals and boat leases and rentals.”

American Express

The high-dollar The Platinum Card® from American Express card gives 5x points on purchases direct from airlines or on flights and hotels booked through its travel portal.

See related: How to transfer AmEx points between airlines

Bank of America

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card allows you to redeem points for travel purchases such as “flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees.”

Capital One

Capital One Venture cards allow cardholders to redeem points to pay for travel expenditures including “airline tickets, car rentals, hotels, travel packages, cruises, and more.”

There are some differences between how these card issuers describe travel, but you can see that one constant is that airline flights do count as “travel.” So you should feel free to use your card to buy airline tickets with the knowledge that you will earn the extra points.

What’s up next?

In Cashing In Q&A columns

Why do I keep getting rejected for a new card?

Even though you repaid the balance, don’t expect complete forgiveness

Published: July 21, 2017

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: August 14th, 2019
Business
15.55%
Airline
17.50%
Cash Back
17.63%
Reward
17.50%
Student
17.69%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.