Justin Lewis / Getty Images

What counts as travel on a travel rewards card?

Each issuer defines travel a bit differently, and it can be hard to tell which purchases and redemptions qualify

Summary

See if you’re earning the points you expect on travel-related purchases.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Travel is by far one of the most common credit card rewards categories.

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, allow you to redeem points or miles to pay for travel-related purchases.

But when it comes to travel credit cards and other rewards cards, what exactly constitutes an “eligible travel purchase” or redemption? Read on to find out.

What counts as travel?

One smart technique for racking up reward points quickly is to have a few cards with different category bonuses, then gear your spending on those cards toward those categories. If you can remember to use the correct card when paying, your rewards can quickly multiply.

Of course, any time 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 individual issuers define purchase categories differently. Additionally, eligible purchases or redemptions may vary from card to card within the same issuer.

Here’s a quick look at how different card issuers define the travel category on one or more of their cards:

How Chase defines travel

Chase’s premier travel rewards credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, both offer bonuses on a wide variety of travel expenses. Chase’s travel category includes the following:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels/motels
  • Timeshares
  • Car rental agencies
  • Cruise lines
  • Travel agencies
  • Discount travel sites
  • Campgrounds
  • Passenger trains
  • Buses
  • Taxis, limo or rideshare services
  • Ferries
  • Toll bridges and highways
  • Parking lots and garages

It lists some exceptions, too, such as tourist attractions, in-flight goods and services, and merchants located inside hotels and airports.

How Citi defines travel

For bonus points on the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, the travel category includes “airfare, hotels, car rentals, travel agencies, cruise lines and purchases from CostcoTravel.com” For cards that earn Citi ThankYou points, the list is more expansive.

For example, you can get statement credits of up to $250 per calendar year with the luxury Citi Prestige® Card* (which is no longer accepting applications) on the following expenses: airfare, hotel stays, subway rides, rideshare services, parking garages, car rental agencies, travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators, commuter transportation, ferries, commuter railways, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railways, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, parking lots/garages and bus lines.”

How American Express defines travel

The Platinum Card® from American Express offers 5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and on flights and prepaid hotels booked through the American Express Travel portal. You can earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these flight purchases per calendar year. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express also offers 5 points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels booked through the Amex travel portal, but not on direct bookings.

Meanwhile, the American Express® Green Card* features a more expansive list of eligible travel and transit purchases, including:

  • Airfare
  • Hotels
  • Cruises
  • Car rentals
  • Campgrounds
  • Trains
  • Taxis
  • Rideshare services
  • Tours
  • Ferries
  • Tolls
  • Parking
  • Buses
  • Subways
  • Third-party travel websites (that is Orbtiz, Expedia and Priceline)
  • Travel booked through Amex Travel

How Bank of America defines travel

Bank of America’s luxury rewards card, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, defines travel quite broadly, offering an exhaustive list of redemption options for those purchases, including the following:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels/motels
  • Car rental agencies
  • Timeshares
  • Cruise lines
  • Trailer parks
  • Travel agencies
  • Taxis
  • Passenger trains
  • Buses and other commuter transportation
  • Ferries
  • Trailer parks, motor homes and RV rentals
  • Campgrounds
  • Boat rental
  • Tolls
  • Parking lots/garages
  • Tourist attractions like zoos, galleries and amusement parks

How Barclays defines travel

Barclays’ signature travel rewards card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®*, is no longer accepting new applications. But existing cardholders can still earn rewards on every purchase and redeem them for travel.

According to an archived version of the card’s terms, travel redemptions apply to “airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines and ferries.”

While this is an impressive list, not all merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are included. For example, real estate agents, websites or owners that rent properties (like Airbnb), in-flight goods and services and merchants within airports do not qualify as travel.

How Capital One defines travel

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card both allow cardholders to redeem miles to pay for travel expenditures, which include the following:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels
  • Rail lines
  • Car rental agencies
  • Limousine services
  • Bus lines
  • Cruise lines
  • Taxi cabs
  • Travel agencies
  • Timeshares

How Discover defines travel

Discover’s travel rewards card, the Discover it® Miles, earns 1.5 miles on every purchase, regardless of what you buy. According to its website, you can redeem miles (at the same rate) for a statement credit to pay for your travel purchases, which include “hotel rooms, rental cars, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.” You can also opt for cash back at the same rate.

Bottom line

There are some differences between how these card issuers describe travel, but one constant is that airline flights almost always count. Hotel booking and car rentals are also extremely common, along with cruise lines and taxis. Even campgrounds pop up on most cards. Be sure to check if a purchase is eligible for bonus rewards before you choose which card you’ll pay with, and if your rewards aren’t showing up as they should, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your issuer.

* Information about the American Express Green Card, Citi Prestige Card and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuers.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

Credit Card Rate Report
Reward
18.00%
Student
18.66%
Airline
17.81%
Business
16.07%
Cash Back
17.95%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more