Best Travel Credit Cards

Travel credit cards offer valuable rewards for all, whether you travel for business, pleasure, or both. Excellent perks like free checked bags or complimentary airport lounge access are the standard – both enticing and well worth it. From points and miles to luxury perks, these travel credit card offers from our partners are the best around.

Travel credit cards offer valuable rewards for all, whether you travel for business, pleasure, or both. Excellent perks like free checked bags or complimentary airport lounge access are the standard – both enticing and well worth it. From points and miles to luxury perks, these travel credit card offers from our partners are the best around.

By: Laura Mohammad

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September 1, 2020

Best travel credit cards of September 2020

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
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Rewards Rate

2X
Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
50,000 miles

50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
17.24% - 24.49% variable

Excellent

Credit Recommended (740-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
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Rewards Rate

2X
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
2X
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
50,000 miles

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee
$99, waived for first 12 months
Regular APR
15.99% - 24.99% variable

Excellent

Credit Recommended (740-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

2X
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services
2X
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
1X
Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
10,000 miles

Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
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Rewards Rate

1.5X
Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
Discover Match®

Unlimited Bonus: Only Discover will automatically match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There's no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.

Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% variable
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3X
Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
35,000 points

Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.

Annual Fee
$250
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR

Excellent

Credit Recommended (740-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

3X
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit
3X
3X points on dining at restaurants
1X
1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
50,000 points

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Annual Fee
$550
Regular APR
16.99% - 23.99% variable

Good to Excellent

Credit Recommended (670-850)

CreditCards.com credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.
Apply Now

Rewards Rate

2X
2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
1X
1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro Bonus
40,000 points

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Annual Fee
$69
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank's website for the most current information.

All information about Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, United℠ Business Card and Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.


A guide to choosing the best travel credit card

A travel rewards credit card is a lending product that offers points and miles for traveling, including for airline, hotel, restaurant and transportation categories and can be your ticket to sandy beaches or that trip to Japan that you’ve long dreamed of.

If you’re hesitant about travel right now, you might think that a travel card isn’t something on your immediate horizon. But if you think in the long term, you can actually leverage your spending on a travel card to earn rewards that you can use when the crisis abates.

Consider cards that reward for things you need to buy anyway, such as toilet paper, soaps, food and other basic needs (although we advise against hoarding purchases). Consider a general-purpose travel card or a card that rewards on popular streaming services, such as the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card.

The point is to save up your points and miles today for that trip you may be able to take in the future. Here is what else we look at for you:


best travel credit cards of 2020

Summary of the best travel credit cards of 2020

Credit Card Best travel perk Annual Fee CreditCards.com Rating
The Platinum Card® from American Express Luxury travel benefits $550 4.5 / 5
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Up to $100 toward Global Entry/ TSA PreCheck $95 4.2 / 5
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card No limit on how many miles you can earn $0 3.5 / 5
American Express® Gold Card Baggage insurance $250 4.3 / 5
Discover it® Miles International acceptance $0 4.0 / 5
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Priority Pass™ Select $550 4.6 / 5
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® Overall travel benefits $99, waived for the first 12 months 4.1 / 5
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card Baggage delay insurance $69 3.7 / 5

Research methodology: How we chose the best travel cards

With international travel slowing down, we understand the concerns around carrying a travel credit card. However, we’re here to help you navigate through this time and maximize your card for future travel. Read on to find out more about the best travel credit cards.

Number of cards we analyzed: 300

Criteria Used: Rewards rates, rewards categories, sign-up bonus, point values, transfer partners, redemption options, redemption flexibility, annual fee, other rates and fees, travel credits, airport lounge access, travel accident insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, concierge service, other travel benefits, travel portal functionality, credit needed, customer service, events or other perks.

Best Travel Credit Cards

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why this is the best travel credit card for annual travel credits

The Platinum Card’s annual travel credits are unparalleled – earn up to a $200 annual airline fee credit for checked baggage and more, as well as up to $200 in annual Uber credits (that’s up to $15 a month plus a $20 bonus in December).

Pros

You can also earn annual credits of up to $100 each year on Saks Fifth Avenue purchases (enrollment required) and earn complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts and a rich welcome offer the first year. Read our Amex Platinum Card review.

Cons

The $550 annual fee might take your breath away when compared to other travel credit cards’ annual fees, although if you use the credits of The Platinum Card, you will more than recoup the cost.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Why this is the best travel credit card for international travel

The Venture Rewards card comes with no foreign transaction fee – perfect for sightseeing in London when you feel ready. It also offers more than 10 travel partners, including Air France/KLM and Etihad Airways.

Pros

This general-purpose travel card is a solid, straightforward product, offering excellent rewards benefits. The card’s credit of up $100 toward the cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck stands out. You won’t have to pay hundreds in an annual fee for a chance to skip U.S. immigration and customs lines or breeze through airport security without fumbling with your shoes, belt or laptop. Check out our Capital One Venture Rewards review.

Cons

If you’re looking to maximize your sign-up bonus (and spend), you might want to look elsewhere, because you can do better than the Venture Rewards card’s 50,000 miles sign-up bonus (after a $3,000 spend within the first 3 months). Also, the $95 annual fee is unwaived the first year.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

Why this is the best introductory airline credit card

There certainly are airline cards with better sign-up bonuses and rewards rates, but the lack of an annual fee makes this a great starter airline card. Those who spend modestly and travel occasionally will appreciate the low spend threshold for the sign-up bonus: Spend just $500 within the first 3 months of opening an account and you’ll earn 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit.

Pros

In addition to 2X miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, you’ll also get the same rate at grocery stores, which adds tremendously to the earning potential for the average consumer. All other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar spent.

Cons

Be aware that the AAdvantage® travel program does have some limitations. You may run into blackout dates, limited seating for award bookings and restrictive routing requirements.

American Express® Gold Card

Why this is the best travel credit card for travel insurance

Trips with common carriers that are booked with your Gold card are covered for baggage insurance. That means if your bags are lost or stolen, you’ll be reimbursed for up to $1,250 for carry-on bags and $500 for checked bags. The Gold card also covers car rental insurance in the case of damage or theft.

Pros

Traveling foodies, rejoice – the 4 points per dollar at restaurants apply worldwide. You’ll also earn 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then one point per dollar) and 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com.

Cons

The annual fee is $250, pricier than the annual fees charged by most travel credit cards but not as high as the annual fees of luxury cards. Unless food is a significant portion of your spending, you’ll probably get more value from a different travel card.

Discover it® Miles

Why this is the best travel credit card for earning miles

Discover offers an unlimited bonus in which all of the Discover it Miles you’ve earned will be matched at the end of your first year. That means if you earn 35,000 miles for the year, your bounty becomes 70,000 miles at the end of the first year, or $700. Plus, there’s no annual fee.

Pros

This card’s rewards program is quite flexible: It comes with no blackout dates, and you can redeem miles for statement credits or even cash. As our Discover it Miles review puts it: “Because Discover redeems miles by crediting your travel purchases directly to your account, you can fly any airline you want, when you want.”

Cons

Sadly, you can’t transfer miles to a frequent flyer program and boost their value. Also, while there is a match to your first year’s rewards, that doesn’t come to you until the end of that first year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Why this is the best travel credit card for travel insurance

This card’s generous travel insurance protections should give frequent travelers some peace of mind. You can get reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip with the card’s trip cancellation and interruption coverage. You’re also covered for up to $100,000 in emergency evacuation and transportation costs while on a trip and up to $2,500 in emergency medical or dental costs if you’re 100 miles or more from home.

Pros

The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit toward travel purchases (then 3X points on travel after that) is a rare find, as well as the 3X points on dining at restaurants and 1X point on everything else.

Cons

The sign-up bonus for this card is lower than that of the Sapphire Preferred. It’s 50,000 points after a $4,000 spend within the first 3 months. While you earn a 50% boost on travel bookings through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which means the sign-up bonus translates into $750, this card’s annual fee of $550 is hefty.

Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Why this is the best travel credit card for overall travel benefits

This Citi card’s travel features are among the best in the airline landscape – they include 2X miles on eligible American Airlines flight purchases, as well as no foreign transaction fees and a $125 AA flight discount after you spend at least $20k on your card for purchases in your cardmembership year and renew your card. There’s also preferred boarding.

Pros

Like the CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, this card offers some boosted categories that are not necessarily specific to airline travel. For example, you can earn 2X miles at restaurants and gas stations. The sign-up bonus is also quite good: Earn 50k miles after a $2,500 spend within the first 3 months.

Cons

Although it’s waived the first year, there is a $99 annual fee. Also, like the CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select, this card requires excellent credit, so you’ll need to have your credit-score ducks in a row to get this product.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Why this is the best travel credit card for airline rewards

Earn 125,000 points in a year and you can score one of the most coveted perks in all of travel rewards: the Southwest Companion Pass. This pass lets you bring a companion with you on any Southwest flight you purchase with cash or points for up to the next 2 years for free (minus taxes and fees). Our Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card review breaks down some strategies for earning the pass, including via credit card spend, sign-up bonus, pairing with a Southwest business card and referring a friend.

Pros

With a competitive sign-up bonus, this card also offers 2X points for Southwest purchases, as well as partner hotel and car rental purchases. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus has no blackout dates and no seat restrictions. And while long a great domestic carrier, Southwest is increasingly expanding to go abroad.

Cons

Sadly, the anniversary bonus of 3,000 points is lower than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s, and there’s an annual fee of $69 that isn’t waived the first year.

How to choose a travel credit card

You’ve decided to pursue a travel credit card to earn travel rewards. Where to start? Answer these questions and you’ll get closer to the right decision.

  • Do I want to avoid an annual fee? Some travel cards offer no annual fee, but an annual fee isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you are an occasional traveler, a card with no annual fee is likely best for you. But if you seek certain perks or rich rewards, do the math to see if a card with an annual fee is worthwhile – you want to be able to recoup more than the cost of the annual fee.
  • Am I loyal to a specific travel brand? If there is a particular hotel or airline brand that you use often, cards that co-brand with that company may be worth your while. Otherwise, go with a card that rewards for a wide variety of categories and brands.
  • How often will I travel? If you plan to travel often or if there are travel perks you are likely to use, the right travel card can earn you rewards and save you money. Don’t be afraid of high annual fees if perks are a must for you.
  • Am I planning a big trip? If you have a major trip planned, look closely at the card’s sign-up bonus, because the right one can help you earn rewards you can redeem for that trip or part of that trip.
  • Will I travel overseas? While most travel cards waive foreign transaction fees, some are not widely accepted in other parts of the world. Pay attention to the network that the card participates in (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express), and where they are accepted.

Which type of travel credit card is best for you?

Travel cards come in a few different flavors, including general-purpose travel cards and co-branded travel cards. Here, we look at the pluses and minuses of key types of travel cards.

General travel credit cards

What is a general travel credit card?

A general travel card is a product that will typically offer more flexibility on travel redemption than the co-branded travel cards, but sometimes that’s at a cost.

How does a general travel credit card work?

While some general travel cards simply post all manner of travel for you to redeem through a statement credit, others offer boosted rewards when redeeming for travel through an issuer-specific portal, such as the Citi ThankYou program. These cards will also often have partnerships with select airlines and hotel brands.

Who are general travel cards best for?

If you need flexibility in choice of airlines and hotel brands or you are a last-minute booker, then a general travel card is probably the best option, because they typically partner with a variety of brands and blackout dates are often not a problem with these cards.

Advantages and disadvantages of general travel credit cards

Advantages Disadvantages
Airport lounge access: Premium travel cards can offer access to airport lounges, great for that lengthy layover. Limited redemption value: You may get more points valuation with an airline card, and hotel cards are packed with perks you may not see with these cards.
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry: Some cards can offer up to $100 in reimbursement through a statement credit for these programs. Limited travel and purchase benefits: Travel cards benefits can be scanty, while some can offer benefits like car rental insurance and travel accident insurance.
Special card issuer rewards boosts: A few cards offer an increase for redemptions for booking travel through their travel portals.

Airline credit cards

What is an airline credit card?

An airline credit card, also called a co-branded card, is a product that partners a bank with an airline and encourages loyalty through rewards earned by favoring the brand.

How does an airline credit card work?

Typically, you earn boosted miles by spending on specific items, such as plane tickets, in-flight purchases, and sometimes such expenditures as restaurants, gas stations and even grocery stores. Heads up that redemption values can be at a lower rate when you choose to redeem for merchandise, donations to charities or gift cards. Instead, opt for redeeming for flights and other airline-specific purchases.

Who are airline credit cards best for?

If you are loyal to a specific brand or you live near a hub of a specific airline, airline cards can be a good choice. Also, if you enjoy the idea of looking for ways to max on your rewards and redemptions, these cards can get you what you are looking for. Finally, there are unique benefits to many of these cards.

Advantages and disadvantages of airline credit cards

Advantages Disadvantages
Airport lounges: If you travel often but don’t love time spent in airports, this is an excellent benefit for you. Blackout dates: Airline cards are notorious for having blackout dates and requiring more miles during peak periods.
Travel and purchase benefits: Although card issuers are increasingly opting out of offering travel and purchase benefits, airline travel cards will often still offer features such as travel insurance and extended warranties. Miles may expire: Do your research and keep your account active to ensure that your miles are still good for future travel use.
Free checked bag: The average first checked bag costs $30, which can add up for the frequent flyer. Limits to redemptions: While an airline program may allow redemptions for merchandise and gift cards, it’s usually best to redeem for airline purchases.
Priority boarding: Some airline cards offer the added advantage of priority boarding in the main cabin.
Companion fares: Airline credit cards will sometimes offer companion fares, but the details depend on the card. Some tickets are dependent upon the cabin class, while others can be based on card spending.
Elite Status: Luxury cards can offer lucrative features that make traveling much more comfortable, like lounge access and upgrades.

Hotel credit cards

What is a hotel credit card?

Like an airline card, a hotel credit card encourages loyalty to a specific hotel brand, whether through using a favored credit card or choosing the brand’s properties for stays.

How does a hotel credit card work?

With a hotel card, you can enjoy specific perks for staying at that brand’s locations while earning points for making purchases. In exchange, you can enjoy free nights and other benefits with your award points.

Who are general hotel credit cards best for?

Like airline cards, a hotel card best serves the cardholder who favors that brand or travels to a certain area. The reason is two-fold: You get better deals on your points and perks specific to the chain and you can then redeem the points you’ve earned at the brand you’ve chosen.

Advantages and disadvantages of hotel credit cards

Advantages Disadvantages
Use any time: Blackout dates are less of an issue with hotel rewards programs, although there may be limited available rooms during a peak period. Confusing opportunities: Hotel rewards programs usually have multiple tiers, each with their own perks, making it potentially tough to understand what you qualify for.
Free nights: In addition to nights earned through hotel rewards programs, there are free night opportunities through select hotel cards. Limited locations: With larger chains there are thousands of locations worldwide, but you may not find a large chain in the neighborhood or small town that you are going to.
Early check-in/late check-out: Some cards offer express check-out or late check-out. Others offer early check-in as well. Annual Fee: The charge may be waived the first year, but plan on it appearing on your statement every year thereafter. You’ll want to weigh the perks and free nights with the annual fee.

Comparing a general, airline and hotel travel credit card

Credit Card Annual Fee Rewards Rate Intro bonus
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi (General) $0 4% cash back on eligible gas worldwide*, 3% on restaurant worldwide and eligible travel purchases, 2% on all other Costco purchases, 1% on all other purchases. N/A
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus® Credit Card (Airline) $69 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases, 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. 40,000 points (after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months)
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (Hotel) $95 Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio, earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations and earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card. 125,000 bonus points(after spending 2,000 on eligible purchases in first 3 months)

The cards listed above that have annual fees offer generous intro bonuses and rewards rates, and can supersede those that do not carry annual fees. However, whether an annual fee is worth it for you depends on your travel purchases and how much you spend in certain areas. If an annual fee is a deal breaker for you, we’ve found that consumers have had good luck with getting the annual fee waived when they asked, so that’s an option.


Related Travel and Rewards Card Categories:


Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura’s work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and Associated Press.


Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Credit Cards