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The Best Travel Credit Cards of December 2022

Written by: Jeanine Skowronski | Edited by: Tracy Stewart | Reviewed by: Stephanie Zito
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November 30, 2022

Best travel credit cards of December 2022

BEST FOR OCCASIONAL TRAVELERS
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Our rating:4.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

1.5X
Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.

At A Glance

Intro offer
25,000 points 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
See Terms
BEST WELCOME BONUS
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Our rating:5.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

5x
5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
3x
3x on dining.
2x
2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

At A Glance

Intro offer
60,000 points Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
18.99% - 25.99% variable
BEST FOR UNLIMITED MILES ON PURCHASES
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:5.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

740-850 (Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

10X
Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X
5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X
Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
75,000 miles Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
Annual fee
$395
Regular APR
19.99% - 26.99% variable
BEST FOR REWARDS ON TRAVEL & EVERYDAY SPENDING
Citi Premier® Card
Our rating:4.7 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

3X
Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3X
Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1X
Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
80,000 points For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
19.74% - 27.74% (Variable)
BEST LUXURY TRAVEL CARD
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Our rating:4.8 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

5X
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5X
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn 80,000 points Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Annual fee
$695
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
BEST FOR TRAVELING FOODIES
American Express® Gold Card
Our rating:5.0 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

4X
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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 offer
60,000 points Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
Annual fee
$250
Regular APR
19.74%-26.74% Variable
BEST FOR TRAVEL REWARDS BEGINNERS
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:4.5 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

5X
Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
1.25X
Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.

At A Glance

Intro offer
20,000 miles Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
17.99% - 27.99% variable
BEST FOR FLEXIBLE AIRLINE FEE CREDIT
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
Our rating:4.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

2X
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases
1.5X
Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
50,000 points Receive 50,000 online bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
See Terms
BEST FOR FAIR CREDIT
Credit One Bank Wander® Card
Our rating:3.2 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

580-740 (Fair to Good) 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.

Rewards rate

10X
Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5X
Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1X
Earn 1x points on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro offer
10,000 Bonus Points Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
26.99% variable
BEST FOR BUDGET FLYERS
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Our rating:4.6 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

2X
Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
2X
Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
2X
Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services, and select streaming.
1X
Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn 75,000 points Limited Time Offer: Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Annual fee
$69
Regular APR
18.99% - 25.99% variable
BEST NO ANNUAL FEE AIRLINE CARD
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
Our rating:3.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

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 offer
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
19.74% - 28.74% (Variable)
BEST NO ANNUAL FEE TRAVEL CREDIT CARD
Discover it® Miles
Our rating:3.9 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

1.5X
Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Discover Match® Unlimited Bonus: Only Discover gives you an unlimited match of 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
15.74% - 26.74% variable
BEST HOTEL CREDIT CARD
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
Our rating:4.7 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

17X
Earn up to 17X total points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Card.
3X
Earn 3X points per $1 on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on grocery stores, gas stations, and dining.
2X
2X points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) Earn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases.
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
18.99% - 25.99% variable
BEST FOR UNITED MILEAGEPLUS MEMBERS
United Quest℠ Card
Our rating:4.1 Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards. The score seen here reflects the card's primary category rating. For more information, you can read about how we rate our cards.

Recommended credit

670-850 (Good to Excellent) 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.

Rewards rate

3X
Earn 3x miles on United® purchases
2X
Earn 2x miles on dining including eligible delivery services, select streaming services, and all other travel
1X
1X on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro offer
80,000 Bonus Miles Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Annual fee
$250
Regular APR
19.49% - 26.49% variable
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The information about the IHG® Rewards Premier has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuers.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.


Comparing the best travel credit cards of 2022

Credit cardBest forIntro bonusAnnual feeCreditCards.com rating
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardGeneral purpose travel rewards75,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening$954.6 / 5
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit cardOccasional travelers25,000 online bonus points after you make $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening$04.1 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred®Welcome bonus60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening$955.0 / 5
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit CardUnlimited miles on purchasesEarn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening (equal to $750 in travel).$3954.9 / 5
Citi Premier® CardRewards for travel & everyday expenses80,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening$954.7 / 5
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressLuxury travel benefits80,000 points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of card membership$6954.8 / 5
American Express® Gold CardTraveling foodies60,000 points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months$2504.7 / 5
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit CardTravel rewards beginners20,000 miles after spending $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening$04.2 / 5
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit cardFlexible airline fee credit50,000 online bonus points after you make $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening$954.1 / 5
Chase Sapphire Reserve®Sign-up bonus & welcome perks80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening$5505.0 / 5
Credit One Bank Wander® CardFair credit10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days$953.2 / 5
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit CardBudget flyers75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.$694.6 / 5
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ CardNo-annual-fee airline card10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening$03.2 / 5
Discover it® MilesNo annual feeDiscover Match: Discover will automatically match all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year$04.1 / 5
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit CardHotelsEarn 3 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months$954.5 / 5
United Quest℠ CardUnited MileagePlus members80,000 bonus miles if you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months$2504.5 / 5

best travel credit cards of 2022

Editor’s picks: Best travel credit card details

Best general-purpose travel card: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: For a reasonable $95 annual fee, this popular Capital One credit card offers simplicity without skimping on rewards. Cardholders earn a generous 2X miles on every purchase, which can be redeemed as a statement credit toward travel, including hotel and airline purchases.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Capital One doesn’t have many domestic travel transfer partners. This can make it harder to maximize the value of your miles when booking domestic flights.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking to earn at a flat-rate but aren’t too pleased with the Venture card’s $95 annual fee, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is a suitable alternative. Although cardholders only earn 1.25X miles on all purchases, the card still comes with a sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles for spending $500 in the first three months. This is a smaller bonus and a lower rewards rate than the Venture card’s, but it’ll also be easier to obtain, making this an ideal option for modest spenders.
  • Bottom line: This card is a great option if you’re looking for an easy way to earn high travel rewards on all purchases. But if you’re after top-drawer travel perks, you may want to look elsewhere.

Related: How to maximize your Venture rewards card?

Read our Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for occasional travelers: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

  • Best features: This card will appeal to travelers looking for flexible redemption options. Instead of booking through a designated travel portal, you can redeem your points for any travel and dining purchases made on your credit card within the last 12 months. That includes bookings on third-party sites like Expedia or Travelocity.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The best rewards are reserved for Bank of America customers with savings or investment accounts. If that’s not you, you can likely find another card that rewards your travel purchases at a higher rate.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One VentureOne is similar in that it does not charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fee. But it also has a number of valuable purchase and travel protections that help give the card more value.
  • Bottom line: The Bank of America Travel Rewards card is a solid choice for occasional travelers focused on earning some rewards and avoiding an annual fee.

Related: Is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card worth it?

Read our Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best welcome bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Best features: The card’s 60,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 in your first three months is worth $750 in travel purchases when you redeem via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. That level of value is truly a rare find on a card with only a $95 annual fee.
  • Biggest drawbacks: If you’re looking for a card that helps you travel in comfort and style, you may need to look beyond the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It lacks the luxury features like travel credits and lounge access that come with premium travel rewards cards that carry higher annual fees.
  • Alternatives: If you spend heavily on travel, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a solid choice thanks to its premium perks and a generous $300 annual travel credit to put toward airfare or bag fees, which can go a long way toward covering the card’s $550 annual fee.
  • Bottom line: A modest annual fee, impressive sign-up bonus and ultra-flexible rewards redemption give this card great short- and long-term value for travelers who don’t need a ton of luxury perks.

Related: Why the CSP is a great first travel card

Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for unlimited miles on purchases: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: This premium travel rewards card makes it easy to earn unlimited miles on more than just travel purchases. When you book through Capital One Travel, you’ll get unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars and 5X miles on flights. All other purchases will earn 2X miles. Plus, the first-year savings are impressive thanks to the sign-up bonus. Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Limited flexibility: To get the best value out of this card given its $395 annual fee, you’ll have to book your travel through Capital One Travel instead of going directly through an airline or hotel.
  • Alternatives: If you don’t mind getting to your destinations without all the bells and whistles that come with a luxury travel card, take a look at the more budget-friendly Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
  • Bottom line: The Venture X should appeal to both frequent travelers who want to earn more than just 1 mile per dollar on all non-travel purchases and luxury travelers who want to enjoy premium travel without paying the typical sky-high annual fees.

Read our Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for rewards on travel & everyday spending: Citi Premier® Card

  • Best features: For a $95 annual fee, cardholders earn triple points, not only on air travel, hotels and dining but also supermarket and gas station purchases, two of the most popular everyday spending categories. There’s also a sign-up bonus that tops the welcome offers found with many other mid-level travel cards and an annual hotel credit, which could make it easier to offset the card’s annual fee every year.
  • Biggest drawbacks: If you want to transfer your points in the hopes of getting more value out of your rewards, JetBlue is the only domestic carrier on Citi’s list of airline partners, which can make it harder to book domestic travel.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is similar but may be a more attractive option due to its travel protection coverage. Plus, Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program includes a robust list of airlines and hotel partners with its Ultimate Rewards program.
  • Bottom line: Someone looking to earn rewards on travel and everyday expenses will appreciate the versatility of the Citi Premier Card, not to mention its excellent welcome bonus.

Read our Citi Premier Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best luxury travel card: The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Best features: This premium card comes fully-loaded with travel benefits, including luxury lounge access and elite status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy hotels upon enrollment, which entitles you to a range of free upgrades. Travelers will also enjoy a laundry list of travel credits that’ll help offset the card’s annual fee.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The card only earns bonus rewards on flights and prepaid hotels. This may make it less useful for earning rewards than cards with lower annual fees that offer bonus points or miles on both travel and everyday essentials. Plus, some of the credits – like the card’s luxury fitness credit or Walmart+ credit – don’t have broad appeal, making it harder to offset the high $695 annual fee.
  • Alternatives: Unlike the Platinum card, the American Express® Gold Card lets you earn high bonus rewards for purchases made in categories beyond travel, including restaurant and U.S. supermarket purchases. It also comes with a lot of the same benefits as the Platinum card, such as car rental insurance, purchase protection and Hotel Collection benefits, all for a much smaller $250 annual fee.
  • Bottom line: If you can take advantage of its many perks, this card should tick all the right boxes for big spenders and frequent travelers looking for luxury travel perks, particularly complimentary airport lounge access.

Read our American Express Platinum Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for traveling foodies: American Express® Gold Card

  • Best features: Traveling foodies, rejoice – this card offers an industry-leading 4X points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery in the U.S. 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. Trips with common carriers that are booked with your Gold card are covered for baggage insurance worth up to $1,250 for carry-on bags and $500 for checked bags.
  • Biggest drawbacks: The annual fee is $250, pricier than other travel rewards cards with mid-level travel perks. And unless food is a significant portion of your spending, the card’s rewards rate and food delivery credits may not be the best fit.
  • Alternatives: The Citi Premier® Card comes close to matching the Amex Gold with its rewards rates, but its annual fee is much lower than the Amex Gold card’s (just $95).
  • Bottom line: If you’re a frequent traveler who makes dining out a staple of their vacations and staycations, you’ll get a lot of value with this card.

Read our American Express Gold Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for travel rewards beginners: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

  • Best features: The VentureOne card is a basic travel card for beginners who want to earn flexible rewards but aren’t ready to commit to a travel card with an annual fee. VentureOne cardholders can earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel as well as 1.25X miles on every other purchase. These miles can be transferred to numerous airline and hotel partners.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Other no-annual-fee travel cards offer better perks and higher rewards rates than the VentureOne’s 1.25X miles.
  • Alternatives: Occasional travelers who want the flexibility to redeem rewards for more than just travel might get better value out of a general-purpose credit card like the Citi® Double Cash Card. It doesn’t charge an annual fee and has a higher base rewards rate than the VentureOne (as long as you pay off your balances on time). Citi ThankYou rewards are more flexible than Capital One miles and can be used in a variety of ways without sacrificing redemption value, including for travel.
  • Bottom line: Budget-friendly travelers can get a decent amount of value out of this starter travel card, but if transferring rewards to travel partners isn’t a priority for you, a flat-rate cash back card may be more lucrative.

Read our Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for flexible airline fee credit: Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

  • Best features: To help offset the $95 annual fee, cardholders get up to $100 annually in airline incidental statement credits, which will automatically be applied to your card statement for qualifying purchases like baggage fees and seat upgrades. This applies to a variety of eligible airlines, which is a nice feature since airline fee credits with competing rewards cards are often limited to one airline.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Unlike many travel rewards cards with an annual fee, this card doesn’t let you transfer rewards to partner airline or hotel loyalty programs to squeeze more value out of your points. Plus, the card’s best rewards rates are reserved for people with large savings or investment accounts.
  • Alternatives: The Citi Premier card offers 3 points per dollar on flights, hotels and dining versus the Bank of America Premium Rewards card’s 2 points per dollar. Citi Premier also offers 3 points per dollar on gas and grocery spending, giving you a chance to earn rewards on your everyday purchases.
  • Bottom line: This card could be a good fit for heavy packers who can take advantage of the airline incidental fee credits or people who already have a Bank of America checking account. Those who are loyal to one airline or don’t bank with Bank of America may not find much value in this card.

Read our Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best sign-up bonus & welcome perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Best features: This top-of-the-line card comes with a wealth of travel perks, including a sign-up bonus worth $1,200 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards (80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months). There’s also a $300 annual credit for travel purchases that can be used for flights, hotel stays, taxi rides and public transportation.
  • Biggest drawbacks: If dining rewards and traveling in comfort and style are not your main focus, this card and its $550 annual fee won’t provide much value.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking for a card with annual credits and luxury lounge access, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a wider network but carries a slightly higher annual fee of $695.
  • Bottom line: Frequent travelers who can take full advantage of the Sapphire Reserve card’s perks and bonus categories may find the steep annual fee worth the cost.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Read our Chase Sapphire Reserve review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for fair credit: Credit One Bank Wander® Card

  • Best features: Even people with fair credit can take advantage of the card’s bonus rewards in a variety of travel categories. Many travel cards only earn generous bonus rewards for airline or hotel purchases or for travel booked through the issuer’s travel portal. But the Wander card is more flexible, giving you more freedom to book travel the way you like.
  • Biggest drawbacks: There are no transfer partners, so your points are worth a maximum of 1 cent each. Plus, the card has fewer perks compared to other mid-level cards with a similar annual fee.
  • Alternatives: Your options are limited if you’re looking for another travel card open to people with fair credit. But many Capital One cards like the Capital One Walmart Rewards® Mastercard® or the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card could help you rack up a lot of rewards that you can use to help cover the cost of travel. You can also take advantage of convenient and cost-saving features found in the Capital One Travel Portal.
  • Bottom line: This is a solid pick for credit-builders who want to earn travel rewards while they work to build their credit score.

Read our Credit One Bank Wander® Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for budget flyers: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Best features: This entry-level airline card has some of the same popular features as more expensive Southwest consumer travel cards, including a chance to earn the Southwest Companion Pass® – one of the most coveted perks in all of travel rewards. If you earn 125,000 points in a year, you can pick a companion to fly with you for free (except for taxes and fees) for up to two years on any Southwest flight that you purchase with cash or points.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Unlike some other airline cards, this no-frills card doesn’t earn bonus points in popular everyday categories like gas or grocery stores. Plus, the card’s anniversary bonus of 3,000 points is lower than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s bonus.
  • Alternatives: The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card may be a better fit for budget travelers. It comes with a $0 intro annual fee (then $99 a year) and a chance to earn bonus miles faster thanks to practical bonus categories including not only travel, but also restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. It also has a number of convenient features like priority boarding and a chance to earn a $100 Delta flight credit. Plus, Delta and its partner network are much more extensive than Southwest.
  • Bottom line: The Rapid Rewards Plus card is a decent choice for occasional Southwest flyers looking for a cheap rewards travel card. But if you fly Southwest frequently and want to double your anniversary points while avoiding foreign transaction fees, consider upgrading to the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and its higher annual fee of $99.

Related: Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card worth it?

Read our Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best no annual fee airline card: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

  • Best features: This no-annual-fee airline card gives households a chance to earn miles on more than just travel. You’ll earn 2X miles not only on eligible American Airlines purchases, but also at grocery stores, which increases the card’s earning potential for the average consumer. The MileUp card also has a low spend threshold for its sign-up bonus: Spend just $500 in your first three months and you’ll earn 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit.
  • Biggest drawbacks: This card lacks a number of cost-saving perks found with other airline cards, including a first checked bag free for you and additional passengers and a chance to earn travel credits for your spending. Depending on how often you fly and how many people you travel with, you could actually save more money with a travel card that charges an annual fee.
  • Alternatives: The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card has a similar rewards rate and charges no annual fee for the first year, then $99 thereafter. That gives you time to test out perks you won’t find with the MileUp card, like priority boarding, a first checked bag free for you and eight additional passengers and a chance to earn a $100 flight credit after spending $10,000 in a calendar year.
  • Bottom line: This card is worth a look if you’re loyal to American Airlines but only fly occasionally and are looking for a no-annual-fee credit card. But if you want the flexibility to fly with different carriers while still earning high rewards, you may get better value out of a general-purpose travel rewards card.

Read our American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best no-annual-fee travel credit card: Discover it® Miles

  • Best features: The Discover it® Miles offers simplicity and flexibility without the annual fee. All purchases earn 1.5X miles, which is a fairly average offer. But Discover sweetens the deal by matching all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. You can redeem your rewards at any time without fear of blackout dates, expiration dates or mile limits.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Discover only matches the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, and the card’s ongoing rewards rate means its earning potential takes a big dip after that. Plus, you can’t transfer miles to partner airline and hotel programs, so you won’t be able to redeem your miles for greater value than one cent per mile.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is another solid no-annual-fee travel card. It not only offers a flat rate of 1.25X miles on every purchase, but also 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. That could make it easier for frequent travelers to earn rewards. It also has a number of travel and consumer protections that you won’t find with most entry level travel cards, including the Discover it Miles.
  • Bottom line: This card’s generous first-year welcome offer is ideal for budget-friendly travelers or someone looking for their first travel credit card.

Related: Is the Discover it Miles card worth it?

Read our Discover it Miles review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best hotel credit card: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

  • Best features: This card offers great long-term value for frequent travelers who stay at the world’s largest hotel chain a few nights or more per year. You get plenty of chances to offset the $95 annual fee, including a free night every year after your account anniversary (up to 35,000 points) and a high rewards rate in the popular, practical bonus categories of travel, grocery, gas and dining purchases, as well as a flat rate of 2X points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Biggest drawbacks: You can only use your rewards with Marriott hotels. So if you don’t frequent the brand, you’ll be better served by a different hotel credit card or a general-purpose travel rewards card, which offers greater flexibility in how you redeem your rewards.
  • Alternatives: If you’re not loyal to one hotel chain, the Chase Sapphire Preferred should give you more redemption options. It earns bonus points on travel, dining, and select online grocery purchases – points that can be redeemed in a variety of ways, including for travel, or transferred to one of Chase’s airline or hotel partners. And when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, your points have 25% more value.
  • Bottom line: Travelers who stay at Marriott frequently enough to offset the $95 annual fee will appreciate this card. But depending on your spending habits and the hotel features that matter most to you, you may get greater value with another Marriott card.

Read our Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.

Best for United MileagePlus members: United Quest℠ Card

  • Best features: Even semi-frequent United flyers can come out ahead with this mid-tier airline credit card, thanks to all the ways the card’s perks can offset its $250 annual fee. That includes multiple anniversary credits, priority boarding, checked baggage fee waivers and the up to $100 credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee.
  • Biggest drawbacks: Unlike other airline cards with a high annual fee, the United Quest doesn’t offer complimentary lounge access. Plus, the sign-up bonus has a high spend requirement: You’ll need to spend $5,000 in three months to earn the sign-up bonus of 80,000 miles.
  • Alternatives: If the annual fee doesn’t fit your budget, the United℠ Explorer Card is worth a look since it has a $0 intro annual fee (then $95 annually), but still carries a generous sign-up bonus, priority boarding, purchase and travel protections and an up to $100 credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee.
  • Bottom line: The United Quest Card packs in a lot of perks and value, making it a solid pick for loyal United travelers looking for an enhanced travel experience.

Read our United Quest℠ Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.


How do travel credit cards work?

Travel rewards credit cards let you earn points or miles you can redeem for travel purchases. Some offer a flat-rate of return on general purchases, but many offer bonus rewards for typical travel purchases or everyday spending categories, like restaurants, gas or even groceries. Earning points or miles is usually as easy as swiping your card in the right spots, and some cards provide limited-time offers and sign-up bonuses as opportunities to sprinkle more on top.

When it comes to exchanging your miles or points for trips, your redemption options will vary by card. Most travel credit cards stipulate that you redeem points or miles for travel purchases. (Some let you redeem for gift cards or cash back.) You can typically redeem points or miles by booking future trips through a designated portal, like Amextravel.com or Chase Ultimate Rewards, or transferring rewards to an issuer’s travel partners to book flights or hotel stays.

The basics of points and miles cards are pretty much the same. You swipe, tap or insert to make purchases, earn and accumulate rewards, and redeem for a discount on your next trip.

Types of travel cards

Pros and cons of travel credit cards

Although the travel benefits and rewards offerings of travel credit cards are enticing, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each card to determine if it’s the right fit for your travel and spending habits.

Pros

  • Travel for less money. Travel credit cards offer numerous money-saving benefits for cardholders, such as high travel reward rates, sign-up bonuses and travel credits. Benefits like these and others help bring down the overall cost of travel.
  • Generous perks. The best travel cards often come with additional benefits that improve your overall travel experience and make it even more rewarding. Perks such as room upgrades, free nights, statement credits and lounge access are all examples of rewarding benefits offering value while enhancing your travel.
  • Fast track to elite status. Rewards programs may have an elite status which offer maximum program benefits, but often take quite a while to obtain. Some travel rewards cards help cut down on the elite qualification period for airlines, hotels and car rentals, which means you can start earning elite status benefits sooner.

Cons

  • Rewards programs can be complex. Keeping up with the travel rewards card program rules can be confusing, especially when redeeming or transferring points to a travel partner. It takes careful planning and calculation to ensure you are maximizing the value for your rewards.
  • Redemption options may be limited to travel. Travel cards typically provide the best value when redeeming for travel. While some cards offer redemptions for non-travel-related options, such as statement credits or gift cards, these are typically worth less versus travel redemptions.
  • Annual fees. Determining whether an annual fee is worth it can be difficult, and many of the best travel credit cards have yearly costs starting in the $95 to $100 range while some of the high-tier hotel and airline cards and luxury travel cards could have annual fees in the $200 to $700 range.

How to choose a travel credit card

Deciding which travel credit card is best for you can be difficult. Many cards have similar redemption options, earn rewards in the same categories or cost more than you’re willing to pay for an annual fee. The right card for you will provide value with both perks and rewards rates that match your needs and align with purchases you already make.

Who should get a travel credit card

  • Frequent flyers. If you’re someone who spends lots of time up in the air or booking hotel stays, you can absolutely benefit from earning rewards toward flights and free nights with a travel credit card. Regular travelers will also appreciate the additional benefits that relieve certain stresses of the travel experience. If you’re new to travel, look for cards that are less risky, like cards with no annual fee or ones with easy-to-understand rewards. Globetrotters both new and old will also appreciate the lack of foreign transaction fees many travel cards offer.
  • Brand loyalists. Fans of particular airlines and hotel chains can reap some serious rewards with their go-to brands. If you’re someone who sticks to the same spot when it comes to booking your travel, loyal customers can rack up an incredible amount of hotel points or flight miles using a card like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus, American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp or the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.
  • Luxury travelers. Vacationers looking for top-shelf travel perks and valuable rewards programs may have to pay a pretty penny to carry their card, but options like The Platinum Card from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve can easily offset their annual fees. You’ll find high-end earnings rates on your purchases and benefits to back it up. Take advantage of exclusive add-ons, like access to airport lounges, free checked bags, specialty offers and more.
  • Road trippers. If you’re on the road frequently, some travel cards earn rewards on purchases at gas stations and hotel stays. A hotel credit card like one in the Hilton Honors program or Marriott Bonvoy may be a great choice if you regularly take cross-country trips and stay at hotels.

Who should skip a travel credit card

  • Someone looking for flexibility. If you aren’t a frequent traveler or tend to spend the majority of your money on non-travel-related expenses, you may be able to get greater value out of a cash back credit card. These general-purpose cash rewards cards are more versatile than the majority of travel cards. They can help you maximize the amount of points you earn on spending in multiple everyday categories like supermarkets, gas, transit, streaming services or online purchases. And redeeming can be far less complicated and far more flexible. Depending on the credit card, redemption options may include statement credit, direct deposit, check, and travel.
  • Someone prone to overspending. The best travel rewards credit cards can help you save a lot of money but only if you use them strategically. Since rewards cards typically come with higher interest rates, you need to pay your balances in full each month to get the best value. If you can’t, you run the risk of losing more money to interest charges than you earn in rewards. You may even fall into credit card debt. If you aren’t able to pay your balances in full, a low-interest credit card may be a better option.

Do you know how much your points or miles are worth?

Choosing a card based solely on the number of miles or points you stand to earn can be a costly mistake. Redemption values can vary, and points and miles do not always transfer on a 1-to-1 basis, meaning 1,000 “miles” earned do not always translate to 1,000 miles of travel.

For example, the Citi Premier card has a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after spending $4,000 in your first three months of account opening. With the Premier card, most redemption options have a baseline value of 1 cent, so this offer can be worth at least $800. But based on Bankrate’s latest point valuations, we estimate that the right high-value transfer partner could boost your point value up to 1.9 cents on average. That could make your sign-up bonus worth an incredible $1,520.

Compare that to a card like the IHG® Rewards Premier, which offers a sign-up bonus of 140,000 points and 1 Free Night after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. That’s a great offer that can get you a number of free nights, but you’ll need to know the estimated value of your rewards to get a better understanding of just how much your rewards are worth. Since IHG Rewards are estimated to be worth 0.7 cents on average based on our points valuation, that comes out to a value of $980 dollars.

Understanding the true value of your rewards program can help you to maximize value and select the card that offers the best rewards for your spending habits.

How to compare travel credit cards

Finding the right travel card gives you access to a variety of perks and benefits, while also offering overall value. To find the right one, you may find it helpful to compare several cards at once so you can see which one offers the best value for your personal finances and travel habits.

  • Are you an occasional or frequent traveler? Frequent travelers typically have an easier time taking advantage of the numerous perks found with a travel card. If you travel less frequently, then a cash back card may make more financial sense.
  • Are you loyal to a certain airline or hotel? Travel credit cards may be co-branded with specific airlines or hotels, which could provide specific benefits not found with general-purpose cards like free nights and elite status. But if you like flexibility to choose any travel partner when traveling, a general-purpose card may be a better fit.
  • Look for travel perks that matter most to you. Higher rewards status with hotels or airlines, access to airport lounges or automatic elite status are a few examples of travel perks a card might offer. Make sure to look for a card that has more of the features that matter most to you.
  • Know how to earn and redeem maximum rewards. Watch out for restrictions like spending limits, which can hinder your ability to earn maximum rewards. And when redeeming, make sure your card provides the best value. Some travel cards don’t provide the best value when redeeming for non-travel-related options, such as gift cards or statement credits.

How to make the most out of your travel credit card

A travel credit card not only offers payment convenience, but it could offer major perks and benefits for your upcoming travel. Whether planning holiday travel or a winter getaway, there are ways to boost your rewards from a travel credit card that can either enhance your experience or save you money on your trip. If you have your eye on an excursion to Walt Disney World, a ski resort, gathering with family or any other vacation plans, you can use these strategies now to elevate your future travel experience.

  • Score a welcome offer. To make the most of your purchases this holiday season, seek out a welcome offer with an affordable spend requirement. Some of the top sign-up offers could be large enough to help you score free holiday travel.
  • Take advantage of the card’s bonus rewards categories. Finding a travel rewards card offering bonus points for the purchases you are most likely to make is another way to supercharge your points earnings. For example, if your weekly work plans include lunch outside of the office, you could earn 3 points for every $1 spent at restaurants as a Citi® Premier cardholder, maximizing your earnings potential.
  • Consider a travel card that earns transferable points. Transferable points are points earned with one travel card that can be redeemed with another participating program. Based on Bankrate’s latest point valuations, the right high-value transfer partner could be the best way to maximize your rewards earnings.
  • Don’t forget your credit card benefits. Your travel credit card could have hidden credit card perks available to you to make travel more enjoyable and save you money, such as complimentary breakfast at hotels or free checked bags. In just one trip, a family of four could easily recoup a card’s annual fee through baggage fees alone. Other benefits, such as lost baggage coverage, not only reimburse you for clothing, toiletries or medication you had to purchase because of delayed or lost luggage, but provide additional peace of mind while traveling.
  • Skip the foreign transaction fees. Make sure to take along a card that skips this common overseas charge if you are traveling internationally. Many credit cards typically tack on a 3% charge anytime you use the card for a purchase overseas. You can avoid this by choosing a travel credit card that waives foreign transaction fees, such as the Capital One and Discover credit cards.

In the news: How to speed through security using your credit card

Having access to expedited security lanes via TSA Precheck and Global Entry can certainly take the sting out of an otherwise tedious travel experience. Yes, there’s a membership fee to join ($85 for five years of TSA Precheck membership and $100 for five years of Global Entry membership), but the convenience is worth the price for anyone who travels more than a couple of times a year. International travelers will find Global Entry to be more useful as it also covers TSA Precheck for just an additional $15.

Select travel enthusiasts may already have a credit card that covers the cost of a membership with TSA Precheck and Global Entry. This is a benefit offered by many premium travel credit cards, including the Capital One Venture X and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. But if you aren’t interested in paying sky-high annual fees, there are credit cards that cover your TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Clear membership cost for a far more modest annual fee.

Want to learn more? CreditCards.com’s Ana Staples and Aaron Broverman round up the very best travel cards for expedited airport security screening.

How we picked the best travel cards

Research methodology: We analyzed 300 travel rewards credit cards to identify the best offers currently on the market. The major factors we considered include:

  • Rewards rate: Does the card offer a competitive rewards rate for the travel category? For general purpose travel cards, this rate is generally between 1.25X to 2X rewards. For co-branded hotel or airline credit cards, we looked for a rate between 3X and 10X points on brand purchases, plus a competitive rate in other bonus categories.
  • Welcome offer: Annual fee travel credit cards, in particular, may offer a welcome bonus valued between $500 to $900. We considered the value of the sign-up bonus, alongside the required spend to receive it.
  • Additional travel perks: We considered whether the card offers additional travel benefits beyond base rewards. For instance, for airline credit cards, we considered whether they offered priority boarding, a free checked bag or lounge access. For hotel credit cards, we considered whether they offered upgrade opportunities, for Wi-Fi and free hotel stays with a card anniversary. For premium travel credit cards, we considered whether the card touted travel credits, travel insurance and other benefits that justified the high annual fee.
  • Rates and fees: Travel credit cards do tend to carry annual fees and higher APRs than low-interest credit cards. However, we considered how a card’s APRs compared to the current credit card industry average and whether any fees could be avoided or recouped by its travel rewards and benefits.

All 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.

More information on travel credit cards

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Frequently asked questions about travel credit cards

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