All information about Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, United℠ Business Card, Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card have 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:
Summary of the best travel credit cards of 2020
||Best travel perk
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
||Primary auto rental waiver insurance
||3.9 / 5
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
||Cell phone protection
||3.5 / 5
|Discover it® Miles
||4.0 / 5
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
||Baggage delay insurance
||3.7 / 5
|The Platinum Card® from American Express
||Luxury travel benefits
||4.5 / 5
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®
||Priority Pass™ Select
||4.6 / 5
|Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card
||Sliver Elite status with Marriott
||3.1 / 5
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
||Up to $100 toward Global Entry/ TSA
||4.2 / 5
|Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
||Travel accident insurance
||3.5 / 5
|Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
||Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
||$0 first year, $95 thereafter
||4.5 / 5
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
||No foreign transaction fee
||3.4 / 5
|United™ Business Card
||United travel credits
||$0 first year,$99 thereafter
||4.2 / 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
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Why this is the best travel credit card for sign-up bonus
The Sapphire Preferred card’s 60,000-point sign-up bonus (after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months) is worth as much as $750 when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
With ongoing rewards from traveling and dining, this card should be top-of-mind when considering future travel and ordering takeout or delivery. However, for ongoing rewards other than those of worldwide travel and dining, this card may not be the best choice. Plus, as our Chase Sapphire Preferred card review details, big spenders may see more value in the card’s luxury alternative, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®: “If you spend a lot on travel and dining per year (over $7,750), the Reserve could more rewarding – despite a $550 annual fee.”
Best travel perk
Perhaps the best known of the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s travel benefits is the primary auto rental waiver, which is quite generous. This insurance kicks in before your personal auto insurance, and it can cover up to the actual cash value of the car.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Why this is the best travel credit card for everyday use
One of our favorite travel cards with no annual fee, the Wells Fargo Propel, offers rewards not just in travel, but also in a great mix of everyday spending categories: While you may not be able to take full advantage of the 3X points on travel and transit at this time, there’s also 3X points on dining, gas station purchases and select streaming services, and 1X points on all other purchases.
You’ll earn a welcome bonus of 20,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months, which is pretty good for a card with no annual fee. As our Propel card review notes, Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards points are also very flexible, and you can redeem for travel, cash back, gift cards and more without sacrificing point value. Unfortunately, though, you can’t transfer points to outside loyalty programs. That could be a deal-breaker if you’re hoping to squeeze extra value out of your points.
Our expert’s take: “I earned more rewards from the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card in 2019 than my other four credit cards,” says CreditCards.com Industry Analyst Ted Rossman. “With no annual fee, it’s giving me a rewards payout that’s comparable to some of the most popular elite cards on the market.”
Best travel perk
While it carries some standard travel perks like lost luggage insurance and no foreign transaction fee, the Wells Fargo Propel stands out for its cell phone protection plan. If you pay your bill with your Propel card, you can get reimbursed up to $600 if your phone is damaged or stolen ($25 deductible applies), which could certainly come in handy for frequent travelers with pricey phones.
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.
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.” Unfortunately, though, you can’t transfer miles to a frequent flyer program and boost their value.
Best travel perk
The card charges no foreign transaction fee, making it an option both at home and abroad. And while Discover card international acceptance is more limited than that of Visa and Mastercard, the issuer enjoys a high acceptance rate in a number of popular destinations, including Argentina, Brazil, Greece, India, Japan, Jamaica, Morocco, Puerto Rico and more.
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.
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. However, the anniversary bonus of 3,000 points is lower than the Premier’s, and there’s an annual fee of $69 that isn’t waived the first year.
Best travel perk
Every once in a while, you’ll find a card that offers baggage delay insurance, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is one of them. This benefit provides reimbursement for the emergency purchase of essential items when your baggage is delayed by more than six hours, up to $100 per day for a maximum of 3 days.
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 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).
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. 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.
Best travel perk
While our Amex Platinum card review covers a plethora of top-notch travel perks, the card’s luxury lounge access stands out. You can escape airport chaos and relax with benefits like complimentary food and beverages, spa service and more at Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club, Airspace and Centurion lounges. You can even bring along two guests at no additional cost.
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.
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. And earn a 50% boost on travel bookings through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. That said, the annual fee is sizeable, at $550, and is not waived the first year.
Best travel perk
With just a one-time enrollment, the world of Priority Pass™ Select opens up to you, giving you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges across the globe. And as our Chase Sapphire Reserve review calls out, when you factor in the card’s $300 travel credit, “the Sapphire Reserve is one of the most affordable options for gaining lounge access.”
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card
Why this is the best travel credit card for hotel rewards
You have a lot of flexibility in how you redeem rewards, including booking rewards nights at one of the over 7,000 Marriott properties worldwide, transferring to an airline loyalty program or using the Cash + Points option to redeem some points and cover the rest of your stay with cash.
This card’s sign-up bonus of 30,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months is quite generous for a card with no annual fee, and frequent travelers will appreciate its rewards rate of 3X points at Marriott Bonvoy properties and 2X points on other travel purchases. That said, the card’s overall rewards rate is low (just 1X points on general purchases), and as our Bonvoy Bold card review details, “you’re best off redeeming points for hotel nights, since the value of most other redemption options is poor.”
Best travel perk
The card includes 15 elite qualifying nights each year of membership, which automatically gives you Sliver Elite status with Marriott. Silver Elite status comes with perks like late checkout, free in-room Wi-Fi and mobile check-in services.
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 recently expanded its list of travel partners to 17, adding Wyndham Rewards and Accor Live Limitless as its first hotel transfer partners, and boosted its JetBlue TrueBlue transfer ratio by 50%.
This general-purpose travel card is a solid, straightforward product, offering excellent rewards benefits and a $95 annual fee. However, 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).
Best travel perk
Among the travel perks covered in our Capital One Venture Rewards card review, 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.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Why this is the best travel credit card for no annual fee
It’s a great starter card for budget-conscious travelers, charging no annual fee or foreign transaction fee and offering a sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles after you spend just $1,000 in the first 3 months.
This card’s no-hassle rewards earning scheme makes it a great choice for travel beginners. You’ll earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, and you can transfer your miles to more than 15 travel partners. As our VentureOne card review breaks down, however, the card’s ongoing rewards are not the most lucrative. Indeed, thanks to its outsized rewards rate, the Capital One Venture card may be a better option even with its $95 annual fee. That said, if you only plan to use the card enough to earn rewards for an annual trip, this is the card for you.
Best travel perk
The VentureOne offers travel accident insurance when you pay the full cost of your passenger fare with the card. While this is a perk you’ll hopefully never need to use, getting up to $250,000 worth of coverage in case of accidental death or dismemberment while traveling should give frequent travelers some peace of mind.
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
Why this is the best travel credit card for business travel
This card’s generous 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One TravelSM and 2X miles on all other purchases make it ideal for frequent travelers and small-business owners who want to put most of their spending on a single card. And, as our Spark Miles for Business card review explains, “despite no ability to stretch point value, the flat earning rate on the Spark Miles card still ranks it relatively high among popular business cards.”
Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles-equal to $500 in travel once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the frist 3 months from account opening, employee cards are free – and they also get the 2X miles offer, which will boost your earnings even more. However, this card has an annual fee of $95, although it’s waived the first year. Also, the regular APR rate is high at 20.99% (variable).
Best travel perk
With the Spark Miles for Business, receive up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck when you use your card. You can get one statement credit per account every 4 years, and your account must be open and in good standing when the credit is applied.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Why this is the best travel credit card for no foreign transaction fee
The Bank of America Travel Rewards’ no foreign transaction fees make it ideal for world travel and even online purchases with foreign merchants, since other cards with this fee can mean you pay up to 3% on every international travel transaction or purchase that goes through a foreign bank.
The BofA Travel Rewards card beats out the VentureOne Rewards both in the sign-up bonus and the ongoing rewards, all while matching its no annual fee offer. Unfortunately, there is no 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and only a 12-billing-cycle 0% offer on purchases (16.49%–24.49% Variable thereafter).
Best travel perk
As you can see in our Bank of America Travel Rewards card review, the card “doesn’t come with extensive perks, but it does come with a few benefits that make it valuable for frequent travelers.” Not only will you pay no foreign transaction fee, you can add a PIN for international travel, which could be a lifesaver if you’re traveling to an area short on U.S. tourists.
United℠ Business Card
Why this is the best travel credit card for earning business miles
This is a good card for down the road, because many of the boosted rewards involve travel, and in a few short months, this could be the ideal card for you. Not only will you earn 2X miles on United purchases and on local transit and commuting, but also at gas stations, restaurants and office supply stores. Also, the annual fee of $99 is waived the first year.
The United Business Card carries a huge sign-up bonus of 100,000 miles if you spend $10,000 in the first 3 months. The card also comes with an anniversary bonus of 5,000 miles if you also have a personal Chase United card. When that it comes to perks, however, our United Business Card review notes that the card falls just a bit short of luxury alternatives, offering limited lounge access and no credits for expedited security screening.
Best travel perk
You’ll get a $100 annual United travel credit after 7 United flight purchases of $100 or more, which you can use to cover airfare and many other United purchases.
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
|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
|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 longe 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
|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
|Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi (General)
||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.
|Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus® Credit Card (Airline)
||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)
||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.
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