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The best travel credit cards of October 2021

Written by: Jeanine Skowronski | Edited by: Tracy Stewart | Reviewed by: Stephanie Zito
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October 20, 2021

For travelers, the right credit card not only gets you points to put towards future trips, but it can also provide you with a range of benefits that help make your trips more enjoyable. Many cards come with some form of trip protection or offer ancillary travel perks like airport lounge access, waived baggage fees, and complimentary elite status.

For travelers, the right credit card not only gets you points to put towards future trips, but it can also provide you with a range of benefits that help make your trips more enjoyable. Many cards come with some form of trip protection or offer ancillary travel perks like airport lounge access, waived baggage fees, and complimentary elite status.

Best travel credit cards of October 2021

BEST WELCOME BONUS
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Our rating:4.3 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 points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3X
Earn 3X points on dining.
2X
Earn 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
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
15.99% - 22.99% variable
BEST GENERAL-PURPOSE TRAVEL CARD
Capital One Venture 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.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5X
Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get our best prices on thousands of trip options
2X
Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
60,000 miles Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99% - 23.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST LUXURY TRAVEL CARD
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Our rating:4.4 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

10X
Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
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 bonus
100,000 points Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the 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: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.
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, 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
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.
Annual fee
$250
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
BEST SIGN-UP BONUS & WELCOME PERKS
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Our rating:4.3 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 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5X
Earn 5X total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3X
Earn 3X points on other travel and dining.
1X
Earn 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. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Annual fee
$550
Regular APR
16.99% - 23.99% variable
BEST FOR OCCASIONAL TRAVELERS
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Our rating:3.7 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

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 bonus
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
13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST FOR UNITED MILEAGEPLUS MEMBERS
United Quest℠ Card
Our rating:4.0 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

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

At A Glance

Intro bonus
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
16.49% - 23.49% variable
BEST FIRST-TIME TRAVEL CREDIT CARD
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Our rating:3.4 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.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

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

At A Glance

Intro bonus
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
14.99% - 24.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST HOTEL CREDIT CARD
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
Our rating:4.4 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 Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Card.
2X
2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
125,000 Bonus Points For a Limited Time Only! Earn 125,000 Bonus Points and 1 Free Night Award after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable
BEST FOR AIRLINE INCIDENTALS
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
Our rating:4.2 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

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 you spend on travel and dining purchases.
2X
Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on grocery store purchases - now through 12/31/21.
1.5X
Earn 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all other purchases.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
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
15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
BEST AIRLINE CREDIT CARD
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus 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 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
2X
New! Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
2X
New! Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming.

At A Glance

Intro bonus
100,000 points Our best points offer ever! Earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.
Annual fee
$69
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% variable
BEST FOR FAIR CREDIT
Credit One Bank® Wander™ Card
Our rating:3.0 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

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.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

Rewards rate

5x
Earn 5x points on eligible Recreational & Amusement Park purchases
3x
Earn 3x on eligible restaurant & lodging purchases
1x
Earn 1x points on all other purchases

At A Glance

Intro bonus
No current offer
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
23.99% variable
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST NO ANNUAL FEE AIRLINE CARD
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ 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

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.

Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.

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)
Your approval oddsWhen you click “See my approval odds” we’ll run a soft credit check to determine if you have Excellent, Good, Low, or Poor odds of being approved for cards on our site. Approval Odds serves as a guide to help you find the right credit card and will never affect your credit score.
BEST NO ANNUAL FEE TRAVEL CREDIT CARD
Discover it® Miles
Our rating:3.7 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

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

At A Glance

Intro bonus
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
11.99% - 22.99% variable
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*All information about the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.


A guide to travel credit cards

A travel rewards credit card lets you earn points or miles to redeem at airlines, hotels, restaurants or other travel service providers. The best travel credit cards also offer additional benefits, like a free checked bag, travel credits, airport lounge passes and certain travel insurance. They typically tout lucrative sign-up bonuses – extra points or miles you can earn by spending a certain amount of money in a set time period – that are sometimes the equivalent of a free hotel night or hundreds of dollars toward airfare. These points, miles and benefits can go a long way toward covering the cost of that dream vacation.


Comparing the best travel credit cards of 2021

Credit cardBest forIntro bonusAnnual feeCreditCards.com rating
Citi Premier® CardRewards for travel & everyday expenses80,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening$954.3 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred®Welcome bonus60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening$954.3 / 5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardGeneral purpose travel rewards60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening$954.1 / 5
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressLuxury travel benefits100,000 points after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of card membership$6954.4 / 5
American Express® Gold CardTraveling foodies60,000 points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months$2504.5 / 5
Chase Sapphire Reserve®Sign-up bonus & welcome perks50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening$5504.3 / 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$03.7 / 5
United Quest℠ CardUnited MileagePlus members80,000 bonus miles if you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months$2504.0 / 5
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit CardFirst-time travel credit cardholders20,000 miles after spending $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening$03.4 / 5
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit CardHotelsLimited Time Offer: Earn 125,000 Bonus Points and 1 Free Night Award (value up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months$954.4 / 5
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit cardAirline incidentals50,000 online bonus points after you make $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening$954.2 / 5
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit CardAirlinesUp to 100,000 bonus points: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months$694.1 / 5
Credit One Bank® Wander™ CardFair creditN/A$953.0 / 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$03.7 / 5

best travel credit cards of 2021

Editor’s picks: Best travel credit card details

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

Why we picked it: If you can’t decide between a travel or general rewards credit card, the Citi Premier is a good compromise. For a $95 annual fee, cardholders earn 3X points on air travel, hotels and restaurants, but they also get a bonus (3X points) on supermarkets and gas stations, two popular everyday spending categories, along with 1X points on all other purchases.

Pros: There’s a competitive sign-up bonus: Cardholders can earn 80,000 ThankYou points if they spend $4,000 in their first three months. We estimate that bonus is worth around $800 when you book through the ThankYou Travel center, given those points are worth 1-cent a piece.

Cons: You have a lot of redemption options, including statement credits, gift cards and travel, but none of them really let you stretch your Citi ThankYou points, which are, on average, worth between 0.5 to 1 cent each depending how you redeem. You’re also limited in your destination options as most of Citi’s airline transfer partners are based overseas – JetBlue is their only partnering domestic carrier.

Who should apply? Someone looking to earn rewards on travel and everyday expenses will appreciate the versatility of this card, not to mention its excellent welcome bonus.

Who should skip? While this is a great card for general spending, certain spenders may miss out on opportunities to maximize earnings through specific bonus categories offered by other cards.

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best welcome bonus

Why we picked it: With its very long list of top-notch travel benefits, an excellent rewards rate and generous sign-up bonus, it’s not difficult to see why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is at the top of its class.

Pros: Earn a lucrative 60,000 point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 within the first three months of card membership. At current valuation, that bonus comes out to $750 in travel purchases when redeemed via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You’ll also earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3X points on dining, 2X points on other travel purchases and 1X points on all other purchases.

Cons: The $95 annual fee may be more than some folks are willing to pay, but most frequent travelers will find that the benefits and rewards make the Chase Sapphire Preferred worth it. Still, those perks are not quite on par with the sort of premium offerings you’d get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, such as a $300 travel credit and lounge access.

Who should apply? If – after a year of being sidelined by the pandemic – you’re eager to jump back into travel, this card offers a lot of earning opportunities to keep you on the go.

Who should skip? If you tend to be loyal to one airline, you may be better off with an airline branded card or the card of an airline partner.

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

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

Why we picked it: 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 – for a reasonable $95 annual fee.

Pros: The card currently touts a big sign-up bonus: Cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles when they spend $3,000 in their first three months. They also enjoy a number of ancillary travel benefits, including no foreign transaction fees, travel accident insurance and an up to $100 credit toward the cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (which alone can cover the cost of the card’s annual fee every 4 years).

Cons: The biggest drawback is Capital One’s lack of large domestic travel transfer partners. Plus, most Venture miles transfer at a 1:1 ratio, which might feel like a letdown to rewards maximizers. People looking for luxury travel perks are likely better served by a premium travel rewards credit card, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, which charges a pricey $695 annual fee, but includes benefits like complimentary airport lounge access.

Who should apply? This card will certainly appeal to those looking for a top-notch travel credit card without the pricey annual fees associated with many premium cards in this category.

Who should skip? Travelers who mostly fly domestic and are looking for top-drawer travel perks.

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

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

Why we picked it: The popular premium card from American Express comes fully-loaded with travel benefits, including luxury lounge access, Hilton Honors gold status (enrollment required), which entitles you to free Wi-Fi, late checkout and room upgrades (upon availability), and a laundry list of travel credits that’ll help you recoup its pricey $695 annual fee. Those credits include an up to $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, as well as up to $200 in annual Uber Cash credits for rides or eats in the U.S. (that’s up to $15 a month plus a $20 bonus in December using the Uber app).

Pros: For base rewards, cardholders earn 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and 5X points on eligible prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel. They also receive 1X points on general purchases. The card currently touts a generous welcome offer: You can earn 100,000 points if you spend $6,000 in your first six months, which we estimate to be worth around $1,000 when you book through AmexTravel (where points are worth around 1 cent each). Plus, you’ll receive 10X points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. (on up to $25,000 in combined purchases) in your first six months.

Cons: The $695 annual fee is a real commitment, so carefully consider whether you travel enough to justify the price. You must redeem travel rewards through AmexTravel.com – and, unlike with many Chase credit cards, you won’t get a bonus for doing so. Some of the travel credits come with caveats that make them a bit tricky to track or maximize. For instance, the Platinum comes with up to a $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit (enrollment required), $50 in statement credits that can be redeemed from January through June and $50 that can be redeemed from July through December.

Who should apply? This card ticks off all the boxes for big spenders and frequent travelers looking for luxury travel perks, particularly complimentary airport lounge access.

Who should skip? Infrequent travelers who won’t use the card benefits enough to justify the annual fee should look elsewhere.

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

American Express® Gold Card: Best for traveling foodies

Why we picked it: Traveling foodies, rejoice – this card offers an industry-leading 4X points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery. 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.

Pros: 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.

Cons: The annual fee is $250, pricier than the annual fees charged by most travel credit cards though 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.

Who should apply? Anyone who makes dining out a staple of their vacations and staycations will find a lot of value in this card.

Who should skip? If your top spending categories don’t include groceries at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants, you may be better served by a more general rewards card or something with a bit more flexibility.

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

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

Why we picked it: This popular Chase credit card offers a generous sign-up bonus: Cardholders can earn 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in their first three months, which we estimate to be worth around $750 in Ultimate Rewards travel. (Points redeemed through Chase’s travel portal have a 50% higher value.) Plus, they get a free one-year membership to Lyft Pink (activate by 3/31/22) and DoorDash’s DashPass (activate by 12/31/21).

Pros: This card comes with a wealth of travel perks and rewards categories, including a $300 annual credit for travel purchases, up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and complimentary lounge access. The $300 travel credit is easy-to-redeem, given it can be put toward a large variety of purchases, including flights, hotel stays, taxi rides, public transportation and, through Dec. 31, 2021, gas station and grocery store purchases.

Cons: This card has a lot to offer, but the annual fee of $550 might give pause, and it’s not waived the first year. If you’re looking for luxury lounge access, the Platinum Card from Amex offers a wider network.

Who should apply? This card is a great match for someone looking to at least partially fund a post-pandemic vacation with a generous sign-up bonus.

Who should skip? If you travel infrequently, the annual fee may be hard to justify. If you’re looking for perks specific to your favorite airline, you may be better off with a co-branded card.

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

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

Why we picked it: This Bank of America credit card offers 1.5X points on general purchases for no annual fee, so it’s a good option for someone looking to earn and redeem travel rewards without worrying whether they travel enough or spend enough at airlines or hotels to justify an annual fee.

Pros: In lieu 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 third-party sites like Expedia or Travelocity. Cardholders can earn 25,000 online bonus points if they spend $1,000 in their first 90 days. Also, utilizing and understanding the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program can get members a 25% to 75% boost on rewards earnings.

Cons: If you’re a big traveler, you can find a card that rewards your travel purchases at a higher rate. The one exception is if you’re at least a Platinum Preferred Rewards Member (meaning you have at least $50,000 stored across qualifying Bank of America® or Merrill® accounts. If you’re able to qualify for the 50% boost in rewards or higher, you’ll be earning 1.5X points, plus an additional 50%, making your flat rate effectively 2.25X points (1.5 x 50% = .75, totaling 2.25).

Who should apply? This is a great match for less frequent travelers who still want to earn rewards but without having to pay an annual fee.

Who should skip? Jetsetters hoping to maximize rewards on flights and hotels will probably find more value with a premium travel credit card.

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

United Quest℠ Card: Best for United MileagePlus members

Why we picked it: This premium co-branded United Airlines credit card comes fully loaded with all the perks an airline credit cardholder could hope for, including annual travel credits, free first and second checked bags, priority boarding and a generous two-tiered sign-up bonus.

Pros: The sign-up bonus (80,000 miles after spending $5,000 in your first three months) could be worth up to $1,216 in United travel, given we estimate an average value of 1.52 cents per mile. You’re eligible to receive up to two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits if you take an eligible flight booked with rewards, a perk that has an estimated worth of $150, assuming the same mile valuation.

Cons: You can only transfer miles to United partner airlines. The sign-up bonus is generous, but the spending requirements to receive the offer is quite high. There’s a $250 annual fee associated with this card, so if you fly United less frequently, its United Explorer Card, which charges a $95 annual fee, waived the first year, might be a better fit.

Who should apply? Even semi-frequent United flyers can come out ahead with this premium airline credit card, thanks to its anniversary bonus, checked baggage fee waivers and the up to $100 credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee.

Who should skip? If you don’t fly United, you’ll be better-served by a different airline credit card or a general purpose travel credit card.

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

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best first-time travel credit card

Why we picked it: The VentureOne is another solid option for someone looking for a straightforward, simple general-purpose travel credit card that skips the annual fee.

Pros: A rewards rate of 1.25X miles on every purchase isn’t the flashiest offer, but if you’re using your card frequently, you’ll earn miles consistently and without much thought. The sign-up bonus is also decent: 20,000 miles if you spend $500 in the first three months of opening an account. You can redeem miles for any travel purchase.

Cons: As we mentioned earlier. Capital One’s current list of transfer partners doesn’t include any large U.S. airlines, so the miles aren’t quite as flexible as Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for example. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and the Discover it® Miles outpace the VentureOne on base earnings, as they offer 1.5X points/miles on general purchases. You also might be able to earn more, while recouping the annual fee, with the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card. (See how the Venture and the Venture One stack up.)

Who should apply? Someone who likes the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card, but doesn’t like its annual fee, will likely find this card to be a better fit.

Who should skip? Someone hoping to maximize rewards on specific categories, or high-spenders looking for lux frills will be disappointed.

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

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Best hotel credit card

Why we picked it: Now’s the time to apply for this generous hotel rewards card, for a limited time you can earn 125,000 points and 1 Free Night Award (value up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Pros: Cardholders earn 6X points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels and 2X points on all other purchases. They also enjoy a bevy of other Marriott benefits, including free in-room Wi-Fi, late checkout and a fifth night free on any rewards stay of five consecutive nights or longer.

Cons: The card carries a $95 annual fee, so make sure you spend and travel enough to recoup that charge.

Who should apply? Marriott hotel fans who travel enough to recoup a $95 annual fee.

Who should skip? The rewards apply to Marriott hotels, so if you don’t frequent the brand, you’ll be better served by a different hotel credit card.

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

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

Why we picked it: This card is packed with perks designed to make your travel experience more enjoyable. 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.

Pros: Cardholders earn unlimited 2X points on travel and dining purchases. Plus, they earn 2X points on grocery store purchases (through Dec. 31, 2021), and 1.5X points on all other purchases. If you’re a qualifying Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you get a 25% to 75% boost on your rewards. The welcome bonus of 50,000 online bonus points (after you make $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening) has a value of $500.

Cons: You’ll pay a $95 annual fee every year you carry the card. Also, becoming a Preferred Rewards member is essential if you want to truly take advantage of the available rewards. The Preferred Rewards program is broken into three tiers with increasingly-lofty requirements based on how much money you have in a qualifying Bank of America® or Merrill® account. The first tier starts at $20,000 and offers a 25% boost to your rewards earnings. The highest tier, which offers a 75% boost, is reserved for those with $100,000 in qualifying Bank of America or Merrill® accounts.

Who should apply? People who tend to carry a bag when traveling or those who are in the market for a travel rewards credit card and already have a Bank of America checking account will find a lot to love about this card.

Who should skip? If you tend to fly one airline or aren’t already a Bank of America customer, you 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.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Best airline credit card

Why we picked it: 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 two years for free (minus taxes and fees). Our review below 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: On top of 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 it has long been 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 bonus, and there’s an annual fee of $69 that isn’t waived the first year. This is a Southwest-centric card so if you don’t frequently fly the discount carrier, you’ll be better served by a different travel rewards credit card.

Who should apply? Southwest frequent flyers who would prefer to pay a $69 annual fee rather than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s higher annual fee of $99.

Who should skip? Those who don’t fly Southwest often and don’t live near a city serviced by Southwest may not get much out of this card.

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

Credit One Bank® Wander™ Card: Best for fair credit

Why we picked it: This unique travel credit card rewards the staycationer, offering a handsome return on eligible recreational and amusement park purchases, restaurant purchases and lodging purchases. Plus, it will consider applicants with fair credit.

Pros: This is the rare travel credit card for the non-frequent flier, rewarding people who often like to stay local to attend their favorite sporting event, visit a national park or dine out on the weekends.

Cons: You won’t earn bonus rewards on airfare. The card also doesn’t tout the luxury perks and annual travel credits that come with premium travel credit cards, albeit for a higher annual fee. The card charges foreign transaction fees, so it’s not ideal for international travel.

Who should apply? People with fair credit in the market for a competitive travel credit card can consider this a top option, particularly if they spend on the card’s featured bonus categories. Also consider this card if you’re an avid National Park-goer.

Who should skip? Frequent flyers and avid travelers with a strong credit score can squeeze more benefits and rewards out of a high end travel card.

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

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

Why we picked it: There certainly are airline cards with better sign-up bonuses and higher rewards rates, but the lack of an annual fee makes this a great starter airline card for American Airline customers.

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 1X miles. Those who spend modestly and travel occasionally will appreciate the low spend threshold for the sign-up bonus: Spend just $500 within the first three months of opening an account and you’ll earn 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit.

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.

Who should apply? This is an excellent option for frequent American Airlines flyers looking for a no annual fee credit card.

Who should skip? Those who don’t fly American or its partners often and don’t live near an American hub may not get much out of this card.

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

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

Why we picked it: The Discover it® Miles offers many of the same perks as high-end travel cards, but without the annual fee. You can redeem your rewards at any time without fear of blackout dates, expiration dates or mile limits.

Pros: 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. When it comes time to redeem your miles, you have a wide range of options. Redemption options include airfare, hotels, travel packages, eligible transit and car rentals.

Cons: Discover it Miles only matches the miles earned in your first year, so your earning potential takes a big dip after that. You should also consider the fact that you can’t transfer miles to any airline frequent-flyer programs, which limits any possibility of miles boosts in that way.

Who should apply? This generous first-year welcome offer is ideal for travel credit card newbies.

Who should skip? Anyone loyal to a specific carrier and looking for airline-specific perks will find this card to be a little too general.

Read our Discover it Miles 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 tangential travel 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. Both points and miles cards often let you apply your earnings as a statement credit to refund eligible purchases, but there are some differences between the two that are useful to know.

How travel miles work

Travel miles are typically associated with an airline frequent flyer program. You’ll be able to earn miles by using an airline credit card to book flights with the co-branded airline or by making other kinds of eligible purchases. However, some general-purpose travel credit cards also use miles as their reward currency without tying them to a single airline or hotel brand.

The most common method of redeeming air miles is to use them for free flights, sometimes called award flights. In fact, some airlines have established award charts that give you information on what each flight would cost in miles, while others have switched to a dynamic pricing model that bases award pricing on multiple factors, including seasonality and route popularity.

How travel points work

Travel points usually come in two forms: general-purpose points earned with non-branded credit cards and points earned with co-branded hotel and airline credit cards. You can earn these points by using your card to book travel and make other eligible purchases.

Co-branded hotel points are usually redeemed for free nights at that particular hotel brand while general-purpose points offer more flexibility in how you redeem them since they aren’t tied to any individual brand. Based on what card you have, your options could include redeeming these points for statement credits to help pay for previous travel purchases, booking current travel purchases or transferring them to the issuer’s hotel and airline partners.

Types of travel credit cards

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

  • How general travel credit cards work: General travel credit cards let you redeem points or miles for most travel expenses, regardless of brand. They also often let you earn points or miles on general purchases. While some general travel cards simply let you redeem rewards through a statement credit, others offer boosted rewards when redeeming for travel through an issuer-specific portal. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card allows cardmembers to earn 25% more value when redeeming via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. When redeeming via an issuer’s portal, you’ll often find partnerships with select airlines and hotel brands.
  • Benefits: You have a ton of flexibility when it comes to redeeming rewards, including the ability to put points or miles toward travel booked through travel fare aggregators, like Expedia. There are generally no blackouts or miles expiration dates. Earning rewards on general purchases is decidedly low maintenance. Many premium credit cards offer widespread complimentary airport lounge access.
  • Drawbacks: You may get more points valuation with an airline card, and hotel cards are packed with perks you may not see with these cards. Ancillary travel benefits or special perks are sometimes scant, though many general travel credit cards do offer car rental insurance and travel accident insurance.
  • Who general travel cards are 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.

Airline travel credit cards

  • How airline credit cards work: An airline credit card lets you earn miles and special perks at a particular carrier. 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.
  • Benefits: You generally get access to a ton of extra perks with the carrier co-sponsoring the card, including a free checked bag, priority boarding, airport lounge access, elite status, companion fares and more.
  • Drawbacks: Those perks are restricted to that one particular airline. Airline cards are notorious for having blackout dates and requiring more miles during peak periods. They’re also more likely to impose expiration dates on miles. While an airline program may allow redemptions for merchandise and gift cards, it’s usually best to redeem for airline purchases.
  • Who airline credit cards are 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 maximize your rewards and redemptions, airline credit cards offer frequent promotions and they generally allow you to pool points earned with the credit card with points earned by being a member of an airline’s loyalty program.

Hotel credit cards

  • How hotel credit cards work: 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. 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.
  • Benefits: You can often pair points earned with your card with points earned as a member of the hotel’s loyalty program, increasing your ability to earn free nights faster. Cardholders are often entitled to free amenities, like complimentary Wi-Fi, express check-in, late checkout and even free bottles of water. Blackout dates are less of an issue with hotel rewards programs, although there may be limited available rooms during a peak period.
  • Drawbacks: Hotel rewards programs usually have multiple tiers, each with their own perks, making it potentially tough to understand what you qualify for. Rewards are restricted to the partnering brand and you may not find a chain in the locale that you are going to. Annual fees may be waived the first year, but plan on it appearing on your statement every year thereafter.
  • Who hotel credit cards are 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.

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

  • Rewards are optimized for travel: Rewards categories are often designed to earn points or miles for purchases directly related to travel, particularly expenses such as airfare, hotel rooms, rental cars and more.
  • Card benefits are travel-friendly: Many travel credit cards offer helpful perks such as travel insurance, free checked bags and statement credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.

Cons

  • Rewards programs can be complex: Redeeming rewards and transferring miles or points to travel partners can require some effort on your part. You may find yourself having to calculate points, check for eligibility requirements for flights and hotel stays and navigate your way through the process to get maximum value for your rewards.
  • Annual fees are common, and sometimes quite high: 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

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 towards flights and free nights with a travel credit card. Travel-happy cardholders will also appreciate the additional benefits that relieve certain stresses of the travel experience. The rewards-earning power and perks from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Capital One Venture Rewards could bring value to any often-traveler’s wallet, but there’s a plethora of options to sort through if you fall in this category.
  • Travel beginners. Someone new to booking travel or utilizing credit card rewards might be hesitant, but there’s major benefits available for all – just look for cards that are less risky, like no annual fee options or ones with easy-to-understand rewards. Both the Capital One VentureOne Rewards card and Discover it Miles bring worthwhile earnings, a simple redemption process and no annual fee.
  • 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, there’s strong rewards and perks for loyal customers with 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 lucrative 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.
  • Worldwide travelers. Whether you’re someone who often travels internationally to the same place or a true globetrotter, finding a card that rewards your consistent trips while avoiding foreign transaction fees would serve as an excellent travel companion. Options like the Bank of America Travel Rewards card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve do just that; you can earn valuable rewards on your purchases and avoid the extra costs when you’re spending outside the U.S. Also, many options offer unique perks that may fit your needs as well as credit towards programs like Global Entry or TSA Precheck to make the airport process much easier on frequent flyers.

Who should skip a travel credit card

  • Homebodies. If you rarely if ever travel, you won’t have many opportunities to enjoy all the perks of a travel card. For cards with high annual fees, that’s money down the drain.
  • Someone prone to overspending. When tempted by attractive welcome bonuses and high rewards, it’s easy to be seduced into spending more than you should. That can spell trouble down the road if your card has a high interest rate.

How to make the most out of your travel credit card

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its travel guidance related to the coronavirus pandemic – including allowing fully vaccinated Americans to travel domestically without testing before or quarantining after their trip – you may be ready for a long, overdue vacation. A travel credit card can help fund or sweeten your trip. Here are some ways to best leverage one.

  • Score a welcome offer. These promotions award you big bonus points if you spend a certain amount of money within a set timeframe, usually between your first three to six months as a cardholder. Consider charging the airfare or hotel stay on a new travel credit card with a strong offer to fund the remaining or future travel expenses. If you’re looking for a large welcome bonus, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card which is offering a generous 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of card membership. For additional card recommendations, CreditCards.com expert Emily Sherman has rounded up some of the best credit cards for your summer ‘vaxication’.
  • Redeem rewards through a travel portal or transfer partner. If you’re using existing points or miles, these options tend to give you the most bang for your buck. For instance, if you have a premium Chase credit card, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel site for a 50% bonus. Meanwhile, transferring American Express Membership rewards to an airline partner, like Delta, garners the best cent-per-point ratio.
  • Know what perks are available to you. It’s likely been a while since you’ve redeemed your travel rewards, so if you’re unfamiliar with your redemption options, revisit your rewards program’s terms and conditions. That’ll help you identify any ancillary perks you can take advantage of during your vacation, like supplemental travel insurance, or free checked bags. In just one trip, a family of four could easily recoup a card’s annual fee through baggage fees alone. Likewise, your card may also cover incidentals in the event your baggage is lost. That means the issuer could reimburse you for any clothing, toiletries or medication you had to purchase, even if your bag was only delayed by a few hours (up to a specified amount).
  • Skip the foreign transaction fees. Make sure to take along a card that skips this common overseas charge if you are traveling internationally. Many travel credit cards waive foreign transaction fees, but so do Capital One and Discover credit cards.

Looking for more pandemic-related travel tips? Check out our guide to planning a rewards trip as travel restrictions ease.

Travel credit cards vs. cash back credit cards

Making a decision whether you want a travel credit card or cash back card will ultimately come down to your lifestyle, spending and what you want out of a card. Generally speaking, however, there is more value to be squeezed out of travel cards. Their sign-up bonuses can be next level and the available rewards are often much more worthwhile than their competitor’s cash back offers.

Still, these cards aren’t worth it if the redemption options don’t fit your typical wants and needs. Although a flexible travel card does typically have a bit more to offer than cash back cards, maybe the simplicity is something you’re looking for. In any case, here’s some questions to ask yourself before making a decision.

  • Is the option of turning points into flights or hotel stays appealing?
  • Are you willing to do the extra work to redeem your earnings and book your travel?
  • Can you responsibly spend enough to reach a sign-up bonus?
  • Do you mind paying an annual fee?
  • How much will the card’s perks actually help you?

If you consider yourself any sort of traveler, you’ll probably get more value out of a travel credit card – just be sure the spending requirements fit your budget, the rewards make sense for you and the additional perks are tailored to your travel goals.

In the news: What to know about COVID-19 and credit card travel insurance

As COVID-19 continues to loom large ahead of the holiday travel season, having travel insurance has never been so critical. Fortunately, many credit card issuers provide coverage to protect members against unforeseen circumstances such as illness, trip cancellation, emergency evacuations and more. Issuers have updated these policies recently to better reflect the new realities of pandemic travel.

Which cards offer the most extensive coverage? Creditcard.com’s Aaron Broverman reviews the best credit card travel insurance policies for 2021.

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: Many travel credit cards offer a welcome offer or sign-up bonus that’s equivalent to a hotel stay or airline ticket when you spend a certain amount of money in a specific time frame, usually your first three to six months. 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.
  • Ancillary 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

For more information on all things travel cards, continue reading content from our credit card experts:

 

Frequently asked questions about travel credit cards