Owning a travel rewards credit card can have so many financial benefits. In fact, the growing popularity of travel credit cards has led many credit card issuers to constantly try and one-up each other. They understand that maximizing the rewards and perks offered is key to their success.
Whether you travel for business or leisure, if you’re constantly jet-setting or taking the occasional trip, you want to rack up as many travel rewards as possible. Maximizing your travel rewards is not only satisfying, but it can also save you money while allowing you to experience new things.
If you’re undecided if travel credit cards are for you or are simply looking for the best travel card available, this article will cover everything you need to know.
Best Travel Credit Cards
Here are the best travel credit cards for February 2023:
- Citi Premier® Card: 60,000 bonus points
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: 60,000 bonus points
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®: 60,000 bonus points
- Ink Business Cash® Credit Card: $900 bonus
- IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card: 175,000 bonus points
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 80,000 bonus points
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: 50,000 bonus miles
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: 50,000 bonus miles
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: 75,000 bonus miles
1. Citi Premier® Card
The Citi Premier® Card offers new cardholders a welcome bonus of 60,000 bonus ThankYou Points, which you can get after making purchases worth $4,000 in the first three months.
You can exchange these bonus points for $600 worth of gift cards from a large variety of retailers.
The Citi Premier® Card can serve as a travel card and everyday cashback card, letting you redeem rewards with a host of travel transfer partners, gift cards, and shopping points. With competitive bonus categories and exclusive entertainment perks, it could be a nice versatile addition to your wallet.
Citi Premier® Card - 60,000 bonus points
The Citi Premier® Card offer requires you to make purchases using the account's card in order to earn the 60,000 bonus points. Full requirements to receive this bonus are:
- Apply for a new Citi Premier® Card using the link below.
- Within 3 months, spend $4,000 using your new card.
- Bonus will be credited in the form of 60,000 points, which can be redeemed for $600 in gift cards.
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase is offering 60,000 bonus points to new Chase Sapphire Preferred® cardholders. This is down, unfortunately, from the 80,000 points reward they were offering just recently.
Those points can be redeemed for $600 cash, or they can be stretched to $750 if put towards travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
This is in addition to the revamped points structure that now offers higher rewards in several categories and the new $50 annual hotel statement credit.
In the world of travel cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is hard to beat. Its low annual fee, perks, and travel rewards make it a perfect fit for travelers looking to rack up rewards for their next trip or for seasoned pros looking to combine forces with multiple Chase cards.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - 60,000 bonus points
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offer requires you to make purchases using the account's card in order to earn the 60,000 bonus points. Full requirements to receive this bonus are:
- Apply for a new Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card using the link below.
- Within 3 months, spend $4,000 using your new card.
- Bonus will be credited within 6 to 8 weeks in the form of 60,000 points, which can be redeemed for $600 cash or $750 in travel rewards.
3. Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase is offering 60,000 bonus points to new Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders. Those points can be redeemed for $600 cash, or they can be stretched to $900 if you put them toward travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The Chase Saphire Reserve card is one of the best travel cards on the market, with a ton of premiere perks like lounge access, excellent rewards, and account credits. If you’re a frequent traveler and take advantage of all the card has to offer, you can easily offset the annual fee.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - 60,000 bonus points
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer requires you to make purchases using the account's card in order to earn the 60,000 bonus points. Full requirements to receive this bonus are:
- Apply for a new Chase Sapphire Reserve ® credit card using the link below.
- Within 3 months, spend $4,000 using your new card.
- Bonus will be credited within 6 to 8 weeks in the form of 60,000 points, which can be redeemed for $600 cash or $900 in travel rewards.
4. Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
In addition to the other card perks like cash back and no annual fee, Chase is offering a $900 bonus to new Ink Business Cash® cardholders.
They've lowered the spending threshold and raised the bonus amount in their BEST offer ever on this card!
The Chase Ink Business Cash Card is a great rewards card for small business owners, especially if you rack up a lot of telecom and office supply purchases. Since the card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can redeem them a number of ways, making the fee-free card even more appealing.
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - $900 bonus
The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card offer requires you to make purchases using the account's card in order to earn the $900 bonus. Full requirements to receive this bonus are:
- Apply for a new Ink Business Cash® credit card using the link below.
- Within 3 months, spend $6,000 using your new card.
- Bonus will be credited within 6 to 8 weeks in the form of 90,000 points, which can be redeemed for $900 cash.
5. IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
Chase is offering 175,000 bonus points to new IHG® Rewards Premier cardholders – up from their previous offer of 140,000 points. That's nearly 6 free nights at an IHG property, which includes hotels and resorts under the brands Six Senses, Regent, InterContinental, Kimpton, Hotel Indigo, Voco, Hualuxe, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Candlewood Suites, and more.
Additionally, you can get an extra $100 and 10,000 bonus points every year by spending $20,000 using your card and then making one additional purchase at least one day after you meet the $20k threshold.
With IHG hotel rewards, elite perks, bonus categories, and other premier perks, the IHG Rewards Premier Card from Chase has a lot to offer cardholders who want to put their points towards IHG stays and travel frequently enough to make up for the annual fee.
IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card - 175,000 bonus points
The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card offer requires you to make purchases using the account's card in order to earn the 175,000 bonus points. Full requirements to receive this bonus are:
- Apply for a new IHG® Rewards Premier credit card using the link below.
- Within 3 months, spend $3,000 using your new card.
- Bonus points will be credited to your IHG® Rewards account within 6 to 8 weeks.
6. The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with a new cardmember offer that can see you earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after spending $6,000 within the first six months.
You also get a whole host of other annual perks including a $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, (requires a minimum two-night stay), a $240 digital entertainment credit, a $200 Uber Eats credit, a $200 airline fee credit and more! Enrollment required.
This is in addition to the lounge access and 5x points on airline purchase (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year) and hotel purchases through amextravel.com. Terms Apply.
The Platinum Card from American Express is the original luxury credit card. While its annual fee is high, so are its luxurious rewards, including Amex Membership Rewards, extensive travel points, and annual statement credits.
The Platinum Card® from American Express - 80,000 bonus points
The The Platinum Card® from American Express offer requires you to make purchases using the account's card in order to earn the 80,000 bonus points. Full requirements to receive this bonus are:
- Apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express using the link below.
- Within 6 months, spend $6,000 using your new card.
- Bonus will be credited within 8-12 weeks of meeting the requirements in the form of Membership Rewards points.
7. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® offers new cardholders 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months.
Bonus Tip: You also get a $125 flight discount if you spend $20,000 in a single year and renew your card.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® - 50,000 bonus miles
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® offer requires you to make purchases using the account's card in order to earn the 50,000 bonus miles. Full requirements to receive this bonus are:
- Apply for a new Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® credit card using the link below.
- Within 3 months, spend $2,500 using your new card.
- Bonus miles will be credited in your AAdvantage® account in 8-10 weeks.
8. Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, for a limited time, offers new cardholders 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months. This card come with free Admirals Club® membership and access for up to 2 guests or immediate family members traveling with you. You'll also get your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions on the same reservation.
Bonus Tip: You also get 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying miles if you spend $40,000 in a single year.
Whether you’re a true blue American Airlines loyalist or you fly with a number of airlines, this card is worth having in your wallet and can make your AA flights more pleasant, in addition to earning solid rewards. Cardholders get travel benefits and partner benefits that can offset the moderately low annual fee.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® - 50,000 bonus miles
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® offer requires you to make purchases using the account's card in order to earn the 50,000 bonus miles. Full requirements to receive this bonus are:
- Apply for a new Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® credit card using the link below.
- Within 3 months, spend $5,000 using your new card.
- Bonus miles will be credited in your AAdvantage® account in 8-10 weeks.
9. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card comes with a 75,000 mile welcome bonus. All you need to do to qualify is make $4,000 worth of purchases within three months of opening the account.
The card has a somewhat high annual fee; however, lower compared to other similar premium cards. Cardholders also enjoy perks such as a up to $300 in statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, up to a $100 credit on Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® and access to select airport lounges.
If you’re looking for a travel card with generous bonus category rewards, travel credits, and bonuses, take a look at the Capital One Venture X Rewards Card. It's a happy medium for road warriors who spend enough to offset an annual fee but don't quite want to commit to an elite card.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card - 75,000 bonus miles
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offer requires you to make purchases using the account's card in order to earn the 75,000 bonus miles. Full requirements to receive this bonus are:
- Apply for a new Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card using the link below.
- Within 3 months, spend $4,000 using your new card.
- Bonus will be credited to your rewards balance within 2 billing cycles.
What Are Travel Credit Cards?
Travel credit cards are a type of credit credit card that offer benefits and rewards related to travel – like airport lounge access, complimentary checked bags, credits for free flights, free hotel stays, and much more.
How Do Travel Credit Cards Work?
Travel rewards cards work similarly to cash back credit cards. However, with travel credit cards, you earn points (or miles) for eligible purchases that can be redeemed on travel-related expenses. Higher earnings are typically available for purchases made in categories like dining and travel.
Many of these cards also come with exclusive perks that can make your travel experience less stressful and, ultimately, more enjoyable.
Types of Travel Rewards Credit Cards
Travel credit cards come in different shapes and sizes, with different rewards programs designed for different kinds of travelers. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with what’s available.
In this section, we will be looking at the different types of travel cards to help you choose the best card that matches your spending habits.
General Travel Credit Cards
General travel credit cards are not affiliated with any particular airline or hotel, making them much more flexible in terms of redeeming points earned.
This type of travel rewards card is issued by credit card companies whose reward programs typically include flights on any airline, purchases at any hotel, and a variety of other travel-related expenses.
Airline Co-Branded Travel Credit Cards
Airline travel credit cards are a type of travel credit card issued in partnership with a particular airline. Co-branded credit cards tend to be more restrictive than general travel credit cards since the reward options are usually focused on redeeming for flights on that airline and it’s partners only.
Airline credit cards will typically also allow you to transfer points to the airline’s loyalty program. They can offer free or discounted upgrades, lounge access, and others.
Hotel Co-Branded Travel Credit Cards
Hotel credit cards are credit cards co-branded with a hotel chain. As such, you will earn the most points when spending with the hotel partner, which may include stays, dining purchases, and others. Eligible purchases may include stays, dining purchases, and others.
Hotel cards tend to offer more points per dollar spent. One example is Chase’s Marriott Bonvoy Bold card, which provides 14X points per dollar spent.
Common Travel Rewards Categories
Cardholders have much to look forward to when redeeming their travel credit card rewards. While this may vary from one card to another, you will typically earn either points or miles.
Cardholders typically earn points by making eligible purchases. Many travel credit cards take this further by offering bonus points for purchases in certain categories.
You can redeem points in various ways including statement credits, hotel stays, gift cards, and many others. You could also choose to transfer points to a partner airline or hotel group loyalty program.
Points can also be redeemed through the card issuer’s travel portal which acts as a virtual marketplace. Travel credit card points are significantly more valuable when you redeem them for travel, as compared to gift cards and other purchases.
Credit card miles are typically offered on travel credit cards co-branded with an airline. Miles are earned through the airline’s loyalty program and are redeemed primarily for free flights.
Depending on the airline and issuer, you can also redeem miles for access to airport lounges, lower airfare, free upgrades, and more.
Many travel credit cards also include additional travel perks that both occasional and frequent travelers will surely appreciate. These perks can lower your travel expenses, allow you to experience things you otherwise wouldn’t have access to, and make traveling more fun, among other things.
Here are some of the things you can look forward to when getting a travel credit card:
- Travel insurance: Get refunds on trip cancellations and compensations for lost baggage, among other things, without taking out a separate insurance policy.
- Airport lounge access: Wait for your flight in comfort and style, with many lounges offering comfortable seating and complimentary food.
- Free upgrades: Free class bump-ups to travel in additional comfort
- Exclusive experiences: Get access to exclusive experiences such as dining and concerts.
- TSA precheck: Full or partial coverage of TSA precheck application
- Priority boarding: Get a priority pass and skip the queues.
- Dining credit: Free food and vouchers from your favorite restaurants
It’s worth noting that some travel credit cards come with additional perks, while others may not even include all the ones listed above. Refer to the individual card’s terms and conditions for a full breakdown of what’s on offer before committing.
How to Compare the Best Travel Credit Cards
Banks and financial institutions work hard to make their travel credit cards different from what their competitors offer. As no two cards are identical, comparing cards to understand which one is the best for you might seem a little daunting. However, this does not have to be the case.
Many travel credit cards have similar features, making them easy to compare. Still, this might not give you the whole picture. Making such comparisons can help ensure you get the best deal possible and the biggest bang for your buck.
Here are some of the features that have a high impact on your experience using the card:
While points are great, they are arbitrary because they do not hold any value outside of what the financial institution says they are worth. As such, you need to find out the value of points earned and how much you have to spend to earn those points.
On the other hand, some travel credit cards allow you to transfer your points to airline and hotel loyalty programs. Most of these transfers can be done on a 1:1 ratio, meaning one point earned through your credit card equals one point on the partner’s loyalty program. However, you’ll need to confirm the exchange rate and value of that partner’s points to ensure you’re getting a good deal.
Choice of rewards
The choice of rewards available is equally important. Aside from making sure you can earn enough points to exchange them for something of value, you also need to ensure that you can redeem points for something you want or can use.
Redemption options vary and may even include like statement credits, which can be advantageous, because they allow you to redeem points against your credit card bills – something you can do even if you’re not traveling.
Other perks, such as no foreign transaction fees, can help you lower costs while traveling abroad. Since not all perks benefit everyone, take the time to understand what is valuable or important to you to compare different cards more effectively.
A welcome bonus, also known as a sign-up bonus, is given to new customers just for signing up. To qualify, however, you will typically need to meet one or more criteria, such as making a fixed number of purchases within a specified timeframe.
Welcome bonuses come in all shapes and sizes. They may include bonus points or bonus miles, a higher per-dollar reward rate, or others. Remember to look at the criteria to see if it’s within your spending habits; otherwise, it may cost you more than it’s worth.
While perks and bonuses are fantastic, do remember that terms apply. Make sure you take the time to understand what the bank offers and how you can make the most of the card’s perks.
An introductory APR offer is like a welcome bonus. However, instead of points, you get a lower APR rate or no APR interest for an initial period. This period can change from one card to another; however, one calendar year is a typical offer.
A lower APR rate, or even none, can help you save a pretty penny. Remember that you’ll pay the full rate once the honeymoon period is over.
The APR (Annual Percentage Rate) represents the interest you’ll have to pay on any funds used. Higher APRs mean you’ll have to pay more, while lower APRs mean you’ll pay less. Of course, making payments on time will help you ensure you do not spend as much; however, a missed bill can see your credit card debt skyrocket fairly quickly.
Most APRs are given as a variable APR rate, which means they can fluctuate. Most issuers will also consider factors such as your credit score when working out which rate will apply to you.
Remember, the key to maximizing the benefits of travel rewards cards is to pay off your balance in full. Otherwise, the rewards will not be worth the fees paid. If you will not be able to pay off the balance in full, you should opt for a 0% APR credit card instead.
The annual fee is a fee you pay yearly for owning the card. Some cards have no annual fee, while others can have an annual fee that runs into hundreds of dollars. You will need to make sure you afford the fee since this fee needs to be paid every year. However, many cards with high annual fees also include a lot of valuable perks and credits, so make sure to factor those in when you’re evaluating a card.
Some issuers do opt to waive the fee for the first year. However, do not let this misguide you. While savings are good on any day of the year, remember that you will need to pay the fee for subsequent years.
Other card features such as balance transfers and Visa or MasterCard’s Zero Liability policy can help you manage your everyday finances better. While these features are not as exciting as free food or upgrades, they can be equally important, so make sure you give them their due consideration.
Pros & Cons of Travel Credit Cards
Travel credit cards have pros and cons, like every other financial product. The good news is that these are often subjective. What might be a con to someone can be your greatest pro.
Even so, it is important to understand what these are. After all, other types of credit cards also offer rewards – such as cashback credit cards which give you real cash back on qualifying purchases.
- Perks like no other:
Every traveler will surely appreciate and value priority boarding, airport lounge access, and complimentary food. Spend enough time in airports on layovers that are way too long, and these things may seem like a lifesaver.
- No foreign transaction fees:
Different currencies can be a headache, especially when you need to keep factoring in foreign transaction fees to see how much something will actually cost you. Since travel credit cards often do not charge foreign transaction fees, you can take your mind off the hassle and truly enjoy some guilt-free shopping.
- Limited redemption:
Travel credit cards offer points and rewards that you may only be able to redeem on travel. While this is great if you frequently travel, if, for one reason or another, you find yourself unable to travel, your points may be hard to redeem.
- High annual fees:
While you’ll certainly find travel credit cards with low or no annual fees, most of them charge a higher-than-average annual fee. Of course, if the perks justify the price, then it could very well be the deal of the century.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which travel credit card is the best?
The best travel rewards credit card offers card benefits that bring the most value to you. Evaluate the perks and redemption options alongside the welcome offer to see if it’s right for your financial situation and spending habits.
Which credit card is best for international travel?
A travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, might be the best option if you travel abroad.
Make sure you read through our article to get a better idea of the best international travel card for you.
Who Are Travel Credit Cards Best For?
People travel for various reasons, which is why travel credit cards come in different shapes and sizes. If you travel very often, a travel credit card is something that you should consider. It can make your travels more comfortable and enjoyable, and it will be easier to collect enough points to enjoy the rewards the card offers.
On the other hand, if you only travel occasionally, you may not be able to collect enough points or miles with a specialized travel credit card. This limitation does not mean you should abandon the idea of travel credit cards altogether. On the contrary, you might want to look into a general travel credit card that also offers points on everyday purchases.
Either way, take stock of what is important to you, your travel and financial habits, and ultimately what you hope to achieve with your travel credit card. This information makes you more likely to make the best decision.