The 12 Best Travel Credit Cards of January 2023
Best Overall Travel
Capital One Venture Rewards
- Easy-to-track rewards
- Free lounge visits
Best Welcome Bonus
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Three types of bonuses
- Variable points
Best Airline Card
Delta SkyMiles® Gold
- Free checked bag
- Delta flight credit
Best Hotel Card
Hilton Honors Aspire
- Hilton Honors Diamond
- Free night reward
The best travel credit cards offer consumers rewards points or miles toward purchases like airfare, hotels and rental cars. Though some carry steep fees, these credit cards typically result in more rewards for frequent travelers than a standard cash back credit card. And they might also come with unique perks like travel insurance, free baggage check and late check-out at hotels.
But with confusing terminology like points vs. miles and an oversaturated market full of general travel cards, airline cards and hotel cards, how can you determine which card offers the right mix of rewards and perks at the right annual fee for you? To help, we’ve compiled a list of the best travel credit cards currently available.
The Best Travel Credit Cards
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best Overall Travel Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best Bonus Program
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Best Airline Credit Card
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: Best Hotel Credit Card
- Citi Premier® Card: Best for Everyday Purchases
- American Express® Gold Card: Best for Foodies
- U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card: Best for Road Trippers
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for Luxury Travel
- Wells Fargo Autograph Card: Best for No Annual Fee
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Best for Business Travelers
- Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students: Best for Students
- Credit One Bank Wander Card: Best for Fair Credit Applicants
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Easy-to-track flat-rate rewards
- Free lounge visits
- Up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
You’ll earn 2x miles for every dollar spent when you swipe your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card — but you’ll earn 5x miles when for all hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel portal. Plus, Capital One’s current welcome bonus (75,000 miles if you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening) is hard to pass up.
We also like this travel card because it’s got a relatively low fee (just $95), and it doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees or fees for balance transfers. Its perks are also noteworthy: two free lounge visits a year, up to $100 toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, automatic Hertz Five Star status, and 5x miles when booking on Turo.
Like any good travel card, Venture Rewards offers 24-hour travel assistance services, travel accident insurance, extended warranties on purchases and even the ability to transfer your miles to your favorite loyalty programs.
Alternative Cards to Consider: Don’t want to spend $95 a year on a travel card? You can earn 1.25x miles per dollar with the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. On the flip side, you can spend $395 a year for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card; with it, you’ll earn up to 10x miles on select purchases, a $300 annual travel credit, and an annual 10,000-mile anniversary bonus.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Welcome bonus plus anniversary bonuses
- Refer-a-friend bonuses
- Variable points for eligible purchases
The $95 fee for this card is negligible if you take advantage of all the great ways to earn points:
- Earn up to $50 in statement credits every year (account anniversary) for booking hotel stays directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- Earn 5x points when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards (excludes hotel stays that qualify for the annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit).
- Earn 3x points on dining, including dining out, delivery services and takeout.
- Earn 3 points on online grocery shopping (excludes Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs).
- Earn 3x points on select streaming services.
- Earn 2x points on travel purchases made outside Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- Earn 1x point per dollar on all other purchases.
Each point is worth 1 cent — unless you use it to book travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards, where points are worth 25% more.
While earning points is easy through spending on eligible purchases, the real draw of this card is the bonus program:
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Earn bonus points equal to 10% of your purchases from the previous year on each account anniversary.
- Earn 15,000 bonus points for each referral — up to 75,000 bonus points a year.
Other hallmarks of the Sapphire Preferred Card include trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay insurance and extended warranty protection.
Alternative Cards to Consider: If you bank with Chase but don’t want to pay an annual fee for your card, consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom Flex. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is pricier ($550 a year) but comes with more luxury perks and up to 10x points, which go even further in Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express
- First checked bag free on Delta flights
- Delta flight credit
- 20% back on in-flight purchases
The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card is our favorite airline credit card, but it only makes sense for travelers who are willing to always book Delta. Savvy travelers on a budget who book flights based on the cheapest airline of the day should consider a general travel card instead.
But if you are loyal to Delta, it can pay off to have their card. Each mile is redeemable for a cent toward a flight through the Pay with Miles program: 5,000 miles means $50 off your next flight booked through Delta. And you’ll earn points for more than just Delta flight purchases. In fact, you earn 2x points not only on Delta purchases but also on dining and groceries; all other eligible for Amex Base reward.
he free checked bag for every Delta flight is a highly attractive feature, as well as the $100 Delta flight credit when you spend $10,000 with the card in a calendar year. Members even enjoy 20% cash back on in-flight purchases and get access to the Global Assist Hotline whenever they’re more than 100 miles from home.
Alternative Cards to Consider: Delta loyalists can also consider the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card. Not a Delta stan? Consider the JetBlue Plus Card, American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard, United Club Infinite Card, United Explorer Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card.
Hilton Honors Aspire American Express
- Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status
- $250 airline fee credit
- Annual free night reward
If you can handle the high annual fee, there’s so much to love about the Hilton Honors Aspire Card. For starters, you’ll earn 150,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The points will keep flowing in after because you’ll earn:
- 14x points on hotel and resort purchases within the Hilton portfolio.
- 7x points on select travel (through AmexTravel.com or directly through participating airlines and car rental companies).
- 7x points on dining.
- 3x points on everything else.
Members automatically get Hilton Honors Diamond status, earn one free night at a Hilton each year (and an additional night after $60,000 in purchases in a calendar year) and an annual $250 Hilton resort statement credit for eligible purchases. Members also receive a $250 airline fee credit, which can go toward baggage fees, in-flight refreshments and other incidentals. Fly in style with Priority Pass Select for you and two guests — at more than 1,200 lounges around the world. Hilton also gives members a $100 property credit at participating Waldorf and Conrad properties.
Other perks include Premium Global Assist Hotline, a lost luggage insurance plan and access to a lifestyle concierge.
Alternative Cards to Consider: Hilton loyalists aren’t limited to the Aspire Card. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is more affordable ($95 a year; $0 in the first year) but does rack up the points at a slower rate.
Don’t stay at Hilton family hotels that often? You might prefer the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless or Marriott Bonvoy Bold; you can also just open a general Chase Sapphire Card and transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Marriott Bonvoy account. If you’re a Hyatt loyalist, you may like the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
Citi Premier® Card
- Points redeemable for travel, gift cards & more
- Points for gas, groceries and more
- $100 hotel savings benefit
You won’t get lounge access or free checked bags with the Citi Premier Card, but it more than makes up for it with its winning rewards program. Earn 3x points at restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores — as well as for air travel and hotels. You’ll still earn 1x points for all other purchases.
You can redeem those points when shopping online (Amazon and Best Buy), as gift cards for department and home stores and restaurants and as travel rewards (flights, hotels, cruises and more).
Another huge benefit of this card is the $100 annual hotel savings benefit: You’ll get $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding applicable local sales tax and fees) if booked through thankyou.com. If you want to take advantage of specific airline or hotel perks, you can transfer your points to eligible loyalty programs for no fee.
We love that this card has no foreign transaction fees — and the annual fee is only $95 — but the 5% fee for balance transfers means you should look at another card if balance transfers from existing high-interest cards are a primary goal.
Alternative Cards to Consider: The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card also offers decent rewards on everyday purchases — and it has no annual fee. Another comparable card is the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, which gets the edge on travel-specific purchases at 5x points when booked through Capital One. Similarly, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a range of rewards rates based on how you spend your money, and those rewards are even more valuable when spent through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
American Express® Gold Card
- Great rewards for dining and groceries
- $120 dining credit each year
- $120 in Uber Cash each year
The American Express Gold Card pays for itself if you regularly dine out and use Uber (or Uber Eats). That’s because you’ll get a $10 statement credit every month for dining purchases through Grubhub, Goldbelly, Wine.com, The Cheesecake Factory, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. You’ll also get $10 a month in Uber Cash if you connect your Uber account; you can redeem this for Uber rides in the U.S. and UberEats orders.
But it’s not just the $20 a month toward your food and rideshare budget; members also earn 4x points at restaurants worldwide (including takeout and delivery) as well as 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year), then 1x. All other eligible for Amex Base reward. You can apply points toward airfare and hotel purchases — and when you sign up, you’ll get 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first six months from account opening.
What about the travel perks? You’ll earn 3x points when booking flights through AmexTravel.com or directly through the airlines; you’ll also get a $100 experience credit during a hotel stay when you book The Hotel Collection with American Express. Use the card abroad without worrying about foreign transaction fees, and you’ll also get a lost luggage insurance plan, rental vehicle insurance and the Global Assist Hotline.
Oh yeah, and you can get the Gold Card in Rose Gold, if that’s your thing.
Alternative Cards to Consider: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card earn 3x points on dining and online grocery shopping, which make them a decent option for foodies. (And remember, those points go further when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.)
U.S. Bank Altitude Connect
- $30 credit for streaming
- Variable points with emphasis on driving
- Up to $100 toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
The U.S Bank Altitude Connect Visa Signature Card is great for road trippers, whether you travel in your own car or you pick up a rental before hitting the open road. You’ll earn 5x points on prepaid hotels and rental cars booked through the Altitude Rewards Center, plus 4x points on travel, gas station and EV charging station expenses. You’ll also get 2x points at grocery stores (and delivery), dining and streaming services — and 1x points on all other eligible purchases.
Speaking of streaming services, the U.S. Bank Altitude Connect card gets you a $30 annual credit toward streaming purchases like Spotify, Netflix and Apple TV+. Other perks of this card include up to a $600 reimbursement if your cell phone is stolen or damaged (when you pay your monthly phone bill with the card) and up to $100 in statement credits to reimburse TSA PreCheck or Global Entry purchases (once every four years).
The welcome bonus isn’t the best on our list, but it’s still noteworthy (and easier to attain): 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first 120 days from account opening. You can redeem those points — and other points — toward travel, but you can also redeem points for merchandise, gift cards and cash back.
Alternative Cards to Consider: If earning rewards for fueling up your car is your prime motive, you may want to avoid travel cards altogether; instead, consider a gas rewards card, like the Shell | Fuel Rewards Card or the BPme Rewards Visa.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Abundance of statement credits
- High rewards points on travel purchases
- Access to travel counselors
The Platinum Card costs nearly $700 a year, but what do you get for that fee? Here are all the credits you’ll be eligible for:
- $200 annual hotel credit on prepaid Fine Hotels and Resorts
- $20 monthly entertainment credit (Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM and The New York Times) — that’s $240 a year
- $155 annual Walmart+ credit
- $15 monthly Uber Cash (plus an extra $20 in December) — that’s $200 a year, good for rideshare and Uber Eats
- $200 annual airline fee credit for incidentals like checked bags and flight changes
- $25 monthly credit for eligible Equinox club memberships — that’s $300 a year
- $100 annual statement credits for Saks Fifth Avenue purchases
- $189 back each year for CLEAR membership
- Up to $100 reimbursement for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
Points are easy to track. You’ll earn 5x points for flights and hotels when you book directly through eligible airlines or hotels or on AmexTravel.com. All other purchases yield 1x points, redeemable for travel purchases.
Luxury perks for the Platinum Card include access to the Global Lounge Collection (more than 1,400 worldwide), special credits for The Hotel Collection experiences, access to travel counselors, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status, Hilton Honors Gold Status, premium car rental status and plenty of travel insurance, including rental car insurance, trip delay and trip cancellation.Right now, you can get your Platinum Card with special Kehinde Wiley or Julie Mehretu artwork.
Alternative Cards to Consider: The Chase Sapphire Reserve also swipes like a luxury card. While the perks aren’t as comprehensive, the annual fee is only $550 — and points go further when redeemed via Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Capital One Venture X Rewards offers premium travel perks at a lower fee as well (just $395 a year).
Wells Fargo Autograph Card
- No annual fee
- Points redeemable for travel, gift cards & more
- Low intro APR
The headliner for this credit card from Wells Fargo is the lack of annual fees. While Wells Fargo isn’t generally known for offering the best rates on bank accounts and credit cards, the Autograph Card is a noteworthy exception.
You can earn 3x points on qualifying restaurants, travel, gas, transit, phone and streaming purchases — and 1x points on everything else. Each point is worth 1 cent, and you can redeem points for travel (flights, car rentals and hotel stays), gift cards (in $25 increments) and other eligible purchases.
You can also earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,500 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.
With this card, you will miss out on luxury travel perks, like free checked bags, lounge access and free hotel stays. You may also face a higher APR (don’t let the first-year 0% intro APR fool you). But for no annual fee, the Autograph Card is a great choice.
Alternative Cards to Consider: Looking for other travel cards with no annual fee? Consider the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card (including the option for students!) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom Flex. The Chase cards also get you access to Chase Ultimate Rewards, where points carry even more value.
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
- Huge welcome bonus
- Points for common business expenses
- Employee cards at no extra cost
Small business owners, listen up: The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is the best travel card for businesses, hands down. You’ll earn 3x points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent a year on things like shipping, internet, advertising (social media and search engine), phone bills and travel costs. You’ll earn 1x points on every other purchase.
You’ll also receive 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Each point is worth 1 cent, redeemable for cash back and gift cards. Or you can redeem your points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards for a boosted 25% value per point.
The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card also offers a host of business monitoring features like fraud protection, purchase protection and personalized account alerts. You can even issue your employees cards (with individual spending limits) for no extra cost.
Alternative Cards to Consider: The Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is our favorite travel business credit card — but it’s not your only option. Others on our radar include the Capital One Spark Miles for Business and the Bank of America Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard Credit Card.
Bank of America Travel Rewards Card
- No annual fee
- Student borrowers with fair or limited credit
- Decent points and bonuses
Students who plan to study abroad or just travel during summer break should consider this Bank of America travel card. Because it’s targeted toward students, it’s easier to get with a limited credit history or a fair credit score.
You might get stuck with a high APR (though for the first 18 months, it’s 0%), but there are no foreign transaction fees to worry about. Balance transfers are another story; you’ll pay 3% for balance transfers with Bank of America — or a $10 minimum per transfer.
The points program is admirable, especially for a no-fee student card: You’ll earn 1.5x points on every purchase, no matter the category. You can also get 25,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. Each point is worth 1 cent — so that’s a $250 statement credit toward travel (or dining) purchases.
Alternative Cards to Consider: If travel or study abroad aren’t your main goals as a student, you might find a student credit card better suited to your needs. Our favorite student credit card is the Discover it Student Cash Back; it’s not a travel card, but it’s an ideal choice for first-time borrowers in college.
Credit One Bank Wander Card
- Available to fair credit borrowers
- High rewards rates
- 10% cash back at select retailers
The Credit One Bank Wander Card gives fair credit borrowers a chance to earn rewards for their travels. While balance transfers are expensive and the card carries a high APR, the annual fee is negligible ($95), and you have the opportunity to earn some great rewards.
In fact, you can earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals when you book through the Credit One Bank travel partner. You’ll also earn 5x points on eligible travel (including flights, gas and dining purchases) and 1x points on all other eligible purchases. You can also earn 10% cash back when shopping at select retailers.
The bonus offer pales in comparison to other cards on this list, but it’s still good for a card marketed to fair credit borrowers: Earn 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening. Each point is worth 1 cent and can be redeemed for a statement credit, gift cards or travel.
Alternative Card to Consider: There aren’t a lot of travel cards available to borrowers with fair credit. Instead, you might consider a secured credit card as you work to repair your credit score. One of our favorite secured cards is the Discover it Secured Credit Card, but the Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card is also a solid choice.
How We Picked the Best Travel Credit Cards
To select our top 12 best travel cards, we narrowed our focus to a list of 35 travel cards offering strong rewards and bonuses, balanced by justifiable fees. We whittled this list down further to unique cards for each type of traveler.
Here’s the full list of 35 travel cards that we started with, in alphabetical order:
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Mastercard
- American Express Gold Card
- Bank of America Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard Credit Card
- Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
- Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
- Bilt World Elite Mastercard
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Citi Premier Card
- Credit One Bank Wander Card
- Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
- Discover it Miles
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card
- Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
- JetBlue Plus Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card
- PenFed Pathfinder Rewards Visa Signature Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card
- The Platinum Card from American Express
- TD First Class Visa Signature Credit Card
- United Club Infinite Card
- United Explorer Card
- U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Visa Signature Card
- U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
- Wells Fargo Autograph Card
- World of Hyatt Credit Card
What Is a Travel Credit Card?
A travel credit card earns rewards that cardholders can apply toward travel purchases, like hotels and airfare. These rewards usually come in the form of points, miles or cash back. The best travel credit cards offer competitive rewards and, usually, a welcome bonus equivalent to several tens of thousands of bonus points.
Though many of the best travel credit cards come with an annual fee (the highest on our list is nearly $700), they can easily pay for themselves if you are a frequent traveler who knows how to take advantage of the perks. In addition to rewards, travel cards typically offer trip insurance. Co-branded travel cards, like airline credit cards and hotel credit cards, may even offer additional perks like lounge access, free checked bags, concierge services, free breakfast and early check-in and late checkout.
How Does a Travel Credit Card Work?
Travel credit cards work similarly to standard credit cards: Swipe them for everyday purchases, then pay them off each month to avoid accruing interest. The difference? Each time you use your credit card, you’ll accumulate points or miles that you can redeem for travel expenses.
How points and miles are valued, how much you accrue with every dollar spent and how you redeem the points or miles all depend on the specific travel card you have and what you’re spending money on. For example, with one card, you might earn a flat rate no matter the purchase while others may offer more points for dining or gas. Basic rewards points usually have a fixed value between 1 and 1.5 cents per point, but airline miles and hotel points are a little more nuanced and can be challenging to track if you’re a beginner.
Types of Travel Credit Cards
Broadly, there are two types of travel cards: general travel credit cards and co-branded travel cards. Co-branded cards include airline credit cards and hotel credit cards.
General Travel Credit Cards
General travel credit card issuers include banks like Capital One, Chase and Citi. Such cards offer rewards that you can redeem more broadly for travel expenses, like a flight, rental car or hotel stay. Airline credit cards and hotel credit cards, on the other hand, require you to redeem your points or miles specifically with their brand.
Because you can more widely use the points accrued on a general travel card, the rewards might not be as competitive as they are with co-branded cards. You may also miss out on brand-specific perks, like free checked bags or room upgrades, that co-branded cards sometimes offer.
General travel cards often come with huge welcome bonuses (also called sign-up bonuses) if you spend a certain amount of money within a set timeframe from account opening. These cards can run the gamut; travel cards with no annual fees typically offer basic travel rewards while those with steeper fees offer higher reward amounts and may come with additional perks.
You can usually redeem these travel credit card points when booking through the card issuer’s website or platform. Alternatively, you can book a flight or hotel directly (or via another third-party application), then use your points as a statement credit after the purchase has gone through.
Some travel card issuers allow you to transfer points to airline and hotel loyalty programs — but this transfer may lower the value of each point. Similarly, you might be able to claim your rewards points as general cash back, but the value of each point will typically be lower when redeemed this way.
Airline Credit Cards
Airline credit cards are a type of co-branded travel credit card. Airlines like Delta, United and American Airlines partner with credit card issuers like American Express to offer these travel cards, which let you earn miles for every dollar spent. Airline credit cards make sense if you are loyal to a specific airline.
Once you’ve accrued enough miles, you can redeem them for future travel with that airline (or other airlines in the same airline alliance). Higher-tier airline credit cards, which fetch a higher annual fee, may come with perks like free baggage check, lounge access, priority boarding and TSA Precheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement.
Delta, United and American all have credit cards, but you can also find credit cards from smaller airlines like JetBlue and Southwest.
Hotel Credit Cards
Hotel credit cards are another form of co-branded travel credit card that instead allow you to earn points toward free nights at a specific hotel chain. That makes these cards most attractive to travelers who are loyal to a specific chain.
In addition to rewards points toward the hotel chain, a hotel credit card might include perks like early check-in and late checkout, free breakfast or even a free night every year. Three of the largest hotel chains to consider are Marriott, Hilton and Wyndham.
What to Look For in a Travel Credit Card
The market is saturated with travel credit cards, so how do you pick the right one? Comparing travel cards requires that you already have an understanding of the perks you want, the annual fee you’re willing to pay and, of course, your credit score. Here are some things to look for:
If until now, you’ve only had basic cash back rewards credit cards, you may not be used to paying an annual fee for your credit card. While there are options without an annual fee, the best travel credit cards typically come with some kind of fee — at least $95. The more perks and rewards you want, the higher the fee will likely climb.
Before choosing a card with a high annual fee, calculate how much you’ll have to travel to make it worth your while. If you’re not a frequent traveler, a cash back rewards credit card may be the better deal.
The main attraction of a travel card is the rewards perks. Look for a card that will offer rewards that you’ll actually use. For example, if you’re a frequent flier, you’ll want a card that rewards regular airfare purchases — with rewards in the form of miles. But if you like to go for road trips, you might prefer a credit card that rewards fuel purchases and can be redeemed as hotel points.
The rewards program is only part of the calculation. You should also pay attention to the sign-up bonus (but be warned — these change frequently). Sometimes, a strong welcome offer can counteract the card’s annual fee for the first year. If you are deciding between two similar travel credit cards, the sign-up bonus can be a good way to break the tie.
Points and miles are hallmarks of travel cards, but you should consider the whole package. Here are some other perks you may want to prioritize when selecting your travel credit card:
- Travel insurance, including lost luggage insurance, trip cancellation insurance, travel accident insurance, trip interruption insurance and even car rental insurance
- Airline perks like lounge access and priority boarding
- Hotel perks like early check-in and free breakfast
Not all travel cards are created equal. While Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted around the world, travelers may have more trouble with Discover and American Express. If you travel abroad regularly, it’s a good idea to keep a Visa or Mastercard in your wallet. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have American Express or Discover but you may want the added security of multiple cards when traveling in a foreign country.
Foreign Transaction Fees
Speaking of traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to look for a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees when used outside the country. The best travel credit cards have no such fees, but lower-tier cards that charge up to 3% in foreign transaction fees could still be attractive if you only travel in the U.S.
Minimum Credit Score Requirement
Travel cards pay out tremendous benefits, but they’re not available to everyone. Most credit card issuers require good if not excellent credit to be approved. While credit scores are not the only factor a card issuer will use to determine whether they approve your application, they’re an important consideration. Make sure you have at least the minimum score listed above for each card — but you’ll be more successful if you are on the higher end of the range.
Pros and Cons of Travel Credit Cards
If you have a strong enough credit score to qualify and travel enough to justify the annual fee, a travel card carries a number of advantages. But these cards can have their downsides, too. Weigh the pros and cons before signing on the dotted line:
- Big sign-up bonuses can fund your next trip.
- Using them can help you avoid foreign transaction fees.
- You can justify travel expenses by racking up points for everyday expenses.
- Additional perks can add luxury and convenience to travel.
- You may earn better rewards than you would with cash back credit cards.
- Earning and using rewards can be complex and confusing.
- The best travel credit cards have high annual fees.
- Tough credit score requirements make these cards difficult to get.
- There are limited use cases for rewards; if you don’t travel regularly, they might not be right for you.
- APRs tend to be higher for travel cards.
Alternatives to a Travel Credit Card
If you’re looking for a good rewards credit card but don’t travel enough to justify the annual fee, consider a basic cash back credit card, like the Capital One Quicksilver. Such rewards credit cards offer straightforward cash back — either at a flat rate or at a variable rate depending on your purchase. This makes it easier to redeem your rewards, and the fees are much lower than travel credit cards. In fact, many cash back cards have no annual fees.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Travel Credit Cards
We’ve rounded up the answers to the most common questions about travel credit cards to help you decide if this type of card is right for you.
In general, travel credit cards require a good to excellent credit score to earn approval. A good FICO score is between 670 to 739; excellent credit scores are considered to be 740 and above. In addition to a strong credit score, consumers must be able to afford the annual fee for a travel card; the highest on our list of the best travel cards is $695.
In general, a single travel point or mile is worth between 1 and 1.5 cents. The amount will vary by the credit card itself and how you redeem the points. For example, a single point might be worth more when redeemed for airfare or a hotel stay than it would be as cash back.
They can range anywhere from 7,500 points to more than 60,000. If flying abroad, it’s not uncommon to need more than 100,000 points to fully cover the flight. Rewards can start at 25,000 miles. Determining the number of points or miles you need to accumulate for a free flight depends on the value of each point, where you’re traveling to and from and the type of ticket you select (points will go further when shopping for basic economy than they will for first class). These large variables can make it almost impossible to estimate how many points you’ll need for a free flight.
If your travel card earns points when swiped, you usually have more flexibility in how those points are redeemed — generally any travel-related purchase. If your card earns you miles, you can typically only redeem those for flights for a specific airline (the one that issued the co-branded airline credit card). Keep in mind: A mile earned through an airline credit card does not likely equate to an actual mile flown; it’s really just a way for the airline to measure their rewards currency.
Contributor Timothy Moore is a writer and editor in Cincinnati who covers banks, loans, insurance, travel and automotive topics for The Penny Hoarder.