Travel credit cards offer a great opportunity to earn free points that can be redeemed for airfares, hotels, or cold hard cash. In the race to get customers, credit card issuing companies partner with various travel brands (or just simply offer their own card) that entice consumers with sign up bonuses, loyalty points, special discounts, and more.
Their desire to get you, the consumer, is really your gain. By tapping the system, you can get tons of free air tickets, hotel rooms, vacations, and even cash back.
Travel cards categories
Travel rewards credit cards fall into several broad categories. First, airline rewards credit cards are designed to reward spending with specific airlines or airline partnerships. When purchasing airfare, in-flight incidentals, and possibly other travel-related items, cardholders earn points at accelerated rates.
Once enough points are racked up, they can be redeemed for free or discounted flights, free or reduced baggage fees, and other goodies. Some airline rewards cards offer additional perks and benefits, such as airport lounge access, discounts with hotel partners, and bonus miles for reaching certain travel milestones.
Hotel credit cards focus their rewards firepower on hotel stays and related expenses. Many major hotel brands and brand families offer at least a handful of credit cards that reward cardholders for room, food, and incidental purchases (such as spa treatments) at properties they own.
Choosing the 5 best travel rewards credit cards
First, know that there is no perfect travel card – they all offer different benefits that fit different people. It would be nice to pick the best travel reward cards in a purely experiential manner, the way one would choose a card with the lowest interest rate. Unfortunately, each travel rewards card offers a unique mix of benefits and drawbacks, and rarely is one card ideally suited for everyone’s travel aspirations.
#1 Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card are able to transfer their points to Chase travel partners at full value — 1,000 Chase points equal 1,000 partner miles/points. For most cards, some value gets lost during the transfer.
Or get 20% off travel booked through Chase’s site. Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. There are no foreign transaction fees. The intro annual fee is $0 the first year, then $95.
Bonus offer: earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That would amount to $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
#2 Bank Travel Rewards Credit Card
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card offers 1.5 points per $1 spent on every purchase, with no limit to the points you can earn and no expiration date on the points. If you’re a Bank of America customer, you get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active checking or savings account with Bank of America.
Points can be redeemed as a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, and more with no blackout dates and restrictions. This card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
Online exclusive bonus offer: get 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1000 in purchases in the first 90 days — redeemable for a $200 statement credit that you can put towards travel purchases. New card members will get to enjoy a 0% introductory APR for 12 billing cycles on all their purchases, which then becomes a 15.49%-23.49% variable APR after the offer period.
#3 Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a simple travel rewards card that offers two miles per dollar spent on all purchases.
Earn unlimited miles and redeem them for statement credit on travel purchases, allowing you to choose any airline or hotel, and earn miles on your travel rewards. There is no annual fee for the first year. It’s $59 thereafter.
Bonus offer: get a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of approval, equal to $400 in travel.
#4 Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express
The Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express offers 2 miles for every purchase made directly with Delta and 1 mile for all other eligible purchases.
You also get a slew of travel benefits, including your first checked bag free on every Delta flight, Priority Boarding, discounted airport lounge access, and 20% savings on in-flight purchases. There is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then a $95 fee applies annually.
Bonus: get 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, plus a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase within your first 3 months. Terms and conditions apply.
#5 Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offers unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase. While the rewards are lower, the APR range is also lower than most cards (0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 12.49% – 22.49% variable APR after that). There are no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee.
Bonus: 20,000 one-time bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within 3 months of approval — equal to $200 in travel!
Which card would you choose? Tell us in the comments and check out these 4 best cashback cards and 3 credit cards that accommodate bad credit history.