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Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Our Bank of America® travel rewards credit cards can get you closer to your next vacation.

From flexible travel points to cruise rewards to vacation packages or air miles, we've got a travel or cruise line credit card that's right for you. Start planning your next trip by applying for a Bank of America® travel rewards credit card online today.

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Bank of America ® Customized Cash Rewards

$200 online cash rewards bonus offer and 3% cash back in the category of your choice — with newly-expanded options.

No annual fee †

Show More Show Less Bank of America ® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter) and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases Calculate rewards
  • Choose which category you want to earn 3% cash back in — now with enhanced categories: gas and EV charging stations ; online shopping, including cable, internet, phone plans and streaming ; dining; travel; drug stores and pharmacies; or home improvement and furnishings. To change your choice category for future purchases, you must go to Online Banking, or use the Mobile Banking app. You can change it once each calendar month, or make no change and it stays the same .
  • 0% † Intro APR for your first 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made within the first 60 days of opening your account. After the intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that's currently 18.24% to 28.24% will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means the 3% choice category could earn 3.75% - 5.25% and the 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs could earn 2.50% - 3.50% , for the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, and the 1% for all other purchases could earn 1.25% - 1.75% . Not enrolled? Learn more about Preferred Rewards Cash Rewards .
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page, if you visit a Bank of America financial center or call the bank. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

Bank of America ® Unlimited Cash Rewards

$200 online cash rewards bonus offer, show more show less bank of america ® unlimited cash rewards credit card.

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases Calculate rewards
  • No limit to the amount of cash back you can earn and cash rewards don’t expire
  • 0% † Intro APR for your first 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made within the first 60 days of opening your account. After that, a Variable APR that's currently 18.24% to 28.24% will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn 1.87% - 2.62% cash back on every purchase. Learn More About Preferred Rewards .

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card

BankAmericard ®

Save on interest, show more show less bankamericard ® credit card.

  • 0% Intro APR † for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days of opening your account. After the intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that's currently 16.24% - 26.24% will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
  • No Penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply † .
  • Access your FICO ® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app.

† Terms & Conditions  for BankAmericard ® credit card

Bank of America ® Travel Rewards

25,000 online bonus points offer (a $250 value) and no annual fee †.

No annual fee †  and no foreign transaction fees †

Show More Show Less Bank of America ® Travel Rewards credit card

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points Calculate rewards
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want with no blackout dates and pay yourself back with a statement credit towards travel and dining purchases
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn 1.87 to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend, everywhere, every time. Not enrolled? Learn more about Preferred Rewards Travel Rewards

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Travel Rewards credit card

Bank of America ® Premium Rewards ®

60,000 online bonus points offer — a $600 value.

Low $95 annual fee † and no foreign transaction fees †

Show More Show Less Bank of America ® Premium Rewards ® credit card

  • Earn unlimited points , that don't expire – 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points per $1 on all other purchases . Calculate Rewards Premium Rewards
  • Get up to $200 in combined Airline Incidental and TSA PreCheck ® /Global Entry Statement Credits. Plus, access to world class travel benefits: travel and purchase protections, luxury hotel collection and concierge service.
  • Redeem for cash back as a deposit into Bank of America ® checking or savings accounts, for credit to eligible Merrill ® accounts including 529 accounts, as a statement credit to your credit card, or for gift cards and purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn 2.5 to 3.5 points on travel and dining purchases and 1.87 to 2.62 points on all other purchases, for every $1 you spend. Not enrolled? Learn more about Preferred Rewards Premium Rewards

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Premium Rewards ® credit card

Bank of America ® Premium Rewards ® Elite

75,000 online bonus points offer — a $750 value.

$550 annual fee † and no foreign transaction fees †

Show More Show Less Bank of America ® Premium Rewards ® Elite credit card

  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases , and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases . No limit to the points you can earn and points don’t expire. Calculate Rewards Premium Elite Rewards
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn 2.5 to 3.5 points on travel and dining purchases and 1.87 to 2.62 points on all other purchases, for every $1 you spend.
  • Get up to $550 in combined Airline Incidental, TSA PreCheck ® /Global Entry, and Lifestyle Statement Credits . Plus, a suite of luxury benefits to fit your lifestyle: full-service concierge, airport lounge and experience access, premier hotel amenities, travel and purchase protections.
  • You choose how you want to be rewarded . Redeem points for travel, cash back, a statement credit, distinctive experiences or gift cards. Plus, save 20% on airfare when you pay with points through the Bank of America Travel Center.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page, if you visit a Bank of America financial center or call the bank . You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Premium Rewards ® Elite credit card

Bank of America ® Customized Cash Rewards for Students

3% cash back in the category of your choice — with newly-expanded options, show more show less bank of america ® customized cash rewards credit card for students.

  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter) and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Choose which category you want to earn 3% cash back in — now with enhanced categories : gas and EV charging stations ; online shopping, including cable, internet, phone plans and streaming ; dining; travel; drug stores and pharmacies; or home improvement and furnishings To change your choice category for future purchases, you must go to Online Banking, or use the Mobile Banking app. You can change it once each calendar month, or make no change and it stays the same .
  • Online $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening
  • When handled responsibly, a credit card can help you build your credit history, which could be helpful when looking for an apartment, a car loan, and even a job. Access your FICO ® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app.

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students

Bank of America ® Unlimited Cash Rewards for Students

Start building your financial future while earning unlimited cash back, show more show less bank of america ® unlimited cash rewards credit card for students.

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn and cash rewards don't expire

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students

BankAmericard ® for Students

Save on interest, a great choice when you’re just starting out, show more show less bankamericard ® credit card for students.

  • Your card comes with our $0 Liability Guarantee and chip technology for additional security when used at chip-enabled terminals

† Terms & Conditions  for BankAmericard ® Credit Card for Students

Bank of America ® Travel Rewards for Students

Start building your financial future.

No annual fee † and no foreign transaction fees †

Show More Show Less Bank of America ® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points. Use your card to book your trip how and where you want with no blackout dates and pay yourself back with a statement credit towards travel and dining purchases.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America ® Customized Cash Rewards Secured

Help build your credit while earning 3% cash back in the category of your choice — with newly-expanded options, show more show less bank of america ® customized cash rewards secured credit card.

  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter) and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Choose which category you want to earn 3% cash back in — now with enhanced categories : gas and EV charging stations ; online shopping, including cable, internet, phone plans and streaming ; dining; travel; drug stores and pharmacies; or home improvement and furnishings. To change your choice category for future purchases, you must go to Online Banking, or use the Mobile Banking app. You can change it once each calendar month, or make no change and it stays the same.
  • Open your account with a security deposit ($200-$5,000) . Upon credit approval your required deposit is used, in combination with your income and your ability to pay, to help establish your credit line. We'll periodically review your account and, based on your overall credit history (including your account and overall relationship with us, and other credit cards and loans), you may qualify to have your security deposit returned. Not all customers will qualify.
  • Build up your credit history – use this card responsibly and over time it could help you improve your credit score.
  • Your financial health. Our Priority. Bank of America – Outstanding Customer Satisfaction with Financial Health Support – Banking & Payments, 2 years in a row
  • Secured card products are not eligible for a new account bonus offer, like a cash rewards bonus offer, and introductory APRs are not available.

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Customized Cash Rewards secured credit card

Bank of America ® Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured

Help strengthen or build your credit and earn unlimited cash back, show more show less bank of america ® unlimited cash rewards secured credit card.

  • Build up your credit history — use this card responsibly and over time it could help you improve your credit score

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Unlimited Cash Rewards secured credit card

BankAmericard ® Secured

Help establish, strengthen - or even rebuild your credit with a card that's simple and convenient, show more show less bankamericard ® secured credit card.

  • Open your account with a security deposit ($200-$5,000). Upon credit approval your required deposit is used, in combination with your income and your ability to pay, to help establish your credit line.
  • We'll periodically review your account and, based on your overall credit history (including your account and overall relationship with us, and other credit cards and loans), you may qualify to have your security deposit returned. Not all customers will qualify.
  • Secured card products are not eligible for a new account bonus offer, like a statement credit, and introductory APRs are not available.

† Terms & Conditions  for BankAmericard ® secured credit card

Bank of America ® Travel Rewards Secured

Help strenghten or build your credit and earn unlimited points, show more show less bank of america ® travel rewards visa ® secured credit card.

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points. Use your card to book your trip how and where you want with no black out dates and pay yourself back with a statement credit towards travel and dining purchases.
  • Open your account with a security deposit ($200-$5,000). Upon credit approval your required deposit is used, in combination with your income and your ability to pay, to help establish your credit line. We'll periodically review your account and, based on your overall credit history (including your account and overall relationship with us, and other credit cards and loans), you may qualify to have your security deposit returned. Not all customers will qualify.
  • Build up your credit history — use this card responsibly and over time it could help you improve your credit score.
  • Secured card products are not eligible for a new account bonus offer, like a bonus points offer, and introductory APRs are not available.

† Terms & Conditions  for Bank of America ® Travel Rewards Visa ® secured credit card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature ®

Limited time online offer: 70,000 bonus miles plus alaska's famous companion fare™, show more show less alaska airlines visa signature ® credit card.

  • 70,000 Bonus Miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) after you make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening. Plus, celebrate your account anniversary with Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ every year that you spend at least $6,000 on purchases with your card.
  • Free checked bag for any cardholder who purchases airfare with their card, and up to 6 additional guests traveling on the same reservation. Plus you'll enjoy priority boarding when you pay for your flight with your card , so you can get to your seat quicker.
  • Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases. Earn unlimited 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible gas, EV charging station, cable, streaming services and local transit purchases including rideshare. Earn unlimited 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, earn a 10% rewards bonus on all miles earned on card purchases if you have an eligible Bank of America ® account.
  • Flexibility with no blackout dates on Alaska Airlines flights when booking with miles or a companion fare.
  • This online only offer may not be available elsewhere if you leave this page. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

† Terms & Conditions  for Alaska Airlines Visa Signature ® Credit Card

Susan G. Komen ® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

Help fight breast cancer and get a $200 online cash rewards bonus offer, show more show less susan g. komen ® customized cash rewards credit card.

  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases Calculate rewards Cash Rewards
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means the 3% choice category could earn 3.75% - 5.25% and the 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs could earn 2.50% - 3.50% , for the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, and the 1% for all other purchases could earn 1.25% - 1.75% . Not enrolled? Learn more about Preferred Rewards

† Terms & Conditions  for Susan G. Komen ® Customized Cash Rewards credit card

Free Spirit ® Travel More World Elite Mastercard ®

Online offer: 50,000 bonus points + a $100 companion flight voucher.

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year. After that it's just $79 †

Show More Show Less Free Spirit ® Travel More World Elite Mastercard ®

  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on eligible Spirit purchases, 2 points per $1 spent on eligible dining and grocery store purchases and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points plus a $100 Companion Flight Voucher after making at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
  • Receive a $100 Companion Flight Voucher each anniversary after making at least $5,000 in purchases within the prior anniversary year
  • No limit to the points you can earn, no points expiration as long as your card account is open, and no redemption fees as a primary cardholder

† Terms & Conditions  for Free Spirit ® Travel More World Elite Mastercard ®

Allways Rewards Visa ®

Online offer: 15,000 bonus points.

Low $59 annual fee †

Show More Show Less Allways Rewards Visa ® card

  • Winner: Best Airline Credit Card , USA Today's 10Best Readers Choice Awards!
  • Online Offer: Earn 15,000 Bonus Points – equal to $150 off a future Allegiant trip, after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
  • 3 points per $1 on Allegiant purchases, 2 points per $1 on qualifying dining purchases and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • No blackout dates, no destination restrictions and no minimum points redemption

† Terms & Conditions  for Allways Rewards Visa ® card

Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard ®

Online offer: 50,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases.

Low $89 annual fee † and no foreign transaction fees †

Show More Show Less Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard ®

  • Online Offer: 50,000 Bonus Miles after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening
  • 3 Miles per $1 spent directly on Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and SkyTeam member airlines purchases
  • 1.5 Miles per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 60 XP upon approval to help advance to the next status for more generous perks

† Terms & Conditions  for Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard ®

Royal Caribbean Visa Signature ®

Online offer: 25,000 bonus points, show more show less royal caribbean visa signature ® credit card.

  • Get 25,000 MyCruise ® bonus points after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening, worth $250 in onboard credit
  • Earn 2 MyCruise points for every $1 spent on qualifying purchases with Royal Caribbean® and our sister brand, Celebrity Cruises®
  • Earn 1 MyCruise point for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Redeem your points for onboard credit, stateroom upgrades and cruise vacations on Royal Caribbean ® and our sister brand, Celebrity Cruises ®

† Terms & Conditions  for Royal Caribbean Visa Signature ® Credit Card

Norwegian Cruise Line ® World Mastercard ®

Online offer: 20,000 bonus points, show more show less norwegian cruise line ® world mastercard ®.

  • Online Offer: 20,000 bonus points after you make $1,000 or more in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. That's enough for a $200 onboard credit or $200 off your next Norwegian cruise .
  • Earn 3 WorldPoints ® points per $1 spent on Norwegian purchases, 2 WorldPoints points per $1 spent on eligible air and hotel purchases and 1 WorldPoints point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Redeem points for hundreds of rewards like cash, gift cards, hotels stays, car rentals or Norwegian redemptions
  • Preferred Rewards members earn a 25% - 75% points bonus on every purchase, applied to the base earn of 1 point per $1. Not enrolled? Learn more about Preferred Rewards Travel Rewards

† Terms & Conditions  for Norwegian Cruise Line ® World Mastercard ®

Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature ®

Show more show less celebrity cruises visa signature ® credit card.

  • Earn 2 MyCruise ® points for every $1 spent on qualifying purchases with Celebrity Cruises ® and our sister brand, Royal Caribbean ®
  • Redeem your points for onboard credit, stateroom upgrades and cruise vacations on Celebrity Cruises ® , and our sister brand, Royal Caribbean ®

† Terms & Conditions  for Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature ® Credit Card

how to pay travel rewards card

Preferred Rewards makes your credit card even better

When you enroll in the Preferred Rewards program, you can get a 25% — 75% rewards bonus on all eligible Bank of America ® credit cards.

Plus, as a Preferred Rewards member, you enjoy real benefits and rewards on your everyday Bank of America ® banking and Merrill investment accounts. And as your qualifying balances grow, so do your benefits.

Learn more about Preferred Rewards

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Advertiser Disclosure

How do travel rewards credit cards work?

This type of card allows you to earn points or miles you can redeem for travel reservations, and it typically offers additional travel benefits

Published: November 23, 2022

Jason Steele

Author: Jason Steele

Brady Porche

Editor: Brady Porche

Why trust us?

If you’re interested in investing in a travel credit card, it’s important to know the ins and outs before you commit to the one that’s right for you.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards , or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

For many rewards credit card users, the opportunity to earn a free vacation is much more attractive than earning cash back or merchandise. Using travel rewards credit cards allows you to dream of spending relaxing days in beautiful places, rather than merely reducing the amount on your credit card statement balances by a percent or two.

  • What is a travel rewards credit card?

A travel rewards credit card is one that allows you to earn points or miles that you can redeem for travel reservations. In addition to offering rewards, these  cards are also more likely to offer other features and benefits that are valuable to frequent travelers.

Credit cards that offer travel rewards have become very popular in recent years — there are now several different types of them.

One of the most familiar kinds are those co-branded by airlines, often called frequent flyer cards. These cards earn miles through a single airline’s loyalty program. Likewise, there are many hotel rewards cards that are co-branded with major hospitality chains.

Most credit card issuers also offer general-purpose travel reward cards that earn points or miles in their own loyalty programs. Some of these issuers allow you to redeem your rewards directly for travel reservations through their in-house travel agencies.

Other travel rewards programs let you redeem their points and miles for statement credits toward travel that you book yourself. And several popular programs let you transfer your rewards to airline miles or hotel points, in addition to letting you book travel directly or offering statement credits toward travel reservations. There are also travel cards designed for the needs of small business owners.

  • Types of travel credit cards

Airline credit cards are co-branded with an airline and offer both travel rewards and benefits when flying with that carrier. Standard rewards earned on airline cards are 2 miles (or rewards points) per dollar spent with the airline, and sometimes more in select bonus categories, plus 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. Airline cards also offer perks such as priority boarding, discounts on in-flight food and beverages and a free checked bag.

Hotel credit cards are similarly co-branded, with a hotel chain in this case, and designed to reward purchases made at that chain. Some offer enticing perks and bonuses , letting you earn points toward free night stays and benefits like room upgrades and late checkouts. Hotel credit cards differ from airline cards in that there’s no standard rewards structure.

General travel cards

Travel rewards credit cards not co-branded with a travel provider offer points or miles in a program created by the card issuer. Credit card users who earn these rewards can redeem them directly with the card issuer for travel reservations — such as American Express Membership Rewards and Citi’s ThankYou points program — or transfer them to partner airlines and hotels. Flexibility is the key advantage of general travel rewards.

Premium travel cards

Luxury travel cards typically come with a high annual fee. But if you’re a frequent flyer who enjoys luxury perks, you can probably justify an annual fee of $200 or more . Most elite cards are loaded with valuable perks — airport lounge access, travel credits, luxury travel insurance, elite status benefits and luxury hotel perks — that can more than make up for those hefty annual fees, if you use them regularly.

  • How do you earn rewards with a travel credit card?

There are many ways to earn points and miles with a travel rewards card, including:

Sign-up bonuses

First, most travel rewards credit cards offer new applicants the chance to earn a sign-up bonus. However, card issuers prefer to call these offers “new account bonuses” or “welcome offers.”

By any name, these offers allow new applicants to earn large numbers of valuable points or miles, usually after completing a minimum spending requirement. For example, a travel rewards credit card that’s co-branded with an airline might offer new applicants 50,000 miles after they spend $4,000 within three months of account opening.

Points and miles

Beyond the new account bonuses, travel rewards cards offer points or miles for spending. Typically, a travel rewards credit card will offer a single point or mile per dollar spent on most purchases. But these cards will almost always offer additional bonus points for other purchases as well.

For example, airline and hotel cards will offer additional rewards for purchases from their brands, and many cards feature bonuses for common purchases such as dining , groceries and gas.

Ongoing bonuses and promotional offers

Many travel rewards credit cards will also feature bonuses and promotional offers for certain activities, such as reaching an annual spending threshold, adding another cardholder or just renewing your card for another year.

  • Other benefits of travel credit cards

Beyond offering points and miles toward award travel, travel rewards credit cards can offer valuable cardholder benefits:

  • Flight perks: Airline credit cards often come with perks such as priority boarding, discounts on inflight purchases and one or more free checked bags. Premium rewards cards with high annual fees may offer a membership in their airport business lounge programs.
  • Elite status: Hotel and airline reward cards can often get you elite status, entitling you to receive room upgrades, late checkouts and even free breakfasts.
  • Travel insurance: Many travel rewards cards can offer travel insurance policies that cover rental cars theft and damage, trip delay/cancellation and lost luggage.
  • Special deals: Many travel cards also feature special deals. For example, an airline or hotel card can give you additional access to award flights and free night stays beyond what’s offered to non-cardholders.
  • How to redeem travel points

Many general travel credit cards have their own proprietary loyalty programs that issue reward points. When you’re ready to redeem your rewards with these programs, you have a range of options, including cash back, gift cards, merchandise, travel reservations and charitable donations. Here are our guides for some of the most popular travel rewards programs:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Travel
  • Citi ThankYou rewards
  • Capital One Travel
  • Bank of America Travel Center

To redeem airline miles, log into your frequent flyer miles account with the airline your card is associated with. The major carriers — American, Delta and United — often use pricing systems that correspond with the cash price of new reservations, making it harder to get good deals on domestic award flights. But they also allow you to redeem your miles on flights operated by foreign carriers, which can offer major value if you’re traveling internationally.

Other carriers, such as JetBlue and Southwest , have frequent flyer programs with more or less fixed values for their rewards. So, you can redeem your rewards for any unsold seat, and the number of points required directly correlates with the price of the ticket. Most airline programs also offer options to redeem miles for other rewards, such as merchandise, gift cards, hotel reservations and rental cars, but non-travel options rarely offer as much value as award flights.

When it comes to redeeming hotel rewards, you’ll often receive the most value when using your points during peak travel season, when rooms are the most expensive. But you may need to book award stays in advance to find available rooms.

Tips for maximizing your travel rewards

  • Use your card for as many of your expenses as possible, within your means. But remember to pay off the balance in full each month to avoid accruing interest charges.
  • Take advantage of credit card category bonuses in your everyday spending by using the right card for the right purchase. For example, use a card that offers bonus rewards on groceries when you’re shopping, and a card that offers bonus rewards on gas when you’re filling up your car.
  • Shop through portals to earn extra miles. Popular travel rewards programs may offer additional point and mileage bonuses when you shop through their rewards portals, so be sure to log in before you shop. You can also use dining portals to earn bonus rewards when dining.
  • Redeem your points for off-season travel. Keep an eye on when air fares or accommodation rates are at their lowest. If you’re not tied to a specific time of year, you could save by using your points at a time when airlines and hotels are less busy.
  • What to watch out for

It’s also important to understand that award travel isn’t usually free:

Annual fees

First, the most compelling travel rewards cards tend to have an annual fee, although some will waive it for the first year. And if you choose to carry a balance on your credit card , the cost of the interest charges may exceed the value of the travel rewards you earn.

Since non-reward cards will offer lower interest rates than similar cards that offer travel rewards, it’s best to steer clear of travel rewards cards unless you avoid interest charges by paying your statement balance in full . And most travel rewards cards have eliminated foreign transaction fees, so that’s not the issue it once was.

Taxes and surcharges

When it comes time to redeem your rewards, there could also be taxes and fees that you must pay. For example, airlines impose taxes, fees and “carrier imposed surcharges” on many award tickets — including passenger fees mandated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). For domestic flights, it’s unlikely you’ll pay more than the $5.60 TSA surcharge, each way.

But for international travel, you could end up paying hundreds of dollars in government taxes and fees. In extreme cases, you may be asked to pay more than $1,000 in surcharges imposed by the airlines when you redeem your miles for an awards ticket.

How to avoid unnecessary fees

When you redeem your points or miles directly for travel reservations or statement credits, you can avoid any cash payments. You can typically avoid surcharges when you redeem hotel points, as taxes on lodging are typically tied to the dollar amount paid — meaning there are no taxes or fees on award stays. However, some hotels will impose so-called resort fees on award stays, while others will waive those fees when you pay with points.

You might also have to pay fees for transferring points or miles from one person to another. But even when programs charge those fees, you can easily avoid them by simply booking travel reservations from one account in the name of another traveler.

Other fees to look out for include airline change and cancellation fees. When you cancel a hotel reservation within the cancellation period — often 48 hours before arrival — there’s typically no cancellation or change fee.

Bottom line

Travel rewards credit cards offer a way for you to earn exciting awards reservations in return for opening a new account and using your card. At the same time, these cards can provide you with valuable perks and benefits just for being a cardholder.

By understanding all the advantages, as well as the potential costs, you can decide if it makes sense for you to apply for a travel rewards credit card and which one is right for you.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

Jason Steele is a professional journalist and credit card expert who has been contributing to online publications since 2008. He was one of the original contributors to The Points Guy, and his work has been appearing there since 2011. He has also contributed to over 100 of the leading personal finance and travel outlets. He’s frequently interviewed and quoted by mainstream outlets on the subjects of credit cards and travel. Jason is passionate about travel rewards credit cards, which he uses to earn rewards that he can redeem for him and his family to travel around the world. Jason is also the founder and producer of CardCon, a conference for credit and credit card journalists that’s held annually.

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Cash back vs. travel rewards: How to choose a credit card

Emily Thompson

Editor's Note

If you're new to credit card rewards, one of the first questions you'll need to answer for yourself is: Should I get a card that earns travel rewards or a card that earns cash back?

The good news is you can find reliable options among the top cash-back credit cards and the best travel credit cards . In the end, you may want both a cash back and a points card .

Below, we'll break down the pros and cons of different types of cards and their associated rewards programs. We'll dive into things like rewards value, welcome offers, redemption, ease of use and perks. Considering these options will help you choose the best card for you.

Your spending and goals

The number of credit card options is both the best and most challenging part of choosing a card. Before we dig into what different cards offer, you'll want to think about your own spending habits and goals .

First, take a look at where your money is going right now. Are you renovating a home and spending a large portion of your money at home improvement stores? Maybe you're traveling a lot for work or spending your weekends trying out all the new restaurants nearby. Whatever you're doing, you can find a card that will maximize your rewards in your highest spending categories.

Then, determine what you would like to get out of your credit card rewards. Do you want to use points and miles to visit family over the holidays or book a dream vacation? Or are you hoping to help cover the cost of a large upcoming expense?

These answers are unique to you, and determining them upfront will help you decide which options will work best for you.

Types of cards

Generally, we designate credit cards as either travel rewards cards or cash-back cards . The names are pretty self-explanatory: they are cards that either earn travel rewards or simple cash back.

However, some cards offer more flexibility and allow users to choose how they redeem their rewards. Cards that earn transferable points , such as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards , allow the cardholder a variety of options for redeeming the points they earn. While some redemptions are more valuable than others (more on that below), it can be nice to have the option to change your redemption strategy in case your goals change in the future.

Welcome offers

What you earn on credit card spending is essential, but nothing beats a card's welcome bonus when it comes to accumulating rewards quickly. The first few months of card ownership are potentially the most valuable since these bonuses can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Travel rewards cards almost always offer higher welcome bonuses than cash-back cards. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express currently offers a welcome bonus of 80,000 Membership Rewards points, worth $1,600 (according to TPG calculations ).

However, a higher bonus on a travel rewards card usually comes with a higher spending requirement. In order to get the bonus on The Platinum Card, for instance, you'll need to spend $8,000 in the first six months of membership. (Terms apply.)

how to pay travel rewards card

Cash-back cards, on the other hand, generally offer a much lower bonus but also require a much lower spend in order to receive it. For example, the Capital One Quicksilver Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees) provides a one-time $200 bonus but only requires you to spend $500 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account to unlock the bonus.

Reward categories

When you consider a card's reward categories , it's helpful to identify where you spend the majority of your money.

While it makes sense that most travel rewards cards earn the most on travel purchases , you can find both travel rewards and cash-back card options that will reward you for everyday spending at places like supermarkets and gas stations .

how to pay travel rewards card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve , for example, is a travel rewards card. Using it, you'll earn 3 points per dollar on all travel spending. Apart from travel, though, the card also earns 3 points per dollar on dining and 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2025). Since TPG values Chase Ultimate Rewards Points at 2 cents each, you'll effectively earn a value of 6 cents per dollar spent on travel and dining, as well as a very lucrative return of 20 cents per dollar spent on Lyft rides.

But if travel isn't a big spending category for you, or if you want to earn your rewards in the form of cash back, there are some excellent cash-back cards with different reward category options.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, gives you 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1%) and 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services (with no cap), 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and transit, while giving 1% back on other purchases. That means for every dollar you spend at U.S. supermarkets, you'll earn 6 cents that can be applied to a statement credit.

An important element to consider as you make your credit card decision is whether a card has an annual-fee and, if so, whether it is worthwhile to pay

Travel rewards cards have a reputation for carrying higher annual fees, and sometimes for good reason: many premium travel rewards cards have annual fees of $350 or more. The welcome bonuses and perks of these cards generally offset the cost of the annual fee , but the cost itself may not be something you want to pay right now if you're on a tighter budget.

The good news is that there are plenty of lower and no annual fee travel rewards cards available.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card , for example, has an annual fee of only $95 and still comes with a welcome bonus of 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. It also still earns you 2 points per dollar on travel, 3 points per dollar on dining, and 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2025). With our 2-cent-per-point valuation , that's a lot of value for a relatively low annual fee.

Furthermore, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees ) has no annual fee and offers 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 within the first three months from account opening. You also earn you 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase.

While the perks aren't as abundant as the perks of cards with higher fees, these cards, along with other low and no-annual-fee travel cards, are a great way to earn travel rewards with lower out-of-pocket costs.

With cash-back cards , you'll find even more options if you want to avoid annual fees . Some of our favorite no annual fee cash back cards are the Citi Double Cash® Card (see rates and fees ) and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® . If you're looking at a cash-back card that does carry an annual fee, though, make sure your earning potential makes the fee worth it. An annual fee on a cash-back card can quickly eat into the rewards you'll earn with the card.

Big welcome bonuses and hefty annual fees tend to lead to valuable perks , which is a point in favor of points and miles cards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve , for instance, includes a $300 annual travel credit reimbursement and complimentary access to Priority Pass lounges .

Other card benefits to look out for include baggage insurance , primary car rental insurance and purchase protection .

how to pay travel rewards card

Cash-back cards tend to have fewer benefits, but you should still be able to find a card that offers some industry-standard benefits, like these:

  • Purchase protection: Covers your new purchases for a limited amount of time against damage or theft up to a certain amount per claim and per account.
  • Extended warranty: Extends the period of a U.S. manufacturer's warranty (typically up to a year) on eligible warranties (of up to three to five years typically).
  • Zero Liability: You won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information. Federal law generally limits your liability to $50.

Ease of using rewards

While many travel rewards cards offer excellent bonus categories and perks, keeping up with everything takes effort. Especially if you end up with multiple cards , it can be easy to get overwhelmed as you figure out which cards to use for different purchases to maximize your benefits. Then, once you have your points and miles in hand, you'll need to figure out how you want to redeem them . If you're able and willing to put some work into your strategy, you'll be able to get some excellent value with these rewards.

However, not everyone wants or is able to put much energy into maximizing their credit card rewards. If that's you, a cash-back card may be a better choice.

If you're looking for simplicity, cash-back cards are hard to beat. The most work you'll likely have to put in for one is activating the quarterly 5% bonus categories on the Chase Freedom Flex℠ .

But if you don't even want to deal with rotating categories, you can opt for a card like the Citi Double Cash , which pays 2% cash back (1% cash back on all purchases and another 1% back when you repay on time) on all purchases. Paying on time and in full (one of TPG's ten credit card commandments ) means you'll enjoy an almost effortless 2% cash-back reward on all purchases with this card. That's a pretty good deal for everyday spending and very little effort.

Redeeming points for cash back or travel

Cash-back cards win again for simplicity on redemption since one cash-back percentage point equals 1 cent per dollar spent. But when it comes to value, points and miles cards almost always come out on top.

When redeeming points and miles, 1 point or mile is almost always worth more than 1 cent. Furthermore, a point is often not a fixed-rate commodity. The value of currencies like Amex Membership Rewards , Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points are hard to pin down since you can transfer these rewards to various travel partners and get much more value for a first-class flight.

There's certainly a learning curve, but referencing our valuations is an excellent way to see if you're getting a good bang for your buck, especially if you're considering traveling soon.

how to pay travel rewards card

Is it better to redeem points for cash or travel?

Generally speaking, it's better to redeem your points for travel. You'll likely get more value from a travel redemption than cash back for the same number of points. It's best to aim to get at least 1.5 cents value from each point .

Is it better to get cash back or gift cards?

It depends. It's hard to beat the simplicity of a cash-back redemption since most cards offer this redemption in the form of a statement credit. However, sometimes gift card redemptions are offered at a higher value than cash back. If you can find a good deal on a gift card you'll use, a gift card redemption may make sense.

Is there a downside to cash back?

Cashback is great if cash flow is what you need or want right now or if you don't have the energy to keep up with a more complex credit card strategy. However, you'll generally get more value for travel redemptions by using a rewards credit card rather than a cash back card.

Are airline miles worth more than cash back?

Yes. Cashback is usually valued at 1% or 1 cent, whereas most airline miles are worth more than 1 cent . However, some airlines like Hawaiian Airlines and Spirit Airlines have poorly-valued miles, so cash back is better in these cases.

Bottom Line

If your top priority is getting the most value out of a credit card — no matter the blood, sweat and tears required — you should get a travel rewards card and maybe a premium one at that. You'll get far more value out of one of these cards from the bonus, the points, the perks and the redemption options than you'll get from a cash-back card.

But not everyone has the time or inclination to put this much effort into tracking spending and returns, which is where cash-back cards come in. There's nothing wrong with either perspective.

The only major misstep you can take — if you pay your credit cards off every month — is not to take advantage of the free money issuers will throw at you in the form of welcome offers.

Additional reporting by Danyal Ahmed

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Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which Bankrate.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site, including, for example, the order in which they may appear within listing categories. Other factors, such as our own proprietary website rules and the likelihood of applicants' credit approval, also impact how and where products appear on this site. Bankrate.com does not include the entire universe of available financial or credit offers.

Bankrate has partnerships with issuers including, but not limited to, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover.

Best travel credit cards of February 2024

Most recently before joining Bankrate, Robert worked as an editor and writer at The Ascent by The Motley Fool, covering a number of personal finance topics, including credit cards, mortgages and loans.

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Bankrate expert Garrett Yarbrough strives to make navigating credit cards and credit building smooth sailing for his readers. After regularly featuring his credit card, credit monitoring and identity theft analysis on NextAdvisor.com, he joined the CreditCards.com and Bankrate teams as a staff writer to develop product reviews and comprehensive credit card guides focused on cash back, credit scores and card offers.

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Nouri Zarrugh is a writer and editor for CreditCards.com and Bankrate,  focusing on product news, guides and reviews. His areas of expertise include credit card strategy, rewards programs, point valuation and credit scores, and his stories on building credit have been cited by Mic.com, LifeHacker, People.com and more. Through his thorough card reviews and product comparisons, Nouri strives to demystify personal finance topics and credit card terms and conditions to help readers save money and protect their credit score.

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Stephanie Zito is a professional traveler, self-employed humanitarian consultant and collector of credit card points. She shares savvy travel tips that she’s learned firsthand circling the globe for more than 25 years. She’s a backpacker, expect and premium traveler who’s visited more than 130 countries and all seven continents. Her life motto is “See the world, change the world, have fun doing it!” and her mission is to inspire others along the journey.

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Travel credit cards help you earn valuable points and miles on your purchases. For maximum value, some cards earn rewards not only on travel, but also everyday purchases like dining, groceries and gas. You can redeem these rewards for free or discounted flights, hotel stays or to cover other travel-related expenses.

The best travel cards also come with additional features. Even no-annual-fee travel cards are likely to offer perks like sign-up bonuses, intro APR offers and travel insurance. But for top-of-the-line benefits like airport lounge access, elite status and travel credits, expect to pay an annual fee.

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We evaluated and compared over 40 travel rewards perks

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Bankrate's Best Travel Credit Cards of February 2024

  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card : Best for flat-rate rewards
  • Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card : Best for intro APR
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express : Best for luxury travel
  • American Express® Gold Card : Best for foodies
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card : Best starter travel card
  • Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card : Best for no annual fee ( See Rates & Fees )
  • Citi Premier® Card : Best for everyday spending
  • Discover it® Miles : Best for first-year value
  • Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card : Best for gas
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card : Best for practical perks
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card : Best starter airline card
  • Credit One Bank Wander® Card : Best for fair credit
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card : Best for companion tickets
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card : Best no-annual-fee hotel card
  • Bilt Mastercard® : Best for transfer partners
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card : Best luxury hotel card
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card : Best for expedited security screening
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® : Best for point values
  • Compare our top cards

What to know about travel credit cards

How do credit card points and miles work.

  • Tips for choosing the best travel card
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How we assess the best travel credit cards.

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Image of Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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.

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Intro offer

New Venture cardholders can earn 75,000 miles once they spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Offer valuation

We calculate this number by multiplying the card's intro offer by Bankrate's valuation of this issuer's rewards program , showing you how much your points or miles are worth in dollars.

2 Miles - 5 Miles

Rewards rate

5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Regular APR

  • 5 Miles 5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2 Miles 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card tops the list of best overall travel credit cards due in part to its flexibility. You'll earn unlimited miles and can redeem them as statement credits for a variety of travel expenses, including airfare and accommodations. Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review .

  • Zero foreign transaction fees make this an excellent choice for international travelers.
  • Earn miles at a flat rate for all purchases, with no limit on the number of miles you can earn.
  • Miles are worth less when redeemed with certain travel partners
  • Spending requirements for reaching the sign-up bonus can be pricey.
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Image of Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

  • 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.

1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases

  • 1.5X 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases

This entry-level travel card keeps things simple. It offers flat-rate rewards without bonus categories and lets you redeem your rewards for a broad mix of travel options not found with many travel cards. It’s even more valuable if you’re a Bank of America customer who can qualify for a rewards boost through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards® program. Read our full Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review .

  • Its easy-to-earn sign-up bonus and intro APR offers give this card good short-term value.
  • No annual fees or foreign transaction fees sweeten this offer.
  • You won’t get maximum value out of this card since it only offers a flat rate on purchases, and rewards can’t be transferred to airline partners.
  • The top tiers of the Bank of America Preferred Rewards® program may be out of reach for many cardholders.
  • 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 as long as your account remains open.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee applies to all balance transfers.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Image of The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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. Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

  • 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.

Luxury travelers and big spenders will appreciate the bevy of travel benefits associated with The Platinum Card from American Express. Just be sure to factor in the value of the many perks, plus the lucrative rewards rates, when you consider the $695 annual fee. Read our full Platinum Card from American Express review .

  • Comes with a generous welcome offer and a longer time period to earn it compared to most rewards cards.
  • A robust line-up of airline and hotel partners make this card truly valuable for travelers.
  • The $695 annual fee is steep; it may deter certain cardholders from applying for this card.
  • Redeeming and maximizing the card’s credit and benefits requires some legwork and can be a bit confusing.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • 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 and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership (subject to auto-renewal) with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card®. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Up Benefits are excluded.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $300 back in statement credits per calendar year on an Equinox membership, or an Equinox club membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required. Visit https://platinum.equinox.com/ to enroll.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: Breeze through security with CLEAR Plus at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Platinum Card®. Learn more.
  • $100 Global Entry Credit: Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck® (through a TSA official enrollment provider) application fee, when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at saks.com on your Platinum Card®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $300 SoulCycle At-Home Bike Credit: Get a $300 statement credit for the purchase of a SoulCycle at-home bike with your Platinum Card®. An Equinox+ subscription is required to purchase a SoulCycle at-home bike and access SoulCycle content. Must charge full price of bike in one transaction. Shipping available in the contiguous U.S. only. Enrollment Required.
  • Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Image of American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

  • 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 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.

If your love of dining is a constant travel companion, few credit cards are more rewarding than the American Express Gold Card. The rewards rates at restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets and on flights booked directly with airlines or on AmexTravel.com are exceptional. Read our full American Express Gold Card review .

  • This card features one of the best rewards return rate on dining currently on the market.
  • The card touts a formidable collection of travel protections and perks, like hotel upgrades (when available for onsite credit on qualifying activities).
  • The $250 annual fee is on the pricey side when compared to similar cards.
  • Flights are only rewarded at 3X when booked with airlines directly or on AmexTravel.com.
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Get a $100 experience credit with a minimum two-night stay when you book The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel. Experience credit varies by property.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.

Image of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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®.

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® 3x on dining 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more

  • 5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x 3x on dining
  • 2x 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more

This popular travel card comes loaded with features that can make it easy to offset the modest $95 annual fee and come out well ahead. Its rewards program is one of the best, giving you the option to transfer your points to a airline or hotel loyalty programs or redeem them for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, where they’re worth an impressive 1.25 cents.    Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review .

  • You earn Ultimate Rewards points with this card — some of the most valuable and flexible rewards around.
  • The card touts significant long-term benefits like anniversary bonus points and travel credits, as well as travel protections like trip cancellation insurance and a car rental collision damage waiver.
  • Doesn’t offer airline- or hotel-specific perks like free checked bags, elite status or free night stays.
  • Comes with a penalty APR of 29.99 percent if you make a late payment, which you could be stuck with indefinitely.
  • 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®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, and 2x on all other travel purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC

Image of Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel

1.25 Miles - 5 Miles

5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

  • 1.25 Miles 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offers many of the same perks as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, without the burden of an annual fee. If you’re looking for a low-cost travel card, consider this one a top option. Read our full Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review .

  • The welcome offer is generous for a no-annual-fee travel credit card.
  • There’s no minimum you’ll need to meet to start redeeming miles.
  • Redeeming for non-travel purchases waters down your miles.
  • Capital One has no major U.S. carrier in its line-up of travel partners.
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 19.99% - 29.99% variable APR after that; balance transfer fee applies

Image of Citi Premier® Card

Citi Premier® Card

Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Other Hotels Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Other Hotels
  • 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • 1X Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

The big draw of the Citi Premier Card is that you can earn bonus rewards on everyday expenses as opposed to just travel. A generous sign-up bonus also sweetens the deal, making this a solid travel card for everyday shoppers who want to pay a low annual fee. Read our full Citi Premier Card review .

  • Citi has a robust line-up of travel partners.
  • You can earn points on everyday purchases, making the card a good option for less frequent travelers.
  • Travel protections, like travel insurance, are not offered with this card.
  • Budget-conscious customers might balk at the annual fee.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024.
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Other Hotels
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 60,000 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Image of Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles

  • Unlimited Bonus: Unlimited Mile-for-Mile match for all new cardmembers - only from Discover. 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.

Offer valuation is not available for this credit card.

Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase.

  • 1.5X Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase.

Another option for people looking for a low-cost travel credit card, this Discover card combines solid flat-rate rewards with consumer-friendly terms, like no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. Read our full Discover it® Miles card review.

  • As part of a generous welcome offer, all miles earned in your first year will receive a match at the end of that year
  • Miles don’t lose value when they’re redeemed for cash back.
  • You’ll miss out on pretty standard travel perks like travel insurance, and car rental damage protection.
  • The rewards structure lacks flexibility; you won’t be able to transfer your miles or use them to book travel.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase
  • No annual fee
  • Turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% - 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites. Activate for free.
  • Terms and conditions apply.

Image of Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value.

Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services and phone plans. Earn 1X points on other purchases

  • 3X Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services and phone plans.
  • 1X Earn 1X points on other purchases

The Wells Fargo Autograph card is a great option for occasional travelers and households on the go looking to earn rewards on everyday purchases while avoiding an annual fee. It’s one of a few entry-level travel cards to offer high bonus rewards for dining at restaurants and the majority of your travel needs, including gas stations, transit, airfare and hotels. Plus, your rewards won’t lose value if you want to redeem them for a statement credit. Read our full Wells Fargo Autograph Card review .

  • Several popular travel and everyday categories come with boosted reward rates
  • Comes with one of the highest welcome bonuses for a no-annual-fee travel card
  • Unlike with traditional travel cards, you cannot transfer your points to airlines or hotels
  • Depending on your creditworthiness, you could end up with a high variable APR after the intro purchase APR period.
  • Select "Apply Now" to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
  • Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases.
  • $0 annual fee.
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR thereafter.
  • Up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft. Subject to a $25 deductible.
  • Redeem your rewards points for travel, gift cards, or statement credits. Or shop at millions of online stores and redeem your rewards when you check out with PayPal.
  • Find tickets to top sports and entertainment events, book travel, make dinner reservations and more with your complimentary 24/7 Visa Signature® Concierge.

Image of Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

2 Miles - 10 Miles

10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel 5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

  • 10 Miles 10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5 Miles 5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel

Despite carrying a hefty annual fee, this is one of the cheapest premium travel cards around. It offers complimentary lounge access, high-earning bonus rewards categories, anniversary credits and bonus miles, which can easily offset the annual fee for frequent travelers. Read our full Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card review .

  • Offers anniversary bonus miles and a chance to earn credits worth hundreds of dollars starting at your first account anniversary.
  • Comes with complimentary lounge access at over 1,300 lounges for you and two guests per visit.
  • To earn the anniversary credit, travel must be booked through the Capital One Travel portal. That’s not as flexible as some other cards, which offer credits that cover any travel purchases, regardless of how you book.
  • Lacks some perks found on other premium travel cards like airline or hotel elite status, which can get you benefits like free checked bags or room upgrades.
  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more

Image of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

  • 2X Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • 2X Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
  • 2X Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
  • 2X Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners.
  • 1X Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

This card’s anniversary bonus offers enough value to nearly offset the annual fee on its own, so it should be a terrific low-stakes option if you’re new to airline cards. Plus, its sign-up bonus value is on par with the value you’ll get with much pricier airline and travel cards. Read our full Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card review .

  • You’ll automatically earn 3,000 Rapid Rewards points each year after your account anniversary. That’s valuable enough to offset much of the card’s already-low annual fee.
  • Rapid Rewards points can offer terrific redemption value based on Bankrate’s latest airline mile valuations, so they’re a good starting point if you’re new to travel rewards.
  • Southwest doesn’t have airline partners, so this card won’t be a good fit unless you’re okay with only redeeming points for Southwest flights and mostly flying domestically.
  • It may not be the best value overall. Some cards offer more rewards in more categories, let you redeem for travel with any airline and even let you transfer points to Southwest.
  • 3,000 anniversary points each year.
  • Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
  • Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
  • 2 EarlyBird Check-In® each year.
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Image of Credit One Bank Wander® Card

Credit One Bank Wander® Card

Intro offer is not available for this Credit One Bank credit card.

Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas Earn 1x points on all other purchases

  • 10X Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
  • 5X Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • 1X Earn 1x points on all other purchases

If you want to earn points on travel but have trouble qualifying for top-tier rewards cards, the Wander card is a solid option. Not only is this card available with only fair credit, but its rewards program is also quite generous, boasting a high rewards rate in several key travel categories, including gas, airfare and hotels. Read our full Credit One Wander Card review .

  • It’s one of the only travel rewards cards available with a fair credit score, making it a decent option if you want to earn travel rewards as you work on your score.
  • 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals.
  • Its annual fee is high compared to other cards you can get with a fair credit score, so it may not be the best fit if you prioritize building credit over earning rewards.
  • Other travel cards may offer better perks and value at this price level, so it may be worth working on your score with a lower-cost card before you focus on earning rewards.
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees

Image of Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

  • Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.

Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S. and at U.S. supermarkets. Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

  • 3X Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • 2X Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S. and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • 1X Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

The annual companion certificate on Main Cabin domestic flights (taxes and fees apply) comes with this card after the first year carries enough value to justify the annual fee on its own. Plus, unlike the companion certificates you’ll find on most airline cards, it carries no spending requirement that must be met beyond the card’s annual fee. Read our full Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card review .

  • Boasts several practical perks for frequent travelers, including Main Cabin 1 priority boarding on Delta flights, a free first checked bag on delta flights, credits for TSA Precheck or Global Entry and more.
  • Gets you closer to Medallion Status and discounts on in-flight purchases, complimentary upgrades, and more.
  • Its rewards rate on non-travel purchases is just okay. A flat-rate travel card could offer just as much value plus more flexibility to earn and redeem points with other airlines.
  • You won’t get complimentary Delta Sky Club lounge access — effective 1/1/24.
  • Enhanced! Receive a Companion Certificate on Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights to select destinations each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of the government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • New! Receive $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year and get closer to Status with MQD Headstart.
  • Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • New! Earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $20 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card in a calendar year and get a boost toward achieving elevated Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • New! $120 Resy Credit: With the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Resy Credit, earn up to $10 per month in statement credits on eligible Resy purchases using your enrolled Card.
  • New! $120 Rideshare Credit: You can earn up to $10 back in statement credits each month on U.S. rideshare purchases with select providers after you pay with your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. Enrollment Required.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights. Plus enjoy Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding and settle into your seat sooner.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®: Receive $100 back for Global Entry or $85 back for TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Official Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • New! Not a Medallion Member? Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members and Reserve Card Members. Ticket must be purchased on or after February 1, 2024 to be eligible to receive a complimentary upgrade.
  • New! $150 Delta Stays Credit: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members can earn up to $150 back annually on eligible prepaid Delta Stays bookings on delta.com.
  • New! Transform your car rental experience with Hertz Five Star® Status, compliments of your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. Enrollment in the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program is required. To receive the benefit, you must add your Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Account number to your SkyMiles Account associated with your Eligible Card, register at delta.com/mypromos/eligible, and “Enroll in Promotion” at delta.com/hertz.
  • Want even more flexibility? Take up to $50 off the cost of your flight for every 5,000 miles you redeem with Pay with Miles when you book on delta.com.
  • $350 Annual Fee.

Image of Hilton Honors American Express Card

Hilton Honors American Express Card

  • Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio. Earn 5X Points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations. Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.

  • 7X Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • 5X Earn 5X Points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.

This card earns rewards in a terrific mix of everyday bonus categories, so it should be easy to rack up Hilton points even if you don’t spend a ton on hotel bookings. And since it charges no annual fee, it’s a great fit if you’re new to hotel cards and looking for a low-stakes starter option. Read our full Hilton Honors Amex card review .

  • Comes with automatic Silver Elite status, which includes a free fifth award night when you book at least four consecutive nights with points.
  • Earns rewards in three of the average person’s biggest spending categories, making it a terrific standalone option for earning Hilton points.
  • A higher-tier Hilton card would earn more on Hilton bookings and could be more lucrative for frequent guests, even with an annual fee.
  • You can only redeem points with Hilton and its partners. A general travel rewards card may offer more flexibility, allowing you to earn and redeem rewards with any hotel chain.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 5X Points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • No Annual Fee.

Image of Bilt Mastercard®

Bilt Mastercard®

Intro offer is not available for this Wells Fargo credit card.

1X Points - 3X Points

3x points on dining 2x points on travel 1x points on other purchases Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year. When you make at least 5 posted transactions in a statement period using your Bilt Mastercard, you'll earn points on rent and qualifying net purchases.

  • 3X Points 3x points on dining
  • 2X Points 2x points on travel
  • 1X Points 1x points on other purchases
  • 1X Points Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year. When you make at least 5 posted transactions in a statement period using your Bilt Mastercard, you'll earn points on rent and qualifying net purchases.

Along with helping you avoid transaction fees and earn rewards when you use it to pay rent, this card boasts an extremely robust travel rewards program — especially for a no-annual-fee card. You can earn rewards on travel and dining and your points carry a high value whether you redeem through the Bilt travel portal or transfer to one of the issuer’s many airline and hotel transfer partners. Read our full Bilt Mastercard review .

  • It’s the only card that helps you avoid the fees typically associated with paying rent with a credit card.
  • Bilt earns some of the most valuable travel rewards out there thanks to the issuer’s long list of transfer partners.
  • You can only use rewards to cover rent, toward a future home down payment or for travel and shopping. Cash back isn’t an option.
  • It’s missing a sign-up bonus. Most competing travel cards — even those with no annual fee — offer at least a $200 bonus.
  • $0 Annual Fee.
  • Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year.
  • 2x points on travel.
  • 3x points on dining.
  • 1x points on other purchases.
  • Earn points when you make 5 transactions that post each statement period.
  • When renting at a Bilt Alliance property, you can choose to have your rent payments automatically reported by Bilt to the three major credit bureaus each month; Experian™, TransUnion™, and Equifax™.

Image of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

  • Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines 2X points on all other eligible purchases

  • 6X Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®
  • 3X 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2X 2X points on all other eligible purchases

Frequent Marriott guests looking for top-tier perks should love this card. Along with a terrific rewards rate on Marriott bookings and an annual free night award, you’ll enjoy generous annual credits for restaurant purchases and Marriott property stays, airport lounge access, elite night credits and more based on your spending. Read our full Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant review .

  • The card’s perks carry a ton of value and may even offset the card’s annual fee on their own if you take full advantage.
  • It’s one of the only hotel cards that includes both complimentary Priority Pass lounge access and credits for expedited airport security screening.
  • Unlocking some of the card’s best perks — like Five Suite Night Awards — requires a $60,000 annual spend, which may be tough to reach even for frequent Marriott guests.
  • Unless luxury perks are at the top of your wishlist, the annual fee may not be worth it and a lower-tier hotel card may offer more value overall.
  • $300 Brilliant Dining Credit: Each calendar year, get up to $300 (up to $25 per month) in statement credits for eligible purchases made on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card at restaurants worldwide.
  • With Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status, you can receive room upgrades, including enhanced views or suites, when available at select properties and booked with a Qualifying Rate.
  • Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Free Night Award: Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Each calendar year after spending $60,000 on eligible purchases on your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, you will be eligible to select a Brilliant Earned Choice Award benefit. You can only earn one Earned Choice Award per calendar year. See https://www.choice-benefit.marriott.com/brilliant for Award options.
  • $100 Marriott Bonvoy Property Credit: Enjoy your stay. Receive up to a $100 property credit for qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® when you book direct using a special rate for a two-night minimum stay using your Card.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®: Receive either a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4.5 years after you apply for a five-year membership for TSA PreCheck® (up to $85 through a TSA PreCheck official enrollment provider) and pay the application fee with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Each calendar year with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card you can receive 25 Elite Night Credits toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy® Elite status. Limitations apply per Marriott Bonvoy® member account. Benefit is not exclusive to Cards offered by American Express. Terms apply.
  • Enroll in Priority Pass™ Select, which offers unlimited access to over 1,200 lounges in over 130 countries, regardless of which carrier or class you are flying. This allows you to relax before or between flights. You can enjoy snacks, drinks, and internet access in a quiet, comfortable location.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • With Cell Phone Protection, you can be reimbursed, the lesser of, your repair or replacement costs following damage, such as a cracked screen, or theft for a maximum of $800 per claim when your cell phone line is listed on a wireless bill and the prior month's wireless bill was paid by an Eligible Card Account. A $50 deductible will apply to each approved claim with a limit of 2 approved claims per 12-month period. Additional terms and conditions apply. Coverage is provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
  • $650 Annual Fee.

Image of Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

  • Receive 60,000 online bonus points - a $600 value - after you make at least $4,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases

  • 2X 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases
  • 1.5X 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases

If you do your banking with Bank of America, this card provides an intriguing opportunity for an earnings boost. The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card provides generous rewards rates—2X points on dining and travel, with 1.5X points on all other purchases—as well as solid travel perks. Read our full Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card review .

  • The $95 annual fee is relatively affordable for this card category.
  • Rewards never expire as long as the account remains open and there’s no cap on earnings.
  • Attaining the highest rewards rate is not an easy feat, since you’ll need to hold significant funds in Bank of America accounts.
  • This card does not offer premium travel perks like lounge access.
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases. No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn 2.5-3.5 points on travel and dining purchases and 1.87-2.62 points on all other purchases, for every $1 you spend.
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill® accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center.
  • Get up to $100 in Airline Incidental Statement Credits annually and TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry Statement Credits of up to $100, every four years.
  • Travel Insurance protections to assist with trip delays, cancellations and interruptions, baggage delays and lost luggage.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Low $95 annual fee.

Image of Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • 10x Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 5x Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 3x Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • 1x Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a generous points structure and comes with a $300 annual travel credit among other perks. This card is well worth the $550 annual fee if used strategically by cardholders who spend enough in the card’s rewards categories and take advantage of the added benefits. Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve review .

  • Points redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards are worth up to 50 percent more.
  • The annual statement credit of $300 can help offset the cost of the annual fee.
  • The high annual fee could be a deterrent for some new cardholders.
  • You won’t get as many luxury travel perks with this card as you would with some of its luxury card competitors.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more

Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit  AmericanExpress.com/benefitsguide  for more details. Underwritten by Amex assurance company.

The information about the American Express® Green Card and Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuers.

Compare Bankrate's best travel credit cards of 2024

A closer look at bankrate's top travel credit cards.

BEST FOR FLAT-RATE REWARDS

  • What we love
  • Who it's for
  • Travel benefits
  • Alternatives

It offers an easy way to earn travel rewards, comes with a generous sign-up bonus and has several travel and purchase protections for a modest annual fee of $95. ( See Rates & Fees )

Travelers who want to earn rewards at a flat rate on all purchases and enjoy flexibility in how they redeem their miles.

Get a credit worth up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® and transfer your miles to 15+ airline and hotel loyalty programs, often for a higher redemption value.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers a higher rewards rate in some everyday spending categories and potentially more valuable points. Your points are worth 1.25 cents each if you redeem for travel through Chase, versus the 1 cent per mile value you’d get with the Venture.

BEST FOR INTRO APR

Unlike some travel rewards cards, this card lets you redeem rewards for more than just typical travel costs like airfare and hotels. You can also redeem points for statement credits to cover purchases at zoos, art galleries, aquariums, travel agencies and more.

Points don’t expire as long as your account remains open and you can redeem for bookings with any airline or hotel anytime without blackout dates. You can also redeem points for statement credits to pay for travel or dining purchases.

The Bilt Mastercard is another solid no-annual-fee travel card, but it stands out by earning points on rent payments and helping you avoid processing fees typically associated with paying rent with a credit card. You’ll also earn bonus points for dining and travel and, unlike many no-annual-fee cards, you can transfer your points to high-value airline and hotel partners.

Best for luxury travel

If you can take advantage of all the high-value benefits packed in this card, it could be one of the most lucrative on the market. You’ll have a chance at a huge welcome offer, annual statement credits worth over $1,000 and access to Priority Pass Select lounges, Centurion lounges and Delta Sky Clubs (for Delta flights only).

Frequent travelers who enjoy luxury travel benefits and elite status.

Along with comprehensive lounge access, you can take advantage of an up to $200 airline fee credit, up to $200 in Uber Cash (benefit renews annually), an up to $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit and several other benefits.

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers a taste of luxury at a much lower cost than the Amex Platinum. For a $395 annual fee, travelers unlock a generous travel rewards rate, a higher rewards rate on general purchases, complimentary access to popular airport lounge memberships and valuable annual travel credits and anniversary miles ( See Rates & Fees ).

BEST FOR FOODIES

It offers high rewards rates and a ton of valuable perks for foodies and frequent travelers alike, including hundreds in annual dining, hotel and rideshare credits. These benefits make the card’s annual fee more than worth it.

Foodies and frequent travelers looking to earn rewards on everyday spending.

If the Amex Gold Card’s annual fee sounds high, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It carries key travel perks, high travel and dining rewards rates, and a much lower annual fee.

BEST STARTER TRAVEL CARD

On top of an outstanding sign-up bonus, you get travel and purchase protections and a rewards program that earns points on both travel and everyday purchases, like online groceries and streaming services.

This is a great travel card for people with 2023 travel plans, as Chase recently updated its sign-up bonus to 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. If you redeem these points for travel on Chase Ultimate Rewards, they're worth 1.25 cents each, making the whole bonus worth up to $750 in travel.

You’ll get up to $50 in annual statement credits for hotel stays booked through Chase and your points are worth 25 percent more when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through the Chase travel portal. 

The Citi Premier® Card not only has a comparable sign-up bonus and the same annual fee as the Sapphire Preferred, but also covers even more everyday categories, including  supermarkets and gas stations, potentially making it a better fit as a standalone rewards card. 

BEST FOR NO ANNUAL FEE

This entry-level travel rewards card comes with a decent sign-up bonus, the chance to earn flat-rate miles on all purchases and the option to transfer miles to travel partners without owing an annual fee. ( See Rates & Fees )

Occasional travelers looking to earn flexible travel rewards without paying an annual fee.

BEST FOR EVERYDAY SPENDING

This mid-level travel card earns rewards at a high rate on both travel and everyday spending, making it a great standalone rewards option. It also comes with an annual hotel credit that can offset the card’s annual fee on its own.

Occasional travelers who want to earn travel rewards on everyday purchases like groceries, gas and dining.

 You’ll earn a $100 statement credit when you book a single hotel stay of $500 or more through Citi. The card also carries no foreign transaction fees.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred boasts fewer everyday bonus categories, but it may offer more valuable rewards. Chase points are worth 25 percent more than Citi points when you redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

BEST FOR FIRST-YEAR VALUE

Discover will match every mile you earn at the end of your first year. Depending on how much you spend, this could give you a chance at a higher bonus value than you’d get with any other no-annual-fee rewards card.

Travelers who value simplicity will appreciate this card’s straightforward rewards rate and flexible redemption.

While this card is light on perks, it’s one of the few no-annual-fee travel cards that lets you redeem miles for cash back, travel and more without worrying about redemption values. Many cards require you to sacrifice rewards value if you opt for cash back instead of travel.

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card carries a more straightforward and still easy-to-reach welcome bonus. The VentureOne card also gives you the option of transferring miles to more than a dozen airline and hotel partners, which could increase the redemption value of your rewards.

BEST FOR GAS

This card does not charge foreign transaction fees and comes with valuable perks like rental car collision damage waiver coverage, roadside assistance and Visa Signature® Concierge benefits, which opens the door to additional features like access to Visa’s Luxury Hotel Collection.

BEST FOR PRACTICAL PERKS

This card offers a great mix of practical, valuable perks, including complimentary lounge access and a high rewards rate for both travel and non-travel purchases. It also comes with a relatively low annual fee compared to other luxury travel cards ( See Rates & Fees ). 

Travelers looking to sample luxury benefits without paying over $400 in annual fees.

You’ll get $300 in annual credits for travel bookings made through Capital One Travel, 10,000 bonus miles each year on your account anniversary and access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide.

If a higher annual fee is no issue, consider the Platinum Card from American Express. It’s a top choice for frequent travelers thanks to its impressive welcome offer and luxury perks like annual travel credits, lounge access and hotel elite status.

BEST STARTER AIRLINE CARD

The card’s biggest perk — 3,000 bonus points each year after your cardmember account anniversary — could hold enough value to offset most of the card’s annual fee.

Southwest frequent flyers looking for a low-maintenance airline rewards card. 

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card could offer better value overall, despite its $149 annual fee. It carries an annual $75 Southwest travel credit and 7,500 bonus points each year on your account anniversary — more than enough value to justify the higher fee.

Learn more: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus benefits guide .

Best for fair credit

You’ll earn rewards at an impressive rate in practical everyday categories like travel, dining and gas, which is rare for a card available with only fair credit.

The card comes with a sign-up bonus you can redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards or for travel.

If you don’t mind putting down a refundable security deposit, consider a no-annual-fee secured card like the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card *. It’s a unique secured card that lets you work on your credit score while earning rewards in a category of your choice (with travel just one of many popular options) as well as grocery stores and wholesale clubs.

BEST FOR COMPANION TICKETS

You can easily justify this card’s annual fee given the value of the annual companion certificate perk (taxes and fees apply). The card also earns rewards on restaurant and U.S. supermarket purchases — two practical, popular categories — not just airfare.

Frequent travelers looking for a way to earn Delta SkyMiles and unlock a solid roster of Delta perks.

Along with the companion ticket, you can get up to $100 in statement credits to cover the cost of a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee and trip delay insurance. 

The Amex Green card could be a great alternative since it charges a lower annual fee ($150), lets you earn and redeem rewards on travel with any eligible airline (not just Delta) and offers credits for Loungebuddy lounge access and Clear Plus. You can even transfer points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.

Learn more: Why credit card expert Holly Johnson loves Delta credit cards

BEST NO-ANNUAL-FEE HOTEL CARD

This card earns rewards not only on Hilton bookings, but also in several popular everyday spending categories. This makes it a solid standalone option for earning Hilton points even if you don’t spend a ton on travel.

As you might expect since it carries no annual fee, this card's perks are underwhelming, but it does come with automatic Hilton Honors Silver elite status, which unlocks benefits like a fifth night free on award stays and two free bottles of water per stay.

The American Express® Green Card could be more flexible since it earns rewards on a much wider variety of travel purchases, including airfare and bookings with any hotel, not just Hilton. You can also redeem points to cover bookings with multiple airlines and hotels or even transfer points to outside loyalty programs, including Hilton Honors.

Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Hilton Honors American Express Card

Best for transfer partners

This card is a terrific choice for renters since it earns rewards and waives transaction fees when you use it to pay rent. It’s also a solid pick for beginner travelers since it offers high-value travel and dining points. Plus, it’s one of the few no-annual-fee cards to provide airline and hotel transfer partners — including American Airlines.

Long-term renters who want to earn travel rewards and minimize fees. It’s also a good fit for travelers who don’t like paying annual fees and can plan ahead. Since you earn double points on the first of every month for travel, dining and general purchases, you can earn outsized rewards not often found with other general-purpose travel cards. 

Along with stellar airline transfer partners, the Bilt card offers a solid collection of travel perks for a no-annual-fee card, including trip cancellation and interruption protection, trip delay reimbursement and other high-level travel protections.

BEST LUXURY HOTEL CARD

It comes with a slew of valuable perks that can help offset the annual fee and make travel more enjoyable, including complimentary Priority Pass lounge access and annual credits for eligible restaurant purchases.

Learn more: Best Marriott credit cards

BEST FOR EXPEDITED SECURITY SCREENING

The one-time sign-up bonus and an annual chance to earn up to $100 in travel statement credits enhance the value of this simple travel rewards credit card.

Frequent travelers who are Bank of America Preferred Rewards members can make the most of this card since you can boost your rewards rate by 25 to 75 percent depending on your savings.

Receive up to $100 in annual statement credits on airline incidentals like seat upgrades and baggage fees, plus up to $100 in statement credits to cover the cost of a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee every four years.

BEST FOR POINT VALUES

The card comes loaded with short- and long-term value, including one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses on the market and a slew of perks, including annual travel credits and complimentary airport lounge access.

Frequent travelers who can take advantage of its top-of-the-line perks.

Points are worth 50 percent more when you redeem for travel with Chase and you can transfer 1:1 to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs. You’ll also unlock up to $300 in annual travel statement credits, access to over 1,300 Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide and up to $100 in statement credits every four years to cover the cost of Global Entry, NEXUS or TSA PreCheck.

The Capital One Venture X card offers some of the same key perks as the Sapphire Reserve at a much lower cost. Along with a generous rewards rate on both Capital One Travel and general purchases, the card boasts valuable, practical benefits like competitive airport lounge access , up to $300 in annual Capital One Travel credits and 10,000 bonus miles every year on your account anniversary. 

Image of American Express® Green Card

American Express® Green Card

Best for everyday travel + transit

  • Who it’s for

This card offers terrific first-year value via its unique welcome offer, allowing you to earn even more rewards on travel and transit spending. 

The card’s Loungebuddy and CLEAR Plus credits should be handy even if you only fly occasionally.

Learn more: Is the American Express Green card worth it?

All information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

Travel credit cards allow cardholders to earn points or miles on a variety of purchases (typically travel-related), which are redeemable for travel bookings, statement credits, gift cards and more.

The best travel credit cards do more than help you foot the bill for your next flight — travel cards also offer perks to upgrade your entire travel experience. Trip insurance , annual travel credits, concierge services and lounge access are all common benefits. Airline and hotel co-branded credit cards sometimes offer specific discounts and perks for loyalty program members.

Co-branded travel cards vs. general travel cards

Travel credit cards are generally divided into two categories: co-branded travel cards and general travel cards. Co-branded cards are associated with a particular airline or hotel, while general travel cards offer more flexible reward opportunities. Here’s why and when you might want each.

What you get with co-branded travel credit cards

Co-branded travel cards tend to offer higher rewards rates on eligible travel purchases in exchange for limiting your reward redemption options to just one airline or hotel program . These cards may also feature more specific perks associated with the respective hotel or airline, such as free award nights, complimentary airline elite status or priority boarding — which general-purpose travel cards don’t often carry).

However, you won’t be able to use your rewards with a wide variety of different hotels and airlines like general-purpose cards allow. Plus, despite co-branded travel cards’ typically higher rewards rates, many brand-specific rewards tend to be worth less than the potential value of general-purpose cards’ points and miles.

When to get a co-branded travel card : When you often fly or stay with a specific airline or hotel and want to maximize your benefits with that brand.

What you get with general travel credit cards 

General travel cards earn rewards on various travel categories and aren’t limited to a particular airline or hotel. Such cards may lack some of the dedicated perks you’ll find on a co-branded travel card, such as in-flight discounts, but make up for this with rewards flexibility and broader perks like general travel credits, expedited security screening and wider airport lounge access. 

The top travel cards even let you transfer your points or miles to airline and hotel loyalty programs, often at a 1:1 rate. Redeeming with some airlines and hotels can even make your rewards more valuable than they would be if you redeemed with the card issuer.

When to get a general travel card : When you have no preferred airline or hotel and want the additional flexibility a general travel card offers. 

Pros and cons of travel credit cards

Although a well-chosen travel card can pay huge dividends, it might not be the right move for every traveler. Before you apply, take time to weigh the benefits versus the drawbacks of travel credit cards .

A travel credit card is almost always worth it for frequent travelers or anyone who wants to earn rewards toward their next vacation.

If you can save up airline miles, rack up points for free nights at hotels or get discounted travel through your credit card issuer, you’re on your way to significant travel savings. However, the right travel card for you will depend on your travel habits.

Frequent travelers

Naturally, the ideal candidate for a travel card is someone who travels a lot or plans to book several flights and hotel stays per year. However, in some cases, you don’t have to be a frequent traveler to reap the benefits of a travel rewards card. A number of cards offer good rewards rates on general purchases, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Card (cardholders earn 2X miles).

Travel beginners

If you’re new to travel rewards, a good place to start is with a travel card that makes it easy to earn and redeem points, without requiring you to navigate a complex rewards program or worry about tiered rewards rates or varying point redemption values. 

Once you’ve gotten the hang of things, you can explore a travel card with a more complex rewards program that may require more legwork but also offer more rewards value.

Brand loyalists

If you tend to book travel with the same brands frequently or already belong to an airline or hotel loyalty program, a co-branded travel card can offer terrific value.  Airline- and hotel-specific rewards cards often earn a top rate on bookings with the brand as well as exclusive perks like lounge access and automatic elite status. 

The Hilton Honors Amex card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card are great examples of lucrative co-branded travel rewards cards.

Business travelers

Some of the most valuable travel credit cards are business cards . Whether you're a freelancer on the go or the CEO of a Fortune 500, the right travel credit card can help you earn high rewards rates on everyday business purchases. Examples include the Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card and the Capital One Spark Miles for Business .

International travelers

If you frequently travel abroad, a card with no foreign transaction fees like the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great pick to help you avoid extra costs on overseas purchases. 

Plus, if you hate waiting in line at airport security or customs, a lot of travel cards offer statement credits to reimburse you for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.

Luxury travelers

If you’re looking for a luxury travel experience, consider a premium travel card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card from American Express. Luxury travel cards like these often charge a pretty penny but also offer a ton of value via perks like lounge access and annual travel credits. 

These perks not only make travel more comfortable, but also often carry enough value to offset the card’s cost on their own.

Still unsure if a travel credit card is right for you? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool where you can get personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score, spending habits and daily needs.

Additional travel credit card perks

Travel benefits may differ from card to card, but some of the most popular travel cards on the market may feature the following perks.

Elite status upgrades

Some cards offer complimentary upgrades or a head start toward a travel program’s elite status. For example, the American Express Platinum card lets you enroll in complimentary Gold Elite status for Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors loyalty programs. Climbing the loyalty status ranks could score you exceptionally valuable benefits such as additional rewards, room or seat upgrades, expedited services, and discounts or credits for in-flight or on-site purchases.

Travel insurance

Travel cards may offer various travel insurances , such as trip delay protection, trip cancellation insurance, lost baggage insurance or car rental insurance. These benefits aren’t worth anything until you need them, but you’ll be glad you have them when your flight is canceled or your luggage lost.

Expedited airport security service credits

Credits toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry are a popular and common benefit on many travel cards. You can typically use this credit once every four years, which roughly corresponds to how long a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership lasts. Some cards may also provide an annual credit toward Clear Plus — another expedited security membership.

Travel purchase credits

Higher-end travel cards often offer annual statement credits toward travel purchases. For some travel cards, such as the Capital One Venture X, these statement credits can nearly offset the cost of the card itself.

Boosts on travel reward redemptions

Some travel cards will often boost the value of your rewards when you redeem them on eligible travel. Redeeming points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred through Chase Ultimate Rewards will boost your point value to 1.5 cents and 1.25 cents per point, respectively. However, boosted rewards value toward issuer travel portal redemptions are rare outside certain Chase Ultimate Rewards cards nowadays, so you may need to rely on general-purpose travel cards’ transfer partners to squeeze more than 1 cent out of each point or mile.

Airline benefits

Co-branded airline cards typically offer some airport and in-flight benefits on top of their reward-earning capabilities. These can include perks like discounts on in-flight purchases (usually 25 percent back on refreshments and WiFi), free checked bags , flight seating upgrades or priority boarding . 

Free hotel award nights

Co-branded hotel cards may include annual free hotel award nights as part of their benefits. Some cards also tack an extra complimentary awards night to your stay if you’ve booked a certain number of consecutive nights. These nights are typically capped at a certain value (sometimes based on the card or your elite status), and may be valuable enough to make up for some cards’ annual fees.

Airport lounge access

One of the most popular (and valuable) travel benefits featured on high-end and luxury travel cards is complimentary access to airport lounges. The lounges you gain access to depend on the card, though co-branded cards will often grant access to the lounge corresponding to the card’s airline. The Amex Platinum card currently offers the best airport lounge access .

Credit card points and miles are two of the key types of credit card rewards , along with cash back. As with cash back, you’ll earn points and miles by making purchases with your credit card, but you can typically redeem these rewards for travel, gift cards and more — not just statement credits.

Points and miles tend to be more flexible than cash back, but since their value depends on how you redeem them — and, in the case of travel redemptions, where you’re going, when you book, your fare class and more — it make take a bit more effort to make the most of them.

What are your points and miles worth?

Since many airlines and hotels use dynamic pricing models that continually optimize airfare and room prices, it can be hard to know exactly how much your rewards are worth without doing a little math.

Luckily, you don’t need to be a travel hacker to get a sense of this. Before you redeem, you can check your reward redemption value by dividing the cost of a plane or hotel booking in cash by its cost in points or miles. This will show you the cash value of your points or miles.

You can also compare this value to Bankrate’s latest point and valuations to get a sense of whether you’re getting a good deal. Bankrate collected data on hundreds of bookings across dozens of airline, hotel and credit card rewards programs and estimated how much each program’s rewards are worth on average .

Airline rewards values

The table below shows Bankrate’s estimated reward redemption value for a variety of popular airline loyalty programs. You’ll notice how widely this varies between airlines, with some offering close to 3 cents per point in average redemption value and others struggling to meet a 1-cent-per-point value.

Keep in mind, however, that these values are averages based on a variety of fare classes, destinations, booking periods and more. For example, while Bankrate estimates Delta SkyMiles carry an average redemption value of around 1.2 cents per mile, they could be worth more or less depending on the details of your booking. 

*Based on weighted average of median point/mile values across economy and first/business class fares.

Hotel rewards values

Like airline miles, hotel points fluctuate in value. The table below shows Bankrate’s estimated point values for some of the most popular hotel brands. 

As you can see, hotel points tend to be worth less than airline and credit card rewards on average, often carrying less than 1 cent per point in redemption value. That said, hotel loyalty programs sometimes offer more favorable exchange rates when you transfer rewards from a credit card rewards program. For example, you may be able to turn 1,000 credit card points into 2,000 hotel points (a 2:1 transfer ratio). 

*Based on median point values across budget, mid-tier and luxury hotel bookings.

Credit card program rewards values

Unlike hotel and airline rewards programs, credit card reward programs typically earn points or miles that offer a consistent redemption value when you use them with the issuer. Though the redemption value of your rewards may vary based on how you redeem, each redemption method should offer a consistent baseline value. 

Some credit card rewards programs may also allow you to transfer your points or miles to airline and hotel loyalty programs, which could boost their value considerably. For each major credit card rewards program, we estimate a baseline redemption value (assuming you book for travel with the issuer) and a Bankrate’s Value, which averages the program’s best-value transfer partners.

*Based on an average of the issuer’s five highest-value transfer partners (if available).

When to use rewards vs. cash

Here’s an example: We estimate American Airlines AAdvantage miles are worth 1.0 cents. If you book a seat in the main cabin on a one-way flight from Boston to Miami, and it costs either $139 or 21,500 miles, your miles are only worth $0.006 ($139 / 21,500 miles = $0.006). Since your miles for this flight are worth less than 1.0 cents, you may want to save your miles and pay cash for this flight.

But if you book a first-class seat on the same flight for $433 or 31,500 miles, your miles are now worth $0.013 ($433 / 31,500 = $0.013). Since 1.3 cents is higher than our latest valuation, you’re coming out ahead if you use your miles to pay for this flight.

Tips on choosing the best travel credit card for you

The right travel credit card for you will carry features and benefits that give you the best value. To help you narrow down your choices, here are some questions to ask yourself that can guide you toward the card that fits you best:

Woman in front of abstract background with a plane and palm tree

5 steps to choose the best travel card

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5 benefits you need from a travel credit card in 2023

Silhouettes of passengers waiting at an airport in front of window

Traveler’s guide to the best frequent flyer programs

How do you prefer to travel.

Knowing whether your travel expenses lean toward airfare, hotel stays, or a mix of other travel will help you decide whether you should get an airline card, hotel card or general-purpose travel card. A co-branded airline or hotel credit card may be a good fit if you mostly travel with a certain brand and want exclusive privileges to enhance your experience. However, a general-purpose travel card is better if you prefer to keep your travel options open.

What do you want from your rewards?

You may have to pick between simplicity and maximum value when comparing cards and rewards programs. Many travel cards offer a standard point or mile redemption value of 1 cent when you redeem toward travel through the issuer portal, but some cards can get you a higher redemption value when you transfer rewards to airline or hotel partners. However, it’s common for many travel reward programs to reduce the redemption value toward non-travel options or limit these redemption options altogether. If you prefer simplicity over maximizing rewards, you may want to consider cards that allow you to redeem points or miles at an equal 1-cent value toward general travel purchase credits, cash back or other non-travel options.

What are your biggest expenses?

A general travel card with a flat rewards rate could be a good choice if you want a simple way to earn rewards on everyday spending, you want to stick with a single rewards card or if you make a lot of travel bookings with third-party booking sites. But if you don’t mind juggling multiple cards to maximize your earnings, cards that earn bonus rewards in specific spending categories could be far more lucrative. Take a look at your typical spending and find which travel categories (like airfare, hotel stays, gas or transit) and other categories (like dining, groceries or entertainment) you spend the most in and choose a card that offers a high rewards rate in those categories. Just make sure you factor in rewards spending caps.

What do you prioritize when traveling?

High rewards rates and valuable travel perks are the biggest reasons to get a travel card, but many of the best cards carry a high annual fee. You can probably stick with a no-annual-fee travel card (or at least one with around a $99 fee) if you’re mainly focused on earning rewards, but you may have to pay up to $500 or more for luxurious perks like airport lounge access, comprehensive travel insurance and hundreds of dollars in annual travel credits . Perks like free checked bags, hotel amenity credits, priority boarding, booking upgrades and complimentary elite status often only come with premium co-branded hotel and airline cards.

When are you traveling abroad next?

If you travel overseas, check to see if the card you’re considering charges a foreign transaction fee. And since some credit cards aren’t as widely accepted as others, you’ll also want to make sure your credit card will work when traveling overseas . For example, Discover and American Express cards may not be as widely accepted abroad as Visa cards and Mastercards. If a trip is coming up in the next three to six months, keep an eye out for the big $200 to $1,000+ sign-up bonuses travel cards are known for. As a rule of thumb, the higher the annual fee, the higher the sign-up bonus should be.

Here’s how a Bankrate editor chose his travel card

With all of this advice in mind, let’s see how a credit card expert made their pick. Here’s Bankrate editor Nouri Zarrugh on how he chose his travel card:

When it comes to earning rewards, I’ve always stuck with cash back cards, preferring the simplicity of knowing exactly how much my rewards are worth and the ease of redeeming for statement credits. Recently, though, I decided I wanted to travel a bit more frequently, and I figured a new travel rewards card could be a great tool to help me earn free trips. When choosing the right card for me, a few major points of consideration stood out: Cost: I didn’t feel like I traveled enough to justify a huge annual fee. Simplicity : I wanted to stick with a single, streamlined travel card and not worry about juggling multiple rewards programs or rewards rates. Perks : While I didn’t need anything too fancy, I thought it might be nice to have a perk like TSA Precheck included, since I hate waiting in long airport security lines. To my surprise, the card that stood out most was the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. Though it carried an intimidating annual fee of $395 ( See Rates & Fees ), I found this cost was more than worth it once I dug into the details. In fact, its benefits were so valuable, I barely needed to worry about offsetting the cost.  Two of its annual perks — a $300 Capital One travel credit and 10,000 bonus miles every year on my account anniversary — are valuable enough to offset the fee on their own. This means as long as I take one flight a year, I can basically break even on the card. Any rewards or perks I get beyond that feel like pure upside. It’s a huge bonus, then, that the card also includes practical benefits like Priority Pass lounge access and a credit of up to $100 toward the cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. While I’ve never frequented airport lounges, I see these privileges as essentially free considering the value of the annual travel credit and bonus miles. So, I figure, why not take advantage?  For me, the Venture X strikes the perfect balance: A flat rewards rate that makes it easy to earn miles on everything I buy; flexible redemption through Capital One or via transfer to airlines and hotels, and practical perks I know I’ll use when I travel. I never imagined I’d have a $395 travel card in my wallet, but for me, it’s at worst a coupon for a flight every year, which can nudge me to take that next trip. — Nouri Zarrugh, Editor, Bankrate

Expert advice on travel credit cards

Premium travel cards tend to charge hefty annual fees, so it’s important to know how to maximize your rewards and perks. Otherwise, a travel card could end up being a money pit. Here are a few pointers for making the most of your travel card: 

Combine cards to maximize rewards

Knowing how much you spend in different categories and which merchants are eligible for rewards will help you earn more rewards and build an optimized stack of rewards cards. 

A flat-rate card is often a great starting point. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and you often buy groceries at Walmart and Costco, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card can earn 1.5 percent cash back on those purchases instead of 1X points. Then, you can maximize your Freedom Unlimited rewards spending by redeeming its Chase rewards through the Sapphire Preferred for more value toward travel.

Expert Insight:

“For a long time, I’ve used a combination of Chase credit cards known as the Chase trifecta for all my family’s spending…. [I] don’t typically use my Sapphire Reserve for everyday spending and bills. Since it only offers 1X points on non-bonus category spending, I use my Freedom Unlimited to make sure I earn a minimum of 1.5 percent cash back on everything I buy.” “I use each card strategically to earn as much in rewards as possible, then I pool them in my Sapphire Reserve account to redeem them for airfare, excursions, hotels and more.” — Holly D. Johnson — Award-winning personal finance writer and Bankrate contributor: Why I love the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Maximize your rewards value with transfer partners and issuer travel

Save your rewards for the most valuable redemption options. Travel points and miles often lose value toward non-travel options like cash back, so you’ll want to redeem your rewards for travel through the issuer portal for at least 1 cent per point or mile. However, transferring your rewards to the right airline or hotel partner program is usually worth the extra effort since it could net you even more value.

Expert Insight

“When I redeem my points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, the most I can get is 1.25 cents apiece, which is pretty good. However, if I transfer them to a partner airline’s loyalty program, I will often get much more. For example, I can transfer my points to United Airlines’ MileagePlus and use them to pay for flights. When I do, I generally get a value of 2 or more cents per point — in line with Bankrate estimates that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth around 2 cents apiece on average when used with the right transfer partner.” — Margaret Wack — Personal finance expert and Bankrate contributor: Why I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Make the most of your travel perks

Travel benefits are one of the main reasons to get a travel card, and are often key to making up a card’s annual fee. Be sure to read the fine print to make sure you can take full advantage of these offers. For example, one card’s travel credit may apply to any travel purchase, including airfare, while another card’s may only cover costs like baggage fees or in-flight purchases. 

“This is the year to take inventory of your credit cards and make sure they’re serving you well. If you’re paying an annual fee, look for a card with recurring benefits. Whether it’s annual free nights, waived luggage fees or elite status benefits, these perks can offset your annual fee and make your travels more pleasant.” “Despite putting minimal spending on my Hilton Honors Amex Aspire card, I keep renewing it every year. That’s because the card provides automatic Hilton Diamond elite status, which can easily offset the $550 annual fee. Recurring card benefits like [these] can save you a lot on travel and are worth considering when shopping for a new credit card.” — Ariana Arghandewal — Travel rewards expert and Bankrate contributor: Five benefits you need from a travel credit card

Plan for the sign-up bonus

The best travel cards come with generous welcome offers, but these bonuses may require a high spend in a short timeframe. That’s why it’s important to consider whether the spending requirement fits with your typical spending habits or whether you need to plan purchases to meet the requirement. Just be sure not to overextend yourself or take on debt you can’t pay back just to earn a bonus — interest and fees can easily eat through any value you’d get from the bonus.

“While most people are focused on enjoying the fall season, I’d like to note that now is an ideal time to sign up for a new credit card with an eye toward holiday travel. Despite conflicting economic signals, credit card sign-ups are still booming. It’s a competitive market; you can use that to your advantage.” “Travel costs remain high this year, along with prices on just about everything else. Earning rewards from a new credit card could be another useful inflation-busting strategy as we head toward the always-expensive holiday season.” — Ted Rossman — Senior credit cards industry analyst at Bankrate: Best sign-up bonuses for holiday travel

Look out for limited-time offers, partner perks and other benefits

Keeping an eye out for limited-time offers like extraordinarily high sign-up bonuses, perks with partner services (like rideshares or delivery services) and other reward-earning opportunities is a great way to squeeze the most value from your travel card. Issuers sometimes provide shopping and travel portals and card-linked reward programs for select purchases (like for pre-paid dining or participating merchant spending), which can help you bank extra rewards.

“Keep an eye on your email inbox and rewards portal for any limited-time promotions your issuer may be offering. Many American Express cards feature Amex Offers, which offer perks like statement credits for spending a certain amount on specific hotels and other retailers. Other cards, like the Capital One Venture X, also have occasional promotional offers, such as a credit for 5 percent back on VRBO rentals.” — Lori Zaino — Travel expert and Bankrate contributor: How to maximize credit cards for cheaper accommodations this holiday season

Track your spending and rewards each account statement

That way, you can track your favorite stores’ and services’ merchant category codes (MCCs) to fine-tune your spending habits for maximum rewards. If you notice your expenses changing, this practice may also help you notice whether you need to change which rewards cards you carry.

“The first step to optimizing your spending is to take the time to collect the MCCs of stores you frequently shop at. During the process, you might find that some stores in the same chain may have different MCCs, depending on their primary inventory. Even different counters or sections in the same department store may carry different MCCs. You can use this to your advantage if you know one location near you will provide a better cash back rate than the other. These “loopholes” can provide great opportunities to reap cash back on purchases that typically wouldn’t earn rewards.” — Garrett Yarbrough — Writer and credit cards expert at Bankrate: Merchant category codes: How to earn more cash back

When evaluating the best travel cards, we consider a mix of factors, including how cards score in our proprietary card rating system and whether cards offer features that fit the priorities of a diverse group of cardholders, from earning rewards in popular categories to scoring a large sign-up bonus or high-value perks. Whenever possible, we also feature cards that are available at various credit levels and price points. 

We analyzed over 150 of the most popular cards and scored each based on its rewards rate, estimated annual earnings, welcome bonus value, APR, fees, perks and more to determine whether it belonged in this month’s roundup of the best travel cards.

Here are some of the key factors that we considered:

Great rewards value

The primary criteria for a rewards-earning card’s rating is its rewards value. This includes the card’s average rewards rate, estimated annual rewards earnings, sign-up bonus value and reward redemption value.

To estimate a card’s average annual rewards earnings, we first calculate its average rewards rate based on how much it earns in different bonus categories and how closely its categories align with the average person’s spending habits. In other words, we assess whether the card earns rewards at a high rate in the most popular spending categories. 

We use consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to get a reliable third-party measure of people’s spending habits. The most recent BLS data estimates average total spending in 2022 was $72,967 per consumer. We then narrow our focus to which purchases are likely to be put on a credit card and earn rewards, subtracting expenditures like housing, vehicle purchases and education. This gives us a total “chargeable” annual spend of around $25,500.  

This includes the following spending by category:

  • Groceries: $5,700
  • Dining out: $3,600
  • Entertainment: $2,400
  • Gas: $3,100
  • Apparel and services: $1,900

Using this data, we assign a weighting to each of a card’s bonus categories. For example, a card’s grocery rewards rate receives a 22 percent weighting based on how much of the average person’s budget is spent on groceries.

We also estimate the redemption value of points or miles from various issuer, airline and hotel rewards programs.

This weighting and rewards valuation allows us to estimate a card’s average annual rewards earnings — how many points or miles you’d earn with a given card if your spending was about average and you used the card for all of your purchases — as well as what those points are worth. We also use point valuations to determine a card’s sign-up bonus value

With these calculations complete, we assign each card a score based on how its average rewards earnings, sign-up bonus value, rewards rate and redemption value stack up against other rewards cards.

The better these values, the higher its score will be, making it more worthy of inclusion in our list and increasing its potential ranking.

Reasonable rates and fees

We also score cards based on how much it costs to keep them in your wallet or carry a balance. 

To start, each card is scored based on whether it offers an intro APR and how its ongoing APR compares to the rates available on other rewards cards. However, the latter rating only has a slight influence on the card’s score and whether the card is included in our list, since rewards card users generally try to avoid carrying a balance.

More important to both a card’s score and its inclusion in our list is how its annual fee influences its overall value. We consider a card’s annual fee in two ways — how it ranks relative to the fees you’ll find on other cards in the category and how it impacts a card’s overall rewards value. 

Cards with an annual fee will always be at a slight disadvantage in our scoring system since annual fees inherently cut into your rewards value. However, if a card offers terrific value via its ongoing rewards and perks, it can earn a high score and a spot in our list even if it carries a high annual fee. After all, the highest rewards rates and most valuable perks are often found on cards with annual fees. 

With this in mind, we rate a card based primarily on how its ongoing rewards value and ongoing perk value (such as annual credits or bonuses) stack up against those of other cards in the category when you subtract annual fees.

That said, we strive to include as many no-annual-fee options in our list as possible since many people would rather not worry about offsetting fees, even if a card carries impressive rewards and perks.

Redemption flexibility

Rewards cards may make it easy to earn a lot of points, miles or cash back, but how easy is it to use those rewards? After all, if it takes a ton of effort to redeem rewards or you can only redeem rewards in a couple of ways, a card may be more trouble than it’s worth. 

As such, we rate each card’s flexibility based on the restrictions it imposes on earning and redeeming rewards. We factor this rating into a card’s overall score and consider it when deciding on a card’s inclusion in our list. 

Flexibility factors include whether a card only allows you to earn a high rewards rate on only a small amount of spending or requires you to meet a certain earning threshold before you can redeem rewards. We also examine whether your points are worth less when you opt for some redemption options over others and whether a card gives you the flexibility to transfer rewards to travel partners.

Valuable perks

We also score each card’s set of features – its perks and benefits — against five tiers of features to provide a rating. 

We break down these tiers as follows:

  • Tier 1 includes fewer features than even standard credit cards (for example, an ultra-streamlined card that offers basic utility and next to nothing in the way of ancillary benefits). 
  • Tier 2 includes the benefits you’d expect on standard Visa or Mastercard credit cards, such as free access to your credit score, car rental insurance and $0 liability for fraudulent charges. 
  • Tier 3 includes “prime card” or better-than-average card features like cellphone insurance, lost luggage insurance, concierge services and purchase protection. 
  • Tier 4 includes luxury features such as airport lounge access, elite status with an airline or hotel and credits for expedited security screening membership programs. 
  • Tier 5 includes the sort of exemplary benefits you’ll find on top-tier luxury cards, such as high-value travel credits, cardholder memberships and other unique and valuable perks.

In evaluating the best cards, we tend to favor cards that offer at least Tier 3 benefits, unless they include other unique features that could make up for less-impressive perks.

In the news: What to expect for upcoming holiday travel

Predicting post-pandemic travel trends — and the best ways to save money on that travel — has been a challenge, especially considering the impact of inflation and changes in the travel card, airline and lodging markets. Although 2022 was supposedly the year of “revenge travel” after pandemic travel restrictions, a recent Bankrate survey found that more people are planning an overnight trip during the holidays. 

Bankrate expert Ted Rossman says this outcome is in line with the increase in flights and short-term rental stays compared to 2022 data. Thankfully, he says, flight cancellations and airline fares have decreased since last year; however, some travel rewards cards have started increasing restrictions on popular perks like airport lounge access and expedited security screening credits. 

Our Bankrate survey data found inflation has caused most people to adjust their holiday travel plans, such driving instead of flying and scaling back their trip itinerary. Similarly, you may be able to save some money (and headache) by re-evaluating your travel, redeeming your credit card rewards toward travel and utilizing other travel card features like travel insurance, airport benefits and hotel perks. 

For more information on ways to maximize your money on upcoming travel, check out Bankrate's Travel Toolkit .

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email , find us on Facebook , or Tweet us @Bankrate .

More information on travel credit cards

Frequently asked questions about travel credit cards, are travel credit cards worth it.

Travel cards can be well worth it since they often carry exclusive travel perks like credits for airfare, hotel stays, expedited airport security services and more, as well as complimentary airport lounge access and airline or hotel privileges (like complimentary elite status and discounts). 

However, many of the best travel credit cards come with annual fees. It’s important to at least offset the cost of these cards by taking advantage of the various travel perks and features included on the card. For example, The Platinum Card from American Express offers around $1,700 in yearly credits but requires a $695 annual fee. If you don’t use $695 worth of perks or rewards, then the card is costing you more than it’s worth.

If you don’t travel frequently enough to justify the price tag on a premium travel credit card, it might be better to go with a no-annual-fee travel card or even a cash back or general rewards credit card.

What credit score is needed for a travel credit card?

It’s possible to get a travel credit card with bad or fair credit, but most travel rewards cards are geared toward people with good or excellent credit (a FICO score of at least 670, or a VantageScore of at least 661).

Do travel miles or points expire?

Even though many major credit cards earn rewards that don’t expire, you may lose your points and miles if your account closes or isn’t in good standing. However, some co-branded cards’ rewards may expire if you don’t earn or redeem rewards within a certain timeframe (typically 12 to 36 months after the rewards are earned).

Check out our guide to credit card rewards expiration for a thorough breakdown of several popular issuers’ policies.

Are points or miles better on a credit card?

Whether points or miles offer better value will depend on the specific rewards program and how you redeem rewards. One airline loyalty program may earn miles that offer less than 1 cent each in average redemption value while another program’s points may offer close to 3 cents each on average. Similarly, a hotel card’s points may be worth less than half of a credit card issuer’s rewards points. Some programs offer points with only average baseline redemption value but high value when transferred to a partner airline or hotel. 

Ask the experts: Is it a good idea to have multiple travel credit cards?

Thomas Nitzsche

Stephanie Zito

Erica Sandberg

Financial Educator, Debt and Credit

Whether you should have multiple travel credit cards depends on several factors, including your brand affinity, frequency of travel and ability to pay off your cards in full each month. As a credit counselor, I see many people carrying credit card debt at high interest rates while continuing to make charges to the account for the sake of earning rewards. They lose far more than they earn each month. Having more than one travel credit card could make sense for you if you’re able to maximize your earnings by strategizing spending across each card. Just take into account annual fees and actual interest paid.

Contributor, Personal Finance

If you’re up for managing multiple cards and their benefits, then there are definitely big reward payouts to be had. But if the thought of multiple cards is overwhelming, it’s also a good strategy to have one or two more flexible cards and focus on maximizing your earnings and redemptions until it becomes second nature.

Contributor, Credit Cards

Definitely! I currently have two travel credit cards. In addition to the Chase card that I use for my United Airlines purchases, I have the Capital One Venture card for all other airlines. I earn a solid amount of miles on everything I buy with it, so it's an easy go-to for non-travel related expenses.

Article sources

We use primary sources to support our work. Bankrate’s authors, reporters and editors are subject-matter experts who thoroughly fact-check editorial content to ensure the information you’re reading is accurate, timely and relevant.

“ Consumer Expenditures 2022 ” Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed on December 13, 2023.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.

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How to use the chase travel portal.

  • card travel tips
  • credit card basics

how to pay travel rewards card

One of the many perks of using a Chase branded credit card is the opportunity to earn and redeem points for travel-related purchases. What’s more, did you know that you could maximize your points value and reap even more rewards points by booking through the Chase Travel portal?

To make the most of your purchases for travel, you can book your flights, hotels and more through the Chase Travel portal.

To help you navigate the rewards program, we’ll go over:

How to earn and redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Accessing the chase travel portal.

  • How to book flights through the Chase Travel portal

Booking hotels through the Chase Travel portal

How to book rental cars, cruises and other types of travel.

  • The benefits of booking travel in the Chase Travel portal
  • Additional tips and tricks for the Chase Travel portal

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are earned by using your Chase branded card on everyday purchases. When you use your Chase card(s), you can also earn points by making purchases on:

  • Paid reservations
  • Restaurant bookings
  • Hotel reservations

Depending on the Chase credit card you use, you can be eligible for a wide range of perks and rewards. All Chase family cards, such as Freedom ® , Sapphire ® and Ink ® , earn points that can be redeemed on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

To access the portal, go to the booking platform at www.chasetravel.com or login to your Chase Ultimate Rewards account and go to your Chase credit card’s main dashboard.

Next, click on the “Earn/Use” button where the number of points you have is listed. Choose “Travel” from the options listed, and this will take you to the travel portal.

How to book flights through Chase Travel portal

Rather than making your flight purchases externally, book your flights using the Chase Travel portal so you can get rewards on airfare. To do this, access the travel portal and search for the flight you want. You can filter your search by cost, airline, departure/arrival time and departure airport.

Once you’ve found the flight of your choice, select your option and purchase your flight using your Chase card. If you have Ultimate Rewards points available, you can use them to pay for all or part of your flight, and/or other travel-related purchases.

Similar to flights, you can redeem your Ultimate Rewards for hotel reservations. To do this, search by destination to see available hotels. You can narrow your search by filtering for price/amenities/ratings, type of property, number of bedrooms, neighborhood and more.

Select your hotel option, then continue to confirm your booking using your Chase card or redeeming your Ultimate Rewards to help make your purchases.

You can use the portal to book rental cars, activities and other travel-related purchases. To book a cruise line, you need to call directly.

For car rentals, be sure to use the appropriate points connected to your specific card to get additional perks, such as car insurance.

The benefits of booking travel in Chase Travel portal

Travel costs can add up easily, but if you’re using the portal to redeem your points, you are giving your points good use with certain cards. On the other hand, using the portal could also help you earn more points on your purchases. For example, you can get even more points on flights if you book through portal. These points can later be redeemed on your future travels.

Chase Travel portal summary

No matter where your next adventure takes you, use the Chase Travel portal to book hotels, flights and more. Earning points through the portal can unlock future opportunities for you to take trips in one platform.

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How to Maximize Travel Credit Card Rewards

Easy Ways to Get More Value From Your Card

Make Sure You Have the Right Cards

  • Use Cards For Everyday Expenses
  • Look For Bonus Earning Opportunities
  • Redeem Rewards for Travel
  • Don’t Book Through a Third Party

Read Reward Category Terms

Don’t pay for benefits you don’t use, add authorized users, use cards for business travel.

  • Pay Off Your Balance

Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images 

When used wisely, travel credit cards can open a world of possibilities for those with a case of wanderlust. But earning and redeeming points and miles can be complicated, and getting the most value from your card isn’t always obvious. If you’re not an expert, don’t worry; we’ve got your back. Here’s how to maximize your travel credit card rewards .

First things first: Make sure the cards in your wallet fit your spending habits and travel preferences. If you have to drastically overhaul how you shop and travel just to earn rewards, you’re not using travel cards strategically. Use what works for you.

If you’re loyal to a specific airline or hotel chain, a branded travel card may be valuable. For example, a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard card can help you earn lots of miles on American Airlines flights, and then you can redeem those for more American flights later.

Or, if you prefer shopping around for the best travel deals, get a flexible travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Capital One Venture Rewards Card. General travel cards like these reward more of your purchases and the points can be redeemed for more types of travel (e.g., not just flights, but also hotels, rental cars, and cruises).

You may even want a combination of a branded travel card (or two) and a more general rewards card. It all comes down to making sure your cards fit your lifestyle . 

Use Travel Cards for Everyday Expenses 

If you’re only using travel cards to pay for travel expenses, you’re probably missing out on many reward earning opportunities. Besides travel, many cards award extra points or miles on groceries, dining out, gas, or other spending categories. Rack up travel rewards faster by taking advantage of these benefits. 

Look for Bonus Earning Opportunities 

Many travel cards offer bonus miles or points for spending a minimum amount when you first get the card. But even after that, there are often special incentives to earn extra points or get discounts on select purchases.

Some are limited-time offers, while others are based on how much you charge on your card, how you spend your points, or where you travel. For instance, you might score a deal on a family vacation package, earn extra points on back-to-school shopping, or get a big bonus for spending $25,000 in a year. These are great ways to maximize your card benefits and rewards. And who doesn’t love a good deal?

Here are major travel rewards programs that offer additional earning and redemption opportunities on at least some cards:  

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Capital One rewards
  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • Hilton Honors
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • United MileagePlus
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • Delta SkyMiles

Redeem Rewards for Travel 

The Balance team carefully analyzed the value of hotel points and airline miles and one thing became glaringly obvious: it often doesn’t pay to redeem your travel rewards for non-travel purchases, like gift cards or goods from Amazon. Our research found that using travel rewards this way can cut their value in half, if not more.

So even when you have plenty of redemption options, you’re typically better off using your points for travel. If you find yourself longing to use your points like cash, try adding a cash-back card to your wallet. 

Don’t Book Travel Through a Third Party 

Even though your card rewards travel purchases with extra points or miles, don’t assume that means all travel purchases with that hotel or airline. Many cards encourage loyalty by applying the highest rewards earning rate only when travel purchases are made through their rewards portal or directly with the brand. If you make travel purchases on a third-party website, like Kayak or Expedia, or through a travel agency, you probably won’t earn as many points or miles.

To avoid disappointment, double check your card’s terms when booking a hotel, flight, car, or other travel reservation outside your rewards portal. 

To get the most value from each purchase, review your card’s reward category terms beforehand. The miles you earn will depend on how the store categorizes your purchase, and whether your card rewards those purchase codes.

For instance, if your card gives you double points on groceries, you won’t automatically get double points every time you buy milk and bread. If you’ve bought them from a retail or convenience store that doesn’t categorize your transaction as a grocery purchase, you’re out of luck.

Travel cards with annual fees typically offer more high-value benefits, like free airport lounge access or a waiver on your checked bag fees. Make an effort to actually use these card benefits, or the cost savings are lost when you pay the annual fee.

If you can’t use a travel card’s benefits enough to make up for the annual fee, close the account . Opt for a simpler card with no additional costs. 

Consider adding authorized users to your account because some cards let these users enjoy travel benefits such as free airport lounge access. Not only will your travel companions enjoy some of the same benefits for no additional cost, but you’ll be one step closer to recouping the annual fee. 

Do you travel often for work? If so, book your business trips using your travel card. Many companies will reimburse employees for business travel, so this can be an easy way to earn free, extra miles.

Check with your employer to ensure this doesn’t conflict with existing policies. Some companies prefer you book travel expenses on a company card. You don’t want to ruffle your bosses’ feathers just to earn extra rewards . 

Pay Off Your Balance 

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Pay off your card in full each month, every month. This is so important. If you pay interest charges, any value earned through points, miles, or card benefits can be lost. To maximize your travel credit card rewards, only charge what you can afford to pay off each month. 

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Earn Free Vacation Travel With These 7 Rewards Credit Cards

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There are many reasons why paying for your day-to-day transactions with credit cards can be a good idea. Credit cards offer robust fraud protection and the ability to build credit without going into debt if you pay your monthly bill on time. Yet the potential to earn rewards in exchange for purchases I need to make anyway is one of my favorite credit card perks.

As someone who loves to travel, my favorite rewards credit cards are the ones that help me and my family see the world for free. Here are seven of my preferred credit card picks that could help you earn free travel too.

Best Travel Credit Cards

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Chase Sapphire Preferred®

how to pay travel rewards card

Secure application on issuer’s website

  • Our Rating 5/5 How our ratings work Read the review
  • APR 21.49% - 28.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee $95

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent : $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the gold standards for earning travel rewards. It has a generous sign-up bonus and you can earn points on travel and dining expenses. The card does have an annual fee, but you can continue earning points through bonus categories and an anniversary points boost.

  • Pros & Cons

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is pretty flexible as it lets you transfer rewards points into miles or points several airlines and hotel programs. You can take advantage of strong transfer partners such as United, Southwest, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Hyatt. Similarly, you can book any reservation you want through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Although the card might not be ideal for the most frequent travelers, it has a built-in upgrade path, so when it’s time to level up your travel rewards game, you won’t have to start from scratch.

  • Points are easily transferable to airlines and hotel partners
  • Accelerated earnings on dining, travel & household purchases
  • Excellent travel and purchase protections
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Not ideal for the highest spenders
  • $95 annual fee

The  Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card makes it easy to earn free travel, even as a beginner. When travel rewards newbies ask me to recommend the best starter rewards credit cards , the Chase Sapphire Preferred always makes my short list.

The card comes with an affordable $95 annual fee that's easily offset by perks such as the following.

  • Sign-up bonus:  60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • 1x-5x points: Earn 5x points per dollar on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards, 3x points for spending on dining, 2x points on other travel and 1x point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enhanced rewards redemption rate:  Redeem the points you earn for 25% more when booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or through  Chase Pay Yourself Back .
  • Travel protections:  Enjoy trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage, baggage delay coverage and rental car insurance.

The sign-up bonus alone is worth up to $750 in free travel  when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards. And you could potentially cash those points in for even more value if you transfer them to a Chase airline or hotel travel partner.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

how to pay travel rewards card

  • Our Rating 4.5/5 How our ratings work Read the review
  • APR 22.49% - 29.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee $550

Earn 60,000 bonus points after using your card to spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. Dollar Equivalent : $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

This card features an annual credit for travel purchases, which can offset the annual fee, plus bonus points when you sign up. You'll also get free access to tons of Priority Pass lounges and restaurant options around the world, along with access to the upcoming Chase Sapphire Lounge network.

If you’re looking to elevate your travel experience, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Reserve. When you first get approved, you’ll earn a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months—that’s worth at least $900 in travel-related spending booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and potentially more if you transfer your rewards to one of Chase’s airline or hotel partners.

  • An array of premium travel perks including access to Priority Pass lounges
  • Easy-to-use $300 travel credit that helps offset card's annual fee
  • Generous rewards rates for spending
  • High annual fee may be a deterrent for some
  • Perks are starting to get stale relative to newer competition

The Chase Sapphire Reserve  is what I would consider the big sister of the Sapphire Preferred Card. This premium travel rewards credit card delivers a lot of value, but comes with a pricey $550 annual fee. If you can use enough of the following benefits to offset the annual fee, however, the card can be well worth the cost.

  • Sign-up bonus:  60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • 10x points:  Earn 10x points on hotel and rental car reservations made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • 5x points:  Earn 5x points on air travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • 3x points:  Earn 3x points on eligible travel and dining purchases. Get 1x point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enhanced rewards redemption rate:  Redeem points for 50% more when you use them to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or Chase Pay Yourself Back.
  • Travel credit:  Get up to $300 in statement credits each year for travel purchases.

On top of these great perks, you can enjoy all of the travel protections available through the Sapphire Preferred card. Plus, receive complimentary airport lounge access with a free Priority Pass Select membership, a Complimentary Lyft Pink membership for one year and more. The 60,000-point sign-up bonus is worth $900 in free travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards—possibly more with a travel partner  transfer.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Product Image for Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

  • Our Rating 4.0/5 How our ratings work Read the review
  • APR 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee $0

New cardholders can earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 with the card during the first three months of account opening. Dollar Equivalent : $360 (20,000 Capital One Rewards Miles * 0.018 base)

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card features several standout benefits, including the ability to transfer miles to Capital One travel partners—an uncommon feature on a card with no annual fee. Plus, the ability to transfer miles to travel partners—both airlines and hotels—is arguably the most attractive feature of this travel card.

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card features several standout benefits. Perhaps the most appealing feature of this travel credit card is the ability to transfer miles to Capital One travel partners—an uncommon feature on a card with no annual fee. Plus, the ability to transfer miles to travel partners—both airlines and hotels—is arguably the most attractive feature of this travel card.

  • No annual fee
  • Ability to earn transferable points to use on travel partners
  • Earning rate is lower than some of the competition
  • Not useful if you don't spend in dining, entertainment, streaming, and supermarket categories

Once upon a time,  I wasn't a fan of annual-fee credit cards . If you prefer to avoid annual fees, the  Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card  offers you a chance to earn travel rewards without this cost. And while the rewards rate isn't as high as you may find elsewhere, the card does feature several attractive features and benefits such as:

  • Sign-up bonus:  20,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • 1.25x miles: Earn 1.25x miles on all eligible purchases.
  • 5x miles : Earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.
  • 0% intro APR:  Pay 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months after you open your account (then a 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable) APR applies [ Rates & Fees ] based on creditworthiness). The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card charges a 3% balance transfer fee for transferred balances during the 15-month promotion. After that, 4% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at the offered promotional APR.

The sign-up bonus is worth $200 in travel statement credits. Capital One also allows you to transfer points to any of its numerous hotel and airline travel partners. So, if you're strategic, you may be able to redeem those 20,000 bonus miles for more value.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

how to pay travel rewards card

  • Our Rating 4.0/5 How our ratings work
  • Annual Fee $69

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent : $700 (50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

This is a great starter card for infrequent domestic travelers who want to earn rewards toward discounted Southwest flights without a huge annual fee. You won't get a ton of perks compared to other Southwest cards, and this card does charge foreign transaction fees so probably isn’t best for international travelers.

This is the entry-level card for aspiring Rapid Rewards point earners, and new cardholders can earn a nice sign-up bonus, which can help get you closer to booking flights for your next travel destination. This card also earns 3,000 anniversary points each year and 2 EarlyBird check-ins annually.

Above all, for a modest $69 annual fee, the Rapid Rewards Plus credit card helps you rack up points as cheaply as possible.

  • 2x points on Southwest purchases, local transit and commuting, select streaming and more
  • Annual fee that's palatable
  • All points earned count towards Companion Pass®
  • In exchange for a lower annual fee, the card's ongoing benefits may seem lackluster
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

The Southwest Rapid Rewards ® Plus Credit Card is the entry-level card for aspiring Rapid Rewards point earners. This airline credit card earns 2X points per dollar spent with Southwest and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar spent on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing services, as well as on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Finally, the credit card earns 1X points on all other purchases.

Above all, for a modest $69 annual fee, the Rapid Rewards Plus credit card helps you rack up points as cheaply as possible. Our favorite Rapid Rewards Plus perks include the 3,000 bonus points and 2 EarlyBird Check-Ins awarded to cardholders on the anniversary of your account opening. It’s all added incentive to retain the card after you’ve earned the introductory sign-up bonus.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

how to pay travel rewards card

  • Annual Fee $99

This middle-of-the-pack Southwest card is a good option for occasional travelers. In exchange for a moderate annual fee, you'll enjoy strong travel perks on top of 6,000 bonus points every anniversary. Another nice perk is this card charges no foreign transaction fees, unlike the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus.

In addition to perks like no foreign transaction fees and being able to earn A-list flight status, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card also offers a generous 6,000 bonus points every cardholder anniversary. It’s these types of benefits that help round out the value of the $99 annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card also offers two EarlyBird Check-Ins each year.

  • Land A-List status faster with 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend
  • 6,000 bonus points awarded every cardmember anniversary
  • $99 annual fee
  • Must fly Southwest often for this card to make sense

In addition to perks like no foreign transaction fees, two complimentary EarlyBird Check-In vouchers each year and being able to earn A-list flight status, the Southwest Rapid Rewards ® Premier Credit Card also offers a generous 6,000 bonus points every cardholder anniversary, which can often be enough to cover the cost of a one-way domestic flight. It's these types of benefits that help round out the value of the $99 annual fee.

This airline credit card also earns 3X points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing services. Additionally, this Southwest card rewards 2X points per dollar spent on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. It earns 1X points on all other purchases.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

how to pay travel rewards card

  • Annual Fee $149

If you’re looking for a Southwest credit card stacked with travel rewards and perks, this is it. Although it has the highest annual fee of Southwest consumer cards, you could easily offset the fee if you travel Southwest frequently.

When you look at benefits like a $75 annual travel credit, free checked bags and discounts on in-flight purchases, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is probably the most affordable of all the Southwest credit cards. Similarly, the 7,500 bonus points each cardmember anniversary really pack on the value and offset this card’s $149 annual fee.

  • Although there's a $149 annual fee, the $75 Southwest annual travel credit makes the card much more affordable for frequent flyers
  • 7,500 anniversary bonus points as a cardmember
  • Higher annual fee may not be a fit for some
  • Must fly Southwest with some frequency for card to make sense

When you look at benefits like a $75 annual travel credit, four upgraded boardings each year, free checked bags and 25% back on in-flight purchases, the Southwest Rapid Rewards ® Priority is probably the most affordable of all the Southwest credit cards. Similarly, the 7,500 bonus points each cardmember anniversary really pack on the value and offset this card's $149 annual fee.

This airline credit card also earns 3X points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing services. Additionally, this Southwest card rewards 2X points per dollar spent on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. It earns 1X points on all other purchases. Read our full review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card here .

The Platinum Card® from American Express

how to pay travel rewards card

  • APR See Pay Over Time APR
  • Annual Fee $695

Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership Dollar Equivalent : $1,520 (80,000 Membership Rewards Points * .019 base)

Cardholders have access to credits for hotels, digital entertainment, Walmart+, airline fees, Uber Cash and more. Those who can use enough credits can offset the hefty annual fee, but otherwise, the value may be out of reach.

The American Express Platinum Card isn’t a standout when it comes to rewards rates, but if you’re looking for a card that will elevate your travel experience and provide you with solid monthly lifestyle benefits, this one should be on your radar.

  • One of the best cards for premium travel and lifestyle perks
  • Access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs (when flying same-day Delta), Priority Pass lounges and more
  • Nearly $1,500 in annual statement credits, from hotels, Uber, CLEAR, digital entertainment and more
  • Up to 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels
  • Automatic Gold elite status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy hotel programs
  • At $695 per year, this premium card has one of the most expensive annual fees
  • "Use it or lose it" benefits, as statement credits don't roll over
  • Long list of coupon-like perks may be hard to keep track of

The Platinum Card® from American Express has long been a symbol of extravagance and affluence. And with its precious annual fee, it's easy to see why. Yet, this premium credit card is more than just wallet candy — it offers cardholders a diverse lineup of statement credits and benefits that may negate the yearly cost for many people.

Each year, Platinum Card members look forward to a collection of rebates, including:

  • $200 hotel credit: Prepaid bookings with select hotels
  • $200 airline fee credit: Benefit can be applied to one selected airline
  • $240 digital entertainment credit: $20 benefit per month
  • $155 Walmart+ credit: Benefit covers monthly membership cost
  • $200 Uber Cash: Receive $15 monthly benefit for rideshares and meal delivery
  • $300 Equinox credit: Get up to $300 in credits each calendar year when you use your Amex Platinum to pay for the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships.
  • $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit: $50 benefit between January and June and then again between July through December
  • $189 CLEAR credit: Benefit applies to annual membership

Some of these benefits will more exciting than others, depending on the merchants and services you already use. Still, cardholders who can take full advantage of what The Platinum Card® from American Express offers will find outsized value for its yearly fee.

Keep in mind, with any credit card benefit, terms and conditions apply. Read our full review of the Platinum Card.

How to Choose a Travel Rewards Card

Figuring out which travel rewards card is best can be tricky. But in reality, no credit card holds this title. There's no "best" travel rewards credit card, but there may be a card that's for you.

A  credit check is an important step you don't want to skip when thinking about applying for a credit card. You can also research  how to get approved for a new credit card .

Next, consider factors like which cards will reward you the most for your spending habits, sign-up bonuses and benefits you can use. Compare card benefits to any annual fees to make sure they're worth the cost.

Once you find the perfect-for-you rewards card, be sure to manage it carefully. It's important to pay your full statement balance every month. Otherwise, the interest you pay on your credit card could cancel out the rewards you earn.

Read More About Reward Travel

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Learn How to Travel for Free: Beginners Guide to Credit Card Travel Rewards

Michelle lambright black.

Michelle Black is founder of CreditWriter.com and HerCreditMatters.com. Michelle is a leading credit card journalist with over a decade and a half of experience in the financial industry. She’s an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting, small business, and debt eradication. Michelle is also a certified credit expert witness and personal finance writer.

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Best travel credit cards for airlines in 2024

Kaeli Conforti

Feb 2, 2024 • 17 min read

how to pay travel rewards card

Read on for the best ways to fly the world with the helpful boost of points & miles © andresr / Getty

This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy .

Advertiser Disclosure:  This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. This relationship may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. All information about Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority credit card has been collected independently by Lonely Planet. These cards are not available through Lonely Planet.

Imagine planning the ultimate dream trip to say, New Zealand , and not having to worry about paying for any of your flights, hotels, sightseeing tours or rental car. The good news is, that’s entirely possible if you develop a credit card strategy to make your everyday purchases work in your favor.

When it comes to choosing the perfect airline credit card, there are two ways to go about it. You could sign up for a travel credit card that lets you earn flexible rewards points, which can be then redeemed for free flights with various partner airlines.

Or, you could choose a cobranded credit card that lets you earn and redeem miles with a single airline, a great option if you’re striving for status with a particular carrier or you’re based near a certain airline’s hub.

In our search for the best airline credit cards, we considered several factors: the welcome bonus, travel protections, elite status perks and annual benefits. Additionally, none of the cards listed have foreign transaction fees .

While many of them have high annual fees (ranging from $95–$695), using all the included credits and benefits will help offset them.

Here’s our list of the best travel credit cards for airlines, a mix of flexible travel cards and the cobranded credit cards of four popular US airlines: American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.

How to get started with travel points and airline miles

Best travel credit cards for airlines for 2023

  • Best travel credit card with a low annual fee: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best premium travel credit card: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Best credit card for lounge access: The Platinum Card® from American Express *

Best American Airlines credit card: Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

Best united airlines credit card: united club℠ infinite card.

  • Best Delta Air Lines credit card: The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card *

Best Southwest Airlines credit card: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

The best travel credit cards for 2023

The Chase Sapphire Card

Best travel credit card with a low annual fee: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred  is one of the most popular travel credit cards on the market, thanks to the many opportunities it offers for earning and redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points. There are 14 airline and hotel transfer partners, and points can be switched over at a 1:1 ratio.

Besides its modest annual fee and lucrative welcome bonus, cardholders receive an annual $50 statement credit toward hotels booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Points redeemed via the Chase travel portal are worth 1.25 cents per point, and you’ll score a 10% points bonus each year based on how many points were earned the previous year. 

Cardholders can also access partner benefits, including a complimentary six-month subscription to Instacart+ with up to $15 in statement credits quarterly through July 2024 and a free membership to DoorDash and Caviar.

Welcome bonus: 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Rewards: Earn 5X points on travel reserved via Chase Ultimate Rewards, not counting hotel stays that qualify for the annual $50 hotel credit; 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2025; 5X points on Peloton purchases over $150 (up to 25,000 points) through March 2025; 3X on dining and online grocery shopping (except Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs); 3X points on streaming services; 2X points for travel expenses; and 1X points on all other purchases.

Airline transfer partners: Aer Lingus, Air Canada, British Airways, Emirates, Air France / KLM, Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

Travel benefits: Auto rental collision damage waiver; baggage delay, trip cancellation and interruption insurance; trip delay reimbursement and emergency travel assistance.

Credit score: Good to excellent.

Annual fee: $95. See rates and fees .

  • Generous welcome bonus providing $750 worth of travel when you redeem points through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Many options for redeeming rewards, including 14 airlines and three hotels (Hyatt, IHG and Marriott).
  • Modest annual fee considering all the included travel benefits.
  • Approval is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, so you won’t be approved if you’ve opened five credit cards within 24 months.
  • There is no airport lounge access offered as an included perk.

Chase Sapphire review: an in-depth look at the card loved by travelers

Chase Sapphire Reserve

For travelers who expect premium-level service and benefits, the Chase Sapphire Reserve  is a top choice, though it does carry a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees ).

That said, it’ll almost pay for itself if you use all the perks — a $300 annual travel credit; Priority Pass lounge membership; a $100 credit toward Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS enrollment; access to The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection; and exclusive sports, dining and entertainment events via Reserve by Sapphire. 

Redemptions are worth 1.5 cents per point when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and you can transfer them to any of Chase’s 14 airline and hotel partners. Cardholders also receive one free year of Instacart+ service with up to $15 in statement credits per quarter through July 2024, plus free membership to DoorDash and Caviar.

Rewards: Earn 10X points on car rentals and hotels, not counting The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after the $300 annual travel credit); 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025; 10X points on Peloton purchases over $150 (up to 25,000 points) through March 2025; 10X points on Chase Dining purchases; 5X points on flights reserved through the Chase travel portal (after the $300 travel credit); 3X points on dining; and 3X points on all other travel purchases (after the $300 annual travel credit).

Travel benefits: Lost luggage and trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay and travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, trip interruption and cancellation insurance, emergency travel and roadside assistance, emergency transportation and evacuation services and emergency dental and medical benefits.

Credit score: Excellent.

Annual fee: $550. See see rates and fees .

  • Complimentary access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide thanks to the included Priority Pass membership.
  • The $300 annual travel credit and $100 credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS registration help to offset the annual fee.
  • A lucrative welcome bonus that’s worth $900 in travel when redeemed via Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • High annual fee.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners: How to get the best value in 2023

The Amex Platinum

Best credit card for lounge access: The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card  offers a ton of premium travel benefits, including access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection, a $200 hotel credit on Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection stays booked via American Express Travel, a $200 airline fee credit for incidental charges made with a specific airline and a $189 credit for a CLEAR Plus membership.

Cardholders also receive a $240 digital entertainment credit to cover up to $20 per month spent with certain streaming platforms, a $155 credit for a monthly Walmart+ membership and a $100 statement credit when you shop at Saks Fifth Avenue ($50 per six-month period).

Additional perks include $200 worth of Uber Cash annually — $15 per month, plus an extra $20 in December — and a $300 Equinox credit.

Welcome bonus: 80,000 points after spending $8,000 within the first six months of account opening.

Rewards: Earn 5X points on flights booked directly with the airline or via American Express Travel (up to $500,000 per year); 5X points on hotels reserved via AmexTravel.com, including The Hotel Collection; 1X points on all other purchases.

Transfer partners: Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Air Canada, Air France / KLM, ANA, Avianca, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia, JetBlue, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic.

Travel benefits: Baggage insurance, secondary coverage on standard rental car insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, access to a global emergency assistance hotline, evacuation and medical transport service in an emergency and medical assistance.

Annual fee: $695. See rates and fees .

  • Many transfer partners, including 17 airlines and three hotels (Marriott, Hilton and Choice Hotels).
  • Generous statement credits are offered for various travel, dining and shopping charges.
  • Lucrative welcome bonus that’s worth $1,600 in travel when points are redeemed through American Express Membership Rewards.
  • Secondary car insurance, whereas the aforementioned Chase cards offer primary car insurance via the auto rental collision damage waiver.

Traveling to Europe using points and miles

The American Airlines Business Class on a flight from Rome to JFK

American Airlines loyalists will love the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, which includes free entry to the Admirals Club as well as the carrier’s partner lounges. You’ll also get one free checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

Cardholders receive 25% off in-flight food and drinks and priority boarding, screening and check-in when flying on American Airlines. You’ll also earn a $100 statement credit to cover your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment and statement credits for Avis and Budget car rentals (up to $120 per year), GrubHub (up to $120 per year) and Lyft (a $10 credit each month once you take three eligible rides).

Welcome bonus: 70,000 miles after spending $7,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Rewards: Earn 10X miles on car rentals and hotels booked via American Airlines; 5X points per dollar for the rest of the year once you hit $150,000; 4X miles on American Airlines purchases; 1X miles for all other purchases. You’ll also earn 10,000 bonus points once you reach 50,000 points in a status qualification year, plus another 10,000 points if you reach 90,000 points within that same year.

Travel benefits: Trip delay, interruption and cancellation insurance; lost baggage protection; and car rental coverage.

Annual fee: $595. See rates and fees .

  • Points earned with the card count toward AAdvantage elite status.
  • The included membership to the Admirals Club is worth $850, making that benefit alone well worth the $595 annual fee (see rates and fees ) — if you use it.
  • Day-of travel benefits, like a free checked bag and priority boarding.
  • High annual fee, especially if you don’t visit the Admirals Club lounges.
  • Limited opportunities to earn miles outside American Airlines purchases.

How to get major perks at global events and concerts with your credit card

United Club℠ Infinite Card members receive a free United Club membership, which also provides access to select Star Alliance partner lounges worldwide. Cardholders score special treatment at the airport, with priority services for check in, security, boarding and baggage handling.

Additional perks include up to two free checked bags for you and a companion; a $100 statement credit to put toward Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS enrollment; 25% back in statement credits for onboard United purchases; up to 8,000 Premier Qualifying Points, which count toward Premier status, for every $12,000 spent with the card; and a complimentary one-year membership to DoorDash and Caviar. 

Welcome bonus: 80,000 miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Rewards: Earn 4X miles on United purchases, including flights, Wi-Fi and in-flight food and drinks; 2X miles on travel and dining; 1X miles for all other purchases.

Travel benefits: Automatic Platinum Elite status with IHG One Rewards for hotels and Avis President’s Club for car rentals; access to The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection; baggage delay insurance and lost luggage reimbursement; trip delay, interruption and cancellation insurance; auto rental collision damage waiver; and concierge services through Visa Infinite.

Annual fee: $525. See rates and fees .

  • The complimentary United Club membership is worth $650, already making it worth the annual fee if you visit frequently.
  • Day-of travel benefits like priority boarding and two free checked bags.
  • The ability to earn Premier Qualifying Points, which count toward elite status.
  • Limited opportunities to earn miles outside United Airlines purchases.

The best credit cards with no international fees in 2023

Inside Delta's Airbus A220-300

Best Delta Air Lines credit card: The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

While Delta offers several cobranded cards, The Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card offers the widest variety of benefits for frequent flyers, plus complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges.

One of the main draws for this card is the companion certificate you’ll receive each year upon renewal, which you can use to score a free economy, Delta Comfort+ or Domestic First Class ticket for a friend or family member. Cardholders also receive their first checked bag free, 20% back on in-flight purchases, priority boarding and upgrade priority (for Medallion members). The Companion Ticket requires payment of the government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply.

The card offers complimentary Delta Sky Club access to primary cardholders (Note: You must be traveling on a same-day Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight. You will receive four Delta Sky Club One-Time Guest Passes each year. After that, you may bring up to two guests at a per-visit rate of $50 per person, per location. Reserve Card Members will receive 15 visits per year to the Delta Sky Club; to earn an unlimited number of Visits each year starting on 2/1/25, the total eligible purchases on the Card must equal $75,000 or more between 1/1/24 and 12/31/24, and each calendar year thereafter.)

Welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months.

Rewards: 3X miles on Delta purchases, 1X miles on all other purchases.

Travel benefits: 15% off award flights, a $100 statement credit to cover your Global Entry application (or $85 for TSA PreCheck), one free checked bag for you, priority boarding, access to a global emergency assistance hotline, expert Concierge services.

Annual fee: $650. See rates and fees .

  • Complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges, despite some limitations, as well as American Express Centurion lounges.
  • Day-of travel perks like priority boarding and a free checked bag.
  • Cardholders save 15% when booking award flights.
  • Several perks are disappearing or changing in 2025.

Best travel credit cards for hotels

One of Southwest's Boeing 737s

While a number of cobranded credit cards are offered by the carrier, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has the most benefits for a reasonable annual fee.

For starters, cardholders earn 7,500 points to commemorate each anniversary and all the points you pick up by using this card count toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass, which provides free travel for a friend or family member for a year, for just the cost of taxes and fees.

Welcome bonus: 75,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Rewards: 3X points on Southwest Airlines purchases; 2X points on transit, commuting and rideshare services; 2X points for hotels and car rentals booked via Southwest Rapid Rewards; 2X points for cable, internet, phone and streaming services; 1X points for all other purchases.

Travel benefits: Four upgraded boardings per year; 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points annually; a $75 Southwest annual travel credit; 25% back on in-flight purchases; and 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points, which count toward A-List elite status each time you spend $10,000.

Annual fee: $149. See rates and fees .

  • Reasonable annual fee with a decent welcome bonus.
  • Ability to earn points toward A-List elite status and the Southwest Companion Pass.
  • Many opportunities to earn points outside of airline-related purchases.
  • Secondary car rental insurance and a lack of the usual travel insurance and delay protections.

Best credit cards for road trips

Who should get an airline credit card?

Anyone who enjoys earning points to redeem for free flights — or, as with airline-specific cobranded cards, special perks like free checked bags, lounge access or the ability to earn status — can benefit from an airline credit card.

The best credit cards for airport lounge access in 2023

How to choose the best airline credit card

If you’re loyal to a particular airline — maybe you’ve always flown with it or you’re based near its airport hub — a cobranded credit card might make more sense. Otherwise, if you’re open to flying any carrier and its airline partners, a flexible travel rewards credit card could be more beneficial.

10 amazing US hotels you can book with points

Flying over the Hamilton Islands, Australia

Are airline credit cards worth it?

It depends on what your end goal is. Are you trying to earn enough points to score a free flight to Hawaii or to transfer points to your favorite airline and fly to Australia for free? If so, a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred ,  Chase Sapphire Reserve  or The Platinum Card  could be a good pick for its flexible rewards points.

If, however, your goal is to always fly with free checked bags or enjoy complimentary upgrades and other perks with a specific airline, a cobranded card with your preferred carrier would definitely come in handy.

Best credit cards for traveling with kids

Why should I consider getting a flexible travel rewards credit card instead?

It all comes down to your personal travel preferences. If you’re a creature of habit who only travels with one carrier, consider that you also have access to its partner airlines, not only through its airline alliance but its credit card loyalty program. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred  or Chase Sapphire Reserve  cardholders, for instance, have access to 14 partners within the Chase Ultimate Rewards network, while those with The Platinum Card can choose from 17 partners through American Express Membership Rewards.

How to travel to New Zealand with points and miles in 2023

Do you need a credit card to book a flight?

While a credit card does make things easier in terms of paying for your purchases online and earning rewards points toward future trips , you can also opt to pay for a plane ticket with a debit card, gift card or through a payment service such as PayPal, if available through the booking site.

Traveling to Hawaii with points and miles for 2023

*Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit  americanexpress.com/benefitsguide  for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit  americanexpress.com  to learn more.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How to Money

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Using Credit Card Rewards for Cheap (or Free!) Travel

If you’ve always thought that travel wasn’t in the cards for you and your budget, think again. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy multiple trips each year. In fact, you can completely slash your travel costs by scoring free flights, accommodations, and even rental cars. How? By accruing travel reward points via credit card reward programs! 😎

Remember to Follow the Golden Rules of Plastic!

Before we continue – it’s extremely important to point out that credit card rewards isn’t a good fit for everyone. Credit cards should only be used if you know you can handle them responsibly. This means paying them off on time, and in full, each and every month.

It may be tempting to buy a bunch of fun stuff on your card to snag a sweet welcome offer, but you will lose the numbers game if interest begins to accumulate. There’s no point in saving $2,000 in travel if it’s going to end up costing you $3,000 in fees and interest just to do it!

Seriously, stick to the best credit card practices . We can’t stress this enough!!!

Travel rewards at a glance:

Now that we’ve gotten our super important disclaimer out of the way, it’s time for the fun stuff. In this post, we’re going to teach you how to travel at significantly discounted rates (or for free) using credit card rewards. 

Typically, there are two main ways credit cards can be used to earn rewards points: 

1. Earn Welcome Offers and Rewards Points Via Everyday Spending

Often, travel credit cards will offer generous welcome reward points when opening a new account. A welcome offer is usually earned by spending a certain amount of money within the first few months of opening a card. Then, rewards can be redeemed for travel expenses, like hotels, flights, rental cars and experiences!

2. Utilize Credit Card Travel Portals

Certain card issuers offer online travel portals where you can cash in your points for travel. The most common ones are Capital One, Chase, Citi and American Express.

What makes travel rewards awesome?

Traveling can be an incredibly meaningful and fulfilling part of your life. It can open your eyes up to new cultures, cuisines, and remind you that we’re all more alike than we are different. But it can also be super hard on your wallet! 😅

Traveling allows you to get in touch with your adventurous side, or your “don’t call me, I’m drinking out of a pineapple by the pool” side. And by using rewards programs, you can fund your trips without breaking the bank.

You have to spend money to survive. You’ll always have to buy groceries and pay your utilities. Using credit card rewards programs allows you to build up travel credit for your everyday purchases in a meaningful way. Plus, it allows people who would otherwise never be able to take incredible trips to experience the things they’ve always dreamed of. 

Even if you don’t earn enough points to make that trip you’ve always dreamed of entirely free, you can significantly reduce the cost, putting it within reach. Cutting the cost of flights or hotels from your trip means you can splurge elsewhere. For example, while traveling for free you can afford to buy excursions, trying new foods, or extending your stay.

When you look back on your trip, what will you remember more? The overnight flight where you snoozed the entire time, or that pasta making class you and your family took with an Italian local? Personally, I’d rather spend my money on the fun stuff. I rest my case.

How to Use Credit Card Rewards to Travel

Now that we’ve got your attention, you might be wondering how you can take advantage of traveling with credit card rewards. Luckily, we’ve created the step by step guide below to teach you how to open credit cards, earn rewards, and use them to travel!

travel using credit card rewards

Step 1: Improve Your Credit Score (If Needed)

Before you ever open a new credit card, you’ll need to make sure you have a pretty good credit score. You likely won’t qualify for the best travel credit cards if your score is in the dumps. Statistically, people with low credit scores fall victim to ridiculous interest rates, fees and a deeper debt burden. Seriously, no amount of travel rewards are worth hurting your credit or paying interest.

Plus, the best travel cards typically require you to have good credit in order to be approved. According to Experian , you typically need a credit score of 670 or higher to qualify for many premium travel rewards credit cards.

If your credit score is lower than that, spend some time working on building it up . We recommend doing this before you start planning travel. Focus on paying all your existing accounts on time, lowering your utilization, and proving you can handle credit responsibly.

Step 2: Apply for travel credit cards with generous welcome offers.

The first step is to open up a travel card with a generous welcome offer. The bigger the welcome offer, the better.

What’s considered a “good welcome offer” differs from person to person. But if you shop around, you should be able to find one with a welcome offer between 60-80,000 points or miles. This equates to somewhere between $600-800 in free travel.

Remember that a lot of these welcome offers will only be awarded if you meet a spending threshold within the first few months of opening the card. This is typically referred to as the “minimum spend.” Oftentimes, you’ll need to spend around $3-4,000 in the first 3 months of receiving that card to snag that reward.

So before applying for any of these cards, be sure that you’ll be able to achieve this without overspending! A good idea can be to open up a new reward card when you know you’ll have a lot of expenses coming up. Lots of car maintenance on the horizon? A new home improvement project you’ve been planning for months? Could be a good time to open that new card and grab that significant welcome offer at the same time!

Be sure to also take the annual fee into consideration. Many top-notch cards have an annual fee of around $99. But some card issuers will waive it for the first 12 months. Others have higher annual fees, but those often come with additional perks. More on this later…

Great Welcome Offer Examples:

We’ve got a tool on our website that updates daily, ranking the best welcome offers for various travel cards. But here are some of our favorites if you are just starting out:

Step 3: Choose a card that offers rewards that align with your spending.

Each travel card is built differently, and some might reward you more than others based on different spending categories. So if you want to earn the most miles or points possible, it’s important to pick a travel card that offers rewards on the categories you spend the most on. With the right strategy, you can ensure you’re earning at least double points on every dollar you spend. 

Most cards will offer double or triple miles in certain spending categories. For example, 2-3x points for gas purchases, or 5x points for travel. Take a look at your past spending and determine which categories you spend the most money in. Then, try to pick a credit card that offers rewards to match. That way, you’ll earn even more rewards just by spending money as you normally would. 

Here are some of the best cards for how you spend:

  • For Groceries: The card_name might be a good choice for you. It offers 6% cash back on groceries.
  • For Dining out: If you’re a total foodie, you might want to consider the card_name . It yields you 3x points on dining.
  • For Business Expenses: Check out a business card like the card_name from Chase. This card gives you the highest rewards for office supplies, and utilities like cable or phone service. Here are some other best credit cards for side hustles
  • Just in General: Or, if no category sticks out in particular, you can opt for the card_name . This lets you accrue 2x points per dollar spent, on everything .

Step 4: Use your travel card for as many purchases as possible

Don’t forget to bring that card with you everywhere you go! Since you’re chasing that welcome offer, you’ll want to use your new card for as many purchases as possible.

If you forget to use this new card for even just one big purchase, it could mean missing out on that welcome offer. So make sure to use this card for everything you plan on buying to rack up those points. Just remember to pay off your balance each month in full to avoid interest charges. 

Pro tip: Sometimes it can take 1-2 weeks to receive a new card after applying for it. So if you want to use your card for a big purchase right away, many issuers offer a “digital” card which you can add to your phone’s wallet app. Another tip is to call customer service and ask for expedited shipping of your new card. Most of the time, they are happy to oblige and it’s free!

All in all, your main goal is to hit that minimum spend ASAP.

Step 5: Get creative to earn more points!

With a little creativity, you can sometimes earn points at a faster rate than normal, without overspending. Try and brainstorm a few ways you can use your card more, without paying additional fees or buying stuff you don’t need. Remember, overspending is your enemy, because there’s no point getting cheap travel if you pay for it with interest payments!Here are a few things you could try…

How to earn more credit card points

Pay for other people’s bills:

One way to earn more points without spending more is to cover other people’s expenses. Whenever you go out to dinner with a few friends, you can always offer to put your credit card down when the bill comes. Then, your friends can give you cash or use Venmo to pay you back for the cost of their meals. You’ll only pay for your meal as planned, but you’ll earn miles for the entire cost of the dinner.

If you’re chasing a minimum spend, or saving up for a big trip, you can also ask your friends or family if they wouldn’t mind you putting a few of their expenses on your card and reimbursing you. 

Oftentimes your grandparents or parents pay large bills with old school checks. Sometimes they pay with a debit card! Think about all those unclaimed points they (or you) could be getting by using a credit card instead! If you trust your family and friends enough, ask them if you can pay their bills and get the rewards points.

Bonus for Friend Referrals:

This is one of my favorite ways to score points. It’s super easy. Many card issuers offer referral bonuses for getting your friends and family to sign up for new credit cards as well. This isn’t as hard as you think it is! Because your closest friends will probably wonder how you’re traveling for free so much anyway!! 😉 Letting them in on the secret and sharing the best cards directly with them via your referral link actually helps them travel in a similar manner too.

Always check if your card has a great welcome offer, and be sure to share it with your friends and family members.

Step 6: Redeem your rewards for travel

Once you’ve got that sweet welcome offer locked in, and maybe even earned a few months worth of points for your everyday spending, it’s time to cash those babies in for your next big adventure. 

If your credit card has its own travel portal, like Capital One Travel or Chase Ultimate Rewards , this will likely be your best bet for getting the most out of your points. These financial companies act like a travel agent – typically offering competitive rates for hotels and flights.

Sometimes, you can also use your points to reimburse yourself for travel expenses made outside of these travel portals. While you can typically find better deals through the credit card companies’ travel portals, this is especially helpful if you find a sweet deal elsewhere. Just be sure to call your credit card company and make sure those travel expenses will be eligible for reimbursement. It’s also worth noting that these credits can take 1-2 billing cycles to appear. So make sure you have the money in your account to cover it in the meantime. 

Lastly, some cards will even allow you to redeem your points for cash back. In this case, you could also use cash back to spend on travel. We’re not huge fans of this method though, because redeeming points for cash often gives you the lowest payout ratio. These cards offer their highest value when you spend the points you’ve accrued on travel instead.

Step 7: Explore transferring your rewards to airline and hotel partners

If you aren’t finding the flights or hotels you’re looking for, some credit rewards programs allow you to transfer your points to other airline and hotel loyalty programs. If you want to book something more specific, or prefer a certain hotel or airline this can be a great option! 

You might even be able to make your airline points more valuable by transferring them. For example, if you find a flight for 60,000 miles on your credit card’s travel portal, but it only costs 35,000 miles on the airline’s website, it might make sense to transfer those miles if there’s a one to one exchange rate.

Not all point systems are created equally! So it might make sense to research how to get the best value out of your points. For example, American Express points have a rough dollar value of 0.6 cents each when claiming as cash back or a statement credit. But if you transfer to one of their ~20 airline or hotel partners, each point can be worth up to 2.8 cents. That’s a huge difference in value!

Needless to say, play around with the rewards portal before spending your points. You could stretch them further by knowing how to claim them efficiently. 

Step 8: Go on your awesome trip

Now comes the easy part. You’ve booked your flights and hotel using your rewards miles, and now you get to go on your awesome trip! Because you’ve effectively traveled for free, maybe you can splurge a little more on things like food or excursions. Kick your feet up and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

And while you’re at it, be sure to utilize some of the tips on this master list of ways to save money on travel .

You also don’t want to let those points languish for years on end. It’s not a matter of “use it or lose it”, but the value of those points is likely to degrade over time. You racked those points up, don’t be afraid to spend them!

Pro tip: Most of the top travel credit cards have some type of insurance included to protect you when traveling. Lost baggage insurance, trip insurance, or even reimbursement for flight delays! Check all the secondary benefits with your specific card to make sure you’re ready to make claims if something goes wrong.

Step 9: Rinse and Repeat

When you get home from your trip, start the cycle again. Browse the best welcome offers for other credit cards, earn the welcome offers, and travel more! Essentially, you can repeat this strategy to travel for free over and over again…

But just how often should you repeat this? A good rule of thumb is to watch out for the Chase 5/24 rule . Although unofficial, you are unlikely to be approved for a new Chase card if you open more than 5 credit cards over the course of 24 months. So before applying for new cards, make sure you’ve opened no more than 4 cards (from any issuer) in the past two years.

Remember that opening and closing credit cards can affect your credit score. Opening a new card requires a hard inquiry on your credit, which can drop it around 5 to 10 points. However, the negative impact on your credit only lasts one year (although the inquiry remains for 2). 

Closing cards can impact your credit as well, because it decreases your available balance, hurting your all-important utilization rate. And if it’s one of your older cards with a huge amount of excellent payment history, it can really damage your credit score. 

If you’re looking to take out a mortgage, it could be best to wait to open credit cards until after you’ve closed on that important loan. You don’t want to jeopardize a more important move in life that depends on stable credit.

Instead of closing some of your cards, you could also call your credit card company and ask to downgrade your card to one without an annual fee. That way, your utilization and average age of credit remain unchanged. And, you no longer have to pay that annual fee. Win, win!

Travel Reward Example with the numbers:

Now let’s run through an example of travel paid for with rewards, using real numbers and credit card offers…

Sam has always wanted to travel, but never felt he could swing it on his budget. Luckily, he learns about travel rewards from a friend and decides to give it a go

Sam starts earning his miles…

Sam adds the card to his digital wallet so that he can start using it right away. He uses it to buy all of his holiday gifts, groceries, and always offers to put his card down at the restaurant when he’s out with friends since he earns 3x points on dining. 

At the three month mark, he’s met his minimum spend of $4,000, and gets his welcome offer of 60,000 points. He has also earned additional points because of the spending he’s done, and ends up with 65,000 points in total. 

Sam spends his miles…

In total, Sam has earned 65,000 Chase UR points, and 83,000 Capital One miles. With spring approaching, he’s burdened with major spring fever. Bitten by the travel bug, he decides to take a trip with his wife to Iceland. He opts to fly from New York City. Since Chase points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through their travel portal, he can get up to $812.50 worth of free travel. He gets a sweet deal on flights for $438 each. Meaning that between he and his wife, they will pay only $63.50 out of pocket for their round trip tickets. Not bad!

Next, it’s time to book hotels. He logs into the Capital One travel portal where he has $830 worth of miles to spend. He books an awesome stay for 7 nights at the Hotel Viking near the city of Reykjavik for just $991. His total cost for his accommodations minus his miles comes to $161.

Sam and his wife are able to take an incredible 7 day international trip for just $224 out of pocket, before food and excursions. That’s more than some people spend for a weekend trip! While he could have traveled 100% for free by himself, Sam is happy that he spent a few extra dollars so he could take his wife along with him for the ride. 

Wanna hear the crazy part???

How much can you really earn?

You may think that you’re only able to rack up points if you live an extravagant lifestyle, or put hundreds of thousands of dollars on your credit cards each year. However, the truth is that even the average person can earn a meaningful amount of points towards travel each year. 

Let’s say you open up a travel card, like the card_name . This let’s you accrue 2x miles per dollar spent on anything . Snagging that card and meeting the minimum spend means walking away with a 75,000 mile welcome offer. 

Let’s say for a family of four, your annual expenses are about $25,000 each year, not including your rent or mortgage payments. If you earn two points per dollar on all of that money spent, you’re looking at 125,000 miles. All summed up, you can come out with about $1,150 dollars if you subtract that annual fee. And this is assuming you only earn one travel bonus in a year.

Other Reward Travel Strategies

Once you fall deeper down the reward program rabbit hole, you can start to employ different strategies to get the most out of your efforts. Here are just a few strategies you can use to achieve your massive travel goals. 

If you know where you want to go…

If you’ve always dreamed of going to a specific destination, join the rewards program that gets you there the fastest. Just figure out where you’d like to stay and how you’d like to go and get there, then open up a credit card with a rewards program associated with those places. 

Just remember that specific airline and hotel cards can often be less flexible than cards with their own travel portals. However, if you are loyal to a particular airline or chain of hotels, they can be a great choice for you. Advanced travel rewards geeks might opt to take the both/and approach!

If you don’t have a destination in mind…

If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, why not get a little adventurous and go where the deals are? Sticking with more a more flexible card, like the card_name or card_name can be a good move for you.

Then, once you’ve qualified for that welcome offer and accumulated some points, you can keep an eye out for travel deals. You can do this both within their travel portals and beyond. For example, Capital One has frequent travel offers such as 20% off select hotel bookings in multiple cities in Mexico, like Tulum, Chetumal, and Bacalar, as well as 20% off select hotels in Aspen, Colorado. These offers change constantly, so be on the lookout for one that catches your eye!

Travel in “Bestie Mode…”

Another way to completely accelerate your points accumulation is to grab a spouse, family member, or your bestie and have them earn points also. This works especially well if you’re traveling with a family or your spouse. Having both of you earn those major welcome offers, effectively doubles your point-accruing ability in one fell swoop!

Also, remember you can “refer” friends and family to cards you have opened. Make sure they use your custom referral links when applying!

Utilize Business Cards

If you own a small business, or even just operate a side hustle , you might be eligible to open up a small business credit card to earn travel rewards. These cards are known for offering even bigger welcome offers. 

Different cards have different rules about who qualifies as a business owner. So make sure to check with them before opening up a card. For example, to qualify for the card_name , you really just need to make some money outside of your 9-5. It could be from something as simple as selling some old belongings on eBay or doing a bit of freelance work on the side. 

Bonus- Check out our articles on the 8 Best Credit Cards for Side Hustlers!

11 Tips for Success:

Using travel rewards can have a bit of a learning curve. When you’re a newbie, it can also be a little time consuming. However, there are tons of ways to make it easier. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your efforts.

how to pay travel rewards card

Be Flexible

If you want to stretch your points or miles as much as possible, be flexible when booking your travel. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to Tokyo, but there’s a sweet deal on flights to Seoul right now. Or maybe you wanted to take a vacation in July, but the flights are half price in March. Remaining flexible on location and travel dates means stretching out the value of those points you’ve accrued, using fewer points to book that trip!

A good idea to help you stay flexible is to create a list of all of the places you want to travel. Then, when one of those places has a good flight deal, you can jump on it! 

Label Your Credit Cards

If you’re managing multiple travel cards, you can maximize the amount of points you earn by being strategic with which card you use for which purchases. For example, if you only earn one point per dollar with travel card A on groceries, but you can earn three points per dollar on travel card B, opt to use travel card B for groceries. 

If you forget which cards offer certain amounts of bonus categories or point multiples, it can be helpful to label them. You can put sticky notes on each card labeled “groceries” or “restaurants” to remind you of which card to use in which situations. Alternatively, you could make a list of your credit cards and what to use them for in your notes app on your phone!

Don’t Forget About Your Subscriptions

When you’re chasing a welcome offer, every dollar counts towards meeting that minimum spend. Don’t forget to log into each of your subscription accounts, like Netflix or Hulu, and switch it over to the new card you just opened. 

You can also log into your utility providers and switch your autopay to your new card if you have autopay set up. This is super important because missing out on that welcome offer is a huge setback in your game plan. So make sure to switch all recurring payments to your new travel credit card. 

Make sure you have good credit 

Before you start applying for the best travel credit cards , it’s important to have and maintain a healthy credit score. Your credit score is incredibly important. Having a good credit score ensures that you will qualify for the best rates when taking out a mortgage or purchasing a car. It can also mean you’ll have an easier time getting approved for an apartment. 

Because having good credit comes with so many important financial benefits, make sure you also prioritize keeping a good credit score by paying off your cards in full and on time. Keep your utilization low, and refraining from closing your oldest credit accounts. 

Travel during “Shoulder Season”

If you want to travel while the weather is still nice, prices are more affordable and there are fewer tourists, then take advantage of “shoulder season!”

Shoulder seasons are the months adjacent to peak travel season for your location. For many locations in the U.S. and Europe, peak travel season is during the heart of Summer. Meaning, “shoulder season” includes March and April, as well as September and October. The weather is usually still pleasant in these months, and you can snag those flights and hotels at a greatly discounted price.

Choose cheaper locations to stretch your points

So this tip is totally optional… But if you want to get the most free travel out of your points, consider booking trips to cheaper places. Sure, you could use your miles to take a 24 hour flight to Australia and cover some of your trip. Or, you could take a few domestic trips and travel a few times each year. However, you can decide what makes more sense for you based on your availability and travel goals.

Travel hacking tips for using credit cards

ALWAYS pay your card off in full 

So I know we’ve mentioned this previously, but it bears repeating. Always pay off your travel cards on time and in full each month! If you overspend, or pay interest on your purchases, you will not come out on top.

If you’re worried about forgetting to make payments, try automating this area of your finances . Set up autopay for each of your cards so you’ll never miss a payment.

Reimburse Yourself for Travel

If your credit card’s travel portal doesn’t have the flight or hotel room you were hoping to snag, you may not be out of luck!

Certain cards, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card , allow you to reimburse yourself for travel expenses. So, if you’d like to purchase a flight or hotel stay from another website, you can often do so. Once that purchase hits your statement, you can reimburse yourself with a statement credit. This can all be done inside the Capital One app when you redeem points. 

However, in order to do this, the purchase needs “to code” as travel within their internal system. Sometimes, certain expenses, like theme park tickets, may code as entertainment instead. Be sure to check with your card issuer to ensure this is something your card offers, and that your intended purchase will be covered. 

Get the Southwest Companion Pass 

What if you could bring a friend with you each time you fly, effectively cutting all of your flight costs in half for two people? If you live in a location with Southwest flights, you can take advantage of their Southwest Companion Pass !

Here’s how it works: When you sign up for one of the Southwest cards and accumulate 135,000 points, you’ll become eligible for a companion pass. This allows you to bring any friend or family member with you on as many flights as you’d like during the duration of the pass. All you’ll need to pay is the fees and taxes associated with that flight! 

Better yet, the companion pass is good through the end of the following year. That means if you earn it early in the year, it can be good for nearly two years!

While it can take a while to accumulate 135,000 points, Joel has covered the fastest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass in this post . Spoiler alert- it involves opening up a personal card and a business card… 🤫

Keep an eye out for flight deals

If you want to use your credit cards to travel for free, it can be a good idea to look out for major flight deals. Remember when we talked about being flexible? And when we said that some rewards cards let you reimburse yourself for travel? Well here’s where that can come into play in a major way. 

Signing up for newsletters that share the latest flight deals can be a great way to snag flights to an awesome destination at a better price. Going , formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights, sends out flight alerts whenever major deals drop. This can save you hundreds of dollars per airline ticket. 

You can also use Google Flights to track a particular flight you are hoping to take. You can set this up by searching your desired flight, then toggling the button that says “track prices.” The website will then prompt you to set up a price alert.

By coming up with a list of places you want to travel to when a good enough deal strikes, you’ll be ready to pull the trigger when those discounts go live.

Don’t forget about other perks!

Lastly, many travel credit cards come with some amazing secondary benefits outside of those welcome offers. This can accumulate to hundreds of dollars worth of travel if you utilize them. 

First, most good travel cards have no foreign transaction fees, saving you tons of money when traveling abroad. Some, like the card_name offer you free access to airport lounges and will give you a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Others, like the card_name , offer a $120 credit for dining out. Meanwhile, the card_name offers its card holders a $50 annual hotel credit, as well as travel protection benefits like auto rental collision protection when you use your Chase card to pay. 

Make sure to take advantage of the credit card benefits you might be overlooking to get the greatest value out of that card!

Travel Rewards FAQ:

Using credit card reward programs can be a little confusing when you’re just starting out, but it gets easier. Once you dive into it, you’ll likely find joy in untangling the answers to your questions and figuring out different ways to get the most value out of your rewards. Here are a few common questions most first timers have when they start learning how to travel for free. 

Is signing up for credit cards just for the points illegal?

Nope! Remember that credit card issuers want you to use their cards for spending. And they reward you by giving you the points. Just remember that if you have an annual fee, you’ll want to use that card at least enough to earn the points equivalent to cover that annual fee.

What is the Chase 5/24 Rule?

The Chase 5/24 rule refers to the fact that you are unlikely to get approved for any new Chase credit card if you have opened 5 credit cards or more within the last 24 months. So make sure you’ve only opened a maximum of 4 credit cards within the last few years to avoid being denied.

Although it’s an unofficial “Chase” rule, it’s best to assume this practice for ALL credit card issuers. Don’t worry, getting one new card every ~5 months gives you plenty of travel options anyway!

What are the best welcome offers right now?

Welcome offers are constantly changing, so the cards with the best welcome offers today may not be the same tomorrow! That’s why we created a credit card tool on our website that allows you to easily compare the best credit card welcome offers in real time!

Do you pay taxes on credit card points?

My personal favorite thing about credit card welcome offers is that Uncle Sam cannot lay a finger on them. Woohoo! You do not have to pay taxes on your credit card points. In fact, sometimes it feels like they are the only things you don’t need to pay taxes on these days. Amiright???

Does opening a new credit card hurt my credit score?

Because your credit score is impacted by so many different factors, the answer here is a bit nuanced. Yes, your credit score is likely to dip by a few points after opening up the new card. This is because it requires a hard enquiry on your credit report . This remains on your credit report for 2 years, but only negatively impacts your score for a year. 

On the other hand, opening a credit card could help your credit in the long run. By increasing your available credit, it can help to decrease your credit utilization. As long as you keep your spending the same. 

How many points do I need for a free flight?

Each reward program is built differently, and points have various values. It also depends on where you’d like to fly to, and how expensive that flight is. For example, a flight from Los Angeles to Denver costs about $178 round trip. Meaning, if you snag one welcome offer, you could fly yourself, and maybe even 1-2 guests completely for free. 

However, if you’re looking to fly from New York to Honolulu, that 11+ hour flight will cost you over 3x that, weighing in at around $600. In that case, you might need to do a lot of spending on a credit card to accrue enough points. 

The Bottom Line: 

Traveling using reward points makes it easier to work new and exciting experiences into your budget, even if you don’t have a boatload of disposable income. It allows everyday people like you and I to see the world cheaply, and it rewards us for making purchases we were already planning on making.

But, it’s extremely important to play by the rules and never spend money you wouldn’t usually spend anyway. Free travel isn’t really free if you have to pay for it in other ways!

Even though it can take some time to get the hang of, using credit card rewards to travel can be a worthwhile experience for many folks. We encourage you to give us a try so you can start reaping the rewards you deserve.

Related Posts: 

  • Free Family Travel w/ Lyn Mettler- Episode 703
  • Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Beginners
  • 12 Ways to Lower your Car Costs

* Advertiser Disclosure: How to Money has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. How to Money and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on the website are from advertisers. Compensation may impact on how and where card products appear on the site. Lastly, the site does not include all card companies or all available card offers.

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How to Pick Your First Travel Rewards Credit Card

Sara Rathner

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

To start, look for travel cards with easy reward redemptions. Stick to general rewards cards if you want flexibility, or a hotel or airline card if you're loyal to certain brands.

Apply for your first travel card at least five months before booking award travel so you have time to earn and receive the sign-up bonus.

If you currently have credit card debt, focus on paying that debt down first before turning your attention to rewards cards.

There may come a point — perhaps when you scroll through a friend's vacation-themed Instagram posts during a sad desk lunch — when you begin to crave travel adventures of your own. If you're unsure how to fund your globetrotting goals, one way is to sign up for your first credit card that earns travel rewards.

Travel credit cards earn points or miles on everyday expenses, which you can redeem to offset travel costs like airfare, hotel stays and rental cars. Here’s what to consider if you’re shopping for your first credit card for travel.

How to pick the best first credit card for travel

Look for easy earnings and redemptions.

Odds are you won’t magically transform into a travel hacker overnight — and you may not ever want to. Look for a beginner-friendly travel card that doesn’t require you to be so strategic about where you use it. And redeeming points without dealing with confusing fine print? That’s a must, too.

Bank of America Travel Rewards® Credit Card

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card earns an easy-to-remember 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase, with one exception: You’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on eligible travel booked through the Bank of America® Travel Center. You can also earn 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. Bank of America Preferred Rewards® members earn 25%-75% more points per purchase, too.

To redeem your rewards, just apply them toward restaurant or travel purchases from the past 12 months and get reimbursement in the form of a statement credit (points redeemed for travel are worth 1 cent apiece). “Travel” includes airfare, hotel stays, rental cars, campgrounds, cruises, travel agencies, trains, buses, taxis, limos, ferries, parking, tolls, tourist attractions and more. The annual fee is $0 , which is perfect if you’re just getting your feet wet.

how to pay travel rewards card

If you’re open to paying an annual fee, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is another option for anyone seeking their first credit card for travel. You’ll pay $95 — but a statement credit for the application cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck helps soften the blow. Earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, plus a sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel. Redeem your rewards as a statement credit toward travel charges you made within the past 90 days. “Travel” purchases include airfare, hotel stays, train tickets, rental cars, limos, buses, cruises, taxis, travel agents and timeshares.

Both of these cards charge no foreign transaction fee, making them excellent travel buddies once you take that trip you booked with points.

» Learn more: Should I get a travel credit card that earns points, or one that earns miles?

Prioritize flexibility if you’re not loyal to specific brands

If you’re willing to fly any airline and stay in any hotel as long as the price is right, a more general travel rewards card like the two listed above gives you the freedom to create the travel itinerary of your choice.

General travel cards are especially ideal for those who intend to apply points toward multiple travel expenses, or for those who aren't yet sure how they'll use points in the future.

If you are loyal, find a card for your favorite airlines and hotels

Perhaps you don’t want infinite options. If you tend to stick to a specific airline or hotel chain whenever you travel, then a co-branded credit card — one that carries the name of both a bank and a merchant brand — can snag you additional perks in exchange for your dedication.

Airline credit cards earn more points when you make purchases with that airline, and those points are often worth more when you redeem them for flights. And depending on the card you choose, you may get valuable extras like:

Free checked bags .

Priority boarding.

Airport lounge access .

Discounts on in-flight food and beverage purchases.

Your card may also give you a head start on earning miles that will qualify you for elite status.

Hotel credit cards can also enhance your travel experience with room upgrades, free breakfast and snacks, and access to exclusive hotel lounges (Incidentally, they’re often where you’ll find those free snacks.).

When to get your first credit card for travel

It’s by no means required to have a specific vacation in mind when you shop around for your first credit card for travel rewards, but it certainly will help you narrow down your options. One thing you’re going to want to do is plan ahead. Way, way ahead.

That's because earning a sign-up bonus usually takes about three months, and it may take another billing cycle for that bonus to appear in your account. NerdWallet recommends applying for a card at least five months before your trip . That will give you time to get the card, earn the bonus and book travel with points.

» Learn more: 7 must-know tips for first-time flyers

What if a travel rewards card isn’t for you?

If you’re not a frequent traveler or you just want to keep things super simple, you may find that a cash-back credit card is more your speed. Here's one way to turn a cash-back card into a travel card: Redeem your cash-back earnings and deposit an equivalent amount into a savings account earmarked toward travel, so when you’re ready to book, you’ve got the funds available.

If you have credit card debt or anticipate taking on debt for a major purchase, travel credit cards may not be the best fit. They typically carry higher-than-average APRs, meaning the interest you’d pay on revolving debt would eat away at your rewards. Instead, consider credit cards that offer introductory APR periods for balance transfers or purchases .

» Learn more: Cash back vs. travel: How to choose credit card rewards

On a similar note...

Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

how to pay travel rewards card

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  1. Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

    Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card 25,000 online bonus points offer (a $250 value) and no annual fee † Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time No annual fee† and no foreign transaction fees† Review rates and fees † Apply Now Card Details Interest Rates & Fees † Rewards Security & Features

  2. BankOfAmerica Travel Rewards Card: What to Know

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  3. Bank of America® Secured Travel Rewards Credit Card

    Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points. A minimum security deposit of $200 (maximum of $5,000) is required to open this account.

  4. Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review: Full details

    The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is currently offering 25,000 bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. These points are redeemable at a flat rate of 1 cent per point toward travel or dining purchases, so this bonus is worth $250 — a solid offer but significantly less ...

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  8. Travel Credit Cards with Travel Rewards from Bank of America

    Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases, and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases. No limit to the points you can earn and points don't expire. Calculate Rewards. Premium Elite Rewards. Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase.

  9. 19 Best Travel Credit Cards of February 2024

    Hotel Cards Best General Purpose Travel Credit Cards Best Travel Credit Card for Beginners Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Add To Compare Apply Now On Chase Bank USA, NA's Website 5.0 Up...

  10. How do travel rewards credit cards work?

    Airline Airline credit cards are co-branded with an airline and offer both travel rewards and benefits when flying with that carrier. Standard rewards earned on airline cards are 2 miles (or rewards points) per dollar spent with the airline, and sometimes more in select bonus categories, plus 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

  11. Best Travel Credit Cards of February 2024

    Updated Jan. 17, 2024 The best travel credit cards offer an array of premium perks and benefits. For both occasional travelers and frequent flyers, adding a travel credit card to your wallet is a great way to earn rewards and save money on every trip you take.

  12. What are travel rewards programs and how they work

    International money at the tip of your fingers: get the Wise card Get fee free international ATM withdrawals, up to 100 USD/month, with the Wise card. Keep in mind that ATM operators may charge their own fees. Open a Wise Account online or in the Wise app, to hold and exchange 40+ currencies, with the mid-market rate and low fees from 0.41%.

  13. Cash back vs. travel rewards: How to choose a credit card

    An important element to consider as you make your credit card decision is whether a card has an annual-fee and, if so, whether it is worthwhile to pay. Travel rewards cards have a reputation for carrying higher annual fees, and sometimes for good reason: many premium travel rewards cards have annual fees of $350 or more.

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  16. How to Maximize Travel Credit Card Rewards

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  23. Using Credit Card Rewards for Cheap (or Free!) Travel

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    If you're lucky enough to snag a flight in business class, a one-way ticket will set you back only 70,000 miles. Prices are similar on British Airways, but expect to pay more in taxes and fees ...

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    To redeem your rewards, just apply them toward restaurant or travel purchases from the past 12 months and get reimbursement in the form of a statement credit (points redeemed for travel are...