Best Travel Credit Cards of 2018

Credit cards with travel rewards can help you to travel more, for less. They can help you travel for free, experience travel perks and achieve elite status with hotels and airlines. Whether you travel for business or pleasure you can be earning rewards on your spending with a travel credit card and unlocking tons of added benefits, like lounge access and upgrades. Below, you will find our recommendations for the best travel credit cards from our partners.

Editors' Picks: Best Travel Credit Cards of 2018

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.

Best for overall travel

capital-one-venture-rewards-credit-card-032217.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card's secure website

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

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.

300 850
N/A
Purchases intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers intro APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Regular APR
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

94 out of 100

Card Details

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for your first travel card

chase-sapphire-preferred-card-040418.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card's secure website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

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.

300 850
N/A
Purchases intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers intro APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Regular APR
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

95 out of 100

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for loyal American Airlines travelers

citi-aadvantage-platinum-041618.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®'s secure website

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

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.

300 850
N/A
Purchases intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers intro APR
17.74% - 25.74%* (Variable)
Regular APR
$99, waived for first 12 months*
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

84 out of 100

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • New: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations*
  • New: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • New: Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • Receive 25% savings on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for dining out and gas spending

wells-fargo-propel-american-express-card-071018.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card's secure website

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

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.

300 850
0% for 12 months
Purchases intro APR
0% for 12 months
Balance Transfers intro APR
14.24%-26.74% (Variable)
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

97 out of 100

Card Details

  • New! Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.24%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rates and fees
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for first year bonus

discover-it-miles-012518.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Discover it® Miles's secure website

Discover it® Miles

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

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.

300 850
0% for 14 months
Purchases intro APR
10.99% for 14 months
Balance Transfers intro APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

95 out of 100

Card Details

  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel!
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates – fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • 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 your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts— Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No Annual Fee.
Terms and Restrictions Apply | Rates and Fees

Best for hotel stays

capital-one-ventureone-rewards-credit-card-041217.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card's secure website

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

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.

300 850
0% intro on purchases for 12 months
Purchases intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers intro APR
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

80 out of 100

Card Details

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74%-23.74% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best travel card with no annual fee

bank-of-america-travel-rewards-credit-card-041718.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card's secure website

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

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.

300 850
0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles
Purchases intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers intro APR
16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Regular APR
$0
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

85 out of 100

Card Details

  • 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
  • New Offer: 25,000 online bonus points if 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
  • 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 flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for airline fee credit

premier-rewards-gold-card-111715.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express's secure website

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

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.

300 850
N/A
Purchases intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers intro APR
N/A
Regular APR
Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195.
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

90 out of 100

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 per calendar year for baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges, plus a room upgrade upon arrival, when available with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • $0 Intro Annual Fee for the 1st year, then $195.
  • Terms Apply.
Terms and Restrictions Apply | Rates and Fees

Best for big spenders

citi-aadvantage-executive-world-elite-041618.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®'s secure website

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Recommended Credit Score:
740 - 850

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.

300 850
N/A
Purchases intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers intro APR
17.49% - 25.49%* (Variable)
Regular APR
$450
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

84 out of 100

Card Details

  • Limited time offer: Earn 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you*
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases*
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for companion fare

alaska-airlines-visa-signature-041718.png Card Image
Apply Now ON Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card's secure website

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Recommended Credit Score:
670 - 850

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.

300 850
N/A
Purchases intro APR
N/A
Balance Transfers intro APR
16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Regular APR
$75
Annual Fee

Bankrate Score

93 out of 100

Card Details

  • Special Introductory Offer: Buy 1 ticket, get 1 for just the taxes and fees with Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ Offer.
  • Get 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening.
  • Get Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ every year! Each Year on your account anniversary get a companion fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22). Valid on all Alaska flights booked on alaskaair.com.
  • Save with a free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation.
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • New - Get exclusive access to discounted redemption levels when you redeem miles for hotel stays at over 400,000 properties using Mileage Plan™ Hotels.
  • Earn unlimited miles and travel with no blackout dates and no foreign transaction fees.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.


Author: Bankrate Staff | Last Updated: September 19, 2018


In this article:

How we chose our favorite travel rewards cards

Bankrate uses a proprietary scoring matrix devised by our experts to study 300 credit cards and award our unique Bankrate score. Each card is assessed to generate a final score out of 100. We have devised this method to cut through the fine print and help you find the card that’s right for you.

Scoring matrix

Our experts devised a scoring matrix to shine the light on the best travel rewards credit cards. Each card has been evaluated based on certain attributes: The annual fee, foreign transaction fees, rewards value, sign-up bonus, APR, and any extras or discounts. We then weight each category accordingly to give us the final score. For travel rewards credit cards we have focused more heavily on travel rewards, foreign transaction fees, the cards’ annual fee, and any other discounts or perks.

  • Travel rewards value – We know travel rewards are often the main motivation for travelers, we also know that rewards can get confusing. They can come in the form of cash, miles, or points. The Bankrate scoring method takes into account the type of reward, how you earn them, and how to make the most of them.
  • Foreign transaction fees – Many credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee, this is usually around 3% of every transaction you make while you’re abroad. A travel credit card should both help you get to your destination and make it easier for you once you are there. That’s why we make sure to assess the foreign transaction fees for our recommended travel cards to help you avoid the unwanted surprise extra charges.
  • Annual fee – A lot of credit cards charge an annual fee which gives the cardholder access to rewards and benefits. Many cards waive the fee for the first year. We assess the annual fee against the benefits to determine if the fee is worth it, how to best use the card to make back the expense of the annual fee, and what type of user would most benefit.
  • Extras and Discounts – Many travel rewards credit cards offer additional perks to cardholders. Advantages such as no checking fee for baggage and trip insurance are useful benefits for travelers. We make sure to take all these things into account.

Our favorite travel rewards cards

Card Name Rewards Rate Annual Fee
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 2x miles per every dollar spent $95, waived in the first year
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 2x per $1 spent on dining and travel; 1x on everything else $95, waived the first year
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® 2x miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases, 1x mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases $99, waived for the first year
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card 3x points on eating out, ordering in, gas stations, rideshare spending, transit, travel (flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals). 1x points on everything else $0
Discover it® Miles Unlimited 1.5x miles per $1 spent $0
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card 1.25x miles on every purchase. Plus 10x miles on thousands of hotels at hotels.com/venture $0
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card 1.5 points per $1 spent $0
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines. 2x points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on everything else $195, waived for the first year
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® 2x AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x miles on everything else $450
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card 3 miles per $1 spent on the airline, 1x mile on everything else $75

What is a travel rewards card?

A travel rewards card is a credit card where you earn rewards back on your spending that can be redeemed for travel expenses. So, similar to a cash-back card, you’ll earn a percentage back on your spending — in the form of points or miles — typically ranging from 1 percent to 5 percent. Some travel rewards cards let you use the rewards to book travel through their own Website, which is sometimes called a portal. Other cards let you book your travel any way you like and then will issue a statement credit toward the cost of your purchase by using your rewards. Hotel and airline co-branded cards typically have you apply the points or miles earned as a redemption for free or reduced cost flights or nights.

There is a big range in the travel rewards credit card space with some great no annual fee cards and some of the most expensive annual fees in the credit card industry. The most premium of these cards can offer a ton of travel-centric extras like annual flight credit, hotel credit, insurances, lounge access, and bonuses or discounts. These cards are often designed for frequent travelers valuing luxuries (like upgrades and lounge access) and business travelers who clock a lot of miles.

The best travel rewards cards will offer generous rewards rates and flexible redemption. Blackout dates and restrictions on when and where you can use your points and miles can reduce the real value of the card for you. Make sure to check out how your points or miles are redeemed to ensure that they work best for your travel habits.

The good news is that there is so much choice. If you travel a lot already or want to start turning your everyday spending into flights, hotel stays, or road trips then there will be a travel rewards card that suits you. Make sure that the points and miles you earn can be redeemed in the way you want and make use of the bonus features that often come with travel credit cards.


Bankrate’s picks for the best travel credit cards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best overall travel credit card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a straightforward travel rewards credit card that can help you earn points toward your next trip without having to worry about categories or caps on earning. Factor in the modest annual fee that is waived in the first year, and the sign-up bonus valued at an estimated $500 in rewards, and you can see why this is Bankrate’s favorite travel credit cards.

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months of card ownership.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar with no caps or expiration dates.
  • Flexible rewards that can be redeemed on any airline, hotel, or rental car.

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for your first travel credit card

If you’re ready to take the plunge and apply for your first travel rewards card, look no further. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card pays generous rewards of 2X the points on all dining and travel. Plus, Chase’s definition of travel includes expenses that other cards typically exclude like tolls, parking fees and ride-sharing costs.

Highlights:

  • One of the best perks of this card is that rewards points take on 25% more value when used to book travel through the Chase portal. So, if you have 50,000 points saved, they’re worth $625 when you use them to book travel this way.
  • The $95 annual fee is waived the first year, giving you 12 months to enjoy the card’s benefits for free.
  • This card comes with auto and travel insurances and protections.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred review.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: Best for loyal AA travelers

The Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard is the middle tier of three consumer credit cards offered in partnership between Citi and American Airlines. It offers modest travel perks, a nice sign-up bonus and fairly standard everyday rewards.

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $2,500 within the first three months of opening your account.
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible AA purchases, while earning 1 miles per $1 spent on everything else.
  • Enjoy one free checked bag with every flight and priority boarding, along with other travel protections that come standard with many Citibank cards.
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

Read our full Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard review.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card: Best for dining out and gas spending

If your paycheck regularly goes on travel expenses like fueling up your car and on dining out then this could be the car for you. With high rewards rates, the Wells Fargo Propel card offers valuable rewards incentives on both restaurant spending and ordering in. So if you like getting pizza delivered to your door more than sit-down dinners, you will still be richly rewarded with 3x points.

Highlights:

  • Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in, on gas station spending as well as for rideshares and transit.
  • Earn 3X points for travel, which includes flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals.
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases.
  • There’s no annual fee with this card.

Read our full Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card review.

Discover it® Miles: Best for first-year bonus

With this card, you earn unlimited 1.5x miles on every dollar spent on all purchases, all for no annual fee. The best part? At the end of your first year, Discover will match all of the miles you have earned on your spending during the last 12 months. That means if you earn 40,000 miles at the end of your first year, you would get another 40,000 from Discover, that’s $800 towards travel. This card could help you fund your next flight or vacation stay.

Highlights:

  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar.
  • Discover will match all the miles you earn in your first year automatically.
  • No blackout dates – fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem miles towards travel purchases.

Read our full Discover it Miles card review.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card: Best for hotel stays

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards card is the little brother to the Capital One Venture card. It’s a great option for anyone looking for decent returns without paying an annual fee. Though the standard rewards rate isn’t the most competitive, you can earn 10x miles on bookings and purchases made through Hotels.com/Venture. If you hate the idea of paying an annual fee, and you often spend on hotel stays, this card is a good choice.

Highlights:

  • 20,000-mile bonus ($200 in travel) after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
  • 1.25x miles on every dollar you spend with your VentureOne card.
  • Flexible rewards, which means that miles can be redeemed for any hotel, airline, or car rental company (including travel discount sites).
  • 10x points on purchases made with the card at Hotels.com/Venture.

Read our full Capital One VentureOne Rewards card review.

Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card: Best for no annual fee

If you’re looking for a no-fee card that pays decent and flexible travel rewards, you’ve found it. The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card pays an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent. Your rewards never expire and can be used on any flight or any hotel without any blackout dates or other restrictions.

Highlights:

  • Like any good travel rewards card, there are no foreign transaction fees on this card.
  • This card comes with an introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles, after that, the regular variable APR is 16.74%-24.74%
  • For anyone who already has a banking relationship with Bank of America, the rewards on this card go from decent to outstanding. Customer bonuses range from a 10% increase in points to as high as a 75% reward increase based on the total of your qualifying accounts.

Read our full Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: Best for airline fee credit

If you fly frequently and want to earn maximum points then the Premier Rewards Gold Card is a great option. Despite the card’s steep annual fee ($195, waived for the first year), it offers the right user a lot of value. Its 3x Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on airfare (purchases made directly with the airlines), is hard to beat. On top of that, the card has a lot of travel-centric features like $100 incidental airline credit with an airline of your choosing, $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges when available with The Hotel Collection, and auto and luggage protections.

Highlights:

  • $100 annual airline fee credit to cover incidentals.
  • 25,000 rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and at U.S. supermarkets, and 1x points on other purchases.

Read our full Premier Rewards Gold Card review.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®: Best for big spenders

For American Airlines loyalists who spend heavily on travel, this card offers plenty of value despite its sizable annual fee of $450. After you spend $40,000 on your card during the year you are eligible to receive an additional 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying® miles. Additionally, regular flyers will grow their AAdvantage points quickly with 2x miles on every dollar spent with American Airlines and 1x miles on all other spending.

Highlights:

  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you.
  • 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
  • 2x AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1x AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.

Read our full Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® review.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card: Best for airline travel credit cards

Anyone who aspires to attain tourist status in multiple time zones can benefit from this card’s Famous Companion Fare offer. If you buy one round-trip coach ticket on Alaska Airlines you can get a second companion ticket for $99 plus taxes and fees which start at $22. This could save you hundreds, if not thousands off the price of a ticket. The offer is only available to holders of an Alaska Airlines credit card and it renews every year.

Highlights:

  • The card comes with an introductory offer where you earn 30,000 bonus miles after making $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening the account.
  • Get a free checked bag for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation as you.
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.

Read our full Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card review.


Who should get a travel rewards card

It goes without saying but individuals who travel frequently for business or pleasure may benefit greatly from a travel card. Travelers can rack up frequent flier miles, discounts on car rentals and hotels, and receive other incentives when traveling, like lounge access or status benefits. These cards can also be a boon for those who travel overseas. Good travel rewards cards offer no foreign transaction fees, a perk that can keep you from racking up extra charges every time you swipe your card abroad. Foreign transaction fees are charges levied by the credit card issuer for transactions you make outside the U.S. and are usually around 3%.

Airline and travel cards are typically offered to individuals with good to excellent credit. You may not qualify if your credit is subpar. If your credit standing isn’t great, you should work on improving your score first before applying for a travel rewards card.

These cards offer the ability to earn miles for everyday purchases. Some even offer bonus miles and perks on hotel stays, saving you cash every time you’re away from home. That’s a plus. But many airline credit cards come with annual fees, and some are high enough that they can put a dent in the overall rewards you receive. This is especially true if you aren’t spending enough to earn bonuses or don’t pay off your balance each month, negating your rewards with interest payments.

Make sure to pay your bill in full and on time. A travel rewards card can be a great way to save money and enjoy other benefits just for spending the way you normally would. Anyone who typically carries a balance will likely fare better with a low-interest credit card over a travel rewards card as the value of any rewards are far likely to be outweighed by the interest charges accrued on your debt.

Types of travel rewards cards

There are many different types of travel rewards credit cards; from a co-branded airline or hotel card to luxury high-annual fee cards to basic travel rewards cards. No matter your spending level, if you’re looking for travel benefits there are plenty of options. Generally, travel rewards credit cards fall into one of the following categories:

      • General purpose travel rewards cards. These cards earn flexible rewards that can be redeemed for multiple types of travel including airfare, hotels or rental cars. Some come with a low cost of ownership while others can cost hundreds of dollars but include plush perks and other extras.
      • Co-branded travel rewards cards. These are cards offered in conjunction with a specific hotel or airline brand and usually include an enhanced rewards rate and other brand-specific perks like free checked luggage or free room upgrades. Usually, the higher the annual fee for the card, the greater the “extras” that come with ownership.
      • Premium travel rewards cards. If a credit card charges you hundreds of dollars in annual fees, it’s likely to come with high-end perks and benefits. Examples of these bonuses include premium airport lounge access, increased rewards earning potential, annual travel credits that can reduce the overall cost of owning the card. These cards are best for those who travel often and can take full advantage of the extras.

Which travel credit card is best for me?

Before choosing a travel rewards card consider your lifestyle. If you favor road tripping over globetrotting, you may prefer hotel rewards over airline ones. If you regularly commute for work, it might be best to choose a card that rewards gas or transit spending.

You also need to take a look at your budget, as even though some of pricier cards sound enticing, if you aren’t going to take advantage of the accompanying perks, it may not be the best card for you. Look at the amount of travel you plan to do and do the math on whether the additional perks that come with a high-annual fee card make sense for you. Finally, consider your travel goals and think about how a potential card’s earning power will help you attain that next trip.

If you’re torn between two cards that seem pretty similar, you may want to choose the one that offers a more valuable welcome bonus if you can meet the card’s minimum spending requirement. Some of the best travel rewards cards offer juicy introductory offers to lure you into applying. But, if there’s no value to you beyond that bonus, it may not be worth the cost of ownership over the long term.

How to redeem travel rewards

Each card has its own redemption program. Some issuers prefer that you book your rewards travel through their online Web portal, or by calling a rewards representative to book the travel for you. Other cards require you to book the travel first and then apply the redemption towards the cost of the trip as a statement credit. Still, other cards require enough rewards to pay for an entire trip while some let you use your rewards for partial payment.

Before applying for a travel rewards card, consider carefully the type of spender you are and how much travel you’re likely to do. If you rarely take a plane, a premium travel rewards airline card is likely not worth the high cost of ownership for you. But if you fly at least several times a year and typically with luggage, an airline card with a free checked baggage perk could save you hundreds of dollars a year.

* 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.