Best Travel Credit Cards of 2019

Summer's over, but travel season never ends. Whether it's a vacation, business trip or class reunion, travel credit cards help you earn valuable points and miles. Bankrate is here to help you choose the right card for your fall getaway. Check out the best travel cards from our partners and start planning your next trip today.

Editor's Top Picks: Best Travel Credit Cards of 2019

Need more information?

Skip down to read our card profiles and expert advice.
American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn one mile for every eligible dollar you spend on other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 10/30/2019.
Annual Fee:
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.49%-26.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 10/30/2019.
  • Earn 2 miles on every eligible dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights – that’s a savings of up to $240.
  • Receive Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on your Delta flights, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (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.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com. Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
Annual Fee:
$595
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
N/A

Card Details

  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

American Express® Business Gold Card

Rewards Rate:
Get 4X Membership Rewards® points on the 2 select categories where your business spent the most each month** Earn 1X on other purchases Airline Bonus: Get 25% points back after you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel, up to 250,000 points back per calendar year.*
Welcome Offer:
Earn up to $500 back in the form of statement credits by purchasing qualifying services with FedEx using your American Express® Business Gold Card within the first 3 months of Card membership.Limited time Offer ends 11/06/2019.*
Annual Fee:
$295
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.99% - 23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn up to $500 back in the form of statement credits by purchasing qualifying services with FedEx using your American Express® Business Gold Card within the first 3 months of Card membership.
  • Limited time Offer ends 11/06/2019.*
  • More Rewards: Get 4X Membership Rewards® points on the 2 select categories where your business spent the most each month**
  • **4X points apply to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year.*
  • Airline Bonus: Get 25% points back after you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel, up to 250,000 points back per calendar year.*
  • Pay Over Time Option: A flexible payment option to help manage cash flow on purchases of $100 or more.*
  • Access to the Working Capital Terms program: get additional funding beyond what you can spend on Business Gold with this flexible funding solution designed to pay U.S. based vendor invoices directly when cards are not accepted.*
  • *Terms Apply
Bank of America Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On Bank of America's secure website

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases. Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Receive 50,000 bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Annual Fee:
$95
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
  • 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 $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Low $95 annual fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply
American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio. Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card
Welcome Offer:
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
Annual Fee:
$95
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.49%-26.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn a Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent (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.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Business Green Rewards Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
Limited Time Offer: Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on your combined eligible purchases on the Card, up to the first $50,000, at U.S. restaurants, on hotel stays booked directly with hotels, and on airfare purchased directly from airlines in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 11/6/2019. Earn double Membership Rewards® points for each dollar of eligible purchases made when you book on the American Express Travel website. Earn one Membership Rewards® point for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
Annual Fee:
$95
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
N/A

Card Details

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on your combined eligible purchases on the Card, up to the first $50,000, at U.S. restaurants, on hotel stays booked directly with hotels, and on airfare purchased directly from airlines in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 11/6/2019.
  • Earn double Membership Rewards® points for each dollar of eligible purchases made when you book on the American Express Travel website
  • Earn one Membership Rewards® point for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases
  • Choose rewards from over 500 leading brands in travel, gift cards, merchandise or entertainment
  • $95 Annual Fee
  • Terms & Limitations Apply
American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners. 2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter.
Annual Fee:
No annual fee
Purchase Intro APR:
0% on purchases for 12 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
0% on balance transfers for 12 months
Regular APR:
14.99% - 20.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Get rewarded for business as usual. Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners.
  • 2X applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, 1 point per dollar thereafter.
  • Enjoy the flexibility to put more purchases on the Card and earn rewards when you buy above your credit limit*.
  • You’ve got the power to use your Card beyond its credit limit* with Expanded Buying Power.
  • More buying power for your business means more opportunities to earn points. That’s everyday business with the Blue Business Plus Card.
  • *The amount you can spend above your credit limit is not unlimited. It adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to us, and other factors.
  • 0.0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, then a variable rate, 14.99%, 17.99% or 20.99%, based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
  • Terms Apply
American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (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.

Apply Now On American Express's secure website

Hilton Honors American Express Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands. Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card
Welcome Offer:
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
17.49%-26.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors American Express Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands.
  • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • 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 Annual Fee.
  • Terms 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: Barry Bridges | bbridges@bankrate.com


Bankrate’s guide to the top travel credit cards of 2019

Both beginner travelers and seasoned road warriors can benefit from the rewards and perks that come with a travel credit card. With some strategizing and careful budgeting, you can easily use your points and miles to fund your next getaway.

Got travel questions? Your answers have arrived


Compare our picks for best travel credit cards

Card Name Best for Rewards highlights Bankrate Score
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Overall travel 2x miles per every dollar spent 4.7 / 5
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card Hotel stays 1.25x miles on every purchase. Plus 10x miles on thousands of hotels at hotels.com/venture 4.4 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Your first travel card 2x per $1 spent on dining and travel; 1x on everything else 4.8 / 5
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card Travel with no annual fee 1.5 points per $1 spent 4.3 / 5
Discover it® Miles First-year bonus Unlimited 1.5x miles per $1 spent 4.8 / 5
American Express® Gold Card Travel rewards on dining 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide 4.4 / 5
The Platinum Card® from American Express International travel 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel 4.8 / 5
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card Companion fare 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines flights, 1 mile per $1 on other purchases 4.7 / 5
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express Frequent Delta flyers 2X miles per $1 spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X mile per $1 on other eligible purchases 4.4 / 5
Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express Airline card with no annual fee 2X miles at U.S. restaurants, 2X miles on purchases made directly with Delta, 1X miles per dollar on other eligible purchases 4.1 / 5

A closer look at our top travel credit card selections

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Why we rate it best for overall travel

The Capital One Venture offers a winning combination of generous rewards, sign-up bonus, benefits and perks. In a category with some formidable competitors, this card manages to stand apart in terms of sheer value and the versatility of its airline transfer program.

Pro-tip

You can pair this card with the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card. Use the Savor for dining and entertainment purchases and the Venture for everything else. Use the cash back you earn from the Savor to cover travel expenses that your Venture rewards doesn’t cover.

Read the review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Why we rate it best for hotel booking

The VentureOne offers the same rewards rate on hotel booking as the Venture (10X miles on thousands of hotels booked and paid for on hotels.com/venture through Jan. 2020). Although the sign-up bonus and rewards rate on general purchases are smaller, the lack of an annual fee helps compensate.

Pro-tip

The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card could be a good companion for the VentureOne. It’s essentially the same matchup as the Venture/Savor, but without the annual fees. You’ll still earn some impressive rewards, just not at the same rate. If you one day decide the annual fees are worth it, you can always call Capital One to request an upgrade.

Read the review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why we rate it best for your first travel card

If you’ve never had a travel rewards credit card, earning 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide with the Chase Sapphire Preferred could make the experience both easy and rewarding. Don’t forget that you can maximize your rewards with a 25% boost in points value when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.

Pro-tip

Combining the Chase Sapphire Preferred with the Chase Freedom Unlimited® could be a rewards bonanza for beginner travelers. You can transfer points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred for maximum value when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Read the review and apply on Chase’s secure website.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card

Why we rate it best for travel with no annual fee

It can be tough to find a quality travel card that doesn’t charge an annual fee, but the Bank of America Travel Rewards Visa is an exception. The card offers even more value to Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients, with rewards point bonuses of 25%-75%. You could even take the money you save on annual fees and put it into a qualifying BofA account.

Pro-tip

You could go all in with BofA and pair this travel card with the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card. You can earn the same Preferred Rewards bonus with both cards if you have an eligible account, and you can also use points earned with the Premium Rewards Visa on purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center portal.

Read the review and apply on Bank of America’s secure website.

Discover it® Miles

Why we rate it best for first-year bonus

Thanks to the Unlimited Bonus feature, Discover will match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. If you make the Discover it Miles your go-to card over the first 12 months, the Unlimited Bonus could help set you up with enough miles to redeem for several hundred dollars toward travel after your one-year anniversary as a cardholder.

Pro-tip

If you frequently use a particular hotel chain or airline, consider pairing the Discover it Miles with a co-branded hotel card or airline card that matches your preference. You can still apply your Miles to help pay for eligible travel purchases, including hotel stays and airfare, and you’ll probably get additional points value for the rewards you earn through a hotel or airline loyalty program.

Read the review and apply on Discover’s secure website.

American Express® Gold Card

Why we rate it best for travel rewards on dining

The rewards rate of 4X Membership Rewards points per $1 on dining at restaurants worldwide is unusually generous. At the same time, the card also has the potential for big rewards at U.S. supermarkets (4X on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X) and on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com (3X).

Pro-tip

You don’t get lounge access included with the American Express Gold Card, although you can buy passes. If this feature is a must-have for you, consider getting a card that offers airport lounge access as a standard feature or pairing the Gold Card with a card that does.

Read the review and apply on the American Express secure website.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Why we rate it the best for international travel

Traveling internationally means spending a lot of time in the air, and in terminals. You can use this card’s Airline Fee Credit of up to $200 each year to cover the cost of checked bags, in-flight Wi-Fi, flight-change fees and other expenses to improve your travel experience. The annual credit, up to $200, is larger than many of the Platinum Card’s competitors.

Pro-tip

Check the terms and conditions to see which benefits require activation or enrollment. For instance, make sure to activate the Airline Fee Credit on the American Express website.

Also, you’ll need to enroll online or call Platinum® Life Offers at +44 (0) 1-273-576-454 to take advantage of complimentary elite status at Hilton and Marriott properties.

Read the review and apply on the American Express secure website.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Why we rate it best for companion fare

The Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare offer is one of the industry’s top companion pass programs. With prices starting from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) for flights booked on alaskaair.com, this offer could save you hundreds of dollars. What’s more, the Famous Companion Fare has no blackout dates and renews each year on your account opening anniversary.

Pro-tip

Alaska Airlines is one of 40+ airlines that partner with the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program, which makes the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card an intriguing stable mate for the Alaska Airlines Visa. Still, this card combination works best for a specific kind of frequent traveler: one who always flies Alaska Airlines and always stays at a Marriott hotel. You’ll really need to maximize the Marriott perks to make up for this Bonvoy card’s $95 annual fee.

Read the review and apply on Bank of America’s secure website.

The information about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Why we rate it best for frequent Delta flyers

For travelers who take to the skies with Delta on a regular basis, this card has the potential to pay big dividends. Your rewards (2 Delta Skymiles per $1 spent on purchases made directly with Delta and 1 SkyMile per $1 on other eligible purchases) should accumulate at a brisk pace with frequent use. Add in money-saving perks and Delta loyalists should have little trouble recouping the annual fee ($195, or $250 if the application is received on or after 1/30/2020).

Pro-tip

If you pair the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card with the American Express® Gold Card, you can transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta Air Lines, one of the American Express travel partners. Each point is worth up to 1 SkyMile, and the Gold Card has a ton of earning potential.

Read the full review and apply on the American Express secure website.

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Why we rate it the best airline card with no annual fee

The Blue Delta SkyMiles offers a scaled-down version of many of the benefits you’d enjoy with a premium airline card, only without the accompanying annual fee. The card earns a respectable 2X miles at U.S. restaurants, 2X miles on purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles per dollar on everything else. Plus, you get purchase protection, extended warranty on eligible purchases and other American Express perks. For casual flyers who make Delta their first option, it’s a useful alternative to a high-fee card.

Pro-tip

This card charges a 2.7% foreign transaction fee. If any of your Delta flights take you overseas, consider packing a second card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee and use it for general non-travel purchases.

Read the full review and apply on the American Express secure website.


What is a travel rewards credit card?

Travel rewards cards allow cardholders to earn points or miles on a variety of purchases (typically travel-related) that can then be redeemed in the form of travel bookings, statement credits, gift cards, and more.

The best travel cards won’t just help you foot the bill for your next flight — they’ll also offer perks to transform 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 customers.

How do miles work on travel credit cards?

Miles work the same way as credit card points. When you use miles to book travel directly through an airline or travel portal, the airline or issuer will assign a set number of award miles to each ticket. Some airlines have established award charts that give you insight into what each flight would cost in miles, but many have switched to a dynamic pricing model that bases award pricing on multiple factors, including seasonality and route popularity.

When you’re redeeming miles as a statement credit, they’re assigned a monetary value (typically 1 cent per point, though that isn’t the case with all issuers). If you want to stay updated on the value of your points and miles, ThePointsGuy tracks valuations on a monthly basis.

Speaking of keeping track, be aware that miles and points can expire. A recent Bankrate survey found that almost half of travel loyalty program members have let airline and hotel rewards expire at some point.

Make a point of knowing your card issuer’s policy on expirations and checking your online dashboard or printed monthly statement on a regular basis. If you don’t use your rewards before they expire, you’re essentially forfeiting money.

How to budget and save on your next trip

Travel means a lot more than vacations. Many people travel for business, and even some family trips aren’t strictly for fun. For example, parents might be traveling with their college-bound teens to check out different campuses this time of year. Autumn might also be the time of year when many colleges and high schools host homecomings and class reunions.

What do these different types of travel have in common? Regardless of your destination or itinerary, the right travel rewards credit card can help make your trip a more economical and more pleasant experience.

Card rewards might not cover the entire bill, but with strategic budgeting and planning, they can help offset the costs of travel. Plus, travel card perks and benefits provide a layer of protection against the unexpected, such as lost luggage or flight cancellations and delays.

Here are some money-saving tips for travelers:

Calculate your travel budget

One of the greatest barriers to taking time off is money. A Bankrate survey found that only 52 percent of Americans said they were definitely taking a vacation in 2019. Most people who planned to take a pass on a 2019 vacation cited affordability as the number one reason. More specifically, day-to-day bills and paying down debt were the most common financial roadblocks to affording a getaway.

For starters, you can crunch the numbers on all the projected factors to see how much you need to save. This includes transportation (airfare, gas, tolls, etc.), hotels/lodging, various excursions, food and souvenirs. Once you have a rough calculation of how much you could end up paying, you can then adjust or scale back as needed if it’s too expensive.

Getting in the habit of budgeting your everyday (and major) expenses might help you save in the long run. Bankrate’s Home Budget Calculator can help you gain a better understanding of where the majority of your heftiest expenses lie, and mobile apps like Digit, Dobot and others can make sticking to your budget less of a hassle.

Maximize sign-up bonuses/welcome offers

Depending on your budget and needs, knowing how to spend with a travel credit card can make paying for your next trip less daunting. If you utilize the introductory bonus and spend the required amount to reach, say, a 50,000-mile offer, it could bring you several hundred dollars’ worth of rewards that you can put toward transportation, lodging or whatever the card allows.

Know when to book

Using your travel credit card to book flights or hotels in advance can also help you save money. According to CheapAir.com’s 2019 Airfare study, Tuesday is the cheapest day to fly, with costs coming in at about $85 cheaper than the most expensive day of the week (typically on a weekend). Fall — otherwise known as a “shoulder season” — is also a more affordable time to travel. The average domestic fare in the fall costs $342 compared to peak summer season at $365, according to the study.

Who should get a travel rewards credit card?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually have to be a frequent jet setter to reap all the benefits a travel credit card has to offer. There is a travel card out there for every type of traveler. Once you have a better understanding of the type of traveler you are, you can seek cards with perks that will best benefit your situation.

In short, travel credit cards are worth it for:

Beginner travelers

If you’re new to traveling, it might be best to start out with a card that offers simple yet flexible rewards. If you’re learning the ins and outs of points and miles, the last thing you need is a complicated rewards structure and redemption process. If you’re just starting out, a luxury card with a steep annual fee might not be the best for your current situation.

Brand loyalists

Some people like to fly with the same airline whenever possible or stay at the same hotel brand wherever they go. If you are the same way, a brand-specific card will probably provide you with the best value. Most of the time, brand-specific cards have brand-related purchases as a bonus category and other perks for loyal customers.

Business travelers

Some of the most valuable travel credit cards are business cards. Whether you are a freelancer who travels a lot to meet new clients or the CEO of a Fortune 500, the right travel credit card can help you reap the rewards of everyday business purchases while helping you keep your personal and business expenses organized.

International travelers

If you travel out of the country for business or leisure frequently, consider opting for a card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. And if you hate waiting in line at airport security or customs, there are a lot of travel cards that will provide reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees, including the Capital One Venture card and others.

Luxury travelers

If you’re really looking for a luxury travel experience, you need a top-tier travel card. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a well-rounded selection of perks and The Platinum Card from American Express includes access to Centurion Lounges. While top-tier cards also tend to charge annual fees, you can compensate for the cost if you take full advantage of the trip insurance, travel credits and other perks.

The information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

How we rate and review travel credit cards

The Bankrate scoring system evaluates credit cards on a five-point system devised to take into account various attributes, such as annual fees, APR, rewards value and sign-up bonuses/welcome offers. With travel rewards cards, our experts pay particular attention to:

  • Rewards structure. The best travel card for you will allow you to earn the most rewards for your specific spending habits. The cards in our lineup cover a variety of programs geared toward hotel lodging, dining, air travel costs and other factors.
  • Travel perks. The top travel rewards cards offer a lot of travel-specific benefits, including trip insurance, checked bag discounts, airport lounge access and airline credits.
  • Fees. A prime example is the foreign transaction fee, which tacks on extra cost for purchases made overseas. International travelers in particular should lean toward cards that don’t charge this fee.

Find out more about rewards cards for travelers


Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

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

* 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.