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.

Best for overall travel

Capital One 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 Capital One's secure website

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture. Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
Welcome Offer:
50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Regular APR:
17.49% - 24.74% (Variable)

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, through January 2020; 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. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • 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 hotel stays

Capital One 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 Capital One's secure website

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture. Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.
Welcome Offer:
20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee:
$0
Regular APR:
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a 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
  • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74% - 23.74% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • 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 for your first travel card

Chase 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 Chase's secure website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Rewards Rate:
2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Annual Fee:
$95
Regular APR:
17.99% - 24.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best travel card with no annual fee

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® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card

Rewards Rate:
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
Welcome 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
Annual Fee:
$0
Regular APR:
16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

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
  • 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
  • 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. After the intro APR ends, 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR will apply
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more points on every purchase
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best first-year bonus

Discover 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 Discover's secure website

Discover it® Miles

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
Welcome Offer:
Discover will match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That's $700 towards travel!
Annual Fee:
$0
Regular APR:
13.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Unlimited Bonus: Discover will match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That's $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • 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.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.

Best for travel rewards on dining

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® Gold Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X) Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee:
$250
Regular APR:
See Rates & Fees

Card Details

  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.

Best for international travel

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 Platinum Card® from American Express

Rewards Rate:
5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
Annual Fee:
$550
Regular APR:
N/A

Card Details

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Best for companion fare

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

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Rewards Rate:
Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases. Unlimited 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Get 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account
Annual Fee:
$75
Regular APR:
17.74% - 25.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Card Details

  • Now - 40,000 Bonus Mile + Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ Offer.
  • Get 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Save with a free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation.
  • 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 with no blackout dates.
  • Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. And, your miles don't expire on active accounts.
  • New! Enjoy 50% off day passes at the Alaska Lounge and 20% back on all Alaska Airlines inflight purchases when you pay with your new card.
  • Redeem miles with no blackout dates on any of Alaska's 1,200 daily flights or choose from over 900+ destinations with more than a dozen global airline partners. Plus, get exclusive access to discounted redemption levels when you redeem miles for hotel stays at over 400,000 properties using Alaska Airlines Hotels.
  • Plus, no foreign transaction fees and a low $75 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

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 75,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Expires 10/30/2019. In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
Annual Fee:
$195 Annual Fee ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020)
Regular APR:
17.49%-26.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer Expires 10/30/2019.
  • In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases. Miles don’t expire.
  • 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 20% savings on eligible in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit with the American Express Delta Card.
  • $195 Annual Fee ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020).
  • Terms Apply.

Best for Delta Air Lines flyers

American Express Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent Credit (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

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Rewards Rate:
2 miles per dollar at US restaurants. 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
Annual Fee:
$0
Regular APR:
17.49%-26.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar at US restaurants.
  • Earn 2 Miles per dollar spent on purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • 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


A closer look at our picks for best travel credit cards

Card Name Best for Rewards Bankrate Score
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Overall travel 2x miles per every dollar spent 4.6 / 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 4.1 / 5
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Your first travel card 2x per $1 spent on dining and travel; 1x on everything else 4.7 / 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
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

Editor’s notes on our picks for the best travel credit cards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

What we love:

  • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels booked and paid for on hotels.com/venture (through Jan. 2020)
  • $95 annual fee is waived your first year
  • 50,000-mile bonus offer when you spend $3,000 in three months
  • Up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® Credit
  • Purchase Eraser® feature allows you to redeem your miles for an account credit that covers the cost of a past travel purchase made with your Venture card
  • No foreign transaction fees

Partner this card with: The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

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

What we love:

  • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels booked and paid for on hotels.com/venture (through Jan. 2020)
  • 20,000-mile bonus when you spend $1,000 in your first three months
  • Transfer your miles to 10+ travel partners, including Aeromexico and Air Canada Aeroplan
  • No foreign transaction fees

Partner this card with: The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card. This is 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 these cards be upgraded to their big sisters.

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

What we love:

  • 60,000-point bonus when you spend $4,000 in your first three months
  • Chase offers a competitive list of transfer partners
  • Top-notch travel coverage like trip cancellation insurance and trip delay reimbursement
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • No foreign transaction fees

Partner this card with: The Chase Freedom Unlimited. This is an all-star combination for beginner travelers. You can earn $150 cash back after spending $500 in the first 3 months and earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with the Freedom Unlimited. You can then transfer those points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred for maximum value when you redeem.

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

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card

What we love:

  • Preferred Rewards members can earn 25% to 75% more points on top of the 1.5X base points you’ll earn with each purchase
  • Earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Partner this card with: The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Visa® credit card. You can choose one category to earn 3% cash back in, plus earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined bonus rewards quarterly). You’ll earn the same Preferred Rewards bonus with both cards.

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

Discover it® Miles

What we love:

  • Unlimited Bonus: Discover will match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel.
  • No blackout dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card
  • 14-month 0% introductory APR on purchases (13.74% – 24.74% variable APR thereafter)
  • Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases, or get cash.
  • No annual fee

Partner this card with: The Discover it® Cash Back. The Discover it® Cash Back offers 5% cash back on rotating categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter, then 1%; enrollment required). You can maximize rewards across every purchase category when you pair these cards strategically.

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

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

What we love:

  • 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.
  • Making $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days earns you the 40,000-mile bonus and qualifies you for the companion fare.
  • You earn 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines flights and 1 mile per $1 on other purchases.
  • Travel perks include a free checked bag for you and up to six guests traveling on the same eligible Alaska Airline reservations
  • The $75 annual fee is a bit lower than those of comparable airline cards.

Partner this card with: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. Alaska Airlines is one of 40+ airlines that partner with the Marriott Bonvoy rewards program, which means you can turn Marriott points into Alaska Airlines miles. You’ll lose some value in the transfer (3 Marriott points = 1 Mileage Plan mile), but getting the Bonvoy Boundless card would give you another source of travel rewards. 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 Alaska Airlines Visa Signature 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.


What is a travel rewards 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.

Sign-up bonuses

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). For example, if you spend $3,000 within the first three months of using your Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, you’ll receive 50,000 bonus miles.

Are travel rewards cards worth it?

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.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred are great places to start. Each card offers generous rewards rates on a variety of purchases, including travel, along with competitive sign-up bonuses and travel perks.

If you’re just starting out, a luxury card might not be the best for your current situation. The Platinum® Card from American Express, for example, charges a hefty $550 annual fee and earns significant rewards only on travel-related purchases.

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. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, for example, earns unlimited 3 miles for every dollar spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and offers a companion fare™ starting at $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22) each year. In order to qualify for the companion fare, along with the 40k bonus miles, you have to spend $2,000 within the first three months as a cardholder.

While you’ll still get value out of a more general travel card, you can really maximize your rewards by sticking to a card that is brand-focused. You can also redeem miles with no blackout dates on any of Alaska’s 1,200 daily flights or choose from over 900+ destinations with more than a dozen global airline partners.

Business travelers

Some of the most valuable travel credit cards are actually 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.

For example, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offers 12x  points at Hilton hotels and resorts, 6x points on select travel and business purchases and 3x points on everything else. The card comes with a competitive welcome offer and a low annual fee. Plus, Hilton has an impressive partner list. You can earn points with your Hilton card and then transfer them to your favorite airline to redeem (restrictions apply).

In order to keep business and personal expenses separate, you should think twice before getting a consumer card to use for your business travel purchases. It makes it harder to organize your receipts during tax season.

International travelers

If you travel out of the country for business or leisure frequently, consider opting for a card that doesn’t come with 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, like the Platinum Card from American Express, Capital One Venture Card and more.

Luxury travelers

If you’re interested in upgrading your travel experience, there are many great choices. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a fan favorite, offering a well-rounded selection of perks and a 50% redemption bonus when you book award travel through the Chase portal.

Another popular choice is The Platinum Card® from American Express, which comes with access to Centurion Lounges. While top-tier cards also come with higher annual fees, the costs are outweighed when you take full advantage of the trip insurance, travel credits and other perks. While the Capital One Venture and Chase Sapphire Preferred are both great all-around cards, they lack some of the luxury perks that come with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum.

If you’re really looking for a luxury travel experience, you need a top-tier travel card.

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 to use a travel credit card to save for your next vacation

While a travel card alone isn’t likely to foot the entire bill for your next vacation, with strategic budgeting and forethought, it can certainly help mitigate the costs of travel. Plus, a travel card adds extra cushioning during your vacation in some instances — like paying for lost luggage or flight cancellations/delays.

Determine your 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. Considering Americans expected to spend an average of $1,979 on a summer vacation, perhaps unsurprisingly, most people who reported forgoing 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 for your next vacation 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 idea of how much you could end up paying, you can then adjust or scale back as needed if it’s too expensive.

An Excel spreadsheet might work for your trip, but 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 rewards, sign-up bonuses

Depending on your budget and needs, knowing how to spend a travel credit card can make paying for your next trip less daunting. If you utilize the sign-up bonus and spend the recommended amount to reach, say, that 50,000 mile offer — that’s essentially $500 in your pocket toward transportation, lodging or whatever the card allows. If you’re loyal to a certain airline or hotel, consider choosing a co-branded card to use for everyday expenses and earn points that can be used toward your trip.

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.

How we compare and review travel credit cards

At Bankrate, we judge credit cards on a five-point system devised to take into account various  attributes, such as the card’s annual fee, rewards value, sign-up bonus and any extras or discounts.

Finding the right travel credit card can be complicated, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the different rewards structures and offerings. But these scores can serve as shortcuts to give you a better idea of what we think these cards can bring to the table.

How to choose the right travel credit card for your lifestyle

We know that everyone is unique: Just because a card has a lucrative welcome offer doesn’t mean it is the right card for your regular spending habits. Wherever possible, we have identified where we think a card will suit a particular type of spender or traveler. When looking at multiple travel credit cards to find the right one for you, there are three main factors you should consider:

  • Rewards structure. You want a card that will allow you to earn the most rewards for your specific spending habits. If you spend a lot of money on dining and an array of travel purchases, the Chase Sapphire Preferred’s 2x points on dining and travel might be best for you.
  • Welcome bonus. Welcome bonuses are a large factor in determining the first-year value of a travel credit card. Take a look at the bonus, the minimum spend required and the redemption value of the bonus.
  • Additional perks. Some cards offer an impressive lineup of trip insurance coverages while others are more focused on luxury lounge access and airline credits. Know the type of traveler you are and which perks you will use the most.

Let’s look at two popular travel credit cards: The Capital One Venture and Amex Platinum. The Venture is a mid-tier card, and the Amex Platinum is a luxury card. Assuming you spend an average of $2,000 each month ($1,500 on regular expenses and $500 on travel), here is the value each card brings when you also factor in welcome bonuses and any account credits.

Annual Fee Approx. first-year value Approx. second-year value
Capital One Venture $95, waived the first year $1,080 $480
Amex Platinum $550 $1,680 $980

*Editor’s note: These valuations are calculated by the Bankrate staff and not the individual issuers. The first- and second-year value calculations do not factor in the annual fee or ancillary perks that do not have a set monetary value.

The Amex Platinum also gives you access to luxury hotel perks and exclusive lounge access — the values of both are hard to exactly quantify. While it’s obvious that the Amex Platinum offers more value on paper, you also have to consider the $550 annual fee. If you are using the card to book a considerable amount of travel through the Amex portal and taking full advantage of its luxury perks, the annual fee is definitely worth it. However, if you don’t travel a lot, the Capital One Venture (with its significantly lower annual fee) might be a better choice.


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.