Skip to Main Content

Best travel credit cards of December 2022

Bankrate logo

The Bankrate promise

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .

Travel credit cards help you earn valuable points and miles to put toward flights, hotel stays and other travel-related expenses. They're also known to come with generous sign-up bonuses and additional travel perks, like airport lounge access and travel insurance. Check out some of the best credit cards for travel from our partners and start planning your trip today.

Apply Now Lock
On Capital One's secure site
Rating: 4.9 stars out of 5
4.9 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

75,000 miles
Info

Annual fee

$95

Regular APR

18.99% - 26.99% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

BEST FOR NO ANNUAL FEE + BOOSTED REWARDS

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Apply Now Lock
On Wells Fargo's secure site
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
4.0 Bankrate review
Info
See Rates & Fees

Intro offer

30,000 Points
Info

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

18.74%, 23.74%, or 28.74% Variable APR

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best for flexible travel miles with no annual fee

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now Lock
On Capital One's secure site
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
4.5 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

20,000 miles
Info

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best for mid-level travel perks

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now Lock
On Chase's secure site
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

60,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$95

Regular APR

19.74% - 26.74% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

BEST VALUE FOR PREMIUM TRAVEL

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now Lock
On Capital One's secure site
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

75,000 miles
Info

Annual fee

$395

Regular APR

19.99% - 26.99% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Excellent (740 – 850)
Info
Apply Now Lock
On American Express's secure site
Rating: 4.8 stars out of 5
4.8 Bankrate review
Info
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
See if you're pre‐approved for this card with CardMatch™

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$695

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best Bank of America travel card

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

Apply Now Lock
On Bank of America's secure site
Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

50,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$95

Regular APR

19.74% - 26.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best first-year miles bonus

Discover it® Miles

Apply Now Lock
On Discover's secure site
Rating: 3.9 stars out of 5
3.9 Bankrate review
Info
See Rates & Fees

Intro offer

Discover Match®
Info

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

15.74% - 26.74% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best for qualifying travel purchases

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Apply Now Lock
On Bank of America's secure site
Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

25,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

17.74% - 27.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best for travel rewards on dining

American Express® Gold Card

Apply Now Lock
On American Express's secure site
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0 Bankrate review
Info
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
See if you're pre‐approved for this card with CardMatch™

Intro offer

60,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$250

Regular APR

19.74%-26.74% Variable

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best for travel rewards on everyday purchases

Citi Premier® Card

Apply Now Lock
On Citi's secure site
Rating: 4.7 stars out of 5
4.7 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

80,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$95

Regular APR

19.74% - 27.74% (Variable)

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best for travel redemptions

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Apply Now Lock
On Chase's secure site
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0 Bankrate review
Info

Intro offer

60,000 points
Info

Annual fee

$550

Regular APR

20.74% - 27.74% Variable

Recommended credit

Excellent (740 – 850)
Info

BEST FOR FAIR CREDIT

Credit One Bank Wander® Card

Apply Now Lock
On Credit One Bank's secure site
Rating: 3.2 stars out of 5
3.2 Bankrate review
Info
See Rates & Fees

Intro offer

10,000 Bonus Points
Info

Annual fee

$95

Regular APR

26.99% Variable

Recommended credit

Fair to Good (580 – 740)
Info

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


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

Compare the best travel credit cards of 2022

Card name Rewards highlights Welcome offer Annual fee Bankrate review score
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options

Unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening, equal to $750 in travel $95 4.9 / 5
(Read full card review)
Wells Fargo Autograph Card Unlimited 3X points for travel purchases, at restaurants and gas stations, for transit, popular streaming services and phone plans Limited time offer: 30,000 points when you spend $1,500 or more in the first 3 months, offer expires 1/10/2023 $0 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.

20,000 bonus miles if you spend $500 within the first three months $0 4.5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 5X on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

3X on dining.

2X on all other travel purchases, plus more.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening $95 5.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card Unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.

Unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases.

75,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months $395 5.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
The Platinum Card from American Express 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.

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

80,000 points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months $695 4.8 / 5
(Read full card review)
Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card Unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases

Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases.

50,000 online bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days $95 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it Miles Unlimited 1.5X Miles on every dollar of every purchase – with no annual fee. Discover will match all miles earned at the end of your first of year membership $0 3.9 / 5
(Read full card review)
Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card 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 ($250 value toward travel purchases) if you make $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of opening the account $0 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
American Express Gold Card 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.

4X Membership Rewards® Points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).

3X Membership Rewards® Points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

60,000 points after spending $4,000 in purchases within first six months $250 5.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Citi Premier Card 3X points at Restaurants and Supermarkets.

3X points at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels.

1X point on all other purchases.

80,000 bonus ThankYou® points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening $95 4.7 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Sapphire Reserve 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

5X total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

3X points on other travel and dining.

1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months $550 5.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Credit One Bank Wander Card 10X points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked using the Credit One Bank travel site

5X points on eligible travel including flights, dining, and gas purchases

10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days $95 3.2 / 5
(Read full card review)

A closer look at Bankrate's top travel credit cards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best overall travel card

  • What we love about the Venture Rewards card: It offers an easy way to earn travel rewards and comes with a generous sign-up bonus and several travel and purchase protections. The annual fee is a modest $95, which will appeal to a broad range of travelers who don’t need a luxury experience.
  • Who this card is good for: Travelers who want to earn flat-rate rewards on all of their purchases but want to maintain flexibility in how they redeem their miles.
  • Travel benefits: Get an up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®, transfer your miles to 15+ loyalty programs and earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.
  • Alternatives: You could squeeze a lot more value out of your points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which offers bonus rewards in everyday spending categories and the chance to up the value of your rewards by 25 percent when you redeem for travel through Chase.

Learn more: Why expert Jacqueline DeMarco loves the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Wells Fargo Autograph Card: Best for no annual fee + boosted rewards

  • What we love about the Wells Fargo Autograph Card: This card earns a solid rewards rate for purchases in popular categories like gas stations and dining at restaurants, which are great additions to a card that also rewards generously for travel purchases. Some issuers typically limit bonus rewards to travel purchases made exclusively through airlines or issuer portals. The Wells Fargo Autograph is a flexible option for cardholders who want to shop around for the best deal on third-party travel sites and earn extra rewards.
  • Who this card is good for: This card is a good choice if you’re new to travel rewards or just want a low-cost card with a simple rewards program that covers your dining and travel purchases.
  • Travel benefits: This card charges no foreign transaction fees and comes with valuable perks like rental car coverage, roadside assistance and Visa Signature benefits, which opens the door to additional features like access to Visa’s Luxury Hotel Collection.
  • Alternatives: Although the card has great rewards rates in several categories, you can’t transfer your points to airlines or hotels like you would be able to with other travel cards that share some of the same rewards categories. If you’re looking for ways to maximize the value of your rewards, you should consider upgrading to a travel card with an annual fee, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Citi Premier Card.

Learn more: Wells Fargo Autograph benefits guide.
Read our full Wells Fargo Autograph card review or jump back to offer details.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best for flexible travel miles with no annual fee

  • What we love about the VentureOne Rewards card: This entry-level travel rewards card comes with a nice sign-up bonus, the chance to earn unlimited miles, and a good amount of travel and purchase protections.
  • Who this card is good for: Beginner and occasional travelers looking for flexibility and savings. Cardholders don’t need to worry about maximizing rewards to offset an annual fee or travel rewards redemption restrictions.
  • Travel benefits: You can transfer your miles to over 15 loyalty programs, redeem them for travel through the Capital One Travel portal or use them to cover outside travel purchases—a unique level of redemption flexibility for a travel rewards card.
  • Alternatives: A general-purpose flat-rate credit card that offers 2X points or 2 percent cash back on all purchases may bring more value if you don’t travel often and aren’t ready to upgrade to a travel rewards credit card with an annual fee.

Learn more: Reasons to get the VentureOne Rewards Card.
Read our full Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for mid-level travel perks

  • What we love about the Sapphire Preferred card: For a $95 annual fee, this card is packed with features. On top of an outstanding sign-up bonus, you get travel and purchase protections, as well as a rewards program that earns points, not only on travel purchases but also on everyday purchases like groceries and streaming services.
  • Who this card is good for: This is a great travel card for anyone willing to put in a bit of work to get the maximum value out of their rewards. Be sure to take advantage of Chase’s hotel or airline transfer partners or book your travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online portal, where points are worth 25 percent more value.
  • Travel benefits: Redeem points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to get a 25 percent boost to the value of your points. Additionally, a $50 hotel credit further curbs your expenses while you earn 5X points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Alternatives: Travelers who dine at restaurants regularly or cook at home both benefit from rewards rates available on the Citi Premier Card. It has a comparable sign-up bonus and the same annual fee as the Sapphire Preferred, but also earns 3X points for purchases at gas stations, air travel and hotels.

Learn more: Why expert Jordan Bishop loves the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review or jump back to offer details.

 Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best value for premium travel

  • What we love about the Venture X card: This card offers top-of-the line benefits, including complimentary lounge access and a high rewards rate for both travel and non-travel purchases. It also comes with a fairly affordable annual fee compared to other luxury travel cards on the market.
  • Who this card is good for: Travelers looking to sample luxury benefits without paying a huge annual fee. The premier perks you’ll get with this card aren’t quite as luxurious as those found with other premium travel cards, but Venture X’s annual fee is far more modest and can be quickly offset thanks to an annual credit and anniversary miles bonus.
  • Travel benefits: The card includes up to $300 back annually as statement credits for travel bookings made through Capital One Travel. You also get access to over 1,300 Priority Pass lounges worldwide.
  • Alternatives: The Platinum Card® from American Express is for frequent travelers looking for the best of the best when it comes to premium travel experiences. From an impressive sign-up bonus and annual credits to luxury lounge access and everyday benefits, this card packs it all in.

Learn more: Why expert Ana Staples loves the Capital One Venture X Card.
Read our full Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card review or jump back to offer details.

The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for luxury travel

  • What we love about the Amex Platinum card: With a $695 annual fee, the Amex Platinum card doesn’t come cheap. But it will be worth it for those who can take advantage of all the high-value benefits packed in this card. That includes a welcome offer, annual statement credits worth well over $1,000, and complimentary access to the expansive American Express Global Centurion Lounge Collection.
  • Who this card is good for: Frequent travelers who enjoy luxury travel benefits and elite status with select hotels.
  • Travel benefits: Take advantage of an up to $200 airline fee credit, up to $200 in Uber Cash, an up to $189 CLEAR® credit and a host of other non-travel credits that more than make up for the card’s annual fee as part of the Amex Platinum’s expansive benefit offerings. Plus, you’ll earn 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year).
  • Alternatives: Thanks to the Capital One Venture X card, it’s possible to get a taste of luxury for far less than the cost of the Amex Platinum card. For $395, travelers get a card packed with high bonus rewards categories, a higher base rewards rate, complimentary lounge access, as well as travel credit and anniversary miles.

Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Platinum Card® from American Express.
Read our full The Platinum Card from American Express review or jump back to offer details.

Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card: Best Bank of America travel card

  • What we love about the Premium Rewards card: The one-time sign-up bonus and annual chance to earn up to $200 in travel statement credits enhance the value of this easy travel rewards credit card.
  • Who this card is good for: Frequent travelers who are also Bank of America Preferred Rewards members. Eligible Bank of America customers can boost their rewards rate by up to 75 percent based on the size of their accounts.
  • Travel benefits: Receive up to $100 in Airline Incidental Statement Credits annually as well as TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry Statement Credits of up to $100 every four years.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One Venture Rewards card might be a safer bet. The bigger sign-up bonus, higher flat rewards rate, and supersized hotel and rental car bonus categories come packed in a card with great travel benefits and flexible redemption options.

Learn more: Why expert Sara Coleman loves the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card.
Read our full Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card review or jump back to offer details.

Discover it Miles: Best for earning unlimited miles

  • What we love about the Discover it Miles: Discover will match every Mile you’ve earned at the end of your first year as a cardholder. It’s like essentially earning 3X Miles instead of 1.5X Miles during your first year.
  • Who this card is good for: Travelers who want simplicity. There are no complex redemption programs and cardholders are free to redeem rewards for statement credits they can apply to recent travel purchases.
  • Travel benefits: Earn miles for every purchase you make whether it’s travel related or not. You’ll also benefit from Discover’s 99 percent acceptance rate nationwide, making it an ideal choice for the traveler who ventures to a variety of places. Also, redeem your miles as cash or as a statement credit to cover travel purchases.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card won’t make you wait as long as the Discover it Miles to earn your sign-up bonus. The VentureOne card also has more than a dozen transfer partners, which can help increase the value of the rewards you earn.

Learn more: Why experts Holly Johnson loves the Discover It Miles Card.
Read our full Discover it Miles review or jump back to offer details.

Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card: Best for qualifying travel purchases

  • What we love about the Bank of America Travel Rewards card: Unlike other travel rewards cards, this card counts more than just airfare and hotel rooms as travel. You can redeem points for statement credits to cover purchases at zoos, art galleries, aquariums, travel agencies and more.
  • Who this card is good for: Occasional travelers looking for a no-annual-fee travel card that offers a simple flat rate for all purchases.
  • Travel benefits: Points don’t expire and you can book any airline, any hotel any time without blackout dates. You can also flexibly redeem points for statement credits to pay for travel or dining purchases like flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, as well as restaurant and take out purchases.
  • Alternatives: The Chase Freedom Flex℠ takes a little getting used to, but its rotating and fixed categories earn bonus rewards in travel and everyday categories, which could bring in more value than a flat-rate travel rewards card.

Learn more: Is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card worth it?
Read our full Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review or jump back to offer details.

American Express Gold Card: Best for travel rewards on dining

  • What we love about the Amex Gold Card: Amex gives users plenty of chances to offset the high annual fee of $250. This includes annual credits and high-earning bonus categories that will reward your spending in numerous areas, including dining, U.S. supermarkets and flights.
  • Who this card is good for: Travelers who want to earn rewards for dining out and ordering in. The generous rewards rate on dining at restaurants and Uber Eats in the U.S. makes it easy for foodies to rake in a lot of points.
  • Travel benefits: Receive up to $240 in annual credits combined between Uber Cash and dining credits as well as a boosted 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through the American Express Travel Portal.
  • Alternatives: If the American Express Gold Card’s annual fee doesn’t fit your budget, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It’s a great alternative because it also earns high travel and dining rewards but for a much lower annual fee.

Learn more: Is the Amex Business Gold worth it?.
Read our full American Express Gold Card review or jump back to offer details.

Citi Premier Card: Best for travel rewards on everyday purchases

  • What we love about the Citi Premier: This mid-level travel card packs a punch thanks to high-earning travel- and household-related bonus categories, an annual hotel credit and a modest fee of $95.
  • Who this card is good for: Occasional travelers who want to earn travel rewards for all their grocery, gas and dining purchases.
  • Travel benefits: You can earn a $100 Hotel Savings Benefit when you book a single hotel stay of $500 or more through Citi online or by phone. The card also carries no foreign transaction fees.
  • Alternatives: Depending on your spending habits, the Chase Sapphire Preferred may not have the everyday value of the Citi Premier, but it does outclass the Citi card when it comes to travel value, especially when you use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to redeem points for travel.

Learn more: Why expert Erin Gobler loves the Citi Premier Card.
Read our full Citi Premier Card review or jump back to offer details.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for travel redemptions

  • What we love about the Sapphire Reserve: Even with an annual fee of $550, this premium travel rewards card is in demand and for good reason. The card comes loaded with short- and long-term value, including one of the highest cash back sign-up bonuses around, annual travel credit, bonus points for travel and dining purchases and complimentary airport lounge access.
  • Who this card is good for: Frequent travelers who can take advantage of the top-of-the-line travel benefits.
  • Travel benefits: Earn an additional 50-percent value for your points when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and benefit from 1:1 point transfer with leading airline and hotel loyalty programs. Chase also provides access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide after one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select. Also receive up to $100 as a statement credit every four years to cover the cost of Global Entry, NEXUS or TSA PreCheck®.
  • Alternatives: Travelers who dine at restaurants regularly or cook at home both benefit from rewards rates available on the Citi Premier Card. It has a comparable sign-up bonus and the same annual fee as the Sapphire Preferred, but also earns 3X points for purchases at gas stations, air travel and hotels.

Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.
Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve review or jump back to offer details.

Credit One Bank Wander Card: Best for fair credit

  • What we love about the Credit One Bank Wander Card: Few unsecured credit-building cards let you earn rewards on travel, much less such at such a high rate and in so many categories. This makes the Wander card a uniquely good fit for frequent travelers who want to get in on the travel rewards game but don’t have the score needed to qualify for elite travel cards.
  • Who this card is good for: Frequent travelers looking for a way to earn rewards while they work on their credit score. You’ll also need to spend $950 to $1,900 in the card’s bonus categories to offset the annual fee, so make sure that fits with your spending habits.
  • Alternatives: If you don’t mind putting down a refundable security deposit, consider a no-annual-fee secured card that could help earn rewards on travel as you work on your score. The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card* is one great option. It earns 3 percent cash back in a category of your choosing (with travel just one of many popular options) as well as 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (bonus rewards in 3 percent and 2 percent categories are limited to the first $2,500 in combined spending per quarter). Plus, once you build your score with responsible use, you may be able to upgrade to an unsecured Bank of America travel or rewards card.

Learn more: Best travel credit cards for people with bad or fair credit
Read our full Credit One Wander Card review or jump back to offer details.


What is a travel credit card?

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

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

How do credit card points and miles work?

Credit card points and miles are two of the three types of credit card rewards, in addition to cash back. Credit card points and miles have slight differences but work in mostly the same way: You earn rewards by making purchases using your credit card and storing up those points for travel, gift cards and other options.

How do credit card points work?

General-purpose travel rewards cards typically earn credit card points on all purchases, but some cards, like the Capital One Venture lineup of cards, earn miles. These cards aren’t tied to any particular airline or hotel rewards program, which gives you more flexibility in how you redeem your rewards.

You’ll find that most of these cards have a variety of redemption options beyond travel, like statement credits, gift cards, shopping and more. Your redemption options, including for travel, are typically valued at the same rate of 1 cent per point, though some cards may decrease the value for certain options, such as for gift cards.

For even greater flexibility, a number of the top travel cards let you transfer your points to frequent-flyer and hotel-loyalty programs, sometimes at a 1:1 rate. The real world value of airline and hotel points can vary dramatically, so it’s smart to seek out transfer options that go above a 1-cent value and avoid options that are worth less.

How do travel miles and points work?

Co-branded credit cards tie their rewards to a specific airline or hotel loyalty program. These types of travel cards tend to be less flexible because they're often only redeemable for travel with the airline, hotel or one of its partners. But these cards often have specific benefits you won’t find with a general-purpose travel card, along with multiple partners or brands for travel bookings, which can make up for the lack of flexibility.

On top of the chance to earn higher rewards rates for airline or hotel purchases, you may also have an easier time reaching elite status with your favorite hotels or airlines. This can help you score cost-saving benefits like free nights, companion passes, free checked bags or priority boarding.

Want to learn more? Read our full guide on how travel credit cards work.

Types of travel credit cards

As with other types of cards, travel credit cards offer you a lot of variety to choose from. Notable features include issuer travel portals with boosted rewards value, hotel and airline loyalty status and credits for some of your favorite products and services. To zero in on which card might best fit your needs, consider the different categories of travel cards.

Pros and cons of travel credit cards

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

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Rewards optimized for travel: Rewards categories are often designed to earn more points or miles for purchases directly related to travel, mainly expenses such as airfare, hotel rooms, rental cars and more.

  • Checkmark

    Travel-friendly benefits: Many travel cards offer perks such as travel insurance, free checked bags, lounge access and credits for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.

  • Checkmark

    High reward rates: Travel credit cards typically have some of the most generous rewards rates. It’s not uncommon to see travel purchases earn 5X, 6X, 7X or more points or miles.

  • Checkmark

    The convenience of travel portals: Many card issuers have their own online travel portals where you can book travel and redeem your rewards toward those purchases in one session. Sometimes, using these portals may even boost your rewards value.

Cons

  • Credit score requirements: The typical baseline credit score requirement for a travel card is good-to-excellent, which could make it difficult to qualify with a credit score below 670.

  • Using rewards can be complex: You’ll frequently have to calculate points, check for eligibility requirements for flights and hotel stays and otherwise navigate the process to get full value of your rewards.

  • Annual fees: Some of the top travel credit cards have annual fees starting in the $95 to $100 range. Upper-tier hotel and airline cards and luxury travel cards could have annual fees exceeding $200 or even $500.

  • Losing value on non-travel redemptions: Points or miles typically lose value when redeemed for cash back, gift cards or merchandise, rather than travel.

Who should get a travel credit card?

A travel credit card is almost always a good idea if you want to offset the cost of future travel. If you are able to save up airline miles, rack up points for free nights at hotels or get discounted travel through your credit card issuer, you’re on your way to saving significantly on travel costs. The right travel card will vary depending on your travel habits, but there is at least one that can fit your travel style and budget.

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

How to choose the best travel credit card for you

A good travel credit card can make traveling easier and more affordable. The best travel credit cards earn cardholders free or heavily discounted trips, assist during travel emergencies and keep fees to a minimum (or skip them altogether). With the right information, you can find the best travel credit card for you and your travel habits. When deciding on a travel credit card, keep the following in mind:

Airline or hotel loyalty

A co-branded credit card will carry the name of a specific airline or hotel. You’ll get the most value out of its rewards when redeeming them with that particular airline or hotel. While your options for redeeming points are limited, these cards also give you access to exclusive perks, like priority boarding or free room upgrades with the carrier or chain in question.

Travel protections

Many credit card issuers offer cards that provide protections like trip cancellation/interruption insurance, rental car coverage in case of an accident, emergency assistance, lost luggage insurance and concierge services.

Annual fee

Most luxury travel cards carry a steep annual fee. This cost can typically be offset by lucrative rewards and added perks, such as airport lounge access and free checked bags. To see if an annual fee is worth it, compare a card’s cost with the value you receive from its rewards, statement credit offers and added perks that you plan to use.

Sign-up bonus

A good sign-up bonus could translate into free airfare or other travel purchases. As a rule of thumb, the higher the annual fee, the higher the sign-up bonus should be. Before you sign up, ensure that you can reasonably cover the spending required to earn the bonus.

Travel rewards vs. cash back rewards

Credit card rewards generally come in two varieties: cash back or travel. You should get a travel credit card if you purchase plane tickets or hotel stays several times per year and you’re comfortable with paying an annual fee (in many cases) in exchange for higher rewards rates and travel perks. A cash back credit card is a better fit if you don’t travel regularly but still want to earn decent rewards on your spending.

How to compare travel credit cards

To make sure a travel card is right for you, take some time to compare it with other cards with similar features to see which provides the best value for you. This could help you avoid missing out on a card with better benefits. Here are some factors to consider as you compare travel cards.

Earning travel rewards

When comparing travel credit cards, consider the rewards each one offers along with your spending habits and goals. If you value simplicity and ease of use, a flat-rate travel card that offers the same rate for all of your purchases could be your best option.

If you’re looking to maximize your points and miles and don’t mind redeeming rewards with a particular airline or hotel brand, a co-branded airline or hotel credit card may be a good fit. But if you don’t travel frequently or want a travel card with more flexibility in how you earn and redeem rewards, look for a general-purpose travel rewards card that earns bonus points or miles for travel and your top everyday purchases.

Redeeming travel rewards

Your travel card’s redemption options and value are also worth considering when comparing cards. Most travel cards give you the best value when you use your rewards to pay for upcoming travel, typically through the issuer’s travel portal. But for greater flexibility, you may want to look at cards that offer a variety of redemption options, such as redeeming points to cover past travel purchases, which gives you the freedom to book with third-party websites. Or you may want a card with transferable points, which lets you move your rewards over to an airline or hotel loyalty program. This could help stretch the value of your points and miles even further.

You’ll also want to consider the value of your points or miles, which can fluctuate based on how you redeem, including when and where you book travel. If you think you’ll want to redeem your rewards for something other than travel, like statement credits or gift cards, make sure you choose a card that offers a redemption value of at least 1 cent per point or mile for those options. Otherwise, you’re better off using cash and saving your points and miles for travel redemptions.

Travel perks

The best credit cards for travel perks come with features and benefits that make travel more rewarding. If you like to travel in style, there are cards that make it easier to reach elite status or cards that come with complimentary lounge access or travel credits worth hundreds of dollars, which can make first-class airfare or luxury hotel accommodations more affordable.

Annual fee

Comparing the annual fees and features of similar travel cards can help you quickly narrow down your options. If you don’t want to pay an annual fee for a travel card, make sure to compare no-annual-fee cash back vs. no-annual-fee travel cards to make sure you get the right card for you. Keep in mind that some credit card annual fees may be worth it if the card offers valuable perks or rewards.

Sign-up bonus

The best travel sign-up bonuses can knock anywhere from $200 to $1,000 or more off your next travel bill — but don’t just look at the size of the offer. When comparing travel cards, make sure the spend requirement fits your budget and doesn’t force you to overspend.

Travel protections

Credit card travel insurance is a feature that could save you from having to purchase standalone insurance and give you the peace of mind that you’re covered in the event something goes wrong with your trip. But the type of coverage and even the amount you receive can vary from card to card, so you’ll need to pay close attention as you compare travel cards.

Foreign transaction fees and international acceptance

If you travel overseas, check to see if the card you’re considering charges a foreign transaction fee. And since some credit cards aren’t as widely accepted as others, you’ll also want to make sure your credit card will work when traveling overseas.

What are your points and miles worth?

Reward redemption values vary greatly, and since many airlines and hotels use dynamic pricing models that can adjust prices at a moment's notice, it can be hard to know if you’re getting a good deal.

Finding the best way to use points for travel starts with knowing how much your rewards are worth. When you know the value of your points and miles, you can make better travel decisions. Budget shoppers who use a travel card with transferable points will have a better idea of how to shop around for the best rates. Travel hackers will have an easier time knowing when to use points or save them for another trip when they’ll be more valuable.

To make sure you’re getting maximum value for your rewards, divide the cost of a plane or hotel booking in cash by its cost in points or miles. This will show you the cash value of your points or miles. Then take a look at the following points and miles valuations from Bankrate and compare the value you get with our estimate of what your points or miles should be worth on average.

Airline rewards values

Rewards program Bankrate value* Estimated value of 50,000 points/miles
Aer Lingus (Avios) 1.2 cents $600
Aeromexico Club Premier 0.6 cents $300
Air Canada Aeroplan 1.2 cents $600
Air France (FlyingBlue) 1.3 cents $650
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1.1 cents $550
American Airlines AAdvantage 1 cent $500
Avianca Airlines LifeMiles 0.8 cents $400
Avios (average) 1.2 cents $600
British Airways (Avios) 0.7 cents $350
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 3 cents $1,500
Delta SkyMiles 1.3 cents $650
Emirates Skywards 1.8 cents $900
Etihad Guest Miles 1.8 cents $900
Finnair Plus 1.2 cents $600
Flying Blue (average) 1.3 cents $650
Frontier Miles 1.3 cents $650
Garuda Indonesia GarudaMiles 1.6 cents $800
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles 1 cent $500
Iberia Airlines (Avios) 1 cent $500
JetBlue TrueBlue 1.4 cents $700
KLM (FlyingBlue) 1.2 cents $600
Malaysia Airlines Enrich Miles 0.8 cents $400
Qantas Airways Frequent Flyer 0.4 cents $200
Qatar Airways (Avios) 1.8 cents $900
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 2.2 cents $1,100
Southwest Rapid Rewards 1.5 cents $750
Spirit Airlines Free Spirit 1 cent $500
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus 0.6 cents $300
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles 0.6 cents $300
United Airlines MileagePlus 1.1 cents $550
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 2.6 cents $1,300

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

Hotel rewards values

Rewards program Bankrate value* Estimated value of 50,000 points/miles
Best Western Rewards 0.6 cents $300
Hilton Honors 0.6 cents $300
World of Hyatt 2.1 cents $1,050
IHG One Rewards 0.7 cents $350
Marriott Bonvoy 0.7 cents $350
Radisson Rewards Americas 0.4 cents $200
Wyndham Rewards 0.9 cents $450

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

Credit card program rewards values

Rewards program Baseline value Bankrate value* Estimated value of 50,000 points/miles
American Express Membership Rewards 1 cent 2.1 cents $1,050
Bank of America Travel Rewards 1 cent 1 cent $500
Bilt Rewards 1.25 cents 2.2 cents $1,100
Capital One Miles 1 cent 2 cents $1,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card) 1.25 cents 2 cents $1,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase Sapphire Reserve) 1.5 cents 2 cents $1,000
Chase Ultimate Rewards (other Ultimate Rewards cards) 1 cent 1 cent $500
Citi ThankYou Points (Citi Premier® Card) 1 cent 1.9 cents $950
Citi ThankYou Points (basic ThankYou points) 1 cent 1 cent $500
Discover miles 1 cent 1 cent $500
U.S Bank FlexPerks 1.5 cents 1.5 cents $750
Wells Fargo Rewards 1 cent 1 cent $500

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

When to use rewards vs. cash

Here’s an example: We estimate American Airlines Aadvantage miles are worth 1 cent. If you book a seat in the main cabin on a one-way flight from Boston to Miami, and it costs either $139 or 21,500 miles, your miles are only worth $0.006 ($139 / 21,500 miles = $0.006). Since your miles for this flight are worth less than 1 cent, you may want to save your miles and pay cash for this flight.

But if you book a first-class seat on the same flight for $433 or 31,500 miles, your miles are now worth $0.013 ($433 / 31,500 = $0.013). Since 1.3 cents is higher than our 1-cent baseline valuation, you’re coming out ahead if you use your miles to pay for this flight.

How we chose our list of top travel rewards cards

Bankrate evaluates credit cards on a 5-star system that factors in attributes such as annual fees, APR, rewards value and welcome bonuses. To make our list of best travel rewards cards, our writers and editors pay particular attention to:
  • Checkmark
    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. In general, the best travel cards reward you with two to three points per dollar on bonus categories.
  • Checkmark
    Travel perks
    The top travel rewards cards offer travel-specific benefits that take the hassle out of travel. Some perks we looked for are designed to save you money, including trip cancellation insurance, delayed baggage insurance, rental car insurance, checked bag discounts and travel credits. Other perks are all about making your experience more comfortable, such as airport lounge access, flight and hotel upgrades and concierge service.
  • Checkmark
    Annual fees
    Annual fees are common among travel credit cards, but our top picks that charge these fees make it easy to get your money’s worth. Some luxury cards with very high annual fees might be worth the expense for frequent travelers who put a premium on comfort.
  • Checkmark
    Sign-up bonus
    Though long-term value should always be weighed the most heavily, travel credit cards often come with sign-up bonuses that can be worth a flight or two. We highlight the most competitive offers so that, all other factors equal, the better sign-up bonus can help you make a decision.
  • Checkmark
    Foreign transaction fees
    Foreign transaction fees can make or break the value of a travel credit card, especially if you travel outside the country often. This fee typically tacks on an extra 3% to purchases made overseas, so our top-rated travel cards tend to be of the no-foreign-transaction-fee variety.

Video guide: What is a travel credit card?



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

More information on travel credit cards

Inflation is curbing the value of the dollar and adding financial stress to consumers across the country. This is already forcing 79 percent of holiday travelers to change their plans.

But before you cancel your travel plans, it may be worth considering some of the ways a credit card can fight inflation. Since most travel cards earn rewards for some of the hardest-hitting categories — gas and groceries — stockpiling rewards for your next trip could potentially soften the rising costs and help you save on your upcoming holiday travel.

Plus, some cards, namely the American Express Gold Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and the Citi Premier Card, have been offering increased bonuses, which can help to further drive down the costs of travel. In some cases, it may even be possible to score free holiday travel with the right credit card sign-up bonus. If you have to travel this upcoming holiday season, now may be the perfect time to sign up for one of these travel cards.

Travel credit card frequently asked questions

Ask the experts: What is your favorite travel credit card and why?


Travel Rewards Expert Contributor

Hands down, my favorite travel credit card is my Chase Sapphire Reserve®. I have many travel cards in my wallet, but I don’t have any cards that beats the unlimited 3X earning on general travel, which is my number one spending category. When it comes to redeeming, it makes tons of sense to be able to transfer my flexible Ultimate Rewards to where I need them, when I need them. The card has a big annual fee, but it easily covers itself with the $300 travel credit and the Priority Pass Lounge benefit. And since I rent cars quite often, the card saves me hundreds of dollars on primary rental insurance each year. So many different benefits for all kinds of savvy travelers.

Personal Finance Writer

I’ve had my Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card since 2008, when I was planning an Alaska cruisetour. I usually prefer cards with no annual fee, but the first companion pass with my new card made it worthwhile. I’m allowed to buy one companion pass per year from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22). I don’t always use it, especially since the pandemic, but I’m looking forward to traveling again. When I do, I’ll be happy for the free checked bag for myself and up to six guests.

Travel Rewards Expert Contributor

I really like The Platinum Card® from American Express. With a $695 annual fee, it’s expensive. But I utilize its features and benefits enough to justify it. First, there’s the American Express Centurion lounges, which are a great place to relax and enjoy a meal before my flights. This card also comes with Priority Pass Select and Delta SkyClub memberships, too. I speed through airport security with both an up to $100 Global Entry credit (which includes TSA PreCheck) and an up to $179 annual Clear statement membership credit. And you can’t go wrong collecting valuable Membership Rewards points, which transfer to over a dozen airline and hotel partners.