Best Travel Credit Cards

Whether it's a vacation or business trip, travel credit cards help you earn valuable points and miles. Bankrate is here to help you choose the right card for your journey. Check out the best travel rewards cards from our partners and start planning your trip today.

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:
Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel. 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:
15.99%-22.99% 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.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for wide acceptance

Chase 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 Chase's secure website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Rewards Rate:
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit 3X points on dining at restaurants 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Welcome Offer:
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee:
$550
Regular APR:
16.99%-23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 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®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.
Terms and Restrictions 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:
See Pay Over Time APR

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 VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 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® program at over 1,000 properties. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits 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®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

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 on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee:
$250
Regular APR:
See Pay Over Time APR

Card Details

  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Dining Credit: 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.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.

Some of the offers on this page may have expired.

The information about the Capital One Cards has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.


Author: Barry Bridges | bbridges@bankrate.com


A guide to choosing the best travel credit card

Anyone who travels can benefit from the rewards and perks that come with a travel credit card. With a little planning and careful budgeting, you can easily use your points or miles to help cover some of the costs of your next trip.

Compare the best travel credit cards of 2020

Card Name Best for Rewards highlights Bankrate Score
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Your first travel card 2x per $1 spent on dining and travel; 1x on everything else 4.8 / 5
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Best for wide acceptance 3X points on dining and travel worldwide and 1X points on everything else 5.0 / 5
The Platinum Card® from American Express  International travel 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (Annual Fee: $550) 4.8 / 5
American Express® Gold Card  Travel rewards on dining 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide (Annual Fee: $250) 4.4 / 5
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (not currently available) Multiple rewards categories 3X points on: travel; gas stations, rideshares and transit; eating out and ordering in 4.5 / 5
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card  Overall travel 2x miles per every dollar spent 4.7 / 5
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card  Flexible travel 1.25x miles on every purchase 4.4 / 5
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card  Airline card with no annual fee 2X miles at restaurants worldwide, 2X miles on purchases made directly with Delta, 1X miles per dollar on other eligible purchases (Annual Fee: $0) 4.1 / 5
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card  (not currently available) Travel with no annual fee 1.5 points per $1 spent 4.3 / 5
Discover it® Miles (not currently available) First-year bonus Unlimited 1.5x miles per $1 spent 4.8 / 5

A closer look at Bankrate’s top travel credit cards

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 airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises 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.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Why we rate it best for wide acceptance

You can transfer your points to a wide selection of domestic and international airline and hotel partners, including Southwest, United, Marriott Bonvoy and IHG, all at a 1:1 ratio. The card also carries no foreign transaction fee and, as a Visa card, enjoys broader international acceptance than you’ll find with American Express or Discover.

Pro-tip

You start earning 3X points on travel purchases only after you’ve used up your $300 annual travel credit, so make travel purchases early in the year in order to maximize your rewards. Also, keep in mind that you can boost the value of your points by 50 percent when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

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

Platinum Card from American Express

Why we rate it 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.

Annual Fee: $550

Read the review and apply on the American Express 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 calendar 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.

Annual Fee: $250

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

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (not currently available)

Why we rate it best for multiple rewards categories

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express card earns 3X points in many of the categories you would expect for a travel rewards card, including flights and hotels and rental cars. What’s unusual is the 3X points you earn for purchases that aren’t strictly travel-related, including popular streaming services and eating out and dining in. The expanded range of categories helps you earn more points at more places — with a card that doesn’t charge an annual fee.

Pro-tip

Under the Go Far® Rewards program, you can’t transfer points to airline or hotel loyalty programs. Despite this limited flexibility, you can earn bonus rewards on every purchase by shopping at the Earn More Mall®.

Read the full review and apply on Wells Fargo’s secure website.

The information related to the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card has been collected by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

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.

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.

Annual Fee: $550

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

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card 

Why we rate it best for flexible travel

The VentureOne offers 1.25X miles per dollar spent to the Venture’s 2X miles per dollar spent but mirrors it’s sister card in flexible travel redemptions — any airline, any hotel, anytime. 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.

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

Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

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

The Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card 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 restaurants worldwide, 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 no longer charges a foreign transaction fee. If any of your Delta flights take you overseas, be sure to use this card on all of your restaurant dining abroad.

Annual Fee: $0

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

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card (not currently available)

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 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® 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 on purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center portal.

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

The information about the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card  has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Discover it® Miles (not currently available)

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.

The information about the Discover it Miles has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

What is a travel credit card?

Travel credit 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 credit cards won’t just help you foot the bill for your next flight — they’ll 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 customers.

Categories of travel rewards credit cards

As with other types of cards, travel credit cards offer you a lot of variety to choose from. To zero in on which card might best fit your needs, consider the different categories of travel cards.

General travel cards

Issued by a credit card company, bank or other financial business, a general-purpose travel card typically offers the most flexibility for how you choose to travel and redeem your rewards. The easiest option is to redeem rewards directly through the issuer’s travel program, which ensures they’ll always have the same value. However, some cards also let you transfer rewards to the issuer’s travel partners (usually airlines and hotel chains but sometimes cruise lines as well).

Examples: Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card (not currently available)

Ideal for: Travelers who want flexibility in earning and redeeming their rewards and aren’t necessarily loyal to particular airlines or hotels

Co-branded airline cards

A travel card co-branded by an airline and a credit card issuer is known as an airline rewards card. You can earn miles or points by using the card to book flights with the airline, make in-flight purchases and so on. You redeem the rewards through the airline’s loyalty program.

Examples: Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, United MileagePlus® Club Card

Ideal for: Travelers exclusively loyal to a certain airline

Co-branded hotel cards

A co-branded hotel credit card is similar to an airline card, except with a hotel chain instead of an airline. Likewise, using the card to book stays at the hotel’s properties earns points that you redeem through the hotel loyalty program.

Examples: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa

Ideal for: Travelers exclusively loyal to a certain hotel chain

Consumer cards and business cards

A number of general-purpose and co-branded cards offer two versions: one for personal travel and another for business travel. Like business credit cards in general, business travel cards tend to offer higher credit limits and rewards categories geared toward business expenses.

No foreign transaction fee cards

A no foreign transaction fee credit card can be considered a travel card, a consumer card, a business card, or even a combination of any of the three. Its defining characteristic is that it doesn’t charge currency-related fees on eligible purchases from sellers outside the United States, whether in-person or online. The lack of foreign transaction fees makes these cards well-suited for international travelers.

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.

Card Tricks: How to earn travel rewards for non-hotel stays

Airbnb and VRBO offer travelers the feeling of a home away from home, but that’s not all. You can also earn miles or points with these popular vacation rental options when you book your stay with a travel rewards card.

Had to cancel your trip? Find out how to get a refund for an Airbnb cancellation.

Survey finds a great deal of travel rewards are left on the table

If you’re not utilizing your travel rewards credit card to the fullest, you’re probably forfeiting travel rewards that could be worth hundreds of dollars every year.

That’s one of the conclusions from a recent Bankrate.com survey on American consumers’ preferred payment methods. Overall, the survey found that 55 percent of rewards credit cardholders who pay their bills in full each month fail to use their cards to pay for purchases that could be earning travel rewards. Their mistake is in using cash or a debit card instead of their rewards card.

Rewards category Paid with debit card/cash
Groceries 44%
Restaurants 43%
Gas stations 37%
Airfare 15%
Hotel 16%

How to budget and save using a travel credit card

Travel means a lot more than vacations. Many people travel for business, and even some family trips serve a dual purpose (parents and their college-bound teens checking out campuses, for example).

What do these 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 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 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.

Frequently asked questions about travel points and policies

How can I earn miles without traveling?

Whether you’re worried that scaling back travel could lead to your elite status and miles expiring, or you simply don’t want to miss out on valuable rewards opportunities, you have options for maximizing rewards even at home. Fortunately, most major airlines are offering elite status and mile extensions — many through the end of 2021.

The easiest solution is a flat-rate travel card you can use on everyday purchases. For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards card earns 2X miles on everything, travel-related or not.

Review your travel card’s terms and conditions for opportunities to earn rewards without boarding a plane or leaving the house. Some cards earn 2X to 4X miles/points on dining and take-out from restaurants. Even eligible delivery services can earn rewards depending on the network’s merchant category codes.

For instance, not only does the American Express Gold Card offer 4X points on restaurants (including select delivery services), but you can also earn up to $120 annually in dining credit (enrollment required) by using the card to pay for services like Grubhub and Seamless. The Platinum Card from American Express is one of the best credit cards for Uber since it offers up to $200 in Uber credit each year, including up to $35 in December for both rides and UberEats orders.

Should I use miles on anything other than travel?

Generally, no. Miles are most valuable when redeemed toward booking travel, but a few other options exist that you might consider in a pinch, depending on your card’s redemption choices. For instance, Capital One miles keep their full value if you redeem them for gift cards, but they lose 50 percent of their value when redeemed for cash back.

Save your miles or even pool your travel points unless they’re near expiration. You shouldn’t have to worry about expiration unless you’re planning on closing your card, though, since most issuers’ miles are good for the life of your account. Otherwise, try to redeem for rewards with a 1:1 value like gift cards to maximize your miles.

Do travel cards reimburse you for trip cancellation?

Your canceled flight or trip refund hinges on a few factors: whether the flight/trip is refundable, whether your travel insurance covers it and whether your card issuer accepts the circumstances of your cancellation.

If the trip was refundable or you had outside travel insurance with a cancel-for-any-reason policy, you’re covered. Otherwise, your first step is to contact the airline, cruise or travel company for a refund and cancellation fee waiver — especially if you booked a flight with that airline’s frequent flyer miles. You may also find success with your issuer if you booked with your credit card or its rewards.

The best-case scenario is that you used one of the best credit cards for travel insurance. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s trip cancellation/interruption insurance (up to $20,000 per trip) and emergency evacuation coverage (up to $100,000) could get you home safe and reimbursed. If your card has similar insurance or you booked with rewards, your refund may depend on whether your cancellation circumstances fall within the refund terms.

Luckily, many airlines and cruise lines are currently offering generous cancellation reimbursements and cancellation/change fee waivers to help get your money back.

How we chose our list of top travel rewards cards

Bankrate evaluates credit cards on a 5-point 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:

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, loans, mortgages and other personal finance products for Bankrate since 2018. His work has also appeared on websites including Nasdaq.com, Zillow.com and The Simple Dollar. He was previously an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

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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.