Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5X 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
  • 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
Intro offer
75,000 miles 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
17.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for qualifying travel purchases

Apply now
On Bank of America's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 1.5X 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.
Intro offer
25,000 points 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for mid-level travel perks

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3x 3x on dining.
  • 2x 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Intro offer
60,000 points 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
17.49% - 24.49% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for flexible travel miles with no annual fee

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5X 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
  • 1.25X Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.
Intro offer
20,000 miles 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.49% - 26.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for travel rewards on dining

Apply now
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
See if you're pre‐approved for this card with CardMatch™
Rewards rate
  • 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® Points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
Intro offer
60,000 points 
Annual fee
$250
Regular APR
18.24%-25.24% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

BEST VALUE FOR PREMIUM TRAVEL

Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 10X Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5X 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
  • 2X Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
Intro offer
75,000 miles 
Annual fee
$395
Regular APR
18.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Excellent (740 - 850)
Apply now
On American Express's secure site
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
See if you're pre‐approved for this card with CardMatch™
Rewards rate
  • 5X Earn 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 Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
Intro offer
Earn 100,000 points 
Annual fee
$695
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for travel rewards on everyday purchases

Apply now
On Citi's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • 3X Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • 1X Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Intro offer
80,000 points 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
18.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for travel redemptions

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 10x Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 5x Earn 5x total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 3x Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • 1x Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Intro offer
60,000 points 
Annual fee
$550
Regular APR
18.49% - 25.49% Variable
Recommended credit
Excellent (740 - 850)

Best Bank of America travel card

Apply now
On Bank of America's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 2X Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases
  • 1.5X Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
Intro offer
50,000 points 
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best first-year miles bonus

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 1.5X Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.
Intro offer
Discover Match® 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

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 Credit One Bank® Wander™ Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

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 4.6 / 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 4.2 / 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 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 4.2 / 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 4.8 / 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 4.9 / 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.

100,000 points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months $695 4.9 / 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 4.6 / 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)
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 4.2 / 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 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Credit One Bank Wander Card 5X points on eligible Recreational & Amusement Park purchases.

3X on eligible restaurant & lodging purchases.

1X points on all other purchases.

$80 statement credit toward a qualifying National Park Pass after paying for it within the first year $95 3.3 / 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: If you are ready to explore the realm of luxury travel rewards, the Capital One Venture X card is a great place to start. It comes with lounge access, statement credits and a sign-up bonus to help offset the $395 annual fee.
  • Compare this card with: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Learn more: Is the Capital One Venture Reward Card worth it?
Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 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.
  • Compare this card with: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit 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.

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.
  • Compare this card with: Citi Premier Card.

Learn more: How the Chase Sapphire Preferred pays for itself.
Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred 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.
  • Compare this card with: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

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.

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.
  • Compare this card with: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Learn more: Amex Business Gold Benefits Guide.
Read our full American Express Gold 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.
  • Compare this card with: Platinum Card from American Express

Learn more: Read our experts take on the Capital One Venture X.
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.
  • Compare this card with: Capital One Venture X and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Learn more: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express Benefits Guide.
Read our full The Platinum Card from American Express 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.
  • Compare this card with: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Learn more: Read our expert’s take on 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.
  • Compare this card with: Citi Premier Card.

Learn more: 5 Reasons to love the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.
Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve 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: Bank of America Premium Rewards Card Benefits Guide.
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: Read our experts take on the Discover It Miles.
Read our full Discover it Miles review or jump back to offer details.

Credit One Bank Wander Card: Best travel card for fair credit

  • What we love about the Wander Card: Even cardholders with fair credit are eligible for this card, which comes with unique travel-related perks like 5X points on eligible recreational and amusement park purchases (including national parks and professional sporting events).
  • Who this card is good for: People who can justify the card’s $95 annual fee by taking advantage of its select travel categories, which include eligible restaurant & lodging purchases. Plus, the card is open to people with average credit.
  • Travel benefits: You can earn a statement credit that covers the cost of a qualifying National Park Pass in your first year as a cardholder, as well as bonus rewards in niche categories that could hold unique value for family travel and road trips.
  • Alternatives: Depending on your spending habits, a general-purpose travel rewards card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card may be a better fit. For people with a wide range of spending habits, rewards will add up fast with the unlimited 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 2 miles per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

Read our full Credit One Bank Wander Card review or jump back to offer details.


In the news

Inflation is curbing the value of your dollar and adding financial stress to consumers across the country. While the federal reserve spikes interest rates to combat it, navigating your expenses is likely to grow more difficult, forcing many to find ways to cut expenses out of their budget—including vacations.

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.

Plus, some cards, namely the American Express Gold Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card and the Citi Premier Card have recently begun offering increased bonuses, which can help to further drive down the costs of travel. If a vacation is an important part of your life, now may be the perfect time to sign up for one of these travel cards

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.

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Bankrate insight
When researching a new travel card, look beyond the obvious features like the sign-up bonus and APR. The top cards will feature benefits that give the card better long-term value and give you additional savings and peace of mind. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your travel credit card, check out travel expert Ariana Arghandewal’s article on the top 5 travel credit card perks to look for in 2022.

Different types of travel rewards 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.

How do credit card points and miles work?

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

Types of credit card points and miles

Credit card points and travel miles come in a variety of forms, including:

  • Points or miles tied to a specific airline through a frequent flyer program
  • Points or miles redeemable for travel purchases with a number of different airlines and hotels
  • Points or miles that are worth more when they’re redeemed through a credit card company’s online travel booking portal.

When using a co-branded credit card the airline—not the card issuer—sets the number of miles needed to reach the various levels of a loyalty rewards program. With these types of cards, customers who frequently use a specific airline will see the most value. If you’re not partial to any particular airline, a general travel or miles credit card would serve you best.

How to redeem points and miles

Common ways of redeeming points and air miles include:

  • To book free or discounted flights
  • To book free or discounted hotel stays with particular chains
  • As a statement credit to cover past travel expenses
  • Transferring to loyalty and partner programs
  • As cash back, gift cards and merchandise

The best way to redeem your points or miles will depend on which cards you carry, the redemption options they offer and the value you can get out of your points with each option. Transferring from an issuer program to an airline rewards program will often help you maximize the value of your points, but if you’d rather not wade into those sometimes-confusing waters, redemption through an issuer’s travel portal will likely get you a solid redemption value of at least 1 cent per point.

Some issuers even offer a value boost when you redeem through their portal. A great example is the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal: Your Chase points are worth 25 percent to 50 percent more when you redeem for travel through the portal, depending on the card you hold.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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Bankrate insight
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 if you book your stay with travel cards that reward eligible vacation rentals.

How to make a travel card work for you

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 these questions in mind.

  • Do you have an airline or hotel preference? 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.
  • Does the card offer the travel protections you need? 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.
  • Can you offset the annual fee? If you have a luxury travel card, chances are high that the card carries a steep annual fee. A card’s high cost can typically be offset by lucrative rewards and added perks, such as airport lounge access and free checked bags. Before you receive a bill for your card’s annual fee, calculate whether it’s still worthwhile. Compare the cost of the annual fee to the value you receive from rewards, statement credit offers and added perks that you actually plan to use.
  • Does the card offer a 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.
  • Do you want more travel rewards or 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.

A beginner’s guide to travel hacking with credit cards

Travel hacking with credit cards is the practice of signing up for a travel credit card with plenty of benefits and a high rewards rate to collect free or discounted airfare, hotel stays or transportation when traveling. Many people use unique methods with travel credit cards to finance trips of a lifetime.

Be sure you can qualify for the welcome bonus. The best travel credit cards will offer sizable welcome offers to attract customers. These generous sign-up bonuses—which can range between 30,000 to 100,000 points—typically come with spending requirements that cardholders must meet to obtain the welcome offer.

Get the right card. With rewards credit cards, not all purchases are rewarded in the same way. If you’re going to sign up for a travel credit card to get free or discounted travel, be sure that the card rewards purchases that are in line with your everyday spending habits.

Avoid credit card churning. Credit card churning is when someone frequently applies for and opens new credit cards in order to obtain the welcome bonus with no intention to use the card long-term. Many card companies have strict rules about card churning and it can impact your credit score negatively.

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Bankrate insight
Despite COVID-19 still being a concern, travel is not slowing down. The TSA tally of passengers for the first few days of 2022 saw a 54 percent increase of travelers compared to 2021. After nearly two years of compromised or canceled travel plans, 40 percent of respondents to an Expedia survey say they’re ready to splurge on trips to give themselves the experience of a lifetime in 2022.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Find out more about rewards cards for travelers

Several travel rewards cards come with additional perks and benefits that add value to the card beyond what you earn back with rewards.

Some cards include TSA PreCheck or CLEAR credits that give you complimentary access to airport security perks while others may come with limited-time promotions that increase the card’s value. There are also plenty of rewards programs through airlines, hotels and credit card issuers that overlap with one another with transferable points. Depending on your card issuer, you may also have a rewards portal that sometimes includes boosted rewards rates.

Check out our latest travel advice for expansive guides on rewards programs, benefits and how best to maximize your travel rewards credit card.


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.

Editorial Disclosure: All information about Credit One Bank Wander card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

Travel credit card frequently asked questions

about the author
Former 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.
about the editor
Mariah Ackary is a personal finance editor who joined the Bankrate team in 2019, excited by the opportunity to help people make good financial decisions. Send your questions to mackary@bankrate.com

* 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.