Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Purchase APR: 17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Purchase APR: 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Purchase APR: 15.99%-22.99% Variable
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.
  • Welcome Offer: Unlimited Bonus: Only Discover will automatically match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There's no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Purchase APR: 11.99% - 22.99% Variable
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
  • Welcome Offer: 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Purchase APR: 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases. Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Welcome Offer: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Purchase APR: See Pay Over Time APR
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery, plus, earn 4X points for Uber Eats purchases too. 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 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
  • Purchase APR: See Pay Over Time APR
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out. 1 point per $1 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 $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Purchase APR: 16.99%-23.99% Variable
  • Recommended Credit Score: Excellent  (740 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply
Top Features
  • Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases. Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on grocery store purchases - now through 12/31/21. Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Welcome Offer: Receive 50,000 online bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Purchase APR: 15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Recommended Credit Score: Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Some of the offers on this page may have expired.

The information about the Citi Prestige® Card, Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.


In the News Today: 6 Tips for First Time Flyers

Flying for the first time can be daunting, expensive and complicated. Our team has identified 6 tips for first-time flyers to make the process easier and more affordable. Check out these tips, plus the credit cards that can help ease the process, in the full article by credit card expert, Ana Staples.


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.

A travel rewards credit card can also provide:

  • Benefits that make the journey more convenient, such as priority boarding
  • Insurance against the unexpected, including trip cancellations and lost luggage
  • A touch of luxury, with airport lounge access and room upgrades

Bankrate experts offer an in-depth look at the best travel credit cards available from our partners, as well as general advice on getting the very most out of your travel experience.

In this guide:

Compare the best travel credit cards of 2021

 

Card Name Best for Rewards rate Bankrate review score
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Overall travel 2x miles per every dollar spent 4.7 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card Flexible travel miles with no annual fee 1.25x miles per dollar on every purchase 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Your first travel card 2x points per $1 spent on dining and travel;
1x points on everything else
4.8 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Miles Best first-year miles bonus 1.5x miles for every dollar on every purchase 4.8 / 5
(Read full card review)
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Qualifying travel purchases 1.5x points on qualifying purchases 4.3 / 5
(Read full card review)
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
(Read full card review)
American Express® Gold Card Travel rewards on dining 4X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide (Annual Fee: $250) 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Best for extra points value 3X points on dining and travel worldwide immediately after earning your $300 travel credit and 1X points on everything else 5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card Bank of America travel card 2 points on travel and dining purchases; 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, earn 2 points for every $1 spent on grocery store purchases – now through 12/31/21. 4.6 / 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

  • This card is best for: Those who want to earn flat-rate rewards on all eligible purchases, even those not directly related to travel, and the option of transferring their rewards to travel partners.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who’s fiercely loyal to a single airline or hotel chain.
  • Is this card worth it? The $95 fee isn’t unreasonable compared with many competing travel cards, and you get some valuable Visa Signature perks.
  • Compare this card with: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Read our Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Best for flexible travel miles with no annual fee

  • This card is best for: Those with modest travel schedules who don’t want to worry about maximizing rewards to offset an annual fee.
  • This card is not a great choice for: If you fly exclusively with one airline or stay exclusively at one hotel chain, you can probably get more value out of a co-branded airline or hotel card.
  • Is this card worth it? Although it’s not a premium-level card, budget-minded travelers who want the flexibility of transferring points to travel partners might find it suitable.
  • Compare this card with: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Read our Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best for your first travel card

  • This card is best for: Anyone who wants to explore the ins and outs of travel credit cards, with rewards and benefits that also make it a practical experience.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Those who want premium travel perks such as airport lounge access or free checked bags.
  • Is this card worth it? The rewards program makes it fairly easy to get your money’s worth with this card (plus 25 percent points value when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards online portal).
  • Compare this card with: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Read our Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

American Express® Gold Card

Best for travel rewards on dining

  • This card is best for: Travelers who, like an army, travel on their stomachs. The rewards rate on dining at restaurants worldwide and Uber Eats sets the table for earning a lot of points.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Those who want flexibility in booking flights without sacrificing rewards. This card’s 3X rate on travel applies only to flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • Is this card worth it? On one hand, it has a $250 annual fee. On the other hand, it has generous rewards rates, up to $120 in annual dining credits (enrollment required) and up to $120 in annual Uber Cash toward U.S. Rides and U.S. Eats orders, among other perks (add your card to your Uber app account and you’ll automatically get $10 in Uber Cash that expire at the end of each month).
  • Compare this card with: The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Read our American Express® Gold Card review.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Best for qualifying travel purchases

  • This card is best for: Anyone who prefers a broader definition of “travel expense.” With this card, purchases redeemable for statement credits include zoos, art galleries, aquariums, travel agencies and more.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Travelers who want luxury perks and special rewards categories that offer bonus rates (this card earns 1.5 points per $1 on all qualifying purchases).
  • Is this card worth it? The broad range of travel purchases redeemable for statement credits is a nifty wrinkle. However, some travelers will prefer a more high-octane card even if it charges an annual fee, which this one doesn’t.
  • Compare this card with: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Read our Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card review.

Discover it® Miles

Best for earning unlimited miles

  • This card is best for: Travelers who dislike complex redemption programs and are content to redeem for statement credits they can apply to recent travel purchases.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Anyone who wants the higher rewards rates and richer perks that come with a premium travel card.
  • Is this card worth it? It’s simple, the miles you can earn are unlimited and there’s no annual fee. The Discover it Miles is a good choice if you prefer function over flash.

Read our Discover it® Miles review.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Best for international travel

  • This card is best for: People who want high-level perks, such as access to a worldwide network of luxurious airport lounges, to take the edge off of international travel.
  • This card is not a great choice for: People who never (or rarely) venture overseas and view travel as transportation, not an experience.
  • Is this card worth it? The $550 annual fee really grabs your attention, but the Fine Hotels & Resorts® benefits have an average total value of (you guessed it) $550. Keep in mind, that perk is just one of several ways to offset the fee.
  • Compare this card with: Citi Prestige® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Read our The Platinum Card® from American Express review.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

Best Bank of America travel card

  • This card is best for: Frequent travelers who are also Bank of America Preferred Rewards members.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Those who want premium travel perks such as airport lounge access and don’t want their choice of bank to dictate their choice of travel card.
  • Is this card worth it? Membership in the Preferred Rewards program (which involves having sizable deposit or investment accounts with BofA) is the key to unlocking this card’s maximum value. If that doesn’t apply to you, the travel card market has many appealing alternatives.

Read our Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card review.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Best for extra points value

  • This card is best for: Travelers who want maximum points value with only one small string attached: You can boost the value of your points by 50 percent when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Casual, infrequent travelers uninterested in the mental calculations required to balance the value of rewards and perks against a $550 annual fee
  • Is this card worth it? If you’re a serious traveler looking for a serious rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve (with the highest possible Bankrate Score of 5.0) is one of the industry’s all-stars.
  • Compare this card with: The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Read our Chase Sapphire Reserve® review.

How to choose a travel credit card

As with other types of cards, travel credit cards offer a lot of variety to choose from. If it seems like too much variety, you can easily narrow down the options by focusing on who you are as a traveler and a consumer. Here’s how:

If you value flexibility over brand loyalty…

General-purpose travel cards are issued by a credit card company, bank or other financial business. They offer the most flexibility for earning and redeeming your rewards. This type of card isn’t tied to a single airline or hotel chain, so you’re free to fly who you want and stay where you want.

You earn rewards by using the card to make eligible purchases, which are often directly related to travel (airfare, hotel rooms, etc.) but sometimes include non-travel purchases as well.

You can 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 include: Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, American Express® Gold Card, Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

If you’re loyal to a particular airline or hotel chain…

In some cases, a credit card issuer partners with an airline or a hotel chain to offer a co-branded travel card. The most common examples are airline rewards cards and hotel rewards cards. You earn air miles by using an airline card to book flights with the partner airline, along with making in-flight purchases and other eligible purchases. A hotel card earns rewards much the same way, mainly by using the card to book hotel rooms.

You redeem your rewards through the airline’s or hotel chain’s loyalty program, usually for free or discounted flights or hotel stays. Although you can’t transfer miles or points, you don’t have to worry about the loss in value that sometimes accompanies the transfer process.

Examples include: Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, United MileagePlus® Club Card, Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa

If you’re traveling for business…

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.

Examples include: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, Capital One Spark Miles for Business, Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

How do points and miles work on travel credit cards?

How miles work

Miles work the same way as credit card points but differently from cash back. 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.

Learn more: How to earn frequent flyer miles

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). Here are the monthly airline mile valuations for March from The Points Guy:

(Note – These valuations are not provided by card issuers.)

Airline Miles Program March 2021 Value (cents)
Alaska Mileage Plan 1.8
American Airlines AAdvantage 1.4
Delta SkyMiles 1.1
Frontier Miles 1.1
HawaiianMiles 0.9
JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards 1.3
Southwest Rapid Rewards 1.5
United MileagePlus 1.3

How points work

Credit card points are typically awarded on a 1:1 value basis, 1 point for every $1 spent. Some points cards can be tiered — meaning you’ll earn more for certain purchases than others — and some cards are flat-rate — meaning you’ll earn the same amount of points for every purchase you make with the card.

When it comes to redeeming your points, you can trade in your points for travel-related purchases, such as airline tickets, hotel stays, upgraded seats and airport lounge access, as well as merchandise, gift cards, and even, in some cases, you donate your points to make a charitable donation. Each issuer will offer a different redemption structure, so keep track of how many points you’ve earned and what that translates to when redeeming your points.

Speaking of keeping track, be aware that miles and points can expire. A Bankrate survey found that almost half of travel loyalty program members have let airline or 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.

Here are the monthly hotel point valuations for March from The Points Guy:

(Note – These valuations are not provided by card issuers.)

Hotel Points Program March 2021 Value (cents)
Best Western Rewards 0.6
Hilton Honors 0.6
World of Hyatt Loyalty Program 1.7
IHG Rewards Club 0.5
Marriott Bonvoy 0.8
Radisson Rewards 0.4

Who should get a travel credit card?

There’s a card out there for every type of traveler. A travel credit card can be worthwhile for the following people:

Frequent travelers

Naturally, the ideal candidate for a travel card is someone who travels a lot — several flights and hotel stays every year. In some cases, though you don’t have to be a frequent traveler to reap the benefits of a travel rewards card. A number of cards offer good rewards rates on general purchases, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Card (2X miles earned for each $1 spent).

Travel beginners

You can take one of two routes here. The first is a card that has a straightforward rewards program and a simple redemption process, like the Discover it Miles card. If you’re interested in going beyond the basics, you can try your hand at the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

Fans of brands

Some people like to fly with the same airline whenever possible or stay at the same hotel brand wherever they go. If you belong to a loyalty program, a co-branded card will probably provide you with the best value. They often feature brand-related purchases as a bonus rewards category and other perks for loyal customers. For example, eligible Hilton purchases earn 7X points per dollar with the Hilton Honors American Express Card. The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card earns 3X miles on Delta Air Lines purchases.

Business travelers

Some of the most valuable travel credit cards are business cards. Whether you’re a freelancer on the go or the CEO of a Fortune 500, the right travel credit card can help you earn high rewards rates on everyday business purchases. Examples include the Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card and the Capital One Spark Miles for Business.

International travelers

If you travel out of the country frequently, a card with no foreign transaction fees like the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve help you avoid extra costs on overseas purchases. And if you hate waiting in line at airport security or customs, a lot of travel cards provide statement credits to reimburse you for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees, including the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

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.

Travel credit cards vs. cash back credit cards

Credit card rewards generally come in two varieties: cash back or travel. It’s obvious that frequent travelers are better suited for travel credit cards, while those who tend to “staycation” wouldn’t find much value in points and miles. But there are more considerations you should make before applying — which type of rewards is worth more? Which is easier to manage?

You should get a travel credit card if…

  • You purchase plane tickets or hotel stays several times per year.
  • You want to strategically maximize the value of your rewards.
  • You don’t mind doing some research to understand the rewards system, including transfer partners and various redemption options.
  • Comparing and calculating the value of redemption options to find the best deals sounds like a fun challenge that’s worth the effort.
  • You’re comfortable with paying an annual fee (in many cases) in exchange for higher rewards rates and travel perks, such as airport lounge access or free checked bags.

You should get a cash back credit card if…

  • You don’t fly or stay in hotels very often.
  • You plan to use your card only occasionally.
  • You value a straightforward, easy-to-understand rewards system.
  • You like to know exactly how much your spending earns you in rewards value.
  • You want to avoid an annual fee (in many cases) without sacrificing a great rewards rate.

Read more: Cash back vs. points and miles credit cards

Survey finds many cardholders missing out on rewards offers

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing travelers and restaurant-goers to become homebodies last year, credit card issuers responded by adjusting their rewards programs. However, many cardholders might be missing their chance at upgraded rewards on everyday purchases as opposed to traveling and dining out.

A recent Bankrate.com survey on American consumers’ preferred payment methods found that 31% of rewards credit cardholders who pay their bills in full each month didn’t redeem any rewards in 2020.

By not redeeming, cardholders failed to capitalize on changes to rewards programs adopted by many credit card issuers. For example, travel cards that normally earn their highest rates on purchases such as airfare and hotels expanded their rewards categories to include groceries, gas, take-out delivery or streaming services.

“Many credit card issuers leaned hard into groceries, food delivery, streaming services and other everyday categories in 2020, so it’s easier than ever to earn and burn rewards for routine expenses,” said Bankrate.com credit card analyst Ted Rossman.

Also, a number of issuers changed their redemption policies so that cardholders could receive better value for redeeming travel rewards as cash back.

So if you’ve let your travel rewards credit card gather dust or neglected to redeem any rewards, you might have left money on the table.

CardSmart: Travel pro-tips for maximum value

Expert advice on choosing and using credit cards from Bankrate

Some travel cards provide all the value you’re looking for, but in some cases you might want to try a new wrinkle to make your travel dollar go even further. Here are some travel pro-tips on maximizing the value of your travel card and travel rewards:

Some cards go better together

Pairing a travel card with a cash back card or rewards card can create a lucrative combination. For instance, you can pair the Chase Sapphire Preferred with the Chase Freedom Unlimited and transfer points to the Sapphire Preferred for maximum value when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Look for second-stage benefits

A lot of travel card benefits are automatic, meaning that you become eligible when you sign up for the card. In some cases, though, you might be able to expand on an automatic benefit when you reach another eligibility threshold.

Here’s an example using the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card. Cardholders get one free weekend night reward automatically. However, you can also earn a second free weekend night reward if you spend $15,000 with the card in a calendar year. And any free night awards you earn through the end of the year can be used on any night — not just weekend nights.

Remember to enroll and activate

Check your card’s terms and conditions to see which benefits require activation or enrollment. You might have to enroll online or call a toll-free number to enroll by phone.

For example, with The Platinum Card® from American Express, make sure to activate the Airline Fee Credit on the American Express website. You’ll also need to enroll on the Amex website for Hilton Honors Gold status and call 800-525-3355 for Marriott Bonvoy Gold status.

Is credit card travel insurance enough coverage?

There’s one school of thought that says you can never have enough insurance. When it comes to travel insurance, however, does the coverage included with certain credit cards provide adequate protection?

On the plus side, a number of credit cards offer travel insurance coverage to cardholders at no extra cost. Some of the best credit cards for travel insurance cover a number of potential mishaps, including:

  • Trip cancellation, delay or interruption
  • Lost, damaged or delayed baggage
  • Theft or collision damage involving rental cars
  • Emergency medical or dental treatment

Depending on the card, your insurance coverage could range from the commonplace (roadside assistance for car trouble) to the catastrophic (emergency evacuations). If you feel that level of protection isn’t enough, though, you do have the option of buying additional travel coverage for a specific trip.

Supplement policies are available from large insurance carriers, smaller companies that specialize in travel insurance and travel agents. Just keep in mind that the additional coverage means additional cost. And like any type of insurance, including the coverage already offered by your credit card, supplemental travel insurance explicitly defines what’s covered and what isn’t. Review the coverage documents thoroughly before buying — and don’t make assumptions.

For those concerned about the coronavirus affecting their travel plans, you could be reimbursed for a trip cancellation if you receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Again, everything depends on what your policy covers.

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.

Travel insurance options

When it comes to travel, there’s nothing more important than peace of mind. By highlighting all of the added perks that a card offers — including the option for travel insurance — you’ll know about the protection you’re being offered before you apply.

Find out more about rewards cards for travelers


Video guide: What is a travel credit card?



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.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

* 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.