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Best Travel Credit Cards

February 2024

If you love to get away, a travel rewards card could be your best friend. The right card can land you free flights, hotels, and more, adding up to thousands in savings. Savvy cardholders also score valuable perks, such as free passes to airport lounges, free checked baggage, hotel upgrades, and priority boarding at no extra cost.
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With travel credit cards, you'll earn points or miles that you can redeem for travel expenses. If there is a specific airline or hotel chain that you are fiercely loyal to, you'll want to consider one of their branded cards to maximize rewards. If not, a general-purpose travel card will probably be your best bet. General purpose travel cards give you flexible rewards that you can use without the restrictions and blackout dates of branded cards.
But which travel credit card is the best? Below is the list of best travel credit cards as determined by SuperMoney community reviews and our algorithms. Read on to find out what to look for, what to avoid, and how to choose a travel credit card. Plus, we’ll show you the very best travel rewards cards for every kind of spender.

FAQs on Travel Rewards Credit Card

How do travel rewards credit cards work?

Almost all travel rewards credit cards work on a points-based system. You earn one point (or mile) for each dollar that you spend at the most basic level. However, you can usually earn extra points for certain purchases. How much you earn, and what you earn extra points for, depends on what type of loyalty program you are enrolled in and which credit card you are using.
Not all points and miles earned on travel rewards credit cards are the same:
  • General-purpose travel credit cards — including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the American Express® Gold Card and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card — give you rewards that can be used like cash to pay for travel or that can be exchanged for points in airline or hotel loyalty programs. With their flexible rewards, general-purpose options are usually the best travel credit cards for those who don't stick to a single airline or hotel chain.
  • Airline- and hotel-specific cards — such as the Gold Delta SkyMiles From American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express Card — give points and miles that can be used only with the brand on the card. (Although it's possible in some cases to transfer hotel points to airlines, we recommend against it because you get a poor value.) These so-called co-branded cards are usually the best travel credit cards for those who always fly one particular airline or stay with one hotel group.

Why choose a travel reward credit card?

Travel credit cards are best for frequent travelers, who are more likely to get enough value from rewards and perks to make up for the annual fees that the best travel credit cards charge. (Some travel cards charge no annual fee, but they tend to offer lesser rewards than full-fee cards.)

How do you find the right travel rewards credit card for your lifestyle?

Before you start researching credit card options, you need to take inventory of your spending. This way, you'll find a card that matches your spending habits.
Let’s say you spend $1000 per month and average 2 points per dollar spent. You’ll rack up 2,000 points per month or 24,000 points in a year. Pair that with the 50,000-point sign-up bonus of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, and you'll be ziplining through the rainforests of Costa Rica within the year.
Ready to get started? Ask yourself the following questions:
  • How much do you typically spend (and fully pay off) on credit cards in a month? This will help you determine what travel sign-up bonuses will work best for you. Many require you to reach a spending threshold within the first few months to get the bonus.
  • Where do you spend your money? Some of the best travel rewards cards give bonus points for categories like dining or entertainment. For example, for those who like to go out, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers triple points for dining out and entertainment.
  • How much do you spend in a month? Knowing your average monthly expenditures will help you get great sign-up bonuses. It will also help you earn more in rewards than you pay in annual fees.
  • Is there someone else in your household who could also be a cardholder? Several credit card companies offer bonus points for additional cardholders. Plus, you’ll have someone else to boost you toward that sign-up bonus.
  • What can you expect to spend on credit cards in a year? This helps estimate your annual rewards. If a card’s annual fee is higher than your expected annual rewards, you’ll lose money even if you pay off your bill on time.

What in general should you look for in a travel card?

The travel card market is filled with tantalizing sign-up bonuses, enticing reward structures, and perks that can put your next trip over the top. So, how do you choose the right one for you?
There are lots of great options for frequent travelers. Find a travel credit card with a sign-up bonus that you can attain and pay off. Going into debt for extra points will negate the perks of even the best card. Everyone spends differently, so choose a travel card that will maximize your points where you spend your money. Likewise, if you enjoy certain hotel chains or airlines, consider a travel card from those brands. Below are some key things to remember:
  • Make sure the sign-up bonus is attainable. You can easily negate a sign-up bonus by outspending your income and getting charged interest as you pay the card off.
  • Find out if the annual fee changes after the first year. If your spending habits net you $200 in travel rewards each year, don’t get a card with a $200 annual fee.
  • Make sure the rewards fit your lifestyle. When evaluating cards, look at both how they earn rewards and how you can redeem those rewards. Some cards offer higher rewards on travel spending and a lower base rate (usually 1%) on everything else. If you love to dine out, find a card that gives you extra points when you do, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. Other cards pay the same rate on all spending. Look for at least 2% rewards on a card with an annual fee and 1.5% on a no-fee card. As a general rule, avoid cards that give you less than 1 cent per point or mile when you redeem.
  • Understand how you will use the rewards. If you are loyal to certain airlines and hotel chains, consider a travel card from those brands. If you don't care about the brand, consider a general travel rewards card that gives you more places to redeem your points. The Capital One Venture Rewards Card lets you redeem your travel purchases as a statement refund, while the Citi Prestige Card lets you book on any airline through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center.
  • The points should be easy to redeem.According to AICPA, only 15% of all Americans have used points to pay for a trip. Meanwhile, 14% have gone into debt for a trip. Make your credit card work for you, not the other way around. And remember, one point is generally equal to $0.01 in rewards.
  • Using multiple cards? Choose ones that complement each other. If you're going to use more than one travel credit card, make sure they work well together! For example, if you have a card that provides high reward rates on dining and travel, combine it with a card that has high rates on gas and groceries.

Should you apply for multiple travel cards to get multiple signup bonuses?

Many of the best travel credit cards have annual fees. So if your plan is to sign up for multiple cards just for their bonuses you may end up with a lot of annual fees recurring every year on cards you don't use. You can cancel the accounts but you'll be hurting your future relationship with the issuer and potentially hurting your credit score when you do. Some travel rewards cards offer a signup bonus with no annual fees. In this case it could make sense to signup and earn the extra bonuses.
If your household spends $1,000 to $1,400 a month on expenses that can be paid with a credit card, you can realistically work through 4 travel cards within a year. After all, the average U.S. household spends$1,344 a month: $500 on food, $303 on healthcare, $250 on gas, $215 on entertainment, and $76 on car insurance. And that doesn’t include many other expenses you can charge to your card, such as utilities. If you use four of the cards in this list, you can earn over $2,000+ just in signup bonuses. That's a great start toward your next vacation stash.
Keep in mind that every additional credit card you open reduces the average age of your credit accounts. That said, if you have limited credit, more accounts are usually a good thing. So applying for multiple credit cards to earn multiple signup bonuses won’t ruin your credit score. In some cases, it might even help.
Never spend money just to meet a signup bonus threshold. The moment you spend more just to get points, you start working for your credit cards instead of having them work for you.
Make sure not to chase credit card rewards if you think you’ll be tempted to overspend. Find the best credit cards for your needs, with the most generous signup bonuses, and don’t get too carried away.

What do you get with a general travel credit card?

They're issued by a bank (such as Chase or Capital One), carry only that bank's name, and aren't tied to any single airline or hotel group. With these cards, you earn points on every purchase — usually 1 to 2 points per dollar spent, sometimes with additional points in certain categories. Issuers of general travel cards typically entice new applicants with big sign-up bonuses (also known as "welcome offers") — tens of thousands of miles that you can earn by spending a certain amount of money on the card in your first few months.

What do you get with an airline credit card?

Airline credit cards earn "miles" with each purchase. You typically get 1 mile per dollar spent, with a higher rate (2 or more miles per dollar) on purchases with the airline itself. (Some airline cards have also begun offering extra miles for purchases in additional categories, such as restaurants or car rental agencies.) These miles go into the same frequent-flyer account as the ones you earn by flying the airline, and you can redeem them for free flights with the airline or its alliance partners.

What are travel credit card points / miles worth?

General travel cards are pretty simple in that they have a fixed value, usually between 1 and 1.5 cents per point, and you can spend them like cash.
With airline miles and hotel points on the other hand, the true value can be a little less transparent. Additionally, the value you get for your points typically depends on how you redeem them. As a general rule, airline miles go further if you use them for business- and first-class accommodations on international flights.
The tables below show average point values derived from empirical research.
Average value per point/mile, in cents
AIRLINESDomesticInternational
Alaska1.21.1
American1.05.0
Delta1.42.7
Frontier0.81.1
JetBlue1.51.7
Southwest1.61.9
Spirit0.40.7
United1.33.3
Average value per point, in cents
HOTELSDomesticInternational
Best Western0.50.6
Choice0.70.8
Hilton0.40.4
Hyatt1.81.5
IHG0.60.5
Marriott0.80.7
Radisson0.30.3
Wyndham0.70.7

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