If you enjoy traveling, nothing else beats the prospect of heading to your ideal destination inexpensively (or better yet, for free).
Those travel credit cards on the market are there to satisfy your craving. They work on simple premises, i.e. by rewarding you in miles, points or cash for every dollar of your expenditure, which can apply to day-to-day items you need anyway, so you can speed up the accumulation of rewards rapidly.
Some of the top credit cards also provide special travel perks, like travel insurance, free check-in of your luggage, access to VIP airport lounges or hotel room upgrades.
Due to the great number of credit card issuers and their frequently changing travel card promotions, it is not easy for consumers to pinpoint the exact card that serves individuals well.
To get you through this maze, I have compiled some of the best travel credit cards here – measured by the attractiveness of individual rewards.
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1. Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Here, there is a point awarded for most purchases, double points for all dining and airfare related purchases, and triple points for travel booked through Chase’s site.
Each point is roughly worth one cent, or 1.25 cents for travel booked at their site.
Signup Bonus: You get 40,000 signup bonus points with $3,000 expenditure on the card – that translates to $500 travel expense – applicable for the first 3 months only!
Earning: For travel and dining expenses, you get 2 points per dollar. For all other purchases, you get 1 point per dollar.
Get 20% off airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Ultimate RewardsSM.
Receive a 7% Annual Points Dividend on all new points earned on purchases – regardless if these points have been previously redeemed.
1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs – that means 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points.
Unfettered access to expert advisory service, anytime of the day.
- Annual Fee: Zero annual fee for the first year, thereafter $95.
- Balance Transfer: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
- Cash Advance: Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
- ForeignTransaction: None.
2. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
The flexibility on offer here is hard to beat. This rewards card is well received by both hardcore travel hackers and newbies alike.
The reason is that it has excellent tie up with a number of hotels for their in-house promotions and it allows you to transfer points to airline miles across some 30 different airlines.
Signup Bonus: You can gather up to 25,000 bonus points easily: 10,000 points awarded after your first use the card and another 15,000 points after $5,000 expenditure inside the first 6 months of account opening
The above reward is sufficient for a weekend stay at a decent Category 4 Hotel.
Free Hotel Nights: you can redeem Starpoints across some 100 countries at over 1,100 hotels – with no blackout dates. Take note that certain hotels may impose service and resort charges.
Free Flights: redemption of Starpoints allow you access to over 350 airlines with SPG Flights – with no blackout dates.
No limits on Starpoints, you continue to gather points as you spend.
Terms and Restrictions apply.
- Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $65.
- Balance Transfer: $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
- Cash Advance: $5 or 3% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater.
- Foreign Transaction: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.
Barclaycard Arrival is a great option if you bother about travel related reimbursement when most would not convert these expenses into airline miles or hotel points, things such as train tickets or stays at boutique hotels.
There is also an air of exclusivity about these points as cardholders are guaranteed to be able to redeem for flights during peak periods, when your run of the mill airline award fail to do so.
Sign up Bonus: Sign up bonus of 40,000 points (worth $440) after spending $1,000.
Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on the card.
- Annual Fee: $89 – Waived first year
- Balance Transfer: Either $10 or 4% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
- Cash Advance: Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater.
- Foreign Transaction: None.
4. The Platinum Card® from American Express
If you are an avid international traveler, then this Platinum Card® from American Express will be just right for you.
The features embedded with this Platinum card are just simply too extensive to list out all.
To add to its aura, it has recently connected with Mercedes-Benz on co-branding arrangement, that luxury feel is hard to mistake.
Signup Bonus: Award you with 25,000 Membership Reward® points with $2,000 purchases on your new Card during the first three months of account opening.
Premium Access: Get special entry to exclusive international events from invitations to food festivals to VIP tickets at concerts.
One year of Amazon Prime free membership if you sign up with your new Card and satisfy the spending requirement during that specific time frame.
As an Amazon Prime member, you get unlimited Free Two-Day Shipping on millions of items on Amazon.com.
The no extra fee for foreign transactions applies across the board regardless of which country you make your purchases; so long you use your Platinum Card.
Terms and restrictions apply.
- Annual Fee: $450 (that’s ridiculous and the huge downside of this card)
- Foreign Transaction: None.
5. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The most innovative measure from this card is the two “miles” per dollar spent on all purchases.
You can redeem the Capital One’s miles as statement credits, so that helps to pay off travel related expense like airfare, hotel, and rental car charges.
Signup Bonus: 20,000 signup bonus miles with expenditure of $2,000 on your card, which translate to $200 in travel expense, applicable for the first 3 months only.
2 miles for every dollar spent, on all purchases.
Redeem your miles for any travel expense.
No limit on how much miles you can earn and no expiration for these miles.
Wide choice of airline, you can fly any time with no blackout dates.
- Annual Fee: No annual fee for the first year; thereafter $59
- Cash Advance: Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each cash advance, whichever is greater.
- Foreign Transaction: None.
Choosing the Right Card
We all have different needs and life styles. So, there is no one card that fits all. Thankfully, there are many options out there. But choosing one is hard. You have to weigh the pros and cons of travel reward cards and choose one with pros important to you and cons you don’t mid dealing with.
When it comes to choosing the right card, there are things you need to consider. Here are some of the most important questions you need to be asking yourself when choosing a travel card:
- Your Travel Pattern – Do you leave town often and prefer the same airline when traveling or you only travel occasionally and have a keen eye on steeply discounted airfare?
- More Rewards – Are there ways you could earn higher travel rewards, perhaps by your choice of destinations or categories?
- Points Expiration – Do the points or miles you earn expire?
- Flexibility – Are the travel or miles card flexible enough? Do they offer unrestricted travel and booking—with no limitations, blackout dates or seat restrictions?
- Restrictions – Is there a restriction on how you can earn your points or rewards?
It is worthwhile pointing out that no matter how lucrative the reward systems go, you as a cardholder can’t expect to have any savings if you don’t clear your balance every month and end up paying fees left and right. To make any kind of reward card – whether gas, airline or cash back credit cards – work for you, you have to avoid interest and other fees.
If this principle is difficult to uphold, your best bet is to find card with the lowest APR.
Nevertheless, if you have the discipline (and the means) to settle your outstanding balance in full every month, and you simply love traveling; it would only be prudent you get a card that yields maximum rewards.
Traveling is fun, and when there are travel rewards credit cards that help to facilitate and save your travel-related expense, use them! It is simply not cool to pay more than what is necessary.