15 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards – Reviews & Comparison
Travel rewards credit cards fall into several broad categories. First, airline rewards credit cards are designed to reward spending with specific airlines or airline partnerships. When purchasing airfare, in-flight incidentals, and possibly other travel-related items, cardholders earn points at accelerated rates. Once enough points are racked up, they can be redeemed for free or discounted flights, free or reduced baggage fees, and other goodies. Some airline rewards cards offer additional perks and benefits, such as airport lounge access, discounts with hotel partners, and bonus miles for reaching certain travel milestones.
Hotel credit cards focus their rewards firepower on hotel stays and related expenses. Many major hotel brands and brand families offer at least a handful of credit cards that reward cardholders for room, food, and incidental purchases (such as spa treatments) at properties they own. Many hotel rewards credit cards also accumulate points for everyday outlays, such as regular restaurant meals, gasoline, and supermarket purchases. Cardholders can redeem their points for free or discounted nights and other hotel expenses.
Lately, growing numbers of cash back credit cards have jumped into the travel rewards game. General-purpose cards often offer accelerated cash back earnings on gasoline, airfare, and restaurant purchases – all critical, and sometimes costly, expenses for frequent travelers. Cash back rewards can be redeemed for merchandise and gift cards purchased online, airfare and hotel stays purchased directly through providers, and actual cash or statement credits.
If you’re a frequent traveler, you likely stand to benefit from all of these card types. And if you own your own business, you can count on many consumer travel credit cards having small business credit card counterparts – often with additional features and benefits for small business owners. Whether you’re an individual or business customer, many come with attractive promotions and sign-up bonuses or welcome offers that can be hard for deal-seeking applicants to resist. Incidentally, we outline some of the best small business travel cards toward the bottom of this list.
Here’s a look at today’s best travel rewards credit cards.
2 Points per $1 Spent on Dining & Travel; One-to-One Transfer to Participating Frequent Flyer & Hotel Guest Programs
Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the most popular travel rewards credit cards around, and for good reason. It earns an unlimited 2 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on dining and travel purchases, plus 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. Like Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned with Sapphire Preferred to participating travel loyalty programs at a coveted one-to-one ratio.
Ultimate Rewards points are worth up to $0.0125 apiece when redeemed for travel purchases (such as airfare, hotels, cruises, and car rentals) through the Ultimate Rewards portal – a 25% boost to their cash redemption value. Points are worth $0.01 or less when redeemed for non-travel purchases and cash equivalents, such as gift cards, statement credits, direct deposits, checks, and physical merchandise.
Oh, and don’t miss Chase Sapphire Preferred Card’s awesome solid sign-up bonus. When you spend at least $4,000 in eligible purchases in 3 months, you get 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
2X miles per dollar on every purchase; 50,000 Miles bonus
Like Discover it Miles and BankAmericard Travel Rewards, Venture Rewards allows you to redeem points for statement credits on a wide range of travel purchases, including flights, rental cars, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, and incidental expenses. You can also redeem for general statement credits or paper checks.
This card has a very good early spend bonus: 50,000 bonus miles when you spend at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. That’s worth up to $500. Just be aware that the annual fee is $95 (waived in the first year).
3 Points per $1 Spent on Dining & Travel Worldwide; One-to-One Transfer to Participating Frequent Flyer & Hotel Guest Programs; $300 Annual Travel Credit
The information for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card has been collected independently by Money Crashers. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Chase Sapphire Reserve is an exclusive card designed for frequent travelers who enjoy flying and staying in style. If you can earn rewards quickly enough to offset the $450 annual fee, this is one of the best travel cards you can carry in your wallet – period.
Highlights include a generous sign-up bonus worth up to $750 when redeemed for travel, a $300 annual travel credit, access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, and a one-to-one point transfer program that boasts some of the world’s top travel vendors, including Southwest Airlines and the Intercontinental Hotel Group. When you transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned with your Sapphire Reserve card to participating loyalty programs, you get an equivalent number of points – 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points becomes 1,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, and so on.
Everyday spending pays off with Sapphire Reserve too. This card earns an unlimited 3 Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on dining and travel purchases. All other eligible purchases earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent. Ultimate Rewards points are worth up to $0.015 apiece when redeemed for travel purchases (with no blackout dates or seat restrictions) through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Other redemption methods, such as statement credits and gift cards, are worth $0.01 per point or less.
5x Membership Rewards Points Per $1 Spent; Travel Benefits Worth $1,000+ Annually
The Platinum Card’s rewards scheme is almost beside the point. Yes, eligible airfare purchases made directly with the airline and airfare and prepaid hotel purchases made through the American Express Travel portal earn unlimited 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent, and all other purchases earn unlimited 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Among other perks, this card comes with complimentary elite status (Gold) in 2 popular travel loyalty programs: Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton Honors. It boasts an annual $200 airline fee credit with the airline of your choice, and up to $200 in annual credits on Uber rides. Cardholders enjoy complimentary access to more than 1,100 airport lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection?, the world’s largest airport lounge league. Stays at Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection properties include up to $550 (on average) in exclusive benefits, such as room upgrades and complimentary breakfast.
The list goes on. (We haven’t even gotten to the generous welcome offer yet.) If you’re in the market for a truly distinctive card and you’re confident you can get your money’s worth out of this card, it’s worth a closer look. Just remember that The Platinum Card is a charge card, so you need to pay your balances off in full each month or risk account closure.
Unlimited 3X Miles on Travel Purchases, Including Gas
The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card is one of the few travel rewards credit cards that includes gas and gas station purchases in its travel tier, which earns unlimited 3 points per $1 spent on qualifying travel purchases. If you do most of your long-haul travel by car, or you have a long commute that can feel like a road trip some days, this is a valuable inclusion that could greatly boost your net rewards.
ThankYou Premier also has a great sign-up bonus worth up to $750 when redeemed for airfare purchases, along with an unlimited 2x tier that rewards restaurant and entertainment spending. Plus, ThankYou Premier’s points transfer scheme mostly matches Chase Sapphire Preferred’s, with 1-to-1 transfer ratios for most partner pairs. Don’t sleep on the transfer arrangement’s value, either: some partner points or miles can be worth several times the $0.01-per-point ThankYou baseline when redeemed for long-haul travel in higher fare classes.
Unlimited 2X Miles on All Eligible Purchases
The Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® earns unlimited 2 miles per $1 spent on all eligible purchases. For a limited time, there’s a generous sign-up bonus too: 70,000 bonus miles when you spend at least $5,000 in eligible purchases within 90 days. The 5% redemption bonus lessens the sting of the 10,000-mile redemption minimum. And there’s no foreign transaction fee – great news for globe-trotters looking to save money on international travel. The $89 annual fee (waived in the first year) does demand a modicum of annual spending, though.
The most productive redemption option is statement credits against recent travel purchases – you can redeem for virtually any type of travel, with no blackout dates or other restrictions. Other options include gift cards, cash back, and merchandise, but they all value miles lower than the standard $0.01-per-mile rate.
Unlimited 3X Points on Most Travel Purchases, Including Gas, Rideshares, and Transit
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card is another multi-tiered travel rewards card with an expansive definition of “travel”: cardholders earn unlimited 3 points per $1 spent on gas, rideshares, transit all complement standard travel rewards card fare like airfare, car rentals, and hotels. The 3X tier has a non-travel inclusion, too: popular streaming services, including Apple Music, Hulu, Netflix, and Spotify.
Propel is one of a relative handful of travel rewards cards with a 0% APR introductory promotion on purchases and balance transfers. The 0% APR applies for 12 months from account opening – plenty of time to minimize interest charges on big-ticket purchases or balance transfers. Frugal applicants, take note: Propel has no annual fee, either.
2 SkyMiles Per $1 Spent on Eligible Delta Airfare & Other Select Purchases
Platinum Delta SkyMiles earns unlimited 2 SkyMiles per $1 spent on all eligible Delta purchases. All other eligible purchases earn unlimited 1 SkyMile per $1 spent. A limited-time welcome offer worth 2 or more round-trip economy flights within the U.S., plus a $100 statement credit, sweetens the deal further.
Platinum Delta SkyMiles really shines on the Medallion status front. Heavy spenders can earn up to 20,000 bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) – almost enough to qualify for Silver Medallion status without requiring any completed segments. Heavy spenders can also earn up to 20,000 bonus SkyMiles per year. Plus, every cardholder can expect a complimentary companion certificate each year their account remains open and in good standing.
2 SkyMiles per $1 Spent on Delta Airfare; 1 SkyMile per $1 Spent on Everything Else
Although this card has a $95 annual fee, the welcome offer helps – 30,000 SkyMiles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months of opening your account. That’s more than enough for a round-trip award flight within the continental United States. Low balance transfer fees and no foreign transaction fees help as well.
If you own a business, check out the Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card, which is virtually identical.
6 Marriott Rewards Points for Every $1 Spent at Marriott, Ritz-Carlton & Starwood Hotels; 2 Points per $1 Spent on All Other Purchases
The information for the Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card has been collected independently by Money Crashers. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Every $1 spent at Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Starwood hotels worldwide earns you an unlimited 6 Marriott Rewards points, and you earn an unlimited 2 points per $1 for purchases made directly with airlines and rental car agencies – though not through online portals like Kayak and Expedia. Restaurant purchases also earn an unlimited 2 points per $1 spent, and all other purchases earn an unlimited 1 point per $1 spent. Points don’t expire as long as you make purchases on your card every 24 months.
Marriott Rewards points can be redeemed starting at 7,500 points. Their value varies depending on the property type they’re redeemed at – for instance, a Residence Inn in Birmingham, Alabama (regular room rates $40 to $100 per night), offers rooms for 7,500 points per night, while a similarly priced Fairfield Inn & Suites in Auburn, Alabama, requires 25,000 points per room-night.
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus also has a very generous sign-up bonus: When you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months of card membership, you get 100,000 Marriott Rewards points.
10 IHG Rewards Points per $1 Spent at Intercontinental Hotels; 2 Points per $1 Spent on Gas, Groceries & Restaurants
The information for the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by Money Crashers. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The IHG Rewards Club Premier Card earns you 10 IHG Rewards points per $1 spent at Intercontinental Hotel Group hotels, including Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites. Purchases at restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations earn 2 points to the dollar, while purchases everywhere else earn 1 point per $1 spent. There aren’t any spending caps or restrictions. However, the card does come with an $89 annual fee.
You can redeem points for hotel nights at select Intercontinental properties, including most Holiday Inns and Holiday Inn Expresses, plus gift cards and online merchandise purchases. Redemption minimums vary by redemption method and date, but start at 10,000 points for hotel nights. When redeemed, points are generally worth about $0.005 each, though that amount varies by brand. Other benefits include complimentary TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application (up to $100 value every 5 years) and automatic IHG Platinum Elite status.
3 Avios Points per $1 Spent on British Airways and Partner Airfare
The information related to the British Airways Visa Signature® Card has been collected by Money Crashers and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
The British Airways Visa Signature® Card isn’t just for overseas travel. Every $1 spent on British Airways and select partner airfare and incidentals earns you 3 points – British Airways partners include Iberia and the OpenSkies alliance. You also earn 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
Redeem your points for airfare purchases with British Airways and its partner airlines (including American Airlines) at variable point values. Shorter routes, particularly within North America, tend to be worth more. Redemption minimums vary based on route length. Be aware that there is a $95 annual fee.
If you can manage $30,000 in annual spending in any year, British Airways doubles your redeemed rewards on one flight, allowing a companion to come along.
Earn Unlimited 2x Miles on All Purchases; Get Up to 200,000 Miles as an Early Spend Bonus
Spark® Miles for Business has a lot of other perks too, including an early spend bonus of up to 200,000 points, worth up to $2,000 in travel purchases. The $95 annual fee (after the first year) is manageable when you factor in the lack of foreign transaction fee and the unlimited employee card allowance at no additional cost.
6 Starpoints per $1 Spent at Starwood Properties; Welcome Offer Worth Up to 75,000 Points
The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card is virtually identical to the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, described in detail above. Their fees, terms, rewards programs, and other perks are all broadly similar, with some notable exceptions.
This card earns unlimited 6 points for every $1 of eligible purchases at participating SPG and Marrriott hotels. Eligible purchases made at U.S. restaurants, gas stations, wireless telecom purchases made directly with U.S. providers, and shipping purchases earn 4 points per $1 spent. All other eligible purchases earn 2 points per $1 spent. Terms and conditions apply – see rates & fees.
See our American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card Review for more information. Find out how you can apply for this card here.
2 SkyMiles Per $1 Spent on Eligible Delta Airfare & Other Select Purchases; Welcome Offer Worth Up to 35,000 SkyMiles, 5,000 MQMs & $100 Statement Credit
The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express is the business equivalent of Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and a more generous stablemate to Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express .
Like its consumer doppleganger, this card has a solid but unspectacular SkyMiles rewards program. Eligible Delta purchases earn unlimited 2 SkyMiles per $1 spent; all other eligible purchases earn unlimited 1 SkyMile per $1 spent.
What really sets Platinum Delta SkyMiles business apart is its Medallion status program. If you can manage at least $25,000 in eligible annual spending, you’ll earn 10,000 bonus SkyMiles and 10,000 bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs). Spend another $25,000 in the same calendar year ($50,000 in total eligible spending) and you’ll get another 10,000 bonus SkyMiles and 10,000 bonus MQMs. Terms and conditions apply – see rates and fees.
See our Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express review for more information.
Most credit cards come with booklet-sized cardmember agreements, but travel rewards programs are particularly complicated. Before you complete your card application, take time to read the fine print. Pay particular attention to restrictions on how your card accumulates travel rewards, as well as when, where, and how you’re allowed to redeem them.
As a general rule, cards that offset travel purchases with statement credits are somewhat less complicated than cards that require you to redeem points or miles directly with merchants like hotels or airlines. However, the only way to find out for sure is to buckle down and pore over their terms and conditions statements.
What’s your preferred travel rewards credit card?
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.
Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
15 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards – Reviews & Comparison
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