Updated on Aug 11, 2017

Best Travel Credit Cards of 2017

Earn more travel rewards with the right card.
By
Advertiser Disclosure

This page includes analysis of our favorite cards from The Simple Dollar’s advertisers and the marketplace. Visit our advertiser disclosure to learn more.

You only need a few things to make any vacation feel complete: friends and family, security, and a little spending money. The right travel card can help with two out of the three. But you shouldn’t wait until the destination’s set to choose which travel card is best for you. Different cards offer different types of rewards, including airline miles, hotel and resort costs, and travel statements that can be put towards travel purchases.    We did some research into the crowded travel credit card marketplace and found which cards offer members the best fit based on their spending and traveling style. Once you’ve found the perfect card for you, applying online is quick and easy.

Summary

The best travel credit cards for 2017

Our favorite travel credit cards in 2017

Best overall

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Reward details 2X points on travel and restaurants; 1X on other purchases Terms apply
Redeem for... Airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Signup bonus 50,000 points
Annual Fee $95 (waived first year)
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Annual Fee: Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

We can’t recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card enough. Its impressive reward structure and generous point redemption bonus make it our top pick for most people. With this card, you won’t have to worry about any foreign transaction fees, not to mention that there are no travel restrictions or blackout dates when you redeem points for travel. This level of flexibility means you can use your points to plan the trip of your dreams. This card also comes with a massive signup bonus worth $625 toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

How to use it
  • Use this card for everything. You’ll earn 1 point per every dollar spent.
  • Take advantage of 2X points on dining and travel purchases worldwide. This means impressive rewards potential both domestically and abroad.
  • Spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening the account to earn 50,000 bonus points.
  • Transfer your points to participating frequent travel programs at a 1:1 value for ultimate flexibility.
  • Redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® to score a 25% points bonus. This means redeeming 10,000 points actually give you 12500 points toward your next trip.
Consider this

If you don’t mind the $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers incredible rewards potential and flexible redemption. But if you’d prefer a card without an annual fee, then you might want to look into a different card like Discover it® Miles. With the Discover it® Miles, you’ll earn 1.5X miles for every dollar spent. Also, as a nice signup bonus, Discover will match your miles at the end of the year. That means that if you have 10,000 miles, you’ll have 20,000.

Why you'll love it

You travel to get away from the hassles and complications of everyday life, and you deserve a card that helps make this possible. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the quintessential travel companion for anyone looking to see the world. Get this card and enjoy the ease of redeeming your reward points while saving on transportation and lodging wherever your journey takes you.

Start your application now

Great for flexible travel rewards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Reward details Unlimited 2X miles per dollar Terms apply
Redeem for... Travel statement credit; travel booked through CapitalOne.com; gift cards; and more

Signup bonus 40,000 miles
Annual Fee $59 (Waived first year)
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $400 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
  • Get a metal Venture Card when you apply today
  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Rewards Details: 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. 40000 Miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $59 after that
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

Those who travel often can score impressive rewards in travel-related bonus categories. But for frugal spenders who don’t travel frequently enough to maximize rewards of that type, the annual fee of a travel card can be trickier to justify. That’s where the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card comes in. With unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, you can convert everyday spending on groceries, gas, utilities, etc. into travel rewards. Another perk for travelers on a budget: at just $59, the annual fee is below the industry average. (It’s also waived for the first year.) And since you can redeem your miles for a travel statement credit, eligible purchases like airfare, hotel stays, and more are reimbursable, no matter how you book. This means you can book through the discount travel site or service of your choice to save even more.

How to use it
  • Spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months to earn 40,000 bonus miles. That’s $400 in travel!
  • Make the most of your miles by redeeming for travel statement credit or for travel booked through CapitalOne.com. Eligible purchases include airfare, hotels, rental cars, and more.
  • Traveling abroad? Use this card while you’re traveling to avoid foreign transaction fees.
  • Take advantage of complimentary, 24-hour concierge service through Visa Signature Concierge.
Consider this

2X miles per dollar on everything correlates to strong rewards potential over time. But if you travel frequently for work or pleasure, you could earn more with our top pick, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It gives you a similar rewards rate for travel-related purchases, with 2X points on travel and dining worldwide — plus a generous redemption bonus that will make your points stretch even further. (Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.) Additionally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a larger signup bonus, worth $625 toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (compared with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card’s $400).

Why you'll love it

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card packs big rewards potential into an affordable, straightforward package. Unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase and a signup bonus worth $400 ensure even the most frugal cardmembers will be on their way to a free trip in no time. And when it’s time to redeem, you can book where and how you want, without wrangling with blackout dates.

Start your application now

Best hotel card

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
See Rates & Fees
Reward details 2 Starpoints® on purchases at SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels; 1 Starpoint for all other purchases Terms apply
Redeem for... Hotel and resort stays; flights

Signup bonus 25,000 bonus Starpoints®
Annual Fee $95 (waived first year)
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Annual Fee: See Details
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24%
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.24% - 20.24% Variable See Rates & Fees
  • Penalty APR: 29.99%

Our two cents

Who should get it

Those who frequent the Starwood hotels and resorts (this includes Westin and Sheraton hotels, among others) will get the most out of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. It also comes with no foreign transaction fees, which is perfect for trips to any of the 100+ countries with Starwood properties.

How to use it
  • Redeem your Starpoints stays at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® properties or for travel via SPG flights.
  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints when you make $3,000 in purchases during the first 3 months.
Consider this

American Express isn’t always as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard, which could make earning rewards a little more complicated. (Still, it’s hard to beat all the perks you’ll get using this card at participating properties. Not to mention that if you were to pair this with the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, you could earn points even faster and take advantage of the Crossover Rewards™ program.) For a widely accepted travel card backed by Visa, we recommend our top pick, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Why you'll love it

Another card that rewards customers for their brand loyalty, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is perfect if you enjoy staying with Starwood properties. If you like to travel and you need a place to stay, Starwood has properties in over 100 countries, where you’ll be able to earn some extra points using this card.

Start your application now

Best no annual fee travel card

Discover it® Miles
Reward details 1.5x miles for every $1 spent
Redeem for... Travel credit; statement credit

Signup bonus First year mile-for-mile match
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Discover Show Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • New! We’ll monitor your Social Security Number. Get an alert if we find your Social Security Number on any of thousands of risky websites.* Activate for FREE.
  • Match Mile For Mile: We’ll match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.
  • Issuer: Discover
  • Rewards Details: 1.5 Miles per dollar on all purchases.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 14 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 10.99%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 14 months
  • Ongoing APR: 11.99% – 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you’re someone who tends to shy away from annual fees and punishing late fees, it’s time to discover the benefits of the Discover it® Miles card. With this card, you won’t suffer late fees on the first late payment, and there’s no annual fee. There are also no foreign transaction fees, making this a great card to travel abroad with. The fact that rewards are redeemable for travel statement credit gives you the freedom to use that credit to book through discount sites like Priceline, without having your plans restricted by blackout dates or holidays. And if you like to take the long view with accumulating miles, consider the end-of-year miles match. Basically, if you have 5,000 miles by the end of your first year, it’ll double to 10,000.

How to use it
  • Earn 1.5x miles for every dollar you spend on purchases.
  • Earn as many miles as you can before the end of the first year to make the most of Discover’s year-end bonus miles.
  • Book a trip with any airline at any time without having to worry about blackout dates.
Consider this

A year is a long time to have to wait for those year-end bonus miles. If you’re not in a rush to earn miles, then this might be the card for you. However, if you’d prefer to start with a huge signup bonus right off the bat, consider picking up the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Its signup bonus is worth $625 toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Why you'll love it

The Discover it® Miles is a sensible, uncomplicated way of saving up miles without an annual fee. Those with a lot of patience will also appreciate the fact that their miles will be matched at the end of the first year.

Start your application now

Best fixed-value travel card

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
Reward details Earn 2X miles on all purchases
Redeem for... Travel credit; statement credit; gift cards and merchandise

Signup bonus 50,000 bonus points
Annual Fee $89 - Waived first year
Highlights Provided by Barclaycard Show Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. Redemption values vary
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers
  • Issuer: Barclaycard
  • Rewards Details: Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Annual Fee: $89 - Waived first year
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is ideal for those who want the best fixed-value when it comes to earning rewards. With this card, you’ll receive 2x miles per every dollar spent, which is pretty impressive, since most cards only offer 1x points barring special bonus categories. Furthermore, the card is great for those who don’t want to waste any time saving up for that trip, with a generous 50,000 point signup bonus. (Just spend $3,000 in the first 90 days to earn it.)

How to use it
  • Save up miles faster with 2x miles on all purchases.
  • Get travel statement credits when you redeem your miles starting at 10,000.
  • Receive 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days.
  • Get 5% miles back toward your next redemption each time you redeem.
Consider this

The 2x miles per every dollar spent and the 50,000-point bonus are nothing to sneeze at when it comes to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. However, the 5% redemption bonus falls short when you compare it to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s 25% points bonus (good toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®).

Why you'll love it

You’ll love the versatility and 2x points fixed-value of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. Start spending and saving up points faster, and get a nice 5% kickback to put toward the next trip when you redeem your points!

Start your application now

Best for Bank of America customers

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
Reward details Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 on all purchases
Redeem for... Statement credit toward travel purchases

Signup bonus 20,000 bonus points
Annual Fee $0.00
Highlights Provided by Bank of America Show Highlights
  • 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
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
  • Issuer: Bank of America
  • Rewards Details: 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account. 1.5 points on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
  • Annual Fee: $0.00
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the amount of each transaction or $10, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: See Terms
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: 0% Introductory APR on purchases
  • Introductory APR Period: 12 billing cycles
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% APR

Our two cents

Who should get it

Not surprisingly, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card is ideal for both Bank of America account holders and those looking to earn free travel. With this card, BoA account holders can get an additional 10% customer points on every purchase. There’s also a sizable 20,000-point signup bonus along with the ease and flexibility of redeeming your points for air travel, hotel stays, car rentals and more. Because the points you’ll earn with this card are redeemable for a travel statement credit, you can book through the travel website or service of your choosing. This allows you to shop travel sales to make your rewards points stretch even further. And with no blackout dates, you’ll still have access to your travel rewards as well as special discounts and promotions regardless of major holidays.

How to use it
  • Receive 1.5 points for every dollar spent on all purchases.
  • Redeem your points for a travel statement credit good for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, and baggage fees.
  • Take advantage of an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase if you have (or open) a Bank of America checking or savings account. (Note: It may take up to 35 days to begin earning the Customer Points Bonus on Purchases when you open a qualifying account.)
Consider this

This card is most beneficial to those who have an active Bank of America savings or checking account. If the 10% customer bonus points aren’t incentive enough for you to open an account, you might consider an alternative like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® for 2X miles per dollar and a 5% points bonus at redemption.

Why you'll love it

The ease of earning points and flexible redemption make the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card all the more appealing. Add to that the 10% bonus customer points when you pair this with a Bank of America account, and you’ve got a card that makes earning — and redeeming — points a snap.

Start your application now

Best airline card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Reward details 2X points on Southwest® & eligible Rapid Rewards® purchases; 1X points on all other purchases
Redeem for... Travel with Southwest Airlines or other partners

Signup bonus 40,000 points
Annual Fee $69
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Annual Fee: $69
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you like flying Southwest Airlines within the greater United States, then the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is just what you need. Frequent Southwest flyers will be able to earn points quickly (2X points per dollar) when booking with Southwest and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partners. Your bags fly free®; there are no flight change fees, blackout dates, or seat restrictions; and you don’t have to worry about your reward points expiring as long as you keep an active and open account.

How to use it
  • Earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Save your points for the trip you want to take; they will not expire as long as your account is open.
Consider this

This card is most ideal for traveling within the country, since there is a 3% foreign transaction fee. If you travel abroad, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best alternatives to avoid those fees (and rack up significant rewards quickly).

Why you'll love it

Current customers of Southwest Airlines will find plenty to love about earning extra points with Southwest purchases using the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. And, it might just be worth making Southwest your #1 airline for all the extra points earned through Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases, as well.

Start your application now

Honorable mention

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Reward details Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase Terms apply
Redeem for... Travel statement credit; travel booked through CapitalOne.com; gift cards; and more

Signup bonus 20,000 miles
Annual Fee None
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 12.99%-22.99% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Rewards Details: 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. 20000 Miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: 0% intro on purchases
  • Introductory APR Period: For 12 Months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 12.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card also deserves a mention for simplicity, easy of use, and flexibility. Like the similar Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, it offers unlimited, flat-rate rewards on every purchase — no special categories to enroll or track spending in. 1.25X miles per dollar means respectable rewards potential over time, especially for a card with no annual fee. And the rewards you’ll earn are flexible, redeemable for travel statement credits, travel booked through CapitalOne.com, and more. (Note: redemption rates vary; you’ll enjoy the most favorable rate when redeeming for travel.)

How to use it
  • Spend $1,000 within your first three months to earn the 20,000 mile spend bonus.
  • Make the most of your miles by redeeming for travel statement credit or for travel booked through CapitalOne.com. Eligible purchases include airfare, hotels, rental cars, and more.
  • Traveling abroad? Use this card while you’re traveling to avoid foreign transaction fees.
  • Take advantage of complimentary, 24-hour concierge service through Visa Signature Concierge.
Consider this

If you’re willing to pay a small annual fee, you could earn higher-rate rewards with another card. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is very similar, with the exception of a higher rewards rate (unlimited 2X miles per dollar) and a signup bonus that’s worth twice as much. Its annual fee is just $59 after your first year. If you take its larger signup bonus into account ($400 vs. $200), the extra bonus miles will cover your annual fee for three years.

Why you'll love it

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card could be a good fit if you’re on a budget and looking to earn flexible rewards toward a free trip. With no annual fee and unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase — not to mention the signup bonus — you’ll be on vacation before you know it.

Start your application now

Our favorite travel credit cards: summed up

Research the 42 best travel credit cards

Below is a directory of the most popular travel credit cards. I used this directory as a starting point for my research and analysis on travel cards. The directory is updated weekly to reflect any new changes, to add new cards, and to remove expired cards. The travel credit cards directory is a sub-directory of rewards credit cards. This directory highlights the most important features specific to travel cards and displays all important information about each card.

Travel credit cards directory

The travel rewards credit card directory lists every travel credit card and high level information for each of the cards, so you can make quick comparisons. In order to rank and value each of these cards, certain features were weighted accordingly based on overall importance to the prospective cardholder. Sort, filter, or search for what matters most to find the best travel credit card for you.
Sort By Card Name
Perks Tier Level
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Rewards Tier Level
Common Filters Good Signup Bonus
Great Ongoing Rewards
Great Perks
No Annual Fee
No Foreign Transaction Fee
Search Do you know of a card that is not in our directory? Suggest a Card Here
Credit Card
Annual Fee
Perks Tier Level
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
Credit Card
Annual Fee
Perks Tier Level
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Excellent
Excellent
* (?)
$0 intro for first year; $59 after that
None
Average
$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49
None
None
* (?)
$495
Good
* (?)
Excellent
* (?)

Rating methodology

To develop an overall rating for each travel credit card, we used the features and corresponding data from the directory above. To better describe the ratings of each card, there were a number of elements to consider. Some of the valuable information is displayed in the directory, while additional information is outlined below.

Rewards rate

Rewards Rate refers to the actual rate at which you can earn rewards using the travel rewards card. This rate, typically 2% or higher, will usually be highest on travel-related purchases. Travel credit cards usually have a base rate of at least 1% which enables you to earn points on everyday purchases as well. The very best travel credit cards will have an incentive to book travel through their own travel portals. Some of the best rewards rates are on hotel, airline, or travel site cards. These cards try to entice you to only use that specific hotel, airline, or travel site. If you travel often and prefer one brand over others, this approach is fine. Others who prefer flexibility in how they travel will want to consider a more general rewards program that still carries a generous Rewards Rate on travel.

Rewards categories

Rewards Categories are the spending categories in which your travel card earns greater than 1%. Most travel cards offer better Rewards Rates in certain categories. The more ways you can earn greater than 1% in rewards, the better a card will score in Rewards Categories. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 2% rewards on travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards platforms and 2% for dining out. The card earns 1% on all other purchases. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® has the same structure — 2% rewards on travel booked through Barclaycard and 2% on dining.

Sign-up bonus

Sign-up Bonus is the amount of extra points each card offers to a new cardmember when signing up. Sign-up Bonuses can be very lucrative on travel cards, with the best travel cards offering around 40,000 bonus points. That translates to at least $400 of cold-hard cash to spend on travel. If you’re strategic about redeeming the points, you can turn those points into much more. The important thing to note about Sign-up Bonuses is that there are usually certain spending requirements to make before you actually earn the points. It’s common for credit card issuers to require you to spend $4,000 in the first three months you have the card before you get your Sign-up Bonus. Sign-up Bonus carries a high importance rating because it’s a quick way to grab a large chunk of points to use for an upcoming travel adventure.

Redemption options

The best travel rewards cards give you a number of ways to redeem your lucrative points. These Redemption Options can dramatically impact how much your points are worth. Top cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card use the Chase Ultimate Rewards® platform to help you book travel. When you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards® for travel, your points are worth 25% more. For example, you can redeem 40,000 points for $500 in airfare instead of the usual $400. Most cards also allow you to redeem points for non-travel. You may redeem points for gift cards and merchandise, but this is not recommended because points on the best travel credit cards are usually more valuable when used for travel. Your third option on several of the best travel credit cards is to transfer your points to a partner airline, hotel, or other partner. This is where the point geeks go crazy to maximize and hunt for last-minute point deals. American Express allows point transfers to many partners as does Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Benefits

There are some additional benefits of owning a travel credit card that become important when you’re actually traveling. A huge benefit for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders is that foreign transaction fees are waived. The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express offers priority boarding, and free checked bags. Additional benefits of top cards include 24/7 customer service, car rental insurance, and emergency travel assistance. Benefits are of medium importance when compared to how points can be accumulated by the card, but Benefits can often swing a decision between two comparable cards.

Ongoing APR

APRs on travel credit cards are of low importance, mainly because we always recommend paying off your balance each month. Interest charges negate point accumulation, so it never makes sense to have a travel credit card if you plan to carry a balance. Travel cards have ongoing APRs that range as low as 10.99% and go beyond 20%. The key determinant of your ongoing APR is usually your credit score and history. If you have good credit, the APR rate for you will be on the lower end. If you need a low-interest rate card, consider one of the best balance transfer cards on the market today.

Resources for frequent travelers

The science of mastering rewards with your travel credit card is more of a journey than a destination, and even the savviest cardholder still has things to learn along the way. In addition to rewards, many credit cards also provide travel insurance to help you protect yourself as you ramble around the globe. The following section offers useful information to help you maximize the benefits of your travel credit card — not just the rewards points, but also insurance and other features that can improve your travel experience.

Travel credit cards vs. vacation taxes

Taking a vacation should mean getting away from it all, but there’s no getting away from taxes. Travel-related taxes can increase the cost of travel by more than half. To put that figure in perspective, consider this: American Express has estimated the average vacation expense at $1,145 per person. By those calculations, the average person would pay about $750 for the vacation itself and $395 in the form of taxes on hotels, airline tickets, rental cars and more. Before you start writing your elected representatives, take a deep breath – we’re not here to debate tax policy. Then take comfort in the fact that using a travel credit card can help you save money on travel in a number of ways, including:
  1. Hotels. Redeeming reward points toward hotel stays is a central feature of many hotel and travel credit cards. Typically, earning a certain number of points makes the cardholder eligible to redeem the points for a free night. Some cards also offer free nights every year you celebrate your anniversary as a cardholder.
  2. Transportation. Redeeming rewards points toward airline tickets is another popular feature of airline credit cards and other types of travel cards, as is using points to save on car rentals.
  3. Recreation. Some cards affiliated with hotel and resort chains offer benefits for onsite activities such as spa sessions.
  4. International purchases. A growing number of travel credit cards feature $0 foreign transaction fees, which means you avoid paying the extra 1% to 3% per transaction that other cards charge.
What about cruises, where lodging and transportation are part of the same package? Good news — some cards let you redeem points toward vacation cruises. What about things that cost time instead of money? With a travel credit card that features concierge service, it’s like having a personal assistant who can help you shop, make dinner reservations, find lost luggage, and more. Don’t let travel taxes cast a shadow over your vacation or business trip. Strategic use of your travel credit card can help you save big.

How credit cards protect you while you travel

Decades ago, people used a combination of cash and traveler’s checks when traveling abroad. Unfortunately, carrying around a ton of cash comes with certain risks, and exchanging currencies in each new country can be a huge pain. Modern travelers still carry some cash, but as more of a novelty than anything else. Instead, they make the majority of their international purchases with travel credit cards that not only reward them for making purchases, but also protect them from fraudulent charges and other pitfalls. Here’s how credit cards can protect you (and save you money) while you travel:
  • Use a card that offers no liability for unauthorized purchases. When traveling abroad, you want to make sure you use a credit card that won’t hold you accountable if someone gets ahold of your card and starts making purchases. The Discover it® Miles card, for example, comes with no liability for unauthorized purchases and no foreign transaction fee, making it a good option. Just make sure the country you’re traveling to is prone to accept Discover since international acceptance varies.
  • Carry your credit card contact information separately from your card. Most credit cards let you call collect from anywhere in the world if your card is lost or stolen. Obviously, you won’t have access to their number if you no longer have your card, which is why most experts suggest keeping these important contact numbers separate from your credit cards in case of loss or theft.
  • Choose a card with free travel insurance. If you want to take advantage of free travel insurance, make sure to book the major components of your itinerary with a credit card that offers excellent travel and trip cancellation insurance, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Doing so can mean getting reimbursed if your trip is cancelled due to flight interruptions, a natural disaster, or other unexpected events.

Do you need additional travel insurance?

Although it’s easy to brush off travel insurance as an unnecessary expense, you should always give it a second look. With all the upheavals that can unravel your travel plans, not to mention your own personal health, you might be wise to purchase a simple travel insurance plan — or at least pay for your trip with a credit card that offers this benefit for free. Your best option might be a combination: buying a travel insurance policy that supplements the coverage provided by your credit card and fills in the gaps. Also, don’t fall victim to some common misconceptions about travel insurance: Myth #1: My existing insurance coverage provides all the protection I might need. This myth is exceptionally problematic when it comes to health insurance. The further you travel from home, the more likely you are to be out-of-network for medical care. When you’re out-of-network, your benefits can be less generous and your deductibles higher. Since many policies do not cover doctor or hospital visits outside of the country, a medical travel insurance policy might be a good bet. Myth #2: If a canceled flight leaves me stranded, the airline will pay to put me up in a hotel. Don’t count on it, unless you see it in the contract. Generally, regulations in the U.S. and Europe avoid making specific requirements to this effect. Depending on the carrier and the circumstances behind the cancellation or delay, the airline may be legally required to offer nothing more than a refund or a ticket on the next available flight. Some airlines are more accommodating than others, if you’ll forgive the pun. Myth #3. One travel insurance policy is the same as any other. Actually, policies vary widely in scope and levels of coverage. Certain type of travel credit cards offer certain travel benefits to cardholders. Take the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example. Premium travel insurance, including trip cancellation, is included as a card member benefit. If you wanted to take advantage of this perk, all you would need to do is use your card to purchase your airfare and accommodation. Other types of travel insurance your credit card might offer include trip interruption insurance, which can reimburse you for nonrefundable travel expenses if you end up getting sick before your trip or it gets cancelled for almost any other reason. Different cards offer different versions of trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance, so make sure you understand your card’s policy before you count on it for coverage. You can usually buy travel insurance at the same time you purchase airfare or book your hotel. If you want to compare travel insurance policies, check out our post on the best travel insurance options currently available. Just remember, travel insurance only seems frivolous until you need it. If your trip gets cancelled, travel insurance could protect you from thousands of dollars in losses. Some common events that are covered with various types of travel insurance include personal illness or illness of a family member, natural disaster, emergency evacuations, or even lost or stolen baggage or belongings. Obviously, none of those events are ones you can plan for ahead of time, so it’s best to be adequately insured instead.

10 questions to ask yourself when buying travel insurance

Before you hit “buy,” on your next travel insurance plan, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Is the region I plan to visit considered “high-risk?” Potential issues can vary depending on where you are going. And if you’re visiting an area deemed “high-risk,” your travel insurance policy may deny coverage altogether. Before you set sail or get on that plane, check your travel insurance policy to see if your intended destination is, in fact, covered. Also check for travel advisories that might alert you to any upcoming safety concerns you need to be aware of.
  2. Do I travel often enough to consider a long-term policy? If you travel more than once or twice per year, you may be better off buying a more comprehensive, multi-trip plan. This type of coverage is great for families who travel or vacation often, those planning multi-country or extended trips, last-minute travelers, or those who travel often for business.
  3. What will my current health insurance cover if I become injured or get sick abroad? Assuming that your health insurance will provide coverage overseas is always a mistake. The fact is, many health insurance plans don’t provide comprehensive coverage outside of your home country or territory. Medicare, for example, never provides coverage overseas. If you want to ensure that you’re covered, a travel insurance plan that includes major medical is always a good bet.
  4. Do I have any pre-existing conditions that might flare up? If you do purchase a travel insurance plan that includes medical coverage, it’s important to note that pre-existing conditions are rarely covered. If you have a medical condition that is prone to act up, your trip abroad might pose a greater risk than you realized.
  5. Do I plan on bringing anything expensive with me? Baggage insurance protects you from financial loss if your valuable items become lost or stolen. If you plan on bringing expensive items with you, it might be a good idea to buy travel insurance that includes this perk. Likewise, if you aren’t bringing anything valuable with you, you might consider opting out of this specific coverage.
  6. How likely is it that I will need to cancel my trip? When you’re traveling with kids or aging parents, the likelihood of a trip cancellation due to illness or injury increases. However, the risk still exists when you leave those same loved ones at home. If something happened, you might need to cancel your trip to take care of them. Trip cancellation/interruption insurance can help mitigate those risks for you.
  7. Do I want to be able to cancel my trip for “any reason?” Some types of trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance require you to prove your cancellation was due to unforeseen circumstances such as an illness, a death in the family, or a job loss. Meanwhile, other policies let you cancel for “any reason” — even if you just changed your mind. Make sure you know the difference, and buy a policy that offers terms you can live with.
  8. Will I be driving a rental car? Some travel insurance policies offer either collision coverage on rental cars or other types of rental car coverage. However, others do not. If you plan on driving during your stay and don’t have coverage otherwise, you might want to seek out a travel insurance policy that offers this perk.
  9. Do I plan on doing anything risky? If your trip involves any adventurous activity such as rock climbing, cross-country biking, or skiing, you need to ensure that your travel insurance provides coverage for those activities. Never assume it does, and always check to make sure.
  10. Do I already have life insurance? Some travel insurance policies offer extra coverage that basically amounts to life insurance that pays out only if you die. If you already have life insurance (as you should), you may not need this additional coverage and may not want to pay extra for it.

Pro tip: three decisions every traveler should make

Travel cards are just as diverse and unique as the destinations you might visit, so before you sign up for your first (or next) card, you want to make sure the rewards are a perfect fit. After all, no two people travel the same way. Picking the wrong card can be a frustrating – and sometimes costly – error. Here are three simple decisions you should make that will make the process of choosing the best travel card a whole lot easier: choosing loyalty rewards or flexibility, 0% APR vs. perks, and fixed-value returns vs. miles or points.

Loyalty rewards vs. flexibility

Loyalty rewards are a huge part of the travel industry. Hotels, airlines, and even banks utilize lucrative rewards programs as an incentive to attract new card members, or maintain their existing membership base, but members can only earn points by spending money with specified partners. Other cards utilize flexible benefits, giving members the ability to earn miles or redeem points outside of specific franchises or other loyalty-based boundaries.
Loyalty rewards: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
If you’re a constant traveler who maximizes benefits by patronizing specific airlines or hotel chains, then a loyalty rewards-heavy card may be the best choice for you. Travelers who favor destinations within the U.S. and like to fly Southwest Airlines will find that the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a perfect fit: they’ll earn 2X points per dollar spent with Southwest Airlines and certified , which includes hotel chains like Marriott, and an expansive list of retail and dining options.
Flexibility: Capital One ® Venture ® Rewards Credit Card
If you’re more interested in accumulating rewards and want more flexibility in your spending options, then the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card will give you the freedom you need. Members earn 2X miles per dollar on all purchases. If you’re not interested in miles, they can be exchanged for travel statements toward all forms of lodging (hotels, time shares) and transportation (such as airlines, cruise lines, taxis, limo services, etc.).

$0 annual fee vs. perks

Higher annual fees come hand in hand with more generous perks, creating higher value for members to offset the greater cost. Cards that come with no annual fees offer more straightforward perks, with fewer categories in exchange for zero membership costs. If you opt for a card with a higher annual fee but more perks, be sure to know exactly what those perks are, and how to maximize benefits. Frequent travelers may benefit more from cards with greater bonuses, while those who plan one or two trips a year might get more use out of a card with no fees.

Perks: Chase Sapphire Preferred ® Card
If you don’t mind paying the $95 annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you’ll gain access to one of the most powerful travel cards on the marketplace today. Members collect rewards quickly (2X points when traveling and dining worldwide, 1 point per dollar on all transactions), and can redeem points to cover lodging or transportation costs, or even for cash. Chase even waives the annual fee for the first year!
$0 Annual fee: CapitalOne® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card earns one-half the rewards of its older brother, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, but comes with $0 in annual fees. Members are restricted to earning 1.25 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, meaning that rewards accrue more slowly, but will never expire. And for the first year, members have an APR of 0%. If you’re looking for a travel card that provides solid benefits without needing to worry about membership costs, look no further.

Fixed vs. transferrable value

While transferrable miles / points make up the basis of most travel rewards programs, there are a few with fixed-value rewards. Fixed value means that each individual point or mile has a set redemption value, instead of varying worth based on category. Fixed-value programs are notable for their ease of use, and their flexibility. Members of these programs may earn points more slowly, but can redeem points with more flexibility. Transferrable value programs concentrate on specific benefits – usually airline miles or lodging costs, like loyalty programs. The difference is in the name: Members of transferrable value programs can redeem specific benefits, but often at a lower rate.
Transferrable value: The Discover it® Miles Card
The Discover it® Miles card is the perfect option for someone who wants to earn miles, quickly. Members earn 1.5X miles per dollars spent, and the Discover Match® program doubles the number of miles earned after the first year of membership. There’s no minimum amount required for redemption, so members can redeem as much as $500, or as little as $5. Points are transferable for statement credits towards travel purchases, but one mile equals one cent. That’s a $1 value for every $100 spent if you transfer miles to cash. But instead, if you’re simply looking to gain miles in advance of your next trip, then $100 gets you 150 miles, making the Discover it® Miles card a flight-lover’s dream.
Fixed Value: The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard®
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® gives members a fixed rate of 2X miles per every dollar spent. But unlike the Discover it® Miles Card, that’s a flat rate. Miles don’t double after the first year of membership, and both programs carry the same redemption rate. But members of the Barclaycard program earn 5% of their miles back each time they redeem miles for cash or travel statements, and miles can be redeemed for almost any travel purchase of $100 or more, towards airlines, hotels, car rentals, campgrounds…the list goes on. It’s a strong choice for those that are looking to earn miles at a consistent rate, but still want to know their rewards will have value towards other expenses.  

Bringing it all together

If you take anything from this guide of tips, take this: The travel rewards landscape is difficult to understand, so you need to be armed with a strategy and then learn as you go. The best way to avoid getting travel credit cards you don’t use, or committing to an airline you will come to hate, is to do the following:
  1. Start earning travel points with the most flexible travel rewards card
  2. Learn about loyalty programs and find your preferred airlines and hotels
  3. Add a more targeted travel credit card using what you’ve learned
By keeping it simple and taking it slow, you’ll graduate from being a novice traveler in no time, and you’ll soon be experiencing first-class travel for less — just like the pros!

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