Updated on Nov 20, 2017

Best Travel Credit Cards for 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.

Travel credit cards don’t just offer benefits for those looking to fly overseas. Each card can be useful at home as well as abroad. With the holiday season right around the corner, now’s the time to maximize rewards and develop a strategy to keep some extra cash in your pocket.

We’ve looked at the ever-changing world of travel credit cards, evaluating each according to rewards, annual fees, redemption possibilities, and signup bonuses. Once you’ve found the card that’s the perfect fit for you, click Apply Now, and start saving for holiday travel early.

Looking to travel overseas? Check out The Simple Dollar’s top picks for international cards, airline cards, and hotel cards.

Summary

The best travel credit cards for 2017

The Simple Dollar’s best travel credit cards for 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®
  • 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 50,000 miles
Annual Fee $95 (Waived first year)
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 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; $95 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. 50000 Miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 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. 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 50,000 bonus miles. That’s $500 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 $500).

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 $500 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 Starpoints®
Annual Fee $95 (waived first year)
Highlights Provided by American Express Show Highlights
  • Earn 25,000 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 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.
  • Planning a road trip? Rent your car, fill up your tank, book your hotel, and pay for it with your American Express® Card.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Issuer: American Express
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, then $95 See Details
  • 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: 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% Variable

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 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:
  • 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 free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • New! Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 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 40,000 bonus points
Annual Fee $89 - Waived first year
Highlights Provided by Barclaycard Show Highlights
  • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • 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 purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 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.
  • 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 40,000 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 40,000 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 40,000-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 an 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 much more.

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

The Simple Dollar’s best travel credit cards: summed up

How do travel credit cards work?

The best travel credit cards allow you to earn points, rewards, or miles toward your travel-related expenses. These are typically earned by making purchases with your card within the rewards structure and then redeeming them for free flights or hotel stays, or a statement credit.

The rewards structure of travel credit cards typically falls into one of three categories:

  1. Fixed value – Each point is worth a fixed amount (for example, with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, each mile is worth one cent toward a flight or hotel cost), so you always know what you’re going to get.
  2. Transferrable – You earn a pool of points that can then be transferred to a partner program. These types of points have the most flexibility and you won’t have to maintain allegiance to a specific airline or hotel chain.
  3. Co-branded – These cards allow you to earn and use points with a specific brand, such as the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Not only do you earn points with these cards, you may also receive perks, such as elite status, lounge access, free checked bags, and more.

The best travel credit cards offer you a lot of value with some flexibility based on your travel needs and goals. Explore the cards we recommend as well as their rewards structure to find the best travel credit card for you.

Is a travel credit card right for me?

Whether or not a travel credit card is right for you depends on how often you travel and what types of rewards you’re looking for. Here are some things to consider when looking at the best travel credit cards:

  • You travel frequently. If you travel regularly for either work or pleasure and consistently spend on airfare, hotels, and other travel-related expenses, then a travel credit card may be worth it. If not, you might be better off with one of the best rewards credit cards or best cash back credit cards since they offer more flexible redemption options.
  • You aren’t brand-loyal. If you do travel regularly but are brand-loyal to a specific airline or hotel chain, then you may want to consider one of the best airline credit cards or best hotel credit cards. In addition to earning free flights or free hotel stays, you’ll also qualify for airline- or hotel-specific perks as a frequent flyer or guest.
  • You make payments in full and on time. With any credit card, you should be making payments in full and on time each month to build and maintain positive credit. If the upfront costs of travel-related expenses are too great to pay off a month after charging, you may want to consider a low-interest credit card or one of the best balance transfer credit cards. These cards will give you up to 18 months of introductory 0% APR. Some of them also offer cash back rewards that you can redeem and use to pay for travel, in case you still want help paying for trips and vacations.

If you travel frequently, you aren’t brand-loyal (or like to keep your options open), and you can pay off travel-related expenses in full and on time each month, then one of the best travel credit cards could help you save money and earn rewards on your next trip!

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 , 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.

Bringing it all together

To maximize your travel rewards, start by making a strategy and then learning as you go. Our tips for choosing a card with generous, easy-to-earn rewards include:

  1. Start earning travel points with a 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 unforgettable travel experiences for less — just like the pros!

Research the 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
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
* (?)
$89 - Waived first year
Average
Excellent
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
None
Average
$0 for the first year, then $95 See Details
None
Average
* (?)
$495
Good
* (?)
Excellent
* (?)
$0 for the first year, then $195 See Details
None
Good
* (?)

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