A great travel credit card can be one of the most useful tools at your disposal when planning any adventure. I’ve personally brandished dozens over three years of full-time globetrotting — they’ve gifted me free flights, premium travel perks, and some of the best hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in.
In short, they’ve saved me thousands of dollars and allowed me to travel the world for next to nothing. Fortunately you don’t have to optimize every dollar you spend or sign up for multiple cards to enjoy highly-discounted flights and hotels, just having one good travel card can put you in a position to save big on your future trips.
But not all cards are created equal, and no two travelers are the same, making the tool best fit for purpose all the more important. If you’re a frequent flier like me, your cards should be covering most, if not all, of your major expenses. But if you’ve got your eye on that one big bucket-list trip, first-class seats and luxury suites might take priority.
Whatever your travel goals, there’s a card that can help you get there while keeping cash in your pocket. To help you on your way, I’ve compiled the best travel cards currently available.
When considering what makes a great travel credit card, we considered the value of the welcome bonus, how many points you earn for your ongoing spend, benefits like travel insurance and airport lounge access and a card’s annual fee.
Let’s get to the points!
Best travel credit cards of 2023:
- Best card for luxury travel perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Best card for keeping it simple: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Best card for foodies: American Express® Gold Card
- Best card with no annual fee: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
- Best premium travel card: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Best mid-tier travel card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best card for business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
- Best card for families : Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- Best card for everyday earning : Citi Premier® Card
- Best card for beginners : Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Best card for gas guzzlers : U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card
- Best card for renters : Bilt Mastercard®
Best card for luxury travel perks: The American Express Platinum Card
Who’s This For: The frequent traveler with an eye on top-tier perks like airport lounge access.
Details: The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with tons of perks and benefits and is a good card for points earning if you’re spending a lot on airfare and hotels. Amex points are transferrable to 20 different airline and hotel partners giving them incredible flexibility and value.
When spending with the card you’ll earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com and 1x Membership Rewards® Points on all other purchases.
The card’s biggest benefit is its unprecedented airport lounge access, giving you access to over 1,300 lounges around the world, including Delta Sky Clubs, Amex’s own Centurion lounges and a Priority Pass membership.
You’ll also earn a ton of credits by being a cardholder which helps offset the card’s large annual fee. Every year you’ll enjoy a number of travel credits, including an up to $200 airline fee statement credit to cover things like baggage and seat selection fees, an up to $189 CLEAR® Plus credit to help get through airport security quicker, an up to $200 hotel credit with Fine Hotels + Resorts® prepaid bookings or prepaid stays of two nights or more with The Hotel Collection when you book through Amex Travel.
To top it off, several lifestyle credits further help offset the annual fee, including an up to $240 digital entertainment credit which covers services like Hulu, Disney+, Audible, The New York Times and more, up to $155 Walmart+ credit, up to $200 Uber Cash for Uber rides and Uber Eats, up to $300 Equinox credit and up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit. Terms apply and enrollment required for select benefits.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Amex Platinum was once the sole dominating force in the luxury credit card space. While it now faces some stiff competition, it still offers unbeatable perks like unprecedented airport lounge access, elite status at Hilton and Marriott, and some outstanding statement credits making the mammoth $695 worth it for some.
Best card for keeping it simple: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Who’s This For: The regular or occasional traveler who wants to keep points-earning simple and avoid carrying multiple cards.
Details: The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has a valuable and easy-to-understand rewards earning structure since it earns 2X miles per dollar on all purchases. You’ll also earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.
You’ll enjoy plenty of flexibility with the card since its miles can be transferred to more than 15 airline and hotel loyalty programs in addition to being redeemed for credits to cover travel purchases, gift cards and cash back.
The Venture card also gives cardholders two complimentary visits per year to Capital One Lounges or 100+ Plaza Premium Lounges. And for those who want to speed through security, you can receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® when paying the application fee with your card.
The Capital One Venture is an excellent go-to card for any traveler, thanks to its easy to navigate 2 miles per dollar on every purchase. With no bonus categories to consider, a reasonable $95 annual fee, and a strong 75,000-mile intro offer worth over $1000, Alec Baldwin might be onto something.
Annual Fee: $95 | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Best card for foodies: American Express® Gold Card
Who’s This For: The traveler with a penchant for eating out, while also spending big on their own groceries.
Details: The American Express® Gold Card is a powerhouse points earner, especially for anyone who dines out or grocery shops frequently. The card earns 4X Membership Rewards® Points at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S. and 4X Membership Rewards® Points At U.S. supermarkets, on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases (then 1X point).
Travelers will also benefit from 3X Membership Rewards® Points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com and up to $120 in Uber Cash annually, which can be used for Uber rides and even Uber Eats food delivery orders. You’ll earn 1X Membership Rewards® Points on other purchases.
Amex points are quite valuable and offer lots of flexibility as they can be transferred to over 17 airline and hotel partners for high-end travel experiences. You can also redeem for travel through the Amex Travel Portal, gift cards and statement credits, albeit at a lesser value.
Foodies benefit from the $10 monthly statement credits towards retailers like Grubhub, Wine.com, select Shake Shack locations and more.
American Express® Gold Card
The Amex Gold gives your munch more punch with an outstanding 4 points per dollar spent on dining out and US supermarkets. For some context, if you spent $8,400 a year on eating out and groceries, which is roughly what the average American spends, you’d have enough points for a roundtrip flight to Hawaii. That’s not even factoring in the huge 60,000-point bonus worth over $1,000.
Annual Fee: $250 | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Best card with no annual fee: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Who’s This For: The eager traveler hoping to learn the ropes about points and miles.
Details: You won’t have to worry about tracking any bonus categories with the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card as you’ll earn an unlimited 1.25X miles per dollar on all purchases. While that’s not as high of a rate as some other cards on this list, the card makes up for it as the miles you earn are transferrable to over 15 airline and hotel partners and the card has no annual fee.
Plus, you’ll earn an unlimited 5X miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. When traveling abroad you don’t have to worry about paying any foreign transaction fees which is a rare feature for a no-annual-fee card.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One VentureOne is an excellent card for those taking more deliberate steps into the world of travel rewards thanks to its lack of annual fee and flat-rate earning. Cardholders earn 1.25X miles per dollar spent on all purchases, plus 5X miles per dollar on travel purchased through Capital One. Its 20,000-mile welcome bonus is also solid for a no-annual-fee card.
Annual Fee: $0 | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Best premium travel card: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Who’s This For: Any traveler seeking a premium travel card with maximum flexibility and some perks for good measure
Details: The Chase Sapphire Reserve can earn travelers and foodies a ton of points. With the card, you’ll earn 10X total points on hotels and car rentals and 5X total points on flights when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® after spending $300 on travel each year. Plus, you’ll earn 3X points on all other travel purchases worldwide, after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases.
Dining out is also highly rewarded as you can earn 10X total points on Chase Dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards when you make prepaid restaurant reservations, order takeout or join our virtual cooking events and 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Other valuable and useful perks help offset the card’s hefty annual fee, including a $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases made on your card each account anniversary year and a Priority Pass Membership which gives you access to 1,300+ airline lounges worldwide.
The card is also known for strong ancillary benefits like trip delay insurance and primary rental car coverage.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a premium travel card that’s accessible to most travelers as it has a number of valuable and easy-to-use benefits. Its annual fee of $550, though still high, is quickly offset thanks to its $300 travel credit, large welcome bonus, strong spending categories, and premium perks like airport lounge access. It’s also great for those who don’t want to deal with transferring their points, as you’ll get big value when redeeming through Chase’s travel portal.
Annual Fee: $550 | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Best mid-tier travel card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Who’s This For: Both beginner earners who can use it as their primary card and seasoned points pros who can utilize its well-above weight class potential.
Details: The Chase Sapphire Preferred has quite a few ways to earn points, making it easy to rack up rewards. You’ll earn 5X points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 2X points on all other travel purchases. Categories that earn 3X Ultimate Rewards points include restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs). Plus, 1X Ultimate Rewards points on all other spending.
To top off your points earning, you’ll also get a 10% Ultimate Rewards point bonus annually based on your card spending, earned after you renew and pay your annual fee.
Chase points offer large value — they can be transferred to over a dozen airline and hotel partners like United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Hyatt and Marriott. And if you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, which allows you to book nearly any type of flight, hotel or rental car, your points will get a 25% boost in value.
The card also comes with primary rental car insurance and no foreign transaction fees.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 Bonus Points
after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the ultimate all-around travel credit card—it fits perfectly into almost any points-earner’s wallet. Points novices can enjoy a significant intro bonus and easy to grasp spending categories with an approachable annual fee. The more experienced can utilize its high value earning potential as a secondary card and also gain access to Chase’s strong travel booking portal.
Annual Fee: $95 | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Best card for business travelers: Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Who’s This For: The small business owner or freelancer who wants their business spending to pay dividends in their travel.
Details: The Chase Ink Business Preferred allows business owners to earn a ton of rewards in valuable bonus categories: You will earn 3X Ultimate Rewards® points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on shipping purchases, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines, internet, cable and phone services, and travel each account anniversary year. Plus 1X Ultimate Rewards® points on all other spending.
Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, which allows you to book nearly any flight, hotel or car rental. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 towards travel. Points earned with this card are also transferrable to Chase’s partners, boosting their value even further.
The card comes with primary rental car insurance and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
The Ink Business Preferred Business Card pulls attention with its big intro bonus, currently sitting at 100,000 points.That’s worth in $1,000 cash back, $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, or even more when transferring to Chase’s travel partners like Hyatt, United Airlines, British Airways and more. But the card shows its real value with its high-earning bonus-spending categories. Freelancers and business owners alike will earn 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year.
Annual Fee: $95 | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Best card for families: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Who’s this for? The traveler with several dependents in tow; both old and young.
Details: The Capital One Venture X Rewards credit card is like the Venture card on steroids, allowing you to earn a whole lot more miles on travel and more widespread access to airport lounges.
You’ll earn 10X miles on hotels and rental cars and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel, plus 2X miles on all other purchases. Plus, you won’t be charged foreign transaction fees when swiping the card abroad.
Cardholders get unlimited access to Capital One Lounges and 1,300+ Priority Pass lounges worldwide—and authorized users get the same access!
You can easily offset the $395 annual fee with the card’s $300 annual credits for bookings through Capital One Travel. To top it off, you’ll also get 10,000 bonus miles automatically each account anniversary.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture X is a direct competitor to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and for many seeking a simpler earning scheme with premium perks, it could be the better option. But the Venture X truly shines with one benefit in particular: four free authorized users. Not only can they all use the card and earn miles, they all receive a Priority Pass membership which allows themselves and two guests access to airport lounges. In a highly improbable situation, that means you could technically bring 15 people into a lounge with you.
Annual Fee: $395 | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Best card for everyday earning: Citi Premier® Card
Who’s this for? The traveler not concerned with premium perks but who wants to know they’re getting good value from all of their purchases.
Details: This card is a powerhouse point earner for popular spending categories. You’ll earn 3X points on restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, air travel and hotels, plus 1X points on all other purchases. The card has no foreign transaction fees.
Citi points offer great value and flexibility as they can be transferred to more than 15 airline and hotel partners, or redeemed for cash back or gift cards.
To compensate for the reasonable $95 annual fee, the card offers $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com, once per calendar year.
Citi Premier® Card
The Citi Premier Card is an underrated travel credit card that offers both high points-earning potential and simplicity. While the mid-tier card doesn’t come with any premium benefits, its earning on popular spending categories is almost unmatched. Holders earn 3x points on air travel, hotels, gas stations, supermarkets, and restaurants, making it ludicrously easy to accrue points. Throw in the healthy 60,000 point bonus and you’ve got a great haul of rewards on your hands.
Best card for beginners: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Who’s this for? The occasional traveler just dipping their toes into the world of travel rewards
Details: This card has a simple earning structure and no bonus categories to keep track of: earn 1.5X points for every $1 spent on purchases.
Bank of America Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase which can make this card quite rewarding. The card does not charge foreign transaction fees.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
The Bank of America Travel Rewards card is simple. With no annual fee, a flat earning rate of 1.5 points per dollar spent, and an achievable (and useful) intro bonus, it’s the perfect first card for younger earners or those nervous about stepping into the world of points. It’s not glitz and glamour, but it does what it says on the tin.
Annual Fee: $0 | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Best card for gas guzzlers: U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card
Who’s this for? The traveler who spends spends more time than average on the road, whether commuting or otherwise, and wants to maximize that spend.
Details: The Altitude Connect card can put a ton of rewards in the pocket of any traveler or commuter. With the card you’ll earn 5x points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center; 4x points on travel, at gas stations and EV charging stations; 2x points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, dining and streaming services; 1x point on all other eligible purchases.
You’ll also get a $30 annual credit for streaming purchases like Netflix, Apple TV+, Spotify® and more after making qualifying purchases plus up to $100 in statement credits to reimburse your TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry® application fee once every four years.
The card does not charge foreign transaction fees and you can get up to $600 in reimbursement if your cell phone is stolen or damaged when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your card.
U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card
The US Bank Altitude Connect can fit well into the wallet of many Americans. The biggest draw is its 4 points per dollar on travel purchases, including gas stations. There are few cards that offer you as much of a return on your fill-ups — making it strongly worth considering for road warriors.
Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
Best card for renters: Bilt Mastercard®
Who’s this for? The traveler who wants to be rewarded for their largest monthly expense.
Details: The Bilt Rewards card can earn you a ton of points because of its unique ability to earn points on rent payments without charging you a transaction fee. With the card you’ll earn 1X points on rent payments, up to 50,000 per year, when you use your card five times in a statement period; 3X points on dining; 2X points on travel; 1X points on all other purchases.
The card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
Bilt points are some of the most sought-after rewards because of their useful transfer partners like American Airlines, United Airlines, Hyatt, IHG and more. You can also use your points towards a rent payment, future down payment on a home and more.
The no-annual-fee Bilt Rewards Mastercard is a very unique product that can turn your largest monthly expense into a heap of travel rewards. It’s the only card that allows you to pay your rent with no transaction fees—you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent on rent, up to 50,000 points year (when you make at least five posted transactions in a statement period). Many landlords don’t accept credit cards or they charge a convenience fee to use a credit card to pay rent—making it an intriguing option for renters across the US. Plus, its points can be transferred to valuable airline and hotel partners.
Annual Fee: $0 | Terms Apply | Rates & Fees
How should you use miles and rewards points?
The answer to this question is varied and depends on your situation. Some cards only offer limited ways to redeem miles and points. In this case, it’ll usually be cash back or statement credits. These are excellent ways to offset purchases or beat inflation and don’t require too much thought or planning.
If you have a more specific travel goal in mind, you need to do a little more work. As a rule of thumb, almost every reward system that allows you to transfer points to an airline or hotel partner offers a higher value proposition for your points. The trade-off is that you need to delve into which partner is best for where you want to go and locate the best deals.
The other option is using credit card travel portals. These are simple and function like a traditional travel search engine, like Expedia, and can usually score you good value for your points. But again, compared to transferring to a partner, you could be losing out.
I’ve used all three in different situations, but generally aim to transfer my points where possible.
Are annual fees worth it?
Annual fees can be scary, especially if you’re new to the world of points. Why would you pay almost $700 for a card like the Amex Platinum? The answer, again, varies depending on your situation.
An intimidating fee like the Platinum can be more than worth it if the card is being used to the fullest extent. These cards offer several perks, like statement credits for travel purchases, complimentary hotel elite status, widespread airport lounge access, travel insurance and more. If purchased individually these perks can be worth thousands of dollars.
Just a large intro bonus, if used well, could easily offset the yearly fee. But after that initial year, it might be harder to pull maximum value, especially if you find yourself spending on things you would never purchase. Ask yourself if the benefits a card offers are something you would have paid for anyway. I’ll likely be dropping my Platinum card next year, as I can’t validate the fee anymore, despite loving the perks.
Mid-tier travel cards can bridge that gap easily. Many offer easy-to-use, direct benefits that counter the fee each year, allowing you to accumulate points with no concern for the looming annual charge. Even some premium cards like the Sapphire Reserve and Venture X practically write off the fees with their easy-to-use statement credits.
Should I open a card for the intro bonus?
The simplest answer to this question is: only if you would hit the required minimum spending amount without changing any of your normal spending habits. If you force yourself to eat out more or make big purchases just to hit the threshold, you’re not really saving money.
I have paid for things earlier than I intended to. For example, I paid for three months of Airbnbs well ahead of time to ensure I grabbed the bonus on my Sapphire Preferred. I would have spent the money anyway, and it gifted me with some free travel. But this isn’t always ideal and does run the risk of holding a larger balance and accruing interest if you don’t have the cash available to pay it off on time and in full.
How do I choose the right card?
The best way to choose a card is to pick a travel goal, say a free round-trip flight to Paris. Work out how many points you would need with a few different airlines, and then check which credit cards’ points transfer to those airlines.
Check out the bonus offers, as these are the easiest way to earn a lot of points quickly, and ensure that you can realistically hit that spending goal. If the stars align, and you’re confident you can use the card responsibly, then go for it.
When used correctly, a travel credit card can easily save you thousands of dollars on flights and hotels. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a points geek or want to earn rewards on autopilot.
Just make sure you do your research to pick the best card that maximizes your spending and offers the perks you want and will actually use.
*For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply