What's the best credit card for travel?

What’s the Best Credit Card for Travel?

Earning travel miles while you use your credit card is a great way to travel fairly cheaply. What are the best cards for travel miles? We’ll take a look at some of the leaders in travel mile credit cards. The first section covers cards with low annual fees and a variety of rewards. Make sure you double check all values as rates and pricing may change.

Chase Sapphire Preferred – Best Starter Credit Card

This card has been rated highly by several experts as the best card for starting to accumulate travel miles. You need good to excellent credit to apply for the best rates.

  • Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4000 in first three months
  • Airlines: Multiple
  • Blackout Dates:  None when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Annual fee: $95, waived for the first year
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Points: 2x points per $1 on travel and restaurants worldwide
  • Perks:
    • 25% increased value when booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Auto rental collision damage waiver
    • Baggage delay insurance
    • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
    • Zero liability protection for unauthorized charges
    • Chip-enabled security
    • Travel and emergency assistance
    • Purchase protection for 120 days against damage or theft
    • Extended warranty protection
    • Points transfer: 1:1 to participating frequent travel programs
  • Pricing: APR: 17.99% – 24.99% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.99%
  • Credit Score: 690-850

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – Best for Hotels.com

If you like to book through hotels.com, this card is for you.

  • Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months
  • Airlines: Multiple
  • Blackout Dates: none for air travel
  • Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Points:
    • 2x miles on all purchases
    • 10X miles on thousands of hotels
  • Perks:
    • Book travel through any website or app
    • Use points on airline, hotel, or rental car company
    • Purchase eraser on recent travel purchases
    • $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓
    • 24-hour travel assistance services
    • Auto rental collision damage waiver
    • Travel accident insurance
    • Extended warranties on eligible items
    • Transfer miles to participating airlines
  • Pricing APR: 14.74% – 24.74% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 24.74%, Variable
  • Credit Score: 690-850

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card – Best Overall

This card offers a solid card to build and use travel points.  If you already have a Bank of America account, you’ll get more perks.

  • Sign-up Bonus: 20,000 bonus points after $1,000 in purchases in first three months
  • Airlines: Multiple
  • Blackout Dates: None
  • Annual fee: No annual fee for everyday spending
  • Foreign transaction fees:
  • Points: Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 on all purchases and points don’t expire
  • Perks:
    • an EMV chip
    • If you have $50,000 or more in Bank of America, reward rates equal 2.25% – 2.63%
    • Other existing account holders get a 25% – 75% bonus
  • Pricing: 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles, then 16.99% – 24.99% Variable APR
  • Credit Score: 690-850

Discover it Miles – Best Promotional Interest Rate

Discover has an excellent promotional rate and is a great starting point to build credit. The one caveat for international travel is that Discover is not recognized universally. Always have a backup Visa or Mastercard when travelling out of the US.

  • Sign-up Bonus: Discover matches all the miles earned at the end of first year
  • Airlines: Multiple
  • Blackout Dates: None
  • Annual fee: None
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Points: 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on purchases
  • Perks:
    • Redeem every 100 miles for $1 toward travel purchases or cash back
  • Pricing: 0% for 14 months, regular APR is 13.99 to 24.99%
    • APR: 13.99% – 24.99% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.99%, Variable
  • Credit Score: 690-850

HIGHER END CARDS

If you are in the market for a higher end card, consider these cards from Chase and American Express.

Chase Sapphire Reserve – Best for Travel Perks and Points

If you travel enough to offset the $450 annual fee, this card offers awesome points and perks. You do need an excellent credit rating to qualify for the top level of perks.

  • Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4000 in the first 3 months
  • Airlines: multiple
  • Blackout dates: None when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Annual fee: $450
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Points: 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases
  • Perks:
    • $300 per year annual travel credit
    • $100 application fee credit on Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
    • Priority Pass Lounge access
    • Travel insurance,
    • 50% point redemption bonus for air travel
    • Special benefits with the Luxury Hotel & Resorts Collection
    • 24/7 access to customer service specialist
    • Access to Visa Infinite Concierge services
    • Points transfer: 1:1 transfer to airline and hotel partners
  • Pricing APR: 17.99% – 24.99% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.99%, Variable
  • Credit score: 720-850

Platinum Card from American Express – Best Total Value

American Express offers this top end card without standing perks. It does come with a high annual rate, but frequent travelers can offset this amount. If you intend to do a lot of overseas travel, have a backup card as American Express is not accepted as widely as Mastercard and Visa.

  • Sign-up Bonus: 60,000 bonus points worth $600 in award travel.
  • Airlines: travel partners include Delta, Emirates, Etihad, and JetBlue
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Foreign transaction fees:
  • Points: Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from the airline or AmexTravel.com
  • Perks:
    • $200 air travel credit for checked bags and in-flight purchases
    • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
    • Complimentary access to airport lounge networks
    • Unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi hotspot access
    • $200 in annual Uber credits
    • Fine hotels and resorts program
  • Points transfer: 1:1 basis to multiple frequent flyer programs
  • Credit Score: 690-850

AIRLINE CARDS

If you have a preference for airlines, check out the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Blue Delta SkyMiles American Express, JetBlue Card, and Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select. These particular cards have excellent returns on purchases and sign up bonuses. You generally must use the branded airline for travel.

ARMED FORCES SERVICE MEMBERS

Service members and their families with a PenFed account should consider a PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature.

Platinum Rewards Visa Signature – Best for Military

  • Sign-up Bonus: $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days
  • Airlines: Multiple
  • Blackout Dates: None noted
  • Annual fee: None
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Points:
    • 5 points per dollar on gas purchases
    • 3 points per dollar on grocery purchases
    • 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Perks:
    • Chip enabled
    • Federally insured
  • Pricing:
    • 0% APR on balance transfers for first 12 months with a 3% balance transfer fee
    • APR is 11.74 to 17.99%
  • Credit Score: 690-850

As when taking out any credit card, always read the fine print and understand balance transfers and other details. The best way to earn miles is to pay off the balances and not carry them. Several cards waive fees when the total amount is paid off each month. Doing this will maximize your points.

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