Credit cards aren’t just about spending money that you don’t have. The opposite is actually true, with the savvy credit card owner knowing there are plenty of perks out there if you use them in the right way. With that in mind, we’re here to show you the best travel credit cards that will earn you points, miles, discounts, and more, so you can start putting your cards to good use.
Credit cards were invented as a way to help you spend money that you didn’t have, like a loan from the bank that you’d have to pay back with a whole lot of interest. These days, credit cards are a whole lot more than that, and customers are now using them to get benefits for themselves rather than paying back a lot of interest.
Travel credit cards are the main source of these perks with everything from frequent flyer miles to free hotel rooms available. But it’s not all that easy to do though, which is why you need to know about the best travel credit cards and exactly how to use them to your advantage.
There are cards with great flat rates, those focused on hotel rewards, and a whole lot more. With our help, you’ll be the one benefiting from owning a credit card and not the other way around.
What’s The Difference Between A Travel And Regular Credit Card?
Before we can get into our top picks for the best travel credit card, you need to know a little more about how they differ from standard credit cards. Most standard credit cards work the same way – you have a set limit, make purchases, and then pay off the minimum limit each month to prevent interest being charged.
A travel credit card is usually linked to an airline or chain of hotels, and in conjunction with these companies, they offer your rewards. These rewards are set up to entice people to use them but when you’re savvy with money and actually know that you will be able to pay off the balance in full without any interest, there’s the potential to earn a whole lot from them.
Travel credit cards can be so beneficial that there are entire websites, blogs, magazine articles, and even books dedicated to working the system and getting the most out of your money. The days of high interest and no rewards are over, as there are plenty of great deals out there that can fund your next vacation.
Features To Look For In A Travel Credit Card
When people are signing up for a credit card, they’re usually doing so out of desperation. They might have a debt they have to pay or are planning a holiday and haven’t saved any money. When you can think ahead and organize a travel credit card for yourself though, what you look for might differ. Here are some features to consider when choosing the best travel credit card around.
Check the fine print for how easy it is to redeem your awards, whether there are any additional fees and charges, or waiting periods that apply.
As a rule, you should look for cards that earn you at least 1.5% of your spending. Depending on the card, this might be even higher and can go beyond 2%. Earning the rewards shouldn’t take a lot of work or unnecessary spending if you do it right.
General vs Co-branded
A general travel card’s rewards can be used on anything travel related like flights or hotels. A co-branded card is linked to specific companies so you must book with their hotel chain or fly with their airlines. They might limit your options somewhat but they do come with perks that general cards don’t have.
The interest rate shouldn’t matter if you plan on paying back the balance immediately, which is the only real way to benefit from having a credit card.
Sign up bonuses
This is where you can earn quite a lot of money from the very first use, so look for enticing sign up rewards like a free return trip. Usually, it is something gifted with a stipulation like $2,000 worth of spending in the first 90 days.
Protections and perks
Some cards will offer things like travel insurance and emergency assistance. Others will have perks like free checked bags and priority boarding. Look for the perks and protection that you will actually use as you travel.
Be very cautious of cards that only work within the country if you are planning overseas trips. Some specify that their points only relate to domestic flights or local accommodation.
Our Picks For The Best Travel Credit Cards Around
Credit card companies are always coming out with new and exciting offers to entice their customers, so the best travel credit cards won’t always stay the same. These represent the best picks for 2018 with most brands being long-running providers of great travel perks, so be sure to check in with their most recent deals before you commit.
#1: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Often considered the best of the best when it comes to travel credit cards, you can easily see how it earned this reputation when you look at the rewards. In addition to their massive 50,000 point sign up bonus, you have the freedom to spend it virtually anywhere as the card isn’t tied to any one airline or hotel chain.
You’ll get 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point for everywhere else. Your points won’t expire as long as the card is kept active as well. There’s an annual fee of $95 but it’s waived for the first year so you won’t have to pay a thing to enjoy the benefits.
#2: Bank Americard Travel Rewards
If you’re someone who refuses to pay any fees on their credit card but still wants to get some travel perks, the Bank Americard Travel Rewards card is for you. There are no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees, as well as no expiration time on any points that you earn. All you’re spending is the purchases you make which also gives you the potential to earn some rewards.
Some might find the sign-up bonus a little light, with just 20,000 points available after spending $1,000, but it means you don’t have to go broke just trying to earn yourself some rewards. This card is ideal for Bank of America customers because you’ll get an additional loyalty bonus, so it’s something to keep in mind.
#3: Capital One Venture
When you want a card that’s flexible, Capital One Venture is the one to go with. You’ll earn a little less than others with 2 points for every dollar, but where and how you can spend them is truly freeing. There’s no need to use specific airlines or hotels which gives you the flexibility to find yourself an even better deal.
This is one of the easier cards to use and the one that you’ll have to put the least thought into when spending. It offers some great perks and a wider range of places to enjoy them which is why it’s consistently rated as one of the best travel credit cards around.
#4: Hilton Honors Ascend American Express
Hilton Honors is seriously focused on the points, and they have plenty of great airline partnerships to go with it. Their sign up bonus offers a huge 100,000 points from just $3,000 of spending over the first few months, which is more than enough to get you signed up. What makes this even more impressive is the fact that you can book a stay for just 5,000 points which means a potential 20 free nights of accommodation.
There are plenty of other ways to earn with 6x points at gas stations and supermarkets, 12x points on any Hilton purchases, and a free night away when you spend your first $15,000. For those who know how to shop smartly, this could be like having your own golden ticket to travel.
#5: Platinum Card American Express
Sure, not everyone can afford to have a platinum card, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the best. Known for being the rich guy’s best friend, this card will give you plenty of benefits for using it like a massive 5 points for every dollar when spent on travel, and 1 point for every dollar you spend elsewhere.
The Platinum Card has a whopping $500 a year fee but this is probably not much for those with money, and well worth it for the rewards. One downside is the lack of international availability on the card, with most place preferring Mastercard or Visa.
#6: Chase Sapphire Reserved
Chase Sapphire Reserve is no stranger to being the best, as they constantly take home awards for the greatest travel card. You’ll make 3 points on every dollar you spend on travel and dining, and 1 everywhere else. Their points are worth 1.5 cents which makes them pretty profitable, especially considering you can get a whopping 50,000 as a sign-up bonus.
The reason why this card is so popular is that it gives plenty of perks when you use it and others for just carrying it. They have 12 airline and hotel partners so you have variety, but you’ll have to be prepared to cough up the $450 annual fee for this pricey card.
#7: Bank of America Premium Rewards
This is the ideal card for those people with high balances in their savings, checking, and investment accounts, so long as you’re already with Bank of America. Those with more funds can make 75% more on rewards, so you can see the difference it makes.
The Premium Rewards card gives you 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and 1.5 points spent everywhere else. You’ll also get a massive 50,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days of your account being opened. If you don’t have high balances though, you might want to reconsider as the benefits aren’t as high if you have under $100,000.
#8: Barclay’s Arrival Premier
Barclay's Arrival Premier card is the perfect choice for international travel as it has a chip and pin that work virtually anywhere. Take this card along with you on holidays and you’ll earn points as you spend like unlimited 2x miles on every purchase you make and a whopping 25,000 bonus miles on offer every year.
There are no foreign transaction fees, your miles will never expire, and you get complimentary travel insurance when you book with your card. You can not only use your miles for travel but also have them converted to cash statement credit or to another travel partner, so it’s extremely flexible.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
You’ll get 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point for everywhere else
Bank Americard Travel Rewards
Ideal for Bank of America customers because you’ll get an additional loyalty bonus
Capital One Venture
You’ll earn a little less than others with 2 points for every dollar
Hilton Honors Ascend American Express
You can book a stay for just 5,000 points which means a potential 20 free nights of accommodation
Platinum Card American Express
Has plenty of benefits like a massive 5 points for every dollar when spent on travel
Chase Sapphire Reserved
You’ll make 3 points on every dollar you spend on travel and dining
Bank of America Premium Rewards
Ideal card for those people with high balances in their savings
Barclay’s Arrival Premier
Perfect choice for international travel as it has a chip and pin that work virtually anywhere
The Only Way To Book Travel
If you’re yet to own a travel credit card, there’s a good chance that after seeing what they offer your mind will be changed. Be very careful to use your credit card responsibly though so that you’re gaining the most benefits from it without being charged any unnecessary fees or interest.
There’s a whole underground world dedicated to finding the best travel credit cards and using them to their advantage. You’ll find countless stories of people traveling the world for free thanks to smart study and well-planned travel using these amazing beneficial cards.
Travel credit cards are a seriously smart move as long as you’ve done your research. Before signing up for anything have a clear travel plan in mind and work towards choosing the card that suits needs and will give you the perks and protection that you’ll actually use.