A travel rewards credit card can save you thousands each year in travel costs. If you regularly fly or stay in hotels, it would be well worth obtaining such a card. You can find many that have no annual fee and even come with sign-up bonuses well into the $100’s if you look hard enough.
Of course, you do not want to get a travel rewards card and then find out it costs you an arm and a leg in balance transfer fees, interest payments, etc. So you have to be very careful when you compare each of the travel credit cards on the market.
At ElitePersonalFinance, we regularly look at all the different travel rewards credit cards on the market. We have a pretty good idea of how they differ and what pros and cons exist for each of them. So we’ve taken the time to compile a list of the best travel credit cards to give you the best offers around.
It can certainly be tough to select a travel reward credit card for you. But there are some high-quality options on the market. Each of the ones listed below is considered top quality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are right for you. Our list is based on the cards that give the most back, but ‘the most’ is a vague term as what you can earn depends on how you spend. So we’ve covered all the bases — there will be a high-value rewards card here for you below, whether you travel domestically or internationally.
So here are some cashback travel credit cards we at ElitePersonalFinance recommend.
Sapphire Preferred Card gives you $500 in cash or $625 worth of points as a new cardholder. It comes with a $95 annual fee, but this part is free in your first year. All you need to do is spend at least $4,000 with the card in your first three months. This is similar to the AMEX card we mentioned earlier, which has a $400 bonus for new cardholders, but it also has a $450 annual fee.
This card offers 1% cashback on all purchases. This reward is doubled for any travel. You also get 2% cashback for travel and restaurant transactions.
Furthermore, Chase Ultimate Rewards Program Gives You 20% Off!
You can get 20% off a lot of your travel purchases via Chase Ultimate Rewards.
You can even do 1:1 point transfers to maximize your travel rewards!
1:1 point transfers are possible between your Chase card rewards points and various other travel rewards accounts.
The list of companies partnered into this program include:
You can transfer your reward points to many other places through each of the affiliated companies above. For example, you can save 20% on Air Canada transactions as they are owned by United Airlines. You can get the same discount as American Airlines too since British Airways own them.
Some extra benefits include up to $100,000 in coverage towards rental car liabilities, up to $40,000 annual coverage for trip delays and cancellations, and $3,000 towards loss.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card doesn’t come with a huge set of sign-up bonuses. But what it does offer is more than enough to make it worth getting this card.
To start, you will get 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in three months. This is an incredible $625 value as long as you redeem it through their travel rewards program.
Sapphire cardholders also get to enjoy no annual fee in the first year. This saves you $95, but you’ll have to cover this cost in the following years.
There’s a 5,000-point bonus for the first user you add to your card as long as you do it in the first three months. This is worth $62.50 if you claim it towards a travel-based purchase. If you plan to add an authorized user, you’ll earn even more.
Chase Freedom Unlimited card is good to have in combination with Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It gives you better rewards on typical purchases and even 5% cashback rewards for certain purchases.
With this card, you will enjoy 5% cashback on certain purchases, which gives you up to $75 every three months if you spend enough. To get the maximum back, you would need to spend at least $1,500 every three months in a qualifying category.
The categories are always changing, and there’s a new one every three months. Usually, it will apply towards something like gas purchases, eating out, or buying stuff at wholesale stores.
Another great thing is that this card has no annual fee.
The card also has a mobile app that lets you turn your reward points into virtual retail gift cards. You can then order products online using the card you purchased through the app.
As a new cardholder, you can get $150 after buying $500 in stuff with your Chase Freedom Unlimited Card.
You get 0% interest for the first 15 months. This applies to both balance transfer fees and outstanding debts. It then shifts to between 14.24% and 23.24% APR depending on your creditworthiness.
This isn’t a specialty travel rewards credit card by any means. But, it might be one of the best value reward cards for frequent travelers to get. You receive an incredible 2% cashback on all purchases with 1% right away and the other 1% after paying the balance in full.
Remember, this is just an everyday cashback rewards credit card. It is not a miles rewards card by any means, but that shouldn’t matter. You want to earn miles or reward points to spend on travels. Well, you can use cash just as easily. People focus on reward points cards because they usually give you more towards your travel purchases than a basic cash back card does.
But with 2% back on everything, you can’t go wrong!
Even for those looking to get a high-rate cashback card, the Citi Double Cash card offers more than any other flat-rate card on the market.
You can get upwards of $1,200 annually (up to $300 per item) when there’s a lower retail price for something you bought. The card issuer actually scans for better prices, and if one is found in 60 days or less, you’ll get the price difference credited to you. Simply awesome!
You do not get any real sign-up perks with a Citi Double Cash card. It is all about that flat 2% rate, which was introduced as an industry-first to beat out all the competing cashback reward cards.
Thankfully, you aren’t held back by any extreme costs. It has no annual fee so that you can use it freely. You can even combine it with a travel rewards card like many do with Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Preferred Sapphire. When doing this, you can enjoy 2% on all purchases that likely would’ve gotten you only 1%, and you can still take advantage of the higher cashback on certain transactions.
Also, this is a card that works for both people with moderate and excellent credit status. DEPENDING ON YOUR CREDITWORTHINESS, the APR you get could be 12.99%, 17.99%, or 22.99%.
This card is perfect for those who do most of their traveling and spending in the US.
You get 2% cashback on transactions with participating airlines, car rental services, and hotels. Everything else nets you a 1% cashback reward.
Once you get reward points, you can redeem them towards a flight to get the best value possible. If you do this, it has to be through one of their airlines. Depending on when and how far ahead it gets booked, you will pay more or less in points for the same flight.
To give you an idea, a last-minute flight could cost $540 and require 31,000 points, even though for just 17,000 points, you could get a $400-value flight if booked ahead. This is one of those cards where you have to be careful because the amount of value you get from it depends on how you use it.
On average, you can say each reward point is worth about 1.5 cents.
Comes with a $99 annual fee.
As a new cardholder, you will get 50,000 reward points after spending $2,000 in under three months. This is worth approximately $750 if redeemed for one of their flights.
Every year you will get 6,000 points added as an ‘anniversary bonus,’ which is a $90 value that nearly makes up for the unavoidable $99 annual fee.
If you are more of a hotel person than a frequent flyer, the Starwood Preferred Guest card is a great alternative for you. It is considered the best hotel reward card around, which makes it perfect for the avid traveler. Even more, they have a business version of this card that’s perfect for anyone who flies or stays domestically regularly for work purposes.
They have a complex rewards program. Instead of basic reward points or miles, you actually get Starpoints. They have a lot of ways you can redeem these points too!
Starpoints are worth roughly 2.4 cents each. They can be transferred at a 1:1 rate to a lot of different airlines. If you’re in a different country, you won’t have any foreign transaction fees to cover. Even better, if you do the points transfer, you’ll score 5,000 points on top of every 20,000 Starpoints that get transferred. So you can do this amount in each transfer and get a 25% multiplier on all your rewards!
If you choose to redeem your Starpoints at a qualifying hotel, here are your current options:
Other benefits include: any Wi-Fi surcharges during hotel stays get covered for you, access to over a million Wi-Fi hotspots you can use across the world, and with their Nights & Flights program, you can get every fifth night at a qualifying hotel for free.
You will receive 25,000 Starpoints once you spend at least $3,000 within three months. This is approximately a $600 value. But if you play your cards right, you can boost the value of your points dramatically. The 25% booster when you transfer the points out would make the sign-up bonus $750 instead.
Yet, if you are lucky, you can get upwards of five cents per point. This would mean the sign-up bonus would be worth $1,250 instead, which is huge, of course.
You also get to enjoy a 0% APR period that lasts for 12 months on anything you transfer onto the card in the first 45 days. This means you can use the Starwood Preferred Guest Card to consolidate your other credit card debts while reaping the reward of a no-interest period. It’s a win-win situation!
While this card has a $95 annual fee, your first year is free.
What credit score is needed for a travel reward card?
The credit score that is required vary by credit card issuers. Some will accept those who have average credit, but the majority are looking for excellent creditworthiness. Typically, you will see a fair amount of application approvals if you have a credit rating that’s 650 or higher. Those with a FICO score of 690 or more tend to get approved for all of the cards listed here.
However, you have to keep in mind that many travel reward cards require you to have a certain amount of annual income. You might not qualify for a card because of this, even if your credit rating is ‘through the roof.’
What is the best travel card signup offer?
The best signup bonus comes from Chase Sapphire. You can get $625 put towards your purchase with this card. If you want to get your sign-up bonus in cash, this will mean your bonus is worth $500 instead. To qualify for the bonus, all you have to do is transact at least $4,000 in stores over your first three months.
Once you redeem the $625 worth of points, you can purchase the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. From here, you can make reservations at various airlines and hotels, and your points will stretch further. If you have reward points elsewhere, you can also do a 1:1 points transfer to many airline and hotel reward programs.
Do travel credit cards have annual fees?
Most credit cards with travel reward programs charge a little under $100 a year for annual fees. There are even some that charge closer to $500 yearly. But these are for people who spend tens or hundreds of thousands a year while traveling around. There are still a handful of travel credit cards with no annual fees; even some of the better who charge this fee will have it set to $0 for the first year. The cards from our list that have no annual fee are Chase Freedom Unlimited and Citi Double Cash.
Which travel rewards card has the best APR?
Whenever you look at an offer with a cashback-style rewards program, usually, you don’t get a favorable APR. Citi Double Cash Card gives a 12.99% APR for those with excellent creditworthiness. This is a bit ahead of most of the competition; typically, even if you’re an amazing borrower, you’ll have no better than a 14.24% APR.
Do they offer no-interest periods?
With a travel reward credit card, it is possible to have a no-interest period. Some offer it for both your balance owing and your balance transfers. Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of those hidden gems, as it gives you an incredible 15-month no-interest period. That’s pretty good for a card with 5% cashback and no annual fees.
How can you make more?
It would help if you were very careful when signing up for an incentive for your travel-related spending. You might get more or less cash back, whether in cash or points. Some will not cover certain transactions. Even worse, quite a few have high foreign transaction fees, eliminating the card’s value if you’re an international traveler. So you really have to make sure it is right for you before applying for it; read all the fine print and learn how their point system works, what their points are worth, and where you can use them!
Which travel rewards credit cards are the best?
You want a travel rewards card that guarantees you a profit on your investment. If there’s a $200 annual fee, the reward incentive must be large enough to pay that back. Then you want to make a little extra to get something out of the card. Many cashback reward cards with no annual fees offer around $400 or $500 in value each year. So you could need to earn upwards of $700 in travel rewards to break even.
Surprisingly, you will find quite a few offers that reward you with $1,000 or more in a year without making you jump through tons of hoops.
For example, you can get the Platinum Card from American Express, which has a $450 annual fee. This seems like it would have no value, but by spending $3,000 in three months, you’ll get $400 in reward points. This alone covers most of your first year’s fee. Then you also have $200 in credits towards airline baggage fees every year. But we don’t recommend this particular card because you mostly earn rewards based on your flight and hotel reservations.
Which are the best of them for average/bad credit?
If you have poor or mediocre credit, getting any cashback rewards credit card will prove to be a challenge. Your only workaround is a secured cashback rewards card. Discover it secured card is one of very few that offer this; they’ll give you 1% cashback on everything and 2% on groceries and gas.