The best travel credit card for you depends on where you like to spend, what perks you like, and where you want to fly. We’ve got you covered to help you decide and earn award travel fast.
Want a decent travel card without much thinking? Choose one of our picks below and you’ll be headed in the right direction. While paying an annual fee offers lucrative rewards, if you don’t want a fee, see our ranking of no annual fee travel credit cards.
Want the best cards based on your spending? Our calculator will rank cards based on what spending categories you use the most.
Want as many miles as possible? Applying for the biggest intro deals will get you there fastest, especially if you’re willing to hold more than one card. Our bonus offers page details the biggest deals and is filled with tips.
If you’re confused or have a question, ask us by adding a comment at the bottom of the page, or use our Contact form and we’ll get back to you with personal help.
|Best For...||Card||Intro offer||Annual fee||Application|
|$0 intro annual |
fee the first year,
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express|
|$0 intro annual|
fee for the first year,
View Rates And Fees
Terms and Restrictions Apply
No annual Fee
|The Amex Everyday® Credit Card|
View Rates And Fees
Gold Delta SkyMiles® American Express
|$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95||
View Rates And Fees
Big intro offer
|Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard|
|$0 intro annual fee, then $95|
|Bank of America Travel Rewards|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express|
View Rates And Fees
|Charles Schwab Investor Checking||None||$0|
Offer: 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®.
What’s great: Great flexibility with how you can use your points, plus great travel insurance benefits.
3 ways to book travel.
Ask an expert who blogs about using miles and points what the best travel credit cards are, and the Sapphire Preferred will be on the shortlist thanks to its great flexibility. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred you have 3 ways to book travel:
Transfer points to travel partners. This is the most exciting and lucrative part of the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You can transfer points directly into real airline miles or hotel points with over 10 travel partners, including United MileagePlus and Southwest Rapid Rewards. If you want to fly in first or business class, an option like this is a must have. If you just want regular domestic flights, there’s great value here too, thanks to Southwest and United.
Book via the Chase website. If you don’t want to deal with the rules of airline mile programs, you can use your points like cash to buy tickets on the Chase website anytime. Every 10,000 points gets you $125 in flight value, and you don’t have to worry about special mileage flights. Any flight is fair game.
Get cash back. If you decide you don’t want to travel, you can redeem your points for cash back anytime. Every 10,000 points is worth $100.
Great travel insurance
Even better, the card is also loaded with great travel protection, including $500 to cover hotel expenses if your flight is delayed more than 12 hours and $5,000 for trips you need to cancel if you’re seriously ill (or have another covered reason). And you don’t need absolutely perfect credit to qualify for the card.
Downside: There’s a $95 annual fee after the $0 introductory fee the first year. So if you never want to think about an annual fee, this card isn’t for you.
If you’re thinking of trying more than one card, consider this one early. There are reports Chase tends not to approve people who have opened 5 or more new cards in the last 2 years.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: If you spend $3,000 or more on travel and dining expenses a year, the Sapphire Reserve can make more sense, because it earns 3x points on travel and dining, better than the 2x points on the Sapphire Preferred. But there’s a $450 annual fee, though you can offset it with a $300 annual credit for travel purchases you make on the card.
Capital One Venture or Barclaycard Arrival Plus: If you don’t care about real airline miles at all, these cards have a good intro bonus and offer 2x points on everything you buy. Use the points to get statement credit for travel you pay for with the card, so you can book any airline you want, on any website you want to always get the best fares and use your points to cover the purchase.
Offer: Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms and conditions apply.
What’s great: Starwood hotel awards cost much less in points than many other hotel programs.
Good value for hotels
Starwood points are really valuable for free hotel nights, with most hotels available for 15,000 points or less per night. Compare that to Marriott and Hilton who often charge twice as much or more for similar hotels with points. This card earns a basic one point per dollar on most purchases, but that’s okay since Starwood charges so much less for rooms with points.
Starwood hotels include Westin, Sheraton, W, Le Meridien, St. Regis, Four Points, Aloft, and Element. And you can convert them into Marriott Rewards points, with 1 Starwood point getting you 3 Marriott points, which can open up some great deals.
Airline mile flexibility
You can transfer your points into real airline miles anytime, and in most cases one point equals one mile or more, so there’s no dilution. American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles, and Alaska MileagePlan are each partners with Starwood, making it easy to add to miles you might already have. It’s this extra feature that makes this one of the best travel credit cards to get started.
Downside: $95 annual fee after the first year, and Starwood tends to have fewer hotels than other big chains like Marriott and Hilton, but it charges much less in points for similar hotels.
Check our picks for the best hotel credit cards to see more, but one of our favorites is the IHG Rewards Credit Card.
IHG Rewards Credit Card: Get this one for a great annual perk. Every year on your card anniversary, you get a free night good at any category IHG hotel, including Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn hotels.
Offer: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.
What’s great: Earns points you can turn into real airline miles, including Delta SkyMiles.
Points you can turn into Delta SkyMiles
This is the only no annual fee card that lets you earn points you can turn into real airline miles with several frequent flyer programs, including Delta SkyMiles and Air France Flying Blue on a 1:1 basis, so there’s no dilution. Normally cards charge a hefty fee of $95 or more a year for this feature, but it’s included with the no fee Amex Everyday, which earns full value Amex Membership Rewards points.
That’s great if you want to add to Delta miles you might already have. And if you don’t want to transfer to miles, you can always use your points to book travel on the Amex website, which features most major airlines. Every 10,000 points is like $100 in cash for travel there.
Extra earning for using the card more
If you use the card to make at least 20 purchases during a monthly statement period, you get a 20% bonus on all the points you earn that statement. So it can be like a card that earns 1.2 points per dollar on everything. And you can also earn 2x points on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, plus the 20% bonus, up to $6,000 in grocery purchases a year, then 1x.
Downside: The intro bonus for this card isn’t very big and there is no waiver of foreign transaction fees.
Citi Double Cash: If you’re okay without any intro bonus at all, and don’t care about real airline miles, it’s tough to beat double cash on everything you spend. No limits, no special categories.
Bank of America Travel Rewards: If you want no foreign transaction fees, this is a good pick that earns 1.5x points on everything. And you can book travel anywhere. Just pay for the travel with your card and use your points to get statement credit.
Limited Time Offer: Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend an additional $1,000 with your new Card within your first 6 months. Offer expires on 4/11/2018. Terms Apply.
What’s great: Free first checked bag for up to 8 people traveling with you.
Generous free checked bag policy
When you hold the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card you get a free first checked bag for yourself and up to 8 people in the same reservation on any Delta flights. Some other cards with a free checked bag require you to pay for the ticket with the card to get the benefit. Not with the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card. Pay for the ticket however you’d like, and the benefit is yours.
And it’s not limited to domestic flights like another major airline’s card. You won’t pay for a first checked bag on holidays to the Caribbean and Mexico with this card.
Downside: There’s a $95 annual fee after the first year. And if you don’t want a credit card, Southwest offers every flier their first and second checked bags free.
Offer: You can get 60,000 miles when you open a new Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select card and spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of holding the card. There’s a $0 intro annual fee the first year, then $95.
What’s great: The usual bonus on this card is just 30,000 miles, so this is double the usual offer. The highest we’ve seen before this is an offer for 50,000 miles, and you can see deals for other cards here.
Downside: AAdvantage miles aren’t as useful as they used to be, with awards at the MileSAAver price hard to find on many days, but if you’re looking to travel on American’s partners to Asia like Cathay Pacific, you’ll have an easier time getting good value out of them.
Offer: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that’s enough to redeem for a $200 travel statement credit.
What’s great: Chip + PIN capability, and no foreign fees.
Chip + PIN plus no foreign fees
When you’re traveling to Europe and beyond, you want a card that has two features: Chip + PIN capability, plus no foreign transaction fees.
While plenty of cards have no foreign transaction fees, it’s not so easy to find cards that have Chip + PIN capability.
That capability lets you use your card at terminals and kiosks abroad that don’t have a way for you to use your signature. This PIN is different from a cash advance PIN, which doesn’t always work for regular credit card transactions.
Even better, there’s no annual fee for this card.
Downside: The rewards are pretty basic – 1.5x points everything and you can use the points to remove travel purchases from your statement. You’ll probably want to use this card as a backup for special situations, and another card with better rewards for your other spending.
Offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply. (See Rates & Fees)
What’s great: The biggest variety of lounge access options available, plus other travel perks.
3 lounge networks
No other card gives you access to more lounges at once, with 3 lounge networks to enjoy.
- Luxurious Centurion Lounges, located at several airports in the U.S. like New York La Guardia, San Francisco, and Houston. You can access them while flying any airline, and bring up to 2 guests where you’ll enjoy premium wines, hot chef inspired food, and even spa treatments.
- Access to all Delta SkyClubs when you’re flying Delta Air Lines. Guests cost extra, but it’s a great perk on its own.
- Access to over 900 Priority Pass lounges. Priority Pass is a network of lounges from many airlines and independent operators that gives you coverage at over 400 airports worldwide. You can access these lounges no matter what airline you’re flying, though you’ll find these lounges most useful when you’re traveling outside the U.S.
Downside: There’s a big $550 annual fee, but the card offers a $200 annual airline fee credit. And the card only earns one point per dollar on all purchases. But it’s loaded with perks like complimentary Starwood and Hilton Gold level elite status.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Offers Priority Pass access with unlimited guest privileges, and a $300 annual travel credit.
United MileagePlus Club Card: The only option if you want to access United Clubs.
Citi Executive AAdvantage: The only option if you want access to American Admirals Clubs.
What’s great: Truly fee cash at all ATMs worldwide.
Traveling abroad still means dealing with cash. And if you don’t want to change money at your bank before you leave, the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account is the next best thing.
There are no foreign transaction fees when you withdrawal, and all ATM fees are reimbursed, so it’s easy to get cash when you travel.
There are no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees, so you can just use this account as a separate travel account when you have a big trip.
Want to really boost your earning?
The fastest way to earn miles and points is to not stick to just one card. Instead, some people like to apply for several cards over time to try them out and earn the big sign up bonuses each offer.
The reason they do it is this:
Let’s say you’re using a card with a 30,000 mile bonus after $1,000 in spending within 3 months. That means for the first $3,000 you spend on that card you’re effectively earning 30 miles per dollar. That’s much better than any regular earning you’ll get from a card after the bonus.
So once the bonus spending on one card is done, you can consider opening up a different card and working toward that bonus. Let’s say it’s a card that earns 40,000 miles after $3,000 in spending. Then, you’re earning 13 miles per dollar you spend upfront. That’s a lot more than the 1-2 miles per dollar you will get if you continue with just one card.
This is not for everyone. Keeping track takes some discipline to know which cards you want to keep and which aren’t working out for you.
And there can be restrictions. For example Chase may not approve you if you’ve opened more than 5 cards in the last 2 years. So take it easy.
It’s okay to be comfortable with just one or two that you think are the best travel credit cards even without the bonus and ‘setting it and forgetting it’ – you’ll still earn hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in extra travel rewards.
But if you’re really set on big mile balances going after bonuses for part of the year can help boost your accounts quickly and help you understand which cards work for you in the long term.
We keep a fresh list of the latest deals and tips here with information on how much offers are worth and what’s required to earn them.