8 Best Travel Credit Cards of 2022

Money
Money
  1. Best Premium Travel Card

    Chase Sapphire Reserve(R) Credit Card

    Our Partner

    • Annual Fee:

      $550

    • Rewards:

      Get 10,000 bonus miles every year, starting on your first anniversary, receive up to $300 back as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel

    Learn More

  2. Best Premium Card for Most Extra Benefits

    The Platinum Card(R) from American Express

    Our Partner

    • Annual Fee:

      $695

    • Rewards:

      5x points on travel and hotels through Amex, variety of statement credits and luxury perks

    Learn More

  3. Best for Dining Rewards

    American Express(R) Gold Credit Card

    Our Partner

    • Annual Fee:

      $250

    • Rewards:

      Earn 4X points on restaurants worldwide, 3X points on flights, $120 annual dining credit, $120 annual Uber Cash for food delivery orders and rides in the U.S

    Learn More

  4. Highest Base Reward Rate

    Capital One(R) Venture(R) Rewards Credit Card

    Our Partner

    • Annual Fee:

      $95

    • Rewards:

      2X miles per dollar on everyday spending, $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, includes travel accident and car rental insurance

    Learn More

  5. Best Starter Credit Card

    Chase Sapphire Preferred(R) Credit Card

    Our Partner

    • Annual Fee:

      $95

    • Rewards:

      Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel purchases through Chase Receive, gives point bonus each account anniversary, includes primary rental car insurance

    Learn More

A travel credit card can be a valuable tool to help you save on travel expenses. If you spend strategically, you could snag free flights, hotel stays and more.

These cards earn points (or miles) for travel and other everyday purchases at a set rate for every dollar you spend, sometimes with bonus rewards of up to ten points (10x) per dollar when you use them to pay for your trips.

Some travel credit cards offer additional benefits like airport lounge access, baggage delay insurance and a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit.

Read on for our list of the best travel credit cards, how they work and how to pick the best one for you.

Our Top Picks for Best Travel Credit Cards

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® – Best premium travel card

  • Capital One Venture X – Best premium travel card runner-up

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – Best premium card for most extra benefits

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® – Best starter credit card

  • Chase Freedom Flex℠ – Best for no annual fees

  • Capital One VentureOne – Best for no annual fees runner-up

  • American Express® Gold Card – Best for dining rewards

  • Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card – Best for rewards on everyday spending

Best Travel Credit Cards Reviews

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
Courtesy of Chase

Pros

  • Annual statements credit ($300) for travel purchases

  • 14 travel partners including United, Southwest, JetBlue and Marriott

  • Points worth 50% more when redeemed for travel expenses through Chase

  • Emergency medical and dental insurance

Cons

  • High annual fee ($550)

  • Doesn't include a cell phone protection plan

  • Welcome offer is less impressive than other premium cards

HIGHLIGHTS

Annual Fee
$550
Sign-up Bonus
80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Travel insurance
Trip cancellation/interruption, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, emergency evacuation and transportation, roadside assistance, emergency medical and dental insurance, primary rental car insurance

Why we chose it: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns high reward rates on travel and dining and has additional benefits like comprehensive travel insurance and airport lounge access worldwide.

Most premium cards offer the same bonus rate for airfare, hotels and rental cars. The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, on the other hand, earns 5x points on air travel and 10x points on hotels and rental cars purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. And if Chase’s travel offers aren’t enough, you can still earn 3x points for all other travel-related purchases.

The card also earns 3x points on restaurants, including takeout and delivery. You can boost that reward rate up to 10x if you use the Chase Dining program to make restaurant reservations and order takeout and delivery in thousands of partner restaurants. (Keep in mind that options may be limited in some cities.)

Another advantage of the Sapphire Reserve is that its points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel through the Chase portal — that is, 1.5 cents per point instead of the usual one cent.

In addition to its generous rewards, the Sapphire Reserve has several notable perks. It provides statement credits to cover fees for the expedited traveler programs Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus, plus discounts or upgrades on select car rental companies, to name a few.

The card’s most notable benefit is a $300 annual travel credit that can cover travel-related purchases like airfare, hotels, car rentals, rideshares, buses, trains, tolls and/or parking. Other cards that feature an annual travel credit are usually more restrictive, and you can often only use it on flights or hotels purchased through the card issuer’s travel portal.

The Sapphire Reserve does have a $550 annual fee. But if you take advantage of the $300 annual credit and other perks, the benefits can definitely outweigh its cost.

Capital One Venture X Credit Card
Courtesy of Capital One

Pros

  • 10,000 bonus miles every year

  • Statement credit of up to $300 for bookings made through Capital One Travel

  • Up to a $100 credit on Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

  • Skip the line and get car upgrades when renting a car with Hertz

Cons

  • No dining bonus category

  • No domestic airline transfer partner

HIGHLIGHTS

Annual Fee
$395
Sign-up Bonus
75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months
Travel insurance
Trip cancellation/interruption, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, primary rental car insurance

Why we chose it: The Capital One Venture X Rewards features premium benefits like statement credits and airport lounge access for a lower annual fee ($395) than many competitors.

The Venture X includes perks like a Priority Pass Select membership, which provides access to more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. This type of perk is typically only offered by luxury cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum Card® from American Express, both of which have much higher annual fees ($550 and $695 respectively).

Other benefits include 10,000 bonus miles on every account anniversary and the option to add up to four authorized users at no extra cost. (Many cards have an annual fee of $75 or more for each additional user.)

The Venture X features a $300 annual travel credit that can be used for airfare, hotel stays, rental car reservations and more. However, do note the credit can only be used for Capital One Travel bookings. (Some competitors are more flexible in this regard and let you use the credits on any type of travel purchase, including taxis and buses.)

Although the card includes travel insurance, its coverage is limited when compared to other premium travel cards. For example, the Venture X doesn’t cover baggage delays, travel accidents or emergency evacuations and transportations. It does, however, provide primary rental car insurance which is not offered by most travel cards.

All in all, the Venture X is a solid option that can easily compete with other premium travel cards, especially considering its more affordable annual fee. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, our main pick for the best premium travel card, might be a better fit if you’d prefer a less restrictive annual travel credit and a more comprehensive travel insurance policy.

American Express Platinum Credit Card
Courtesy of American Express

Pros

  • Access to the widest network of airport lounges of any card

  • Complimentary elite status in the Marriott and Hilton hotel loyalty programs

  • Hundreds of dollars in annual statement credits for travel, dining and more

Cons

  • High annual fee ($695)

  • Doesn't include baggage delay, travel accident and primary rental car insurance

  • Limited bonus categories

HIGHLIGHTS

Annual Fee
$695
Sign-up Bonus
100,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $6,000 on purchases on your new card during the first 6 months of card membership
Travel insurance
Trip delays/cancellations, lost baggage reimbursement and secondary car rental insurance

Why we chose it: The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a list of premium benefits that no other travel card offers, including the widest network of airport lounges and room upgrades at Hilton and Marriott hotels.

This American Express card includes complimentary access to over 1,400 airport lounges around the world. Other premium cards (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®) also give cardholders access to lounges through Priority Pass, a global network of over 1,300 lounges. However, the Platinum Card® from American Express grants access to Priority Pass and additional lounge networks such as Delta SkyClub and Amex’s own Centurion lounges.

The card awards cardholders gold status in the Marriott and Hilton loyalty programs, which makes you eligible for perks like room upgrades, free breakfast and late checkouts. (You would typically need to stay at least 25 nights in Marriott and 28 nights in Hilton locations per year before achieving gold status with each company.)

Platinum cardmembers also get elite status in three car rental programs: Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive. This status gives you perks such as skipping the line, car upgrades and/or discounts.

In addition to travel benefits, the card includes several statement credits such as $12.95 monthly for a Walmart+ membership, up to $240 annually for select digital entertainment services (like Disney+ and Hulu) and up to $200 ($15 per month and $20 in December) for food delivery or rides with Uber, just to name a few.

The card earns 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 per calendar year), 5x points on prepaid hotels booked on the company’s Travel portal and one point per $1 on all other eligible purchases.

The Platinum Card® from American Express does have a hefty $695 annual fee. However, for people who travel often and will take advantage of its annual credits and travel perks, it might almost pay for itself.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Courtesy of Chase

Pros

  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel purchases through Chase

  • Receive a point bonus each account anniversary

  • Includes primary rental car insurance

  • Earn 3x per $1 points on dining, including eligible delivery and takeout meals, select streaming services and grocery purchases

Cons

  • $95 annual fee

  • Doesn't offer a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit

HIGHLIGHTS

Annual Fee
$95
Sign-up Bonus
Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Travel insurance
Trip cancellations/interruptions, trip delays, travel accidents, luggage and primary rental car insurance

Why we chose it: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is an excellent option for frequent travelers who want to earn valuable rewards while paying a low annual fee.

The card features six reward categories, with the most lucrative one earning 5x points for booking flights, hotels, cruises, rental cars and more if you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. However, if you find a great deal on another booking site like Expedia, you’ll get 2x points per dollar on those purchases as well.

You’ll earn 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery and takeout meals, select streaming services and grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).

The Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal allows you to redeem your points at a higher rate. Chase points are generally worth one cent; however, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, the rate is 1.25 cents per point when redeemed for travel through the portal.

You can also transfer your points to one of Chase’s 14 travel partners at a 1:1 ratio (one Chase point equals one hotel point or airline mile). These include popular airlines and hotels like JetBlue, Southwest, United, Marriott and Hyatt.

Another benefit is that you can combine points from multiple Chase cards under your Chase Sapphire Preferred® account (as long as they earn Ultimate Rewards points). For example, if you have the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you can transfer its points to your Chase Sapphire Preferred® account. This would increase their usual one-cent-per-dollar value to 1.25 cents for bookings made through the Ultimate Rewards® program.

In addition to its standard travel insurance benefits, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® includes primary rental car coverage — a perk not many travel cards provide. This type of insurance covers theft or damages without first filing a claim with your auto insurer. You also get to skip paying for the rental car company’s collision coverage.

Chase Freedom Flex Credit Card, No Annual Fee
Chase Freedom Flex Credit Card, No Annual Fee

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Includes trip cancellation/interruption and car rental insurance

  • Earn 5% cash back in quarterly categories, on up to the first $1,500 spent

  • 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards(R)

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee

  • Only secondary rental car insurance provided

HIGHLIGHTS

Annual Fee
$0
Sign-up Bonus
Earn $200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Travel insurance
Trip cancellations/interruptions and secondary rental car insurance

Why we chose it: Credit cards without an annual fee don’t typically include travel or car rental insurance. The Chase Freedom Flex℠, on the other hand, provides insurance for rental cars and covers trip cancellations and interruptions as well.

The trip cancellation and interruption policy reimburses up to $1,500 per person (and up to $6,000 per trip) for passenger fares if the trip gets canceled or interrupted. Much like a dedicated travel insurance policy, this coverage kicks in if unexpected events like severe weather or hospitalizations cut your trip short.

Other card benefits include its cell phone protection plan, a perk that’s usually only offered by cards with annual fees. If you pay your phone’s monthly bill using your Chase Freedom Flex℠, you can get up to $800 per claim for theft or damages, and you can file up to two claims and receive a maximum of $1,000 per year. (Bear in mind there’s a $50 deductible per claim.)

Few cash-back cards offer rewards for travel purchases or accumulate points for travel. The Freedom Flex℠, however, comes with both features. While it’s technically a cash-back card and not a travel reward card, it still earns points that you can use for travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. The card also gives 5% cash back on bookings made through the site.

Beyond travel rewards, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders earn 3% back on dining at restaurants (including eligible delivery services and takeout), 3% back on drugstore purchase and 1% back on all other purchases. The card also offers 5% back on up to $1,500 spent per quarter in rotating categories. For example, for the second quarter of 2022 (April, May and June), the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is offering 5% back on Amazon purchases and select streaming services.

Just remember: cardholders must keep track and activate each spending category every quarter before the deadline. Missing the activation deadline means losing the 5% bonus until the following quarter.

Capital One Venture One Credit Card
Courtesy of Capital One

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Can transfer your points to 16 travel partners

  • Earns 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

Cons

  • Doesn't earn bonus points on airfare or dining

HIGHLIGHTS

Annual Fee
$0
Sign-up Bonus
20,000 miles after spending $500 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Travel insurance
Travel accident/rental car insurance (only available to some cardmembers based on creditworthiness)

Why we chose it: The card has no foreign transaction fees, earns a consistent 1.25x miles on every purchase and 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

The Capital One VentureOne also offers travel accident and rental car insurance to some cardholders, depending on their credit score.

Miles can be redeemed for statement credits (that is, a deduction to your outstanding balance) and gift cards, along with Amazon and PayPal purchases. You can also use miles to book travel through the Capital One Travel portal or transfer your points to one of Capital One’s 16 travel partners, which include international airlines such as Avianca and British Airways. Do note, however, that Capital One doesn’t have any domestic airline travel partners.

The Capital One VentureOne is an excellent option if you’re a frequent international traveler and are looking for a no-annual-fee travel rewards card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. The card allows you to transfer points to travel partners and may include a limited travel insurance policy (if you have stellar credit).

However, the card’s list of bonus categories is lacking compared to some other no-annual-fee credit cards.

American Express Gold Credit Card
Courtesy of American Express

Pros

  • Earns 4x points on restaurants worldwide, takeout and food delivery within the U.S.

  • $120 annual dining credit ($10 per month in statement credits) in select restaurants

  • $120 annual Uber Cash ($10 per month) for food delivery orders and rides in the U.S.

  • Earn 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x)

Cons

  • High annual fee ($250)

  • Includes few travel perks and insurance policies compared to other cards

HIGHLIGHTS

Annual Fee
$250
Sign-up Bonus
60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership
Travel insurance
Baggage and secondary car rental insurance

Why we chose it: The American Express Gold Card® is ideal for people who enjoy dining out. It earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and on takeout and food delivery.

The card also earns 4x points (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1X) at supermarkets within the U.S., 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or Amextravel.com and one point on all other purchases.

The American Express® Gold Card offers two statement credits worth $240 combined — almost enough to offset the card’s $250 annual fee.

You can get up to $120 every year in dining credits ($10 per month) for select restaurants and food delivery services. The list includes Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and Shake Shack. You’ll also get up to $120 ($10 per month) for Uber rides or UberEats orders.

Cardmembers receive up to $100 in credit for stays booked through American Express’ The Hotel Collection. It can be used for eligible dining, spa and other activities.

However, note that the American Express® Gold Card has a lackluster travel insurance policy when compared to other premium cards — it only covers lost baggage and car rentals — and doesn’t offer popular travel-related perks like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit.

Pros

  • Earn 3x points with restaurant, travel, and gas purchases

  • Earn 3x when paying your monthly streaming services and cell phone bills

  • Includes cell phone protection plan

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • No airline or hotel transfer partners

  • Doesn't include travel insurance

  • Netflix, Hulu and HBO are not eligible for streaming bonus

HIGHLIGHTS

Annual fee
$0
Sign-up Bonus
Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in purchases within the first three months from account opening
Travel insurance
Secondary car rental insurance

Why we chose it: The Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card earns high rewards on travel purchases, but it also offers bonus points on popular everyday-spending categories like dining, gas, streaming services and cell phone plans.

Travel credit cards typically only earn rewards when you book flights and hotels through the card issuer’s travel portal. If you were to book your vacation through one-stop travel sites like Booking.com, you’d only earn the card’s minimum bonus (which is usually one point per dollar).

The Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card, however, gives you 3x points on flights, hotels, timeshares, auto rentals, cruise lines, travel agencies, travel sites and campgrounds, regardless of where you make your purchase. Passenger railways, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, parking lots and garages are also eligible for the 3x travel bonus. Other categories that earn 3x points per dollar include dining, gas, select streaming services and cell phone plans.

However, although the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card offers solid travel earnings, its travel benefits are lacking. It doesn’t have hotel and airline transfer partners and doesn’t offer luxury perks like airport lounge access or a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit. (Having said that, note that these perks are generally only included with premium travel cards with high annual fees.)

The card does include rental car insurance. You’re covered up to $50,000 for accidents or theft if you use it to book the rental car. The card also features a cell phone protection plan when you use it to pay your monthly bill. If your phone is damaged or stolen, you can be reimbursed up to $600 per claim (up to $1,200 per year).

If you’re looking for unlimited rewards on travel and everyday spending, the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card is an excellent option. However, it may not be the best fit if you’re looking for comprehensive travel insurance coverage and luxury benefits.

Other travel credit cards we considered

We picked the best credit cards for travel based on their reward rates, welcome offers, travel insurance, additional benefits and overall value for most travelers. The following cards were close runner-ups:

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card
Courtesy of Chase

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • Includes trip cancellation/interruption and car rental insurance

  • Earns 5% cash back on travel bookings made through Chase

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is one of the few no-annual-fee credit cards that includes trip cancellation/interruption and rental car insurance. Its reward categories are also appealing, giving you 5% cash back on bookings made through the Chase travel portal, 3% on restaurants and drugstores and 1.5% on everything else.

This card came a close second to our main pick for best no-annual-fee card, the Chase Freedom Flex℠. However, unlike the Chase Freedom Flex℠, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® doesn’t include a cell phone protection policy.

Discover it® Miles

Discover It Miles Travel Credit Card
Courtesy of Discover

Pros

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

  • Discover matches the total miles you earned at the end of the first year

  • Earns 1.5x miles on all purchases

  • See your FICO score on the Discover mobile app, online and on statements

Cons

  • Few benefits compared to other travel cards

  • No bonus category for travel

  • No travel transfer partners

  • Doesn't include extended warranty or purchase protection

The Discover it® Miles is a no-frills card that earns 1.5x miles on all purchases. Its welcome bonus is easily one of the best: Discover matches every mile you’ve earned at the end of your first membership year. However, it has fewer bonus categories than other no-annual-fee cards, and doesn’t have any travel transfer partners. Additionally, Discover cards aren’t as widely accepted internationally as Visa and Mastercard.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards

Bank Of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
Courtesy of Bank of America

Pros

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Earns 1.5x points on all purchases

Cons

  • No travel transfer partners

  • No bonus category for travel

  • Few benefits compared to other cards

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards is an easy-to-use card suited for travel reward beginners or for those who are already Bank of America Preferred Rewards members. It earns a flat 1.5x points on all purchases, and you can redeem points as a statement credit for various travel and dining purchases. However, it doesn’t offer additional bonus categories, hotel and airline point transfer partners or extended warranty and purchase protection.

Capital One Venture Rewards

Capital One Venture Credit Card
Courtesy of Capital One

Pros

  • High rewards on everyday spending (2x miles per dollar)

  • $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

  • Includes travel accident and car rental insurance

Cons

  • Fewer bonus categories than other cards with a similar annual fee ($95)

  • Car rental insurance is secondary

The Capital One Venture Rewards is an excellent card for everyday spending, offering 2x miles per dollar on all purchases. Most travel credit cards earn one mile (or point) per dollar on most purchases and give high rewards only for specific categories like dining or gas. The Capital One Venture Rewards, on the other hand, rewards you for all kinds of purchases. You also get 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One’s travel portal.

The card includes auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage reimbursement and up to $100 to cover the cost of a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.

However, some cards with the same annual fee ($95) — like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® — offer more travel coverage and a longer list of bonus categories.

Travel Credit Cards Guide

The best credit cards for travel do more than offer high reward rates on flights and hotel stays. They also provide rewards for everyday spending and perks such as travel insurance, airport lounge access and annual statement credits.

Bear in mind, however, that premium travel credit cards often also feature high annual fees. And their rewards are often worth the most when redeemed through a card issuer’s travel portal.

Here’s a rundown of how these cards work.

What is a travel credit card?

Travel credit cards (or travel rewards credit cards) typically provide generous rewards for travel purchases and let cardmembers redeem points (or miles) for travel bookings. Most card issuers also let you redeem points for statement credits, cash back or gift cards.

These cards may offer additional benefits such as rewards for dining purchases, access to airport lounges and late hotel checkouts.

Bonus categories, redeeming options and included benefits vary widely across card issuers. However, you can generally expect cards with higher annual fees to offer more perks and benefits. For example, premium cards with annual fees over $400 often feature hundreds of dollars in statement credits (money credited to your card’s outstanding balance) to cover travel or food purchases.

How do travel credit cards work?

Like other reward cards, travel credit cards give you a certain number of points per dollar spent on eligible purchases.

How points earning works

These cards allow users to earn points on travel purchases, as well as many other purchases.

Some offer bonus points for dining out, groceries, drugstores, streaming services and more. However, they usually offer an enhanced rewards rate for travel. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 10x points on hotels and rental cars booked through the Chase’s travel portal. They also have a flat point rate for purchases that don’t fall within these categories — usually between one and 1.5 cents per dollar.

It’s important to note that a card’s travel rewards can be earned on more than airfare, lodging and car rentals. For example, bus fares, cruise lines, tolls and ferries may also qualify as travel purchases, depending on your credit card issuer.

What are point programs?

Many credit cards have point programs — also known as rewards programs — through which members can redeem earned points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more.

In most cases, you’ll earn at least one point per dollar when paying with your card, and each point is worth one cent each. However, many cards give you bonus points when used to cover expenses in specific categories, such as three points per dollar (3x) at restaurants or supermarkets.

Additionally, some issuers increase your points’ value when you redeem them for travel. For example, points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred have a 1.25-cent value when you book flights through the Chase travel portal.

You can also transfer your points to travel partners. Not all point programs allow transfers to airline or hotel loyalty programs, but if they do, it’s at a 1:1 ratio, meaning 1,000 points are worth 1,000 points in the partner program.

Point values may also vary depending on how you choose to redeem them. Some cards let cardholders use points when shopping at Amazon or Paypal, for example. But, while convenient, this option may bring down the value of points to 0.8 cents.

Well-known point programs include Chase Ultimate Rewards®, American Express Membership Rewards® and Citi ThankYou® Rewards.

Difference between points and miles

Travel credit cards usually earn rewards as points. But some card issuers, like Capital One, call their rewards “miles” instead of “points” — even though they can be redeemed the same way as points.

Cards that earn miles are often (but not always) tied to a specific airline. Additionally, bear in mind that the term “mile” doesn’t refer to miles traveled with the airline. One airline mile is usually the equivalent of one reward point, which you can redeem for free flights, seat upgrades and more.

Pros and cons of travel credit cards

Pros

  • Some cards offer up to 10x points per dollar on travel purchases.

  • Many have additional bonus categories for dining, grocery shopping and more.

  • They may include travel benefits like priority boarding, airport lounge access and late hotel checkouts.

  • Points or miles can also be redeemed for cash back, statement credits, gift cards and more.

Cons

  • Highest reward rates are usually limited to purchases made through the card issuer's travel portal.

  • They might not offer high rewards on spending outside of the travel category.

  • The best ones have steep annual fees.

  • Redeeming points or miles for anything other than travel can reduce their value to less than one cent per dollar.

Types of travel credit cards

Here’s a rundown of the differences between the three main types of travel credit cards:

Airline credit cards

Airline credit cards are ideal for people who fly with the same airline regularly. These cards earn miles that you can use with one specific airline, and their rewards (called frequent flier miles) are redeemable for airfare. Some of the best airline travel credit cards include benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases.

Hotel credit cards

Hotel credit cards are similar to airline cards. Points earned can only be used with one particular hotel chain.

For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card earns points for Hilton’s loyalty program. Points can be redeemed for free nights in the company’s properties, including Hilton Garden Inn and Waldorf Astoria hotels.

Other benefits may include discount rates, late checkouts or free in-room Wi-Fi.

Hotel credit cards may also offer complimentary breakfasts, room upgrades, late checkouts and bonus points for purchases made during your stay.

General travel credit card

General travel credit cards are much more flexible and convenient than airline or hotel cards. Since they aren’t affiliated with a single airline or hotel chain, general travel card points can be redeemed for a wide variety of travel-related expenses.

These cards allow cardholders to book flights, hotel stays, rental cars and more from different companies using your card issuer’s online travel portal. Other ways to use card points include statement credits, cash back or gift cards. Some issuers also let you transfer points to airline and hotel partners.

These cards may offer handy perks for frequent travelers, like airport lounge access. They can also cover the cost of a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, which allow you to skip the long lines at airport security or customs.

How to choose a travel credit card

Picking the best travel rewards card boils down to how often you travel, which cardmember perks you’d benefit the most from and the categories you spend the most on.

Here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing the best card for you:

  • Do you travel often? Travel rewards credit cards offer high rewards on most travel-related spending, and you’ll get the most bang for your buck when you use their points on flights, hotels and car rentals. If you don’t take trips often but want to pile up rewards, a cash-back credit card might be a better fit.

  • Assess your everyday spending. Many travel cards have additional bonus categories other than travel, like dining, supermarkets, streaming services and drugstores. Consider your day-to-day spending habits and pick a card with bonus categories that fit your lifestyle.

  • Consider the card’s annual fees. There are several no-annual-fee travel cards available, but they usually have few bonus categories and benefits. The best travel credit cards charge annual fees of at least $90 and can go as high as $700. However, these are often best for those that travel enough to take advantage of their benefits.

  • Choose between a general travel card or a co-branded one. General travel cards are more flexible than company-specific cards when it comes to redeeming points. You can use a general travel card’s rewards to get statement credits, cash back or gift cards, or book flights, hotel stays, rental cars and more from different companies. Rewards from co-branded cards, on the other hand, can typically be used only with one specific airline or hotel. However, co-branded cards do include valuable perks like free checked bags, in-flight discounts, hotel room upgrades or complimentary breakfast.

  • Compare extra travel perks. Some cards offer extras like annual statement credits for flights and hotels or upgrades when renting cars. Take the time to compare each card’s roster of add-ons and pick one that will best suit your travel plans.

  • Compare insurance policies. Some cards offer insurance policies that cover travel accidents, rental cars, trip cancellations and more. They also include purchase protection and extended warranties for items bought using the card. These policies can vary widely based on the issuer and the card’s annual-fee tier.

  • Beware foreign transaction fees. Most travel credit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees. Some cash-back cards may offer outstanding rewards for travel purchases but charge around 3% fees on purchases outside the U.S.

  • A welcome bonus shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all perk. A 100,000-point welcome bonus can be enticing. However, it shouldn’t be your deciding factor, especially if you’ll end up paying a high annual fee without getting your money’s worth.

Best Travel Credit Cards FAQ

How do travel credit cards work?

Travel credit cards give you points or miles for every dollar you spend using them. The standard reward rate is one point per dollar. However, many cards have bonus spending categories that allow you to earn five or more points per dollar. You can redeem points for travel, cash back and other perks.

What credit cards offer free travel insurance?

Some travel cards with complimentary travel insurance include the Chase Sapphire Preferred(R), Capital One Venture X and The Platinum Card(R) from American Express. However, note that cards that include travel insurance typically charge annual fees of $95 or more.

How We Chose the Best Travel Credit Cards

We ranked the best credit cards for travel based on their annual fees, benefits, reward rates and redemption flexibility.

Annual fee: We compared the annual fees for more than 50 credit cards, looking for those that offered the most for the money.

Ongoing benefits: Sign-up bonuses are attractive, but they can only get you so far. We focused on cards with year-round benefits such as travel insurance or cell phone protection plans.

Reward rates: We preferred cards that allow you to earn extra points from travel expenses, as well as those that provide significant bonus rewards in popular spending categories, like dining, supermarkets or streaming services.

Redemption flexibility: Our picks don’t limit your redemption options to just travel. Some let you use your points for Amazon purchases, for example. We also preferred issuers that allowed cardholders to transfer their points to airline and hotel partners.

Summary of Money’s Best Travel Credit Cards of October 2022

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® – Best premium travel card

  • Capital One Venture X – Best premium travel card runner-up

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express – Best premium card for most extra benefits

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® – Best starter credit card

  • Chase Freedom Flex℠ – Best for no annual fees

  • Capital One VentureOne – Best for no annual fees runner-up

  • American Express® Gold Card – Best for dining rewards

  • Capital One Venture Rewards – Best for rewards on everyday spending

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