Whether it’s cash back, miles, points or perks, most credit cards offer a variety of high-value rewards. These can help you get more out of your next adventure through free hotel stays, access to airport lounges, expedited security screenings or even statement credits for ridesharing.
Read on for our picks of the best travel reward cards, and our answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to best use them.
(To see our picks for the best travel cards overall, make sure to check out our guide to the Best Travel Credit Cards.)
Best Flexible Points Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Best Premium Card: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Best No-fee Card: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card
Best Travel Card for Small Businesses: Chase Ink Business Preferred®
Best Discount Airline Card: FRONTIER Airlines World Mastercard®
Best Premium Airline Card: United Club SM Infinite Card
Best Hotel Card: World of Hyatt Credit Card
Best Hotel Card for Families: Wyndham Rewards Earner® Plus Card
Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards Reviews
5x total points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
3x points on dining
2x points on other travel expenses
3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target®, Walmart® and wholesale clubs)
3x points on qualifying streaming services
60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within three months of account opening
Transfer points to major airline and hotel partners, which include Air Canada, JetBlue, United, Southwest, British Airways and others
$50 annual hotel credit
$95 annual fee
Hotel credit is low when compared to other travel reward cards
Why we chose it: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card earns points that can be redeemed for travel reservations through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, or transferred to a participating airline or hotel partner that best meets your needs, such as United, Southwest, JetBlue and Hyatt hotels.
This card sets the standard for flexibility, as the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program allows you to both use your points to book travel or to transfer your rewards to hugely popular travel partners and loyalty programs.
This card currently offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
You can also get extra perks on your account anniversary. To start, you’ll receive up to $50 in statement credits for hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You’ll also earn bonus points equal to 10% of the total amount you spent the previous year. For example, if you spent $10,000 on purchases, you’ll get 1,000 bonus points.
5x Membership Rewards® points on airfare booked directly with airlines using your card, or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 per year)
5x per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked through Amextravel.com
1x per dollar spent on all other purchases
Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 on the card within the first six months of card membership
Eligible for Gold Status membership with Marriott and Hilton programs
Airport lounge access
$200 in hotel statement credits per year
$200 annual airline fee credits
$200 in annual Uber credits and more
$100 statement credit towards TSA Precheck or Global Entry programs
$695 annual fee
Non-travel rewards aren't as robust as with other premium cards
Why we chose it: The American Express Platinum Card® offers numerous features and benefits, plus plenty of statement credits that can help offset its substantial annual fee.
The American Express Platinum Card® was the original premium rewards card, but even now with several competitors, it still rises to the top. Yes, you’ll have to pay a $695 annual fee to carry this metal card, but the generous statement credits make it worth the fee.
You’ll receive $200 in annual airline fee credits, $200 in annual Uber credits ($15 per month) and more. You’ll even receive a $100 credit towards a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application every four years.
This card also offers upgraded status with Marriott (Bonvoy Gold Elite Status), Hilton (Honors Gold Status) and car rental privileges, as well as membership in several airport lounge programs including unlimited access to the American Express Centurion Lounges.
You earn 5x Membership Rewards® points on airfare booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 per year), and 5x on prepaid hotels booked through Amextravel.com. You’ll also earn 1x on all other purchases and rewards can be transferred to 20 airline and hotel programs.
1.25 miles per dollar spent on all purchases
5 miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel website
Earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending just $500 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
No annual fee
Points can be redeemed as statement credits towards travel purchases or transferred to participating airline and hotel programs
Transfer your miles to one of 15+ hotel and airline loyalty partner programs
Website calculator makes it easy to find out how many miles you'll get per dollar spent
Only one Capital One lounge available (located in Dallas Ft. Worth, TX)
Capital One miles transfer to most airline programs at a ratio of 2:1.5
Why we chose it: The VentureOne Rewards Card is a great, no annual fee, travel rewards card that offers you travel statement credits and the ability to transfer your miles to airline and hotel programs.
This version of Capital One’s flagship Venture Rewards cards offers real value to those who want a travel rewards card without an annual fee.
This card offers 20,000 bonus miles (worth $200 in travel statement credits) after you spend $500 in new purchases within the first three months of account opening.
You’ll earn 1.25 miles per dollar spent, and miles are each worth one cent paid as statement credits towards any travel purchase you make with your card.
Alternatively, you can transfer your rewards to participating airline miles or hotel programs, giving you additional redemption options. Capital One miles transfer to most airline programs at a ratio of 2:1.5, but they recently added several new airline transfer partners with a more favorable 1:1 ratio.
3x points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in categories such as shipping, advertising, internet and travel
Unlimited 1x point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on purchases within three months of account opening
Rewards are earned in the Ultimate Rewards Program(R) and can be transferred to participating airline miles or hotel points
Includes several travel insurance and purchase protection benefits
$95 annual fee
Why we chose it: The Ink Business Preferred® card offers plenty of opportunities to earn valuable travel perks on frequent business purchases.
If you’re looking to leverage your small business purchases to earn travel rewards, then this is the card for you. You’ll begin with the chance to earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Then you’ll earn 3x points on up to $150,000 spent each year in combined business categories such as internet, cable and phone, shipping, advertising (made with social media sites and search engines), and travel purchases.
Points are worth $1.25 cents each when redeemed directly for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, or they can be transferred to participating airline miles or hotel partners. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card.
Best airline cards
Generally speaking, most travelers will get better rewards from cards that aren’t tied to one specific airline. Having said that, the best airline cards do have significant benefits to offer.
For one, choosing your favorite airline’s card can help you reach elite status faster. In most cases, this can garner you deep discounts, better mileage rewards and great upgrades, including to first or business class.
Having an airline card also give you access to comfortable lounges with complimentary food and drinks, which can make those increasingly frequent flight delays a lot more bearable.
However, the airline card you choose largely depends on a few things: whether you’re willing to stick with one airline, which destinations you’re likely to visit and what you hope to get out of it.
Every dollar you spend earns one mile towards the Elite Status program
5x miles on eligible Frontier purchases
3x miles at restaurants
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
Earn a $100 flight voucher every account anniversary after spending $2,500 or more on purchases during your card membership year
Earn Complimentary online access to your FICO(R) Credit Score
No blackout dates
Until you reach Elite Status, expect numerous fees when you fly Frontier for things included automatically with other airlines
$89 annual fee (after an introductory $0 rate for the first year)
Limited number of international destinations
Why we chose it: What if you could fly with a discount carrier, but enjoy some of the perks and benefits you’d receive from a legacy airline? That’s the benefit of the FRONTIER Airlines World Mastercard®.
Frontier is a discount carrier based in Denver with service to over 100 destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.
The FRONTIER Airlines Mastercard® counts every dollar spent as a mile that can be used towards its Elite Status program. First tier status is reached after earning 20,000 flying miles — in other words, after spending $20,000 on your card — or after 25 flight segments in a year. Benefits with this first tier of elite status include priority boarding, advance seat assignment, free carry-on bag and priority boarding at participating airports, saving you plenty of money on the extra fees normally charged.
This card has a $0 introductory annual fee, but does have a $89 annual fee after that. However, it makes up for it with a $100 flight voucher you earn every year that you spend at least $2,500 with the card. Given Frontier’s low ticket prices, this voucher can represent a significant discount.
While this card has a great reward rate compared to other airline cards, it does have a much more limited number of destinations than the legacy airlines. However, if most of your traveling is domestic and your priority is low ticket prices, this could be a great deal.
4 miles per $1 spent on purchases on United
2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel purchases, including airports, ridesharing,and tolls
2 miles per $1 spent on dining purchases, including takeout
1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
Earn 80,000 bonus miles if you spend $5,000 within three months of account opening
Up to $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck(R) or NEXUS statement credit
Free first and second checked bags for both the cardholder and a traveling companion
Flies to more destinations than almost any other airline
High $595 annual fee
Why we chose it: United Club℠ Infinite Card offers some of the best rewards an airline card can offer including some of the highest reward rates on purchases in the market, free checked bags and an extremely generous sign-up bonus offer.
While most airline-branded cards fall short when compared to travel cards that aren’t tied to a specific carrier, the United Club℠ Infinite Card might be the one exception.
First, there’s the huge 80,000-mile introductory bonus, which is much higher than almost any other airline card. (Most, including others in this list, offer somewhere between 10,000 to 50,000 miles as an introductory bonus.)
This premium card also offers 4 miles per dollar on United purchases. That’s higher than its nearest competitor, the comparably priced Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, which offers 3x miles on Delta purchases and only a 50,000-mile introductory bonus.
But the card offers a host of other benefits as well, starting with access to the United Club, a network of 45 airport lounges where you can find comfortable seating, personalized travel assistance, beverages and snacks. Membership to the United Club usually costs $650 per year, so the value of that alone could offset this card’s steep $595 annual fee.
If you use your card to buy food, beverages and/or Wi-Fi while on board United flights (or to buy premium drinks in its lounges), you’ll get 25% back as statement credits.
Finally, you’ll get Premier Access® to travel services, which includes preferential boarding, priority check-in and baggage handling privileges.
As with any airline-branded card, this card is best for frequent flyers who want to and can travel mostly on United. However, given that United has one of the widest destination networks of all domestic airlines, however, this might not be all that limiting.
Best hotel cards
If you already belong to a hotel membership program — such as Hilton Honors, Wyndham Reward Earner or World of Hyatt — their co-branded cards are good ways of maximizing those programs’ benefits. The points you earn with these cards can help you get free nights and convenient perks like free room upgrades and discounts.
9X points total for Hyatt stays and experiences
4 bonus points per $1 spent with your card at Hyatt hotels, including participating restaurants and spas
2x per $1 spent on local transit and commuting
2x points per $1 at restaurants, cafes and coffee shops
2x per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline
2x per $1 spent on fitness club and gym memberships
1x per $1 spent on all other card purchases
Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
Earn up to an additional 30,000 bonus points by earning 2x total per $1 spent on purchases that regularly earn 1 bonus point on up to $15,000 within the first six months of account opening
Free night every year, and a second after spending $15,000 in a calendar year
Receive entry-level status and earn night stay credits towards higher status
4x bonus points at Hyatt plus 2x bonus points on transit, restaurants, flights, fitness clubs and gyms
$95 annual fee is higher than some competitors' fee
With approximately 1,100 properties, Hyatt has a more limited reach than other major hotel chains
Why we chose it: The World of Hyatt card gives you a lot of opportunities to rack up points, whether you’re using the card to purchase hotel stays or for restaurants, gyms or transit.
The World of Hyatt card really lets you unlock more value from its popular loyalty program, as it offers plenty of bonus points, certificates for free stays at Hyatt properties around the world and credits towards elite status.
To start, you can earn up to 60,000 bonus points; the first 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening and another 30,000 points more by earning 2x points per dollar spent on qualified purchases (up to $15,000) within the first six months of account opening. That bonus could cover 12 free nights in Category 1 Hyatt properties.
You also get a free-night-stay certificate each year, and a second certificate after spending $15,000 in a calendar year (on Category 1-4 Hyatt hotels or resorts).
Card members are granted Discoverist status, the second tier in Hyatt’s elite membership program. With this status, you receive bonus points, complimentary fast-speed internet, free bottled water daily while at their properties and room upgrades. You’ll also be able to take advantage of checkouts as late as 2 p.m. where available.
Most important, however, are the five tier-qualifying night credits each year — that’s in addition to two tier-qualifying night credits for each $5,000 you spend on your card.
While there’s a $95 annual fee for this card, the free nights alone more than make up for the fee.
6x per $1 spent on qualifying purchases made at Wyndham hotels and gas stations
4x for every $1 spent on qualifying dining and grocery store purchases (excluding Target® and Walmart®)
1x for every $1 spent on everyday purchases (excluding Wyndham Timeshares down payments)
Earn up to 60,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
Earn 7,500 bonus points each card anniversary if you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases
Receive booking discounts
Get automatic Platinum level benefits from the Wyndham loyalty program
More than 9,000 properties around the world
$75 annual fee is lower than comparable hotel cards
Some resort fees cannot be paid for with points
Point redemption amounts vary by property and can be as high as 27,000 points per bedroom (with cardmember redemption discount)
Why we chose it: Wyndham has properties all around the world catering to every budget, and its loyalty program and card perks could make the next family vacation considerably more affordable.
With more than 9,000 properties around the world, Wyndham is easily one of the most recognized and widely available hotel brands. Its network includes hotels for every type of traveler, from the budget- and family-friendly Howard Johnson to the luxurious Wyndham Grand.
In addition to accessibility, however, the Wyndham Earner® Plus Card also offers extremely generous perks. To start, it offers a sizable 60,000 points as an introductory offer — enough for eight free nights in some of their properties.
This card also makes it easier to rack up points you can then redeem for free nights and perks. You’ll get automatic entry into the loyalty program’s Platinum level which grants you lowest room rate guarantees, 10 points per dollar spent on every qualified stay, free Wi-Fi, dedicated member services, as well as early check-in and late checkouts. Platinum level members also enjoy Avis or Budget car rental upgrades.
The card also rewards you for everyday expenses, giving 1 point per $1 spent on household supplies, groceries and even bills.
Frequently asked questions about travel rewards credit cards:
Should I get a travel rewards card if I carry a balance?
As with any rewards credit card, travel rewards cards are best used by those who avoid interest by paying their balance in full. Those who are unable to do that should focus on finding a low-interest-rate credit card that doesn’t offer travel rewards. The exception could be a small business owner that uses a credit card as a short-term line of credit in order to run his or her business.
Should I start earning travel rewards now, even if I won’t be traveling until later this year or next year?
The best time to start earning travel rewards is long before you actually plan on using them. That’s because it will take time to receive the card, qualify for a bonus and receive the bonus points. Plus, it may take even longer to earn any additional points or miles you need for your next trip. Finally, you’ll likely want to book your trip several months before you plan on traveling.
What happens to your airline miles or hotel points earned from your credit card if you cancel the card?
Frequent flyer mile and hotel cards award points or miles in programs operated by airlines and hotel chains. Once those rewards are in your airline or hotel account, they’re subject to the rules of that program, regardless of whether you keep the card. But when the rewards are with a program operated by the card issuer, then they could be forfeited if you cancel the card and don’t have another card that is part of the same program.
Which is best: airline miles, hotel points or flexible rewards?
These travel rewards programs all have their strengths and weakness, and the right program for you will be the card that offers the most value per dollar spent on purchases.
Hotel rewards tend to be the most flexible, while airline miles can still offer plenty of value if you understand how each program works. Flexible points programs can offer the best of both airline and hotel programs, but they’ll lack the company-specific perks that airline and hotel cards offer.
How we chose the best travel rewards cards
To find the best travel rewards cards, we first divided the market into the six most popular types of cards. Then we looked at the travel rewards credit cards offered by all of the major card issuers. Each of their travel rewards credit card offers were examined and compared to other travel rewards cards. We focused on the initial bonus offered, bonus rewards for certain purchases and travel specific features and benefits.
The winners were the cards that offered no foreign transaction fees and most valuable rewards and benefits in each category.
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