If you travel a lot, you already know that using a credit card when you’re on the move is often a matter of necessity. Paying with plastic helps you avoid getting hosed on exchange rates when withdrawing money or converting cash to the local currency. It’s also faster, easier, and more practical to rely on your card when you’re in a hurry. The protections of using a credit card are perfect for when you find yourself in an exotic or unfamiliar place.
Credit card companies recognize this. Many have introduced offers that deliver excellent travel bonuses to consumers who swipe to pay when they’re on the go. Most of these offers are configured as points programs, in which you will tally points every time you use your card for qualified purchases. You can then redeem those points for cash bonuses or credits toward travel-related expenditures on your account.
If you travel frequently, the rewards can add up fast. That translates into major savings and lucrative bonuses. To help kickstart your research, we’ve analyzed dozens of credit card travel bonuses and curated a short list of the most enticing offers currently on the market. Here are our picks for the best travel rewards credit cards.
American Express Platinum Card
The American Express Platinum Card is fantastic for frequent flyers. You earn 5x points on flights when you book directly with airlines or use American Express Travel reservation services. You’ll also score 5x points when you repay for hotel stays booked directly on American Express Travel. Factor in the 60,000 welcome points you’ll get if you spend $5,000 in the first three months and you’ve got some alluring bonuses on your hands.
If you use Uber, you can also snag an extra $15 in Uber Cash per month for rides originating in the United States. Card holders can also identify a favorite airline and enjoy up to $200 in credits each year when you use the card to pay for supplementary services provided by that airline. Things like baggage fees and in-flight purchases qualify.
Hotel upgrades, airport lounge access, and reimbursements for fast-track airport and passport screenings round out the card’s key features. The card does carry an annual fee of $550, but if you use it right, the rewards you build up will provide more than enough value to justify it.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card
Honored as the “Best Travel Rewards Card” on the market in 2018 by CNBC, Capital One’s VentureOne Rewards card delivers excellent value. Card holders can earn points at an amazing 10x clip through January 2020 by staying at any of the thousands of participating hotels. Everyday purchases earn 2x points. New accounts can earn a sizable bonus of 50,000 points by spending $3,000 within three months.
Unlike many comparable cards, Capital One’s VentureOne Rewards card has a low annual fee of just $95. The fee is even waived entirely for your first year. Miles never expire, foreign transaction fees are always reduced to zero, and there aren’t any points redemption blackouts or restrictions. This card delivers solid rewards for the busy traveler.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express card helps you earn generous rewards every day. Account holders collect points at a 3x rate every time they use the card to eat in a restaurant, order food for delivery, buy gas, purchase public transportation tickets, use a rideshare service, book flights or hotels, use a peer-to-peer homestay service, or rent a car. That’s a lot of things! All other purchases accrue points at a 1:1 ratio.
Need another reason to consider this card? You’ll snag 30,000 bonus points by spending $3,000 within the first three months. That translates to as much as $300 in additional rewards. Wells Fargo also delivers an introductory 0% APR for the first year, and the card has no annual fee.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is Visa-branded, meaning it’s accepted practically everywhere. That’s good news for travelers. The card delivers 3x points on worldwide travel and restaurant spending after you’ve redeemed your $300 annual statement credit. This generous credit is automatically extended once per year, and can be applied toward any qualified travel-related purchase.
Beyond this, you’ll also earn points at a rate of one point per dollar on all other purchases. The card delivers up to 50% more value when you redeem your points to cover airline tickets, car rentals, cruises, and hotel stays. The card doesn’t carry any blackout dates or other restrictions. However, its high $450 annual fee is at least somewhat offset by the generous $300 in automatic annual credits.
Tips for Evaluating Travel Rewards Credit Card Offers
In general, travel rewards cards will only deliver value if you travel frequently, either for work or for leisure. If you’re the type of person who only takes one holiday a year and sticks around home the rest of the time, these cards won’t deliver much value. This is especially true of the cards that come with hefty annual fees.
On that note, the annual fees can be very costly if you don’t use the card often enough to offset them. You should perform a careful cost analysis to make sure the rewards you earn will add up. Don’t sign up for a card that isn’t worth your while. Remember to factor interest rates in when you carry out these calculations by anticipating the average monthly balance you expect to carry. If the card comes with a variable rate, use the low end for your projections.