Has it ever happened that you found a great campsite after reaching your destination but realized it was beyond the budget you had for the trip?
The Best Travel Credit Cards
Different credit cards have different features. Some have good introductory offers. Some are good for earning flier miles, or points. Some offer really good travel insurance. Below we’ve handpicked a few credit cards for you that serve different purposes but are the best in their respective segment.
1. Best Annual Travel Credits
The Platinum Card from American Express is a clear winner when it comes to annual travel credits. $200 airline fee credit, $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Precheck credit every four years, up to $200 Uber credit, $75-$100 hotel credit, and up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit.
The average yearly rewards value of $797 makes the annual fee of $550 look reasonable. On top of you get Hilton Honors gold status, platinum concierge service, car rental insurance, car rental perks and discounts, luxury hotel perks and discounts, exclusive events and services, travel protection, and purchase protections. The points don’t expire, and there are no blackout dates. Points are transferable between 17 partner airlines. More info is posted here.
2. Best Travel Credit Card with no annual fee
Not everyone wants a travel credit card that has a fixed annual fee. Especially those who don’t travel very frequently. It becomes an unnecessary fixed cost when you’re not able to spend the amount needed to earn the awards.
Discover it Miles credit card is the best card out there that doesn’t have an annual fee. You earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases. And the bonus is unlimited. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending, or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match. You can turn the miles into cash anytime you want. And the Miles don’t ever expire. There are no blackout dates either. The only issue with this credit card is that you can’t transfer the miles to the airline’s frequent-flier program. Bummer.
3. Best Travel Credit Card for Travel Insurance
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card comes along with a $250000 travel accident insurance, unmatched by most other cards in its price segment. The annual fee is $95 which is quite reasonable. You 2 miles for every dollar you spend, and there are no limits on the number of miles you can accumulate.
You can redeem any hotel or airline purchase for a statement credit. Miles are transferable to 10+ airline partners, but none of them are prominent airlines from the US. The sign-up bonus is a whopping 100000 miles, but that requires you to spend $20000 in the first twelve months. You can also earn 50000 miles by spending $3000 in the first three months. There is no foreign transaction fee.
4. Best introductory card for new travelers
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card that’s powered by Citi, is the best card for travelers who’re looking for an introduction to AAdvantage miles. It’s one of the few cards that let you earn miles on Grocery Store purchases.
The rewards rate is 2 miles per dollar for American Airlines purchases, 1 mile per dollar for other purchases. The sign-up bonus is 10000 miles and a $50 statement credit if you spend $500 in the first three months. There is no fixed annual feel. The miles don’t expire if you use the card to spend or redeem once in 18 months.
There is no limit on the number of miles you can earn. No fuel surcharges on most flights. You redeem rewards online for free without paying any extra charge. You also get a 25% discount on in-flight purchases.
You can change award tickets for free as long as the origin and destination are the same. There are blackout dates for a few awards. In a nutshell, this is the best card for rookie travelers.
5. Best Credit Card for Airline Rewards
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is the best card for the fans of the airline and also for those who use the casual rewards offered by the card. The sign-up bonus of 40000 points is available just by spending $1000 in the first three months.
The rewards is 2:1 for Southwest purchases, and 1:1 for others. The 2:1 ratio is also valid to the hotel and car partners of Southwest Airlines. You get 3000 bonus points on every anniversary annually. You sign-up fee of $69 is fair when looked at vis a vis the rewards.
The points don’t expire and there are no blackout dates. The cardholder gets two free checked bags every time they travel. After 125000 points you get a companion pass, wherein one person can fly for just the taxes and fees.
Other perks are car rental insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, roadside dispatch, travel accident insurance, travel and emergency assistance services, extended warranty protection and purchase protection.
There are no stopovers permitted for reward tickets, and the options for international travel are quite limited. Also, you can only book of reward flights on Southwest and it doesn’t have any other travel partners.
6. The Best Overall CC
Time to pick the best card overall. That is Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. You get bonus miles, first checked bag is free, 2 times the miles for every dollar spent on Amercan Airlines purchases, 2 times miles for every purchase made at restaurants and gas stations and 1 mile per dollar for rest of the purchases.
Compare fees, rewards, and rates in the chart below:
|Card||Annual Fee||Cash Back||APR – min rate|
|Credit One Bank Visa||$99||1%||18%|
|Citi Double Cash||0||2%||14%|
|Capital One QuicksilverOne||0||1.5%||27%|
|American Express Cash Magnet||0||1.5%||14%|
|Blue Cash Preferred Amex||$95||1%|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||$95||Points|
|Citi Diamond Preferred||0||0||15%|
|American Express Gold||$250||Points|
|Capital One Quicksilver||0||1.5%||15%|
|U.S. Bank Visa Platinum||0||0||14%|
|Ink Business Cash||0||1%|
|CoreFirst Bank and Trust Visa Platinum||0||Points||9.5%|
|Wells Fargo Platinum||0||0||16%|
|Mastercard Black Card||$495||15%|
|TD Cash Card||0||0||14%|
|Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex||$99||Points||16%|
|United Business Card||$99||Points||16%|
|American Express Gold||$250||Points|
|HSBC Gold Credit Card||0||0||14%|
|Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card||0||Ponts||15%|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business||$199||Points||16%|
|SunTrust Prime Rewards||0||1%||11%|
|Mastercard Titanium Card||$195||1%||15%|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$550||Points|
|Platinum American Express||$695||Points||16%|
|Citi Premier Card||$95||Points|
|Amalgamated Bank Chicago||0||Points||9%|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||0||1.5%|
|Chase Freedom Flex||0||1%|
9 reasons you should have at least one travel credit card.
By using a credit card, you keep accumulating rewards and points which can be redeemed later. Some of those rewards are quite substantial, and points are as good as money. If you’re a business owner or an employee who travels frequently, you can have the company cards issued in your name wherein the company takes care of the expenses but, you get the rewards points.
All Travel Credit Cards have a frequent flier miles rewards system in partnership with a ticketing portal or airline. Every time the card gets swiped, the cardholder gets rewarded with some frequent flier miles. Spending above a benchmark in one year also results in the cardholder earning frequent flier miles. Taking a free trip with OPM is amazing.
Ticketing portals also give offers to specific cardholders. These offers are instant and have got nothing to do with the spending history of the cardholder. Check the offers available on your card when you decide to go for it. More instant offers mean more savings without keeping track of the points accumulated. In a single trip, you can make save a chunk of money by using the accumulated reward points and the instant offer together.
When you get a new card, it comes with a plethora of welcome benefits. That’s another aspect you should consider before getting a travel credit card. Most travel credit cards will offer you some miles and offers from the first transaction itself. They’ll also have vouchers that are redeemable at hotels and restaurants while traveling.
With a travel credit card, you don’t need to carry much cash while traveling or stand in line at currency exchanges. It also helps to segregate your traveling expenses from your usual expenses. Also, a lot of cards come with a contactless feature. You can just swipe and go.
International travel benefits
You’ll accumulate extra reward points during international travel. Most credit card companies have an amplified rewarding system for international spending.
Setting this up will make sure you pay on time. This affects your credit score as 1 missed payment can drop you 70 points and may make your rates go up.
Auto Rental Insurance
You get collision coverage for vehicle if paid in full with cc. Most premium cards offer this and will be stated in terms and conditions.
High-end Travel Experience
Travel Credit Cards take your travel experience to a new level. You’ll have more options for inflight upgrades, access to lounges, complimentary airport transfers, etc. Quite a few global premium brands run worldwide offers for cardholders of different companies.
How to make the most out of your travel credit card
Two transactions that you should avoid are balance transfers and cash advances, as they involve paying a fee. Also, they don’t result in any awards, but you end up using your card limit.
Accumulate points between different programs
After accumulating points in different programs, you can consolidate them into a single program and redeem them for a considerable discount for a trip. Before you make the transfer, read up properly on the terms and conditions as to whether you’ll lose any points while transferring them from one program to another. You wouldn’t want to lose any of your hard-earned points.
Pay on time
Always pay your dues on time as failure to do the same might lead to the credit card company revoking your rewards. Most of the time, late payments will make you lose all the points you’ve accumulated. No one wants that. Setup reminders, plan your finances well, and clear your dues on time. You’ll be able to hold on to your rewards. Also, your credit score will remain intact.
Keep an eye out for newsletters
Reward programs keep getting updated all the time. Most of the communication from the credit card companies happens via newsletters sent through email. Make it a point to keep yourself updated. At times, they’ll come as inserts with your credit card statements. You’ll need to change your spending habits to earn maximum rewards in case the reward scheme has changed.
Be quick in redeeming your rewards
Quite a few rewards are time-critical. Also, there’s a chance of losing them over late payment. While you can redeem your rewards by spending the money on travel, in case you’re not able to do that, you can opt for a statement credit. The monetary value of rewards will get adjusted against the due amount.
Hotel and Airline loyalty program is a must
Credit Card discounts on their own aren’t much. But when clubbed with the airlines and hotel loyalty programs, the number becomes significant. Therefore, while using your credit card to buy flight tickets and hotel bookings, make sure that you stick to a single brand of hotel and airlines. Enrolling in their loyalty program is usually free but beneficial. That way, you’ll have rewards coming from two ends, your credit card, and the airline and hotel loyalty program.
Make sure you avail the sign-up bonus
Travel Credit Cards offer attractive sign-up bonuses. Check out what those are before finalizing a travel credit card. That should be one of the parameters before picking a travel credit card.
In most cards, to earn the sign-up bonus, you’ll have to spend a specific amount in the first 90 days. The timeframe begins from the moment you open your account, not from the moment you acquire the card.
There is also an additional bonus if you add another authorized user to your card. The best strategy is to pick a credit card that doesn’t ask you to spend much to earn the sign-up bonus. The amount should be so much that you can pay in full each month.
Don’t have many travel cards
The cardinal sin that most millennials commit, having way too many credit cards. The rewards depend on the frequency and amount of transactions. If your spending is spread across credit cards, you might not reach the reward benchmark for quite a few of them. Have fewer credit cards, but make the most out of them. Also, to handle spending across multiple credit cards, one needs an insane amount of self-control and financial discipline.
Pay your balance in full
Don’t do it just for the credit score, but also to make sure that the finance charges levied upon carried forward balance don’t negate your rewards. Even though the finance charges might seem minimal, never allow yourself to pay them. It’s a bad spending habit.
Frequency of travel
You have to be a frequent traveler to own a travel credit card. If you don’t travel frequently, you won’t charge it enough to earn enough points to justify the annual fees.
Are you able to pay off your card every month?
If you’re unable to pay off the dues every month, you’ll lose the value of the rewards in the late fee and interest that keeps getting accrued. You might end up spending more to maintain the credit card than you earn through the rewards. You can limit your spending to one credit card and pay it off as a monthly bill too.
Limitations of Travel Rewards
At times when you spend the year racking up reward points for one big vacation, there is a possibility that airlines and hotels might limit the number of people who can avail of the rewards, especially during peak season. This is a common problem and a common complaint amongst a lot of travel credit cardholders.
If you’re someone who only travels during the peak season, the travel credit cards might be worth as much to you as it might be to people who take off-season vacations. You make the most out of your rewards on slow travel days, not the peak season. This is a common feature across most travel credit cards.
Rewards are not free
Even though the credit card company will sound like that the reward is free, it isn’t. You have to spend to earn the awards. For availing of the sign-up benefits, they’ll require you to spend a certain amount.
While picking the credit card, you’ll have to analyze whether you really need to spend that amount of spending that amount is really worth it and make sure it comes with an EMV chip. Also, the cards that come with smaller spending amounts to earn the bonuses generally have other hidden charges.
What’s the deal with credit card points? Do I get points for being a good person?
A: Haha, if only life worked that way! No, credit card points are generally earned based on your spending. Each time you make a purchase with your credit card, you earn a certain number of points. For instance, you might get 1 point for every dollar you spend, or certain categories might earn more. And, unfortunately, while being a good person is its own reward, it won’t get you any extra credit card points!
Q: So, I’ve racked up a gazillion points. Now what? Do I get a trophy?
A: Well, no trophies per se, but you can redeem your gazillion points for travel, gift cards, cash back, or other rewards, depending on your card’s program. You can basically thank past-you for buying all those take-out pizzas and helping future-you get a free flight!
Q: I signed up for a card because they promised me a bunch of points if I spend a fortune in three months. But my cat doesn’t need that many new toys. Is it worth it?
A: Sign-up bonuses can be a great way to rack up points quickly, but they do often require a minimum spend. Be careful not to overspend or buy things you don’t need just to hit the bonus. If your cat disagrees and really wants that diamond-studded collar, maybe it’s time to have a chat about financial responsibility. Meow.
Q: My card has an annual fee. Does that mean I have to host an anniversary party for it every year?
A: Haha, no need to throw your credit card a party (although I’m sure it would appreciate the gesture). Annual fees are charges you pay each year for the benefits and perks that come with certain cards. It’s like a club membership fee – except the club lets you buy groceries and pay for gas.
Q: What happens if I miss a payment? Do they take all my points away?
A: Missing a payment can result in late fees and interest charges, and it can also hurt your credit score. But, typically, you won’t lose your points just for being late once. That said, if you stop paying altogether and your account is closed, you would likely lose any unredeemed points. So be sure to keep up with those payments!
Q: How can I get the most out of my credit card points? Should I hire a points Sherpa?
A: No need to hire a Sherpa, but a bit of strategy can go a long way. Pay attention to where you spend the most and try to use a card that rewards that spending. Don’t forget to use your card’s shopping portal if it has one, and always be on the lookout for special promotions or deals. And remember, points are great, but they’re not a good excuse to overspend!
Q: I heard I can transfer my credit card points. Can I also transfer my chores?
A: Wouldn’t that be nice! Unfortunately, chores don’t work that way. However, transferring points can be a useful strategy. Some card issuers allow you to transfer points to partner airlines or hotels, often at a 1:1 ratio. This could help you get better value out of your points, especially if there’s a great flight deal or hotel discount available.
Q: Is there a ‘black market’ for credit card points? Asking for a friend.
A: While it’s tempting to think you could sell your points for a quick buck, most credit card companies explicitly forbid this in their terms and conditions. Besides, the points world is like Vegas – what happens in points stays in points!
Q: I noticed my card offers more points for spending in certain categories. Does this mean I should buy all my friends dinner to maximize points?
A: That’s one strategy, but be careful with it! While it’s true that some cards offer bonus points for dining out, you shouldn’t overspend just to earn more points. After all, you’re usually getting a fraction of your spending back in points. Unless your friends are planning to chip in or return the favor, that’s a lot of pizzas you’re buying solo!
Q: My credit card points seem to be a mystery. Can I hire a detective to figure them out?
A: A detective might be a bit overkill, but if you’re finding it hard to understand how your points work, a call to your card issuer’s customer service can help clear things up. They can explain how you earn points, what they’re worth, and how to redeem them. Plus, unlike a detective, they won’t charge you an hourly rate!
Q: Is it true that credit card points can expire? And, if so, can we throw a farewell party?
A: Yes, it’s true, depending on the card, points can expire, usually after a period of inactivity. While you’re welcome to throw them a farewell party, a better idea might be to keep an eye on the expiry dates and plan to use your points before then. It’s less festive, but more practical!
Q: I’ve heard of ‘churning’ credit cards for points. Should I also churn my own butter for extra points?
A: While I admire your pioneering spirit, ‘churning’ in the credit card world means something different. It refers to the practice of repeatedly signing up for new credit cards to earn sign-up bonuses, and then closing the accounts. Be aware, though, this can have negative impacts on your credit score and isn’t recommended for everyone. And as for the butter, well, that’s more of a personal preference!
Q: Can I redeem points for a ride on a unicorn?
A: Now, wouldn’t that be magical? While you might not be able to exchange points for mythical creatures, some cards do offer unique rewards or experiences you can redeem your points for, like concert tickets, special dining events, or unique travel experiences. You never know what’s on offer, so it’s worth checking!
Q: If I have a problem with my points, can I argue with them until they see reason?
A: As much as we’d all like to debate our way to more points, if you have a problem with your rewards program, it’s best to get in touch with your credit card’s customer service department. They’re equipped to answer your questions and help resolve issues. You can save your debate skills for convincing your friends you didn’t eat the last slice of pizza!
Q: Can I lend my points to a friend in need?
A: Some credit card companies do allow you to transfer points to another person, while others do not. It’s best to check with your specific rewards program to see what their policy is. Just remember, lending points is like lending money – make sure you’re okay with never seeing them again!
Q: Will my credit card points make me popular at parties?
A: That depends on the party! While credit card points might not make you the life of every party, they can certainly spark some interesting conversations. Plus, if you’re using your points for cool rewards like travel or unique experiences, you’ll definitely have some exciting stories to share!
Q: If my card offers double points on groceries, does that mean I should start a home-based pickle business?
A: Well, your entrepreneurial spirit is commendable! Double points on groceries can indeed help you accumulate points faster. However, remember that these points are usually a small percentage of what you spend. So, unless you’re certain your homemade pickles will be a hit, don’t start bulk buying cucumbers just yet!
Q: Can I redeem my points for a time machine to fix my past credit mistakes?
A: Ah, if only! While credit card points can’t change the past, making smart decisions now can help improve your credit future. Regular payments, wise use of credit, and of course, savvy use of those points can all contribute to a healthier credit profile. As for that time machine, if you ever figure it out, let us know!
Q: My card offers points for travel expenses. Should I become a world nomad?
A: That sounds like an adventure! If you’re someone who loves to travel and can do so while managing your responsibilities, a card that offers points for travel could be a great fit. However, remember that a nomadic lifestyle isn’t for everyone and points are just a small part of that decision. So pack wisely, travel safe, and enjoy those points!
Q: I heard that credit card points can lose value over time. Is this like my car depreciating as soon as I drive it off the lot?
A: In a way, yes! The value of credit card points can change based on the card issuer’s policies. They might adjust the rate at which you earn points or change how much points are worth when you redeem them. It’s a good idea to use your points regularly and not hoard them for too long. After all, unlike vintage cars, points don’t usually appreciate in value!
Q: Can I pay my taxes with credit card points?
A: While that would certainly be nice, it’s not usually possible. Most credit card points can be redeemed for things like travel, gift cards, or cash back, and aren’t accepted as a form of payment by tax authorities. If you do find a card that offers this, make sure to read the fine print – the value of points used to pay taxes might not be as high as other redemption options.
Q: My card offers bonus points at restaurants. Should I ditch my home cooking and dine out every night?
A: Well, unless you’re aiming for a spot on a cooking show and need real-world practice, this might not be the best plan. Sure, you could earn extra points, but remember, the cost of dining out can add up quickly! Plus, there’s the potential impact on your health from eating out all the time. It’s probably best to balance your culinary adventures at home and dining out experiences.
Q: I’ve seen some cards offer points for gas purchases. Does that mean I should take a cross-country road trip?
A: Sounds like a fun adventure! But just as with dining out, remember that the aim is to get rewards for what you’d normally spend. While a road trip could earn you extra points, the cost in both money and time might not be worth it. However, if you were planning on hitting the road anyway, then by all means, rack up those points!
Q: Can I use my points to buy a private island?
A: If only it were that easy! While some credit card points can be used for significant purchases or traded for cash, the average cardholder won’t accumulate enough points to buy an island. But don’t let that stop you from dreaming big! Just remember, the real value of points often comes from small, everyday purchases.
Q: I have a million points! Am I a millionaire now?
A: Congratulations on your points haul! However, it’s important to remember that points don’t equate to dollars on a 1:1 basis. While the actual conversion rate varies, you typically need many points to make up a dollar’s worth of value. So, while you might not be a millionaire in the traditional sense, you’re certainly a points millionaire!