Travel credit cards reward cardholders with points or miles when they make purchases in designated categories. These rewards generally provide high value when they are redeemed for travel-related purchases. Points are typically transferable to the issuer’s partners, which usually include airlines, hotel chains, and rental car companies. Cards offer a wide range of benefits, including flights, hotels, meals, and other vacation-related necessities or perks. Annual fees range from $0 to $695, and higher annual fees tend to correlate with premium perks.
The Benefits of a Travel Credit Card
Many travel rewards cards feature added benefits like low or no-fee foreign transactions, travel insurance and credits, airport lounge access, and TSA application fee reimbursements. Take a look at some of the most common and useful benefits listed below.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
Most travel rewards cards will not charge transaction fees when you make purchases in foreign currencies while traveling abroad.
Valuable Travel Credits
Many travel rewards cards offer statement credits for qualifying expenses up to a preset monetary limit, such as a $100 annual redemption credit on hotel stays.
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry Reimbursements
Several mid-range and premium travel cards offer a $100 application fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
Airport Lounge Access
Premium travel cards offer access to Priority Pass, Plaza Premium, and other airport lounges that offer complimentary drinks, snacks, entertainment, and leisure areas.
Reimbursement for Trip Cancellation or Delay
If you need to cancel or delay your trip, it may be possible to receive compensation for flights and other travel expenses.
Reimbursement for Baggage Loss or Delay
If your baggage goes missing, you may receive reimbursement for lost items or compensation for clothing or toiletries you purchased as replacements.
The Top Five Travel Credit Cards
Credit card companies constantly change their benefit offerings to stay competitive, so it’s always good to do some research when you’re looking for a new travel rewards card. With that said, here are five cards we think are great picks right now.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
For a reasonable $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card provides high-value travel rewards that can be redeemed or transferred to other Chase cards and an assortment of partner loyalty programs. Cardholders currently earn 60,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points or $750 towards travel if they spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening an account. Each point is worth 1.25 cents when redeemed for travel booked through Chase and less when redeemed for cash. Cardholders can also earn bonus points on selected reward categories, including five points for every dollar spent on travel and three points for dining. Additional perks include a $50 annual credit on hotel stays and rental car coverage. Cardholders can also earn statement credits through Chase’s Pay Yourself Back program. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has an ongoing 17.49%-24.49% variable-rate annual percentage rate (APR).
The Citi Premier is another card with a $95 annual fee. It offers 3% bonus rewards on popular categories like air travel, hotels, dining, and gas stations. With a high number of global travel and loyalty program partnerships, the Citi Premier card offers the most value when it is used for international travel. Customers who accumulate large numbers of points may find exceptional deals on complementary luxury and round-trip international flights. The Citi Premier has one of the best sign-on bonuses in its category, rewarding cardholders with 80,000 points if they spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening an account. Perks also include a $100 annual hotel credit that can compensate for the annual fee. Travel points are worth 1 cent per dollar spent, which may be lower than other cards in its class. The ongoing variable-rate APR is comparable to other travel cards at 18.24–26.24%.
Capital One Venture
The Capital One Venture is the third card on our list with a $95 annual fee. This popular travel rewards card features an attractive sign-on bonus, a high rewards rate, and airport lounge access. Cardholders earn a 5% bonus on car rentals and hotels booked through Capital One Travel, and the flexible redemption options are less restrictive than other cards in its class. The Capital One Venture offers many additional benefits, including a $100 redemption credit toward the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee, travel insurance, rental car coverage, and more. The sign-up bonus is 75,000 miles, or $750 in travel credits, after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. The ongoing variable-rate APR is 17.49%–25.49%.
Capital One Venture X
With the Capital One Venture X rewards card, you earn miles instead of points. This card has a high $395 annual fee to match its premium status, but it also offers a generous sign-up bonus, high rewards, and airport lounge access that other cards don’t. When booking through Capital One Travel, cardholders earn 5 miles per dollar on flights and 10 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars. The sign-on bonus includes 75,000 miles, equal to $750 in travel credits after spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening an account. Unrestricted access to Priority Pass and Plaza Premium airport lounges is included. Travelers also receive an annual 10,000 mile anniversary bonus, cell phone insurance, shopping and travel protection, and many other perks. The Capital One Venture X has an ongoing 18.49-25.49% variable-rate APR.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
With a 0% introductory APR period, no annual fee, and 5% redemption on travel purchases, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a standout cash back card that also serves as a travel rewards card. Every purchase you make earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to other Chase cards or redeemed for travel, gift cards, or cash back. The sign-up bonus includes an additional 1.5% cash back on all purchases during the first year, worth up to $300. Cardholders earn a threefold bonus on dining and 1.5% cash back on other purchases. The introductory interest rate on purchases and balance transfers is 0% APR for 15 months. After this period ends, the rate increases to an ongoing variable-rate APR of 16.49–25.24%. The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is the only credit card on our list that charges a foreign transaction fee of 3% for purchases.
Travel Credit Cards Reward Your Journeys
If you like to travel and are adept at budgeting, travel rewards cards can add quite a bit of value to your life. There are offers available for all kinds of travelers, so the next time you’re planning for a wedding, event, or destination vacation, take a look and see if a travel credit card is right for you.