Sign up for your free account    Sign Up Now
From the Experts at

The Best Travel Credit Cards in America

by Jason Steele

The Best Travel Credit Card in America

Americans love to earn travel rewards from their credit cards. And while many credit cards offer frequent flier miles or hotel points, others offer points reward programs that can be used to book travel. The advantage of these programs is that cardholders can make their award reservations any way they want, and even earn points and miles from them. So this month, we are looking at the best travel reward cards, not including those that offer airline miles, which we awarded in November.

Choosing the Best Travel Reward Card for Your Needs

Many credit card users are turning to the travel reward credit cards that offer “miles” from the banks. These bank miles are worth one cent each as statement credits toward travel reservations such as airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises. With reward miles from different banks all worth the same amount, the best cards for your needs will allow you to earn as many miles as possible per dollar spent. In addition, a top travel reward card will offer valuable perks and benefits that will help you when you are on the road. Finally, it’s important to factor in everything else you look for in a credit card, including the customer service, the terms and conditions, and of course, any fees.

Before you apply for any credit card, it’s important to do your research and make sure the card will meet your needs, and that you meet the issuer’s general credit requirements. You can get two of your credit scores for free on to see where you stand, and to get personalized tips to help you improve your credit.

After reviewing dozens of travel reward credit card offers, we weighed the costs and benefits of each, and ultimately chose the best ones in their class. After much consideration, here are the Best Credit Cards in America for Travel Rewards.

The Winner: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCardBarclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

Why It Won: Barclaycard continues to lead this category by offering the most value per dollar spent.

The Rewards: New applicants receive 40,000 miles as a sign-up bonus after spending just $3,000 on their card within the first 90 days of opening an account. Cardholders also receive two miles for every dollar spent in purchases, and each mile is worth one cent as travel statement credits toward travel expenses incurred in the past 120 days. But in addition, cardholders receive a 10% rebate on all mileage redeemed. This card is also part of the World Elite MasterCard program, which features many travel and shopping discounts. It also offers travelers true Chip and PIN compatibility, which is often necessary when using unattended kiosks in Europe and other parts of the world.

The Costs: There is an $89 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

1st Runner-Up: Capital One Venture Rewards Visa SignatureCapital One Venture Rewards Visa Signature Card

Why It Won: Capital One continues to offer competitive value from its flagship reward card.

The Rewards: New applicants receive 40,000 miles as a sign-up bonus after spending just $3,000 on their card within the first three months of opening the account. Cardholders earn double miles on all purchases, with no limits on the rewards they can earn. As a Visa Signature card, customers receive access to numerous shopping and travel discounts, as well as the Visa Signature concierge service.

The Costs: There is a $59 annual fee that is waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

2nd Runner-Up: Discover it MilesDiscover It

Why It Won: This new card starts customers off with an impressive rate of return for the first year, and has no annual fee.

The Rewards: Cardholders receive 1.5 miles per dollar spent, and like its competitors, each mile is worth one cent in statement credit toward travel purchases. In addition, miles can also be redeemed for cash back, making this card somewhat of a hybrid travel reward card. But what really makes this card compelling is that Discover will double cardholders’ miles earned at the end of their first year of card membership. This means that this card is offering a total of three miles per dollar for a whole year.

Other features include a $30 annual credit toward in-flight WiFi purchases, the cardholder’s first late payment fee is waived automatically and 100% U.S.-based customer service.

The Costs: There is no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

At publishing time, the Capital One Venture Rewards Visa Signature and Discover it Miles are offered through product pages, and is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • Jason Steele

    This is the only card that offers a business class companion airfare, although there are others with no foreign transaction fees.

  • Jason Steele

    I find that the real value of this PIN compatibility is at kiosks that do not accept Chip and signature transactions. There, most cards issued to Americans will not work, even when they do have a chip, yet the Arrival Plus will work. I have seen people wait in line for an hour to buy a train ticket in Europe when their Chip and Signature only card will not work at a kiosk.

    • Allie Kat

      That is a fair value, but a rare situation compared to the many merchants who accept chip and signature cards – with a large degree of harassment.

  • Larry Reid

    Although the Barclay card is frequently voted the best for travel, I haven’t been impressed with their card security. Ive had my card information stolen TWICE, in the US Barclay was slow to pick up on it, and when they did, my cell, email and home phone all blew up as they tried to notify me, too late, that there was a problem. Yes, they did not hold me for the charges, but they were slow in getting replacement cards to me, at a time when I was travelling and needed them for work. I’ve cancelled the Barclaycard and am searching for a new card.

Sign up for your free account. Learn More
  • Meet Our Expert

    jason_steele GravatarJason Steele has worked as a computer systems administrator, a commercial pilot, and a contributor to several of the top personal finance sites as an expert on credit cards and travel. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a degree in History.
  • Stay Connected to Our Experts

    Please submit your email address to get credit & money tips & advice
    from our team of 50+ experts, delivered weekly to your inbox.