Just what are the best travel credit cards? No one can say for sure, but some key parts of a travel credit card include:
- The travel rewards it offers
- The amount of rewards it offers for every dollar spent
- Whether or not it has an annual fee
- Whether or not it has an introductory offer or sign-up bonus
- Its interest rate
- What fees it charges—a travel card with no foreign transaction fees is awesome
With all that to consider, searching for a travel credit card can leave you feeling a little bit like Goldilocks. One card’s annual fee is too big, another card’s rewards are too small. It can be tricky to find the card that’s just right.
Fortunately, the Credit.com team is here to help. Credit.com reviewed some of the top travel credit cards, paying particular attention to factors like rewards value, travel protections and fees. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019.
Note: The team didn’t include cash-back rewards cards here. Cash-back rewards cards can be great for earning cash to use toward travel too. The cards here include those that offer points, airline miles and hotel points. See available cash-back rewards cards.
Cut to the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards
For full details on each card, please see the cards’ agreements.
- Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card: This card’s 3X points on eating out and in, gas and transit and flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals are hard to beat. Plus it has a nice 30K bonus points if you spend $3,000 in your first three months.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Everyone talks about this card’s big brother, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but if you’re looking for value, the Preferred card has a sweet signup bonus, solid base rewards and a much more affordable annual fee.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Ideal for anyone looking for a little flexibility, this card offers 2X miles for every purchase made, with no limits or expiration dates over the life of your account.
- Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®:This card comes with some serious kickback—2X miles back on all purchases, plus a 5% miles rebate when miles are redeemed that can be used toward your next redemption.
Why this Card Earned a Credit.com Best Pick: The card offers 3X the points for a lot of things including for eating out or dining in, if that’s your thing, gas, rideshare and other transit costs, flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals. Since you probably like to travel, you probably spend a bit in those areas and triple your points earnings when you do.
For anything else you buy with this card, you earn 1X points. And you won’t pay an annual fee or interest your first year with an intro APR of on purchases and on balance transfers too.
Oh, and there’s a choice sign-on bonus with this card—30,000 bonus points when you spent just $3,000 in your first three months as a cardholder. That’s a $300 value you can redeem for things you enjoy!
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Why this Card Earned a Credit.com Best Pick: The fact that Kiplinger’s Personal Finance named the Chase Sapphire Preferred its “Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption” in June 2018, required the team to look at this card. But, it didn’t make us pick it. What did is the card’s solid rewards.
It offers you 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of opening your account. That’s equal to $625 in travel credits when you redeem through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal. You also earn 2X the points on travel and dining and 1X the points on all other purchases.
This card has a lot of “no’s” that made the team say “yes, yes, yes.” It has no foreign transaction fees. No blackout dates or travel restrictions. No annual fee with a .
You also get good travel protections, including trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance and an auto rental collision damage waiver. And after all, it’s a travel credit card, so why not get some travel advantages on top of points to spend.
Speaking of those points, you can transfer points earned on this card to other leading airline and hotel loyalty programs too. And when it’s time to redeem your points, you get 25% more value for them if you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Why this Card Earned a Credit.com Best Pick: Capital One’s Venture Rewards Credit Card offers 2X miles on all purchases and there is no cap on how many miles you earn. CNBC picked this card as “The Best Travel Card” in 2018.
This card gives you 50,000 miles as a one-time signup bonus after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening your account. Plus you can earn 10X miles at thousands of hotels—10X—through January 2020. You can learn more at hotels.com/venture.
This card shares some of the “no’s” that made the team say “yes, yes, yes” to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card–no blackout dates, no foreign transaction fees, no expiration on your miles and no annual fee with a $0 intro for first year; $95 after that.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
- Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
- Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
- Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
- Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
- No foreign transaction fees
- International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
- Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
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Why this Card Earned a Credit.com Best Pick This card’s nicest feature isn’t that it offers 2X miles on every purchase you make. It’s that it gives you 70,000 bonus miles if you spent $5,000 in your first 90 days.
Think about it. If you get this card right before taking an overseas trip, you’ll rack up miles to use for another trip. And when you take that next trip with this card, you’ll also get 5% miles back to use toward that next redemption—and the next and the next.
This card has a few nice “no’s” too—no foreign transaction fees and no expiration on your miles. And, it has an international chip and PIN you can use as you globe trot around the world.
How to Get a Travel Credit Card
To get the right travel credit card, you have to consider two things:
- First, how’s your credit?
- How much do you travel or want to travel?
The best travel credit cards require an excellent or good credit score to qualify. You can see what your credit score is for free on Credit.com. If your score is looking a little lackluster, take steps to improve your standing before you apply. You can generally raise your credit scores by paying down high credit card balances, disputing errors on your credit reports and addressing delinquent items.
When you sign up for your free credit score on Credit.com, you also get access to a free credit report card that will show you where you stand in each of the five categories that go into your credit score. You also access tips on how to improve your standing each of the five categories.
Once your credit is in tip-top shape, consider how much you travel, how you travel and how much you spend. For instance, if you frequently fly one airline carrier or tend to stay at a particular hotel chain, an airline miles credit card or hotel-branded credit card may net you more bang for your buck.
If you travel a lot, you may want to look into elite credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you travel less often, a general-purpose travel credit card with a lower annual fee is probably the best fit for your wallet. Consider your spending habits carefully and read the fine print before you apply.
There’s no one “best” travel card for everyone. You want to choose the card that’s “best” for your travel needs and spending habits. Some cards work great for frequent travelers. Other cards work better for people who don’t travel as often. All cards have their perks and quirks. The Credit.com team hopes our picks here make your pick a bit easier.
This article was last updated on September 21, 2017, and has since been updated by another author.
Editorial disclosure: Reviews are as determined solely by Credit.com staff. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the reviewers and aren’t reviewed or approved by any advertiser. Information presented is accurate as of the date of the review, including information on card rates, rewards and fees. Check the issuer’s website for the most current information on each card listed.
Some offers mentioned here may have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned here.