Who doesn’t want to take a free vacation using their credit card rewards? If only it were that simple. For years, airlines and hotels have offered co-branded credit cards that earned points and miles in their loyalty programs. But over time, these programs have become more complex, and cardholders need to carefully examine terms and conditions of both the card and rewards program before they apply. The best travel credit cards for travel rewards and/or the best credit cards for miles can vary by person, depending on their spending and travel habits. Fortunately, some cards out there offer perks tempting enough for even occasional travelers.
How to Get a Travel Credit Card
A new breed of travel rewards credit cards is changing the game. There are credit cards that offer points and miles in rewards programs operated by the banks, not the airlines or hotels. With these cards, the rewards you earn can be redeemed for nearly any travel reservations, with no blackout dates or capacity controls. This type of program is an especially good deal at times like these when travel costs are low.
The best credit cards for miles generally require an excellent or good credit score in order to qualify. So before you consider a credit card, it’s important to know where you stand so you don’t apply for cards for which you’re unlikely to get approved. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)
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 credit cards for travel rewards on the market right now.
Why We Picked It: Capital One’s Venture Rewards Credit Card offers twice the miles on all purchases and a reasonable annual fee of $59 that’s waived the first year.
Rewards Details: New applicants receive 40,000 miles as a signup bonus after spending just $3,000 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. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: None the first year; $59 thereafter
APR: 13.49% – 23.49% (Variable)
Why We Picked It: Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers 2% miles back on all purchases, plus a 5% rebate on redeemed miles, which is a strong offer.
Rewards Details: New applicants receive 50,000 miles as a signup bonus after spending $3,000 on their card within the first 90 days of opening an account. Again, cardholders receive two miles for every dollar on all purchases and a 5% rebate on all redeemed miles. This Barclaycard is also part of the World Elite MasterCard program, which offers many travel and shopping discounts. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: None the first year; $89 thereafter
APR: Variable 16.49, 20.49% or 23.49%
Why We Picked It: Discover it Miles Card offers 1.5 miles for every dollar and doubles miles at the end of your first year of membership.
Rewards Details: Cardholders receive 1.5 miles for every dollar, and rewards have no expiration date. Miles can be redeemed in any amount at any time, and are the cash equivalent of a penny. Discover will double cardholders’ miles at the end of their first year of membership. Other benefits include a $30 annual credit for in-flight Wi-Fi, an automatic waiver of the first late payment fee and no penalty APR.
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% the first 14 months, then variable 11.49 to 23.49%
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Why We Picked It: In addition to solid rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is offering cardholders 50,000 bonus points after they spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening — the equivalent of a $625 travel credit when redeemed through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.
Rewards Details: Cardholders earn 2x the points on travel and dining and 1x the points on all other purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees. Plus, cardholders get robust travel protections, including trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance and an auto rental collision damage waiver.
Annual Fee: $95 after the first year
APR: See Issuer’s Terms
At publishing time, Capital One Venture Rewards, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and Discover it Miles Card are each offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do 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.
Additional Reporting was contributed by Jeanine Skowronski.