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Searching for a travel credit card can leave you feeling a little like Goldilocks; one card’s annual fee is too big, another’s rewards too small. It can be tricky to find the card that’s just right. Fortunately, we’re 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. Her are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2018.
Cut to the Cards
For the full print, please see card agreements.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Everyone talks about its bougie big brother, the Sapphire Reserve, but if you’re looking for value, the Preferred 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 the account.
- Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®: This card comes with some serious kickback — 2% miles back on all purchases, plus a 5% rebate when those miles are redeemed that can be used toward your next redemption.
- Discover it Miles: Come for the year-one mile match; stay for the 1.5 miles per purchase and no annual fee.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve If you are a frequent flier and a big spender, that $450 annual fee could easily be worth it.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Card Details +
Why We Picked It: In addition to solid rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers cardholders 50,000 bonus points after they spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening — equivalent to $625 in travel credits 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.
Why We Picked It: Capital One’s Venture Rewards Credit Card offers 2X miles on all purchases and there is no cap on how many you can earn.
Rewards Details: New applicants receive 50,000 miles as a signup bonus after spending $3,000 in purchases within three months from account opening. Cardholders earn 2X miles on all purchases, as well as 10x the miles on purchases with hotels.com/venture (learn more at hotels.com/venture). There are no limits or expiration dates over the life of the account. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that.
Purchase APR: 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
- Limited Time Offer: 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
Card Details +
Why We Picked It: Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers 2% miles back on all purchases, plus a 5% rebate on redeemed miles to use towards your next redemption.
Rewards Details: New applicants receive 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in 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: $89 (waived first year)
Purchase APR: 17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable based on your creditworthiness
Discover it® Miles
- INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel!
- Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
- No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
- Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
- Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
- Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
- Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
- No Annual Fee.
Card Details +
Why We Picked It: Discover it Miles Card offers 1.5 miles per dollar and doubles the miles at the end of your first year of membership.
Rewards Details: Cardholders receive 1.5 miles for every dollar, with no expiration. Miles can be redeemed in any amount at any time and are equivalent to one cent. 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: $0
APR: 0% for 14 months on purchases, then 13.99% - 24.99% Variable on purchases & balance transfers
Why We Picked it: We’d be remiss not to mention the splashy elite credit card, which still touts a stellar signup bonus — 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in your first three months as an account holder, worth $750 in travel when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards — plus 3x the points on travel and dining purchases and $300 in travel credits, among other perks. Just be sure you can handle the $450 annual fee. (You can find a full review of the card.)
Annual Fee: $450
Purchase APR: 17.74%-24.74% variable APR
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? We ask because the best travel credit cards require an excellent or good credit score to qualify. (You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) If they’re 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.
Once your credit is in tip-top shape, you’ll need to consider how much your 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 might be the best fit for your wallet. Consider your spending habits carefully and read the fine print before you apply.
At publishing time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Capital One Venture Rewards, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite and Discover it Miles cards are 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. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
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.
This article was last updated on September 21st, 2017.