If you love to travel like I do, one of the best things you can bring along on your adventures is a nice travel rewards credit card. It’s safer and often more convenient than carrying cash. Plus, you get the added benefit of earning airline miles or other rewards just for spending on everyday items. Some of the best travel rewards credit cards offer more than one point per dollar spent, come with bonuses, and make redeeming your points easy.
Most of the cards below would make an excellent choice because they don’t place restrictions on which airlines you can use. We’ve listed our favorites and should you have a card you think deserves to be on the list, let us know!
PT’s Pick for the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® - Barclay Bank may not be a household US credit card name, but they’re entered the travel rewards space with a bang. For a limited time, all new Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard members will receive 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of card ownership. Double miles are earned on ALL purchases (best of any travel card today) and a 10% bonus is earned when you redeem your miles for travel. Also included on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is a 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for 12 billing cycles and while everything about this card is top notch, there is an $85 annual fee to contend with (but it’s waived for the first year).
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card - Tied for the longest bonus offered on this list, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card opens up with 40,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card ownership. An additional 5,000 bonus points are added when you include an authorized cardholder to your account and they make a purchase in the first three months. Double points earned on travel and dining and single points earned on all other transactions and each year, cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card will earn a 7% dividend on all points earned (so for exampke, 100,000 points earned would add a 7,000 bonus!). There is no annual fee for the first year ($95 afterwards) and no foreign transaction fees.
Citi ThankYou Preferred Card – Earn 20,000 Bonus Points – The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card has a handful of variations, and the strongest of them is this card; which offers 20,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $1,500 during the first three months of card ownership. Included is a 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers (so long as the transfer is made withing four months of account opening) for 12 months and after the intro period expires, the standard purchase and BT APR becomes 12.99%, 17.99% or 22.99% variable. Double points are earned on dining and entertainment, single points earned on all other purchases and the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card has NO annual fee.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express – The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, a true credit card, is considered a hotel card by some, but I think with the way the points transfer to the airline miles programs, it should be on par with the other travel rewards credit cards. With this card you earn 10,000 bonus points after your first purchase and another 15,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months. An additional 5,000 bonus Starpoints can be earned when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a frequent flyer program with more than 30 airlines. You also earn 1 Starpoint with regular spending, 2 Starpoints when you spend at the Starwood hotels and resorts and an extra point as a gold or platinum member, that’s up to 5 Starpoints per dollar. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card has no annual fee the first year, after that it’s $65. Additionally, the card comes with a variable rate, currently 15.24%, 17.24% or 19.24%. If you do a lot of spending at hotels, this is your card.
Chase Sapphire Card – The little sister to the Preferred, The Chase Sapphire Card is the annual fee free version; with slightly reduced rewards. 10,000 bonus points ($100 in cash rewards) are provided after spending $500 in the first three months of card ownership and the standard APR is 15.99% variable. Two points are earned for every dollar spent at restaurants and one point is earned for every dollar spent on all other purchases. Any spending done outside the US is foreign exchange free and to reiterate, there is no annual fee for owning the Chase Sapphire Card (first year, or otherwise).
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card – 20,000 bonus miles are earned after making $2,000 in purchases during the first three months when owning the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. 1.25 miles are earned on every dollar spent, and there is a 0% intro APR on purchases until December of 2014. This travel rewards credit card is for excellent credit applicants only and the standard APR 11.9 – 19.9$ variable. All Capital One credit cards include an added benefit of no foreign transaction fees, so you can use the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card abroad; fee and exchange free.
American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card – The only true charge card in the bunch, I had to throw in the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card. Being a charge card, you don’t pay any interest because you pay it off each month. And you don’t have a pre-set spending limit to hold you back. It has some sweet travel rewards for the frequent flier. With the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card, you earn triple points per dollar spent on airfare, double points on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations and at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets, and single point on other purchases. Redeeming the rewards is a bit tricky through the American Express Membership Rewards program. I suggest you visit the MR list of airlines to see how the points will convert. The annual fee is waived in the first year, and after that it’s $175.