The 6 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards – May 2015

10 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, you may as well make the most of it with a great travel rewards credit card. These cards can help cut up-front costs of travel, while earning you miles to use on future trips.

Elsewhere, we link you to the best airline miles cards, hotel rewards cards, and gas credit cards. You’ll find some overlap, but those cards tend to be a bit more specific. Here, we’ll focus on credit cards that give you excellent rewards that you can cash in with different airlines, cruise lines, hotel chains, and more.

Rewards cards like these give you flexibility for both earning points and spending them. Frequent travelers know just how valuable that is!

1. Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®

There’s a reason this card makes many of the top 10 lists for travel rewards cards – it’s easy to use and quite flexible. You’ll get 2X the miles on all purchases, and your miles don’t expire as long as your account is open.

Bonus: When you spend $3,000 in purchases within 90 days of opening your account, you’ll get 40,000 bonus miles. That’s a $400 statement credit far various types of travel. Plus, when you redeem miles for eligible travel, you’ll get 10% miles back to use towards your next redemption.

Easy Redemption: With this card, you can book the travel you want using your card, and then use your accrued miles for a statement credit. So you don’t actually have to pay out of pocket for your travel, but you also don’t have to use a special, limited booking system. And your miles don’t expire as long as your account is open, active, and in good standing.

Chip Card: This is the way of the future for credit cards, and Barclaycard is already there. The chip card offers increased security, and makes it easier to pay abroad while you’re cashing in all those reward miles.

Fees: The annual fee for this one is $89, waived for the first year. It does have the benefit of no foreign transaction fees.

APR: The card offers a 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of opening. After that, you’ll pay 15.99% or 19.99% APR, depending on your creditworthiness.

Credit Needed: The average credit score approved for the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM is around 740, so it’s for those with great credit.

Bottom Line: With the 0% introductory APR and great rewards, this is a good option for paying down some debt with a balance transfer, and then racking up rewards. It’s great if you don’t want to have to juggle cards to get the most points in each spending category.

2. Barclaycard ArrivalTM World MasterCard®

Barclaycard_World_Arrival_MasterCardThis is a step down in rewards – but it’s also a step down in fees and necessary credit. This card has $0 annual fees, and you can still earn big miles on everyday purchases. It offers 2 miles per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Bonus: When you spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of opening your account, you’ll get 20,000 bonus miles – about a $200 statement credit for travel. Plus, you’ll get 10% miles back to use on your next redemption when you redeem miles for travel.

Redemption: Again, with Barclaycard travel cards, you don’t have to use a particular booking system to book your travel. Just use your card to pay for qualified travel expenses, and then use your miles for a statement credit. Your miles won’t expire as long as your account is open and active.

Fees: This is an annual-fee-free card. It also offers no foreign transaction fees.

APR: Get 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of your account’s opening. Then, you’ll pay 14.99%, 18.99% or 22.99% variable APR.

Credit Needed: Necessary credit is a little lower for this one. The average credit approved for this card is 719, and the lowest credit approved is 664.

Bottom Line: If you don’t have the credit for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus or you don’t want to deal with an annual fee, this is a great option to consider.

3. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards VisaThis is another flexible, easy-to-use credit card option. With the Venture card you’ll get 2 miles per $1 spent on any purchase. You can save up unlimited miles, and redeem them for flights, car rentals, hotel stays, cruises, and other travel-related expenses.

Bonus: Spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of using this card, and you’ll get 40,000 bonus miles back – about $400 in travel expenses.

Redemption: This is another card that allows you to redeem miles how you’d like. You can, for instance, save even more by purchasing your miles through a discount travel site. Then redeem the miles as a statement credit.

Fees: This card has a $59 annual fee, waived for the first year. That’s not too bad for a card with these high-level, flexible rewards. You’ll also benefit from no foreign transaction fees.

APR: With a 12.99% to 22.99% variable APR, this could also be a relatively low-interest option for card members with excellent credit.

Credit Needed: Credit Karma puts the average approved score for this card at 708, but there’s a wide spread with approved scores as low as 618 and as high as 805.

Bottom Line: If you want a flexible card with a lower annual fee and potential lower interest rate, this is a great option. It lets you rack up rewards without thinking too much about categories, and lets you cash them in easily.

4. BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Card

Bankamericard Travel Rewards CardThis card splits the difference between high rewards and high fees. It offers 1.5 points per $1 spent on purchases and travel anywhere. But it offers $0 annual fees, so you don’t feel like you have to spend a certain amount in order to make the card worthwhile.

Bonus: Apply for this card online to qualify for the bonus. You’ll earn 10,000 bonus points – worth a $100 statement credit – when you make $500 in purchases in the first 90 days of opening your account. You can earn more bonus points – an additional 10% – if you have an active savings or checking account with Bank of America.

Redemption: Just use this card to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, and even baggage fees, and then call or go online to redeem your points for a statement credit. You can earn unlimited points, and they don’t expire.

Fees: This card has no annual fee, a $0 liability guarantee, and a 3% balance transfer fee.

APR: Start with an introductory 0% APR for 12 months on purchases. After that, you’ll pay 14.99% to 22.99% variable APR on both balance transfers and purchases.

Credit Needed: The average score approved for this card is 745, with a low of 660 and a high of 820.

Bottom Line: If you want more than 1 point per $1 spent, but also don’t want to pay an annual fee, this card is a good option. Plus, if you have another account with Bank of America, you can earn even more points without trying.

5. Discover it® Miles

Discover it MilesWe like the Discover it line in general because it’s easy to use. And the Discover it Travel card is no different. It lets you earn 1.5 miles for every $1 spent on purchases, making it easy to gather travel rewards.

Bonus: This card offers an interesting bonus – double your miles. At the end of your first year, Discover will give you double the miles you’ve earned that year. It also offers up to $30 per year in credits for in-flight Wi-Fi, another bonus benefit for frequent travelers.

Redemption: Don’t worry about blackout dates or complex booking procedures. Just book your travel with this card, and then apply your points as a statement credit.

Fees: This card has no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees. Also, paying late won’t automatically raise your APR.

APR: You’ll start with 0% APR for 12 months on purchases, and 10.99% APR for 12 months on balance transfers. After that, a variable rate of 10.99% to 22.99% applies.

Credit Needed: Credit statistics are not available for this card. However, the other Discover it cards typically require average to good credit.

Bottom Line: This is another good option if you want a card that makes it easy to earn miles, but don’t want to pay an annual fee.

6. Chase® Sapphire Preferred®

Chase Sapphire Preferred CardThis card offers more points for some categories – 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining. Then, you’ll get 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Bonus: Spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening, and you’ll get 40,000 bonus points. You can earn another 5,000 bonus points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within three months of opening your account.

Redemption: You can redeem points directly for statement credit on travel purchases. But you can also transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to other travel programs. So you could move your points over to your Hyatt Gold Passport or to your Marriott Rewards program, for instance. This could help you squeeze more value out of your miles.

Fees: This card has a $95 annual fee, waived the first year. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3%, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

APR: The purchase and balance transfer APR is a variable 15.99%.

Credit Needed: The average approved score for this card is 730, with a low of 645 and a high of 800.

Bottom Line: If you’ve got great credit, this can be a good way to rack up points that you can transfer to and combine with points from other travel rewards programs that you use.

Published or Updated: May 4, 2015
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. Mike says:

    Just got a letter from Starwood: annual fee is now $65/year. This is the new reality, I guess:

    “Many issuers have homed in on fees that typically accompany rewards cards as a potential moneymaker. The Pew study, which was to be released today, found that about 14 percent of bank credit cards have annual fees, about the same as last year. But the median annual fee for the 12 largest banks’ cards rose 18 percent, to $59, over the past year.”

  2. Rob Berger says:

    Mike, the top travel cards have always charged fees. I carry the Starwood Amex, and I ‘ve found the rewards to be well worth the cost of the card.

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  5. Brian C. says:

    Hi Rob,
    I am a newbie and learn a lot from this site. Hope you don’t mind shedding lights on my stupid Qs (haven’t apply for many years).

    When applying for a card, is it generally the case (I read somewhere online) that one can put combined income in the form even the primary applicant is unemployed but spouse is employed? The rationale is to let the highest FICO applicant (primary) take the impact from hard inquiry so to ensure both FICOs are still high afterwards. Both 770+ score but one is ~20 points higher hence the question. Thanks again!

    Thanks a lot for tolerating a stupid question :-)!

    • Rob Berger says:

      Brian, if you are both 770+, I doubt it’s going to matter much. Also, unless you are applying for a ton of credit, a single hard inquiry shouldn’t have a major impact. But to your question, if the primary applicant is unemployed, I suspect this will raise a question with the credit card issuer. But you’ll never really know until you try.

  6. I have had the SPG card for a year now and the annual fee is coming due. I benefited from the opening bonus, but see little future value to holding on to the card. I find that I can book a Sheraton hotel on Priceline for the same cost as Starwood charges for a cash and points award, if it is available. For a free hotel night, I would have to spend thousands of dollars, as you only earn 1 point per dollar spent on general purchases. The only reason to hold on to the card would be to if I think they might have a sign-up incentive in August this year, where I could get 5,000 points for referring my spouse for the card, and he would also get 5,000 points over the usual sign-up bonus.

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