We’ve studied the top travel card offers based on rewards and fees. Here are our picks for the best travel rewards credit cards of 2018.
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. Navy Federal Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card
Before you come at me for putting a brand like Navy Federal at the top of our list; I have a few really good reasons, I swear
- Bonus: The Navy Federal Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card offers 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Those points can be redeemed for travel, cash, a statement credit or just about anything else at a 100 points to $1 ratio. That means if you can spend enough, the $500 value is yours.
- Rewards: Where this card stands out is in it’s everyday rewards program. 3x points per dollar spent are earned on travel purchases and 2x points per dollar spent are earned on everything else. Finding a quality credit card without a high annual fee that offers triple points … not easy.
- Fees: This card has a $49 annual fee, waived for the first year. Again, I ask you to find another card that gives you $500 in up front value and less than a $50 annual fee (and no fee year #1). This is the only credit card I know of with that kind of benefit.
- Pricing Details: The ongoing APR for the Navy Federal Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card is a low 11.99% – 18.00% variable. I feel like I’m repeating myself here but I dare you to find a quality travel rewards credit card with a lower APR.
Bottom Line: So, we’ve established how this card sets itself apart, but there is a catch. You must be a Navy Federal Credit Union member to apply, which means you need to be affiliated with the US military, or have a family member that is affiliated with the US military.
Navy Federal has a membership of over 8 million so there’s a good chance you’re related to someone who qualifies!
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred 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.
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.
3. Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®
One of the best travel cards comes from Barclaycard; their Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® offers as competitive a card as any on this page.
- Bonus: All new cardholders of the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® will earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days. Those bonus miles can be used to redeem a $700 travel credit towards any travel purchase.
- Rewards: Every purchase earns two miles per dollar spent. No categories, no tier limits, no spend thresholds or hurdles. $10,000 spent means 20,000 miles. $500 spent means 1,000 miles. It’s that simple. As an added reward, you’ll earn a 5% bonus on all of the miles you redeem. This means that your double miles on all purchases are worth just a little bit more!
- Fees: This card includes an $89 annual fee that is waived for everyone in the first year. No foreign transaction fees to speak of and another great perk; 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months.
Bottom Line: When you compare this to other travel rewards credit cards here; the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® actually comes out just a touch above. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers 50,000 bonus miles, a $95 annual fee and double miles; this card offers 70,000 bonus miles, an $89 annual fee and double miles + a 5% redemption bonus. Talk about one-upping another issuer.
4. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
This is another flexible, easy-to-use credit card option. With the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit 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 50,000 bonus miles back – about $500 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 $95 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.
Bottom Line: If you want a flexible card with a lower annual fee and potentially 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.
Click HERE to learn more about this card.
5. British Airways Visa Signature Card
The British Airways Visa Signature Card is an airline specific travel rewards card that kicks off new members with a great big bonus. Avios are earned on all purchases and there might even be enough after the first year for an international first class round trip ticket.
- Bonus: 50,000 Avios are earned after spending $3,000 in purchases during the first three months. Another 25,000 bonus Avios can be earned after spending a total of $10,000 in purchases your first full year. And another 25,000 bonus Avios are earned after spending a total of $20,000 in your first year. All together, that’s 100,000 bonus Avios!
- Rewards: Triple Avios are earned on all British Airways purchases (tickets, bags, food etc.) and single Avios are earned on all other purchases. Every calendar year you’re able to spend at least $30,000, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket. That ticket is good for an companion and it expires 2 years from when it’s issued.
- Fees: There is a $95 annual fee to own this credit card and no foreign transaction fees for international purchases.
Bottom Line: Airline cards tend to be awfully specific to the brand and the British Airways Visa Signature Card is no different. For anyone that flies British Airways, especially those that fly frequently, a 100,000 bonus + triple Avios and a companion ticket are reason enough to keep this card in your wallet.
6. Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Delta offers a trio of credit cards specific to flying their airline and I believe the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express to be the best. In addition to a good rewards program and nice bonus, the perks offered for everyday travelers are top shelf.
- Welcome offer: New cardholders will earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months.
- Rewards: Two miles per dollar spent are earned on purchased made directly with Delta and single miles per dollar spent are earned on everything else. The biggest reason to own this credit card is the baggage fee perks. You can check your first bag for FREE for up to nine members in your reservation. That means at $25 per bag, you stand to save $225 per flight on checked bags (if bringing 8 other people). For a family of four, this means $100 saved on each and every flight.
- Fees: There is a $95 annual fee, waived for the first year. There are no foreign transaction fees charged.
Bottom Line: When you fly Delta, you’re always going to be charged for baggage unless you own an AMEX and Delta branded credit card. The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express is a huge money save for frequent Delta travelers and the added bonus and rewards program make the card extremely attractive.
Click HERE to learn more about this card.
7. The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express is a very high rewards, very high fee credit card that quite possibly offers you the best rewards program of any card found today. And it opens with a nice hefty bonus.
- Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you’ve spent $5,000 in the first three months of card ownership. Also earn up to $200 in Uber rides each and every year.
- Rewards: You’ll earn 5x points on flights booked through AMEX or directly through the airline, 5x points on hotels booked through AMEX and single points per dollar spent on all other transactions. Also provided is up to a $200 airline fee credit, a refund of sorts for the baggage fees you pay annually. Last but not least, you’ll gain access into the AMEX Global Lounge collection; allowing you + two guests to relax in style before a flight.
- Fees: This is the unflattering side … a $550 annual fee applies. There is no APR because this is a charge card (so it is expected that your balance be paid in full every month).
Bottom Line: To really cash in on the The Platinum Card® from American Express, you need to travel A LOT. $550 is an extremely high annual fee but $400 in annual credits + an up front bonus helps ease that burden. If you have excellent credit and find yourself on the road a lot, there’s no better status card for upgrades and perks.
Click HERE to learn more about this card.
8. Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
One of the best credit card bonuses around lies with the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card. The ability to earn two Free Night Awards coupled with a rewards program that offers 6x points offers a very lucrative opportunity.
- Bonus: After spending $3,000 in purchases during the first three months, you’ll earn two Free Night Awards (valued at up to 35,000 points per night)
- Rewards: This card offers three tier levels for rewards. Six points per dollar spent are earned on at participating Marriott and SPG hotels. Two points per dollar spent are earned on all other purchases. Every year, you’ll also earn a free night’s stay at any category 1-5 hotel. (Up to 35,000 points)
- Fees: There is an $95 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees are charged.
Bottom Line: Few cards on this list offers up to 70,000 bonus points and even fewer offer a free hotel night each and every anniversary. The Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card is also a touch softer on the annual fee than most other travel cards. What’s not to like?
1.5 Miles per $1 Spent – 1st Year Double Miles
We like this line of credit cards in general because it’s easy to use. This particular credit card 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, the issuer 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.
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.
9. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood hotels have always been a sought after reservation for consumers. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is a great way to take advantage booking quality hotel stays, and the card currently offers it’s staple bonus; 25,000 Starpoints.
- Welcome offer: Earn 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 in purchases during the first three months of card membership.
- Rewards: Double Starpoints are earned for each dollar spent at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards Hotels. Single Starpoints for each dollar spent are earned on everything else. Starpoints can be redeemed at over 1,300 locations in over 100 countries.
- Fees: There is a $95 annual fee, but it is waived for all first year cardholders. When making purchases abroad, there are no foreign transaction fees.
Bottom Line: The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has been a staple product of the American Express brand for a decade. It continues to offer a strong up front bonus and an attractive rewards program for travelers who spend many nights away from home.
10. United TravelBank Card
This is one of the newest credit cards on the market today; tailored to the casual traveler. The United TravelBank Card comes from Chase and offers a $150 cash bonus and solid rewards program with NO annual fee.
- Bonus: $150 in TravelBank cash is earned after spending $1,000 in purchases during the first three months.
- Rewards: Cardholders will earn 2% TravelBank cash per $1 spent on United airline tickets (purchased through United) and 1.5% TravelBank cash per $1 spent everywhere else. TravelBank cash is worth it’s face value when purchasing an airline ticket through United.
- Fees: No annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and a 17.24% – 24.24% variable APR.
Bottom Line: Finding a travel credit card with no annual fee isn’t easy; and Chase is looking to capitalize on the casual traveler. Avoiding an annual fee means this card is perfect for people who won’t use it often, but find themselves flying United even once or twice a year. The $150 bonus up front is a great carrot to get you to try it out.Topics: Credit Cards