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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 2020

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!

Credit CardBest For
Chase Sapphire Preferred CardRewards-conscious travelers with great credit
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardEasy-to-earn miles on all purchases
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressPeople who travel often
Ink Business Preferred Credit CardBusiness travelers with big expenses
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit CardSouthwest customers who also fly internationally
Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit CardThose who like to stay in Marriott Hotels or drive more often than fly
Gold Delta SkyMiles®Frequent fliers with Delta

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardThe Chase Sapphire Preferred 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 60,000 bonus points–that’s worth $750 towards travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • 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. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5%, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Best for: Rewards-conscious travelers with great credit. Since this card offers easy transfer abilties, it’s a great way to add points to the rewards programs you already prefer.

2. 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 – which is worth $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 $0 intro for first year; $95 after that. That’s not too bad for a card with these high-level, flexible rewards. You’ll also benefit from no foreign transaction fees.

Best for: Easy-to-earn miles on all purchases. If you don’t want to think about rotating or complicated bonus categories, this card’s flat rewards structure may be for you.

3. The Platinum Card® from American Express

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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).

Best for: People who travel often. To out-earn that $550 annual fee for this card, you’ll need to travel a lot, and be able to pay off your balance in full each month. But if you meet those qualifications, this card does come with some serious perks.

Click HERE to learn more about this card.

4. Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is, as you might guess, geared towards business travelers. But if you’re a business owner or consultant and travel often for business or pleasure, you could get a lot from this card.

  • Welcome offer: You can earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $15,000 on purchases within the first three months of owning this card.
  • Rewards: Earn three points per dollar spent on the first $150,000 in combined purchases on travel; shipping; internet, cable and phone services; and advertising purchases with social media sites and search engines. Also earn an unlimited one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Points are worth 25% more when you redeem them through Chase Unlimited Rewards.
  • Fees: This card has a $95 annual fee and an 17.49% to 22.49% variable APR.

Best for: Business travelers with big expenses. You can make the most of this card if you travel frequently for your business or have other expenses that get you these serious bonus points.

Click HERE to learn more about this card.

Read More: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card review

5. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit CardSouthwest now has a selection of different Rapid Rewards credit cards available, and you might consider any of them if you’re a fan of this airline.

  • Welcome offer: New cardholders can get 40,000 bonus points when they spend $1,000 on purchases within three months of opening the card and another 35,000 bonus points when they spend $5,000 on purchases within the first six months.  75,000 potential total
  • Rewards: Two points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines purchases and one point per dollar spent on everything else, plus 6,000 points every year on your Cardmember anniversary.
  • Fees: This card has a $99 annual fee but no foreign transaction fees.

Best for: Southwest customers who also fly internationally. Many who fly Southwest may fly mainly within the U.S., but if you use Southwest for some of your flights but sometimes go overseas, you’ll benefit from this card’s lack of foreign transaction fees.

Click HERE to learn more about this card.

6. Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card

Want hotel-related rewards rather than airline-centered rewards? The Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card is a brand new card with no annual fee that lets you earn points with Marriott to get free stays more quickly.

  • Welcome offer: You can get 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first three months of opening this account.
  • Rewards: You can earn unlimited Marriott Bonvoy points at the rate of three points per dollar spent at Marriott Bonvoy hotels. You can also earn two points per dollar on other travel-related purchases and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Plus, you’ll get 15 elite night credits each calendar year, so you’ll qualify for Silver Elite status.
  • Fees: This card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Best for: Those who like to stay in Marriott Hotels or drive more often than fly. If you already prefer Marriott Hotels or could come to prefer them, this card is worth checking out. Maybe you spend on rental cars and hotels more often than airlines. In that case, you could earn some great points towards free stays with this card.

Click HERE to learn more about this card.

7. 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 60,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 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 $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.  There are no foreign transaction fees charged.

Best for: Frequent fliers with Delta. Having a Delta-branded AMEX is the only way to avoid baggage costs with this airline, so just having the card could save you big money if you often fly Delta.

Click HERE to learn more about this card.

Author Bio

Total Articles: 279
Abby is a freelance journalist who writes on everything from personal finance to health and wellness. She spends her spare time bargain hunting and meal planning for her family of three. She has a B.A. in English Literature from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, and lives with her husband and children in Indianapolis.

Article comments

8 comments
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.”

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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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.

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.

SteveO says:

Barclay arrival is % 5 or as stated 10% miles back to use on your next redemption when you redeem miles for travel.

Jason swinderman says:

I see most travel cards revolve around Airfare. My company pays for the airfare But reimburses for hotel which “could” add up to 4000 dollars a month. Is there a card
to benefit from such expenses.
BTW Fantastic site.
Thank you for any suggestions and your time.