Compare the best travel rewards credit cards. Whether you're looking for a business card or a personal card with an impressive array of rewards, we've got you covered.

Travel credit cards reward you for your purchases and loyalty with a variety of benefits that will help get you on the next plane to Cabo.

Here’s an in-depth guide to travel credit cards in 2022 that will help you understand everything you need to turn your regular spending into a vacation.

Overview: best travel credit cards

With so much competition in the industry, it might be hard to figure out which card is right for you.

Here’s a list of Money Under 30’s favorite travel credit cards—we’re sure you’ll find the right one for you on this list.

Note: These credit cards all require excellent credit

Credit CardBest For
Citi Premier® CardAir Travel, Restaurants and Supermarket rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardGenerous Travel Rewards Sign-Up Bonus
Ink Business Preferred® Credit CardTravel Rewards For Businesses

Best for air travel, restaurants and supermarket rewards

Citi Premier® Card

In A Nutshell

The Citi Premier® Card kicks off with a limited-time 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Point intro offer after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.  The everyday rewards program offers 3 points per dollar spent in a variety of categories and has no foreign transaction fees.

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Apply Now On the Citi Secure Website

In A Nutshell

The Citi Premier® Card kicks off with a limited-time 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Point intro offer after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.  The everyday rewards program offers 3 points per dollar spent in a variety of categories and has no foreign transaction fees.

Read review
Credit Score Requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a FICO 8 score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What We Like:

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  These points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards at thankyou.com

  • Three points per dollar spent at Gas Stations, Supermarkets, Restaurants, Hotels and on Air Travel

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Intro APR Purchases
N/A
Intro Term Purchases
0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers
N/A
Intro Term Balance Transfers
0 months
Regular APR
17.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$95

Apply Now >>

Citi Premier® Card

While the Citi Premier® Card charges an annual fee of $95, it’s still a superb card for the frequent traveler who also spends a lot of money at home. It offers 3x points back on air travel-related expenses like restaurants, flights, and hotels, but also 3x points back on essentials like at gas stations and supermarkets. Plus, you’ll score 80,000 bonus points just for spending $4,000 within three months. That’s $800 when redeemed for gift cards at thankyou.com!

You can also enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees), through thankyou.com once per calendar year.

If you plan to redeem your credit card rewards points for travel or gift cards and not cash back, the Citi Premier® card will rapidly pay for itself.

  • Regular APR: 17.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Rewards: 3 points for every dollar spent across restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases without limitations

See details/apply.

Best travel credit card with sign-up bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

In A Nutshell

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card sets the standard for travel rewards by offering an excellent 5x points on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases. And points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® – That means the killer 60,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $750 towards travel.

Read review
Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card sets the standard for travel rewards by offering an excellent 5x points on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases. And points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® – That means the killer 60,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $750 towards travel.

Read review
Credit Score Requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a FICO 8 score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
  • Excellent
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What We Like:

  • A monster of an up-front bonus; 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.

  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
Intro APR Purchases
N/A
Intro Term Purchases
0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers
N/A
Intro Term Balance Transfers
0 months
Regular APR
16.74% - 23.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$95

Apply Now >>

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers some great benefits with an annual fee of $95. It also has no foreign transaction fees either, saving you a bundle on foreign purchases.

The card offers a whopping 60,000 bonus points when you sign up and spend $4,000 within three months of opening the account. That’s $750 in travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® 0r $600 in cash.

You’ll also get a generous rewards program—2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point for all other purchases. 

  • Regular APR: 16.74% - 23.74% Variable
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Rewards:5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, and one point per dollar spent for all other purchases. 

See card details/apply or read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

 

Best travel rewards credit card for business

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

In A Nutshell

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card blows you away with a 100,000 point bonus after you spend $15,000 in the first three months and keeps you coming back with 3 points per dollar spent on travel and select business categories for the first $150,000 spent each account anniversary year.

Read review
Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card blows you away with a 100,000 point bonus after you spend $15,000 in the first three months and keeps you coming back with 3 points per dollar spent on travel and select business categories for the first $150,000 spent each account anniversary year.

Read review
Credit Score Requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a FICO 8 score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What We Like:

  • 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 in the first three months (Worth $1,250 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®)

  • 3 points earned per $1 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year

  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring
  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information
  • Redeem points for cash back, gift cards, travel and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Purchase Protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Intro APR Purchases
N/A
Intro Term Purchases
0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers
N/A
Intro Term Balance Transfers
0 months
Regular APR
16.74% - 21.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$95

Apply Now >>

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is a great option if you own a small business with a lot of travel expenses. With this card, you earn 3x points on all travel expenses, as well as on shipping, internet, and online advertising on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases. You also earn 1x points on all other spending, making this a flexible card with lots of earning potential.

Another perk of the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is its generous welcome bonus. Cardholders who spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months are eligible for a 100,000 point welcome bonus, which amounts to $1,250 towards travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The card does have an annual fee, so it’s not the best fit for borrowers looking for a truly fee-free card. But for business owners with lots of travel expenses, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is a great option with flexible redemption methods and plenty of additional perks.

  • Regular APR: 16.74% - 21.74% Variable
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Rewards: 3x points on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone, and online advertising on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases, 1x points on everything else

See card details/apply or read our full Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card review.

Summary of the best travel rewards credit cards

Credit CardCredit Needed⁺Cash Rewards
Unique Features
Citi Premier® Card700+3 points per dollar spent on air travel, at hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets, plus 1 point per dollar spent on everything elseSave $100 booking a hotel stay $500+, transfer ThankYou® Points to participating airline loyalty programs

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
750+5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases
Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card 750+3x points on travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone, and online advertising on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases, 1x points on everything else
1.5 points for every $1 spent on all purchases everywhere
Flexible redemption option, no foreign transaction fee
⁺Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for.

How we came up with our list of the top travel credit cards

Choosing the best travel credit cards can be tricky, and that’s why we wanted to be as particular as possible so you wouldn’t have to do any of the legwork.

We’ve scoured the internet, spoken with card issuers, and conducted in-depth research to find all of the most promising travel offers available.

We then weighed each of them in a thorough side-by-side comparison, and came up with a list of the most beneficial cards to travel with in 2018.

We considered the most important factors including introductory offers, rewards points earn rates, redemption structure and policies, annual fees, and additional benefits that you receive with the card.

A card got higher rankings if it offered less fees, high earn rates, extra perks, and an easy redemption policy.

Travel rewards credit cards vs. airline credit cards

If you’ve ever traveled or looked into travel credit cards, you’ve heard the terms airline credit cards and travel rewards credit cards. Chances are that you assumed these two terms are interchangeable. In fact, they are not. Here’s the important difference:

Airline credit cards

These are credit cards that are issued directly by an airline, for example, the British Airways Visa Signature® card. In these cases, the airline teams up with a credit card company to offer members a new deal, usually discounts on flights or flight-related items such as free checked baggage, etc.

These deals are airline-specific, and you cannot use the miles for any other airline or travel expenses.

Travel rewards credit cards

Travel rewards credit cards come from a different angle. These miles can be used with any hotel chain, airline, or even travel agent. In fact, often these bonus points can be used on purchases other than airline tickets and other travel-related purchases.

You’ll earn valuable rewards points by purchasing with your travel credit card such as priority check-in, VIP passes, and upgrades. What’s more, travel rewards credit cards come with additional perks such as 0% APR on purchase and purchase protection or extended warranty.

Additionally, you’ll enjoy multiplied or accelerated points accumulation when you use your card to make regular purchases (not just travel-related ones).

All in all, travel rewards cards deliver more for your money, making them our preferred choice.

Most important features of travel credit cards

As mentioned, there are some features that are more important for a travel credit card than others. Since they’re the most significant things to look for when searching for the best travel credit card, we thought it would be a good idea to explain each one. Here’s a brief description of what to look for when comparing cards:

APR

The APR or annual percentage rate is the total amount that the card will cost you each year if you carry a balance. A higher APR means you’ll be shelling out more cash, while a lower APR reflects greater savings. A card with a 0% APR introductory rate or an everyday lower APR scored higher in our rankings.

Annual fee

Annual fees are a big deal among travel cardholders with so much variation from card to card. Cards range from no annual fees to hundreds of dollars, so there is a lot of discussion around the topic.

Credit card companies need to make money somehow, but cardholders need to be incentivized in order to sign up for their cards. Some companies compensate the bigger benefits they offer by charging a higher annual fee, while others prefer to offer smaller benefits and lower or no annual fees. Which is better is the big debate.

So, which is it? That depends mostly on your spending and travel habits. The more you travel, the more advantageous a travel credit card with good rewards and earn rates becomes.

Another factor to consider, however, is how much you spend on your credit card each year.

While it seems obvious that a no annual fee credit card is better than one that charges you yearly, this is not always the case. In some instances, you’re better off paying the annual fee because of the benefits that come with the card. It depends on how much you spend with your card, for the most part. If you aren’t spending a lot annually on your card, then a high annual fee won’t be worthwhile for you to pay, even if it offers great rewards.

Credit score required

How good a credit score you need is a major factor to consider when applying for a credit card. Many premium travel cards require good credit, meaning 700 or higher.

If you don’t have this level of credit rating, then you probably won’t be eligible for the card. Fortunately, there are some solid credit card options available to people with fair or poor credit scores.

Redemption

How hard or easy rewards points are to redeem and what you can redeem them for are also big decision makers. It doesn’t help to accrue thousands of points if you can’t redeem them for any of the things you want to buy.

When credit cards tie your hands with blackout dates, purchase restrictions, amount limitations, and caps, they lose credibility and desirability in our eyes. Travel cards ranked higher for a wider range of redemption options and redemption flexibility.

Foreign transaction fees

Foreign transaction fees eat away a large chunk of the savings we hope to gain from a reward-based travel credit card. Instead of racking up 1% to 3% of our purchases in rewards points, a foreign transaction fee actually deducts 3% from your savings. For this reason, only credit cards with no foreign transaction fees are included in our list. You won’t be hit with this colossal charge using any of these cards.

Travel rewards structure

How you earn points is important as well. If you earn one point for every dollar you spend or if you earn three points, that’s a big difference. How many points earned is something we take heavily into consideration when comparing travel cards. Additionally, what purchases earn you rewards points, also weighs in.

Alternatively, some cards will offer you a generous return rate on everyday spending categories that aren’t travel-related. This is the case with the Citi Premier® Card. You’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on air travel, sure, but also gas station purchases and at supermarkets! This is more beneficial for people who only travel sometimes, and would like to maximize point accumulation between trips.

Other rewards structure factors include any caps on how many points can be earned, expiration dates, and other rules regulating your rewards.

Airline companion tickets

Airline companion tickets are basically a free or discounted ride for someone you are traveling with. This is a benefit that is generally reserved by the airlines themselves, and most travel credit cards do not offer this perk. If a card does, it is ranked higher for this advantage.

Introductory offer

A good introductory offer can be an enticing proposal. Most travel cards have some sort of introductory offer, but this can vary from one card to the next. Some cards offer bonus points while others will give you 0% APR for a limited amount of time. One of the most lucrative welcome bonuses is the Citi Premier® Card’s 80,000 bonus ThankYou® points for spending $4,000 within the first 3 months, worth $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com!

There’s one thing to note about introductory offers, though. While a nice welcome bonus can give you tremendous gains for the first year, be sure to choose a travel card that will be beneficial to you in the long run as well. If a card loses its value after the first year and leaves you holding a large annual fee, you haven’t really gained much.

Additional benefits

While travel miles are the crux of your search with travel credit cards, most cards will also come with additional benefits. Think of it as the cherry on top of an already sweet sundae; additional benefits can include shopping perks, travel insurance, and bonuses. Here are some of the bonus perks you’ll get from each of our recommended travel cards:

Card Name
Additional Benefits
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardDedicated customer service hotline1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
25% more value for Chase Ultimate Rewards redemptions

FAQs

All of the cards on our list of the best travel credit cards do not charge any foreign transaction fees on purchases made overseas.
Redeem your travel rewards points in one of two ways: Statement Credit You charge something to your credit card and then select that item on your statement via the credit card’s website. Choose the item you wish to pay for using your miles, and that amount will automatically be deducted from your bill. Direct Purchase You can use the credit card’s partner website or reservation portal to book flights and other reservations directly using your miles.
Depending on the card you use, you may be required to use a minimum number of points if you wish to redeem for only partial purchases. Meaning, if you want to pay for half of your airline ticket using miles, you’ll need to use at least 2,5000 miles to cover the cost. See specific card details for more information.
The vast majority of travel cards will keep your rewards points for the entire duration of your account life. If you deactivate your card, the points will be deactivated as well. Otherwise, you can keep accruing points without worrying about expirations.
What you can use your rewards points on varies based on the card you sign up for. Generally speaking, most travel cards will allow you to redeem rewards points for airline tickets and hotel reservations, and many will include car rentals, cruises, and other travel-related expenses. A few cards will even let you trade in rewards points for statement credits for anything you want.

Summary

Travel credit cards offer a world of benefit to anyone who currently travels or someone who wants to travel but can’t afford the ticket.

A travel credit card is a good idea for you if you spend a minimum of $1,000 on your credit card each month. Even if you don’t, though, the cards with no annual fees can help you rack up valuable points for any purchases that you are making already.

If you are interested in flying or staying in hotels for free, this type of credit card can make it happen.

Not sure you want a travel credit card? Finding the right credit card for you is much simpler if you know your credit score, and can narrow your search to only the cards you know you’ll get approved for. We’ve made it easy for you. If you don’t already know your score, use our quick and free Credit Score Estimator tool – then find the perfect card for you!

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About the author

David Weliver
Total Articles: 304
David Weliver is the founder of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues he faced during his first two decades as an adult. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.