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Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards of August 2022

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that pay us a commission. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

If you like to travel, then you're sure to love the benefits you can get with travel rewards credit cards. This type of card allows you to pay for your biggest travel expenses -- including first-class airfare and luxury hotel stays -- with travel rewards instead of cash. You could also find travel cards that let you access airport lounges, offer complimentary travel insurance, or get you free upgrades on travel bookings. And with almost all of these cards, you won't need to pay a foreign transaction fee on purchases made while traveling abroad.

It's possible to get lots of value from the best travel credit cards. The key is picking a travel card that fits your budget, lifestyle, and travel habits. Our experts reviewed all the current credit card offers and selected only the best. No matter what type of travel card you're looking for, you'll find it here.

Great for: Premium travel rewards

  • This is a strong premium level travel card with a big sign-up bonus, robust rewards program, and rich travel credits. Read Full Review

    • Big travel rewards bonus
    • High rewards rate
    • Travel credits
    • Airport lounge access
    • Easy-to-use miles
    • Annual fee
    • Small selection of travel partners
    • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
    • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
    • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
    • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
    • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
    • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
    • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
    • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Great for: Travel card with no annual fee

  • No-annual-fee travel cards typically skimp on the sign-up bonus, but this card delivers with its intro bonus offer, unlimited rewards on purchases, and other wallet-friendly perks. Read Full Review

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • No annual fee
    • Competitive rewards rate on purchases
    • Great 0% intro APR offer
    • No bonus categories
    • Limited ways to use points
    • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
    • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
    • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
    • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
    • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases. After the intro APR offer ends, 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR will apply.
    • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
    • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
    • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Great for: Airport lounges

Apply Now for The Platinum Card® from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

  • The high annual fee is justifiable for frequent travelers who can take full advantage of a deep bench of valuable perks, including the big welcome bonus, robust rewards, and lucrative annual travel credits. Read Full Review

    • Big welcome bonus offer
    • Substantial spending credits
    • Airport lounge access
    • Hotel benefits
    • Flexible travel points
    • Annual fee
    • Limited bonus categories
    • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
    • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
    • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. And if you fly, you can receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year after you select a qualifying airline and incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
    • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
    • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
    • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
    • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
    • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
    • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
    • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at select airports and stadiums.
    • $695 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.

Great for: Unlimited rewards on travel

Apply Now for Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

On Wells Fargo's Secure Website.

  • Just released, this card immediately moves to the top of our rankings for no annual fee rewards cards thanks to its excellent sign-up bonus offer, earn unlimited 3x points on a variety of categories, and cell phone protection. Read Full Review

    • Strong bonus offer for a no-annual-fee card
    • Earn Unlimited 3x points on useful categories
    • Cell phone protection
    • Other cards offer larger bonuses, though they usually come with annual fees
    • The 1x points baseline rewards rate on other purchases, though normal for this type of card, can be beat
    • Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
    • Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases
    • $0 annual fee
    • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. 17.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24% variable APR thereafter
    • Get up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your eligible Wells Fargo card. (subject to a $25 deductible).
    • Redeem your rewards points for travel, gift cards, or statement credits. Or shop at millions of online stores and redeem your rewards when you check out with PayPal.
    • Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge.
    • Select “Apply Now” to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions.
  • With a huge sign up bonus and massive on going rewards rate of 3x points per $1 on business essentials this card is a home run for businesses that spend a lot and want to maximize their rewards. Read Full Review

    • Huge sign-up bonus
    • Advertising rewards
    • Shipping rewards
    • Cell phone protection
    • Flexible travel points
    • Annual fee
    • No intro APR offer
    • Spending minimum for sign-up bonus
    • 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.

Great for: Travel and restaurants

Apply Now for Citi Premier® Card

On Citi's Secure Website.

  • A solid pick with a big bonus and nice list of airlines transfer partners, plus it includes a robust rewards program beyond just travel Read Full Review

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • Annual hotel savings offer
    • Travel and dining rewards
    • Grocery and gas rewards
    • Flexible travel rewards points
    • Annual fee
    • Limited consumer and travel protections
    • 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
    • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Great for: Unlimited rewards

  • Unlimited 2X miles, TSA Pre✓® credits, and a big sign-up bonus make this credit card one of the best travel companions. Read Full Review

    • Excellent sign-up bonus
    • Unlimited miles on every purchase
    • Travel credit
    • Multiple ways to use miles
    • No foreign transaction fee
    • Annual fee
    • No 0% intro APR offer
    • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
    • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
    • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
    • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
    • Enjoy two complimentary visits per year to Capital One Lounges or to 100+ Plaza Premium Lounges through our Partner Lounge Network
    • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
    • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
    • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Great for: Sign-up bonus and points transfers

  • With a big sign-up bonus, the sky’s the limit for this top-rated travel rewards card. Plus, the premium points program for travel and dining make it a no brainer for travel enthusiasts everywhere. Read Full Review

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • Travel rewards
    • Dining rewards
    • Flexible travel points
    • Consumer and travel protections
    • Has an annual fee
    • 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.

Great for: Bank of America loyalists

  • The bonus offer, premium travel & dining rewards, and up to $200 in travel-related statement credits make this a compelling offer for travelers who can justify paying an annual fee. Read Full Review

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • Bonus travel and dining rewards
    • Travel credits
    • Consumer and travel protections
    • Annual fee
    • Receive 50,000 online bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
    • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn 2.5-3.5 points on travel and dining purchases and 1.87-2.62 points on all other purchases, for every $1 you spend.
    • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire.
    • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill® accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center.
    • Get up to $100 in Airline Incidental Statement Credits annually and TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry Statement Credits of up to $100, every four years.
    • No foreign transaction fees.
    • Low $95 annual fee.
    • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Great for: Hotel rewards and benefits

  • The free nights sign-up bonus, premium hotel rewards earn rate, and deep bench of hotel properties makes this a compelling pick for hotel stays. Read Full Review

    • Sign-up bonus
    • Automatic elite status
    • Bonus rewards on Marriott Bonvoy purchases
    • Consumer and travel protections
    • Annual fee
    • Earn 3 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases.
    • Earn 3X Bonvoy points per $1 on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on grocery stores, gas stations, and dining.
    • Earn 1 Elite Night Credit towards Elite Status for every $5,000 you spend.
    • 1 Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
    • Earn up to 17X total Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Card.
    • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Receive 15 Elite Night Credits annually, automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year, and path to Gold Status when you spend $35,000 on purchases each calendar year.
    • No foreign transaction fees.

Great for: Airline rewards and benefits

Apply Now for Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

On American Express' Secure Website.

Terms apply

  • May be the best card for most Delta travelers, given the balance of a nice welcome bonus, premium rewards program, and a low annual fee. Read Full Review

    • Welcome bonus offer
    • Free checked bag
    • Priority boarding
    • Earn a Flight Credit
    • Annual fee
    • No premium travel benefits
    • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
    • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
    • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at U.S. Supermarkets and at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S.
    • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
    • $100 Delta Flight Credit: After you spend $10,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, receive a Credit to use toward future travel.
    • Enjoy a $0 introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $99.
    • Terms Apply.

Great for: Students

  • With a generous sign-up bonus and a rewards program, it'll be harder to find a better card for students.

    • Big sign-up bonus
    • No annual fee
    • Competitive rewards rate
    • 0% intro APR offer
    • No bonus categories
    • Limited ways to use points
    • Flat 1.5-point earning rate: The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students earns an unlimited 1.5 points for every dollar spent with the card. Points never expire and can be applied toward any airline or hotel with no blackout dates.
    • Sign-up bonus: You can earn 25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening, which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel and dining purchases .
    • No additional fees: There is a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
    • Introductory APR: The card offers a 0% introductory APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases. After that, the variable APR is 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness.
    • Free credit score: The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students offers monthly FICO credit score access for free to help students build good credit.

How do travel credit cards work?

Travel credit cards earn travel rewards when you use them. These rewards can be called either points or miles. You can redeem travel rewards to pay for travel purchases. Exactly how you do this depends on the card. There are travel cards with rewards you can redeem through specific loyalty programs; airline and hotel credit cards are notable examples. Other cards let you redeem points at a set rate, such as $0.01 per point. These can be used toward travel purchases made in cash. Some of the best travel credit cards give you multiple redemption options.

Types of travel rewards credit cards

There are four types of travel rewards credit cards. You'll find a description of each type below.

Airline credit cards

An airline credit card is tied to an airline loyalty program, also known as a frequent flyer program. When you use an airline card, it earns miles in that program. You can redeem your miles for award airfare. Instead of paying $250 for a ticket, you may be able to buy it for 25,000 miles. Airline credit cards often include additional perks with the airline, such as free checked luggage or airport lounge access.

Hotel credit cards

A hotel credit card is tied to a hotel loyalty program. When you use a hotel credit card, it earns rewards points in that program. You can redeem your points for award hotel stays, such as paying 30,000 points per night instead of $150 per night. Hotel credit cards also frequently offer extra perks with the hotel chain. These could include a complimentary late checkout, elite status in the hotel's loyalty program, or a free night award every year.

Travel credit cards with fixed-rate rewards

A travel credit card with fixed-rate rewards lets you redeem your rewards for cash travel purchases. Rewards are always worth the same amount toward travel this way. For example, if your card offers $0.01 per point, then 10,000 points will always be worth $100 in travel. Depending on the card, you can either use your rewards as a statement credit toward previous travel purchases, use them in the card issuer's travel portal to book travel, or both.

Travel credit cards with transferable rewards

A travel credit card with transferable rewards lets you send your rewards to other loyalty programs. For example, if your travel card has rewards you can transfer to Hyatt Hotels, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines, then you could send your points to any of those programs. You would then be able to book travel through that loyalty program using your points.

Points vs miles: what's the difference?

Points and miles are two ways of referring to travel rewards. The term that's used depends on the credit card issuer, and neither has a set definition. In general, credit card points is the more common term. Credit card miles is a term used primarily by airlines. However, neither is set in stone. There are other types of travel cards that refer to their rewards as miles, and there are airlines that refer to their rewards as points.

Benefits of travel credit cards

Travel credit cards offer all kinds of perks that make traveling more enjoyable and easier on your wallet. Below are the types of benefits available with travel cards. Once you know which benefits you want, you can look for cards that have those features.

Purchase rewards: Travel credit cards earn rewards on purchases, and you can redeem them for free travel. Many of the most popular travel cards also have bonus categories in which you earn more rewards than the standard rate. If you find a card with bonus categories that match your spending habits, you can maximize your rewards.

Sign-up bonus: Most travel cards include a sign-up bonus offer, which is a big chunk of rewards you can earn as a new cardholder. To get the bonus, you need to complete the terms. This usually requires spending a certain amount on the card within a timeframe, such as $3,000 in the first three months.

Airport lounge access: Airline credit cards and premium travel credit cards often include complimentary access to airport lounge programs. If you spend a lot of time at the airport, this perk can make waiting for your flight more comfortable.

Free checked luggage: Many airline credit cards allow you to check one or more bags for free. Depending on the card, companions traveling on the same itinerary may get to share in this benefit.

Free night certificate: A common feature of hotel credit cards is a yearly free night certificate. Terms apply on when and where you can use these certificates, and they usually don't work at the most expensive properties. However, they can still save you $100 or more.

Travel protections: Travel cards often include complimentary protections on eligible purchases such as:

  • Car rental loss and damage insurance
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Trip delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement

Spending credits: Premium travel credit cards with high annual fees typically have spending credits to balance out their fees. These credits automatically apply on eligible purchases. Here are a few examples:

Elite loyalty program status: Gaining elite status in airline and hotel loyalty programs normally requires that you make quite a few bookings. Some credit cards let you cut the line by offering cardholders complimentary elite status with one or more loyalty programs.

How to compare travel credit cards

To compare travel credit cards, start by figuring out which types of travel cards you're interested in. This will help you narrow down your options. For example, if you don't stay at hotels that often, then you can cross hotel cards off your list.

Choose some of the best travel credit cards that stand out to you. The simplest way to evaluate them is to use The Ascent's tool to compare credit card offers. You can select multiple cards and view their details side by side. Another method is to pull up the card pages for each of the travel cards you want to compare.

Once you have the best credit cards ready, here are the things to look at:

  • Annual fee: Most travel credit cards charge annual fees, but amounts can vary quite a bit. Some cost under $100 per year. A premium credit card, on the other hand, may cost over $500. Make sure the card you choose works for your budget and that its benefits outweigh the annual fee. Or, you can stick to travel cards with no annual fee if you'd prefer.
  • Sign-up bonus: An advantage of travel cards is that they offer some of the biggest sign-up bonuses on the market. Compare both the bonuses that your chosen cards offer and the amount you'd need to spend on eligible purchases to receive each bonus.
  • Rewards rate: Travel cards often have bonus categories where they earn more rewards, such as 3 points per $1 on dining. Others earn the same rate on purchases, such as 2 points per $1 on all eligible purchases no matter the category. See which card's rewards rate is the best fit for your spending habits.
  • Additional benefits: There are all kinds of features available with travel rewards cards, from complimentary elite status with airlines and hotels to travel insurance policies. Review each card's extras to figure out how much value it would offer you.

Tips for choosing the best travel rewards credit card

With so many travel credit cards out there, you may feel like you don't even know where to start. This doesn't need to be a tough decision. Follow these tips to find the best travel rewards credit card for you.

Focus on how you'll use your travel rewards. The first thing you should do is figure out which card's rewards program will work best for your travel habits. Do you always fly with the same airline? An airline credit card that lets you earn miles with that carrier is probably a sound choice. Want to keep your travel booking options open? You should stick to travel cards with fixed-rate rewards or transferable rewards.

When in doubt, get a travel card with transferable rewards. These give you the most ways to book travel, so they're great if you don't have any specific airlines or hotels you like more than the rest. Specifically, look for travel cards in a major credit card rewards program: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, or Citi ThankYou Rewards. Since these card issuers have large rosters of airline and hotel partners, they offer especially good credit cards for international travel.

Weigh the value of those additional benefits. Many cards have travel perks that can save you money or drastically improve your travel experience. Carefully consider which benefits would add value to your life and which don't matter to you. This will help you cut through those long feature lists and quickly decide whether a card is a good fit.

Pick a card that will earn you lots of travel rewards. If possible, it's great to get a card with a high rewards rate and a large sign-up bonus. Even if you can't get that, any card you're considering should offer at least one of the two. The more rewards points you earn, the more money you'll save on travel.

Check out this video to learn more on how to choose the best travel credit card.

How much are travel rewards worth?

There are a lot of different loyalty programs, and they all have their own travel rewards. The tricky part is figuring out how these travel rewards compare to each other. For example, are miles with Delta and Southwest worth the same amount, or is one more valuable?

Although airline and hotel rewards don't have a fixed value, we've calculated approximate values based on what they're usually worth. You may get more or less depending on how you redeem them, but these are the usual values with the major airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Airline rewards values

Airline Value per mile
Alaska Airlines $0.016
American Airlines $0.014
Delta Air Lines $0.013
Frontier Airlines $0.010
JetBlue Airways $0.014
Southwest Airlines $0.014
Spirit Airlines $0.011
United Airlines $0.013
Based on The Ascent's valuation

Hotel rewards values

Hotel Value per point
Best Western $0.007
Choice Hotels $0.006
Hilton $0.005
Hyatt $0.016
IHG $0.006
Marriott $0.007
Radisson $0.004
Wyndham $0.009
Based on The Ascent's valuation

Is a travel credit card right for me?

A travel credit card is right for you if you travel multiple times per year and you have good credit.

As you'd expect, the more that you travel, the better a travel card will work for you. If you go on two or three trips per year, you should be able to make the most of the benefits that a travel card offers. If you're traveling even more frequently than that, then a travel rewards card will likely be extremely valuable to you. Those who don't travel that much should look for other rewards credit cards.

Most of the best travel credit cards require a good credit score. To get approved, you'll generally need a FICO® Score of 670 or higher.

Love Rewards? If you do, you should check out The Ascent's guide to the best rewards checking accounts.


How to make the most of your travel credit card

Take advantage of as many benefits as possible. Go through your travel card's features to make sure you don't forget to use any of them. If it has airport lounge access, see which lounges you can get into and if there's a registration process required first. If your card has travel protections, such as trip delay or lost luggage reimbursement, learn how they work in case you ever need to use them.

Get the sign-up bonus. Double-check the bonus's spending requirement and how long you have to reach that amount. As you use your card, keep track of how close you are to getting the bonus, asking the card issuer if necessary.

Use your travel credit card for purchases. When you pay with your travel card, you'll earn travel rewards. Maximize your rewards by paying for all eligible purchases with your travel card.

Alternatives to travel credit cards

Not sure if a travel credit card is what you need? Here are the most popular alternatives.

Cash back credit cards

A cash back credit card earns rewards on purchases. The difference is that instead of rewards you can use for travel, it earns cash rewards. You can typically redeem your cash back as a statement credit on your credit card bill, a deposit to your bank account, or a check. Cash back cards are great for consumers who want to earn credit card rewards but aren't big travelers. The reward can also be much easier to use, and many cash back credit cards don't have annual fees.

Credit cards for bad credit

A credit card for bad credit is one that you can get even if you have a low credit score or no credit history. In that situation, it's unlikely you'll qualify for a travel card. The better route is to get one of these credit cards for bad credit, use it to build your credit, and apply for a travel card once you have a higher credit score.

Travel credit card terminology

Airport lounge access: A credit card feature that allows the cardholder to visit certain airport lounges free of charge or at a discounted rate.

Annual fee: A fee charged once per year for a credit card. Annual fees for travel credit cards range from $0 to over $500.

Bonus category: A spending category in which a credit card earns bonus rewards. For example, a travel credit card may earn 5 points per $1 on air travel, compared to 1 point per $1 on regular purchases.

Credit card rewards program: A loyalty program offered by a credit card company. The most popular credit card rewards programs are:

Elite status: Any status above the basic, introductory tier in a travel provider's loyalty program. Airlines and hotels usually have multiple tiers in their loyalty programs, and elite status tiers offer more benefits. Each tier has its own entry requirements, such as spending a minimum amount or making a minimum number of bookings. Some travel cards include elite status in a loyalty program as a complimentary perk.

Foreign transaction fee: A credit card fee charged on transactions made in foreign currencies or transactions that go through international banks. Most travel credit cards don't charge foreign transaction fees.

Loyalty program: A program offered by a business to encourage customer loyalty. Loyalty programs offer special rewards for members. These programs are common with travel providers such as airlines and hotels, and allow travelers to earn rewards to use for free bookings. They're also referred to as rewards programs, and airline loyalty programs are also referred to as frequent flyer programs.

Redemption options: The ways that travel rewards can be used. These options depend on the type of travel rewards and the loyalty program.

Rewards rate: The amount of rewards a credit card earns per $1 spent. Some credit cards offer the same amount on every purchase, such as 2 points per $1 on all eligible purchases. Other cards offer more in bonus categories.

Sign-up bonus: A credit card bonus offer available to new cardholders. Most sign-up bonuses include a requirement to earn the bonus amount, such as spending a certain amount within a set time period. Another common term for a sign-up bonus is a welcome bonus.

Spending credit: A statement credit towards one or more purchases on your credit card bill. Some travel credit cards offer spending credits, and they generally apply to specific types of purchases over a certain time. For example, a travel card could offer a $300 annual credit towards travel purchases.

Transferable rewards/points/miles: Rewards that can be transferred to the loyalty programs of multiple travel providers. Transferable rewards are widely considered the most valuable, because they can be used for travel bookings with different airlines and/or hotels.

Travel portal: An online platform for booking travel. Many major credit card issuers have travel portals cardholders can use to book trips.

Travel rewards: A loyalty program currency that can be redeemed for travel. Travel rewards are usually referred to as points or miles, depending on the loyalty program.

The Picks
Card Rating Great For
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Premium travel rewards

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Travel card with no annual fee

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Airport lounges

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Unlimited rewards on travel

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Business travel

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Travel and restaurants

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Unlimited rewards

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Sign-up bonus and points transfers

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Bank of America loyalists

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Hotel rewards and benefits

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Airline rewards and benefits

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  • A travel rewards credit card earns rewards you can use to pay for travel purchases. This type of credit card also typically offers travel-related perks, such as elite status with airlines or hotels, free checked luggage, or a membership fee credit for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck program.

  • When you pay for purchases with a travel credit card, it adds to your travel rewards balance. You can redeem those rewards to make travel purchases. The exact redemption options will depend on the specific credit card you have. If your card is connected to a specific airline or hotel loyalty program, then you can use your rewards to book travel through that program. Other cards let you put your rewards toward cash travel purchases.

  • The best way to compare travel credit cards is by deciding which features are most important to you. Most consumers compare travel cards based on their annual fees, rewards rates, sign-up bonuses, and any extra travel benefits they offer.

About the Author

Ask the Experts

Andrew O. Coggins, Jr., Ph.D.

Andrew O. Coggins, Jr., Ph.D.

Clinical Professor, Management Department, at Lubin School of Business, Pace University

Who should sign up for a travel credit card?

It depends on how often you travel with that particular company. If you travel a lot, the card might make sense.

What should one consider when selecting a travel credit card?

Two major points are the interest rate and the benefits, i.e. priority check-in, upgrades, club membership, fee waiver, etc. Other considerations are: Can you earn points on non-travel spending? How often do you fly or stay with that brand? In the end, it comes down to what’s important to you. In my case, most of my air travel is through hub connections, so club membership is a big plus.