Best Credit Cards for Travel Rewards

Find the best travel credit cards

The best credit cards for travel.

While many people have become fearful of credit cards, they can actually provide surprising benefits for the frequent traveler.  This RetireWire post reviews the key bonuses and features of 5 different travel rewards credit cards. 

I noticed several commonalities among the majority of the top credit cards that appeal to travelers:

  • companies want you to use it significantly within the first few months
  • there are many different tiers or levels of credit cards that offer varying features and amenities
  • several cards wave fees the first year of use
  • no foreign transaction fees
  • instead of booking flights through travel sights, the credit card companies want you buying plane tickets directly from the airline

Citi Advantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard

The Citi card is the only card on this list that partners so closely with a specific airline—card holders flying American Airlines get access to preferred boarding and can check their first bag free.  Secondly, you also earn 2 miles per dollar on all American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. 

Another unique feature is the ability to earn 10% of your redeemed mileage back.  Like many other cards, there aren’t any foreign transaction fees and the $95 fee is waived the first year.  Finally, card holders earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Platinum Card holders earn a whopping 5x points when booking plane tickets directly through airlines.  If you go through Amex Travel, the American Express travel agency, you can earn 5x points as well on prepaid hotel rooms.  The Platinum Card offers you the ability to transfer your rewards points (a rare feature) to a total of 20 hotel and airline partners. 

Annoyed by incidental airline fees?  Card holders get a $200 annual rebate for such inconveniences.  Do you value comfort between connecting flights?  The Platinum Card offers Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass Lounge access in addition to Delta Sky Club access when flying Delta. 

Finally, you also get up to $200 worth of annual Uber credits and a rebate for the TSA PreCheck application fee.  The $550 annual fee is steep compared to other cards on this list, but you can add 3 authorized users for only $175 total.  60,000 Membership Rewards points come with $5,000 of spending in the first 3 months. 

Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card

The Bank of America card acts the most like a cash-back card of any on this list.  Points are worth 1 cent apiece as a deposit into eligible Bank of America accounts or as a statement credit.  Aside from the cash-back feature, it’s honestly probably the weakest card in this post.  The 90-day bonus time period is the shortest, yet you still get relatively the same amount of points—50,000—on the same amount of purchases—$3,000. 

The $95 annual fee is reasonable, but it’s not waived the first year like many others.  However, you do earn 2 points per dollar spent on all travel and dining, then 1 point on everything else.  Additionally, seat upgrades and baggage fees can be covered by the $100 annual airline statement credit. 

Marriott Rewards Premier Card

The biggest bonus in terms of points, the Marriott card offers 80,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.  You’re eligible for an additional 7,500 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the first 3 months of activation. 

Card users don’t pay foreign transaction fees, and they get a free night at a category 1-5 hotel of their choosing each anniversary of the account opening.  It further comes with 5 points per dollar spent at Marriott and SPG hotels, 2 points per dollar on airline tickets purchased directly through the airline, 2 points per dollar at car rental agencies, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Might be the best value of any card on this list given it’s eerily similar to the card an entire tier above it—the Chase Sapphire Reserved Card—without the high annual fee.  Card holders earn 2 points per dollar on all travel purchases and dining at restaurants, then 1 point on everything else. 

With this care you can transfer points to 11 different travel partners—not as many partners as the Platinum Card from American Express but still a significant amount.  It covers trip cancellations, there aren’t any foreign transaction fees, and the annual fee of $95 is waived the first year.  You get primary auto insurance, and you can redeem points through the Chase travel portal at 1.25 cents apiece—the only such feature on this list. 

Credit Cards For Travel

Make every dollar count with the best travel credit cards.

Make every dollar count with the best travel credit cards.

As you can see, credit cards can prove to be another valuable tool that—when used properly—can enhance your lifestyle without negatively impacting your personal portfolio or credit score.  The aforementioned cards are not presented in any particular order, nor do I endorse a specific card. 

As many consistent readers of RetireWire know, each individual situation is unique.  The cash back features offered by the Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card may be way more appealing to you than Uber credits that come with the American Express Platinum Card.  The annual fee may or may not be a deciding factor for you. 

Regardless, there is most likely a credit card out there that offers attractive features and amenities that will enhance your travel experience.