What’s the Best Travel Credit Card?
Travel card seekers will find a diverse selection of travel rewards cards, designed for different lifestyles and purposes. Some of our favorites are:
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: For a no annual fee card with flat-rate rewards on every purchase
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®: For premium travel rewards and excellent point transfer opportunities
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: If you want luxury perks and wide-ranging airport lounge access
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: For small business owners who want travel rewards and great benefits
Here are our favorite brands for different hotel chains:
- Co-Branded Hotel Rewards: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Hilton Hotels: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Hyatt Hotels: The World of Hyatt Credit Card (Chase)
- IHG Hotels: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Hotels: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Radisson and Club Carlson Hotels: Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa Signature® Card
- Elite Hotel Status: The Platinum Card® from American Express
And some favorites for airlines:
- Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
- Delta Air Lines: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- Frontier Airlines: Frontier Airlines World Mastercard
- Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines® Bank of Hawaii World Elite Mastercard®
- JetBlue: JetBlue Plus Card
- Southwest Airlines: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
- United Airlines: United Club℠ Infinite Card
- Various Airlines: The Platinum Card® from American Express
What Travel Card Gives the Best Airport Lounge Access?
You’ll get the most diverse airport lounge access with this pair of American Express cards:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
Most cards that offer airport lounge access only come with a Priority Pass Select membership. But the cards above provide access to the following lounge brands:
- Priority Pass
- American Express Centurion
- International American Express Lounges
- Delta Sky Club
- Lufthansa Business
- Plaza Premium
How Much Is a Point or Mile Worth With Travel Cards?
The value of your points or miles depends on the particular card you have. In some cases your points will be worth 1 cent each, but many cards come with redemption options that can provide more (or less) value.
American Express Membership Rewards points, for example, typically give 0.6 to 1 cent per point for statement credits and certain travel expenses. But you can also transfer your points to loyalty programs from a wide variety of airline and hotel partners, where you could book travel that provides a higher value per point.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are similar when it comes to point transfers (in this case, all transfers are at a 1:1 ratio). And certain Chase cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve®, provide bonuses for travel redemptions through Chase’s own travel portal (which come to 1.25 and 1.5 cents per point, respectively).
And then there are travel cards from Citi and Capital One. Depending on the card, you may see a value of 1 cent per point for normal redemptions. But you’ll also have some point transfer opportunities, although the options here may not be as robust as those from Amex and Chase.
Q1) What are the most important features you look for in a travel credit card?
Linchi Kwok, Ph. D, Associate Professor, The Collins College of Hospitality Management, California State Polytechnic University Pomona
I pay more attention to the fees and perks than APR because I always pay off my credit card bills in full on time. I usually assess how likely I will use the perks. I will sign up for a credit card if I know the perks I will use are worth the fees.
Q2) Is a hotel or airline specific credit card a better choice than a general travel card?
It depends. If a person is a frequent traveler of one hotel chain or an airline, having a hotel- or airline-affiliated credit card will likely help the traveler reach a desirable elite status faster. Hotels and airlines usually take very good care of their top loyal customers, sometimes with free upgrades. A general travel credit card will probably make more sense for those who do not travel much, fly with different airlines, or stay in diverse chains or independent hotels.
Q3) What can a travel credit card offer beyond rewards?
Besides rewards, I like the perks that come with the travel credit card. The perks are worth the money if I can use them. On some occasions, using a hotel- or airline-affiliated credit card can also help travelers get more attention from the hotel or airline staff.
Q4) What are some things to consider when choosing a travel credit card?
Besides the fees, perks, and APR, I recommend people read the terms carefully. Some terms, such as fees for late payments or cash advances, might mean more than others. People should carefully evaluate all terms and fine print before making a decision. I also suggest people compare different options because a hotel or airline might offer more than one brand-affiliated credit card with various levels of fees, perks, and elite status. There are also many options for general travel credit cards. It is critical to spend time finding the right credit card that fits a person’s travel and spending needs.