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Best Travel Credit Cards of 2019

Jennifer Blocker
Updated on: 01/14/2019

Everyone knows that one of the best benefits of travel rewards credit cards is the ability to earn miles or points to get free flights and hotel stays. If you work the system right, you could even get a free vacation for you and your entire family. But there are many other card benefits that can save time and money, as well as give you a better overall travel experience.

Traveling like royalty can be just a credit card away. You may not even know about some of the benefits of having a top travel credit card. You’re probably familiar with the most popular benefits, such as free checked bags and airport lounge access, but do you know about things like trip cancellation coverage, companion airline tickets and annual travel credits that can cover everything from cabin upgrades to Uber rides? Some of the best benefits can be the ones that aren’t the most obvious, like access to preferential VIP treatment just for being a cardholder.

Best Travel Credit Cards to Earn Airline Miles

It is no secret that the best airline miles credit card can get you free flights. But did you know that many of these cards come with a host of other benefits? These card benefits will not only save you money, but they can also save you from major headaches. You’ll be able to skip lines and travel with friends on a dime, all while getting a taste of the elite lifestyle. Many of these cards afford travel protections if you need to change your plans by offering perks like trip cancellation insurance. And in cases where your travels have been altered by unforeseen mishaps, you’ll find comfort in benefits like lost baggage insurance and trip delay reimbursement.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Learn More
Intro APR on Purchases
0% intro on purchases for 12 months
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
14.24% - 24.24% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
Venture® Rewards
about this credit card:
    • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
    • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
    • Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
    • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
    • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
    • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 14.24% - 24.24% variable APR after that
    • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
    • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn

Travel Benefits

Travel Upgrades and Savings:

Free upgrades and discounts at select hotels and resorts are part of the Visa Signature card benefits.

Complimentary Concierge Service:

Enjoy free assistance 24-hours a day, even while you’re traveling.

No Foreign Transaction Fee:

Use your card anywhere in the world and never pay additional fees.

Why should you get this card?

  • Great Earning Potential: You’ll get bonus points for every purchase you make. No matter what you buy, you’ll earn 1.25X miles for every dollar spent. Those miles will add up fast.
  • Hassle-Free Redemptions: Miles can be applied to any travel purchases, not just airfare. On top of that, you don’t have to worry about blackout dates or limited award space because you buy the travel you want and then apply miles to the purchase.
  • No Annual Fee: It’s hard to be a rewards card that does not charge an annual fee. Every reward you earn is essentially free!
  • Sign-Up Bonus: For a no-fee card, 20,000 miles is an excellent sign-up bonus. It’s worth $200 in travel. All you have to do is spend $1,000 during the first 3 months you have the card.

Our Expert's Conclusion

If you’re looking for a no-fee rewards card that offers a solid sign-up bonus and hassle-free redemptions, than the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card is a great option. You’ll get 20,000 miles worth $200 for spending just $1,000 in 3 months, plus you’ll earn a generous 1.25X miles per dollar for every purchase.

Getting the card is a risk-free proposition because it won’t cost you a penny. Whatever miles you earn with the card are pure profit because there aren’t any fees. You can even use the card while traveling internationally, since there are no foreign transaction fees either.

  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 14.24% - 24.24% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn

Best Travel Credit Cards to Earn Hotel Points

The best hotel credit cards can give you access to much more than a free hotel stay. One of the best ways to increase the reward earnings on your hotel credit card is to use it to boost your status within the hotel loyalty program. As you raise your rank within these programs, it usually leads to increased reward earning and more benefits, like room upgrades and late checkout. With some of these credit cards you can turn your ordinary vacation into an extraordinary experience.

Hilton Honors American Express Card
Apply Now
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
17.24% to 26.24% Variable±
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
Hilton Honors™
about this credit card:
    • Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 6/27/2018.
    • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
    • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
    • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
    • Car rental loss and damage insurance.
    • Global assist hotline.
    • Travel accident insurance.
    • Fraud protection.
    • Year-end summary.

Travel Benefits

Foreign Transaction Fee::

Card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees

Elite Status:

Complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status

Why should you get this card?

  • Great Earning Potential: You’ll earn bonus points on every transaction you make. Even everyday spending earns 3X bonus points—something most rewards cards do not offer.
  • No Annual Fees: Earning rewards is easy and does not cost a penny. Every point you earn goes toward free Hilton stays.
  • Sign-Up Bonus: You earn 75,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. Depending on the property and its redemption rates, it’s possible to book a free multi-night stay.
  • Complimentary Silver Status:Although Silver status won’t get you far, holding status in general comes with some perks, such as late checkout (subject to availability), access to the 5 th Night Free benefit and free water bottles.

Our Expert's Conclusion

For a card that charges no annual fees, the Hilton Honors American Express Card offers excellent earning potential due to its generous bonus categories. Because the card also comes with elite status, it’s best used to pay for stays at domestic properties within the Hilton portfolio.

Getting the card poses zero risk because it charges no annual fees, even after the introductory year. As mentioned earlier, holding a no-fee card long-term helps increase the average age of accounts, and having more available credit helps decrease utilization ratio—two factors that contribute to a higher credit score.

  • Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors Card after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 6/27/2018.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Car rental loss and damage insurance.
  • Global assist hotline.
  • Travel accident insurance.
  • Fraud protection.
  • Year-end summary.
Rating: 93/100
Citi Premier℠ Card

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
18.24%-26.24%* (Variable)
Annual Fee
$95
Rewards Program
ThankYou®
about this credit card:
    • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
    • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
    • 60,000 Points are redeemable for $750 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
    • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
    • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Travel Benefits

No Foreign Transaction Fees:

Never pay an extra fee to use this card outside the U.S.

Concierge Service:

Citi Concierge provides help with travel, shopping and dining.

Why should you get this card?

  • Great Earning Potental: Generous double and triple point-earning categories, including all travel and gas purchases.
  • Discount on ThankYou® Travel Purchases: Get a 25% rebate when redeeming for travel through the ThankYou® Rewards travel portal.
  • Flexible Redemption Options: You’ll always find a use for your points with 15 airline transfer partners.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees: This card is great for earning rewards while traveling abroad.

Our Expert's Conclusion

You can get excellent value out of ThankYou® points, particularly if you transfer them to airlines and redeem for expensive premium cabin tickets. If you are a traveler that often books the cheapest economy class ticket, then there can also be strong value in redeeming points through the ThankYou® program’s travel portal thanks to the 25% discount offered by this card.

If you are interested in domestic award travel or simple award redemptions, this card may prove to be too complex. Instead, consider cards with more domestic transfer partners. You may not get quite the same value for your points, but there will be more availability and easier redemptions.

  • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 60,000 Points are redeemable for $750 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Best Travel Credit Cards to Earn Sign-Up Bonus

With sign-up bonuses being all the rage in the credit card market, they are easy to come by with a wide variety of cards available. If you have the right credit cards and the right strategy, you can finance an entire vacation after getting just a couple of good sign-up bonuses. However, don’t apply for more than one card at a time and be sure to complete the required spending to receive the bonus before opening another account. Try not to overspend to reach your goals. It is important not to buy frivolous items and to avoid carrying balance and paying interest. That way you will maximize your rewards and make that vacation truly pay for itself.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Learn More
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 25.24% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Rewards Program
Venture® Rewards
about this credit card:
    • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
    • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
    • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
    • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
    • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
    • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Travel Benefits

Premium Hotel Benefits:

Enjoy perks, such as room upgrades and free breakfast, at over 900 Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection properties.

No Foreign Transaction Fee:

You’ll never have to pay additional fees to use your card while traveling abroad.

Complimentary Concierge Services:

24/7 assistance for dinner reservations, booking travel and special access to sporting and entertainment events.

Why should you get this card?

  • A Generous Sign-up Bonus: The 50,000-mile sign up bonus can be redeemed for $500 worth of travel.
  • Earnings Add up Quickly: Every dollar you spend earns 2X miles, not 1.5 or 1 like other cards. There are no categories or promotions to keep track of.
  • It’s Easy to Redeem Miles: Find the best travel deal, pay with your Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and redeem your miles for a statement credit to erase your purchase. Or just redeem your miles online from the Capital One Rewards Center.

Our Expert's Conclusion

With a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles and the ongoing earning power of 2X miles for every dollar spent, there’s a good case for owning the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year and you’ll have $460 to spend on travel once you’ve made the required $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. That makes this card a solid contender for your everyday spending. However, if you’re not going to be able to spend a minimum of $3,000 a year on the card, you would be better off selecting a card that has no annual fee.

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Rating: 92/100
Citi Prestige® Card

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 25.99% Variable±
Annual Fee
$495
Rewards Program
ThankYou®
about this credit card:
    • You'll get 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening, equal to at least $500 when redeemed for travel.
    • Complimentary 4th Night Stay: Get your fourth night free with no black-out dates if you book four nights in a row through ThankYou.com or your Citi Concierge, and pay using your card, ThankYou points, or a combination of both. Starting September 2019, this perk is capped at two uses per year; uses before that date don’t count toward the cap.
    • With Citi Prestige®, you'll earn 5X ThankYou points on Air travel and Restaurants, 3X ThankYou points on Hotels and Cruise Lines, 2X ThankYou points on Entertainment (former cardholders only, through 8/31/19), and 1X ThankYou Point per $1 spent on other purchases.
    • With no points cap and no expiration of points, there's no limit to the points you can earn.
    • Transfer points to participating travel loyalty programs such as Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and Flying Blue.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees on Purchases.
    • Each year a $250 Air Travel Credit will automatically be applied to flight-related expenses charged to your card, including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
    • Receive a $100 Global Entry application fee credit. Once approved for Global Entry by the U.S. Government, you can bypass long lines and enjoy expedited entry into the U.S.

Travel Benefits

$250 Airline Credit:

Get up to $250 worth of statement credits annually toward airfare, upgrades, incidental fees and more.

Complimentary Lounge Access:

A free Priority Pass Select membership gives you access about 1,000 airport lounges around the world.

Global Entry:

Get a $100 application credit every five years. Includes TSA PreCheck.

Why should you get this card?

  • Sign-Up Bonus: The 50,000-point sign-up bonus is worth at least $532 when redeemed for airfare through the ThankYou® Travel Center, and potentially even more when transferred to travel partners. The value of the bonus is enough to wipe out the first year’s annual fee.
  • 4th Night Free: After a minimum 4 consecutive night booking through ThankYou.com, you will get 4th Night at a hotel of your choice for free (based on your average night stay, exclusive of taxes and fees).
  • $250 Air Travel Credit: The air travel credit is easy to use and helps offset the annual fee substantially. Every time you pay for flights, upgrades, taxes on award tickets, checked baggage, seat assignments, and in-flight meals and entertainment, the statement credit applies automatically.
  • Great Earning Potential: You’ll get bonus points on airfare, hotels, dining and entertainment—all the categories in which frequent travelers spend the most money. The points add up for another redemption in no time!

Our Expert's Conclusion

If you’re looking for a premium travel rewards card that offers a decent sign-up bonus, flexible rewards and the ability to transfer to travel partners, then Citi Prestige® Card makes for a good option.

Although the card’s annual fee of $495 is not waived for the first year, you can enjoy all the benefits, such as free lounge access and concierge service, essentially for free because the value of card’s 50,000-point bonus more than offsets the cost. In fact, you’ll easily be making money once you factor in the annual $250 air travel credit, the 4th Night Free benefit and the Global Entry enrollment fee credit.

  • You'll get 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening, equal to at least $500 when redeemed for travel.
  • Complimentary 4th Night Stay: Get your fourth night free with no black-out dates if you book four nights in a row through ThankYou.com or your Citi Concierge, and pay using your card, ThankYou points, or a combination of both. Starting September 2019, this perk is capped at two uses per year; uses before that date don’t count toward the cap.
  • With Citi Prestige®, you'll earn 5X ThankYou points on Air travel and Restaurants, 3X ThankYou points on Hotels and Cruise Lines, 2X ThankYou points on Entertainment (former cardholders only, through 8/31/19), and 1X ThankYou Point per $1 spent on other purchases.
  • With no points cap and no expiration of points, there's no limit to the points you can earn.
  • Transfer points to participating travel loyalty programs such as Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and Flying Blue.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on Purchases.
  • Each year a $250 Air Travel Credit will automatically be applied to flight-related expenses charged to your card, including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
  • Receive a $100 Global Entry application fee credit. Once approved for Global Entry by the U.S. Government, you can bypass long lines and enjoy expedited entry into the U.S.

Best Travel Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

Although an annual fee can pay for itself through bonuses, reward rates and perks, you may be a stickler for fees and want to avoid them. Or you might feel that all those perks and benefits are not useful to you, which is understandable. If you can’t or won’t make use of a card’s benefits, there is no need to pay for them. There is no better way to keep your out of pocket costs down to $0 then to avoid annual fees on your credit cards. There are many great cards that can help you avoid fees while still being rewarding. Many no-fee cards offer sign-up bonuses as well. You can also get good promotional interest rates and good balance transfer deals. And for those wondering, yes, it is possible to get free and discounted travel without having to pay an annual fee.

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Intro APR on Balance Transfers
0% 18 months on Balance Transfers*
Regular APR
15.74% - 25.74%* (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
Citi® Double Cash Reward Program
about this credit card:
    • Earn 2% cash back on purchases 1% when you buy and 1% as you make payments for those purchases
    • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time
    • 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74% based on your creditworthiness.*
    • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
    • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
    • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*

Travel Benefits

EMV Chip Technology:

Enjoy global acceptance and enhanced security when you use your credit card at merchants that use chip enabled terminals to accept your payment.

Foreign Transaction Fee:

3% of each purchase transaction in U.S. dollars.

Why should you get this card?

  • No Annual Fee: You’ll never have to pay anything for this card. That means all of the rewards you earn are pure bonus!
  • 2% Cash Back on Everything: You don’t need to keep track of specific categories that earn more or less cash back; everything earns 2%!
  • No Caps on Your Earning: Some credit cards that offer higher cash back have a cap on how much you can earn, but not with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer.
  • Late Fee Pass: If you accidentally miss a payment, Citi has you covered and won’t charge you a late fee–but only once.

Our Expert's Conclusion

The Citi Double Cash mostly makes sense under two circumstances. The first is for someone who is seeking simplicity. Since the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer doesn’t have rotating or any other type of bonus categories to worry about, all you have to do is swipe, pay off your card and reap the benefits!

The second type of person that the Double Cash makes sense for is someone who has a few other rewards cards that cover popular purchase categories, like groceries, gas and travel, but they’re looking for a card for other purchases that otherwise would not earn a bonus. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is a great option for that!

  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases 1% when you buy and 1% as you make payments for those purchases
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time
  • 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74% based on your creditworthiness.*
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*

Compare Travel Credit Cards

Compare all credit cards by RE® Value, which is an estimate of how much you will earn during first year of credit card use minus annual fees.

Credit Card
Bonuses & Rewards
First Year Rewards
FEES
RE® value
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 48,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$980
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$980
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 20,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 30,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$500
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$500
American Express Gold Card

American Express Gold Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 35,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,168
FEES
-$250
RE® value
$918
The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 0 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,286
FEES
-$550
RE® value
$736
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 75,000 Starpoints® sign-up bonus.
  • 48,000 Starpoints® for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$2,362
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$2,362
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,360
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$1,360
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 70,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,560
FEES
-$195
RE® value
$1,365
Hilton Honors American Express Card

Hilton Honors American Express Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 75,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 72,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$470
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$470
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,512
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$1,417
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,632
FEES
-$450
RE® value
$1,182
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 40,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,071
FEES
-$99
RE® value
$972
Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card

Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 36,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,633
FEES
-$450
RE® value
$1,183
British Airways Visa Signature® Card

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 120,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 Avios for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$2,390
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$2,295
Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Card

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 100,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 48,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,362
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$1,267
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,204
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$1,204

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

More Details
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,304
FEES
-$450
RE® value
$854

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

More Details
Expedia® + Card from Citi

Expedia® + Card from Citi

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 15,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$244
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$244

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

More Details
Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi

Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 25,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$406
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$311

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

More Details
Citi Premier℠ Card

Citi Premier℠ Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,285
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$1,190

To apply for this offer please contact
Citibank

More Details
Citi Prestige® Card

Citi Prestige® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,347
FEES
-$495
RE® value
$852

To apply for this offer please contact
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Diamond Resorts International® MasterCard®

Diamond Resorts International® MasterCard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 2,500 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$198
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$198
Frontier Airlines World MasterCard®

Frontier Airlines World MasterCard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 40,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$960
FEES
-$69
RE® value
$891
RCI® Elite Rewards® MasterCard®

RCI® Elite Rewards® MasterCard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 2,500 Rewards sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 Rewards for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$265
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$265
Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card

Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 5,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$323
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$323
Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card

Wyndham Rewards® Visa® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 15,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$281
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$281
Princess Cruises® Rewards Visa® Card

Princess Cruises® Rewards Visa® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 10,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$340
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$340
Holland America Line Rewards Visa® Card

Holland America Line Rewards Visa® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 5,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$290
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$290
Miles & More® World Elite MasterCard®

Miles & More® World Elite MasterCard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,709
FEES
-$89
RE® value
$1,620
Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®

Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 35,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$989
FEES
-$89
RE® value
$900
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 60,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,360
FEES
-$95
RE® value
$1,265
JetBlue® MasterCard®

JetBlue® MasterCard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 10,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$571
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$571
Carnival™ World MasterCard®

Carnival™ World MasterCard®

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 10,000 FunPoints® sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 FunPoints® for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$340
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$340
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 50,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$1,429
FEES
-$400
RE® value
$1,029
FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card

FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 25,000 FlexPoints® sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 FlexPoints® for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$731
FEES
-$0
RE® value
$731
Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa Signature® Card

Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa Signature® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 85,000 Gold Points® sign-up bonus.
  • 120,000 Gold Points® for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$779
FEES
-$75
RE® value
$704
SKYPASS Visa Signature® Card

SKYPASS Visa Signature® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 15,000 miles sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 miles for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$585
FEES
-$80
RE® value
$505
Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Card

Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Card

Bonuses & Rewards
  • 30,000 points sign-up bonus.
  • 24,000 points for everyday spend.
First Year Rewards
$590
FEES
-$69
RE® value
$521

Perks and Benefits of the Best Airline and Travel Credit Cards

Although not having an annual fee can be a great benefit, you may want to consider paying a fee to get increased reward earning, a big sign-up bonus and the preferential treatment that can come with being a cardholder. Many of these perks offset the annual fee on their own, and if you add all the benefits together the savings can be phenomenal.

Specific cards are referenced throughout this guide. Many of the cards mentioned have several, if not most of the benefits outlined below. Nearly all airline cards, for example, offer at least one free checked bag per flight, and some even allow for up to five free bags. Most of the cards mentioned here also come with chip technology and no foreign transaction fees, which can be especially handy for international travelers.

No matter which specific perks these cards come with, they all allow you to upgrade your travel experience in one way or another. How much one vacations and travels isn’t always dictated by cost, but may also be influenced by the overall experience. To get the most out of your vacation and travel plans, it may be best to have several of these cards so you can use their benefits accordingly.

  • Benefit #1: Free Checked Bags

    A checked bag usually runs about $25. If you are taking a round-trip flight, it can add up to $50 or more. If you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, which allows a first bag checked free for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on American Airlines flights, it can be a savings of $250 per roundtrip. Now take four of those trips a year you can easily save $1,000. Considering that the annual fee for this card is only $99, which is waived for the first year, this is a significant savings on baggage fees alone. If you usually ride solo or with just one companion, you may want to have a card that gives two free checked bags per flight, like the Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card.

  • Benefit #2: Priority Boarding

    Priority boarding can allow you easy access to those coveted overhead storage compartments. This is a must for many travelers. Without the right credit card or a first or business class ticket, one of the limited ways to achieve this feat would be to reach a certain status level in your frequent flier program. That could take about 25,000 miles to get there.

  • Benefit #3: Priority Check-In

    This benefit can help your trip go smoothly by minimizing time spent standing in line. For many this benefit alone can make an airline or travel card worth getting. Depending on the airline, this privilege may also help you be one of the first to receive your bags when you get to the other side.

    Without the right credit card, you may also be able to purchase priority check-in, but the option to buy is not available at all airports. Space is limited and it is on a first come first serve basis. Costs can range from $10 to $30 per person.

  • Benefit #4: Companion Tickets

    These are an easy way to recoup an annual fee. These passes are usually awarded annually and are good for a domestic economy class flight. You can get annual coach companion tickets with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card for $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees).

  • Benefit #5: Elite Status

    Another great, but often underestimated benefit is usually only available on co-branded airline and hotel credit cards. That’s a boost in earning elite status in frequent flyer or hotel loyalty programs. Most of these programs work on a tiered system. The higher your rank, the better the rewards and benefits you will get.

    If you don’t have a hotel credit card, the only way to increase your status is through the amount of times you stay. However, the Hilton Honor American Express Ascend Card offers complimentary Gold status within the Honors program.

    When it comes to the frequent flier programs, if you don’t earn elite status through credit cards, you have to earn it by flying. Several of the Delta cards give you Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), which count toward status, as a sign-up bonus. Both the Delta Reserve Credit Card and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card award 10,000 MQMs and miles after your first purchase. To get to Silver status, you need only 25,000 MQMs.

  • Benefit #6: Mileage Refunds

    This benefit is when a certain amount of the miles you redeem are refunded back to your frequent flyer account. For example, the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® by Barclaycard gives you 10% of the miles you redeem back. You can get up to 10,000 miles returned to you per calendar year.

  • Benefit #7: Priority and Expanded Award Space

    This will broaden your options when booking an award ticket. For instance, United Explorer cardholders are able to book a ticket with no restrictions or blackout dates at the standard award level. Delta Amex cardholders have a similar perk as well. For a broader range of award seats, be sure to check the I Am Traveling box when you sign in to your SkyMiles account.

  • Benefit #8: Trip Cancellation and Interruption Protection

    This is when your credit card reimburses you for nonrefundable trip expenses due to cancellation because of unforeseen events. This usually refers to sickness, injury or severe weather. If you have a Citi AAdvantage credit card, you may be reimbursed up to $5,000 per trip per covered traveler. This benefit is available on other cards as well. Keep in mind that this usually only applies to travel purchases made with your card.

  • Benefit #9: Lost Baggage Protection

    We have all watched that carousel with dread as bag after bag comes out, worrying that yours won’t be there. Your credit card may be able to help you ease the dread if it covers lost baggage. All Visa Signature cards, including U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards Visa Signature® Card, covers up to $3,000 in the event that your lost luggage was a result of carrier misdirection or theft. Other issuers may have different policies.

  • Benefit #10: Baggage Delay Protection

    This is different from lost baggage insurance. If your luggage is temporarily lost or stranded somewhere, this coverage kicks in. You can be reimbursed for inconveniences associated with the delay of the baggage. Different cards have different criteria, but you will usually be covered for bags delayed by three to 12 hours, and reimbursed between $100 and $500 dollars.

    For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has this benefit and covers up to $100 for bags delayed by six hours or more, whereas the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® covers $500 for bags delayed by only three hours. You will need proof and receipts for this claim.

  • Benefit #11: Free Lounge Access

    This benefit is usually available with the top tier co-branded airline credit cards and some general travel cards. Lounges give you a space to unwind while you wait for your flight. While most will offer complimentary snacks, beverages (including alcohol), Wi-Fi and charging stations, some offer much more, like spas or massages. Keep in mind a membership alone to most airline lounge networks, including United, American and Delta, will easily cost $500. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® gives you free access to Admirals Clubs, as well as the lounges associated with the 15 global airlines in their oneworld alliance.

  • Benefit #12: Annual Travel Credit

    Every year when you renew your card you will be given a travel credit that usually ranges between $200 and $300. Depending on the card, this credit can be redeemed for different things related to travel, such as lounge access, baggage fees and even airline tickets.

    Some cards give you the credit automatically, while others require you to make claims by calling customer service. Some credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and Citi Prestige® Card, allow you to use the credit toward the purchase of an airline ticket. The The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card and the The Platinum Card® from American Express do not.

  • Benefit #13: Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

    TSA PreCheck allows you to skip the security line and avoid inconveniences like having to take your shoes off. This is especially important to people who travel often. Global Entry is for U.S. customs and Border Protection and allows for expedited clearance during international travel. It includes PreCheck.

    Several cards offer credits for Global Entry and or TSA PreCheck. With American Express, for instance, you can receive one statement credit for up to $100 for Global Rntry or an $85 credit for TSA PreCheck every four years when charged to an eligible Amex card, like the Platinum card. Applications, once approved, are good for five years.

  • Benefit #14: Award Discounts

    Some credit cards offer discounts on airfare when you redeem miles. For instance, American Airlines gives Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® holders a 7,500 miles discount on round-trip tickets that are at least 500 miles each way. There are other discounts to be had, depending on the card and your destination.

  • Benefit #15: Discounts on In-Flight and In-Room Purchases

    Many airline and hotel credit cards will give members discounts or large bonuses for purchases made while staying or flying. Some hotel cards also allow discounts at the restaurants within the hotels.

    The Club Carlson cards will give you a whopping 20 points per dollar for food and beverages charged to your room. Plus, depending on your status in their loyalty program, you can get up to 20 percent off at participating restaurants.

  • Benefit #16: Free Hotel Stays

    Several hotel credit cards offer free nights as a welcome bonus, which is available after you complete the minimum spending requirement. The The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card offers two free nights after spending $4,000 in three months. This can be used in a tier 1-4 hotel, which can be a savings of several hundred dollars. You will get the most value from this perk by staying at a tier 4 property. Others, such as the IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card, reward cardholders annually with free hotel stays.

  • Benefit #17: Upgrades

    Whether you want to upgrade your seat on a plane or your room at a hotel, it can be possible with the right credit card. Some cards will reimburse you for cabin upgrades when you fly. Or get a room with a better view if it’s available. Just ask about upgrades at check-in and let them know if you have elite status. Remember to ask; you might not get it if you don’t request it.

  • Benefit #18: Late Checkout

    Having a hotel credit card may afford you the ability to check in early or, more importantly, check out late. Just ask when you arrive or call the front desk as your alarm goes off in the morning if you feel as though a snooze just won’t be enough. Either way, be sure to request it before checkout time. You can sometimes get several extra hours, which can make a world of difference.

FAQs

Need more info? Check out our frequently asked questions. If you have other questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment below.

  • How can I travel for free using credit cards?

    One of the easiest ways to earn free travel quickly is with a couple of hefty sign-up bonuses. This is the age of the welcome bonus, which may not last forever. Bonuses have gotten so outrageous lately that they have topped the charts with bonuses as high as 100,000 points. We all know the laws of physics, and what goes up must come down. This may be the peak, and the time to take advantage is now. If you don’t, these opportunities may pass you by.
    Of course, sign-up bonuses aren’t the only way to get free or cheap travel. You can also earn your way toward flights and hotel stays with credit card purchases. In this case, it is good to have strategies for spending with your cards. You have to know which cards earn the most points or miles and where to use them. You also need to research how and when to use those points and miles to get the most out of them. It is usually good to have several types of cards, such as hotel credit cards, airline credit cards and general credit cards.
    You can also use promotions to help increase the earn on your credit cards. I don’t mean just sign-up promotions, but also spending promotions. It is easy to find promotions, especially for travel. You can easily earn bonus miles or points, sometimes as much as 10x the usual earn. If you are flexible enough, you can sometimes plan your travels around these types of promotions.
    In any case, the best way to maximize the value of your rewards is to not pay interest on your credit cards. Interest can quickly decrease the value of your rewards. Don’t let an annual fee disinterest you in a credit card. Some of the best travel cards have annual fees, but they offer the best rewards, bonuses and benefits, and you should consider paying for them. Always pay your balances in full and on time. The better your credit score, the better the cards you will be eligible for.
  • How do you compare travel credit cards?

    Before applying or considering credit cards, be sure to know your credit score. The better your score, the the better the rewards, benefits and bonuses you will be eligible for. The best travel credit cards, including airline and hotel cards, are for those with good to excellent credit. Do not apply for a card that requires good credit if your credit is only fair.
    If you have excellent credit, your options are limitless. Some of the things to consider when comparing travel cards are basics like welcome bonuses, reward rates, interest rates and annual fees. You also need to consider your own spending habits. There may also be other considerations, like what kind of perks and benefits will be most valuable to you. If you are headed overseas, you will want a card with no foreign transaction fees and chip technology.
    When considering a hotel or airline card, you should also look at their affiliations. Several of the airlines, including Delta, American Airlines and United, are affiliated with global airline alliances. That means your benefits may extend beyond the airline that is printed on your card. Many hotels also have partners they work in cooperation with to broaden their network. Marriott, for instance, acquired Starwood, making them the world’s largest hotel chain.
    Just because a card is not branded by an airline or hotel does not mean it is not good for earning travel rewards. Keep in mind that Amex, Citi and Chase all have exchanges where you can transfer your points between cards or even to other partners. Using these methods can usually help increase the value of your rewards.
    You may not get the 100,000 points bonus that was recently offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, but you can still get a welcome bonus and a good reward earning credit card.
  • Which points or miles should I collect if I don’t travel often?

    There are two basic approaches that infrequent travelers may take if they want to collect points or miles. You can either collect for a specific travel goal or maximize your flexibility. If, for example, you’ve always wanted to take a vacation to Tahiti, figure out the best way to get there with miles and start saving. United MileagePlus is usually a good program for that route, so you’ll probably want to get a co-branded Chase United℠Explorer Credit Card to start with.
    If, however, you’re not sure where you’ll want to vacation, or you like to have options, consider getting a card that has transferable points. The big four transferable points programs are Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Starwood Preferred Guest.
    Starwood is the most flexible with over 30 airline partners, followed by Amex with 17, Citi with 12 and Chase with seven. Start with a card in one of these programs, earn the sign-up bonus, and then consider getting another card in another program. Build up your reserve of transferable points and you’ll be able to fly for free to anywhere you want in no time.
    Even if you have a specific destination in mind, don’t discount cards with transferable points. For example, you could get a card in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, such as the popular Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and transfer the points you earn to your United MileagePlus account for that trip to Tahiti. Combine that with a United card and you’ll earn two sign-up bonuses toward that flight.
    Remember, in the end it’s more important to get to where you want to go instead of maximizing the value of your points or miles. Getting valuable redemptions is truly secondary to experiencing an unforgettable vacation.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

UGC Disclosure: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.