Our evaluations and opinions are not influenced by our advertising relationships, but we may earn a commission from our partners’ links. This content is created independently from TIME’s editorial staff. Learn more.
The best travel credit cards unlock a world of free and discounted travel. If you travel a lot, one of these cards could be worth obtaining. Depending on your travel preferences and goals, you may want a card with no annual fee, ultra-luxury premium rewards, or many points per purchase. Here’s a closer look at the best travel rewards cards to help you see the world at a fraction of the cost.
Best travel credit cards compared 2023
|Card Name||Best for||Rewards rate||Intro offer||Suggested minimum credit||Annual fee|
5x on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3x on dining, online grocery; purchases, and select streaming services; 2x on other travel purchases
10 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5 miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel, and 2x miles on all purchases, plus earn 10,000 bonus miles on your account anniversary
No annual fee
5x miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 1.25x miles per dollar on all purchases
Intro bonus offer
5x miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases
Airport lounge access
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; 5x Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel
annual_fees (Rates & Fees)
3x per dollar on travel and select business categories up to $150,000 in combined annual purchases, 1x everywhere else
10x on dining, hotels, and rental cars booked through Chase, 5x on flights booked through Chase, 3x per dollar on travel and restaurants, 1x everywhere else
Airline credit card
2x miles per dollar spent with United and on dining, restaurant delivery, and hotels and 1x everywhere else
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® credit card
Hotel credit card
Up to 17x points for Marriott purchases, 3x on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on grocery stores, gas stations, and dining, and 2x everywhere else
100,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months
Our recommendations for the best travel credit card for October 2023
The best travel credit card varies depending on your travel preferences. If you’re loyal to a specific airline or hotel, you may consider that brand’s card. A general miles or points rewards card could be the best choice for travelers looking to get the maximum value across a wider range of redemption options.
Best for beginners: card_name
The card_name is our pick for the best credit card for general travel rewards for beginners. It does a great job of balancing a robust rewards program with a reasonable annual fee. If you’re new to travel rewards cards or want a top card you can use everywhere without spending more than $100 per year, this card should be on your shortlist.
New users who spend at least $4,000 on the card in the first three months get 60,000 bonus points worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For purchases, you’ll earn five points per dollar spent on travel at Chase Ultimate Rewards; three points for dining and eligible delivery services, online grocery purchases, excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs, and select streaming services; two points for other travel; and one point everywhere else. Points are transferable to airline and hotel partners, including United, Southwest, and Marriott.
The card also provides other perks, including travel and purchase protections. You’ll also get $50 back as a statement credit each year for hotels booked through Chase. While there’s a annual_fees annual fee, it’s easy to see how you’ll get that back and much more every year when using the card regularly.
Best for premium travel: card_name
One of the newer premium travel cards, card_name, comes with a wide set of travel benefits, including access to Capital One lounges and more than 1,300 additional lounges through Priority Pass and Plaza Premium Group. While the card requires a steep annual_fees annual fee, getting that value back and more is easy. Users get a $300 annual statement credit for travel booked through Capital One Travel, a $100 credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, and a $100 statement credit with other premium services when booking certain hotels through Capital One.
The card_name starts new users with 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 in the first three months, and you’ll earn 10,000 bonus miles annually on your account anniversary. For purchases, you’ll get 10x miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5x miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel, and 2x everywhere else. Capital One miles are redeemable through Capital One and a list of transfer partners.
Other benefits include premium experiences and museum access through complementary memberships to PRIOR, The Cultivist, and $300 toward a Gravity Hauss membership. If you book a flight when Capital One Travel recommends and the price drops within 10 days, you can get up to $50 credit back.
Best for no annual fee: card_name
If you don’t want to shell out $100 yearly just to have a travel rewards card, the card_name could be a winner. With this card, users earn five miles per dollar spent on rental cars and hotels booked through Capital One Travel and an unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on other purchases.
New users can earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases in the first three months. There are no foreign transaction fees, either, and the list of travel insurance and purchase coverage is impressive, considering there’s annual_fees annual fee.
Another advantage is that VentureOne starts new users with a intro_apr_rate,intro_apr_duration and balance_transfer_intro_apr,balance_transfer_intro_duration. If you want to consolidate and pay off other cards or make a big purchase interest-free, card_name may be the best choice for you.
Best for intro bonus offer: card_name
card_name is an excellent card for easy-to-understand travel rewards. You earn 5x miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and a flat 2x miles per dollar on other purchases. These miles can be redeemed through the Capital One Travel site, used to cover the cost of a recent eligible travel purchase, or transferred to a list of partner travel brands. Redeeming them for cash, events, and gift cards is also possible.
Other benefits include a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, two free Capital One lounge visits per year, and the most important travel and purchase protections anyone would want from a travel card.
There’s a annual_fees annual fee, but it’s easy to get that back and more redeeming Capital One miles for travel.
Best for airport lounge access: card_name
The card_name is an ultra-luxury credit card unlocking a huge heap of benefits, including express lanes and access to lounges at airports, gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels, and about $1,500 worth of various travel, membership, and purchase credits. On top of that, new users can earn 80,000 membership rewards points after spending $6,000 in the first three months.
The card carries a steep annual_fees annual fee (Rates & Fees), but it’s easy to see how you get more than that back in a year if you use its benefits fully. Additional users can get free Amex Gold cards or up to three additional Platinum cards at $175 per year. Additional users beyond that cost $175 each.
Benefits include a hotel credit worth up to $200 for prepaid bookings with American Express Travel for Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection, a $189 statement credit annually to cover a Clear membership, a credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, up to $20 per month for select entertainment purchases, up to $300 per year in statement credits for Equinox memberships, $12.95 per month in statement credits for a Walmart+ membership, and $50 in statement credits twice per year when shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue. It also includes $15 monthly in Uber Cash ($20 in December) and Uber VIP status. Users also get Gold-level status with the Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors programs.
The rewards are not all that impressive, however. You earn five points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, hotels booked on Amex Travel, and one point for everything else. Points are redeemable through Amex and transferable to a list of airline and hotel partners. The card is worthwhile for frequent travelers when you add up the massive travel benefits.
Best for business: card_name
You may like the card_name if you run a business, even a side hustle. The card comes with a huge 100,000-point bonus after spending $15,000 in the first three months. That’s worth $1,250 in travel when redeemed through Chase or potentially more when transferring to travel partners.
The card features 3x points per dollar on shipping purchases, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines, internet, cable and phone services purchases, and travel.
The card also comes with a good list of travel and purchase protections, including cell phone insurance when you use the card to pay your monthly bill. And like most premium travel cards, there are no foreign transaction fees. While it has a huge starting bonus and great benefits, it also requires a annual_fees annual fee.
Best for insurance coverage: card_name
card_name is a premium travel card loaded with valuable benefits. While it requires a large annual_fees annual fee, you get the first $300 back on travel purchases with the card, up to $100 in statement credits every four years for TSA’s trusted traveler programs, and a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership with access to more than 1,300 lounges.
New users can earn 60,000 bonus points after $4,000 in purchases in the first three months. For purchases, you’ll earn 10x points per dollar spent with Chase Dining or when booking hotels or rental cars through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5x for flights booked through Chase, 3x for travel and dining purchases, including restaurant delivery, and 1x everywhere else.
The package of travel and purchase insurance is also quite valuable. The card includes trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver coverage, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, and emergency evacuation insurance. For purchases, it includes purchase protection for new purchases for up to 120 days, return protection, and up to an additional year of warranty coverage.
Best airline credit card: card_name
If you’re looking for an airline-specific credit card, the card_name Chase is a standout option. The card comes with a list of benefits rewarding United travelers, with bonus miles, free checked bags, and other benefits. New users can earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 with the card in the first three months.
You’ll earn 2x miles per dollar for purchases with United. The same 2x rate extends to dining, restaurant delivery, and hotels booked directly through the hotel company. It features 1x mile per dollar on all other purchases.
When flying with United, the cardholder and a companion get their first checked bag free, worth up to $140 per roundtrip. The card also includes an opportunity to earn Premier qualifying points, which get you closer to elite United status. Users also get a one-year complimentary DashPass subscription, offering discounts with DoorDash. It includes excellent travel insurance benefits, purchase protection, extended warranty protection, and complimentary Visa Signature Concierge service access.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Best hotel credit card
The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase is a top hotel card. While it has a $95 annual fee, an annual free night award worth up to 35,000 points is easily worth more. When you stack points from the card and Marriott Bonvoy membership, you can earn up to 17x points per dollar on purchases made with Marriott, which has more than 7,000 properties worldwide.
New users can earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months after opening a new account. Users get automatic Silver Elite status and credit toward the Gold Elite tier. The card also features a one-year complimentary DoorDash DashPass membership.
Travel insurance benefits are fair and include lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, and trip delay reimbursement. It also includes purchase protection and Visa Signature Concierge service.
To choose the best travel credit cards, our team reviewed dozens of cards from multiple issuers. We looked at the best rewards for regular purchases, the best signup bonuses, and the best travel-related benefits. We also considered annual fees and other common costs that you’re likely to incur. We didn’t, however, consider interest rates, as travel rewards cards are best for users who pay off the card in full monthly to avoid interest charges.
How to maximize your rewards with your travel credit card
If you want to maximize your rewards with travel credit cards, follow these quick tips:
- Use your credit card for every purchase: You don’t earn miles or points when you don’t use the card. Use your rewards card for every eligible purchase to earn as much as possible. But be careful not to overspend and get into trouble with high card balances.
- Consider multiple rewards cards: Mixing and matching multiple cards can get you the best rewards. For example, picking one card for restaurants, one for groceries, and one for gas could help you earn more.
- Research each redemption: Don’t redeem your points without considering the value. When transferring to airline partners, getting values well over one cent per point is possible.
How to choose a travel credit card
Everyone has different travel goals, credit histories, incomes, and spending habits. Here are some additional considerations to guide your choice:
- Spending habits: If you always cook at home and never go to restaurants, a restaurant rewards card wouldn’t be practical. Consider your budget and spending habits to find the best card.
- Annual fee tolerance: Some people are okay with annual fees, while others will only tolerate them up to a certain point. With some popular cards requiring over $600 per year, you have to ask yourself what you would be willing to pay and which benefits you’ll use regularly.
- Desired benefits: If you want airport lounges, status with a certain hotel or airline, or fast lines at the airport, find a card with those benefits.
- Brand loyalty: Finally, if you love one airline or hotel—or simply find one most convenient for your travel priorities—its branded card could be a good choice or addition to one of the cards above.
How to compare credit cards
Every issuer offers different benefits and rewards. When comparing travel cards, look at the rewards program to determine if it favors your spending habits. Then look at any costs or fees you expect to pay, such as annual or foreign transaction fees. Next, look at statement credits and other benefits. The card that yields you the biggest net benefits (rewards and benefits minus expected annual fees and other costs) should be your top pick.
Also, consider the card’s credit score and other credit requirements before applying. That information should be available on the issuer’s website or by contacting its customer service desk.
Types of travel credit cards
Our favorite travel credit cards are general miles and points rewards cards. General rewards cards feature points or miles redeemable at a big list of airlines, hotels, and potentially additional travel companies.
Depending on your location and travel preferences, you may also find brand-specific cards helpful. For example, the United MileagePlus Explorer card comes with benefits and rewards miles only for use with United Airlines. Most airlines and hotels offer at least one credit card for loyal customers.
Alternatives to travel credit cards
If you don’t want a travel credit card, cash back credit cards are an excellent choice. Many of them have no annual fee. And, if you’re not into travel, the rewards come in the form of cash or points redeemable for cash.
Most cards with cash back rewards allow you to redeem for statement credits, which lower your credit card balance; direct deposit to a linked bank account; and sometimes for travel, gift cards, Amazon.com purchases, and other redemptions. Merchandise is usually a low-value redemption for your points.
You can also find cards with no rewards, often featuring lower fees and interest rates. A secured credit card may be the right choice for someone with bad credit or no credit.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What’s the difference between points and miles on a travel credit card?
Points and miles on a travel credit card are rewards earned through spending on the card. While they share similarities, there are some major differences between them.
General rewards points tend to offer more flexibility for redemption, as they can be used for various rewards, including flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and even cash back. However, miles are usually restricted to flight redemptions with a specific airline or its partners. Some travel credit cards may allow you to convert miles into points or vice versa, but this typically comes with a conversion rate and may not always offer the best value.
Ultimately, the difference between points and miles on a travel credit card comes down to how they are earned, their redemption options, and their value. Understanding the specific rewards program and choosing a card that aligns with your travel habits and preferences is essential to maximizing your rewards.
How do I know if a travel credit card is right for me?
Determining if a travel credit card is right depends on your spending habits, travel frequency, and personal preferences. First, consider your travel patterns and the type of travel rewards you desire—such as airline miles, hotel points, or more flexible rewards redeemable for various travel expenses. Frequent travelers who can take advantage of perks like lounge access, priority boarding, or free checked bags may find travel credit cards more valuable.
Additionally, assess your spending habits and ability to earn rewards. Travel credit cards often have higher annual fees and interest rates, so ensure that you can offset these costs through rewards, perks, and benefits. The right travel credit card for you should align with your lifestyle, provide valuable rewards, and offer perks that enhance your travel experiences.
The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.