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The Best Travel Credit Cards of 2019

We determined the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best overall travel card because it allows you to earn high rewards, which can be flexibly redeemed to get you to your destination. If you're searching for something more specific, like a card without an annual fee or one tied to an airline's rewards program, we also pulled together a list of more recommendations.

Recommended Cards

Best ForCredit NeededAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardMost peopleExcellent$95 ($0 first year)
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® CardNo Annual FeeGood/Excellent$0
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit CardAirline MilesGood/Excellent$75
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for StudentsStudentsFair$0
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
Capital One® Spark® Miles for BusinessBusiness TravelGood/Excellent$95 ($0 first year)
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American ExpressHotelsGood/Excellent$95 ($0 first year)(See Rates & Fees)

This card is not available through ValuePenguin.

All of the cards listed above make for great picks, and we’ve shared detailed reviews and experts’ insights on each of our recommendations below. We've also created a one-of-a-kind-tool that allows you to see which travel card will give you the most rewards based on your spending habits.

Best Travel Credit Card for Most People

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's Secure Website
50,000 Ultimate Rewards when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent Credit

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is our top overall travel pick because it awards 2 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining. As a reference, very few cards offer that kind of earning power across such commonly used categories. The card also awards users 1 point for every dollar spent on any other categories outside of the aforementioned ones.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Another great benefit for frequent travelers is that points can be mixed and matched to most loyalty programs for earlier rewards redemption. You can transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to several hotel and airline loyalty programs, like Marriott and Southwest. This means you don't have to be tied to a specific rewards program and will help you keep your travel plans flexible.

Fees and Other Details

One of the reasons we highly recommend this card for most travellers is its affordability and accessibility. The card comes with a $95 annual fee, but it's waived during the first year. Traditional airline and hotel credit cards are significantly more expensive.

Best Travel Credit Card w/ No Annual Fee

On Wells Fargo's Secure Website

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

On Wells Fargo's Secure Website
Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.74%-27.24% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
  • Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (fees apply), then a 14.74%-27.24% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
Annual Fee
$0
*Rates and Fees
APR
14.74%-27.24% (Variable)
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

The best travel card for low spenders is the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, as the card offers an ample 3% rewards rate on travel, transit and dining purchases. This is one of the highest rewards rates for travel that can be achieved without paying an annual fee.

Highly Rewarding for Travelers

Most travel cards, define "travel" as only airfare or hotel bookings. That's not the case with the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card. For instance, let's say you're taking a weekend trip to Los Angeles. You'd earn a 3% rewards rate for your airline ticket purchase, your car rental and your gas station purchases.

Earning Power Besides Travel

The card also has a lot of utility for when you're sitting at home, and not on some grand adventure. The card provides a 3% rewards rate on eligible streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu—you won't find other cards offer this type of reward.

For rates and fees of the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, please click here.

Best Credit Card for Air Travel

On Bank of America's Secure Website

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

On Bank of America's Secure Website
  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
Annual Fee
$75
APR
16.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
Good

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card is currently our favorite co-branded airline credit card. It offers fantastic savings on airfare on top of strong rewards on other spending. For every year you hold the card, you'll be awarded a Companion Fare certificate. The certificate allows you to bring a companion on any round-trip Alaska Airlines flight for $99, plus taxes and fees.

Worthwhile Perks

While the card comes with a $75 annual fee, it's easy to make that back by using the card's perks a few times. Travelers who pack big can save money with this card as it allows you to check a bag for free, which is a $25 value. Cardholders also earn a solid three miles for every point they spend on Alaska Airlines purchases and one mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Best Travel Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $250 statement credit towards travel purchases
  • 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 purchases
  • Redeem points to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees with no restrictions or blackouts
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Smart chip technology provides greater acceptance and added security
  • No limits or expiration dates on points earned
  • 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 purchases
  • Redeem points to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees with no restrictions or blackouts
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Smart chip technology provides greater acceptance and added security
  • No limits or expiration dates on points earned
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
APR
16.99% - 24.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Fair

Students looking for a great travel card for trips back home or impromptu spring break road trips should look to the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students, as it offers a respectable 1.5% rewards rate on every purchase and points don't expire. The latter is critical for students since they tend to have limited income, hence earning rewards can take a long time.

A Highly Valuable Bonus

In terms of a bonus, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students only requires you to spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening in order to get 25,000 bonus points, which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit towards travel purchases. The low spending requirement to get the bonus make it ideal for a student's budget.

Perfect for Study Abroad

One key travel perk for students is that the card doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee. Therefore, it's the perfect card for anyone with study abroad plans in the near future. Most other competing cards, particularly those that students can qualify for, charge at least a 3% foreign transaction fee, which can eat away at any potential rewards you may earn and into your budget.

Best Business Travel Rewards Credit Card

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

On Capital One's Secure Website
Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 on every purchase, every day
  • Plus, a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account, and there are no categories to limit where or what you buy
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • There's no limit to the amount of miles you can earn
  • Redeem miles for travel, cash back, gift cards and more
  • No foreign transaction fees and fly on any airline, anytime, with no blackout dates or seat restrictions

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 on every purchase, every day
  • Plus, a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account, and there are no categories to limit where or what you buy
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • There's no limit to the amount of miles you can earn
  • Redeem miles for travel, cash back, gift cards and more
  • No foreign transaction fees and fly on any airline, anytime, with no blackout dates or seat restrictions
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
APR
19.24% (Variable)
Credit Needed
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business is one of the top cards for business owners who want to earn miles. The card earns 2 miles per dollar on every transaction with no caps on spending, and you can redeem your miles for hotel stays, plane tickets, vacation packages and more. You can also transfer miles earned with the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business to one of Capital One's travel partners.

Perks for Business Owners

With the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, you'll be able to get free authorized user cards for your employees. You'll also have protection against fraud, with zero fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen.

Best Hotel Travel Credit Card

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
Annual Fee
$0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $95
*Rates and Fees
APR
Credit Needed
Excellent

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express is the best travel card for earning hotel rewards and can get you a free night’s stay at one of the largest hotel brands. The card has a $95 annual fee (waived in year one)(See Rates & Fees), but it can pay for itself every year you use its free night award benefit at a participating hotel at or under 35,000 points.

Lucrative Welcome Bonus Offer

The card is currently equipped with one of the highest welcome bonuses—75,000 points when cardholders spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of card membership. We value each point earned on this card to be worth a little less than a cent at $0.009, meaning we estimate the welcome bonus is worth $675.

For rates and fees of the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, please click here.

Credit Card Comparison Tool

Anyone looking for a more tailored recommendation or wanting to compare travel credit cards should use our tool below. Simply click edit and input your estimated monthly expenses. The tool calculates the estimated rewards you'll earn over two years based on your monthly expenses.

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Assumptions based on $1,430 monthly spend
Monthly spending:
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{"cardCategory":"rewards","cardIds":"196,1093,1012,1079,42,167","initialResultsLimit":0,"endpoint":"https:\/\/creditcards.valuepenguin.com\/api\/creditcards\/models\/rewards","onCurrent":"true"}

Anyone who doesn't pay their credit card in full every month should not be searching for a travel card. That's because the travel rewards you earn will generally fall short of the interest charges you'll be hit with when you carry a balance. Travel cards also aren't meant for people without strong credit scores. We would recommend consumers with a short credit history or bad credit focus on strengthening their credit score before they can qualify for an excellent travel rewards card, as it would be far more rewarding

People who spend less than $1,000 per month on their credit card should search for a travel card without an annual fee. That's because anyone who doesn't spend at least $1,000 per month on their credit card likely won't earn enough travel rewards to offset the card's fee.

The best travel credit cards have a rewards rate of at least 1.5% and offer points or miles that can be transferred to hotel or airline loyalty programs. The more hotel and airline loyalty programs you can transfer your points to, the greater your opportunity to maximize travel rewards from different combinations. Since the card is meant for travel, it shouldn't have a foreign transaction fee. These fees can eat away at the rewards you earn on the card when you use it for purchases outside of the U.S. Don't be confused by perks like lounge access, free wi-fi and checked bags. These are nice to have, but mostly meant for road warriors, meaning someone who travels at least once per week. For most people, we recommend they get a card that meets all of the aforementioned criteria, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Brand loyalists should get a 'co-branded' card. Don't be intimidated by the jargon—it just means you'll get more rewards and perks for being loyal to a specific hotel brand or airline. This is where a lot of the extra perks we mentioned earlier start to kick in, things like lounge access, free wi-fi and checked bags.

Keep in mind that a good travel credit card will give its cardholders multiple options for redeeming points. Anyone who is specifically interested in getting free flights or hotel nights, should be searching for an airline card or a hotel card, respectively. Travel cards can offer these perks, but that's not their focus.

Our team analyzed over 100 candidates and chose 7 strongest credit cards for travelers across several categories. We selected credit cards that offer the highest rewards rates, give users options when it comes to transferring points, have staying power, offer top-notch travel perks, and don't come with costly foreign transaction fees.

We analyzed each card beyond its quantitative features. For instance, we examined travel rewards programs and ranked them based on how easy it is to redeem and transfer points. While one card may offer more travel rewards than another, it's of little use if redeeming those travel rewards is complex and time consuming.

In order to be exhaustive in our analysis, our analysts also reviewed online forums and comments cardholders have left on each card for any minute details that may not come across in a quantitative analysis. Finally, we also examined official complaints in order to avoid recommending credit cards from a company with an unusually large number of consumer complaints.

Travel Rewards

The most important factor for us was finding credit cards that offer travel rewards with the greatest value. The cards we recommend have a minimum 1.5% rewards rate. Generally, the average consumer will be able to meet eligibility standards held by most travel cards that offer a 1.5% rewards rate. Therefore, we eliminated any cards that failed to meet this cutoff.

Ability to Transfer Points

We created our list of the top travel cards under our belief that having more point or mile transfer options is always better. Options allow consumers to achieve greater rewards rates through 'travel hacking' and also offer greater convenience. Cards that we felt offered restrictive travel rewards programs were ranked lower or excluded altogether.

Long-Term Value

Sign-up bonuses can be lucrative for cardholders, but their value is short-lived. We selected the best travel cards based on the assumption that most people will hold on to these cards for several years. Due to this, we were able to focus our recommendations on the cards we believe offer the best long-term value.

Travel Perks

Travel perks, such as lounge access, free checked bags, and companion tickets were used as a way to break ties between similarly valuable cards.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

Travel cards should be able to be used overseas without incurring costly currency exchange fees. Under our methodology, we strongly penalized any cards that had a foreign transaction fee associated with it.

During our extensive research we came across a few notable cards that initially looked attractive, but ultimately failed to make it onto our 'best' list for one reason or another. The following cards were considered and came close to making our list, but we chose to exclude them for the reasons outlined below:

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: This is an outstanding travel card, as it offers a great rewards rate and cardholders earn points that can be transferred to several airline and hotel loyalty programs. However, this card is built for premium luxury perks when globetrotting. So, unless you're willing to pay more for airport lounge access, we still recommend you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card over this card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: This card offers an outstanding sign-up bonus and an excellent rewards rate, but its rewards come with critical restrictions. What kept the card off our list is that the points you earn can't be transferred to other airlines. Given that Southwest has limited international flight destinations, the card is only great for domestic travelers.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card: This card is one of the best credit cards for international travel, due to four essential features: chip and PIN capabilities, a respectable rewards rate, no foreign transaction fees, and the most widely accepted card network in the world (VISA). These features make the card compatible with almost any card reader in the world, whether you're lounging on the beach in Cancun or exploring medieval castles in Scotland. All that said, the only real differentiating feature between this card and others is its chip and PIN capabilities, which we don't consider enough of a perk for it to be listed on our best list.

Comments and Questions

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer's Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, Amazon Business American Express Card, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

These responses 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.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).