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What Are The Best Travel Credit Cards of 2018?

We examined over 100 offers to find the best travel cards that can pay for your next trip. As a result, 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 for your business travel, the more tailored cards below will yield better results.

Top Travel Cards

Best ForCredit NeededAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardBest For Most PeopleExcellent$95 ($0 first year)
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® CardNo Annual FeeGood/Excellent$0
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit CardAirline MilesGood$75
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for StudentsStudentsFair/New$0
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American ExpressBusinessesExcellent$95 ($0 first year)
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit CardHotel RewardsGood/Excellent$89

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. If you're still lost, read our comprehensive guide on selecting the best travel card for your needs.

Table of Contents

In-Depth Reviews of The Best Travel Credit Cards

We spent days crunching the numbers and reading terms and conditions on over 100 credit cards to identify which ones provide you with the most benefits. Our selections offer the best perks and rewards that you’d care about when traveling: free hotel nights and flights, and luxury and convenience. See below to understand how each card benefits you, and how you can maximize value from them.

Best Travel Credit Card for Most People: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Purchase APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent Credit
Details
  • 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 a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel 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

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card ranks at the top of our list for travel rewards due to its ability to yield an outstanding 2.5% rewards rate on travel and dining purchases. As a reference, most other travel cards average a 2% rewards rate. 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. The card doesn't slouch on the bonus either. You can get 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. That will be enough to knock off $625 off your next vacation.

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. If you don't mind paying more, and are seeking more premium amenities on travel, we recommend getting this card's older brother—the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® charges a $450 annual fee, but in turn provides upgraded perks. You'll get a 4.5% rewards rate on travel and dining (compared 2.5% on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card), airport lounge access and a $300 annual credit. However, if you're uncomfortable spending this much on a card, and don't care for luxury benefits, we recommend going with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead.

Best Travel Credit Card w/ No Annual Fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Annual Fee
$0
Purchase APR
14.24%-26.74% (Variable)
Credit Needed Excellent/Good
Details
  • New! 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, then a 14.24%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions

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. As a reference, anyone who spends less than $12,000 per year on their credit card is unlikely to earn enough rewards to justify paying an annual fee on a travel card. 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.

We recommend the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card card because of the breadth of purchases that fall under the travel and transit categories. 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. With most other travel cards you'd get just 1% return in the last two categories.

Best Credit Card for Air Travel: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Annual Fee
$75
Purchase APR
16.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Good
Details
  • 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)

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 instance, for every year you hold the card, you'll be awarded a Companion Fare certificate—one of the most sought after (and rare) airline card perks. The certificate allows you to bring a companion on any round-trip Alaska Airlines flight for $99, plus taxes and fees. The pricier your flight, the higher the value you'll get out of this perk. Currently, a round trip ticket from Chicago to Miami on Alaska Airlines can be booked for $669. In this instance, the value of the Companion Fare Certificate would likely exceed $500.

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. Miles can be redeemed to fly with Alaska Airlines or with one of its airline partners, including American Airlines, British Airways, LATAM, and Emirates.

Best Travel Credit Card for Students: BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students

Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
Purchase APR
16.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Fair
Details
  • 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

Students looking for a great travel card for trips back home or impromptu spring break road trips should look to the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® 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. The card is also budget-friendly since it doesn't charge cardholders an annual fee. In terms of a bonus, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students only requires you to spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening in order to get 20,000 bonus points, which can be redeemed for a $200 statement credit towards travel purchases. The low spending requirement to get the bonus make it ideal for a student's budget.

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: Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express

Annual Fee
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
Purchase APR
17.49% - 26.49% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent Credit
Details
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 10/31/2018.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at over 6,500 participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels across 110 countries worldwide.
  • Earn 4 points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping. Earn 2 points for all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Select hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary Silver Elite status with your Card.
  • Plus, spend $35,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and earn an upgrade to Gold Elite status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases and $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees

Out of all the existing small business travel credit cards, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express offers the best travel rewards by far. The card earns an excellent 5.4% rewards rate anytime you book a stay at a Starwood or Marriott property—including Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis and W Hotels, and a great 1.8% rewards rate on other purchases. The points you earn with the card can be redeemed for hotel stays and can also be transferred to over 30 airline loyalty programs, making the card ideal for business owners who need to book both flights and hotel stays.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express comes with a $95 annual fee (waived for the first year), but in return you'll get a few great benefits. For instance, you'll have the option to get additional cards for your employees, which will earn you points for all their spending on the card. You can also book hotel nights for your employees, which is helpful for businesses that frequent conferences or those that make a large number of client-site visits. Overall, the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express is a great card for small businesses with travel needs.

Best Hotel Travel Credit Card: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Annual Fee
$89
Purchase APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent/Good
Details
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first three months from account opening
  • Enjoy a Free Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
  • Earn 10 points per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is the best travel card for earning free hotel stays. The card comes with an $89 annual fee, but it can pay for itself every year you use its valuable free anniversary night benefit. The benefit grants cardholders a free hotel night at an IHG hotel once per year. IHG hotel brands include InterContinental, Holiday Inn, and Crowne Plaza. There are a few restrictions to using the benefit, but it can easily be worth hundreds of dollars.

The card is currently offering a great sign-up bonus of 100,000 points to cardholders who spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. On top of this, the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card offers cardholders automatic Platinum Elite status, which means access to perks like complimentary room upgrades and extended check outs. Anyone who already frequents IHG hotels would surely benefit from having this card.

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.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
$99 3.40%
$782
Get 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account
$1,167
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.017 = $583
Bonuses
40,000 x $0.017 = $680
6,000 x $0.017 = $102
Less Annual Fees -$198
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,167

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $99
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions, Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95 3.00%
$625
50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
$1,028
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 x $0.013 = $498
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.013 = $625
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,028

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • 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 a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel 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
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
$75 2.94%
$540
Get 30,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases
$1,008
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.018 = $618
Bonuses
30,000 x $0.018 = $540
Less Annual Fees -$150
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,008

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $75
APR 16.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • 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)
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
$0 2.48%
$300
New! Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
$850
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 54,960 x $0.01 = $550
Bonuses
30,000 x $0.01 = $300
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 850

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 14.24%-26.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • New! 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, then a 14.24%-26.74% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms, and conditions
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students
No Annual Fee 2.23%
$250
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
$765
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 51,480 x $0.01 = $515
Bonuses
25,000 x $0.01 = $250
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 765

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 16.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • 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
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
$89 2.33%
$640
Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
$798
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 52,560 x $0.006 = $336
Bonuses
100,000 x $0.006 = $640
Less Annual Fees -$178
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 798

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $89
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add your first authorized user and make your first purchase in the first three months from account opening
  • Enjoy a Free Night after each account anniversary year at eligible IHG hotels worldwide. Plus, enjoy a free reward night when you redeem points for any stay of 4 or more nights
  • Earn 10 points per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit of up to $100 every 4 years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card
  • IHG Rewards Club Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels & Holiday Inn®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
$450 1.55%
$750
50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
$530
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 45,360 x $0.015 = $680
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.015 = $750
Less Annual Fees -$900
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 530

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $450
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
No Annual Fee 2.08%
$200
20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $200 statement credit towards travel purchases
$715
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 51,480 x $0.01 = $515
Bonuses
20,000 x $0.01 = $200
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 715

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 14.99% - 22.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • 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
Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 2.06%
$0
100,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 10/31/2018.
$709
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 89,280 x $0.009 = $804
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 709

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
APR 17.49% - 26.49% Variable
*Rates and Fees

Card Details

  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 10/31/2018.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at over 6,500 participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels across 110 countries worldwide.
  • Earn 4 points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping. Earn 2 points for all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Select hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary Silver Elite status with your Card.
  • Plus, spend $35,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and earn an upgrade to Gold Elite status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases and $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Citi® ThankYou® Preferred Credit Card for College Students
No Annual Fee 1.23%
$25
Earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou points after you spend $500 within the first 3 months
$423
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 x $0.01 = $398
Bonuses
2,500 x $0.01 = $25
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 423

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 16.24% to 26.24% Variable

Card Details

  • 2 ThankYou Points per $1 spent on purchases for dining at restaurants and entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Points do not expire and earn unlimited points
  • Exclusive experiences for ThankYou cardmembers
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening

A Comprehensive Walkthrough on Choosing The Best Travel Card

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.

How We Made Our Picks for the Best Credit Cards for Travel

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.

ValuePenguin's Selection Criteria

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.

Travel Cards That Missed the Cut

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.

Citi® ThankYou® Preferred Credit Card for College Students: This card is a wonderful option for students, as it offers a 2% rewards rate in categories that are likely to make up a large portion of their budget. These categories include any purchases made at bars, fast food restaurants, and concerts. The main factor holding this card back is its 3% foreign transaction fee.

BankAmericard 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.

Robert Harrow

Robert is a Product Manager at ValuePenguin, covering credit cards and credit card processing. He graduated from Hunter College with a B.A. in Physics and a minor in Mathematics.

Comments and Questions

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Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® 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 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, and Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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