{"guidesLinksLabels":["Best Airline Credit Cards","Best Rewards Credit Cards","Best Credit Cards for Travel","Best Hotel Credit Cards"],"guidesLinks":["https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/travel\/best-airlines-miles-credit-cards","https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/best-rewards-credit-cards","https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/travel\/best-travel-credit-cards","https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/travel\/best-hotel-credit-cards"],"reviewsLinksLabels":["American Express\u00ae Gold Card","Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card","Chase Sapphire Preferred\u00ae Card","Chase Sapphire Reserve\u00ae","Citi\u00ae \/ AAdvantage\u00ae Executive World Elite\u2122 Mastercard\u00ae","United℠ Explorer Card"],"reviewsLinks":["https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/american-express-gold-card","https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/capital-one-venture-rewards-credit-card","https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/chase-sapphire-preferred","https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/chase-sapphire-reserve-credit-card","https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/citi-executive-aadvantage-world-elite-mastercard","https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/united-mileageplus-explorer-credit-card"],"title":"Travel Credit Cards"}

Best Travel Credit Cards: Compare Top 10 Cards of 2020

Best Travel Credit Cards: Compare Top 10 Cards of 2020

Earn free flights and hotel stays, avoid foreign transaction fees and enjoy premium perks with the best travel credit cards of 2020.

Citi is an advertising partner

Most people want to travel more, but few take advantage of the fact that the right travel credit card can make that possible. The best travel credit cards make trips both local and abroad more comfortable, and they can also help you earn free flights, hotels and more.

We chose the best travel credit cards of 2020 by surveying ValuePenguin and top issuer sites for cards that provide the highest value to travelers. We also made sure to include the best travel rewards credit cards for different uses and types of travelers — everything from premium travel credit cards, airline cards and hotel cards to no-annual-fee travel cards and a travel card for less-than-perfect credit. Whatever your habits and preferences, you'll find the best travel credit card for your needs on this list.

Best travel credit cards 2020

Recommended cardsBest forCredit needed
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardInternational travelExcellent
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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unavailable credit card
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®MilesExcellentRead Review
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
{"align":"","className":"","imageURL":"https:\/\/cdn.comparecards.com\/uploads\/images\/items\/4335.jpg","name":"Chase Sapphire Reserve\u00ae"}
Chase Sapphire Reserve®PointsExcellent
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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unavailable credit card
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire CardHotel pointsExcellent/GoodRead Review
unavailable credit card
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card$0 annual feeExcellent/GoodRead Review
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
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Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit CardBusinessExcellent
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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American Express® Gold Card
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American Express® Gold CardTravel and diningExcellent/Good
Apply Now
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The Platinum Card® from American Express
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The Platinum Card® from American ExpressLounge accessExcellent/Good
Apply Now
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Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
{"align":"","className":"","imageURL":"https:\/\/cdn.comparecards.com\/uploads\/images\/items\/4510.png","name":"Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card"}
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardBeginnersExcellent/Good
Apply Now
  • On Capital One's Secure Website
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unavailable credit card
Capital One Platinum Credit CardFair creditAverage/Fair/LimitedRead Review
Recommended cards
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®Read Review
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Hilton Honors American Express Aspire CardRead Review
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® cardRead Review
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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American Express® Gold Card
Apply Now
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The Platinum Card® from American Express
Apply Now
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Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now
  • On Capital One's Secure Website
{"color":"primary","disclaimers":["On Capital One's Secure Website"],"icon":"lock","label":"Apply Now","link":"\/credit-cards\/redirect\/88?url=_travel_best-travel-credit-cards","name":"Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card"}
Capital One Platinum Credit Card**Read Review

What is a travel credit card? | Why get a travel credit card? | Points and miles strategy 101 | How to choose a travel credit card | How to compare cards | Points and miles during COVID-19 | FAQs

Best credit card for international travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$95

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 60,000 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
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Earn 60,000 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®.

ValuePenguin's verdict

It's hard to beat the value and flexibility you get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. You can also transfer them at a 1:1 rate to any of the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, which could potentially squeeze even more than $750 in value out of the bonus.

What really makes this the best travel credit card for international trips are its travel insurance benefits, which are some of the most robust we've seen for a card with an annual fee in this range. These include trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, travel accident insurance, and delayed and lost baggage insurance. You'll also get primary rental car insurance, which means you don't have to make a claim with your personal policy in order to receive coverage from your credit card.

Coronavirus updates. Until April 30, 2021, cardholders can use the “Pay Yourself Back” feature to get 1.25 cents per point redeemed for statement credits on grocery stores, home improvement, restaurant purchases or donations to eligible charities.

Benefits

  • Generous welcome bonus worth $1,000 in travel
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.
  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards® portal
  • Transfer points at a 1:1 rate to popular airline and hotel rewards programs
  • Partner benefits with DoorDash and Lyft
  • Extensive trip insurance benefits
  • $0 foreign transaction fee
  • Until Dec. 31, 2021, get back up to $60 on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership to get full access to workout classes using your phone, tablet or TV.

Drawbacks

  • $95

Best credit card for travel miles

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

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

ValuePenguin's verdict

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is the best travel rewards credit card for folks who want to earn airline miles, not only because of a hefty sign-up bonus, but also because it's one of very few airline cards to offer bonus rewards on such a broad range of everyday spending categories.

This card does come with an annual fee that's waived for the first year, but if you tend to fly American Airlines, the money you save on American Airlines baggage fees might be enough to recoup the fee. This is particularly true if you're a fan of the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent-flyer program, as the miles you earn with this card should only be redeemed for flights on American Airlines and partner airlines. If you're not ready to pledge loyalty to this airline, it might be wiser to opt for a more generic travel credit card.

Benefits

  • Generous welcome bonus
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • First checked bag free on domestic flights and preferred boarding with American Airlines
  • Get a $125 American Airlines flight voucher each year you spend $20,000 and renew your card
  • 0% foreign transaction fee

Drawbacks

  • $99, waived for first 12 months
  • The free checked bag benefit is limited to domestic flights, making this card less valuable if you tend to fly internationally

Best credit card for travel points

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$550

16.99%-23.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 50,000 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
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 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
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Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

ValuePenguin's verdict

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is often hyped as the best travel credit card, and for good reason. The slew of premium benefits that come with it more than make up for a hefty annual fee if you travel regularly, and Chase Ultimate Rewards points are both valuable (worth at least 1.5 cents each for Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders) and highly versatile.

The annual Chase Sapphire Reserve® travel credit of $300 — which can be applied to any purchase that codes as travel, including everything from airlines and hotels to trains, buses, taxis and parking garages — brings the annual fee down to $250. The Priority Pass Select membership alone, which gets you complimentary access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide, is worth over $400. When it comes to trip insurance benefits, the coverage offered by this card — which includes primary rental car insurance, trip interruption and cancellation insurance, lost or delayed baggage insurance, travel accident insurance, emergency evacuation and emergency medical insurance — simply can't be beat.

Coronavirus updates. Until April 30, 2021, cardholders can use the “Pay Yourself Back” feature to get 1.5 cents per point redeemed for statement credits on grocery stores, home improvement, restaurant purchases or donations to eligible charities.

Benefits

  • Generous welcome bonus
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Points are worth 50% more when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards® portal
  • Transfer points at a 1:1 rate to popular airline and hotel rewards programs
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Up to $120 in DoorDash credits
  • Complimentary access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide
  • Some of the best trip insurance benefits offered by any card, including emergency evacuation and emergency medical insurance
  • $0 foreign transaction fee
  • Until Dec. 31, 2020, get back up to $120 in statement credits for an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership to take workout classes using a phone, tablet or TV.

Drawbacks

  • $550 annual fee
  • Doesn't offer elite status with any airline or hotel rewards programs

Best credit card for hotel points

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

ValuePenguin's verdict

It's hard to find another hotel credit card with a list of perks as long as what you'll get with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. In exchange for a relatively steep annual fee, you'll get a $600 in annual statement credits and a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which is worth over $400. You'll also get Diamond status with the Hilton Honors rewards program, making this the only credit card to offer top-tier status automatically to any hotel loyalty program.

The card's earn rate is generous not just on Hilton spend, but on everyday categories like U.S. restaurants and even on regular spending. That being said, this card is best for people who are Hilton-loyal and can use up the annual credits on offer, as they can only be applied to very specific purchases.

Benefits

  • Six-figure welcome bonus
  • 14X Hilton Honors Bonus Points per $1 of eligible purchases on your Card directly with a participating Hilton hotel or resort
  • Annual weekend night reward
  • $250 Hilton Resort statement credit
  • $250 airline fee credit
  • $100 property credit at participating Waldorf Astoria and Conrad Hotels & Resorts
  • Complimentary Diamond elite status
  • Complimentary access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Terms apply

Drawbacks

  • $450 annual fee
  • Limited redemption options; points are best redeemed for stays with Hilton
  • Fewer trip insurance benefits than other premium travel credit cards; card only comes with baggage insurance and secondary rental car insurance
  • Annual credits can be hard to use, especially if you don't stay at Hilton Resorts, Waldorf Astoria, or Conrad properties
  • Terms apply

Best travel credit card with no annual fee

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

ValuePenguin's verdict

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is one of the most rewarding no-annual-fee credit cards on the market, particularly if you spend a lot on dining and travel. The 3x bonus categories are far-reaching, plus points are worth 1 cent each and can be redeemed for travel, statement credits and more, making this a very flexible rewards system.

This is also one of very few no-annual-fee credit cards that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee, so it's ideal for international travelers. Keep in mind that you won't get extensive travel insurance protections with this card, so if you travel heavily, you might want to opt for a travel credit card with an annual fee and more benefits.

Benefits

  • Welcome bonus worth $200
  • Earn 3X points on eating out, ordering in and popular streaming services, 3X points on gas stations, rideshares and transit, and 3X points on travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals. Earn 1X points on other purchases.
  • Redeem points for travel, gift cards, or statement credits at 1 cent each
  • Intro APR of 0% for 12 months on purchases and 0% for 12 months on qualifying balance transfers (then a 14.49% to 24.99% (Variable) APR applies)
  • $0 annual fee
  • Foreign transaction fee: $0

Drawbacks

  • No premium travel perks like elite status or airport lounge access
  • Few travel insurance benefits, just lost luggage reimbursement and secondary rental car insurance

Best business travel credit card

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$95

15.99%-20.99% Variable

Excellent

  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee
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Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

ValuePenguin's verdict

The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card is an excellent choice for business owners who want to earn lucrative travel rewards. The card's sign-up bonus on its own is enough to save you $1,250 on travel — or even more if you transfer those points to one of Chase's airline and hotel partners.

The travel perks and trip insurance benefits are limited on this card when compared with some of the best travel credit cards, but you'll earn big on some business-related spending categories and can get employee cards at no additional cost. Just make sure you spend enough on an annual basis to make up for the $95 annual fee.

Coronavirus updates. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, cardholders can use the “Pay Yourself Back” feature to get 1.25 cents per point redeemed for statement credits on select online advertising and shipping expenses or donations to eligible charities.

Benefits

  • Huge welcome bonus worth $1,250 toward travel if you transfer those points to one of Chase's airline and hotel partners
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn.
  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal
  • You can transfer your points to a long list of Chase's airline and hotel partners at a 1:1 rate
  • You'll get trip cancellation/interruption insurance and primary rental car insurance
  • Free employee cards

Drawbacks

  • $95 annual fee
  • Sign-up bonus has a high minimum spending requirement
  • Travel insurance benefits are limited compared with top-tier travel credit cards

Best credit card for travel and dining

American Express® Gold Card

$250

See Pay Over Time APR

Excellent/Good

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
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60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

ValuePenguin's verdict

The American Express® Gold Card is one of the best options if you want to earn big on dining and groceries but prefer to spend your rewards on travel. The American Express Membership Rewards® program offers a few ways to use your points, worth 1 cent each when redeemed for travel through the Amex portal. You could potentially double that value by transferring your points to one of Amex's travel partners, which include popular airline and hotel loyalty programs.

This card is stacked with annual credits that can help you recoup the $250 annual fee, but they can be tricky to use. The $120 dining credit is doled out in $10 per month increments and can be used for purchases with Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. The $100 airline fee credit can only be used to cover incidental fees with one preselected, qualifying airline. The $100 hotel credit can only be used on reservations of at least 2 nights made though The Hotel Collection, and it can only cover charges like dining and spa services, not the cost of the room.

Benefits

  • Generous welcome bonus
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery. Additionally, earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), and 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Transfer your points to Membership Rewards® airline and hotel partners
  • Save $120 on dining in the form of $10 monthly statement credits for Grubhub, Seamless, and select partner restaurants
  • $100 airline fee credit
  • $100 hotel credit with The Hotel Collection
  • Terms apply

Drawbacks

  • $250 annual fee
  • Annual credits can be hard to use fully
  • Travel insurance protections are limited
  • Terms apply

For rates and fees of American Express® Gold Card, please click here.

Best travel credit card with lounge access

The Platinum Card® from American Express

$550

See Pay Over Time APR

Excellent/Good

  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties . Learn More.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
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75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 6 months.

ValuePenguin's verdict

The Platinum Card® from American Express earns big on certain airline and hotel purchases, and its Membership Rewards® points can be extra valuable when transferred to one of Amex's hotel or airline partners. While the card offers a long list of annual credits to recoup the annual fee, they can be hard to use. You'll get $15 per month for Uber or Uber Eats ($35 in December), but only within the United States. The airline fee credit can only be used on one preselected airline and only covers incidentals.

However, if you're looking for credit cards with airport lounge access benefits, The Platinum Card® from American Express is hard to beat. In addition to giving you access to Priority Pass™ Select lounges, you'll also get access to Delta Sky Club lounges (when flying Delta), and American Express lounges, including Amex Centurion lounges.

Benefits

  • Generous welcome bonus
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X Membership Rewards® points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Transfer your points to Membership Rewards airline and hotel partners
  • Up to $200 in statement credits for Uber and Uber Eats annually
  • Up to $100 in statement credits for Saks Fifth Avenue annually
  • Complimentary airport lounge access through The Global Lounge Collection®
  • $100 hotel credit with The Hotel Collection
  • Gold elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors
  • Trip delay/cancellation insurance, as well as emergency medical transportation coverage for travel booked through the Premium Global Assist® Hotline
  • Terms apply

Drawbacks

  • $550 annual fee
  • Annual credits can be hard to use fully
  • Bonus spending categories are narrow
  • Terms apply

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

Best travel credit card for beginners

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • On Capital One's Secure Website

$95

17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)

Excellent/Good

  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Redeem on travel—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
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Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months

ValuePenguin's verdict

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is an easy, flexible travel credit card with valuable rewards, making it a solid option for newcomers to the credit card rewards game. You'll earn a flat rate of 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, so you don't have to worry about juggling multiple rewards cards or activating bonus spending categories. Your miles can be used to "erase" travel purchases from your credit card statement within 90 days, or you can transfer them to one of Capital One's new transfer partners, making for miles that are easy to spend and potentially high-value. However, your miles will transfer at a rate of 2:1.5 for most transfer partners, making the transfer rate a little less lucrative than what's on offer by competing programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. Also, don't expect a lot of bells and whistles to accompany this card, as its moderate annual fee means you're not getting access to perks like extensive travel insurance, travel credits or airport lounge access.

Coronavirus updates. Redeem Capital One miles for recent, eligible restaurant delivery, takeout and streaming services purchases from thousands of merchants until Dec. 31, 2020.

Benefits

  • Generous welcome bonus
  • 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5x miles with Uber Eats through Jan. 31, 2021
  • Transfer your miles to 10+ different travel loyalty programs
  • Foreign transaction fee: None

Drawbacks

  • $95 annual fee
  • Light on travel perks

Best travel credit card for fair credit

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

No transaction fees for purchases outside the U.S.

ValuePenguin's verdict

If you need to build credit, your options are limited. The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is one of the best when it comes to cards that only require fair credit and still offer some benefits. While you won't be earning travel rewards with this credit card, it's one of very few cards with no annual fee — especially in the fair credit category — that don't charge foreign transaction fees. It also comes with some travel accident insurance and an auto rental collision damage waiver. The best way to use this card is to build credit by paying off your balance in full each month, especially given how high the interest rate is. You'll get access to a free credit score, which will help you monitor your progress. Once you make your way to good credit, you can apply for a more rewarding travel credit card.

Benefits

  • Rental car insurance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • $0 annual fee
  • Free credit score

Drawbacks

  • No rewards
  • High ongoing APR, so make sure not to carry a balance

What is a travel credit card?

A travel credit card offers travel-related benefits and rewards. These rewards typically include bonus points on travel spending and a rewards system with travel redemption options. The best travel credit cards even come with travel protections and perks, such as trip insurance, airport lounge access and elite status. There are three main types of travel credit cards: hotel credit cards, airline credit cards and flexible points credit cards.

Hotel credit cards

Hotel credit cards are co-branded with a hotel chain and earn points that can be redeemed for stays at that hotel. The best hotel credit cards will help you accumulate hotel points quickly while also providing perks like hotel status, annual free nights or hotel statement credits. The benefits and rewards offered by co-branded cards are typically only useful at the card's respective hotel chain.

Airline credit cards

Airline credit cards are co-branded with an airline and earn miles that can be redeemed for flights with that airline. The best airline credit cards help you earn bonus miles fast and also come with benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding, in-flight discounts and companion passes. If the card is co-branded with an airline, any perks and rewards it offers only apply to that airline and, sometimes, any partner airline.

Flexible points credit cards

Rather than being confined to one brand, flexible points credit cards earn generic points that can be redeemed for a wide range of travel purchases. These credit card points are worth 1 cent each on average and can be redeemed through the card's travel portal for hotels, flights, rental cars and sometimes cruises and activities. Some of these cards also allow you to transfer your points to a long list of airline and hotel transfer partners.

Why get a travel credit card?

Travel credit cards can help you save money on hotels, flights and more, all while making travel more comfortable with perks like elite status and airport lounge access. In addition to making travel more affordable and enjoyable, the best travel credit cards also give you critical protection with features like trip cancellation insurance and emergency evacuation coverage. It's important to understand the difference between cash back, miles and points to decide which kind of credit card is best for you. However, if you travel regularly, finding the best travel rewards credit card for your needs and adding it to your wallet will undoubtedly be beneficial.

Points and miles strategy 101

You'll want to consider both your spending and your travel goals when developing a points-and-miles strategy. On the spending side of things, analyze where most of your spending lies and look for cards that reward those spending categories.

You also need to make sure the rewards you're earning are useful to you. You should have some idea of how you want to use your points and miles. Are you looking to earn rewards that will go toward a specific vacation you have planned? Do you want to save money on your annual visits to your parents? Maybe you simply travel often and want to stockpile points and miles without a specific trip in mind. Answering these questions will guide you toward the right credit card.

To be or not to be loyal?

You'll need to figure out whether you're willing to stick with a specific airline or hotel chain, or prefer more flexible credit card points. Credit cards that are co-branded with an airline or hotel chain can help you earn lots of points or miles very quickly, but only if you're loyal to that brand and want to spend your rewards with them. You might stay with a particular hotel chain all the time for work, but if you don't plan to stay with them on vacation, the points you earn might not be as useful. Credit cards that earn generic travel points are better if you're not sure how you plan to redeem them, especially if they offer the ability to transfer your points to travel partners.


Airlines

Knowing where you typically fly and what airlines tend to fly those routes will help you develop a solid points-and-miles strategy. If your home airport is a hub for a particular airline — like the Atlanta airport is a hub for Delta or Chicago O'Hare is a hub for United — you're likely to fly with that airline. This means you'll want to consider any credit cards co-branded with that airline, but you'll also want to consider generic travel credit cards with that airline on their list of transfer partners.

If you're considering travel credit cards with premium perks, look into the airports you'll be flying out of, through and to. If you typically fly out of or through airports that don't have Priority Pass lounges but do have an American Express lounge, for example, you might lean toward The Platinum Card® from American Express.


Airline alliances

Apart from looking at how you'll earn miles, you also want to look at how you'll spend them — this is where airline alliances come into play. Many major airlines belong to airline alliances, or networks of airlines that have agreed to cooperate and, often, share benefits. This means you can usually redeem your miles for flights with any airline within the same airline alliance. The three main airline alliances are:

  • Star Alliance: United, Air Canada, Air China, ANA, Avianca, Copa Airlines, Egypt Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and more
  • SkyTeam: Delta, Aerolineas Argentinas, AeroMexico, AirFrance, Alitalia, China Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines and more
  • Oneworld: American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways and more

In other words, the airline you've pledged loyalty to might not fly to the country where you've planned a summer vacation, but you might still be able to redeem your miles with a partner airline that does.


Hotel brands

You'll also want to decide which hotel brand you're most likely to stay with. Major hotel chains include Hilton Hotels, Marriott International, Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), Wyndham Hotel Group and Choice Hotels. Each chain has a long list of brands under its umbrella. For example, Embassy Suites, the Waldorf Astoria and the DoubleTree are all brands owned by Hilton Hotels, so Hilton points can be used at all of them. Marriott owns The Ritz-Carlton, Westin, Springhill Suites and Aloft, so Marriott points can be used at any of those properties.

While Hilton and Marriott have enormous footprints and their hotels can be found in just about any city, smaller chains like Hyatt might provide a preferable experience for you. That being said, you want to make sure you'll be able to stay with the brand you choose regularly, whether you're traveling for work or pleasure. Look into destinations where you travel often or plan to travel and find out which hotel chains have properties located there. You can choose credit cards that are co-branded with the hotel of your choice, or you can go with a generic travel credit card that lists that hotel as one of its transfer partners.

How to choose a travel credit card

Types of rewards

You'll need to decide whether you want to earn hotel points, airline miles or flexible points that can be used for a variety of travel purchases. Flexible points have the obvious benefit of versatility, so they might seem like a no-brainer. However, if you stay with a specific hotel chain or fly with a preferred airline frequently enough, you might be able to earn at a faster rate by boxing yourself into one brand.

While a hotel credit card will typically earn bonus points on more narrow categories, like spending at one specific hotel chain, some cards will get you 14x points per $1 at that hotel chain. On the other hand, cards that earn flexible points might only get you 3x points per $1 on travel, but you'll earn that on all travel spending regardless of brand.

Airline/hotel preferences

If you opt for earning hotel points or airline miles, the next step is to pick a preferred brand and stick with it. Even if you decide you want flexible points, you're going to want to identify your preferred airlines and hotels as you might be able to transfer your points. The list of available transfer partners can help you choose which generic travel credit card to get.

Sign-up bonus

While the welcome bonus shouldn't be as important as the card's lasting value, it's definitely something to take into consideration. Some of these cards offer sign-up bonuses worth close to $1,000, and if you're stockpiling points for a particular travel goal, these bonuses can get you there quickly. You should also consider the minimum spending requirement for these sign-up bonuses, as some are more attainable than others.

Earning categories

One of the most important factors to consider is each card's earning categories. You want to go for a card that earns big on your main spending categories. It can be smart to estimate your annual spending in major categories like travel, dining, groceries and gas, and then compare the best travel credit cards by doing the math to figure out how much you'd earn in a year with each one.

Foreign transaction fees

Foreign transaction fees are definitely worth considering if you travel abroad. Cards that charge this fee typically charge 3% on every purchase made while in a foreign country, meaning you're shelling out $30 for every $1,000 spent while overseas. International travelers should have at least one card on hand that doesn't charge these fees, and luckily, the best travel rewards credit cards don't have foreign transaction fees.

Acceptance

If you're going to be traveling, particularly internationally, you want to make sure you have a credit card that's widely accepted. Visa and Mastercard are accepted almost anywhere that takes credit cards. American Express is catching up, but there are still some regions where merchants are less likely to accept an Amex card. Finally, there are still a lot of popular travel destinations that don't accept Discover, although they're beginning to expand their reach.

Travel insurance

It might not be the first thing you consider, but having extensive credit card travel insurance can really save your tail in the event of trip delays or a travel emergency. It can also save you money.

Having primary rental car insurance — meaning you don't have to file a claim on your personal insurance — allows you to decline a rental agency's collision coverage, which can save you hundreds if you tend to rent cars when you travel. Luggage protection is crucial if you check a bag, as airlines typically don't offer much for delayed or lost bags. Finally, trip interruption and cancellation insurance can save you thousands by reimbursing you for prepaid, qualifying travel expenses if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip for any covered reason.

Car rental insuranceLuggage protectionTrip interruption/cancellation insurance
Chase Sapphire Reserve®PrimaryUp to $3,000 per passenger for lost luggageUp to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressSecondaryUp to $3,000 per covered person$10,000 per covered trip and up to $20,000 per 12 months
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardSecondaryUp to $3,000None
Citi Prestige® Credit CardNoneNoneNone

Terms apply to American Express offers. See americanexpress.com for more details.

Global Entry/TSA Precheck

One oft-forgotten benefit offered by the best travel credit cards is up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees. Credit cards that offer free Global Entry and TSA Precheck are more common than ever, so it's worth seeking this out.

Other travel benefits

Frequent travelers should look for travel credit cards that stack up lots of benefits. If you fly often, airport lounge access is priceless. Not only does it make long connections and early flights more bearable, but the complimentary food, beverages and sometimes showers and beds offered by these lounges can actually save you money while you travel. Other benefits worth looking for include free checked baggage (if you tend to check a bag) and elite status with major airlines or hotel chains.

How to compare travel credit cards

To find the best travel credit card for your needs, you'll want to compare your options. You can do this by adding up the monetary value of the rewards you'd likely earn in a year and subtracting any fees. This gives you a clear idea of which card will save you more money.

After that, you can consider any additional benefits offered by the card, such as travel insurance, airport lounge access and elite status, and decide how much those benefits are worth to you. The table below gives you an example of how to compare two similar travel credit cards to figure out which one comes out on top. Note that the first-year value will skew heavily in favor of cards that include a sign-up bonus — make sure to consider how much value the card has beyond the first year.

First-year value comparison

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Earning rate2 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.2X points on travel and dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.
Points/miles earned ($2,000 Southwest flights, $2,000 dining, $14,000 other purchases)26,000 (including 6,000-point anniversary bonus)22,000
Sign-up bonusEarn 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.
Earn 60,000 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®.
Redemption optionsSouthwest airfareChase Ultimate Rewards travel for 25% more value, cash back for 1 cent per point, transfer to 13 travel partners, including Southwest
Target redemption optionSouthwest airfare (worth 1.5 cents/point)Southwest airfare (worth 1.5 cents/point)
Value of rewards$990$1,230
Annual fee$99$95
First year value$891$1,135
Other benefits
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • Secondary car rental insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • Primary car rental insurance
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Trip delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Free DashPash subscription for one year

Points and miles during COVID-19

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, frequent travelers stuck at home are wondering what to do with the points and miles they've accumulated, with some deciding that travel credit cards are no longer worth it. A recent ValuePenguin survey on travel credit cards in the age of coronavirus shows that millennials are most worried about losing their credit card points. The majority of cardholders are concerned about perks or points expiring, although less than half fear that they'll lose rewards because the airline, hotel or card provider might go bankrupt.

The good news is that travel credit card issuers, such as Chase and American Express, are responding to the pandemic by prolonging expiration dates and temporarily restructuring rewards. Also, many airline and hotel programs have temporarily suspended expiration of their points and miles. Cards that offer annual travel credits are allowing cardholders to use those credits for other purchases, and many travel credit cards are temporarily offering bonus points on more relevant earning categories like groceries, food delivery and streaming services. Some of the best travel credit cards are also upping the value of nontravel redemptions, so check to see if your card is offering any new redemption options that better fit your current needs.

Overall, unless you need to cash out your rewards for an emergency, it's best to sit tight with those valuable points and miles until you can travel again.

What is the best travel credit card?

The best travel credit card for you is one that offers a high earn rate in your biggest spending categories, high-value points or miles you'll actually use, and ideally, some travel-related benefits.

How do travel credit cards work?

Travel credit cards reward your spending with points or miles that can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, cruises and more. The best travel credit cards also come with perks and protections that make travel more comfortable and save you money.

What credit cards offer free travel insurance?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express come with some of the best travel insurance benefits. Look for cards that come with trip cancellation insurance, lost luggage insurance and primary rental car insurance to save money on travel and plan for unexpected itinerary changes. As for medical and travel emergency insurance, most credit cards aren't a good replacement for that, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve® does come with some travel accident insurance, emergency medical insurance, and emergency evacuation coverage.

Are travel credit cards worth it?

Travel credit cards are worth it for anyone who travels and can pay off their credit card balance in full each month. If you don't travel often enough to justify an annual fee, you can go for a no-annual-fee travel credit card. Carrying a balance, even on the best travel credit card, isn't recommended because they tend to have higher interest rates. Interest fees will eat up any travel rewards you're earning.

Does my credit card have travel insurance?

Your credit card might have some travel insurance. To find out, read your card's benefits guide, which usually comes in the mail with your credit card. You can also search for your card's benefits guide online.

Should I get a travel credit card?

If you travel at least a couple of times each year, it's worth getting a travel credit card. Just do the math to find a card with rewards and benefits that outweigh its annual fee, and make sure you'll get good use out of the points and miles you earn.

Can you combine travel points from different credit cards?

Some credit card issuers let you combine travel points from different credit cards as long as the points are part of the same rewards system. For example, you can combine the Ultimate Rewards points you earn on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® with those you earn on the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. You can also combine hotel points or airline miles from different credit cards as long as they're from the same loyalty program.

How many travel credit cards should I have?

Having more than one travel credit card can be advantageous for people who travel often. Some people like to have both an airline and a hotel credit card, while others like to juggle multiple flexible points credit cards with different earning categories so they can maximize their earnings and have access to more transfer partners. The question of how many credit cards you should have depends on your spending habits, but know that as long as you space out your credit card applications, pay your bills on time and don't run up a balance, having multiple credit cards shouldn't hurt your credit.

How do credit card travel points work?

Credit card travel points can be redeemed for a variety of travel purchases. Some credit cards come with a travel portal where you can use travel points to book flights, hotels, rental cars and more, while others let you use your points as statement credits that erase travel purchases. Others let you transfer your credit card travel points to various airline and hotel partners.

Is credit card travel insurance enough?

Depending on your needs, credit card travel insurance might be enough to cover your trip against interruptions, delays and cancellation. However, if you want to make sure you're covered medically while traveling, most credit cards don't come with extensive travel medical insurance. You might want to purchase an add-on plan or separate coverage in case of a medical emergency.

Should I get a travel credit card or cash back?

When it comes to cash back versus miles, the answer is all about your spending habits and how you prefer to redeem rewards. If you travel at least a few times per year, it's often wiser to go for a travel credit card because they come with additional benefits that make travel easier and more affordable. However, if you don't travel often or don't want to spend your rewards on travel, a cashback card is usually a better option.

What are travel points worth?

On average, travel points are worth 1 cent each. However, this varies a lot across different rewards programs, and even within each program based on how you redeem your travel points. Typically, when redeemed for travel through a rewards portal, travel points are worth 1 cent each unless your card offers a bonus on travel redemptions. However, redeeming them for cash back might only get you 0.5 to 0.7 cents each, while transferring travel points to the right airline or hotel loyalty program can get you 2 to 4 cents per point.

How do I keep my points and miles from expiring?

Most credit card points and miles don't expire as long as your credit card account is open and in good standing, so leaving your card open is your best bet. If your points are in a hotel loyalty or frequent flyer account rather than your credit card account, you typically have to have some kind of activity every 24 months. Activity can be earning or redeeming points or miles, so you can either buy or redeem some points/miles to keep your account active.

The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®. None, Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, and Capital One Platinum Credit Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.

Elizabeth is a personal finance writer specializing in credit cards, student loans, financial planning, and small business. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, and Bankrate. She’s an avid credit card points collector and ex-business traveler who now enjoys frequent trips abroad for leisure.