The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards (2021)

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Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Paying for your everyday expenses with cashback credit cards is an easy way to make some extra money you can use for anything, including travel. But if you do a lot of traveling or if you’re planning for an upcoming trip, a good travel rewards credit card will give you more bang for your buck.

Of course, the benefit of a cashback or cash rewards credit card is the fact that you can use the cash in any way you choose. Travel rewards cards are sometimes a little more restrictive, but the value of those rewards will often exceed what you would earn with a cashback credit card. There may be other additional benefits or perks for travelers as well, like upgrades, no fees for foreign transactions, and more.

Most travel rewards cards use points or miles, so you’ll need to understand the cash value of those miles or points and how it works. The good news is, it’s not difficult. If a card earns 1x points or miles, that means you’ll earn one point or one mile for each dollar spent (the equivalent to 1% cashback). Some cards, as you’ll see below, allow you to get extra value for points that you redeem for travel.

This article will help you find the best travel rewards credit cards and get a basic understanding of how they work, so you can determine the right one for your own situation.

See some of our other recommended credit cards:

The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Capital One Venture

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Capital One Venture Card

Vital Dollar rating

Vital Dollar rating

Vital Dollar rating

$1,250 Bonus
Redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards

$900 Bonus

Redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards

$500 Bonus

If you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months

Earn 2x points on travel and dining

Earn 3x points on travel and dining

Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent

Choosing the Right Travel Rewards Card for You

With so many great choices, it can be a little daunting to choose the right card. When assessing cards, there are some factors that should be considered.

An Impressive Introductory Bonus

There are some impressive introductory bonuses to jump-start your points or miles. Just remember that if the spending requirement is too high, you may struggle to qualify, so be realistic about your spending habits.

For example, the Chase requires a $4,000 spend in the first three months for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card card to receive a bonus of 100,000 points ($1,250 of free travel). The Capital One VentureOne Card only requires that you spend $500 to qualify for the bonus, but that bonus is only worth $200. The $1,000 bonus from Chase is the better option, as long as your normal spending habits will allow you to reach $4,000 in the first three months without unnecessary expenses.

Special Perks

While the best travel rewards credit cards all offer special perks, look for a card with perks that appeal to your spending habits and lifestyle. These perks will usually increase in importance for those who travel frequently.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

Foreign transaction fees can quickly rack up for frequent travelers, so look for a card that doesn’t charge a fee every time you use the card internationally unless you’re only planning to use that card in the U.S.

Annual Fees

Some of the best travel rewards credit cards come with very high annual fees. The fee may be worth paying if you use the card enough and earn rewards that far outweigh the annual fee, but it really depends on your own usage (for example, the Platinum Card from American Express has a hefty fee, but you can enjoy some serious rewards that are well worth it if it matches your spending habits and travel plans). Be sure you consider the annual fee when you’re evaluating cards, and remember that some cards waive the fee for the first year.

The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is easily our top recommendation for travel rewards. It offers the best signup bonus available right now. You’ll get 100,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 on purchases during the first three months. Those 100,000 points are worth $1,000 in cash back or worth $1,250 in travel if you redeem the points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. This portal adds 25% more value to Preferred card points, which is a significant perk.

Cardholders can enjoy double points (2 points per dollar) on all airfare, car rentals, hotel rooms, and dining at restaurants, with 1 point for every dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.

Cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred who also hold a Freedom Flex, Freedom Unlimited or other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards can combine points, so your rewards can add up even more quickly. This means the points you earn with the Freedom Flex or Freedom Unlimited cards will be worth more, thanks to also holding the Sapphire Preferred. As a result, this card is perfect for anyone who wants to maximize rewards.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred does come with a $95 annual fee, but this can easily pay for itself thanks to the excellent rewards and redemption options.

Highlights:

  • 100,000 points signup bonus, which equals $1,250 of travel if points are redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn one point for every dollar spent
  • Earn double points on travel and dining expenses
  • Save 25% on your points (including points earned with other Chase cards) when you use them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • $95 annual fee

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred

2. Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers an excellent signup bonus, although it is not quite as good as the bonus offered with the Sapphire Preferred. If you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, you’ll get 60,000 bonus points. These points are equal to $600 in cash back or worth $900 in travel if booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

However, this is not the only reason to choose this card. Based on your account anniversary, you will receive $300 in statement credit per year to cover your travel expenses, including airfare and hotels. You’ll also earn three points for every dollar spent on qualifying travel and dining, with one point per dollar on everything else. You can also increase the value of your points by 50 percent when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, which can save you loads of money.

The 50% increase in value applies to all Chase Ultimate Rewards points, so if you also hold the Chase Freedom Flex card for example, your rewards from that card will be worth 50% more as well.

In addition to the points structure and added bonuses, you can enjoy free access to airport lounges at more than 1,000 locations worldwide.

The Sapphire Preferred Card does come with a hefty $550 annual fee. The $300 statement credit per year will soften the blow, but it’s still a significant fee. Those who travel extensively will find the rewards and perks to be worth the cost, but the Sapphire Preferred with its much lower annual fee is a better choice for most consumers.

Highlights:

  • 60,000 points signup bonus, which equals $900 of travel if points are redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn one point for every dollar spent
  • Earn triple points on travel and dining expenses
  • Save 50% on your points (including points earned with other Chase cards) when you use them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • $550 annual fee
  • $300 in statement credit each year for travel-related expenses
  • Free access to airport lounges

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve

3. Capital One Venture Card

Capital One Venture Card

If you love to travel frequently, the Capital One Venture is a very attractive option. In the first year, Capital One will waive the $95 annual fee, and you will receive 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in the first three months. This is equal to $500 of travel. You can also earn an additional $50,000 bonus miles if you spend a total of $20,000 in your first 12 months with the card.

You can earn two miles for every $1 spent with no limits, making it simple to understand the rewards you’re earning.

There are no restrictions or blackout dates for redemption, and you can stay at any hotel or fly any airline. It is also possible to transfer miles to more than 10 leading travel loyalty programs.

You’re not limited to claiming your rewards on just airlines, as you can redeem them for a myriad of travel expenses, including theme park tickets, auto rentals, and hotel accommodation.

Another benefit of the Capital One Venture card is that you may be eligible for reimbursement of TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry application fee, which is worth up to $100. The card also does not charge foreign transaction fees. This can add up to some serious savings, as the average foreign transaction fee is 3 percent, so frequent travelers will find this a great incentive.

Highlights:

  • 50,000 mile signup bonus ($500) if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • An additional 50,000 mile bonus if you spend at least $20,000 in the first 12 months.
  • Earn 2 miles (equal to $0.02) for every $1 spent
  • $95 annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Learn more about the Capital One Venture Card

4. The Platinum Card from American Express

American Express Platinum Card

The Platinum Card from American Express isn’t for everyone; there is a sizable $550 annual fee. However, the Platinum Card does offer some enticing benefits for those who travel enough to offset the annual fee.

You can enjoy a 75,000 point bonus if you make $5,000 of purchases in the first 6 months. You’ll earn five points for every dollar spent on flights booked using American Express Travel or directly with the airline (which can really add up if you fly a lot). There is also one point for every dollar on every other purchase.

Other benefits of the card include Platinum Club Concierge services to help with your travel arrangements, buying gifts, or obtaining event tickets. You’ll also receive a credit of $85 or $100 for TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fees, respectively. You can earn up to $200 each year in statement credit to cover your travel fees including in-flight meals, luggage costs, or similar charges associated with a qualifying airline. You may also be eligible for up to $200 per year in Uber savings.

The Platinum Card also allows you to enroll in Priority Pass Select and enjoy complimentary access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, so you can wait for your flight in complete comfort.

Highlights:

  • 75,000 point welcome bonus
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent on flights
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • $550 annual fee
  • Many perks for frequent travelers

Learn more about the Platinum Card from American Express

5. Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Capital One VentureOne

The Capital One VentureOne card tends to avoid the spotlight in the shadows of the Venture Rewards card, but there are some unique and generous benefits. For starters, there’s no annual fee, and you can enjoy 1.25 miles for every dollar spent. While this isn’t as high as the reward structure offered with the Venture Rewards card, there are “no strings.”

The most attractive feature of this card is the one-time 20,000 miles bonus if you spend $500 within three months of account opening, which is equal to $200 in travel.

You can also transfer your miles to 10+ leading travel loyalty programs with no blackout dates, miles expiration or foreign transaction fees. You’ll enjoy a zero percent introductory rate on purchases for the first twelve months.

The VentureOne is considered a “no strings” card as there is no annual fee, even after the first year, unlike many cards that implement a sizable annual fee. While you may not earn as many miles or points as some other travel reward cards, you don’t need to try and offset against any annual fees. It’s an ideal travel card for those who don’t travel enough to offset a high annual fee from some of the other leading travel rewards cards.

Highlights:

  • 20,000 miles signup bonus ($200 cash value)
  • Earn 1.25 miles for every $1 spent
  • No annual fee

Learn more about the Capital One VentureOne

6. Citi Premier

Citi Premier

The Citi Premier card is a solid option thanks to the rewards you’ll earn. You’ll get 3x points (3 points for every dollar spent) on airfare, hotels, gas, groceries, and dining. All other purchases will earn 1x points.

The card also has a generous sign up bonus of 60,000 points, which can be redeemed for $600 in gift cards at thankyou.com.

There is a $95 annual fee, which may be offset by the points you’ll earn for your purchases. There are also no foreign transcation fees on purchases made with this card.

Highlights:

  • 60,000 point signup bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 3x points on travel, dining, and supermarket purchases
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

Learn more about the Citi Premier card

7. Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card allows you to earn reward nights at Ritz Carlton or Marriott Starwood properties. You can earn six points for every dollar spent at over 6,000 participating properties, with two points on all other purchases. The points do not expire unless your card is not used for 24 months.

While it’s not the best general travel rewards card, this is an excellent choice for anyone who frequently stays at Marriott properties.

There is also a generous introductory bonus of 75,000 points provided you spend $3,000 within 3 months of opening the account. You can use those points for a stay at a huge number of Marriott-owned hotels and resorts. The number of points needed for a night will vary depending on when and where you go.

The card also provides a number of travel-related benefits including Free Night Awards valued at 35,000 points, automatic Silver Elite Status, and a path to Gold Status.

The main advantage of this card is that you are generously rewarded when you are brand loyal. You can offset the $95 annual fee with stays in over 6,900 locations including an additional free night on your account anniversary.

There are no foreign transaction fees, and you can enjoy coverage with baggage delay insurance, trip interruption insurance, Visa Signature Concierge Service, and lost luggage reimbursement. This excellent package provides you with coverage for unreimbursed expenses such as hotel stays and meals if your flight is delayed for more than 12 hours. There is also up to $100 per day for five days if your luggage is delayed on your trip. If your bags are damaged or lost, there is up to $3,000 per passenger cover for you and your immediate family.

The card also provides access to the Marriott Bonvoy program, so you can progress from Silver to Gold and Platinum Elite status for stays at participating hotels. Higher tiers attract additional bonuses, including complimentary room upgrades, enhanced in-room internet access and guaranteed late checkout.

Highlights:

  • 75,000 points signup bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 6 points per $1 spent at participating hotels and resorts
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Free Night Award (up to 35,000 points) every year after your account anniversary
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee

Learn more about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

8. American Express Gold/Rose Card

American Express Gold Card

The American Express Gold or Rose Card has a lot to offer for those whose spending habits will offset the $250 annual fee. For starters, new cardholders can get a bonus of 60,000 membership rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.

You’ll earn 4x membership rewards points for purchases at restaurants and grocery stores, 3x membership rewards points for flights booked on amextravel.com, and 1x rewards points for all other purchases.

This card also brings some additional perks, with the most noteworthy one being no foreign transaction fees.

Highlights:

  • 60,000 point signup bonus if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 4x membership rewards points at grocery stores and restaurants
  • Earn 3x membership rewards points on flights booked at amextravel.com
  • Earn 1x membership rewards points on all other purchases
  • $250 annual fee

Learn more about the American Express Gold Card

The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Capital One Venture

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Capital One Venture Card

Vital Dollar rating

Vital Dollar rating

Vital Dollar rating

$1,250 Bonus
Redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards

$900 Bonus

Redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards

$500 Bonus

If you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months

Earn 2x points on travel and dining

Earn 3x points on travel and dining

Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent

The Best Business Credit Cards

1. Chase Ink Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Chase Ink Preferred is our top-rated travel rewards card for business owners, but only if you charge an average of $5,000 per month to your credit card. One of the primary perks of this card is a massive signup bonus of 100,000 points, which is worth $1,250 of travel if the points are redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. However, you need to spend at least $15,000 in the first 3 months, which means this card isn’t for everyone.

The ongoing rewards are also enticing. You’ll earn 3x points (3 points per $1 spent) on travel and select business categories (advertising, shipping, internet access, cable and phone services) up to $150,000 per year. All other purchases will earn 1x points.

This card offers the same perk as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The Chase Ink Preferred comes with a $95 annual fee, which is competitive with many other leading business and travel rewards cards.

Highlights:

  • 100,000 point signup bonus if you spend $15,000 in the first 3 months
  • 3x points per $1 spent on travel and select business categories, up to $150,000 per year
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • Points are worth 25% more (including points earned with other Chase cards) when you use them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • $95 annual fee

Learn more about the Chase Ink Preferred card

2. Business Platinum from American Express

American Express Business Platinum

The Business Platinum card from American Express is a great choice for those who travel extensively. You’ll earn an incredible 5x points for expenses on airfare and hotels, as well as 1.5x points on any purchase over $5,000. All other purchases will earn 1x points.

The card also offers a huge signup bonus of 100,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $15,000 in the first 3 months with the card. Use your points to book flights and you’ll get an impressive 35% of the points back.

The downside of this card is the $595 annual fee. Business owners who spend a lot of travel may find the rewards and perks of this card more than offset the annual fee, but this card isn’t the best choice for the average person.

Highlights:

  • 100,000 point signup bonus if you spend $15,000 in the first 3 months
  • 5x points on airfare and hotels
  • 1.5x points on purchases over $5,000
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • $595 annual fee

Learn more about the Business Platinum card from American Express

3. American Express Business Gold

American Express Business Gold

The American Express Business Gold card is an excellent choice for business owners that spend a lot of money on advertising. You’ll earn 4x points (4 points for every dollar spent) in two categories of your choice. You’ll be able to choose from advertising, airfare, shipping, gas, dining, and more. Those points can really add up quickly. All other purchases will earn 1x points.

There is also a signup bonus of 70,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend $10,000 in the first 3 months. Use your points for eligible flights and you’ll get 25% of the points back.

This card does have an annual fee of $295, so you’ll need to be sure that the rewards from your regular expenses will more than offset that fee.

Highlights:

  • 70,000 point signup bonus if you spend $10,000 in the first 3 months
  • 4x points on your choice of two categories, including airfare, gas, dining, shipping, and advertising
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • $295 annual fee

Learn more about the American Express Business Gold card

Which card is right for you? The answer to that question will depend on your spending and travel habits. Our top recommendation is the Chase Sapphire Preferred due to its enormous signup bonus, competitive ongoing rewards, and 25% extra value on your points if you redeem the points through Chase Ultimate Rewards.




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