The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, September 26, 2020

15 Best Credit Cards for Travel Miles

Best Credit Cards For Travel Miles

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Posted: September 25, 2019
Advertiser Disclosure

People generally don’t like to stay in the same place for too long. In fact, travel and tourism generated more than 10% of all global economic activity in 2018. Whether you’re planning your next big getaway or want to save a few dollars on a quick weekend excursion, a good way to maximize your vacation time is with one of the best credit cards for travel miles.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a travel junkie like the rest of us. And no matter what your travel plans look like, we have an option for you.

Overall | No Fees | No Restrictions | Signup Bonus | Business | FAQs

Best “Overall” Cards for Travel Miles

A good travel miles credit card is like a Swiss Army knife. It should offer discounts, upgrade opportunities, and other perks and rewards valuable to travelers without charging outrageous fees for the privilege.

We’ve researched the field extensively and narrowed down our top overall choices to the three cards below — partly because they checked off all of the boxes that we’d personally want in a travel miles credit card.

  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

Not only does the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card regularly provide generous signup bonuses for new cardholders, but reviews also show average starting credit limits hovering around $10,000. One reviewer claimed to receive a $15,000 credit limit with a 662 credit score.

All cardholders receive 2X miles on every purchase made, as well as 10X miles on hotels. The added $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® makes this card a top choice.

2. Discover it® Miles

This card is currently not available.

Best Overall Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Discover it® Miles card is a very popular card amongst frequent travelers. Use this card to book your vacations, hotels, and flights, earning miles rewards for every purchase made. Many consumers use the promotion to save their miles throughout the year, then double them on their card anniversary to take a big trip, possibly for free!

And since you earn miles for every dollar spent, you can rack up rewards quickly just by using the card for purchases you’re already making.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • 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 & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99%-23.99% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, you can earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. But the key to this card is how you can use the points. The Chase Ultimate Rewards program remains one of the most popular rewards portals in the credit card space and offers tremendous choices for how you redeem your miles — even allowing you to transfer them to your favorite airline or hotel loyalty program to maximize their value.

Best “No Fee” Cards for Travel Miles

What good are rewards if you just give them back in the form of fees? And these charges can pop up in many different ways — be it annual fees, redemption fees, or the dreaded foreign transaction fee that charges you for every purchase you make abroad.

The cards we’ve listed below won’t surprise you with any charges and will still reward you handsomely for using the card.

4. Discover it® Miles

This card is currently not available.

Air Miles Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Discover it® Miles card is an excellent choice for those seeking air miles and other travel rewards. With a low APR and friendly introductory terms, it’s also attractive to those who want the benefits of a robust rewards program without hefty fees. Save your points all year and travel with the peace of mind that there won’t be a surprise bill in your inbox when you get home.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card features no annual or foreign transaction fees and offers a decent signup bonus to new cardholders. On top of the bonus miles you can earn for reaching certain spending thresholds, Capital One also typically offers an introductory period, often up to 12 months, with 0% interest charges.

6. Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

This card is currently not available.

Bank of America® Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card pays out points instead of miles, but the rewards are the same, regardless of the name. Cardholders can redeem their points for statement credits to cover the cost of flights, hotel stays, or other travel-related expenses, which means there are no restrictions on which airline or hotel brand you choose for your trip.

Best “No Restrictions” Cards for Travel Miles

Some credit card companies like to place restrictions on when and where you can redeem your rewards, but that’s no way to treat a loyal customer. Our top choices below let you travel freely and never limit your booking options.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card doesn’t impose blackout dates or airline restrictions. Your miles never expire, as long as your account remains open and in good standing. You can even transfer your miles to more than 12 leading loyalty programs to boost their value.

8. Discover it® Miles

This card is currently not available.

Air Miles Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

With the Discover it® Miles card, you won’t face any of those pesky restrictions — because Discover doesn’t place rules on how you spend your miles. All you have to do is pay for your travel accommodations using your card — through whichever provider you prefer — and then use your miles to redeem a statement credit for those charges.

9. Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

This card is currently not available.

Bank of America® Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card lets you book your trip through any agency or website you prefer. Once you’ve accrued enough points from all of your purchases, you can redeem your rewards as a statement credit that helps cover your expenses. Points never expire, so you can save them up and cash them in whenever you choose.

Best “Signup Bonus” Cards for Travel Miles

A credit card signup bonus is a great way to instantly earn a lot of miles that can help you save quite a bit on travel accommodations for an upcoming trip. The cards below offer large signup bonuses to new cardholders who meet certain spending thresholds.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 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 airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 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 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® cardholders can unlock up to 60,000 bonus points after spending at least $4,000 on purchases in their first three months with the card. Most people can reach that mark just by paying their monthly bills with the card and then paying them off as soon as the charges post. Once you hit the spending minimum, you’ll automatically earn the points, which earn the most value when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

11. Discover it® Miles

This card is currently not available.

Air Miles Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Discover it® Miles card offers one of the best-known rewards programs in the credit card space. This card is perfect for those avid travelers looking to earn as many travel rewards as possible while simultaneously avoiding hefty fees and interest. Save your miles all year long, and cash them in to pay for an adventure of your choosing.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • 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 & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99%-23.99% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

New Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders currently earn 50,000 bonus points after spending at least $4,000 on purchases in their first three months with the card. The card was named the Best Premium Travel Credit Card in 2018 and offers a ton of value to consumers, including a $300 annual travel credit.

Best “Business” Cards for Travel Miles

Running a business isn’t cheap — especially when your company requires you to make long commutes or regularly travel for meetings and conferences. But, with a good business miles card, like those listed below, you can get to where you need to be without blowing your annual budget on travel accommodations.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99%-20.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card rewards you for traveling — to the tune of 3X points on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary. Earnings like those can add up quickly, especially when you consider that each point is worth 25% more if you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

14. Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business

This card is currently not available.

Air Miles Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business cardholders can earn an unlimited 2x miles for every dollar spent — as well the same miles rate on all purchases made using any of the free employee cards Capital One offers. This card also typically offers signup bonuses that provide cash rewards if you reach certain spending thresholds.

15. Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business

This card is currently not available.

Air Miles Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

As a Capital One® Spark® Miles Select for Business cardholder, you can earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all of your purchases and take advantage of 0% interest for a period. That’s perfect if you’re planning a big trip or a large purchase for your company. The card also charges no annual fee, unlike its Spark Miles sibling.

How Do Travel Miles Work on Credit Cards?

Each card provides a different set of rules and regulations for how its miles or points work. Some cards, such as the Discover it® Miles and Capital One® Venture® Rewards, place no limitations on how you spend your miles. Others may restrict you to redeeming your rewards for travel during certain times of the year or with certain airlines or hotel chains.

You earn miles just as you would cash back. You’ll get a certain number of points or miles — and that number is unique to every card — every time you use your card. The miles accrue until you’re ready to redeem them.

How to Earn Credit Card Rewards

How you redeem them will also depend on the card you choose. The two cards mentioned above allow you to cash your miles in for a statement credit.

Other cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, will allow you to shop using your points on its Chase Ultimate Rewards platform. Your miles will have varying value depending on how you spend them in the portal.

For example, miles are worth 25% more if you redeem them with a Chase partner to purchase a flight, hotel stay, or other travel accommodation. You can redeem your miles for cash back at a slightly lower rate. You can also use them to purchase merchandise, event tickets, and several other items or experiences.

Chase, along with a few other card issuers, also allow you to directly transfer your miles to a partnered loyalty program — meaning you can purchase frequent flyer miles with your favorite airline or loyalty points with your preferred hotel, using the points or miles you’ve earned.

Which Credit Card Gives You Miles on Any Airline?

Flexibility is important when you’re traveling. That’s why it’s smart to shop for a credit card that doesn’t limit your airline or hotel choices. After all, if you’re limited to only certain airlines, you may find no available flights on your desired departure or return date — or you may find flights that depart or land at inconvenient times.

What’s the point of saving miles if you can’t use them when and where you want to?

If you don’t want restrictions on how you travel, you should consider the Discover it® Miles, Capital One® Venture® Rewards, or Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card. These cards get around restrictions by allowing you to use your earned rewards to refund previous purchases.

So you can pick your flight, enjoy the ride, and then use your miles for up to six months after your trip to reimburse your card for qualifying travel expenses. Since the rewards reflect as a statement credit on your card, it doesn’t matter which company you choose for your trip.

And you aren’t limited to reimbursements only on flights — each card will allow you to use your accrued rewards to earn statement credits for hotel stays, car rentals, ride-sharing services, and several other travel-related expenses. Some cards even offer trip cancellation or interruption protection that helps you recoup losses when your travel plans change.

There are many miles credit cards on the market. Each has its pros and cons. But when it comes down to the basics, you can never go wrong with a card that allows you to use your earned rewards any way you want to.

How Many Miles Does it Take to Get a Free Flight?

This depends greatly on the card you choose. Every issuer places a different value on their points and miles when it comes time to redeem them.

The easiest way to translate value is to look at a card that offers a flat miles rate — like the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card. With this card, you earn an unlimited 1.25 miles for every dollar spent on the card. So, for every $100 you spend, you get 125 miles.

On average, a flight costs between 12,000 and 40,000 miles — depending on the airline and overall cost of the flight. So, getting to the low-end of that range would require $9,600 in spending on the card.

Cards that offer points and miles will each have different redemption policy procedures. For example, the Chase family of cards uses the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for redemptions.

How to Earn a Signup Bonus

This allows you to use your points to purchase various services, merchandise, or experiences. But the value of your points will change depending on how you use them.

With Chase, purchasing airline tickets will yield a better return than getting cash back. But the number of points it takes to purchase the tickets will depend on the airline you choose as well as the overall cost of the flight you want to purchase.

A rule of thumb, though, is that you need to typically spend around $100 using your credit card to earn around $5 in rewards. So, if you have your eye on a $300 flight, it could take up to $6,000 in spending before you can outright pay for the entire trip using your miles.

The easiest way to obtain a free flight fast is through a signup bonus. Many cards offer a signup bonus for new members — like those mentioned above — meaning you’ll get a large number of points or miles to use as soon as you reach certain spending thresholds.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® currently offers 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 or more in your first three months with the card. That means you’ll earn points on the money you spent, plus the bonus points, which equals approximately $750 in travel funds — enough for a free flight to many destinations.

Get Where You Want to Go with a Miles Card

The travel industry was responsible for 1 in 5 of all new jobs created worldwide in 2018 — ahead of sectors such as healthcare, information technology, and financial services. That’s because people love to travel, and there are so many great credit cards for travel miles on the market today that make it easier to see the world.

Whichever card you choose as your travel companion, make sure it offers low fees and no hidden charges that offset the value of your miles.

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