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Thursday, May 30, 2024

7 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards (Feb. 2024)

Best Travel Credit Cards
Ashley Fricker

Written by: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Advertiser Disclosure

Traveling is something most everyone loves to do – whether it’s hitting the open road, flying the friendly skies, or cruising the ocean blue – it’s always a welcome break in our normal day-to-day routines. The obvious problem, of course, is that vacationing can be expensive, so many of us don’t get to do it as often as we’d like to.

Finding the best travel credit cards can be extremely valuable when you’re establishing your next vacation budget. Simply use the card to make your everyday purchases, and you’ll simultaneously earn points and miles that can be redeemed for things like free or discounted hotel stays, plane tickets, rental cars and more, making the cost of your next vacation that much more affordable.

Different travel rewards cards serve different purposes, so there are definitely some considerations to think over, mostly dependent on what kind of travel you’re into. We’ve compiled all of our experts’ top picks — including air miles, hotels, car rentals, travel insurance, travel points, and more — which you can skip ahead to using the links below:

International Travel | Air Miles | Hotel Stays | Car Rentals | Sign-Up Bonus
Travel Insurance | Prepaid/Debit | Travel Points

Best “International Travel” Credit Cards

When it comes to traveling abroad, there are a few things to be cognizant of when using credit for your purchases. For one, chip-n-pin technology has been used in Europe and other countries long before it made its way to the U.S., so if you’re carrying an older card around without chip-card technology, you may find yourself asking the cashier to enter the card manually (which can be tricky in a foreign language).

Another important factor — if not the most important — is foreign transaction fees. You’re definitely going to want a card without foreign transaction fees as these can quickly become an added expense to your trip you didn’t take into account. Below are some great options to use for international travel with no foreign transaction fees:

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy up to 6 months of complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

These cards will ensure you don’t pay an additional fee every time you swipe your card in another country. Plus, the Visa and Mastercard branding offers wider acceptance internationally, as opposed to their American Express and Discover counterparts.

Best “Air Miles” Credit Cards

This is your Captain (obvious) speaking: Air miles cards give you the opportunity to earn and redeem air miles for free or discounted flights. There’s actually a community of people who churn through these cards as a hobby/lifestyle, earning enough miles to fly the globe, mostly in first class, for free! Most of us, however, would be thrilled with just a free pair of tickets to Anywhere, U.S.A., and these cards can certainly help you achieve that.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Unlimited Mile-for-Mile match for all new cardmembers—only from Discover. Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. You could turn 35,000 Miles to 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase
  • No annual fee
  • Turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% - 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X 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
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

With the ability to fly any airline, anytime, these cards won’t restrict you to a certain airline or certain times of the year, which many air miles cards are known to do. Imagine not being able to redeem your points for a summer vacation you’ve been planning for months, because, unbeknownst to you, it falls on a blackout date.

Best “Hotel” Credit Cards

Hotel travel rewards, similar to air miles, allow you to earn and redeem points good for free or discounted hotel stays. While a card that won’t restrict you to a certain hotel chain is definitely nice, some hotel co-branded offers are tough to beat, and generally offer elite status perks for its hotels, including room upgrades and additional discounts on stays.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
21.49%-28.49% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

If you have a favorite hotel where you prefer to stay when you travel, it goes without saying to check out that hotel’s co-branded card if they offer one (Marriott and Hilton do), as it makes sense to earn rewards toward your hotel of choice.

Best “Car Rental” Credit Cards

When using a credit card to pay for a rental car, one of the biggest advantages is the included rental insurance that comes with some credit cards, which typically acts as secondary coverage to your own auto insurance policy.

However – and this is a big however – some cards only offer secondary coverage, and many do not offer the rental insurance if you use your rewards to pay for the vehicle, requiring at least one day of your rental paid for on your card.

But you’re in luck because the Chase Sapphire cards not only offer primary rental car insurance, but cardholders still qualify for the rental coverage when the vehicle is booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $1125 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™; Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
22.49%-29.49% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
21.49%-28.49% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

Another benefit of using a Chase card for car rentals, according to CreditCards.com, is that they have no exclusions for rentals outside of the U.S., whereas some issuers limit coverage in other countries.

Best “Sign-Up Bonus” Credit Cards

Some people sign up for a travel rewards card just long enough to spend the minimum required to earn the bonus, redeem said bonus, and either stow the card away or cancel it altogether — that’s how powerful a sign-up bonus can be. In fact, the cards below offer such impressive bonuses that they can be redeemed for hundreds of dollars’ worth of travel right off the bat.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
21.49%-28.49% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent
Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% to 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

Travel credit cards are known for offering some of the best sign-up bonuses — but they’re always changing — so if you find a good deal you’re happy with, jump on it before it’s gone.

Best “Travel Insurance” Credit Cards

Chase Bank tops our list of cards offering the best travel insurance protection. While many issuers limit coverage to you and your immediate family (spouse and children), Chase includes the whole gang. According to Chase’s guide benefits, this includes your spouse or domestic partner and their children, including adopted children or step-children; legal guardians or wards; siblings or siblings-in-law; parents or parents-in-law; grandparents or grandchildren; aunts or uncles; nieces or nephews. The following Chase cards provide travel accident insurance, luggage protection, and trip cancellation insurance:

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $1125 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™; Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
22.49%-29.49% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
21.49%-28.49% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

Be aware that issuers vary wildly in both their policies and deadlines for filing claims — you can refer to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® guide to benefits here and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card guide to benefits here.

Best “Prepaid” Travel Credit Cards

The benefits of using a prepaid card for travel are many. For one, some would argue that making purchases on a prepaid card is safer than using a debit or credit card because your bank account is not tied to the card. It also allows you to budget for your trip, being that you can only spend the amount loaded onto the card (though you can continue to load the card as needed), and you can still withdraw cash from an ATM as you would with a debit card — just be mindful of ATM fees. Additionally, the currency will automatically be converted in other countries, avoiding pesky foreign transaction fees. Below are some of our favorite prepaid travel cards:

Discover® Cashback Debit Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Cashback – Earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month
  • No. Fees. Period. That means you won’t be charged an account fee on our Cashback Debit account.
  • Early Pay – Get your paycheck up to two days early with no charge
  • No Credit Impact - You can apply without affecting your credit score.
  • Fraud Protection - You’re never responsible for unauthorized debit card purchases. If you suspect someone else has used your debit card without your permission, let us know.
  • Member FDIC
  • Fee-free overdraft protection
  • No minimum opening deposit and no minimum balance
  • Add cash into your account at Walmart stores nationwide
  • Cash access at over 60,000 no-fee ATMs nationwide
  • 100% US-based customer service available 24/7
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
$0
No Credit Needed
Chime® Checking Account Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

  • Your Chime Checking Account comes with a Chime Visa® debit card, no monthly fees or maintenance fees.
  • Avoid out-of-network ATM fees and access to 60,000+ fee-free ATMs¹ — more than the top 3 national banks combined!
  • Direct deposits arrive up to 2 days early.²
  • Disclosures: Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services and debit card provided by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC.
  • ¹Out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees may apply except at MoneyPass ATMs in a 7-Eleven, or any Allpoint or Visa Plus Alliance ATM.
  • ²Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. We generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
$0
Not applicable

We suggest choosing a prepaid card you won’t have to worry about not being able to use, like a Mastercard or Visa-branded card, as American Express and Discover are not as widely accepted.

Best Overall “Travel Points” Credit Card

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s one card, in particular, that’s appeared in many of these categories, and that’s the Sapphire Preferred, offered through Chase Bank. Between the awesome sign-up bonus, travel insurance, no foreign transaction fees, and being named MONEY Magazine’s “Best Credit Card” for travel rewards, it’s an all-around great card.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
21.49%-28.49% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

The card requires applicants have excellent credit scores to be approved, though some have claimed they were approved with a credit score in the high 600s. And it does carry an annual fee — as do most cards with awesome perks — but it is waived the first year for new cardholders.

Are Your Bags Packed Yet?

Wherever your next vacation may take you, having the right card in your wallet can make your trip that much more secure and affordable. By choosing a card that offers rewards and perks geared toward your preferred method of travel, you’ll know you’re acquiring valuable points, miles, and protections that are useful to you, without the restrictions.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.