2019’s Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

2019’s Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: June 5, 2019
Opinions expressed here are ours alone, and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by any issuer. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines and are updated regularly.

While the internet, social media, and 24-hour news cycles have made the world a smaller place, there’s no substitute for going out and experiencing for yourself all of the wonderful things the world has to offer. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is how expensive that can be.

But don’t let the cost of travel keep you from creating invaluable memories you’ll cherish forever. Whether you’re an experienced adventurer or an airport newbie, there are dozens of credit card options that could make your next flight, hotel stay, or ride less expensive — and possibly free.

And the best part? You can reap these rewards simply by making the purchases you’re already making.

Overall | Air Miles | Hotels | Rideshare | Points | Premium | Lounge Access | No Annual Fee | Business | FAQs

Best Overall Travel Rewards Cards

It’s easy to get confused when researching the travel credit card space. Between rewards, miles, rebates, points, and bonuses, the many options — and terms to learn — can seem overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve boiled down our favorite travel rewards credit cards in every category below. No matter the flavor of rewards you prefer, there’s something here to whet your pallet.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel - $350 for the Miles you’ve earned plus $350 more with your Discover Match®.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
14.24% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Discover it® Miles card has become a standard in the travel rewards space for the hardcore miles collector. As an intro offer, Discover will match all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. It also offers a very competitive 1.5x miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.

This card offers tremendous possibilities if you’re saving up for a big trip — as miles don’t expire and can be banked throughout the year, combined with the bonus matched miles at the end of the first year, and used to take that trip of a lifetime you’ve been dreaming of.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.99% - 25.24% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card was named The Best Travel Card by CNBC in 2018 for good reason. New cardholders can earn a one-time bonus when they meet the required spend threshold that often helps them get to their next trip faster.

Cardholders can also receive up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® while earning 2X miles on every purchase. There are no blackout dates or restrictions on airline or hotel choices, and members can also transfer their earned miles to more than 12 leading loyalty programs.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card Review

at Wells Fargo'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Earn 3X points for eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points for gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points for travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months on qualifying balance transfers
16.24% to 28.24% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

With the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, new cardholders can take advantage of frequent signup bonuses and introductory APR periods that make carrying a balance easier while still earning travel rewards.

Points can add up quickly with this card, depending on your spending habits, with bonus categories and multipliers for spend at restaurants, gas stations, ride-sharing services, flights, hotels, car rentals, and many other services that travelers often frequent.

Best Air Miles Travel Rewards Card

Wherever you dream of going, you’ll likely get there faster by air than on the ground. That’s why it’s important to maximize your air miles so you can pay as little as possible for those trips through the clouds.

By selecting the right air miles credit card, you may be eligible to earn discounted fares, upgraded seating and boarding, and other perks to make your journey comfortable and memorable.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel - $350 for the Miles you’ve earned plus $350 more with your Discover Match®.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
14.24% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Discover it® Miles doesn’t limit your airline choices. Instead, the card offers a flat rewards rate that cardholders can redeem to reimburse any of their travel-related expenses. That’s an important feature, as many other cards only reimburse for certain types of fares or travel with specific airlines.

By choosing your own travel accommodations, the Discover it® Miles card truly lets you travel the way that’s most comfortable to you, without restrictions, blackout dates, or expensive fares.

Best Hotel Travel Rewards Card

After all of your adventuring, you need somewhere comfortable to lay your head at night and a place to call home during your stay. With the right hotel travel rewards credit card, you can live in luxury — without draining your travel budget.

Plus, many of the best hotel rewards cards offer added benefits — like upgraded accommodations and free nights for loyal customers. Marriott’s recent Bonvoy rebrand made the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card the program’s top-shelf rewards credit card.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card

  • 6X points on Marriott Bonvoy purchases
  • 3X points at U.S. restaurants and airfare purchased directly through the airline, 2X points on everything else
  • $450 annual fee

But the perks don’t stop there. Cardholders can also receive complimentary Gold Elite status at Marriott Bonvoy properties, an annual $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit for eligible property purchases, and one free night awarded on the cardholder anniversary each year.

Best Rideshare Travel Rewards Card

Navigating unfamiliar territory can be hard. Whether it’s the snowy Colorado mountains or the mind-numbing traffic of Los Angeles, you need a way to get to your destination without raising your frustration levels. After all, you’re on vacation!

That’s why ridesharing companies exist. Often more affordable than traditional taxi services, modern smartphones make it easier than ever to hail an Uber, Lyft, or other transportation service that allows you to relax and let your driver handle the stressful road ahead. If you’re a regular rider, the Uber Visa Card offers plenty of benefits to make travel enjoyable.

Uber Visa Card

  • 4X points on restaurants, takeout, bars, & UberEATS purchases
  • 3X points on hotel and airfare, 2X points on online purchases, and 1X points on all other spending
  • No annual fee

Points are redeemable as cash, gift cards, or Uber Cash to pay for your Uber Rides. You’ll need at least 500 points, worth $5, to get Uber Cash or 2,500 points, worth $25, to get cash back or a gift card.

Best Points Card for Travel Rewards

Sometimes, it’s easier just to earn points. Instead of accruing rewards for specific purchases — like airfare, hotel stays, or rides — points allow you to redeem your rewards for just about any travel purchase. Choose a points card without foreign transaction fees so those souvenirs aren’t heavier on your wallet than in your suitcase.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • 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 & 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, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the Swiss Army knife of travel rewards credit cards. For starters, the card offers 2X points on travel and restaurant purchases, along with other travel benefits for a smaller annual fee than its sibling card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Redemption values can increase by as much as 25% when used on airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises through the stellar Chase Ultimate Rewards® program. And, possibly best of all, the card charges no foreign transaction fees — so you can rest easy when using your card abroad.

Best Premium Travel Rewards Card

Vacations are a time to relax and decompress from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But we often find ourselves searching for seats in an airport terminal, eating pre-heated food from sticky wrappers, and pushing our way through boarding lines in hopes of finding enough overhead compartment space for our bags.

That’s not living — and it certainly isn’t relaxing. With our top premium travel rewards card, you can enjoy your journey as much as the destination without having to worry about blowing your budget before you touch down on land.

The Platinum Card® from American Express offers everything a traveler could want from a high-end card. This includes 5X Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on flights and hotels, as well as elite status with Hilton and Marriott and access to over 1,200 airport lounges, including the prestigious Amex Centurion Lounges.

Platinum Card® from American Express

  • $100 global Entry or TSA Pre✓® reimbursement every 4 years
  • $15 in Uber Cash to use for rides within the U.S. every month
  • $200 annual airline credit
  • $550 annual fee

And savvy travelers can hypercharge their rewards with a good signup bonus, which can range between 50,000 and 100,000+ points for new cardholders. These bonuses depend on the link you follow before signing up, so be sure to shop around for the best offer before taking the plunge.

Best Travel Rewards Cards with Lounge Access

If your idea of relaxing travel is squeezing into uncomfortable airport terminal seats, trying to fit your phone charger into an outlet with 10 other chargers, and hearing the person next to you cough in ways that no human should sound, then you don’t need a credit card with lounge access. But if you prefer a little more personal space while waiting for your flight, then you should consider our top choice below.

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®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.24% - 26.24% Variable
$450
Good/Excellent

Few credit cards are worth paying an annual fee, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve® may just reign supreme as the most worthy of them all. This top-shelf card pays out triple points on travel and dining purchases. Cardholders can redeem points for travel directly through Chase or choose to transfer their earnings to more than a dozen hotel and airline loyalty programs to make them even more valuable.

The card also acts as a key for you and your authorized users to access more than 1,200 VIP airport lounges worldwide with Priority Pass Select. These lounges provide amenities such as free Wi-Fi, snacks, and beverages while you wait for your flight. If you’re a frequent traveler who hates airport life, this card is like a vacation during your vacation.

Best No Annual Fee Travel Rewards Card

Annual fees aren’t for everyone. Most consumers want a credit card that rewards them for their everyday purchases without charging them for the privilege. Whether you’re saving for your dream vacation or looking to make the most of your necessary business travel, the right card — like our choice below — can earn you rewards without the hassle of an annual fee.

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 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 14.24% - 24.24% variable APR after that
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
14.24% - 24.24% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card doesn’t force cardholders to juggle spending categories or choose between special offers. Instead, the card offers a flat and unlimited 1.25X miles per dollar spent on every purchase.

Capital One also offers varying signup bonuses throughout the year that can provide added miles and extended 0% APR on purchases for new cardholders. When you’re ready to redeem your miles, you won’t have to worry about blackout dates or restrictions because the card allows you to fly and stay anywhere at any time you choose.

Best Business Travel Rewards Card

Running a business often requires being in 50 places at one time. While we haven’t yet found a credit card that offers teleportation rewards, we have settled on a top choice for business travel. A good business credit card should meet your company’s needs and also reward you for your business purchases — like the card below.

BUSINESS CARD RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem 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
18.24% - 23.24% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

With the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, you can earn richer rewards with a versatile points structure through the well-regarded Ultimate Rewards® platform. Cardholders can rack up triple points on travel, shipping, communications services, and select advertising, and use their rewards on a host of options that go well beyond travel.

And with the card’s occasional signup bonuses, you could potentially earn up to $1,000 in travel rewards just by meeting the required spending threshold in your first months as a cardholder.

How Do Travel Rewards Credit Cards Work?

The issuing bank of the travel rewards credit card you choose will essentially decide how your rewards structure works. Points and miles act very much the same, with credits accruing with every purchase you make. You can later redeem those credits for a host of rewards — including, but not limited to, statement credits, hotel stays, airfares, or cash back.

The number of points or miles you earn with each purchase will once again depend on the card you qualify for. While some cards offer a flat rewards rate ranging anywhere from one point to as much as six points per dollar spent, other cards tier their rewards based on categories.

This means that you may earn 4X points in one category, such as grocery stores or online purchases, but a lower 1X or 1.5X points on every other purchase.

Either way, you can earn points based on all of your purchases. Just be sure that, if you apply for a card with tiered rewards, that those tiers match your typical spending habits. After all, a card that offers rich rewards for gas purchases won’t mean much to you if you take public transportation every day.

And keep in mind that the cards with the highest rewards typically come with an annual fee. That fee helps to offset the credit card issuer’s costs. Some consumers can easily warrant that fee if they put enough annual spend on the card. But if you’re the type who limits your credit card purchases only to emergencies and the occasional impulse buy, then an annual fee quickly becomes a sunk cost.

In that case, it’s best to look for a card without an annual fee that offers a lower rewards rate. That way, you’ll still earn perks for the purchases you make, but you won’t have to pay annually for those rewards.

What is the Best Credit Card for Travel Rewards?

Chase Sapphire Reserve®This depends greatly on the travel goals you want to reach. If you’re a frequent traveler who prefers lounge access, discounts on TSA Pre✔®, and other benefits that make travel smoother, then you’ll likely favor the high-end Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Platinum Card® from American Express.

Discover it® Miles On the other hand, if you’re the occasional traveler who has a dream trip in mind for the future you want to save for, you’re likely better off opting for a no-annual-fee card that offers a nice signup bonus, such as the Discover it® Miles, which matches each mile you earn as a new cardholder within the first year of card ownership.

By banking the miles you earn during the year, and combining them with the bonus you receive after your first anniversary, it’s possible to get you on your way to that trip of a lifetime much faster.

Chase Ink® Business Preferred® CardIf you’re a business owner, the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card can rack up rewards for purchases you’re already making, including travel, shipping, communications services, and select advertising. And, since those purchases, and all others you make, earn coveted Ultimate Rewards® points, you won’t be limited to just travel options when it’s time to redeem your earnings.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardFinally, if you’re looking for rewards but know you tend to carry a balance on your credit cards, the best choice for you may be the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. Far too often, interest charges eat away at potential rewards earnings, outweighing the benefits of card ownership.

Since this card often has long-term 0% introductory rates — sometimes for as long as a year — you can pay off those purchases over time while still earning rewards that get you to where you want to go.

Which Credit Card is the Best for International Travel?

When it comes to credit cards, consumers tend to focus solely on costs and savings. For international travel, that often means finding a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

These fees can totally sink your vacation budget, as they charge a percentage of every charge you make to convert the purchase price into the local currency. And, if you vacation like most people, those little charges can add up to one big bill.

Choosing a card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, means you won’t have to worry about those small fees coming back to bite you. But, when it comes to international travel, it isn’t just foreign transaction fees that can derail your vacation.

Many popular tourist destinations outside of the U.S. have strict standards for the types of credit cards retailers can accept. Throughout Europe and other countries, a chip-and-PIN card is required for all purchases, whether at a store or a kiosk.

These cards feature the same EMV chip that most American cards now require, but also have an added layer of security with a private PIN. This is different than in America, where most retailers require only a signature.

If you travel abroad with a standard chip and signature card, you’re going to find shopping difficult at many destinations. And nothing ruins a day more than a rejected credit purchase.

While some card issuers can add a PIN to your card over the phone, it can sometimes take days to complete the process. Others may opt to send the PIN securely through the mail to your home address — which isn’t very convenient when you’re on the other side of the world.

If you’re planning a trip and don’t currently have a chip-and-PIN card in your wallet, now may be a good time to find a chip-and-PIN card with no foreign transaction fees.

Is it Worth Getting a Travel Credit Card?

Travel is addictive. Once you get the bug in you, you’re constantly thinking of new places and things you want to visit and experience. But not everyone craves that nomadic lifestyle.

If you have a trip planned for the near future, but don’t plan to leave home for the foreseeable future afterward, a travel rewards credit card may not be for you. A simple points rewards credit card can still help you save for your trip, but continue to provide benefits long after you’ve returned home.

These cards offer flexible redemptions that span multiple categories, while still rewarding you for every purchase you make.

Chart Comparing Values of Common Credit Card Rewards Points

If you’re not an avid traveler, a points card that offers rewards redemption options in addition to travel may be a better choice.

But, if you’re a tourist at heart and you start planning your next trip on the flight home from your current trip, then there are several travel rewards cards that may make sense for you.

These cards come in handy for trips of any length by providing perks such as lounge access or upgraded boarding and seating. You could potentially earn discounts on TSA Pre✔® or price breaks on future airline fares, hotel stays, car rentals, and even cruises.

These benefits make it easier to travel more often or to destinations that may have otherwise seemed out of your price range. Or you can use these benefits to tack on an extra day or two to your vacation, giving you time to see even more than you otherwise would have.

Take Advantage of Signup Bonuses for Free Travel Rewards

Unless you’re planning a cross-country vacation by bicycle, why would you sign up for a credit card and not take advantage of the signup bonuses offered? After all, skipping these bonuses means you’ll have to work a lot harder to get to where you want to go.

Many of the best travel rewards credit cards offer generous bonuses for meeting a certain level of spend within the first three to six months of card ownership. These bonuses are typically paid out in points or miles that can often provide hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of dollars in travel rewards.

Some cards offer creditworthy new cardholders occasional sign-up bonuses as high as 100,000 points worth more than $1,000 in travel rewards.

All of these benefits help make the world a little more accessible to the everyday traveler. With the right travel rewards credit card, you can stop admiring your friends’ vacation pictures on social media and start sharing your own adventures around the globe.