This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.
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Whether you’re headed to a meditation retreat in Sedona or a lakeside castle in the Dolomites, everyone loves to feel pampered when they travel. Travel credit cards can help you easily upgrade your trip with perks that feel luxurious. Whether it’s access to a bougie lounge, seat upgrades to business class or free Global Entry, travel credit cards are a straightforward way to reduce travel costs and journey in style.
With the right travel credit card, you can earn valuable rewards for every dollar you spend. These can be redeemed for free flights, hotel stays, car rentals and more. You can also take advantage of exclusive discounts and promotions at participating merchants. Additionally, many travel cards offer practical perks such as trip insurance to cover your losses in case of illness or other issues.
The market, however, is saturated with travel credit cards for every type of traveler. We’re here to help you choose the best one.
When choosing our list of the best travel credit cards, we focused on a combination of welcome bonuses and recurring card benefits. And of course, credit cards that waive foreign transaction fees are a must. You don’t want to be on the hook for a 3% fee every time you use your card overseas.
Here are Lonely Planet’s picks for the best travel credit cards.
How to choose the best travel credit card for you
When choosing the best travel credit card, it’s important to consider a few factors. First, you should look at the rewards offered by the card. The rewards will vary by card, and will most commonly take the form of cashback, airline miles, hotel points or transferable rewards. Secondly, it’s important to consider the annual fees associated with the card and compare them against the benefits. Most often, you’ll be able to offset a card’s annual fees with the benefits it offers, as long as you remember to use them. Lastly, consider how often you will be using and traveling with your card and choose one that best suits your needs.
The best travel credit cards for 2023
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Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best starter card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the best starter travel card because of its flexible yet straightforward rewards program that makes earning and redeeming points easy to understand for the average cardholder. (More on that later.) The card offers a generous welcome bonus, ongoing rewards and valuable travel protection benefits. The annual $50 hotel credit partially offsets the reasonable $95 annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is great for earning points on travel purchases and everyday spending. The card provides extra peace of mind when traveling with complimentary rental car insurance, trip delay reimbursement, trip cancellation and interruption insurance and baggage delay insurance. Car rental coverage even extends to rentals made abroad.
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months after you open the account.
Rewards: Earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit); 3X points on dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services and takeout; 3X points on online grocery purchases; 3X points on select streaming services; 2X points on all other travel; 1X on other purchases.
Travel benefits: Annual $50 Ultimate Rewards hotel credit, no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, primary rental car insurance, trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, travel and emergency assistance services.
Credit score required: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $95
- Generous category bonuses.
- Excellent rewards program with high-value airline and hotel transfer partners.
- $50 annual travel credit.
- Generous travel protections, including primary rental car insurance abroad.
- Subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. (You won’t be approved if you’ve opened five credit cards at any bank in the last 24 months.)
- The $50 annual hotel credit is limited to Chase Ultimate Rewards bookings and does not earn bonus points.
Best option to redeem Ultimate Rewards
The Sapphire Preferred’s 60,000-point welcome bonus can go a long way in reducing your travel expenses. The easiest option is to redeem your points through the Ultimate Rewards Travel portal at a value of 1.25 cents each. You can book flights, hotels, cruises, rental cars and activities using your points. The best part is that you can earn airline miles on flight bookings by providing your frequent flyer number.
However, the best way to get maximum value from your points is by transferring them to one of 14 travel partners. They include popular airline and hotel loyalty programs like United Mileage Plus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and World of Hyatt. With 60,000 points from the Sapphire Preferred, you can book up to 17 free nights at a Hyatt hotel or three round-trip economy tickets to the UK, for example. You can even splurge on a Delta One first-class ticket to Europe, starting at 47,500 points.
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Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for earning rewards on travel purchases
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is ideal if you want to earn maximum rewards on travel purchases. The card earns 3 points per dollar on all travel purchases, regardless of the booking platform. However, booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards earns you 5 points per dollar on flights. Just note: the first $300 in travel purchases is excluded from the 5X bonus since that amount is eligible for the $300 statement credit.
Welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Rewards: Earn 10X points on Chase Dining purchases, hotels and car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 5X points on flights purchased travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel; 3X points on other travel and dining (including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out); 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. The travel benefits begin once the $300 travel credit has been used.
Travel benefits: Receive up to $300 in annual travel statement credits, including airfare, hotels and rental cars; get 50% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards; Priority Pass Select membership; application fee credit towards Global Entry, TSA Precheck or NEXUS every four years; travel protections including cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, primary rental car insurance (up to $75,000 in the US and abroad) and lost luggage reimbursement.
Credit score: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $550 (plus $75 per authorized user).
- Generous rewards on travel purchases.
- The $300 annual travel credit partially offsets the high annual fee.
- Points are worth 1.5 cents each towards Ultimate Rewards travel bookings.
- Approval is subject to the Chase 5/24 rule. (You won’t be approved if you’ve opened five credit cards at any bank in the last 24 months.)
- Subject to a $75 authorized user fee, which most travel cards don’t charge.
Best option to redeem Ultimate Rewards
The easiest way to redeem the Sapphire Reserve’s 60,000-point welcome bonus is through the Ultimate Rewards Travel portal. Your points will be worth 1.5 cents, making the bonus worth $900. This is an excellent option if you just want a straightforward redemption without worrying about blackout dates or award inventory.
If you want to stretch your points further, you can transfer these points to World of Hyatt, for example.
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American Express Gold Card: Best for dining
The American Express Gold Card offers many perks, making it ideal for travel. The card earns 4 points per dollar at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, as well as at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1X). Cardholders earn 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines on amextravel.com.
Cardholders also receive up to a $10 monthly statement credit towards Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. You’ll also get up to $10 in monthly Uber Cash, which you can use on rides or Uber Eats orders. These benefits make the Amex Gold Card ideal for maximizing every dollar spent on dining.
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months.
Rewards: Earn 4X points at restaurants; 4X points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X); 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel; 1X points per dollar on all other purchases.
Travel benefits: Receive up to $10 in monthly Uber Cash (valid for rides or Uber Eats orders); up to $10 in monthly dining credit at Grubhub, Cheesecake Factory, belly, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations; secondary rental car coverage*; baggage insurance plan*; Global Assist hotline; access to experience credits and travel perks through The Hotel Collection. See rates and fees.
Credit score: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $250. See rates and fees.
- Up to $240 in annual dining credits.
- Extra savings potential on travel and regular purchases through Amex Offers.
- Includes valuable travel protections.
- The current welcome bonus isn’t the highest to date.
- The card is subject to American Express’s once-per-lifetime rule. (You can only earn a card’s welcome bonus once unless you get targeted for special offers.)
Best option to redeem American Express Membership Rewards
With 60,000 Membership Rewards points, you can book quite a lot of travel. You can transfer 50,000 points to Avianca Lifemiles, for example, and cover a round-trip business-class flight within the US. If you’re looking for a great international redemption, you can transfer 50,000 miles to Etihad Airways and book an American Airlines flight to Japan.
Membership Rewards are incredibly valuable; your miles can go a long way depending on your travel goals.
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The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for travel insurance
The American Express Platinum Card is a premium travel rewards card that offers an unparalleled range of benefits. From generous travel rewards and complimentary access to airport lounges to exclusive discounts and experiences, the Amex Platinum Card is the perfect choice for frequent travelers who want to make the most of their journeys. In a sea of luxury travel perks, the card shines when it comes to travel insurance.
The Amex Platinum Card offers a range of travel insurance benefits, making it an attractive choice for frequent travelers. Its comprehensive coverage includes trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, secondary rental car coverage*, access to the Premium Global Assist Hotline and baggage insurance. With the Amex Platinum Card, you can rest assured that your travels will be covered in case of any unexpected events*.
Welcome bonus: 80,000 points after $8000 spent within six months of account opening.
Rewards: Earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per calendar year); 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel; 1 point per dollar on everything else.
Travel benefits: Up to $1500 in annual travel, dining and entertainment credits; Hilton and Marriott Gold elite status; elite status with Avis, Hertz and National rental car; access to Amex’s Lounge Network; trip delay insurance; trip cancellation and interruption insurance*; no foreign transaction fees.
Credit score required: Excellent.
Annual fee: $695. See rates and fees.
- Wide range of travel credits that offset the annual fee (if you use them).
- Earns valuable Membership Rewards points.
- Exceptional travel protections.
- High annual fee.
- Category bonuses are limited to Amex Travel and direct bookings.
- The current welcome bonus isn’t the highest to date, and the card is subject to the Amex once-per-lifetime rule. (You can only earn a card’s welcome bonus once unless you get targeted for special offers.)
Best option to redeem American Express Membership Rewards
The best way to redeem your Amex Platinum’s 80,000-point welcome bonus is for travel. You can redeem points for travel bookings at 0.7 cents each or transfer them for even more value. American Express Membership Rewards has 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners. With 80,000 points, you can book up to four round-trip economy flights to the UK using Virgin Atlantic points. If you’d rather fly in a premium cabin, you can transfer your points to the Flying Blue program and book a one-way award flight to Europe, with enough leftover for an economy-class return.
One of the best ways to use your miles is for an 80,000-mile round-trip business class ticket to Europe through All Nippon Airways (ANA). ANA even has 75,000-mile round-trip flights to Japan, which the Amex Platinum Card’s welcome bonus will cover entirely.
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Capital One Venture X Credit Card: Best for airline miles
It may sound strange to recommend the Capital One Venture X Card as a travel card for airline miles, but it has several things going for it. The card earns up to 10 miles per $1 on travel purchases and a generous 75,000-mile welcome bonus. You can even convert the rewards to airline miles at a 1:1 ratio or better. Capital One has 15 airline and three hotel transfer partners available for miles transfers. Most of the airlines are foreign carriers, offering a ton of value over domestic airline programs.
The Venture X card provides an annual 10,000-mile bonus. You can redeem these miles with the aforementioned transfer partners or use them to cover travel purchases at 1 cent per mile. The advantage of doing so is that you’ll also earn miles through the airline’s loyalty program. You’ll essentially earn and redeem miles simultaneously, making it a win-win.
Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Rewards: Earn 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel; 2X miles on all other purchases.
Travel benefits: $300 annual credit for travel booked through Capital One Travel; up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years; 10,000 bonus miles every card anniversary; access to Capital One Lounges and Priority Pass Select membership; complimentary PRIOR subscription, 6-month Cultivist membership; $300 towards Gravity Haus social club membership; cell phone protection (up to $800); Hertz President’s Circle status; access to Premier Collection hotels for discounts and perks; primary rental coverage; trip cancellation and interruption; trip delay reimbursement; travel accident insurance; lost luggage reimbursement; travel and emergency assistance services.
Credit score: Excellent.
Annual fee: $395.
- Generous welcome bonus.
- Reasonable annual fee compared to other premium travel cards.
- High earning potential and recurring benefits.
- $300 annual travel credit is limited to Capital One Travel bookings.
- Capital One lounge network is limited and Priority Pass membership excludes restaurant access.
Best option to redeem Capital One miles
With 75,000 Capital One miles, you can book up to $750 in flights, hotels, car rentals and vacation packages. The best way to maximize rewards is by transferring them to one of Capital One’s 18 travel partners.
One of the best transfer options is to Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles program. Turkish charges just 15,000 miles round-trip for a United economy class ticket to Hawaii — half of what United often charges. With 75,000 Capital One miles, you can book up to five of these flights, getting you much more than $750 in value. You can also use your miles for international business class tickets starting at 45,000 miles each way.
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Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Best for hotel perks
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is an excellent travel card for hotel perks. This card offers various travel benefits, including top-tier Hilton Diamond elite status and $500 in annual airline and resort credits. As a Hilton Diamond member, you’ll receive valuable perks like a daily food and beverage credit, space-available room upgrades, executive airport lounge access, early check-in, late checkout and 100% bonus points on paid stays.
Cardholders also earn generous rewards on travel purchases and an annual free night award. Big spenders can earn a second free night after spending 60,000 per calendar year. These recurring perks make earning free nights for hotel stays incredibly easy and offset the card’s $450 annual fee.
Welcome bonus: 180,000 points after you spend $6,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership.
Rewards: Earn 14X points on Hilton purchases; 7X points on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel, 7X on rental cars booked directly with rental companies; 7X points on dining at US restaurants; 3X points on all other purchases.
Travel benefits: Complimentary Hilton Diamond status; Priority Pass Select membership; annual $250 Hilton resort statement credit; annual free weekend night reward; annual $250 airline fee credit; secondary rental car coverage* (excludes certain international destinations); baggage insurance plan*.
Credit score: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $450.
- Generous welcome bonus.
- Includes valuable hotel and airline benefits that can offset the annual fee.
- The only hotel credit card that awards top-tier elite status.
- Standard free nights can cost as much as 150,000 points per night.
- High annual fee.
- Limited redemption options outside of the Hilton portfolio.
Best option to redeem Hilton Honors Points
Hilton no longer publishes an award chart, but standard free nights generally range from 5,000-150,000 points per night. With the 150,000-point welcome bonus from the Hilton Aspire Card, you can cover up to 10 nights at a property like the Hilton Gaden Inn Konya or one night at the exclusive Waldorf Astoria Maldives. As a Hilton Diamond member, you’ll receive the fifth night free when booking award stays, allowing you to stretch your points further.
Even if Hilton doesn’t have standard rooms available, you can pay a higher points rate to book premium rooms and suites. This can be ideal when paid rates are high, and you want to save money with points. The annual free weekend night can help you piece together an even longer stay. It’s valid at most Hilton hotels, with a few exceptions.
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Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card: Best for no annual fee
The Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card is an excellent choice if you want a travel credit card with no annual fee. The card earns above-average rewards on travel-centric spending categories like travel, gas, dining and transit. The card also offers valuable travel protections, including primary rental car insurance on rentals made abroad. If you lose or damage your phone during your travels, Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card is one of the few travel rewards cards offering cell phone protection.
While the welcome bonus isn’t very high at 20,000 points (worth $200), the card does offer an introductory 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months. Overall, the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card provides exceptional value for a no-annual-fee card.
Welcome bonus: Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months.
Rewards: Earn 3X points on travel, gas, restaurant, transit and popular streaming purchases; 1X points on all other purchases.
Travel benefits: Secondary rental car insurance in the US; primary rental car coverage abroad, travel and emergency services assistance; emergency cash disbursement and card replacement; cell phone protection (up to $600 per year).
Credit score: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $0.
- 0% intro purchase APR for 12 months.
- High earning potential in popular travel spending categories.
- Reasonable spending requirement to earn the welcome bonus.
- Primary rental car coverage abroad and secondary in the US.
- Low welcome bonus.
- Points are not transferable to airline or hotel loyalty programs.
- No travel protections outside of rental car insurance.
Best option to redeem Wells Fargo points
The Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card makes redeeming points straightforward. Cardholders can redeem points for travel at a rate of 1 cent each by logging into their account. Points can be redeemed for statement credits, gift cards or booking travel directly through Wells Fargo’s website. This simplicity is ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to learn different loyalty programs’ various rules and regulations. You can just book the flights and hotels you want without worrying about blackout dates, then redeem points towards those purchases.
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Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card: Best for business
Chase’s Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is an excellent choice for small business owners who want to maximize their rewards and take advantage of great benefits. With a generous sign-up bonus, 3 points per dollar on select business categories and access to an excellent rewards program, this card makes it easy to earn rewards while traveling or making everyday business purchases.
Plus, the card offers access to a suite of travel protection benefits like trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary rental car coverage and cell phone protection. With all these features combined, the Ink Business Preferred® is ideal for business owners looking for a reliable travel credit card with great rewards and benefits.
Welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $8,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,000 cash back or $1250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Rewards: Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on select business categories each account anniversary year; Earn 1X points on all other purchases.
Travel benefits: Trip cancellation and interruption insurance; primary rental car insurance (covers up to the full vehicle value) and cell phone protection (up to $1,000 per claim).
Credit score: Good to Excellent.
Annual fee: $95.
- The card offers a substantial welcome bonus.
- Cardholders receive extensive travel and purchase protections.
- Free authorized user cards for employees.
- High spending requirement to earn the welcome bonus.
- Subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule (you won’t be approved if you’ve opened five credit cards at any bank in the last 24 months).
How to redeem rewards
The Chase Ink Business Preferred® earns valuable Ultimate Rewards points, which provides a lot of redemption flexibility. Cardholders can redeem points through the Ultimate Rewards Travel portal at 1.25 cents each. So the 100,000-point welcome bonus could be worth $1250 towards flights, hotels, cruises, tours and activities. That’s incredibly generous for a card with a $95 annual fee.
You can get additional value from the bonus by transferring points to one of Chase’s airline or hotel transfer partners. With 100,000 points, you can book up to 28 free nights at a Hyatt hotel or book an ultra-luxury all-inclusive stay at the Ventana Big Sur for up to three nights. The possibilities are virtually endless.
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Who should get a travel card?
A travel card is ideal for those who frequently travel. It offers travelers a secure way to handle payments on the road. These cards are designed to make spending on travel-related purchases easier. Travel cards offer higher rewards on travel expenses while providing other great features like mobile payments, travel insurance coverage and airport lounge access. Many travel cards also offer free foreign transaction fees, avoiding the 3% fee that can add up fast. A travel card is great for frequent travelers who want to simplify their lives while on the road.
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How to choose the best travel credit card
When selecting a travel credit card, it’s important to consider the welcome bonus, annual fee, extra perks and rewards provided. The best travel credit cards will have a generous welcome bonus and earn high rewards in popular spending categories.
While some travel cards have high annual fees, they can be worth it depending on the perks offered. For example, many premium credit cards offer travel statement credits that can offset the annual fee entirely. Many credit cards include airport lounge access. In an era of overcrowded airports and packed flights, this perk can be a lifesaver. It’s worth looking for a card that provides either one of these options along with no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad.
Another key factor to consider when selecting a travel credit card is the rewards program. If you’re loyal to a single airline, you should consider getting a co-branded airline credit card for added benefits to improve your travel experience and earn elite status faster.
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Travel credit cards FAQ
What is the best travel credit card?
The best travel credit card depends on your individual needs and preferences. Some of the most popular travel credit cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Capital One Venture X and American Express Platinum Card.
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Which travel credit card earns the most points on travel?
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and American Express Platinum Card earn the most points on travel booked through their respective travel portals. However, the Sapphire Reserve Card earns the most points on general travel, with 3 points per dollar spent.
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Is it worth getting a travel credit card?
Whether or not it is worth getting a travel credit card depends on your spending habits and travel goals. Travel credit cards offer some of the highest welcome bonuses and ongoing earn rates on everyday spending. If your goal is to earn lots of points for travel (plus a few extra perks), then a travel credit card makes sense.
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* Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.