Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards February 2024

Business road warriors and leisure travelers can use travel rewards credit cards to turn miles logged into other things — including more travel.
Disclaimer

This article covers our selection of best travel rewards credit cards. All information about the American Express EveryDay® credit card and the U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Gold American Express® Card has been collected independently by Kiplinger. 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. We may get compensation if you visit partner links on our site. We may not cover every available offer. Our relationship with advertisers may impact how an offer is presented on our website. However, our selection of products is made independently of our relationship to advertisers. We calculate a typical annual reward for each card assuming $25,000 spent annually and less any annual fee. Interest rates, fees, rewards and other terms listed in this article are subject to change. Before you apply for a credit card, check its current terms and conditions with the issuer.

Rates and bonus offers checked as of February 5, 2024.

Whether you travel often or just take the occasional vacation, a travel rewards credit card can be an excellent companion. With every purchase, you can use a good travel card to collect points or miles that are redeemable for flights, hotels, or other travel bookings. Many travel rewards cards come with extra benefits, too, from free entry into airport lounges to statement credits toward application fees for TSA PreCheck and other programs that expedite security screening at the airport. 

If you’d rather have a card that offers cash back or another type of reward, see our article on the best rewards credit cards.

Quick List

In a hurry? Here's a few of the very best cards on our list, along with quick links that let you jump down the page to read more information on each card we feature.

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards With No Annual Fee

With these cards, you reap points or miles without paying an annual fee. You will still need to consider foreign transaction fees if you plan to do a lot of international travel.

This card acts as a hybrid travel and cash back card. All purchases earn 1.5 miles per dollar, and the redemption options are flexible. You can exchange miles at a rate of a penny each for statement credits on travel purchases, cash back, account credits to pay your card bill, and purchases with Amazon and PayPal. 

The card offers a generous sign-on bonus, doubling your miles earned after the first year. Other nice-to-have perks include free access to your FICO score and online privacy protection. The card does not provide free travel insurance, access to airport lounges or similar travel perks.

  • Interest rate: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then 17.24 to 28.24% variable APR.
  • Annual fee: None.
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: 1.5 miles per dollar spent on purchases.
  • Sign-up bonus: A match of miles earned after one year, doubling your rewards.
  • Redemption: Unlike a co-branded credit card, the miles earned on the card can be used to cover travel purchases made at any airline, car rental or hotel over the past 180 days; miles may also be redeemed for statement credit to pay your bill.

 

This is a compelling no-fee option for domestic travelers who are willing to book trips through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program. Plus, the card offers 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® Visa provides up to five points per dollar spent through Chase's travel program as well as on some gas and grocery story purchases.  The card offers trip cancellation and interruption insurance; you may be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable passenger fares, if your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations.  

Chase cards also offer excellent rental car insurance.

  • Interest rate: Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% to 29.24%.
  • Annual fee: None.
  • Foreign transaction fee: A hefty 3%, so for trips abroad, look to our other winners that charge no such fee.
  • Rewards
    • Earn 5% back on travel purchases through Chase.
    • Earn 5% total cash back on qualifying Lyft rides through March 2025.
    • Earn 5% cash back on combined gas station and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) until the earlier of: the end of your first 12 months, or when you have spent $12,000 in this category in the first year.
    • Earn 3% on dining and drugstore purchases.
    • Earn 1.5% on other spending.
  • Redemption: Redeem points at a rate of a penny each for cash back, gift cards or travel; points do not expire.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 back if you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Member FDIC

This card offers a solid three points per dollar spent on a range of travel-related purchases, and one point per dollar for all other purchases. Points may be redeemed for travel bookings or cash, or may be used to pay for select purchases on a PayPal account. Travel perks include a car rental damage waiver and emergency assistance while traveling. New cardholders will receive 20,000 bonus points (worth $200) after spending $1,000 in the first three months.
  • Interest rate: 0% introductory APR for purchases (not balance transfers) for the first 12 months, then 20.24%, 25.24% or 29.99% variable APR.
  • Annual fee: None.
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: Earn three points per dollar spent on a range of travel-related purchases, including travel bookings through the program, restaurant spending, gas and transit (such as parking, tolls and ride-sharing services); you also get three points per dollar on wireless and landline phone plans and eligible streaming services; all other purchases earn one point per dollar.
  • Sign-up bonus: 20,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first three months; that's a $200 cash value.
  • Redemption: Redemption options include travel bookings and cash back, with a value of one cent per point redeemed.

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards Worth the Annual Fee

With a high payback on travel spending and some perks on the side, these cards make the annual fee worth paying.

 

This card earns up to five miles on the dollar, and can transfer points to any of 15 travel loyalty programs. As a sign-on bonus, get a whopping 75,000 miles if you spend $4,000 in the first three months (worth up to $750). For details on this bonus offer and how to use bonus miles, read Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Launches $750 Bonus Offer.

The card offers generous travel perks to sweeten the deal. Get access to Capital One and its partner airport lounges. Skip the dreaded rental car counter with Hertz Five Star® status. And get up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®, car rental damage waiver and travel accident insurance. 
  • Interest rate: 19.99% - 29.99% variable APR for purchases.
  • Balance transfer fee: $0 at the Transfer APR, 4% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that Capital One may offer to you.
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: Five miles per dollar spent on hotel stays and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; all other spending earns two miles per dollar; limited airport lounge access and other benefits apply.
  • Redemption: Redeem miles at a rate of a penny each for statement credits on travel purchases or to book a new travel reservation through Capital One; or transfer miles to any of more than 15 travel loyalty programs.
  • Sign-up bonus: 75,000 miles if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. That's worth $750 when used to book travel or reimburse travel expenses.

  This card offers tiers of rewards from 1.5% to 5% per dollar, or 1% cash back. The bonus offer for new cardholders recently expired, but there are still enough perks to make the card a good choice for some travelers.   Travel perks include reimbursement for an application for TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry® and free Boingo wi-fi, an international wireless service that has over a million hotspots. See .
  • Interest rate: 19.74% to 29.74% variable APR for purchases.
  • Annual fee: $85.
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: 1.5 cents per point when booking travel through U.S. Bank’s Rewards Center, and five points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked through the rewards center; three points per dollar on restaurant spending; two points per dollar on purchases with airlines, gas stations and electric-vehicle charging stations; and one point per dollar on other spending.
  • Redemption: If you’d rather redeem points for cash back, they hold a respectable value of 1 cent each. Points expire after five years.
  • Intro bonus: The intro bonus recently expired.
  • Terms apply

This card from U.S. Bank is ideal for frequent domestic or foreign travelers. It delivers five points per dollar on hotel and rental car bookings through U.S. Bank’s travel portal. The card is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 bonus points, worth $500 if you spend $2,000 in the first 120 days.

The card provides an array of perks for travelers, including a $100 reimbursement of TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry® fees and four free passes to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. Best of all, your non-refundable fare is covered for trip cancellation and interruption when you buy your ticket with the card. 
  • Interest rate: 21.24% to 29.24% variable APR for purchases or balance transfers.
  • Annual fee:  $95, waived the first year.
  • Top rewards rate: Five points per dollar on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center.
  • Other rewards: Four points per dollar on other travel purchases and at gas and EV charging stations; two points per dollar on grocery store, restaurant and streaming-service spending; and one point per dollar on other spending.
  • Redemption:  Redeem points at a rate of a penny each for travel, gift cards, cash back, merchandise and other options; cardholders also get re-imbursement of the application fee for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, four free yearly visits to Priority Pass Select airport lounges, and a $30 annual credit if you make 11 months of purchases with eligible streaming services.
  • Sign-up bonus:  50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in the first 120 days.

 

Three is the magic number for the Citi Premier card. Get three points for each dollar spent on air travel, hotels, gas and supermarkets. Points can be applied to partner frequent-flier programs, though prospective cardholders should check the list of partners carefully to be sure they will be useful.

New cardholders earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of opening the account. That's a $600 value when redeemed for travel or gift cards. And for a limited time earn 10 ThankYou Points for every dollar spent through the Citi travel portal on car rental, hotels and other travel items, excluding airfare. Once a year, cardholders also get $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees.

  • Interest rate: 21.24% to 29.24% variable APR for purchases.
  • Annual fee: $95.
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: Get three points per dollar spent in a range of categories: restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel and hotels; all other spending earns one point per dollar. Once a year, get $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com.
  • Redemption: Points are worth a penny each if you redeem them for gift cards or travel bookings through the Citi ThankYou program; you can also transfer points to partner airline and hotel loyalty programs; there are no blackout dates and points do not expire.
  • Sign-up bonus: 60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. And earn a total of 10 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal, on ThankYou.com or by calling 1-800-Thankyou (TTY: 711) and saying “Travel”. Offer is valid through 11:59 PM ET 6/30/2024. 

Best Travel Cards for Flexible Travel Redemptions

Redeem points for travel bookings or transfer them to a broad range of partner airline and hotel loyalty programs.

 

The points that you earn with this card are redeemable for travel bookings through Chase at a heightened value of 1.25 cents each, or get a respectable value of 1 cent per point for cash back or gift cards. Alternatively, transfer points to a solid list of partner travel loyalty programs, including Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United MileagePlus, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt. 

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For our review of this bonus offer, read Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card Launches $750 Bonus Offer.

  • Interest rate: 21.49% to 28.49% variable APR for purchases and balance transfers, and 29.99% variable APR on cash advances.
  • Annual fee: $95.
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: Five points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and two points per dollar on other travel spending; three points per dollar on dining, and select online grocery and streaming services; and one point per dollar on other spending.
  • Other benefits:  Get $50 in statement credits annually for hotel stays booked through Chase; on each yearly anniversary of opening your account, you get a 10% points bonus on total purchases made the previous year. Chase offers excellent travel benefits, including rental car insurance.
  • Redemption: 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. You also get an extra 25% back when you use points to donate to certain charities; to learn more, read Is Chase Pay Yourself Back Worth It?
  • Bonus offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For details, read Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card Launches $750 Bonus Offer.
  • Member FDIC

This card provides a way to earn Amex’s Membership Rewards points without paying an annual fee. You earn two points per dollar on up to $6,000 of supermarket purchases per year and one point per dollar on all other spending. Amex’s Membership Rewards points are transferable to several partner airline and hotel loyalty programs. Use the card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% extra points on those purchases less returns and credits.
  • Interest rate: 0% APR for purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, then 18.24% to 29.24% variable APR.
  • Annual fee: None.
  • Foreign transaction fee: 2.7%.
  • Rewards: Two points per dollar on up to $6,000 spent at supermarkets per year, then 1%; two points per dollar on certain prepaid travel purchases through Amex Travel; other spending gets one point per dollar, and each month that you make at least 20 purchases with the card, you get a 20% points bonus on those purchases.
  • Redemption: The best way to redeem points includes booking flights through Amex Travel at a rate of a penny per point or transferring points to loyalty programs including Delta SkyMiles (at a ratio of one Amex point to one SkyMile), Hilton Honors (1:2 ratio) and Marriott Bonvoy (1:1).
  • Intro offer: Earn 10,000 points if you spend $2,000 in the first six months.
  • Terms apply

Frequent guests of Marriott hotels can get good value out of this card, which allows you to rack up points that are redeemable for Marriott stays or transferable to the frequent-flier programs of nearly 40 airlines.

The card's 125,000 welcome bonus recently expired. The card now offers Five Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from your account opening.

You'll also enjoy a Free Night Award every year after your account anniversary, with some limitations.
  • Interest rate: 21.49% to 28.49% variable.
  • Annual fee: $95, or if you prefer to pay no annual fee, check out the .
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: Earn up to a total of 17x bonus points by layering reward categories. Earn six Marriott points per dollar spent at Marriott properties, ten points for being a Marriott Bonvoy member, and one point if you are a member.
  • Other rewards: Earn three points per dollar on up to $6,000 spent yearly at grocery stores, gas stations and dining, and two points per dollar on all other spending. 
  • One free night per year: Earn a free one-night Marriott stay per year after each account anniversary, valid for a one-night hotel stay at a property with a redemption level up to 35,000 points; note that certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Redemptions: Marriott Bonvoy points are redeemable for stays at Marriott properties, but you can also transfer them to the frequent-flier programs of 38 airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest and United; plus, you get 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 points you transfer; among the card’s benefits are Silver Elite status with Marriott and a one-night hotel stay each year; points expire if your account is inactive for 24 months.
  • Limited time offer: Earn 5 Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $5,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card.

Best Cards for Premium Travel Rewards

Frequent travelers can more than overcome the high annual fees on these cards by taking advantage of a bevy of perks. 

 

This card comes with attractive features and an annual fee that’s lower than the fees of some of its competitors. Plus, unlike some other premium cards, Venture X doesn’t charge an additional annual fee for authorized users.

Loaded with enticing offers, the card provides 10,000 anniversary bonus miles, a $300 credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, and 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. If you are in the market for a business card, the Capital One Venture X Business card has a welcome offer worth between $1,500 to $2,775.

  • Interest rate: 19.99% - 29.99% variable APR for purchases.
  • Balance transfer fee: $0 at the Transfer APR, 4% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that Capital One may offer to you.
  • Annual fee: $395
  • Foreign Transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: Earn 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, five miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel, and two miles per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Other benefits: Perks include 10,000 bonus miles on your account anniversary each year, an annual credit of $300 for bookings made through Capital One Travel, free entry to more than 1,300 Priority Pass and Plaza Premium airport lounges, complimentary access for you and two guests to Capital One’s airport lounges, and President’s Circle status with Hertz.
  • Redemption: Redeem miles at a rate of a penny apiece for statement credits on travel purchases or travel bookings through Capital One, or transfer them to partner airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • Sign-up bonus: 75,000 miles if you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

This card is ideal for those willing to book travel, dining, and other services through Chase's rewards programs. Earn between 5 and 10 points for each dollar booked through Chase. Plus get a $300 yearly statement credit for travel purchases.

Get 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening; that's a $900 bonus value toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, more than offsetting the $550 annual fee.

This card provides the kind of travel perks you would expect from a high-end card, like access to VIP airport lounges, hotel room upgrades, and up to $100 every four years to help offset the cost of TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS applications. The card offers industry-leading rental car insurance benefits.

  • Interest rate: 22.49% to 29.49% variable APR.
  • Annual fee: $550; $75 for each authorized user.
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards
    • Earn 10 points per dollar on spending at participating restaurants through the Chase Dining program as well as on hotel and car rentals booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
    • Earn five points per dollar on flights booked through Chase.
    • Earn three points per dollar on other restaurant and travel spending and one point per dollar on the rest of your purchases.
  • Other benefits: An annual statement credit of up to $300 for travel purchases (purchases that qualify for the credit do not earn points until the $300 travel credit has been applied), a Priority Pass Select membership for airport lounge access, perks at properties in the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2025, at least a year of free membership to DoorDash's delivery subscription service, and a $10 monthly statement credit toward purchases from home delivery service .
  • Redemption: Points are transferable to partner airline and hotel loyalty programs, or trade points at a healthy rate of 1.5 cents each when you redeem them for travel bookings through Ultimate Rewards, or for statement credits against purchases in rotating categories through Chase's Pay Yourself Back program (including Airbnb, dining, charitable donations, and other categories).
  • Sign-up bonus: 60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months, for a total value of $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase ultimate rewards.

 

At nearly $700, Amex Platinum’s annual fee has climbed to a level that may seem out of reach for the typical card user. But the card packs in a laundry list of perks to overcome the fee. Points are redeemed for travel, not cash back, so this card is intended for the serious traveler. Earn five points per dollar on air travel and hotel bookings made through the company's travel booking program, up to a value of $500,000 per year. Earn one point per dollar for all other purchases.

The card boasts a strong introductory offer of 80,000 points if you spend $8,000 in first six months. Plus, you get up to $200 in hotel credits annually. Terms Apply. .

Learn more about how to pick the best American Express credit card for your needs.

  • Interest rate: Pay over time 21.24% to 29.24% APR, based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening.
  • Annual fee: $695, plus $195 for up to three authorized users and $195 per card for each user beyond three.
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Annual Hotel Credit: $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
  • Cruise benefits: Cardholders can receive exclusive benefits through the , available on cruise bookings of 5 nights or more with participating cruise partners; qualified cardholders can also get two rewards points per dollar when booking through the American Express travel portal. 
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership (subject to auto-renewal) with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card®. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Up Benefits are excluded.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $300 back in statement credits per calendar year on an Equinox membership, or an Equinox club membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required. Visit  to enroll. 
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: Breeze through security with CLEAR Plus at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Platinum Card®. Learn more.
  • $100 Global Entry Credit: Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 years for a TSA PreCheck® (through a TSA official enrollment provider) application fee, when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at  on your Platinum Card®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $300 SoulCycle At-Home Bike Credit: Get a $300 statement credit for the purchase of a SoulCycle at-home bike with your Platinum Card®. An Equinox+ subscription is required to purchase a SoulCycle at-home bike and access SoulCycle content.  Must charge full price of bike in one transaction. Shipping available in the contiguous U.S. only. Enrollment Required.
  • Other benefits: Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile.
  • Redemption: There is no option for cash back; the greatest value comes from booking travel with points, and from the many discounts and other perks.
  • Intro bonus: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Terms apply:

Best Dedicated Airline Cards

If you’re loyal to a certain airline or hotel chain, you may be a good candidate to use a credit card that provides points or miles from your preferred loyalty program. Such cards often provide perks such as complimentary checked baggage or free hotel stays each year, too. See whether our picks of the top airline and hotel rewards cards are a good match for you. And note that if you would rather not pay an annual fee, many of the hotels and airlines mentioned here offer no-fee cards, too, but they come with fewer perks.

This card from Chase Bank charges an annual fee that’s higher than that of many competitors. But frequent fliers on Southwest Airlines should be able to offset the fee with the card’s $75 annual credit for Southwest purchases and its bonus of 7,500 Rapid Rewards points on each account anniversary.  Southwest flights aren't limited to U.S. destinations; you can save your travel rewards for flights to Costa Rica, Aruba, Mexico and other getaways south of the U.S. border. Plus, points don't expire, and there are no blackout dates. 

The Southwest card has a stellar intro offer. New cardholders earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's worth up to $750 when redeemed for travel.


  • Interest rate: 21.49% to 28.49% variable APR for purchases and balance transfers.
  • Annual fee: $149.
  • Foreign transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards: Get three points per dollar on Southwest purchases, two points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including rideshare, and two points per dollar on internet, cable, phone services and more; all other spending earns one point per dollar.
  • Annual benefits: Cardholders receive four hefty bonuses on each account anniversary: a $75 Southwest® travel credit, a bonus of 7,500 Rapid points, four upgraded boardings when available and a 10,000 Companion Pass® qualifying points boost.
  • Other benefits: Reimbursement for up to four upgraded airline boardings per year; 1,500 tier-qualifying points toward A-List status for each $10,000 spent on the card; and 25% back on in-flight purchases.
  • Redemption: Points may be redeemed for travel on Southwest Airlines or through its Rapid Rewards program; points may also be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, and entertainment.
  • Sign-up bonus: New cardholders earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Read our article on the Southwest bonus reward and how to use the card
  • Member FDIC

This card is a good option for loyal customers of American Airlines or its partners. Cardholders can check bags for free and get twice the points for gas and restaurant purchases.

New cardholders can earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $2,500 in purchases within the first three months of opening an account. That's enough miles to get to the Caribbean flying at the lowest level of economy, called MileSAAver Off Peak. 

  • Interest rate: 21.24% to 29.99% variable APR for purchases and balance transfers.
  • Annual fee: $99, waived the first year; if you prefer a no-fee card that earns AAdvantage miles, check out the .
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Rewards: Cardholders get two American Airlines AAdvantage miles per dollar spent at gas stations and restaurants and on American Airlines purchases; all other spending earns one mile per dollar.
  • Other benefits: A $125 flight discount each year in which you spend $20,000 on the card; a free checked bag on domestic American Airlines flights for you and up to four companions on the same reservation; preferred boarding; and 25% off in-flight food and beverage purchases; for every mile you earn on Platinum Select card purchases, you get one Loyalty point toward heightened AAdvantage status. There is no limit to the miles you can earn.
  • Redemption: Redeem award miles on American Airlines, American Eagle, and flights; the Aadvantage program also allows you to redeem miles for car rentals, hotels, and vacation packages with any American Airlines partner.
  • Sign-up bonus: 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles if you spend $2,500 in the first three months.

This Amex card from Delta Air Lines offers two SkyMiles per dollar spent on purchases with Delta, restaurants and U.S. shipping providers, and one mile per dollar on other purchases. Cardholders also get 15% off Delta flights when booking through or the using award miles. . Hitching your rewards wagon to just one airline can be a risk if the quality of service erodes over time. According to a report by airline analytics company , Delta was the most on-time North American airline in 2021 and 2022, demonstrating quality management over time. And you can redeem miles through many other domestic and international partner carriers. 

The card has a solid welcome offer. Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles (worth about $840) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. 

To learn more about how to use SkyMiles and see offers on other tiers of this card, see our article Earn Delta SkyMiles Worth up to $1,200.

  • Interest rate: 20.99% to 29.99% variable APR for purchases. See .
  • Annual fee:  $150, $0 Intro annual fee the first year.
  • Top rewards rate:  Earn two miles per dollar on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S. and at U.S. supermarkets. 
  • Other rewards: Card Members save 15% when booking Award Travel with miles on Delta flights when using  and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • Free baggage check: Check and stow your bag: Get your first Checked Bag free + Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta Flights.
  • Other perks
    • Get a discount of up to $50 on flights for every 5,000 miles you redeem with Pay with Miles through Delta.
    • Earn a $200 credit toward a Delta flight purchase each year that you spend $10,000 on the card.
    • Get 20% credit for Delta in-flight purchases of food, drinks and headsets.
    • Members can earn up to $100 back annually on eligible prepaid Delta Stays bookings on .
    • Get priority boarding.
  • Redemption:  Miles can be used for travel on Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection carriers (Endeavor Air, Inc., Republic Airline, and SkyWest) and on 30+ partner airlines. Want even more flexibility? Take up to $50 off the cost of your flight for every 5,000 miles you redeem with Pay with Miles when you book on .
  • Intro bonus: Earn 70,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Terms apply

Best Dedicated Hotel Cards

Frequent guests of the hotel chains associated with these cards can get great value out of them, earning extra points for hotel stays and certain other purchases. Plus, enjoy benefits such as free-night awards and elevated loyalty status.

 

High point values paired with the ability for cardholders to stack points in a few useful categories help the Hyatt card rise to the top. Earn between one and nine points per dollar, redeemable for airfare and travel bookings through Hyatt's travel program. Earn 35,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.

Want more ways to earn points? The World of Hyatt Business credit card has a similar welcome offer. Read more in World of Hyatt Launches Offer Worth up to $1,380.

The card offers generous travel perks, including baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and theft and collision damage for car rentals. And cardholders are given Elite status, which provides late check out, preferred rooms, and other perks to make travel more convenient.
  • Interest rate: 21.49% to 28.49% variable.
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Foreign transaction fee: None
  • Top rewards rate: Earn nine points per $1 spent on Hyatt stays and experiences.
  • Other rewards: 
    • Earn five World of Hyatt Bonus points per dollar on Hyatt purchases.
    • Earn two points per dollar at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from airlines, on local transit, and on fitness club and gym memberships.
    • Earn one point per dollar on other spending.
  • Other benefits: Each year after your cardmember anniversary, you get a free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel or resort, plus an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel if you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, automatic Discoverist loyalty status, five qualifying nights toward the next loyalty tier each year, and two more qualifying night credits each time you spend $5,000 on the card. 
  • Redemption: Redeem points for a wide array of benefits offered by the , such as through travel partnerships with MGM Resorts and American Airlines.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 35,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.

Although the value of Hilton Honors points is lower than that of some other brands, cardholders can make up for it by amassing a high number of points in everyday spending categories. New cardholders can earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first six months of Card Membership. According to , that's worth about $780 in stays at Hilton properties. Plus, you can get up to $200 back each year on eligible Hilton purchases after you use your card. That's a total first-year bonus value of up to $980.

Cardholders are automatically bumped up to Elite status, which waives resort fees on rewards stays and confers benefits like late hotel check-out and complimentary breakfast at many hotels.  Terms apply. .
  • Intro bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. According to , that's worth about $780 in stays at Hilton properties (when one point is valued at 0.6 cents).
  • Annual benefit: Get up to $200 back each year on eligible Hilton purchases after you use your Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.  
  • Car rental status: NEW Enjoy complimentary National Car Rental® Emerald Club Executive® status. Enrollment in the complimentary Emerald Club® program is required. Terms apply. Read about credit cards that cover rental car insurance.
  • Free Night: Earn a Free Night Reward from Hilton Honors after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
  • Rewards
    • Earn 12 Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio. 
    • Earn six Points for each dollar of purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets and at U.S. gas stations.
    • Earn four Points for each dollar on U.S. Online Retail Purchases.
    • Earn three Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Other benefits: Extra benefits include a Priority Pass Select membership that provides 10 free yearly visits to participating airport lounges, and complimentary Gold status. If you spend $40,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’re bumped up to Hilton Honors™ Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • Redemption: Points typically expire if you are inactive in the Hilton Honors program for 24 months, and earning points with the credit card counts as activity; expiration terms may vary by membership tier.
  • Interest rate: 20.99% to 29.99% variable APR for purchases. See rates and fees.
  • Annual fee: $150; If you prefer to skip the annual fee, try the instead. The interest rate for that card is 20.99% to 29.99% variable APR for purchases. See for the Hilton Honors American Express Card.
  • Foreign transaction fee: None. See .
  • Terms apply.

 

This card is ideal for travelers who enjoy staying at . Rack up 6 points for stays at Wyndham hotels and on purchases of gas, and 4 points for restaurants and grocery store purchases. Cardholders qualify for Platinum membership status, which provides perks like hotel room and rental car upgrades and later hotel check-out. Plus, new cardholders can get 45,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days; that number of points will typically get you up to six free hotel nights at participating properties.
  • Interest rate: The standard purchase rate is 20.99%, 25.24% or 29.99% variable APR.
    The card has two 0% APR offers. 
    • For purchases: get a 0% promotional APR for 6 billing cycles on all Wyndham Timeshare Purchases (see Terms and Conditions for details). After that, your APR will be 20.99%, 25.24% or 29.99%, based on your creditworthiness. 
    • For balance transfers: get 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening, then 20.99%, 25.24% or 29.99% variable APR on purchases, with 0% on purchases for 6 billing cycles on all Wyndham Timeshare Purchases. 
  • Balance transfer fee: 5% of the amount you transfer, which is on the high side. If a balance transfer is important to you, read our take on the best balance transfer credit cards.
  • Annual fee: $75; for a no-fee option, look to the .
  • Foreign Transaction fee: None.
  • Rewards
    • Six Wyndham Rewards points per dollar spent on purchases with Hotels by Wyndham, as well as on gas.
    • Four points per dollar on restaurant and grocery-store purchases (excluding Walmart and Target); and one point per dollar on all other spending. 
    • Each anniversary year, cardholders get a 7,500-point bonus.
  • Other benefits: You’ll also get an additional discount on the best available rate when making reservations at participating properties, and automatic Platinum loyalty status.
  • Redemption: Points may be redeemed at thousands of Wyndham properties worldwide, including hotels, resorts, casinos, vacation homes, and European parks; points expire if your Wyndham Rewards account is inactive for 18 months.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 45,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

How Do Travel Rewards Cards Work?

Travel rewards credit cards offer points or miles on your purchases and may also offer other travel-related benefits. There are three main types of travel credit cards, including general travel cards, airline cards and hotel cards.

General travel credit cards

General travel rewards credit cards aren't linked to a specific airline or hotel loyalty program. Instead, you'll earn points or miles with the card issuer's rewards program. Examples include American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards.

General travel rewards programs typically allow you to redeem your rewards for travel through their online portal and may also offer other options, including cash back, gift cards and online shopping. They may even allow you to transfer your rewards to partner airline and hotel programs. 

These cards typically won't give you travel perks with a specific airline or hotel brand, but you may get general travel benefits, such as travel credits, airport lounge access and more.

Airline credit cards

These credit cards are co-branded with a specific airline, such as Delta Air Lines or United  Airlines. You'll earn miles or points that you can use to book award flights with that airline or for other travel-related purposes. Airline credit cards also typically offer perks when you fly with the co-branded airline. Examples include priority boarding, free checked baggage, inflight discounts and companion passes.

Hotel credit cards

Like airline cards, hotel cards are co-branded with a particular hotel brand, such as Hyatt or Marriott. You'll earn points with that specific hotel chain's loyalty program, which you can use to book award stays, on-property experiences and other travel.You'll also typically get perks with that hotel brand, which may include a free anniversary night certificate and elite status, which can come with benefits like room upgrades, late checkout and free premium Wi-Fi.

What are Travel Rewards Worth?

The value of the points or miles you earn with a travel credit card will vary depending on the rewards program and sometimes even the card. General travel programs typically offer predictable redemption rates. For example, you may earn one cent per point on travel bookings, one cent per point on gift cards and half a cent per point for cash back. 

With airline frequent flyer programs and hotel loyalty programs, redemption values can vary depending on several variables. With an award flight, for instance, the departure and arrival airports, flight dates and cabin will influence how much your points or miles are worth. With hotel programs, your stay dates, the property category, location and room type can impact your value.

To get an idea of how much value you're getting per point, divide the cash price of an airline ticket or hotel stay by the number of points or miles required to book it. For example, if you can book a $300 flight with 15,000 miles, divide $300 by 15,000, giving you a value of two cents per point.

How to Compare Travel Credit Cards

If you're thinking about a travel credit card, it's important to choose one that's aligned with your travel habits and goals. Here are some of the factors to consider when shopping around and comparing your options:
  • Welcome bonus: Consider how much value you can get with the card's upfront bonus and whether you can meet the minimum spending requirement to earn it.
  • Rewards rates: Travel credit cards may offer a flat rewards rate on all purchases or a tiered rewards structure, with bonus rewards on certain spending categories. Try to pick a card that allows you to rack up as many points or miles based on where you spend your money.
  • Redemption options: Consider how much flexibility you'll get with your rewards. If your goal is to get free flights or hotel stays with a particular airline or hotel brand, pick an airline or a hotel credit card. If you want more options, however, consider a general travel credit card.
  • Redemption values: If you're comparing two different cards, one may offer a higher welcome bonus and more points per dollar spent than the other. However, if the value of those points is lower than what you'd get with the second card, you might actually get less value.
  • Perks: Think about how you want to use your credit card to elevate your travel experience, then seek out perks that can help you accomplish that objective. And don't forget about trip protections, which can save you some money if things don't go as planned on a vacation. For example, cards issued by Chase and American Express offer some of the best rental car insurance benefits.
  • Annual fee: Travel credit cards tend to charge annual fees, but some can run in the hundreds of dollars. Consider how much you're willing to pay each year for a credit card's rewards and benefits.
  • International acceptance: If you pick an American Express or Discover credit card, you may have trouble using your credit card abroad. In this case, you can either bring a Visa or Mastercard credit card as a backup or simply get a Visa or Mastercard in the first place.

Is the Annual Fee Too High?

Even if you generally like to avoid credit card annual fees, it can be worth paying one in exchange for great benefits. To determine whether an annual fee is worth it to you, consider the following:
  • Calculate the value of the card's welcome bonus to see how many years' worth of the fee it covers.
  • Add up the monetary value of the card's benefits, making sure to include only benefits you'll actually use. 
  • Consider the benefits that are difficult to assign a monetary value — rewards flexibility, trip protections or airport lounge access — and what they're worth to you.
  • Estimate how much value you'd get in rewards each year based on your spending habits.
Some travel credit cards offer enough value to cover the cost of the annual fee in benefits alone. If a card charges an annual fee and is scant on perks, it might not be worth the cost.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Travel Card

Once you pick a travel rewards credit card, here are some tips to help you maximize its value:
  • Make sure you earn the bonus: You'll typically have three or six months to meet the minimum spending requirement to earn a credit card's welcome bonus. Note, however, that the clock starts when you're approved, not when you receive the card. Track your spending to ensure that you earn the bonus points or miles.
  • Use your card for everything: Try to use your credit card for everything that you can use it for. Just be sure to avoid overspending for the sake of earning rewards — the value you get likely won't make up for the extra cost.
  • Pay in full every month: Make it a goal to pay off your balance in full every month to avoid paying interest, which can neutralize the value of the rewards you earn.
  • Get to know your card benefits: You can find most of the card's benefits on the card issuer's website, but make sure you read through the benefits guide you receive with your card, so you know everything about its perks. 
  • Research the best ways to redeem: Each program is different in how you can redeem rewards, and some may offer outsized value if you redeem them in a certain way. For example, you may be able to get more value by transferring your general travel points or miles to an airline or hotel loyalty program than if you were to redeem them with the card issuer's rewards program.
  • Avoid getting too many cards: Having multiple rewards credit cards can help you maximize different bonus rewards categories and card benefits, but if you get too many cards, it can be difficult to keep track of everything. There's no correct answer to how many credit cards you should have, so it's important to consider your preferences and organizational skills to determine the right amount.

Disclaimer

As an independent publication dedicated to helping you make the most of your money, the article above is our view of the best deals and is not the opinion of any entity mentioned such as a card issuer, hotel, airline etc. Similarly, the content has not been reviewed or endorsed by any of those entities.

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Editor, Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine
Lisa has been the editor of Kiplinger Personal Finance since June 2023. Previously, she spent more than a decade reporting and writing for the magazine on a variety of topics, including credit, banking and retirement. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.
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