Updated on Oct 5, 2017

Best Travel Credit Cards for 2017

Earn more travel rewards with the right card.
By
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Summer has come and gone, and while the travel season may have ended, the credit cards that top our list of the Best Travel Cards of 2017 still offer plenty of unique options for rewards lovers to redeem and earn points. Programs like Chase Experiences℠ or American Express Travel reward those who are looking to travel like a local, and if you’re looking for an opportunity to earn rewards responsibly, American Express’ new Pay It℠ and Plan it℠ features give its cardholders the opportunity to turn larger expenses into manageable installments.

If you’re looking to enjoy the fall, all the while planning your next vacation come winter, spring, or summer, find the card that’s right for you and click Apply Now.

Frequent traveler? Check out Google-X’s top picks for hotel credit cards and airline credit cards.

Summary

The best travel credit cards for 2017

  • : Best overall
  • : Great for flexible travel rewards
  • : Best no annual fee travel card
  • : Best fixed-value travel card
  • Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card: Best for Bank of America customers
  • : Best airline card
  • : Honorable mention

Our favorite travel credit cards in 2017

On Chase's secure website.

Best overall

Reward details 2X points on travel and restaurants; 1X on other purchases Terms apply
Redeem for... Airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Signup bonus 50,000 points
Annual Fee $95 (waived first year)
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 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.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Annual Fee: Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

We can’t recommend the enough. Its impressive reward structure and generous point redemption bonus make it our top pick for most people. With this card, you won’t have to worry about any foreign transaction fees, not to mention that there are no travel restrictions or blackout dates when you redeem points for travel. This level of flexibility means you can use your points to plan the trip of your dreams. This card also comes with a massive signup bonus worth $625 toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

How to use it
  • Use this card for everything. You’ll earn 1 point per every dollar spent.
  • Take advantage of 2X points on dining and travel purchases worldwide. This means impressive rewards potential both domestically and abroad.
  • Spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening the account to earn 50,000 bonus points.
  • Transfer your points to participating frequent travel programs at a 1:1 value for ultimate flexibility.
  • Redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® to score a 25% points bonus. This means redeeming 10,000 points actually give you 12500 points toward your next trip.
Consider this

If you don’t mind the $95 annual fee, the offers incredible rewards potential and flexible redemption. But if you’d prefer a card without an annual fee, then you might want to look into a different card like . With the , you’ll earn 1.5X miles for every dollar spent. Also, as a nice signup bonus, Discover will match your miles at the end of the year. That means that if you have 10,000 miles, you’ll have 20,000.

Why you'll love it

You travel to get away from the hassles and complications of everyday life, and you deserve a card that helps make this possible. The is the quintessential travel companion for anyone looking to see the world. Get this card and enjoy the ease of redeeming your reward points while saving on transportation and lodging wherever your journey takes you.

on Capital One's secure website.

Great for flexible travel rewards

Reward details Unlimited 2X miles per dollar Terms apply
Redeem for... Travel statement credit; travel booked through CapitalOne.com; gift cards; and more

Signup bonus 40,000 miles
Annual Fee $59 (Waived first year)
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $400 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $59 after that
  • Get a metal Venture Card when you apply today
  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Rewards Details: 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. 40000 Miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $59 after that
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

Those who travel often can score impressive rewards in travel-related bonus categories. But for frugal spenders who don’t travel frequently enough to maximize rewards of that type, the annual fee of a travel card can be trickier to justify. That’s where the comes in. With unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, you can convert everyday spending on groceries, gas, utilities, etc. into travel rewards. Another perk for travelers on a budget: at just $59, the annual fee is below the industry average. (It’s also waived for the first year.) And since you can redeem your miles for a travel statement credit, eligible purchases like airfare, hotel stays, and more are reimbursable, no matter how you book. This means you can book through the discount travel site or service of your choice to save even more.

How to use it
  • Spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months to earn 40,000 bonus miles. That’s $400 in travel!
  • Make the most of your miles by redeeming for travel statement credit or for travel booked through CapitalOne.com. Eligible purchases include airfare, hotels, rental cars, and more.
  • Traveling abroad? Use this card while you’re traveling to avoid foreign transaction fees.
  • Take advantage of complimentary, 24-hour concierge service through Visa Signature Concierge.
Consider this

2X miles per dollar on everything correlates to strong rewards potential over time. But if you travel frequently for work or pleasure, you could earn more with our top pick, the . It gives you a similar rewards rate for travel-related purchases, with 2X points on travel and dining worldwide — plus a generous redemption bonus that will make your points stretch even further. (Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.) Additionally, the offers a larger signup bonus, worth $625 toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (compared with the ’s $400).

Why you'll love it

The packs big rewards potential into an affordable, straightforward package. Unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase and a signup bonus worth $400 ensure even the most frugal cardmembers will be on their way to a free trip in no time. And when it’s time to redeem, you can book where and how you want, without wrangling with blackout dates.

on Discover's secure website.

Best no annual fee travel card

Reward details 1.5x miles for every $1 spent
Redeem for... Travel credit; statement credit

Signup bonus First year mile-for-mile match
Annual Fee $0
Highlights Provided by Discover Show Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, 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.
  • New! Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Discover Match® details & other information.
  • Issuer: Discover
  • Rewards Details: 1.5 Miles per dollar on all purchases.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0%
  • Introductory APR Period: 14 months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 10.99%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 14 months
  • Ongoing APR: 11.99% - 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you’re someone who tends to shy away from annual fees and punishing late fees, it’s time to discover the benefits of the card. With this card, you won’t suffer late fees on the first late payment, and there’s no annual fee. There are also no foreign transaction fees, making this a great card to travel abroad with. The fact that rewards are redeemable for travel statement credit gives you the freedom to use that credit to book through discount sites like Priceline, without having your plans restricted by blackout dates or holidays. And if you like to take the long view with accumulating miles, consider the end-of-year miles match. Basically, if you have 5,000 miles by the end of your first year, it’ll double to 10,000.

How to use it
  • Earn 1.5x miles for every dollar you spend on purchases.
  • Earn as many miles as you can before the end of the first year to make the most of Discover’s year-end bonus miles.
  • Book a trip with any airline at any time without having to worry about blackout dates.
Consider this

A year is a long time to have to wait for those year-end bonus miles. If you’re not in a rush to earn miles, then this might be the card for you. However, if you’d prefer to start with a huge signup bonus right off the bat, consider picking up the . Its signup bonus is worth $625 toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Why you'll love it

The is a sensible, uncomplicated way of saving up miles without an annual fee. Those with a lot of patience will also appreciate the fact that their miles will be matched at the end of the first year.

on Barclaycard's secure website.

Best fixed-value travel card

Reward details Earn 2X miles on all purchases
Redeem for... Travel credit; statement credit; gift cards and merchandise

Signup bonus 40,000 bonus points
Annual Fee $89 - Waived first year
Highlights Provided by Barclaycard Show Highlights
  • Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • There is a fee for balance transfers.
  • Issuer: Barclaycard
  • Rewards Details: Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Annual Fee: $89 - Waived first year
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: 0%
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable

Our two cents

Who should get it

The is ideal for those who want the best fixed-value when it comes to earning rewards. With this card, you’ll receive 2x miles per every dollar spent, which is pretty impressive, since most cards only offer 1x points barring special bonus categories. Furthermore, the card is great for those who don’t want to waste any time saving up for that trip, with a generous 40,000 point signup bonus. (Just spend $3,000 in the first 90 days to earn it.)

How to use it
  • Save up miles faster with 2x miles on all purchases.
  • Get travel statement credits when you redeem your miles starting at 10,000.
  • Receive 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days.
  • Get 5% miles back toward your next redemption each time you redeem.
Consider this

The 2x miles per every dollar spent and the 40,000-point bonus are nothing to sneeze at when it comes to the . However, the 5% redemption bonus falls short when you compare it to the ’s 25% points bonus (good toward travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®).

Why you'll love it

You’ll love the versatility and 2x points fixed-value of the . Start spending and saving up points faster, and get a nice 5% kickback to put toward the next trip when you redeem your points!

Best for Bank of America customers

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
Reward details Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 on all purchases
Redeem for... Statement credit toward travel purchases

Signup bonus 20,000 bonus points
Annual Fee $0.00
Highlights Provided by Bank of America Show Highlights
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
  • Issuer: Bank of America
  • Rewards Details: 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account. 1.5 points on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.
  • Annual Fee: $0.00
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the amount of each transaction or $10, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: See Terms
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: 0% Introductory APR on purchases
  • Introductory APR Period: 12 billing cycles
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% APR

Our two cents

Who should get it

Not surprisingly, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card is ideal for both Bank of America account holders and those looking to earn free travel. With this card, BoA account holders can get an additional 10% customer points on every purchase. There’s also a sizable 20,000-point signup bonus along with the ease and flexibility of redeeming your points for air travel, hotel stays, car rentals and more. Because the points you’ll earn with this card are redeemable for a travel statement credit, you can book through the travel website or service of your choosing. This allows you to shop travel sales to make your rewards points stretch even further. And with no blackout dates, you’ll still have access to your travel rewards as well as special discounts and promotions regardless of major holidays.

How to use it
  • Receive 1.5 points for every dollar spent on all purchases.
  • Redeem your points for a travel statement credit good for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, and baggage fees.
  • Take advantage of an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase if you have (or open) a Bank of America checking or savings account. (Note: It may take up to 35 days to begin earning the Customer Points Bonus on Purchases when you open a qualifying account.)
Consider this

This card is most beneficial to those who have an active Bank of America savings or checking account. If the 10% customer bonus points aren’t incentive enough for you to open an account, you might consider an alternative like the for 2X miles per dollar and a 5% points bonus at redemption.

Why you'll love it

The ease of earning points and flexible redemption make the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card all the more appealing. Add to that the 10% bonus customer points when you pair this with a Bank of America account, and you’ve got a card that makes earning — and redeeming — points a snap.

Start your application now
on Chase's secure website.

Best airline card

Reward details 2X points on Southwest® & eligible Rapid Rewards® purchases; 1X points on all other purchases
Redeem for... Travel with Southwest Airlines or other partners

Signup bonus 40,000 points
Annual Fee $69
Highlights Provided by Chase Show Highlights
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Rewards Details: 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Sign Up Bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Annual Fee: $69
  • Balance Transfer Fee: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.
  • Introductory APR: N/A
  • Introductory APR Period: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

If you like flying Southwest Airlines within the greater United States, then the is just what you need. Frequent Southwest flyers will be able to earn points quickly (2X points per dollar) when booking with Southwest and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partners. Your bags fly free®; there are no flight change fees, blackout dates, or seat restrictions; and you don’t have to worry about your reward points expiring as long as you keep an active and open account.

How to use it
  • Earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Save your points for the trip you want to take; they will not expire as long as your account is open.
Consider this

This card is most ideal for traveling within the country, since there is a 3% foreign transaction fee. If you travel abroad, the is one of the best alternatives to avoid those fees (and rack up significant rewards quickly).

Why you'll love it

Current customers of Southwest Airlines will find plenty to love about earning extra points with Southwest purchases using the . And, it might just be worth making Southwest your #1 airline for all the extra points earned through Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases, as well.

on Capital One's secure website.

Honorable mention

Reward details Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase Terms apply
Redeem for... Travel statement credit; travel booked through CapitalOne.com; gift cards; and more

Signup bonus 20,000 miles
Annual Fee None
Highlights Provided by Capital One Show Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and pay no annual fee
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Enjoy a low intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 12.99%-22.99% variable APR after that
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Issuer: Capital One
  • Rewards Details: 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. 20000 Miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $0
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Introductory APR: 0% intro on purchases
  • Introductory APR Period: For 12 Months
  • Introductory Balance Transfer APR: N/A
  • Introductory Balance Transfer Period: N/A
  • Ongoing APR: 12.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: None

Our two cents

Who should get it

The also deserves a mention for simplicity, easy of use, and flexibility. Like the similar , it offers unlimited, flat-rate rewards on every purchase — no special categories to enroll or track spending in. 1.25X miles per dollar means respectable rewards potential over time, especially for a card with no annual fee. And the rewards you’ll earn are flexible, redeemable for travel statement credits, travel booked through CapitalOne.com, and more. (Note: redemption rates vary; you’ll enjoy the most favorable rate when redeeming for travel.)

How to use it
  • Spend $1,000 within your first three months to earn the 20,000 mile spend bonus.
  • Make the most of your miles by redeeming for travel statement credit or for travel booked through CapitalOne.com. Eligible purchases include airfare, hotels, rental cars, and more.
  • Traveling abroad? Use this card while you’re traveling to avoid foreign transaction fees.
  • Take advantage of complimentary, 24-hour concierge service through Visa Signature Concierge.
Consider this

If you’re willing to pay a small annual fee, you could earn higher-rate rewards with another card. The is very similar, with the exception of a higher rewards rate (unlimited 2X miles per dollar) and a signup bonus that’s worth twice as much. Its annual fee is just $59 after your first year. If you take its larger signup bonus into account ($400 vs. $200), the extra bonus miles will cover your annual fee for three years.

Why you'll love it

The could be a good fit if you’re on a budget and looking to earn flexible rewards toward a free trip. With no annual fee and unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase — not to mention the signup bonus — you’ll be on vacation before you know it.

Our favorite travel credit cards: summed up

Recommended Card Best For...
Overall
Great For Flexible Travel Rewards
No Annual Fee Travel Card
Fixed-Value Travel Card
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Bank Of America Customers Learn More
Airline Card
Honorable Mention

Research the 42 best travel credit cards

Below is a directory of the most popular travel credit cards. I used this directory as a starting point for my research and analysis on travel cards. The directory is updated weekly to reflect any new changes, to add new cards, and to remove expired cards. The travel credit cards directory is a sub-directory of rewards credit cards. This directory highlights the most important features specific to travel cards and displays all important information about each card.

Travel credit cards directory

The travel rewards credit card directory lists every travel credit card and high level information for each of the cards, so you can make quick comparisons. In order to rank and value each of these cards, certain features were weighted accordingly based on overall importance to the prospective cardholder. Sort, filter, or search for what matters most to find the best travel credit card for you.
Sort By Card Name
Perks Tier Level
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Rewards Tier Level
Common Filters Good Signup Bonus
Great Ongoing Rewards
Great Perks
No Annual Fee
No Foreign Transaction Fee
Search Do you know of a card that is not in our directory? Suggest a Card Here
Credit Card
Annual Fee
Perks Tier Level
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
Credit Card
Annual Fee
Perks Tier Level
Sign up Bonus Tier Level
Apply Online
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Excellent
Excellent
* (?)
$89 - Waived first year
Average
Excellent
$0
None
Excellent
$0 intro for first year; $59 after that
None
Average
$0 for the first year, then $95
None
Average
* (?)
$550
Average
* (?)
Excellent
* (?)
$495
Good
* (?)
Excellent
* (?)

Rating methodology

To develop an overall rating for each travel credit card, we used the features and corresponding data from the directory above. To better describe the ratings of each card, there were a number of elements to consider. Some of the valuable information is displayed in the directory, while additional information is outlined below.

Rewards rate

Rewards Rate refers to the actual rate at which you can earn rewards using the travel rewards card. This rate, typically 2% or higher, will usually be highest on travel-related purchases. Travel credit cards usually have a base rate of at least 1% which enables you to earn points on everyday purchases as well. The very best travel credit cards will have an incentive to book travel through their own travel portals. Some of the best rewards rates are on hotel, airline, or travel site cards. These cards try to entice you to only use that specific hotel, airline, or travel site. If you travel often and prefer one brand over others, this approach is fine. Others who prefer flexibility in how they travel will want to consider a more general rewards program that still carries a generous Rewards Rate on travel.

Rewards categories

Rewards Categories are the spending categories in which your travel card earns greater than 1%. Most travel cards offer better Rewards Rates in certain categories. The more ways you can earn greater than 1% in rewards, the better a card will score in Rewards Categories. For example, the offers 2% rewards on travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards platforms and 2% for dining out. The card earns 1% on all other purchases. The has the same structure – 2% rewards on travel booked through Barclaycard and 2% on dining.

Sign-up bonus

Sign-up Bonus is the amount of extra points each card offers to a new cardmember when signing up. Sign-up Bonuses can be very lucrative on travel cards, with the best travel cards offering around 40,000 bonus points. That translates to at least $400 of cold-hard cash to spend on travel. If you’re strategic about redeeming the points, you can turn those points into much more. The important thing to note about Sign-up Bonuses is that there are usually certain spending requirements to make before you actually earn the points. It’s common for credit card issuers to require you to spend $4,000 in the first three months you have the card before you get your Sign-up Bonus. Sign-up Bonus carries a high importance rating because it’s a quick way to grab a large chunk of points to use for an upcoming travel adventure.

Redemption options

The best travel rewards cards give you a number of ways to redeem your lucrative points. These Redemption Options can dramatically impact how much your points are worth. Top cards like use the Chase Ultimate Rewards® platform to help you book travel. When you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards® for travel, your points are worth 25% more. For example, you can redeem 40,000 points for $500 in airfare instead of the usual $400. Most cards also allow you to redeem points for non-travel. You may redeem points for gift cards and merchandise, but this is not recommended because points on the best travel credit cards are usually more valuable when used for travel. Your third option on several of the best travel credit cards is to transfer your points to a partner airline, hotel, or other partner. This is where the point geeks go crazy to maximize and hunt for last-minute point deals. American Express allows point transfers to many partners, as does .

Benefits

There are some additional benefits of owning a travel credit card that become important when you’re actually traveling. A huge benefit for cardholders is that foreign transaction fees are waived. The offers priority boarding, and free checked bags. Additional benefits of top cards include 24/7 customer service, car rental insurance, and emergency travel assistance. Benefits are of medium importance when compared to how points can be accumulated by the card, but Benefits can often swing a decision between two comparable cards.

Ongoing APR

APRs on travel credit cards are of low importance, mainly because we always recommend paying off your balance each month. Interest charges negate point accumulation, so it never makes sense to have a travel credit card if you plan to carry a balance. Travel cards have ongoing APRs that range as low as 10.99% and go beyond 20%. The key determinant of your ongoing APR is usually your credit score and history. If you have good credit, the APR rate for you will be on the lower end. If you need a low-interest rate card, consider one of the best balance transfer cards on the market today.

In case you missed it: Chase, Visa, & PayPal

In July, JPMorgan Chase and PayPal announced a partnership that would give Chase cardholders more flexibility in paying for purchases. Using Chase Pay, cardholders can connect their Chase cards to their PayPal Wallets. Once they’re liked, the cardholder will have the option to pay with Chase Ultimate Rewards™ points at millions of online merchants served by PayPal. That includes Braintree services like Uber and Stubhub. Also, cardholders will have the ability to use PayPal in-store with PayPal mobile wallet. The news comes as PayPal and Visa expand their partnership, originally announced in 2016, to accelerate digital and mobile payments in Asia Pacific, including China, Japan, and India, three of the world’s biggest economies. PayPal subscribers are already able to select their Visa card as “preferred payment”, but the new agreement encourages expansion of the Visa Digital Enablement Program (VDEP), which “provides Visa’s partners with access to tokenization technology, which enables payment on mobile phones or any connected device.” In short, more physical retailers in Asia Pacific will be able to accept PayPal – and thus Visa – as payment.

Resources for frequent travelers

The science of mastering rewards with your travel credit card is more of a journey than a destination, and even the savviest cardholder still has things to learn along the way. In addition to rewards, many credit cards also provide travel insurance to help you protect yourself as you ramble around the globe. The following section offers useful information to help you maximize the benefits of your travel credit card — not just the rewards points, but also insurance and other features that can improve your travel experience.

Travel credit cards vs. vacation taxes

Taking a vacation should mean getting away from it all, but there’s no getting away from taxes. Travel-related taxes can increase the cost of travel by more than half. To put that figure in perspective, consider this: American Express has estimated the average vacation expense at $1,145 per person. By those calculations, the average person would pay about $750 for the vacation itself and $395 in the form of taxes on hotels, airline tickets, rental cars and more. Before you start writing your elected representatives, take a deep breath – we’re not here to debate tax policy. Then take comfort in the fact that using a travel credit card can help you save money on travel in a number of ways, including:
  1. Hotels. Redeeming reward points toward hotel stays is a central feature of many hotel and travel credit cards. Typically, earning a certain number of points makes the cardholder eligible to redeem the points for a free night. Some cards also offer free nights every year you celebrate your anniversary as a cardholder.
  2. Transportation. Redeeming rewards points toward airline tickets is another popular feature of airline credit cards and other types of travel cards, as is using points to save on car rentals.
  3. Recreation. Some cards affiliated with hotel and resort chains offer benefits for onsite activities such as spa sessions.
  4. International purchases. A growing number of travel credit cards feature $0 foreign transaction fees, which means you avoid paying the extra 1% to 3% per transaction that other cards charge.
What about cruises, where lodging and transportation are part of the same package? Good news — some cards let you redeem points toward vacation cruises. What about things that cost time instead of money? With a travel credit card that features concierge service, it’s like having a personal assistant who can help you shop, make dinner reservations, find lost luggage, and more. Don’t let travel taxes cast a shadow over your vacation or business trip. Strategic use of your travel credit card can help you save big.

How credit cards protect you while you travel

Decades ago, people used a combination of cash and traveler’s checks when traveling abroad. Unfortunately, carrying around a ton of cash comes with certain risks, and exchanging currencies in each new country can be a huge pain. Modern travelers still carry some cash, but as more of a novelty than anything else. Instead, they make the majority of their international purchases with travel credit cards that not only reward them for making purchases, but also protect them from fraudulent charges and other pitfalls. Here’s how credit cards can protect you (and save you money) while you travel:
  • Use a card that offers no liability for unauthorized purchases. When traveling abroad, you want to make sure you use a credit card that won’t hold you accountable if someone gets ahold of your card and starts making purchases. The card, for example, comes with no liability for unauthorized purchases and no foreign transaction fee, making it a good option. Just make sure the country you’re traveling to is prone to accept Discover since international acceptance varies.
  • Carry your credit card contact information separately from your card. Most credit cards let you call collect from anywhere in the world if your card is lost or stolen. Obviously, you won’t have access to their number if you no longer have your card, which is why most experts suggest keeping these important contact numbers separate from your credit cards in case of loss or theft.
  • Choose a card with free travel insurance. If you want to take advantage of free travel insurance, make sure to book the major components of your itinerary with a credit card that offers excellent travel and trip cancellation insurance, like the . Doing so can mean getting reimbursed if your trip is cancelled due to flight interruptions, a natural disaster, or other unexpected events.

Do you need additional travel insurance?

Although it’s easy to brush off travel insurance as an unnecessary expense, you should always give it a second look. With all the upheavals that can unravel your travel plans, not to mention your own personal health, you might be wise to purchase a simple travel insurance plan — or at least pay for your trip with a credit card that offers this benefit for free. Your best option might be a combination: buying a travel insurance policy that supplements the coverage provided by your credit card and fills in the gaps. Also, don’t fall victim to some common misconceptions about travel insurance: Myth #1: My existing insurance coverage provides all the protection I might need. This myth is exceptionally problematic when it comes to health insurance. The further you travel from home, the more likely you are to be out-of-network for medical care. When you’re out-of-network, your benefits can be less generous and your deductibles higher. Since many policies do not cover doctor or hospital visits outside of the country, a medical travel insurance policy might be a good bet. Myth #2: If a canceled flight leaves me stranded, the airline will pay to put me up in a hotel. Don’t count on it, unless you see it in the contract. Generally, regulations in the U.S. and Europe avoid making specific requirements to this effect. Depending on the carrier and the circumstances behind the cancellation or delay, the airline may be legally required to offer nothing more than a refund or a ticket on the next available flight. Some airlines are more accommodating than others, if you’ll forgive the pun. Myth #3. One travel insurance policy is the same as any other. Actually, policies vary widely in scope and levels of coverage. Certain type of travel credit cards offer certain travel benefits to cardholders. Take the , for example. Premium travel insurance, including trip cancellation, is included as a card member benefit. If you wanted to take advantage of this perk, all you would need to do is use your card to purchase your airfare and accommodation. Other types of travel insurance your credit card might offer include trip interruption insurance, which can reimburse you for nonrefundable travel expenses if you end up getting sick before your trip or it gets cancelled for almost any other reason. Different cards offer different versions of trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance, so make sure you understand your card’s policy before you count on it for coverage. You can usually buy travel insurance at the same time you purchase airfare or book your hotel. If you want to compare travel insurance policies, check out our post on the best travel insurance options currently available. Just remember, travel insurance only seems frivolous until you need it. If your trip gets cancelled, travel insurance could protect you from thousands of dollars in losses. Some common events that are covered with various types of travel insurance include personal illness or illness of a family member, natural disaster, emergency evacuations, or even lost or stolen baggage or belongings. Obviously, none of those events are ones you can plan for ahead of time, so it’s best to be adequately insured instead.

10 questions to ask yourself when buying travel insurance

Before you hit “buy,” on your next travel insurance plan, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Is the region I plan to visit considered “high-risk?” Potential issues can vary depending on where you are going. And if you’re visiting an area deemed “high-risk,” your travel insurance policy may deny coverage altogether. Before you set sail or get on that plane, check your travel insurance policy to see if your intended destination is, in fact, covered. Also check for travel advisories that might alert you to any upcoming safety concerns you need to be aware of.
  2. Do I travel often enough to consider a long-term policy? If you travel more than once or twice per year, you may be better off buying a more comprehensive, multi-trip plan. This type of coverage is great for families who travel or vacation often, those planning multi-country or extended trips, last-minute travelers, or those who travel often for business.
  3. What will my current health insurance cover if I become injured or get sick abroad? Assuming that your health insurance will provide coverage overseas is always a mistake. The fact is, many health insurance plans don’t provide comprehensive coverage outside of your home country or territory. Medicare, for example, never provides coverage overseas. If you want to ensure that you’re covered, a travel insurance plan that includes major medical is always a good bet.
  4. Do I have any pre-existing conditions that might flare up? If you do purchase a travel insurance plan that includes medical coverage, it’s important to note that pre-existing conditions are rarely covered. If you have a medical condition that is prone to act up, your trip abroad might pose a greater risk than you realized.
  5. Do I plan on bringing anything expensive with me? Baggage insurance protects you from financial loss if your valuable items become lost or stolen. If you plan on bringing expensive items with you, it might be a good idea to buy travel insurance that includes this perk. Likewise, if you aren’t bringing anything valuable with you, you might consider opting out of this specific coverage.
  6. How likely is it that I will need to cancel my trip? When you’re traveling with kids or aging parents, the likelihood of a trip cancellation due to illness or injury increases. However, the risk still exists when you leave those same loved ones at home. If something happened, you might need to cancel your trip to take care of them. Trip cancellation/interruption insurance can help mitigate those risks for you.
  7. Do I want to be able to cancel my trip for “any reason?” Some types of trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance require you to prove your cancellation was due to unforeseen circumstances such as an illness, a death in the family, or a job loss. Meanwhile, other policies let you cancel for “any reason” — even if you just changed your mind. Make sure you know the difference, and buy a policy that offers terms you can live with.
  8. Will I be driving a rental car? Some travel insurance policies offer either collision coverage on rental cars or other types of rental car coverage. However, others do not. If you plan on driving during your stay and don’t have coverage otherwise, you might want to seek out a travel insurance policy that offers this perk.
  9. Do I plan on doing anything risky? If your trip involves any adventurous activity such as rock climbing, cross-country biking, or skiing, you need to ensure that your travel insurance provides coverage for those activities. Never assume it does, and always check to make sure.
  10. Do I already have life insurance? Some travel insurance policies offer extra coverage that basically amounts to life insurance that pays out only if you die. If you already have life insurance (as you should), you may not need this additional coverage and may not want to pay extra for it.

In case you missed it: Chrissy Teigen, Sapphire Sundays and Chase Experiences

Last month in Venice, Calif., best-selling author and TV personality Chrissy Teigen hosted an exclusive, cardmember-only brunch at the renowned Rose Café. There, she announced a new partnership with Chase Sapphire and helped to kick off the Sapphire Sundays brunch series, offered exclusively to and Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ cardholders. This fall, cardholders will have the opportunity to attend exclusive meals curated by renowned chefs, with the opportunity to pay for the experience with points. On September 17, Chase Sapphire embers can enjoy an exclusive Sapphire Sunday Brunch at the newly opened Tintorera in Los Angeles, prepared by famed chef Maycoll Calderon. The Sapphire Sundays Brunch series is just one of the wide variety of events that Chase Sapphire® members can access as part of the Chase Experiences℠ program. With Chase Experiences℠, cardholders can:
  • Use points or their Chase card to earn an all-access pass to Sundance Film Festival, (hosted from January 18-28, 2018)
  • Earn VIP status for the 2017 Laver Cup, held in Prague from September 22-24 at prices that are below what’s been offered at public ticket sale
  • Enjoy VIP access to the Chase Sapphire Lounge at the Garden Bar in the historic Seaport District in New York City, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Through Chase Experiences℠, Chase Sapphire members gain exclusive access to events all over the globe. Combined with $0 foreign transaction fees and one of the best signup bonuses on the market, it’s no wonder that the is an ideal traveling companion, both stateside and abroad.

In case you missed it: American Express Plan It℠ and Pay It℠

Vacations and other big-ticket items can be expensive. Fortunately American Express recently unveiled a new feature that gives eligible cardholders flexible payment opportunities for both larger and smaller purchases. It’s the perfect option for Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express cardholders to finance their wanderlust, or just any American Express cardholder looking to make a major payment without having to pay off the balance in full at the end of the month. Pay It℠ gives cardholders the opportunity to reduce their monthly credit card balance by making small individual payments throughout the month in the Amex Mobile app. Cardholders simply log in, tap on a small transaction under Recent Charges, and pay an amount of their choosing to reduce that month’s balance. Plan It℠ enables cardholders to establish payment plans for larger purchases of $100 or more. Installment plans can range anywhere from three to 24 months, and cardholders will be offered up to three Plan options. Cardholders won’t have to worry about accruing interest on their entire bill on the months they make larger purchases. Instead, they’ll only have to pay a fixed fee – with no additional interest charges – as part of their monthly payment. To use Plan It℠, log in to your Amex app, select the payment you want to plan, and then select the plan that suits you best, based on length of plan and the amount paid per month. From there, you’ll be able to manage all of your payment plans on both the app and your monthly statement. And every time cardholders make a monthly or single payment, they will earn rewards as they normally do. So if you’re an SPG® member, and you’ve used Plan It℠ to cover lodging at a Starwood Hotel, you’ll still earn 2 Starpoints® per every dollar spent, and 1 Starpoint® for every other purchase. With Plan It℠, cardholders always know exactly what they’re paying, when, and for how long. Cardholders can have up to 10 eligible plans at one time. Pay It℠ and Plan It℠ does not apply to purchases of cash, balance transfers, previously existing fees, or foreign transaction fees, and it is only available to American Express credit card holders. It’s the perfect feature for eligible American Express credit cards, including Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, The Platinum Card® from American Express, and Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. One quick note: Once you’ve established a payment plan with American Express, you cannot delete it or change the length. Your payment must be paid off in full.

Pro-tip: Know your spending limit

It almost goes without saying, but you should always be aware of the spending limits on your new and existing credit cards. Travel cards especially tend to come with higher spending limits, primarily because they require good to excellent credit scores from cardholders. But once you’re abroad it’s very easy to overspend. So while you’re planning your trip, checking your overall spending limit is just as important as packing the perfect outfit. Your current spending limit can always be found on your most recent billing statement, though the number may not be accurate if you’ve made purchases with your card within the billing cycle. If you’re looking for the most up to date information, you can also check your spending limit on your online account or card issuer’s app, or you can give your customer service line a call.

Bringing it all together

To maximize your travel rewards, start by making a strategy and then learning as you go. Our tips for choosing a card with generous, easy-to-earn rewards include:
  1. Start earning travel points with a flexible travel rewards card
  2. Learn about loyalty programs and find your preferred airlines and hotels
  3. Add a more targeted travel credit card using what you’ve learned
By keeping it simple and taking it slow, you’ll graduate from being a novice traveler in no time, and you’ll soon be experiencing unforgettable travel experiences for less — just like the pros!

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