Best Credit Cards for Travelers Who Want Points and Rewards

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Narrowing down the best credit cards for travelers is not a simple feat. In terms of comprehensibility, credit card benefits are up there with cryptocurrency and stock markets. And for those who like to redeem their points for travel, you often end up with more questions than answers as you try to compare card benefits (miles, points, booking portals, travel credits, multiplication factors on hotels vs. restaurants vs. gas vs. airfare…).

But don’t give up! And certainly don’t sign up for the first offer you see advertised by your airline or favorite hotel chain. You have myriad options, whether you’re a frequent traveler who wants luxe perks and mega multiplying points, or you want to redeem all your credit card points for travel (even if it’s once per year) and simply want the best bang for your buck.

Hopefully we can point you in the right direction below. Read on for our picks of the best travel credit cards, in a variety of categories.

Chase Sapphire Reserve (Visa)
Chase Sapphire Reserve (Visa) Courtesy Image

Best Travel Credit Card for Frequent Travelers: Chase Sapphire Reserve (Visa)

  • Annual fee: $550
  • Recommended credit: 730-850 (excellent)
  • Introductory offer: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in first 3 months

Why it’s the best: That steep annual fee isn’t so bad when you get $300 reimbursed on travel expenses; frequent travelers will have no problem covering the bases on the remaining fee. You get 5x on flights and 10x on hotels, car rentals, and prepaid restaurant reservations booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which adds up fast for upgrades. All other travel and dining purchases worldwide earn 3x points, and the remaining spends earn 1 point for $1. There’s broad trip insurance, no international fees, and members can automatically enroll in the Priority Pass lounge program, wherein they have access to a network of 1,300 lounges worldwide—and can bring up to two guests for free. Points travel is 1:1 to hotel and airline partners, and you can also get $100 waived off your Global Entry/TSA Precheck applications.

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American Express Platinum Card
American Express Platinum Card Courtesy Image

Runner-up: American Express Platinum Card

Why it’s great: Frequent, high-level travelers will have no problem earning back that steep $695 annual fee, given a generous 5x points program on flights and hotels—and the 100,000 point introductory offer (on $6K spent in 6 months) is as alluring as the sleek card itself.

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Chase Sapphire Reserve (Visa)
Chase Sapphire Reserve (Visa) Courtesy Image

Best for Everyday Expenses + First-Time Card Users: Chase Sapphire Preferred (Visa)

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Recommended credit: 670-850 (good-excellent)
  • Introductory offer: 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in first 3 months

Why it’s the best: Chase Sapphire integrates well into your everyday life, offering point multipliers on dining and restaurant delivery (3x); hotels, trains, taxis, and airfare (2x); streaming (3x); and 5x on all travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Steady travelers will also consider it their best pick. You get 1 point for every $1 spent on other purchases, as well as a 10 percent anniversary points boost and $50 annual hotel credit. There are no international transaction fees, insurance galore (rental collision damage waiver, trip cancellation, interruption, and baggage delay), and all points transfer 1:1 to participating airline partners.

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Citi Premier Card (Mastercard)
Citi Premier Card (Mastercard) Courtesy Image

Runner-up: Citi Premier Card (Mastercard)

Why it’s great: Get 3x points at supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants, airfare, and hotels, as well as 1x on everything else (per $1 spent). If you’re good at paying off your card each month, you’ll responsibly rack up points fast here.

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American Express Gold Card
American Express Gold Card Courtesy Image

Best Travel Credit Card for Food Lovers: American Express Gold Card

  • Annual fee: $250
  • Recommended credit: 690-850 (good-excellent)
  • Introductory offer: 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in first 6 months

Why it’s the best: That 4x dining and groceries benefit is a major perk for frequent eaters-out. You can even get $10 monthly credits to Uber (and Uber Eats), and $10 more for delivery partners like Seamless and Grubhub. Plus, there’s the perk of 3x points for flights booked directly through the airline’s site, or through the Amex travel portal.

U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card Courtesy Image

Runner-up: U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card

Why it’s great: Get 4x points on dining, 2x on groceries, delivery, streaming services, and gas. Get 20K points on $1,000 spent in 90 days—and best of all, no annual fee.

Chase Ink Business Preferred (Visa)
Chase Ink Business Preferred (Visa) Courtesy Image

Best Travel Credit Card for Business: Chase Ink Business Preferred (Visa)

  • Annual fee: $95
  • Recommended credit: 690-850 (good-excellent)
  • Introductory offer: 100,000 points after spending $15,000 in first 3 months

Why it’s the best: For all that money you spend on advertising, shipping, and travel, you could be earning 3x the points with Ink Business Preferred. It offers cell phone protection, trip insurance, delay, and cancellation coverage, and acts as a primary car rental insurance. No foreign transaction fees, plus you get 25 percent more value for points redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards (100,000 points is worth $1,250 instead of $1,000.)

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American Express Business Platinum Card
American Express Business Platinum Card Courtesy Image

Runner-up: American Express Business Platinum Card

Why it’s great: Earn 150,000 (!) points in the first three months after spending $15K. Earn 5x on flights and prepaid hotels, as well as 1.5x on shipping/advertising and other key business categories, as well as expenses of $5K or more.

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Chase United Club Infinite Card (Visa)
Chase United Club Infinite Card (Visa) Courtesy Image

Best Travel Credit Card for Airlines: Chase United Club Infinite Card (Visa)

  • Annual fee: $525
  • Recommended credit: 690-850 (good-excellent)
  • Introductory offer: 100,000 miles after spending $5,000 in first 3 months

Why it’s the best: There’s often a question whether or not people should have a credit card associated with their preferred airline. If you’re faithful to one airline, or if you travel with that airline a few times a year and only use the card to get a free checked bag, then yes, it’s worth it for the baseline cards (often $95-ish). But beyond that, baseline users can maximize points and customize perks a lot better with one of the general cards above. Now, if you’re not a baseline user, there are some cards that set the bar high.

One airline card with some real perks is the United Club Infinite card, granting lounge access, plus 2 free checked bags on each flight (for you and a companion), as well as priority check-in, baggage handling, seating, and security. You earn 4X miles on all United purchases, and 2X on all other travel costs. There are no foreign transaction fees, and you get $100 towards on TSA Precheck and Global Entry.

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Delta SkyMiles Reserve (American Express)
Delta SkyMiles Reserve (American Express) Courtesy Image

Runner-up: Delta SkyMiles Reserve (American Express)

Why it’s great: Delta lounge access, 3X on Delta purchases, 1X on everything else, and an easy way to expedite and upgrade your status with the airline.

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Chase IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (Visa)
Chase IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (Visa) Courtesy Image

Best Travel Credit Card for Hotels: Chase IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (Visa)

  • Annual fee: $89
  • Recommended credit: 670-850 (good-excellent)
  • Introductory offer: 125,000 points after spending $3,000 in first 3 months

Why it’s the best: If you’re no loyalist to hotels, then look elsewhere (see above: Chase Sapphire Preferred for its points multipliers). But, if you choose one hotel chain to be loyal to—for the cardmember perks, that is—then make it IHG (Kimpton, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, etc.). You can earn up to 25X (!) points per dollar spent at IHG properties, get $100 towards TSA Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, 2X on gas + groceries + dining, and earn a free night’s stay each anniversary.

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Hotels.com Rewards Visa
Hotels.com Rewards Visa Courtesy Image

Runner-up: Hotels.com Rewards Visa

Why it’s great: If you like to score a good deal on hotels but aren’t after the points and miles per se, then use Hotels.com’s rewards card. Every $500 on the card adds up to one stamp, 10 of which are redeemable for $110 credits on a single reward night. (Plus you get 1 stamp for every night booked on the card.) No fee, no foreign fees, travel protection, and $600 cell phone protection.

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