Travel credit cards have to do more than simply earn points or miles. Nearly every airline, hotel chain, and bank offers numerous credit cards that let customers earn these types of rewards, and the best travel credit cards must include features that differentiate it from the pack. For example, there are now credit cards that offer points that can be transferred to miles with multiple airlines, which allow you to earn points with the carrier that best meets your travel plans. In addition, the top travel cards will offer perks such airport business lounge access and credits toward airline fees.
In response, the airlines have fought back by introducing credit cards that incorporate a number of benefits that travelers can enjoy when they fly that carrier, such as free checked bags, priority service and access to the airport business lounges.
For all of their perks and benefits, these cards do have one serious disadvantage. The best performing travel cards will have an annual fee. These fees, ranging from $95 a year to nearly $450, may only be worth paying by the most frequent travelers. Those who travel just a few times a year may be better off using a card that has no annual fee, but less attractive rewards and benefits. However if you are a serious traveler and do not have one of these cards you may want to consider applying for a travel rewards credit card.
4 Best Travel Credit Cards
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Not only does the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card make it easy to earn points, but its wide variety of redemption options has made it a longtime favorite credit card for travelers. Cardholders earn one point for each dollar spent on most charges, and double points for all dining and travel purchases, which may consist of airlines, hotels and car rentals, along with taxis, parking garages and tolls. It also offers double points at restaurants, which can also be a major expense for travelers. Points can be easily redeemed for 1.25 cents each toward air travel, hotel and rental car reservations through the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. Additionally, you can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to airline and hotel programs, including Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, British Airways Executive Club, United MileagePlus, along with Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, IHG Rewards Club and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
This card is also great to use for purchases when traveling as it is equipped with an EMV smart chip, which allows for greater acceptance and security abroad and it has no foreign transaction fees. New applicants receive 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of card membership and another 5,000 bonus points after adding a first authorized user who makes a purchase in the first three months of account opening. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.
Citi ThankYou® Premier Card
Citi ThankYou® Premier is a great card to use at home and for travel. With the ability to earn three points per dollar on gas, tolls, taxis and parking, as well as hotels, airfare, car rentals, and more, cardholders can quickly earn points to redeem for award travel. In addition, cardholders receive two points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Eligible dining purchases include those made at sit-down restaurants, as well as at take-out, bars and even nightclubs. Any entertainment purchases made at a bar, going to the movies on Saturday night, or seeing a band perform will also receive double points. Those points are easily redeemable 1.25 cents each towards travel reservations booked through Citi's ThankYou Travel Center. Points can also be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to most of their air travel partners, such as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Asia Miles, and Etihad Guest. In addition, one ThankYou Point can be transferred for two Hilton HHonors Points until January 6, 2016, beginning at 1,000 points.
New applicants can earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, and there is no limit on the number of points a card member can earn. When traveling abroad, this card offers EMV chip technology that allows for greater acceptance and no foreign transaction fees. A $95 annual fee for this card that is waived in the first year.
United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
For frequent United customers, the United MileagePlus® Club Explorer Card offers excellent benefits for both domestic and international travel. Cardholders can earn 1.5 miles per dollar on every purchase and two miles per dollar on purchases through United Airlines. Another benefit of this card is that miles can be redeemed for travel on any United-operated flight at the Standard Award level. Cardholders can book United award flights for close-in dates with a waiver of the $75 on award tickets booked within 21 days prior of departure. As long as the account is open and active, your miles will not expire, and there is no limit to the number of miles you can earn. While traveling, you and a companion will receive two free checked bags each on United flights and enjoy automatic enrollment in the United Club, which provides complimentary beverages and snacks during your layover at United Club and participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges around the world. Cardholders and companions will also be eligible for the benefits of United's Premier Access program, which offers designated check-in lines as well as priority service at security and boarding.
In addition, when cardholders book hotel stays through It's Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, they will be eligible for room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, early check-in and late check-out (where available), and an additional special benefit unique to each property. These benefits are exclusive to cardholders at more than 700 properties worldwide. New applicants can receive a $100 statement credit after the first purchase. The United Club card has no foreign transaction fees and has a $450 annual fee.
Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®
The Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is a great choice for travelers who fly American Airlines. Cardholders earn one AAdvantage mile on every dollar on any purchase and two AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on eligible purchases from American. In addition, cardholders who spend $40,000 in one calendar year receive 10,000 AAdvantage elite qualifying miles each year, which can help boost travelers on their way to elite status membership, which provides unlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades on flights over 500 miles, preferred seats and three checked bags. With the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®, American Airlines travelers can benefit from priority check-in, priority airport screening and priority boarding privileges where available. They also enjoy access to over 50 Admirals Club at airports worldwide for you and your immediate family or up to two companions. When cardholders fly American Airlines, their first checked bag is free on domestic flights for themselves and up to eight companions, and they will receive a 25 percent discounts off of in-flight purchases.
When you use the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® to pay for the Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application fee, you will receive a one-time $100 statement credit towards the application fee. AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for travel through American Airlines to over 1,000 destinations worldwide. There are no limits on the number of miles you can earn, and miles are automatically deposited into your AAdvantage account. This card has a $450 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
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