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When you first get into travel rewards, it's easy to get hyped up about the potential of this hobby. But once you start digging into the fine print, you might find that there are more limitations than you realized. Specifically in the world of travel credit cards, there are lots of hoops to jump through and plenty of limits on how you can use your points.
Co-branded hotel credit cards offer the perfect example of the limits you'll find. While they certainly have their place and can be hugely helpful for travelers who are a loyal to a specific hotel chain, the fact that you can only use your points to book certain brands of hotels within that chain can leave you feeling limited. What if you want to travel to a country where that brand of hotel doesn't exist? Or, what if you find the perfect hotel for the perfect dates, yet cannot find award availability?
To bypass these situations, some people opt for travel credit cards that let you book any hotel. Mostly offering "travel credit" instead of points good for a specific loyalty program, these cards makes it easy to build your hotel stays around your travel plans – instead of the other way around.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
There's a reason the Chase Sapphire Preferred®Card is consistently named one of the top rewards credit cards. Not only are Chase Ultimate Rewards points easy to earn and extremely lucrative, but you can use them in numerous ways. Once you spend $4,000 on your card within 90 days, you'll earn a 50,000 point signup bonus you can use for stays at any hotels or properties that meet your needs. Simply transfer your points to hotel programs like Marriott, IHG, Ritz Carlton, or Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, or use your points to book travel directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal with a 20 percent discount to boot. It's as simple as that.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
Sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® and you'll earn 40,000 points after you spend just $3,000 on your card within 90 days. Plus, you'll earn 2x points for every dollar you spend – along with the ability to book any type of travel you want. Since points offered through this program works as "travel credit," you can book any hotel stay on any date and without worry of blackout dates. Each point is worth one cent each, making your 40,000 point signup bonus worth $400 in hotel stays on its own.
Discover it® Miles
The Discover it® Miles takes a novel approach to how you earn your points – and how you can spend them. Plainly, you'll earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend on the card. As a major caveat, however, Discover promises to double the amount of points you earn after the first 12 months. So if you have amassed 50,000 points, you'll wind up with 100,000 points after your first year. Since these points are worth one cent each, every 10,000 points you earn is worth approximately $100 in hotel stays or any other travel experience of your choosing. Simply earn the points, book your travel, then redeem your points to cover the purchase.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of our editor's picks, and for good reason. Mainly, this card is highly rated for how easy it is to earn points, but also the ease of redeeming them. In addition to a 40,000 point signup bonus you can earn after spending $3,000 on the card within 90 days, you'll also score a hefty 2 points for every dollar you spend in any category. Redeem the points for any hotel stay – or any other type of travel – at a rate of one cent per point, making your 40,000 signup bonus a $400 hotel bounty.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
While Bank of America isn't as well known for their travel credit cards, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card has a lot to offer in the flexible travel credit card space. With this option, you'll earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend, plus a 20,000 point online bonus worth $200 after you spend just $1,000 on your card within 90 days. Use your points to book any hotel, irrespective of brand, chain, blackout dates, or award availability. As an added bonus, this card will never charge an annual fee.
If you're tired of jumping through the hoops of your favorite loyalty program, consider a rewards credit card that requires much less work. With a flexible travel credit card, the points you earn can be used to book any type of hotel stay under almost any circumstances. And the less time you have to spend digging for a hotel you actually want, the more time you can spend enjoying yourself.