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The Three Basic Travel Cards with Not So Basic Rewards
Travel cards can be complicated. Figure out which ones will reward you without the hassle.
Travel cards are notoriously the most confusing on the market. You might only get points for certain purchases, you might only be able to redeem those points for certain hotels or for certain flights and, of course, only on certain dates. On top of that, it probably all has to be done through their preferred platform. Oh yeah, and you probably have to pay them an annual fee, too.
To help make all this less confusing, we’ve analyzed the travel cards available to let you know which ones really are going to give you the best deal without the headache. All the cards mentioned here have no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and give you the same great points value for all purchases, not just travel purchases. These points can be used across airlines and hotel chains for a variety of travel purchases so there is no need to worry about restrictions that would come with a brand-specific credit card. That means all of these cards are great to use if you are trying to rack up points to redeem for travel or to use while you are travelling.
Our Top Pick: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
With a substantial 1.5 points per dollar rewards rate on all purchases with no category restrictions or caps, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card is our top pick for a no hassle travel rewards card. On top of that, if you make purchases through their easy, online tool, the Bank of America Travel Center, your rewards rate increases to 3 points per dollar. You can also earn up to 75% more bonus rewards if you have a qualifying Bank of America® bank account or Merrill Lynch® investment account. While these are slight complexities, we didn’t count it against this card since it’s all upside on an already great rate.
On top of the strong ongoing rewards rate, Bank of America offers 20,000 bonus points, worth $200 in travel credit, after making $1,000 of purchases in the first 90 days. Unlike some other bonuses, you don’t have to wait a year to receive your points, so this is a great offer if you want to use points to travel in the next couple of months.
Why This Card Stands Out:
- 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
- Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
Close Second: Discover it® Miles
Also touting a rewards rate of 1.5 miles per dollar, Discover it® Miles is a close second for no hassle travel reward cards, especially since they automatically match (double?) all miles earned in your first year (thanks to their Discover Match offer for new cardmembers). This card only came in second due to the fact that it takes a year to see the intro bonus and would require spending over $13,000 to receive the equivalent $200 bonus*. That being said, if you spend more than that a year on credit cards, your intro bonus can be even greater than $200 because there is no limit to the number of miles Discover will match.
Where this card really stands out is that miles can be redeemed for either travel credits or cash back. Most travel cards reduce the rewards value when opting for cash back, but Discover it® Miles are worth the standard $0.01 per mile whether redeemed for travel or cash back. Another benefit is that miles can also be redeemed in any amount, where other cards require minimum thresholds for redemptions. If you are uncertain about whether you want to redeem for travel or cash back, this card is a great option.
Why This Card Stands Out:
- Unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar you spend on purchases.
- 50,000 Miles could turn into 100,000 Miles with Discover Match®. Discover will automatically match all the Miles you earned at the end of your first year. Only for new cardmembers.
- Redeem your Miles for any amount to credit your travel purchases on your statement or get the cash at any time
Annual Fee Option: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Sometimes an annual fee is worth it for the added bonuses you receive. If you are open to the idea of an annual fee (this card’s $95 annual fee is waived the first year), the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a great choice. Earning an astounding 2 miles per dollar on all purchases and 50,000 bonus miles worth $500 after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of approval, this card can quickly offset its annual fee with rewards while still offering great perks and minimal hassle.
Why This Card Stands Out:
- Earn unlimited 2x miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of approval, equal to $500 in travel
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that