The 10 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards [August 2021]

SWISS Air Boeing 777 First Class Middle Suites 2D & 2G

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Let’s take a look at some of the best travel rewards credit cards available in 2021, review their perks and benefits, and consider which card might be a perfect match for you depending on how you like to travel.

CardWelcome BonusAnnual Fee
Best Offer Ever

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when redeeming points for eligible purchases with the new Pay Yourself Back tool, or for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

This is our #1 choice as the card has a huge welcome bonus for the low annual fee.
New 100K Welcome Offer

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
  • Earn 60,000 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
$695 (see rates & fees)
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Learn More
(at Chase's secure site)
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

American Express® Gold Card

Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
  • Earn 35,000 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first 6 months.
  • Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.

$250 (see rates & fees)
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Card
Learn More
(at our partner's secure site)
  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
Learn More
(at our partner's secure site)
  • Earn 20,000 mile sign up bonus (worth $200) once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.

New Welcome Offer

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
  • Earn 20% back on purchases on the Card in the first 6 months of Card membership, up to $150 back. Plus, earn $100 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months of card membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits. Terms Apply.
$0 (see rates & fees)
New Welcome Offer

Blue Cash Preferred® from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Learn More
(at Amex's secure site)
  • Earn 20% back on purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits. Terms Apply.
$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. (see rates & fees)

Best Card for Big Welcome Bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Overall Top Pick, Huge Bonus)

One of the most compelling reasons to hold a travel rewards credit card is to fund your travel goals, and one of the most valuable ways to accomplish this is to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are easy to earn, offer flexible redemption options, and increase in value when redeemed through a premium Chase credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

You’ll earn a sign-up bonus when you complete the required initial spending on the card, and then you’ll go on to 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases.

When it comes time to redeem your Ultimate Rewards points — whether you’re transferring your points to hotel or airline partners or using the Chase travel portal to book your travel — the experience will make you a fan forever.

Bottom Line: You can’t go wrong beginning your travel-rewards journey with any Chase credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an especially fine first choice because it allows you to redeem your points for 25% more in value.

Best Card for Luxury International Travelers

The Platinum Card® from American Express

When you prefer the best travel experiences, you want only the best travel rewards card. And if you’re an international traveler who won’t settle for anything less than a nice comfy seat, lounge access, and premium travel perks and benefits, you’re going to want the Amex Platinum card.

Arctic Club Seattle - a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
Enjoy the complimentary hotel elite status that comes with the Amex Platinum card. Image Credit: Hilton

The benefits of the Amex Platinum card collectively create a stunning package of everything a luxury international traveler needs to elevate their travel experience.

  • The Best Travel Earnings: With the Amex Platinum card, earning valuable Membership Rewards points is simple. Make your flight and prepaid hotel purchases through American Express Travel and you’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent.
  • The Best Lounge Access: Whether you want to visit a Delta Sky Club, a Priority Pass lounge, or treat yourself to a Centurion Lounge visit, your card will grant you access.
  • Savor Those Upgraded Hotel Rooms: Enjoy the benefits of complimentary hotel elite status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy.
  • The Best Seat on the Plane: Purchase an upgraded seat and get reimbursed up to $200 for incidental airline fees each year.
  • Make Checked Luggage Fees Disappear: Use your $200 in incidental airline fees reimbursed each year and forget about checked luggage fees or other incidental airline charges.
  • Take Uber for Free: Each month you’ll receive up to $15 in statement credits toward Uber purchases. In December, you receive and additional $20 making the monthly total in December up to $35.
  • No Reservations? No Problem: Just call your private concierge.
  • Ease Through Security: Purchase Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and receive a statement credit of up to $100.
  • Enjoy Those Hotel Perks: Stay for 2 nights at a Fine Hotels and Resorts property and receive a room upgrade, $100 property amenity, late checkout, and more.
  • Terms Apply.

Bottom Line: The Amex Platinum card sets the top standard for premium travel cards. If its benefits are some you can use, the value will far exceed the annual fee. There’s even a possibility of getting a 100,000 welcome bonus for the Amex Platinum card. 

Best Cards for the Frequent Domestic Traveler

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is not just another premium travel rewards credit card. Yes, it earns rewards on travel and dining, offers a fine collection of premium travel benefits (including lounge access), and grants annual statement credits for travel purchases.

But it also does something that no other travel rewards credit card does: when you redeem your points for travel on the Chase travel portal, 50% more value is added to your points.

For example, if you redeem 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll receive $900 in value toward your travel purchase.

While expensive long-haul premium flights can be better secured utilizing Ultimate Rewards airline transfer partners, a sweet spot for redeeming your Ultimate Rewards points is for first-class domestic flights.

If you’re a frequent domestic traveler, this means you can basically travel in first class for the price of economy.

Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal redemption
Redeeming your Ultimate Rewards for travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card gives you 50% more value. Image Credit: Chase

We should also talk about earning Ultimate Rewards, too, as the card is clearly a winner with earnings of 5x total points on air travel and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining. All other purchases earn 1 point per $1, and purchases using the Chase shopping portal can earn as much as 20 points per $1.

Update:Chase has added these limited-time benefits to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card:
– Any remaining $300 travel statement credits unused will automatically be applied to grocery store and gas station purchases through December 31, 2021.

Benefits of this card include worldwide Priority Pass lounge access, but there are more than 90 lounge and restaurant locations domestically.

A $300 travel credit each card anniversary year automatically reduces travel expenses, and an annual statement credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck just adds more value.

The road warrior will find value in the additional travel coverage that comes with the card, including auto rental collision damage coverage and 24/7 travel and emergency assistance.

Bottom Line: The world traveler can certainly find value in having the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but the frequent domestic traveler who likes to fly first class, enjoys Priority Pass lounge and restaurant access, and spends a lot on travel and dining will fare very well by having the card. 

Best Card for the Everyday Spender (Big Bonuses for Supermarkets & Dining)

American Express® Gold Card

Want a card that doubles as an everyday spending card and a travel rewards card? Get richly rewarded with the Amex Gold card that offers a stellar 4 Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets, up to $25,000 per calendar year (1x thereafter), and at restaurants worldwide! Cardholders earn 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 on all other purchases.

As a traveler, there’s no need to be loyal to 1 airline — with the Amex Gold card, you’re going to earn 3 valuable Membership Rewards points for every $1 spent for flights purchased directly from the airline and at American Express Travel.

When it comes to hotels, you can book a 2-night stay at an American Express Hotel Collection property and receive a $100 hotel credit that can even be used toward an extra night.

You can also redeem those Membership Rewards points for travel with any airline or hotel and for other travel purchases at American Express Travel.

Everything you need to know about the Amex Gold card, its additional benefits, and how to book travel through the Amex Travel website can be found in our expert guides

Best Cards for Travelers Who Want Simple Earnings and Redemptions

Keeping track of bonus spending categories, quarterly registrations, and complicated redemption processes may have deterred you from securing a travel rewards-earning credit card.

If that’s the case, you’ll find these Capital One travel rewards cards refreshingly simple.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card

  • Generous welcome bonus worth up to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on every purchase
  • Redeem miles for travel or transfer to airline partners
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee reimbursement
  • Annual fee waived the first year

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Card

  • Welcome bonus worth up to $200 in travel
  • Earn 1.25 miles per $1 spent on every purchase
  • Redeem miles for travel or transfer to airline partners
  • $0 annual fee

No need to wonder which category of expenses earns more than others — you’ll earn the same on any purchase you make. It’s that simple!

When it comes time to redeem your rewards, you’ll have many choices. The best value, however, will be to use Purchase Eraser to “erase” prior travel purchases at a value of 1 cent for each mile or transfer your miles to airline partners and book award tickets. Transferring miles to airline partners can result in potentially higher value for your reward miles.

Best Card for the Low Spender

Stacks of coins
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find value in a travel rewards-earning credit card. Image Credit: Singkham via Shutterstock

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

You don’t have to be a big spender to earn travel rewards. With a relatively low minimum spend requirement once you’re approved for a card, you can earn a welcome bonus and jumpstart the rewards-earning process.

Perhaps you haven’t pursued a rewards-earning credit card because you don’t spend a lot and might be wondering whether it’s worth the effort at all. You may be surprised to learn that the purchases you’re already making can earn rewards to help you fund a trip, or just add some cash to your bottom line.

Because you’ll be earning rewards on your everyday purchases with the Blue Cash Everyday card, you don’t have to spend big for the cash-back to start adding up. On groceries alone, you’ll earn $180 after getting 3% back from $6,000 in annual purchases at U.S. supermarkets.

Add that to your 2% earnings at U.S. gas stations and selected U.S. department stores, and you’ve paid for your hotel nights without spending any more than you’d normally spend!

Whether your travel goal is a weekend trip away with the family or a flight to visit an old friend, you can utilize the cash-back you earn on the Blue Cash Everyday card to help offset the cost of your adventure.

Hot Tip: If you’re working toward a travel goal and using a cash-back credit card, you may want to purchase gas, hotel, or other travel-related gift cards with your rewards to help save for your trip. 

Best Card for Family Road Trippers

Travel with Kids car and child
Be a road trip hero with the right travel rewards credit card. Image Credit: HTeam via Shutterstock

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

It’s Friday afternoon and the workweek is done. You’re ready to high-five the family when you arrive home because you’re hitting the road for a weekend adventure. It doesn’t happen often… but this weekend it’s on!

We’re certain the Blue Cash Preferred card was created with family road trippers in mind. After all, you’ll earn cash-back on all the purchases you’ll be making during your trip, and you can use the cash-back you earned previously on everyday expenses to actually help fund your trip.

It’s a win-win cash-back solution for the family that hits the road together or those who just want a little extra cash flow.

Earning 6% cash-back on U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1%) delivers up to $360 each year in cash-back. Add all the cash you’ll earn with 3% cash-back on your U.S. gas stations, plus a generous cash-back introductory bonus, and you’ll have plenty of travel funds for that weekend road trip.

Not only do you earn cash-back on groceries and gas, but the card also offers 6% cash-back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 3% cash-back on transit, including taxis and rideshares, parking, tolls, trains, buses, and more.

The Blue Cash Preferred card just might make you a family road trip hero!

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to selecting a travel rewards-earning credit card. Fortunately, each card has its own distinct characteristics that match up with certain travel and spending profiles. This makes it possible to zero in quickly on which travel rewards credit card might be a good fit for you.

Remember: because Chase plays a prominent role in the travel rewards credit card arena, you’ll want to consider the Chase 5/24 rule in your selection process.

Regardless of which card you choose, we know for sure that travel rewards credit cards can change the way we travel and the way we live. They allow us to earn points, cash, or miles on purchases we would be making anyway and give us the ability to offset the cost of travel we may have never considered otherwise.

The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Capital One® Venture Card, Capital One® VentureOne Card, and Chase Freedom Unlimited® card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® from American Express, please click here.

Alex Miller

About Alex Miller

Alex has been traveling for over 25 years and from a young age was lucky enough to set out on numerous family trips all over the world, which gave him the travel bug. Alex has since earned millions of travel points and miles, mainly through maximizing credit card sign-up bonuses and taking every opportunity to earn the most points possible on each dollar spent.

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