Anyone who travels knows that having a premium travel rewards credit card can make a huge difference in your travel experience. These cards often include perks such as lounge access, rental car status, fee reimbursements, and more — all of which can save you money and frustration, and generally give you a more relaxed experience at the airport.
There are, however, a large number of these credit cards on the market. Each of them has varying benefits, annual fees, and other discrepancies, so it can be hard for you, the frequent traveler, to pick the card that’s really right for you.
But don’t worry — at Upgraded Points, we stay on top of the premium credit card world, so we can inform you about these cards and their respective benefits. With that in mind, we’ll take a look at some of the best premium credit cards on the market in this article, helping you find out which is best for your wallet.
We’ll start the article by going through each of these cards’ benefits, and then move to a quick comparison of all the cards on this list. We’ve split the cards up into general travel cards, premium airline cards, and premium hotel cards.
If that sounds good to you, let’s get started!
Premium General Travel Cards
American Express, Chase, Capital One, and U.S. Bank all offer their own premium credit cards with various benefits such as lounge access, elevated points earning, and additional benefits and protections. These benefits aren’t airline-specific in most cases, so travelers who frequently travel on award tickets or switch airlines will get the most use from the perks of these credit cards.
Here’s a look at the 4 most popular premium general travel credit cards:
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Amex Platinum card is one of the most well-known travel cards on the market. It’s long been seen as a staple of luxury in the travel space due to its huge list of benefits.
Most travelers get an Amex Platinum card to take advantage of the card’s huge network of lounges. This card offers access to American Express’ in-house Centurion Lounge network, Priority Pass upon enrollment, International Centurion Lounges, Escape Lounges – The Centurion Studio Partner, Plaza Premium Lounges, Airspace Lounge, select Virgin Clubhouses, select Lufthansa lounges when flying with Lufthansa Group the same day, and Delta Sky Clubs when flying with Delta the same day.
Further, the card offers up to $200 in airline incidental fee credit that can be used to cover incidental fees — think baggage fees, priority boarding, and seat selection — incurred from 1 airline of your choice.
The card also has an assortment of other perks, too. Some of these include a Global Entry fee reimbursement, up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit, access to the International Airline Program, and complimentary Gold elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors upon enrollment.
The card falls short when it comes to points earning, though. It offers 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare booked through Amex Travel or directly through the airline, but offers a mere 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. However, points can be used for tons of high-end redemptions like first and business class travel.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is Chase’s answer to the Amex Platinum card. However, this card replaces some of the flashy benefits with elevated points earning, making it better for customers that need a card that offers both premium benefits and great points earning.
On the benefits side, some of the card’s most notable perks include Priority Pass lounge access, a $300 annual travel credit that can be applied to any travel purchase, primary rental car insurance, travel insurance, and a Global Entry fee reimbursement,
Points earning is where the card really shines, though. It earns 10 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Chase Dining, hotels, and car rentals booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. It also earns 5 points per dollar on airline travel booked through the travel portal. You’ll earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases — which includes fast food, cafes, Ubers, taxis, airfare, and much more. These points can then be transferred to one of Chase’s many transfer partners to book award travel.
Plus, the card now earns 10 points per dollar on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), so you can earn some serious extra points on your rideshare rides. For example, a $75 Lyft ride to the airport would earn a whopping 750 Ultimate Rewards points!
You can redeem your Ultimate Rewards points towards paid flights through the Chase travel portal at 1.5 cents per point. You can redeem a $150 flight for just 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points and still earn frequent flyer points in the process.
With all of these benefits, it’s easy to see why this is one of the best Visa travel rewards cards available.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
We’re thrilled to see Capital One enter the premium travel rewards card space with the CapOne Venture X card. With its lower annual fee compared to other luxury travel rewards cards, a frequent traveler can easily find enough value to exceed this annual outlay.
We like that cardholders can earn big when using Capital One Travel as hotels and rental car purchases earn 10x miles per dollar spent and 5x miles on flights booked via the portal. The earnings continue with 2x miles earned for every dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, every card anniversary you’ll earn an additional 10,000 miles.
At redemption time, you’ll have strong choices including redeeming miles for travel via Capital One Travel, transferring miles to airline/hotel partners for even greater potential value, or receiving a statement credit.
Add in an up to $300 Capital One Travel statement credit each year, airport lounge access including a Priority Pass Select lounge membership and access to Capital One Lounges and Plaza Premium Lounges, Gravity Haus benefits, cell phone protection, car rental insurance and benefits, and trip insurance benefits, and you could find plenty of bottom-line value as a cardholder.
The card also comes with a generous welcome bonus and a limited-time vacation rental statement credit.
Hot Tip: See how this card compares to other premium credit cards in CapOne Venture X card vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve card and CapOne Venture X card vs Amex Platinum card.
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
Lastly, we have the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card. This card has weaker benefits than the other cards in this section, but its lower annual fee and high annual travel credit make the card one of the cheapest ways to get a Priority Pass Select lounge membership.
In addition to full-fledged Priority Pass Select membership, you’ll receive up to $325 in annual travel credits that can be used on all travel purchases, Global Entry fee reimbursement, and more.
Plus, the card has an interesting points-earning structure not seen by other cards. It earns points in the following categories:
- Travel Purchases: 3 points per dollar
- Mobile Wallet Purchases (Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.): 3 points per dollar
As you’d expect, all other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. However, with so many merchants now accepting mobile wallets like Apple Pay both online and in-store, you may find yourself earning 3 points per dollar spent more often than not.
Unfortunately, U.S. Bank doesn’t have any transfer partners. However, you can redeem your Altitude points at 1.5 cents per point in value toward any travel purchase by charging travel purchases to your card and “erasing” the charges through the U.S. Bank website or via an automated text message service.
Which General Travel Card Is Right for You?
All 4 cards in this category have different benefits, with only 2 common denominators: an annual airline/travel credit and a Priority Pass membership.
With that in mind, you should look at whether you value points earning or travel benefits more when picking a card from this list.
Those who want access to more lounges and travel perks like hotel status may value the Amex Platinum card, while those that value points earning should compare the other 3 cards and pick the card that has bonus categories that best match your everyday spend habits.
One word of caution though: the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card doesn’t have transfer partners, so you should only consider this card if you plan on redeeming for paid airfare or other general travel purchases. Those looking for luxury points redemptions should look at other options.
Premium Airline Cards
The “big 3” U.S. airlines — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines — each have a premium co-branded credit card. These cards usually include access to all of the airline’s lounges, a Global Entry credit, and other various benefits. Likewise, these cards usually have high annual fees.
Let’s take a look at 3 of the major premium airline-branded credit cards:
Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
The AAdvantage Executive World Elite card is the highest-end American Airlines credit card on the market.
The card offers Admirals Club lounge access worldwide when flying on American Airlines, includes a Global Entry credit, gives you a free checked bag on American flights, and offers priority security screening, flight check-in, and priority boarding for you and up to 8 travel companions.
Even cooler, every dollar you spend on the card earns 1 Loyal Point towards AAdvantage elite status. This makes American Airlines elite status just a bit easier to obtain, and can possibly move you up by a status tier.
Unfortunately, though, the card has lackluster points-earning: it earns 2 American miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else. Note that you’ll get a 25% rebate on American Airlines food and beverage purchases, too, making it just a bit cheaper to dine onboard.
One bright note is that authorized users added to the card are also eligible for Admirals Club lounge access.
United Club℠ Infinite Card
United Airlines’ top-tier credit card — the United Club Infinite card from Chase — has similar benefits to the American Airlines credit card. This card gives you access to United Clubs and select Star Alliance lounges, 2 free checked bags, and access to Premier Access check-in, security, and boarding when flying with United.
This card also gives you Avis President’s Club status, so you’ll get perks like car class upgrades and guaranteed availablity when you rent cars with Avis. Depending on how often you rent, these benefits can be extremely valuable.
On the points-earning side, you’ll earn 4 United miles per dollar spent on United purchases and 2 miles per dollar on travel and dining. All other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar spent.
You can also earn 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) per $12,000 spent on the card which can help you reach United Airlines elite status. United Club Infinite cardholders can earn up to $4,000 PQP in a calendar year by spending on the card.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
The Delta Reserve card is one of the most valuable premium airline credit cards.
As you’d expect, the card includes Delta Sky Club access when flying on Delta Air Lines, a free checked bag, priority boarding, and a Global Entry credit. The card also has a slew of new benefits that make the card even more lucrative.
Delta Reserve cardholders are also able to access Amex Centurion Lounges when flying on Delta Air Lines, and even non-elite members will be eligible for flight upgrades. These upgrades are space available with non-elite cardholders having priority over other non-elites for upgrades.
Cardmembers will earn 3 Delta SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, and all other eligible purchases will earn a standard 1 SkyMile per dollar spent. Further, you’ll earn a cool 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) per $30,000 charged on the card, up to 60,000 MQMs per year.
Which Premium Airline Card Is Right for You?
Picking a premium airline credit card largely boils down to which airline you fly the most. So if you fly Delta on a weekly basis for work, applying for a United Club card probably doesn’t make sense. You’ll only use the benefits when flying a specific airline.
On a similar note, these cards are only really worthwhile for someone that’s loyal to a specific airline. We don’t recommend signing up for one of these cards if you fly different airlines every time you fly, or if you only fly a few times a year.
More often than not, these cards aren’t worth putting your everyday spend on. None of the cards on this list earn bonus points for dining, groceries, or other common categories, so you should only put everyday spending on these cards when working to meet bonus qualifying point thresholds.
Bottom Line: You should only consider a premium airline credit card if you are loyal to a specific U.S. airline — otherwise, you’re better off with a general travel credit card that provides a wider range of benefits.
Premium Hotel Cards
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a wave of premium hotel credit cards enter the premium credit card scene. These cards offer benefits like complimentary hotel elite status, qualifying nights, and other interesting perks. Both Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy offer premium credit cards at this time, so we’ll run you through each of their quirks and features below.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
The Hilton Aspire card is an enticing choice for frequent Hilton guests.
This card offers a slew of different benefits, including top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status, a Priority Pass lounge membership, Global Entry reimbursement, an annual $250 airline incidental fee credit, and even an annual $250 Hilton resort credit.
Hilton Diamond status offers a slew of ultra-premium benefits like lounge access at select Hilton hotels, free breakfast, and top priority for upgrades when staying at Hilton hotels. Plus, the $250 credit can be used for charges like dining, room rates, and more when staying at select Hilton resorts worldwide.
But the benefits don’t stop there.
The card also has an annual free weekend night certificate that’s issued shortly after you pay your card’s annual fee — including the first year. This free weekend night can be redeemed at any Hilton property worldwide, letting you experience 5-star luxury on a budget. You can earn a second certificate by spending $60,000 on your card in a given calendar year.
As far as points-earning goes, the card earns bonus Hilton points in the following categories:
- Hilton charges: 14 points per dollar spent
- Airfare and car rentals: 7 points per dollar spent
- Other purchases: 3 points per dollar spent
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card is a great addition to the premium hotel card space. While the benefits aren’t as plentiful as the Hilton Aspire card, this card is aimed at Marriott Bonvoy loyalists who stay at Marriott hotels frequently.
The card has an interesting benefits package that includes 15 Elite Night Credits towards Marriott Bonvoy elite status, a $100 credit when staying at St. Regis and Ritz Carlton properties, a Priority Pass lounge membership upon enrollment, Global Entry reimbursement, an annual free night (up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points), and a $300 credit towards Marriott Bonvoy purchases per calendar year. This annual credit can be applied to hotel room rates, in-room dining, and more, making the annual fee a bit easier to swallow.
Further, the card comes with free mid-tier Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. This isn’t quite as powerful as Hilton Diamond, but it will get you access to upgrades, late checkout, and more.
You can also upgrade to Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status by spending $75,000 per calendar year on the card, which may be worth it depending on your Marriott Bonvoy purchase patterns.
The card earns Marriott Bonvoy points in the following purchase categories:
- Marriott Bonvoy purchases: 6 points per dollar spent
- U.S. restaurants: 3 points per dollar spent
- Flights booked directly with airlines: 3 points per dollar spent
- Other purchases: 2 points per dollar spent
Which Premium Hotel Card Is Right for You?
Each of these cards has valuable benefits when staying at their respective hotel brands, but we think that the Hilton Aspire card is the best bet for most travelers.
Getting Hilton’s top-tier status — Hilton Diamond — is a huge perk. This gives you the best shot at upgrades, free breakfast, and other valuable benefits when spending a night at Hilton hotels. Further, this card has points-earning categories for travel booking, and its various credits and annual free weekend night can help you offset the card’s annual fee when you travel.
On the other hand, we only recommend the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card to those who already stay at Marriott hotels. This is because the $300 Marriott Bonvoy credit largely offsets the card’s annual fee, and earning elite night credits makes it just a bit easier to earn top-tier Marriott Bonvoy elite status.
While Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite is nothing to scoff at, you may be better off getting this status with the Amex Platinum card as mentioned earlier.
What Type of Premium Travel Card Is Right for You?
For the bulk of travelers, a general travel credit card like the Amex Platinum card, CapOne Venture X card, or Chase Sapphire Reserve card is the best bet. These cards provide both great returns on everyday spending and have excellent benefits like lounge access across multiple lounge networks, car rental status, and more.
However, those who regularly fly a specific airline for work may prefer a premium airline credit card. These cards can help you achieve airline status faster and will give you access to domestic airline lounges when flying on your preferred airline. This is especially important when you consider that Priority Pass has limited options when traveling domestically.
Finally, hotel cards can be a good option for road warriors who want hotel status quickly. Like we mentioned earlier, though, we recommend the Hilton Aspire card unless you’re already a frequent Marriott guest who can take advantage of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card’s bonus Elite Night Credits and $300 stay credit.
We showed you the best premium travel credit cards on the market. Picking a card from this list depends on what you value the most in your travel experience — but a general premium travel credit card is best for most travelers. These cards provide the widest range of benefits and will reward you for spending in certain categories.
But now we want to hear from you. What premium travel credit cards do you carry on a daily basis? Let us know in the comments — we’re excited to hear your take.
The information regarding the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card, and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire 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 Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here.