Whether you spend a little or a lot, travel frequently or just occasionally, you’ll find tremendous value in having the right travel rewards-earning credit card.
The right travel rewards-earning credit card does more than help you offset the cost of travel. It can:
- Let you linger with late checkouts and freshen up with early check-in at hotels
- Reimburse you for airline checked baggage fees
- Allow you to experience some of the best hotels in the world
- Provide discounted (or free) flights, hotel rooms, and experiences
- Give you priority access to special entertainment and sporting events
- Provide a 24/7 concierge service
- Cover your rental vehicle for theft and damage
- Give you access to some of the nicest airport lounges in the world
And this is just a sampling of the benefits of having a travel rewards credit card. The perks you’ll receive with the actual card you carry will vary, but they should complement your travel profile while rewarding your spending habits.
Let’s take a look at some of the best travel rewards credit cards available in 2022, review their perks and benefits, and consider which card might be a perfect match for you, depending on your travel goals and spending priorities.
Best Card for First-Time Cardholders
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
|Credit Card||Benefits & Info
(at Chase's secure site)
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 and offer flexible redemption options.
This is a great card for first-time cardholders since you’ll go on to earn 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services, plus 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.
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. Plus, it comes with perks like a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit, and bonus points equal to 10% of your total purchases made the previous year.
Best Cards for Luxury Travelers
The Platinum Card® from American Express
When you prefer the best travel experiences, you want only the best travel rewards card. 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.
The benefits of the Amex Platinum card collectively create a stunning package of everything a luxury international traveler needs to elevate their travel experience.
Note that some benefits require enrollment through your American Express account.
- The Best Travel Earnings: With the Amex Platinum card, earning valuable Membership Rewards points is simple. Make your flight and prepaid hotel purchases through Amex Travel and you’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent.
- The Best Lounge Access: Whether you want to visit a Delta Sky Club when flying Delta, 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 (you can even upgrade with points).
- Make Checked Luggage Fees Disappear: Use your airline fees credit for 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 $15 in Uber Cash. In December, you receive $35, for a total of $200 annually.
- No Reservations? No Problem: Just call your private concierge.
- Ease Through Security: Purchase CLEAR, Global Entry, or TSA PreCheck and receive a statement credit.
- Offset the Cost of Your Hotel Stay: Receive up to a $200 prepaid hotel credit valid for select bookings at Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection made via Amex Travel.
- Enjoy Those Hotel Perks: Book a stay at a Fine Hotels and Resorts property via Amex Travel and receive a room upgrade, $100 property amenity, late checkout, and more. 2-night stays or greater at The Hotel Collection also receive room upgrades and a $100 hotel experience credit.
Bottom Line: The Amex Platinum card sets the standard for a premium travel rewards card. 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- to 150,000-point welcome bonus for the Amex Platinum card!
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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.
We should also talk about earning Ultimate Rewards, too, as the card is clearly a winner with earnings of 10x points on hotels, car rentals, and dining purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5x points on airfare through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and 3x points spent on all other travel and dining purchases. All other purchases earn 1x, and purchases using the Chase shopping portal can earn as much as 20 points per $1.
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 a statement credit of up to $100 for Global Entry, Nexus, or TSA PreCheck just adds even 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.
Capital One Venture X Credit Card
The newest addition to the premium travel rewards card arena is the CapOne Venture X card. Packed with premium benefits a traveler can appreciate, such as elevated rewards for travel purchases and a generous welcome bonus to jumpstart your earnings, you’ll find value early on as a cardholder.
Your earning and redemption experiences are also enhanced significantly when you utilize the Capital One Travel portal. With an extraordinary 10x earnings on hotels and rental cars, 5x earnings on flights, and a $300 travel credit, it will pay to utilize the portal frequently.
The elevated earning on the card goes beyond Captial One Travel purchases with 2x miles per dollar spent on every other purchase. Plus, at your card anniversary, you’ll earn another 10,000 miles.
Additional redemption options allow you to erase previous travel purchases with Purchase Eraser or transfer miles earned on your card to travel partners, most of which transfer at a ratio of 1:1.
As a Visa Infinite card you’ll enjoy related benefits such as cell phone insurance, primary car rental insurance, trip cancelation, trip interruption, trip delay, and baggage insurance.
Last, but certainly not least, we like that the card comes with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership giving you access to over 1,300 lounges worldwide and unique access to Capital One Lounges.
If you’ll utilize Capital One Travel, this premium card offers a lot of value for just a $395 annual fee.
Bottom Line: With a lower annual fee for a premium travel rewards card, the CapOne Venture X card could deliver plenty of value for the cardholder who will utilize the Capital One travel portal for travel purchases and redemptions.
Best Value Hotel-Branded Card
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
For the traveler who values choice when it comes to hotels, you won’t find a hotel chain with more properties around the world than Marriott. Plus, each year after your card anniversary, you’ll receive a complimentary hotel night certificate (good for up to 35,000 points in value).
We like that the card delivers plenty of earning potential, good-value redemption options, and lots of additional benefits without a high annual fee.
Additional benefits of having the Marriott Boundless card include:
- Complimentary Elite Status: 15 elite night credits per year toward a higher elite status, good for Silver status
- Accelerated Earnings: Earn up to 17 points per $1 at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels and 2 points per $1 on all other purchases
You’ll also receive a variety of Visa Signature travel perks with the card, including:
- Roadside dispatch
- Auto rental collision damage waiver
- Travel and emergency assistance
- Baggage delay insurance and lost luggage reimbursement
- Travel accident coverage
- No foreign transaction fees
Bottom Line: If you’re loyal to a particular hotel brand, it makes sense to be earning additional rewards on those hotel expenditures with a hotel-branded travel rewards credit card… especially when those rewards can be turned into more free nights.
Best Card for the Everyday Spender
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!
As a traveler, there’s no need to be loyal to a single 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 via Amex Travel.
You can also redeem those Membership Rewards points for travel with any airline or hotel and for other travel purchases at Amex 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.
Hot Tip: With so many different issuers in the travel credit card space, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with each bank’s specific rules before applying.
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 Credit Card
- 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 Credit Card
- 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, however, you will have choices. One of the best values for your miles will be to use Purchase Eraser to “erase” prior travel purchases with a statement credit at a value of 1 cent for each mile. Or, transfer your miles to airline partners and book award tickets to receive potentially higher value for your reward miles.
Bottom Line: For straightforward earnings and redemptions, Capital One travel rewards credit cards allow you to forget about managing your rewards and let you concentrate on planning your next trip instead. Learn how to decide between the 2 featured cards in our detailed comparison of the CapOne Venture card vs. CapOne VentureOne card.
Best Card for the Low Spender
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 the Amex Blue Cash Everyday 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 Amex 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 select 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 Amex 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
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 Amex 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, and you’ll have plenty of travel funds for that weekend road trip.
Not only do you earn cash-back at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, 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 Amex Blue Cash Preferred card just might make you a family road trip hero!
Best Card for the Budget Traveler
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Do you like to travel but have a tight budget? The Freedom Unlimited card has a little secret that might help you out.
The Freedom Unlimited card earns 5% back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, plus 1.5% back on all other purchases that fall outside of these bonus categories.
The trick is, the cash-back you earn on all of your purchases with the Freedom Unlimited card is not just cash-back; it can be redeemed for travel or transferred to Chase premium credit cards for even greater value.
If you like to travel on a budget, Ultimate Rewards points are perfect for securing economy flights on the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Booking travel is easy, and you can redeem your points for airline tickets, hotels, car rentals, and travel experiences.
To step up the value of your Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer them to a Chase premium card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, where the value of your Ultimate Rewards Points is increased by up to 50% more (see our example below). You’ll also have the option to then transfer your points to airline and hotel partners for even greater potential value.
With no annual fee, a simple earning structure, and the value you can receive when redeeming Ultimate Rewards Points (or transferring points to premium Chase cards), the Freedom Unlimited card is a fine choice for the budget traveler.
Now go tell your family they’re going to Disney World!
Bottom Line: When redeeming Ultimate Rewards points for travel, you can pick any airline, hotel, or travel experience without worrying about award availability or blackout dates — redeeming your points is just like paying with cash. You’ll also be earning frequent flyer miles!
Best Card for the Hotel Loyalist
If Hilton is your hotel brand of choice, you’ll be happy to learn that the perks and benefits you receive in its Hilton Honors loyalty program will be elevated to a new level when you carry and use one of its hotel-branded credit card.
Let’s take a look at how your experience can be enhanced with the addition of a hotel-branded credit card.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
It’s unusual that a credit card alone would grant top elite status to the cardholder, especially without a required level of spending each year — but that’s exactly what you’ll receive by having the Hilton Aspire card. And it’s not the only premium benefit that comes with this card!
- Top Diamond Elite Hilton Honors status: Valid for as long as you have the card, you’ll receive room upgrades (including suites), breakfast, hotel amenities, bonus points, internet, and more. Diamond elite members receive 20 Hilton Honors points per $1 spent at Hilton properties, and the Hilton Aspire card elevates that to a total of 34 points per $1.
- Free Hotel Room Nights: Receive 1 free hotel room night each card anniversary year, plus another when you spend $60,000 on the card each year. You’ll also receive your fifth night free when booking award nights with your points.
- Airline and Hotel Statement Credits: Get $250 in incidental airline fees, a $250 Hilton resort credit, and a $100 property credit at Conrad or Waldorf Astoria properties.
- Worldwide Lounge Access: Your Hilton Aspire card comes with a full Priority Pass Select worldwide lounge membership.
- Terms Apply.
Earning Hilton Honors points is easy: you’ll receive 14 points per $1 spent at Hilton properties; 7 points per $1 spent on airlines, Amex Travel purchases, U.S. restaurants, and U.S. rental cars; and 3 points per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Redeem your Hilton Honors points for the best value by booking free hotel nights with points or with cash and points. Our expert guide on the best ways to redeem your Hilton Honors points will help make sure you receive maximum value at redemption time.
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. The cards 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 Capital One Venture X Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Card, Capital One VentureOne Rewards 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 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® Card from American Express, please click here.