This article was updated on June 25, 2018.

Everyone loves a vacation. You know what would make a vacation even better, though? Getting some cash back from your credit card when you travel.

The average American household spends around $600 for short domestic vacations, while longer international vacations average over $3,250. Most of those expenses go toward transportation and lodging, with food and entertainment making up the rest. Earning back a few percentage points in rewards from credit card spending could really add up.

A woman holding a credit card lying on a garment bag on the floor, surrounded by a hat, map, camera, passport, and sunglasses

Image source: Getty Images.

Get unlimited free hotel nights

If you travel a lot, consider applying for the Citi® Prestige credit card. One of the best perks the Citi® Prestige card offers is its "fourth night free" benefit: Citi will reimburse the average rate for one night on stays four days or longer. If you travel a lot, this benefit alone could easily offset the $450 annual fee.

You can book a stay through or contact the Citi Concierge to book travel. The "fourth night free" deal stacks with hotel promotions as well (like "fifth night free"), but Citi averages the rate across all nights stayed to determine the amount it reimburses cardholders.

The Citi® Prestige also earns 3 points per dollar on airfare and hotels and 2 points per dollar on restaurants. Points can be redeemed for 1 cent each as a statement credit or 1.25 cents per point for flights (but not hotels) booked through Citi's travel portal.

The card also offers the standard premium credit card perks. There's a $250 annual credit for airfare and airline incidentals like baggage fees. It also includes other perks like lounge access, Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement, and one of the best credit card baggage-delay insurance policies.

Earn 4.5% back on your travel expenses

There are a couple of credit cards that will give back as much as 4.5% in rewards for most travel expenses. Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve earn 3 points per dollar spent on transportation and hotels booked directly with the vendor. Those points can be redeemed for a value of 1.5 cents each through their respective travel portals.

Both come with annual travel credits, and will reimburse the cardholder for the Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee. Each also provides several other travel perks as well. That said, they have fairly hefty annual fees. The table below compares them side by side:

Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve

Annual fee



Annual travel credit



Points per dollar (travel)



Points per dollar (restaurants)


1x (3x if using a mobile wallet)

Priority Pass lounge access

Unlimited (individual lounges may impose limits)

First four visits and four guest visits free, then $27 per visit

TSA Precheck / Global Entry reimbursement



Gogo Wi-Fi passes



Point value (redeemed through travel portal)

1.5 cents

1.5 cents

Point value (redeemed as statement credit)

1 cent

1 cent

Data sources: Chase and U.S. Bank.

One thing worth noting: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns Ultimate Rewards points. These points can be redeemed for cash back or used in Chase's travel portal, but Ultimate Rewards points are worth a lot more if transferred to Chase's travel partners. Keep in mind that Ultimate Rewards points can be pooled from other Chase credit cards as well. Along with the 3 times points earned at restaurants, that could be the deciding factor for some consumers. Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to learn more.

If you plan on simply redeeming points for travel through the portal, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve is a good option. Not only does it earn 3 times points on travel, it also earns 3 times points on all purchases made with a mobile wallet (like Android Pay, Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay).

Not fond of hefty annual fees?

There are a couple of good options for earning a high percentage of cash back from credit cards on travel purchases, without annual fees.

The Discover it® Miles credit card offers 1.5% back on all purchases. But Discover will double the cash back earned for the first year of card membership, effectively offering 3% cash back for a year. Read our full review of the Discover it® Miles to learn more.

A good option for some may be the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card. The card earns 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase. But members of Bank of America's Preferred Rewards program can earn up to 75% more points; that bumps the points per dollar to as much as 2.625. Points can be redeemed for 1 cent each as a statement credit against travel purchases. Read our full review of the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card to learn more.

Although the no-annual-fee options don't earn the same level of cash back as premium credit cards, they earn those rewards on all purchases, not just travel and restaurant purchases. As such, they make great credit cards for those seeking to hold just one or two cards in their wallets.

Let credit cards pay for part of your vacation

If you're a frequent traveler, you can definitely get a lot of value out of premium credit cards to offset their typical $450 annual fee. If you just want to earn some extra money from your credit card when you book your annual vacation, a no-annual-fee credit card may be a better value.

Consider your travel habits, and use the tips in this article to determine which card will earn you the most money for your travel.

Adam Levy has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. The Motley Fool receives compensation from some advertisers who provide products and services that may be covered by our editorial team. It’s one way we make money. But know that our editorial integrity and transparency matters most and our ratings aren’t influenced by compensation. The statements above are The Motley Fool's alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers. Review The Motley Fool’s ratings methodology to uncover how we pick the best credit cards.