6 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for April 2020

Lyle is a writer specializing in credit cards, travel rewards programs, and banking. His work has also appeared on MSN Money, USA Today, and Yahoo! Finance.

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Travel credit cards are a great way to gain rewards while you spend. With historically high rewards rates, it’s a great opportunity to consider how a travel rewards credit card could help you achieve your goals. There may be no better time for you to sign up for a new travel credit card than today. Travelers benefit when taking advantage of big sign-up bonuses, securing discounted cheap airfare, avoiding foreign and annual transaction fees, and gaining VIP access to airport lounges. See below for our top-rated cards, some of which are from our partners, and find the best choice for you.

Ratings Methodology
Popular pick
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rewards

2x points on travel and dining, 1x points on all other purchases. 25% more points for travel booked through Chase's portal.

Annual Fee

$95

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

60,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months -- worth $750 of travel redeemed through Chase

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Premium rewards
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Chase's Secure Website.

Rewards

3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees

Annual Fee

$550

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

16.99% - 23.99% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase, up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.
No annual fee
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Well Fargo's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Well Fargo's Secure Website.

Rewards

3X points for eating out and ordering in, gas stations, rideshares, transit, flights, hotels, and more, 1x points on all else

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 12 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 12 months on qualifying balance transfers

Ongoing APR

13.99%-25.99% (Variable)

Bonuses & Perks

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months, mobile phone protection

Highlights
  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s a $200 cash redemption value
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign currency conversion fee
  • Earn 3X points on eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points on travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 3X points on gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points on popular streaming services
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • Select "Apply Now" to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
Discover it® Miles

Apply Now

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Rewards

Unlimited 1.5 Miles per $1

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 14 months
Balance Transfers: 10.99%, 14 months

Ongoing APR

11.99% - 22.99% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

Double Miles in the first year, FICO score for free

Highlights
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Rewards

5 points per $1 on flights booked with airlines and American Express Travel, and on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1 point per $1 on all else

Annual Fee

$550

Foreign Transaction Fee

None

Intro APR

Purchases: N/A
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

N/A

Bonuses & Perks

60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months, Global Lounge Collection access, Uber VIP status and free U.S. rides (max $15 each month, bonus $20 in December)

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Rewards

Unlimited 1.5x points, 25%-75% more points for Bank of America Preferred Rewards members

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: See Terms%, 12 billing cycles
Balance Transfers: N/A

Ongoing APR

See Terms

Bonuses & Perks

25,000 points after spending $1,000 within 90 days, 25% to 75% more points for Preferred Rewards members

Highlights
  • 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
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more points on every purchase

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They say travel is good for the soul, but it's not always good for your bank account -- unless, that is, you're traveling for free. And with all the excellent travel rewards credit cards on the market, it's easier than ever to get free airfare and hotel stays.

Although travel cards can be complicated, we have a crash course on them here. You'll learn how travel cards and the points they earn work, how to pick the right travel card for you, and how you can earn the most possible points once you've gotten a card.

What should I look for in a travel rewards card?

It's very important to vet and compare credit cards before you apply to ensure you're getting the right one for your lifestyle. The best travel rewards credit cards typically offer perks such as bonus miles on travel, discounts on Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, and more. We used a range of factors to decide on the best travel credit cards, but here are some of the most important:

Rewards rates and sign-up bonuses

A card that earns a lot of points will open up more travel opportunities for you. The best travel credit cards will have high rewards rates on your spending, big sign-up bonuses, or ideally, both of the above.

Reward redemption options

We looked for cards that make it easy to redeem your points for the travel that you want, while still getting good value from those points in the process.

Travel benefits

These may include credits for certain types of travel purchases, access to airport lounges, or complimentary hotel perks, to name just a few.

How do travel credit cards work?

Travel rewards credit cards earn points when you spend money, and you can then redeem those points for travel. There are two ways you'll earn points:

1. Get points for everyday spending

Each time you buy something using your credit card, you'll earn a certain number of points. Some travel cards earn a flat rate regardless of what the spending category is. Others earn different amounts based on the spending category of the purchase, such as travel and dining.

2. Receive big sign-up bonuses

Most popular travel cards include a sign-up bonus that you get if you meet a spending minimum. Sign-up bonuses are a popular incentive that banks use to get new customers, and they're the fastest way you can earn points.

How do I choose a travel rewards credit card?

To compare travel rewards credit cards and choose the right one, you need to look at five factors: rewards rates, annual fees, sign-up bonuses, point redemption options, and additional travel perks.

Here's a closer look at each of these:

  • Rewards rates: Since travel points are the most valuable benefit of a travel credit card, you need to pick a card that will earn you as many points as possible. You can either choose a card that earns a high flat rate on every purchase or one with bonus categories you'll use often. For example, if you spend quite a bit on dining every month, a card that earns more at restaurants and bars could help you accumulate rewards faster.
  • Annual fees: There are travel cards at every price range, including travel cards with no annual fee, cards that cost $50 to $250 per year, and the feature-rich premium travel cards that can cost $400 or more. Keep in mind that the benefits of more expensive cards can outweigh their annual fees, so it's best to see what a card offers before ruling it out simply because of how much it costs.
  • Sign-up bonuses: Since sign-up bonuses are so common among travel cards, you should pick a card offering a competitive amount. Don't forget to check the spending minimum required to earn the bonus. You should only get a card if you can meet the minimum on its sign-up bonus without spending more than usual.
  • Point redemption options: A good travel card should have understandable point redemptions where you can get at least $0.01 per point in value. If you're getting your first travel rewards card, we recommend a card with transferable points that you can also redeem as cash for travel purchases, as that versatility will give you more redemption options.
  • Travel perks: Most travel cards include additional benefits, such as airport lounge access, free checked bags, or a free night on select hotel stays.

The best approach is to first decide which of these factors are your priorities. Maybe you want the card that earns the most points. Or, if you're trying to keep costs down, you might only want a card with a low annual fee.

You can then narrow down your list based on which cards fit the bill and decide among the remaining options.

How to make the most of your travel rewards card

The value you get from your travel card depends entirely on how you use it. Once you've gotten your card in the mail, a few simple tips will ensure you maximize your credit card rewards.

Use it for every purchase

Whenever you can pay by credit card, you should use your travel card so that you earn points on the purchase. If you opt for your debit card or cash, you're leaving potential rewards on the table.

Always pay the bill in full

Here's a mistake far too many consumers make -- getting a travel credit card, and then carrying a balance on it. The travel points you earn will never be worth more than the interest you pay on credit card debt. The only way to come out ahead with a travel card is by paying the entire statement balance, because that means you won't be charged any interest.

Don't miss out on the sign-up bonus

Check how much you need to spend to earn your card's sign-up bonus and keep track of your progress until you hit that minimum. If necessary, you can ask your card issuer how close you are, either by calling the number on the back of your card or sending a message through your online account.

Redeem your points for travel

This may seem obvious, but you should only use your credit card miles and points for travel. Some cards offer other redemption options, such as using your points to purchase products or for cash back. These types of redemptions will get you far less value for your points than you'd get when using them for travel.

Familiarize yourself with your card's benefits

There are plenty of ways your credit card could save you money or make your travels more comfortable. Airline credit cards may include free checked bags or access to the airline's lounges. Hotel credit cards could entitle you to an early check-in or late checkout. Make sure you know everything your card offers so that you can take full advantage of all the perks.

Is a travel card right for you?

If you're on the fence about getting a travel card, there are three signs that this would be the right type of credit card for you.

1. You travel at least once per year

You'll need to travel to make use of your rewards and any travel perks your credit card has. Otherwise, you won't be able to use your card to its full potential and you'd be better off looking at cash-back cards.

2. Your credit score is good or excellent

For the most part, the best travel credit cards are only available to applicants who have at least a good credit score. It's possible to get approved if you're not quite there, but you may want to look at credit cards for fair credit instead or wait and build your credit score instead.

3. You pay your credit card bill in full

Interest on credit card balances will almost always cost you more than the travel rewards you earn. A credit card isn't really a good choice for carrying a balance, but if you need to do that, low-interest credit cards are a much better option.

FAQs

  • Travel rewards credit cards are better for people who either travel regularly or want to be able to travel more or save money on travel by redeeming rewards for flights, hotels, cruises, activities, and more.

    Cash back credit cards are better for people who aren't interested in traveling or prefer to earn rewards they can spend on a wide range of purchases.

    In general, the best travel credit cards tend to offer slightly more valuable rewards than the best cash back credit cards, but travel rewards are more limited when it comes to redemption. Travel rewards can also be harder to earn for some people, as travel rewards credit cards usually offer bonuses on travel spending and sometimes dining.

    If you don't spend in those categories, a cash back credit card might be the best option, as those can offer bonuses on a wider variety of spending categories, including gas, supermarkets, and office supplies.

  • It's hard to qualify for a travel credit card with no credit as the best travel credit cards usually require a credit score of 670 or higher. If you want a travel credit card and have no credit, it's best to get a secured credit card to build up a history of on-time payments before applying for a travel rewards credit card.

    You may also be able to qualify for a cash back credit card with no credit, as there are several rewards credit cards offering cash back that are geared toward students and consumers with no credit.

  • Redeeming your travel rewards depends on the card company and the type of card you have.

    Here are the ways that you can cash in your rewards:

    Fixed-rate redemptions

    You get a set value for your points and can apply them towards any travel purchase. If you have a card that gets you $0.01 per point on travel redemptions, then 30,000 points could pay for $300 in travel expenses. These redemptions are fast and easy, and you can always count on getting a consistent value for your points.

    Booking award airline tickets and hotel stays with points

    You book airfare or a hotel stay and pay the points price instead of the cash price. In some cases, points prices can offer a much better value than cash prices, like when a $1,000 business-class ticket only costs 30,000 points, getting you well over $0.03 per point.

    You can book travel with points when you have a credit card with a specific airline or hotel. These are also an option when you have a card that lets you transfer your points to multiple airline and hotel transfer partners.

    Both

    It's getting more common for banks to offer points you can either redeem at a fixed rate or transfer to travel partners for award bookings. In fact, American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi all offer travel cards that include both redemption options.

    Having multiple ways to redeem your points can help you book the travel you want and get the most value in the process, so several of our top travel cards are the ones that offer this.

  • Travel rewards cards are worth the annual fee for consumers who use their cards often and take full advantage of the benefits those cards offer.

    As a general rule, the more that you spend using a travel card, the more valuable it will be. If a card has a $95 annual fee, but you earn 50,000 points per year from it that you redeem for $500 in travel, then you're getting $405 in annual value from the card. That value will be even greater if the card has extra travel perks, such as spending credits, that you're able to use.

    You can determine whether a travel credit card will be worth the annual fee by asking yourself the following:

    • How much do you expect to spend per year using the card, and how many travel points will you earn?
    • What other benefits does the card offer, and how much do you value them?

    By comparing your answers with the card's annual fee, you'll be able to decide if you should apply.

The Ascent's picks for the best travel rewards credit cards:
Card Travel Reward Great For
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Graphic of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Travel Reward:

60,000 points bonus

Great For:

Sign-up bonus and points transfers

Chase Sapphire Reserve® Graphic of Chase Sapphire Reserve® Travel Reward:

Up to $750 bonus + $300 in credits

Great For:

Premium travel

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Graphic of Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card Travel Reward:

20,000 bonus points

Great For:

No annual fee

Discover it® Miles Graphic of Discover it® Miles Travel Reward:

Matching miles

Great For:

No annual fee and bonus

The Platinum Card® from American Express Graphic of The Platinum Card® from American Express Travel Reward:

60,000 points

Great For:

Airport lounges

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Graphic of Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Travel Reward:

25,000 bonus points + No annual fee

Great For:

No annual fee

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