It’s time to plan your holiday travel. That may mean cashing in the travel rewards you’ve accumulated on credit cards — or it may mean starting to use a travel rewards credit card. Chances are you spend money on some necessities, and when you do, tailoring the rewards you receive to your travel needs could end up financially benefiting you and your family even more than a cash back credit card might. Keep in mind, of course, that increasing your spending just to earn rewards doesn’t make sense, and it would be worse if you had to pay interest on your balances.
When you have controlled spending that you can afford, and you pay your credit card bill in full and on time every month, you can offset your costs of travel by earning rewards. Using the travel rewards credit card that best matches your travel needs for the spending you would be doing anyway could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime. For example, some cards offer free flights and hotels while others can soften the blow of foreign transaction fees.
Listed below are the best travel rewards credit cards available today. If you’ve got a card you think deserves to be on this list, let us know and we’ll add it.
Chase Sapphire Preferred®. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers a bonus after you spend at least $3,000 on the card in the first three months. That reward comes in the form of 40,000 bonus points, which can be redeemed for $500 in travel booked through Ultimate Rewards. When you book through Ultimate Rewards you can get 20 percent off airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises. Additionally, you can earn double rewards on travel and dining at restaurant purchases. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, $95 thereafter. There are no blackout dates or restrictions of any kind when using your rewards points.
For more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 40,000 bonus points introductory offer, visit my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: 40,000 bonus points review.
American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card offers new cardmembers 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points when you enroll in the Membership Rewards® Program and after spending at least $2,000 in the first three months of Card membership. In addition earn 15,000 points after you spend $30,000 within one calendar year. You can earn Membership Points 3X points for flights booked with airlines using this card, 2X points when you purchase gasoline at US gas stations or groceries at US supermarkets and 1X points for each dollar spent on other purchases. As with all American Express cards points are earned only on eligible purchases. The American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card has an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, $175 thereafter. Terms and Restrictions Apply.
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card. The PenFed Travel Rewards American Express Card is like no other in terms of rewards, offering consumers 5 points per dollar spent on airfare purchases. If you spend at least $2,500 within the first three months of card ownership, you’ll earn 20,000 bonus points. At least one reward point per dollar will be earned on all other purchases. The PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card does not have an annual fee. There is an introductory APR of 4.99 percent on balance transfers made from October 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 for the life of balance with a balance transfer fee which will cost a relatively low 3 percent with a minimum of $10 and a maximum of $250. After that, the APR for any new balance transfers will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate and the APR is currently at 9.99%. This transaction is subject to credit approval. You must be a PenFed member to be approved for this card, but if you are not associated with the military, the American Red Cross, or any number of qualifying organizations, a one-time $15 or $20 membership donation will do the trick.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. You earn 10,000 bonus miles on your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of owning your card. You can earn double miles on every purchase, making this card one of the best travel rewards credit cards available today. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card has an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, $59 thereafter, and Capital One does not charge foreign transaction fees for any of their cards. This means if you spend money on international purchases, you won’t receive the typical 1 percent to 3 percent fee.
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.
Updated December 2, 2013 and originally published March 30, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @flexo on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.