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.
Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.. The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express continues to be one of the best travel reward credit cards you can find. You can earn 10,000 bonus Starpoints® after making your first purchase within one year of card approval and another 15,000 bonus Starpoints can be earned after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases with your new card in the first six months of Card Membership – combined that would be up to 25,000 bonus Starpoints enough for a weekend getaway at a Category 4 Hotel like the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa or a six night stay at a Category 2 Hotel. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
With this card you can earn up to 5 Starpoints for every dollar of eligible purchases charged directly at hotels and resorts participating in the Starwood Preferred Guest program – that’s 2 Starpoints for using the Card in addition to the Starpoints you earn as an SPG member. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases. When redeeming your points you can select from over 1,100 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries and for flights on more than 350 airlines with SPG Flights, with no blackout dates. Some hotels may have mandatory service and resort charges.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, $65 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 a promotional introductory balance transfer APR of 4.99 percent for 48 months on balance transfers made between April 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014 with a balance transfer fee which will cost a relatively low 3 percent for each transfer. After June 30, 2014, 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 submit an application for this credit 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 to the Voices for America’s Troops or the National Military Family Association will do the trick. Keep in mind membership to the credit union does not guarantee you will be approved for one of their credit cards.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. You earn 20,000 bonus miles on your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card after you spend $2,000 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 April 14, 2014 and originally published March 30, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.