The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards of 2018

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Last updated on July 1, 2018 Views: 797 Comments: 16

Enjoy free travel with this list of the best travel rewards credit cards of 2018. I’ve personally used several of these credit cards for free flights and hotel stays.

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. These offers are subject to change so be sure to check the issuers application page and website for the most current information.

Editor’s Pick

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardThe Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the best travel rewards credit cards available today, as evidenced by the current offering:

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months, equal to $400 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates

Plus, miles don’t expire and there’s no limit to how many you can earn. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card also has:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year; $59 after that

From our perspective, not being charged the typical 1% to 3% foreign transaction fee can be a great benefit all on its own if you spend money on purchases outside the U.S.

Learn more about this card and other travel credit cards here.

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List of the Best Travel Reward Credit Card Offers

In addition to the Editor’s Pick, here are some additional top choices.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest American ExpressThe 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 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. That’s enough for a few nights at a category two or three hotel (or one night at a category four hotel if you’re thrifty)

With this card you can earn up to five Starpoints for every dollar of eligible purchases charged directly at hotels and resorts participating in the Starwood Preferred Guest® program–that’s two Starpoints for which you may be eligible as a Card Member in addition to the two or three Starpoints for which you may be eligible as an SPG member. Earn one Starpoint for all other purchases. When redeeming your points, you can select from over 1,200 hotels and resorts in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates. As a new perk, they have added free in-room, premium Internet access. Booking requirements apply and 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, $95 thereafter.

Learn more about this card and other travel credit cards here.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

When this travel card hit the market years ago, it forced every issuer to do better. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card includes a 50,000 point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card ownership. Those 50,000 points are good for $500 in cash value (like a statement credit, or gift cards) OR $625 in travel value. When you use your points to book though the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, they’re worth 25% more. I own the big brother of this card (Sapphire Reserve) and those points are actually worth 50% more.

The process for redeeming and booking travel through Chase is just as easy as it is with sites like Travelocity or Expedia. All cardholders will earn 2x points on travel and dining purchases with 1x points earned on all other purchases. There are no foreign transactions fees to own the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card but there is a $95 annual fee. That fee is waived during the first year of membership.

You can also earn an additional 5,000 bonus points after adding an authorized user that makes a purchase inside of the first three months.

Learn more about this card and other travel credit cards here.

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Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is one of the highest level cards Chase has to offer. Yes, it comes with a $450 annual fee (and $75 annual fee for added cardholders) but the immediate benefits almost reduce that annual fee to nothing, making the card extremely attractive.

To open up, this card offers 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card ownership. Those points are good for $500 in cash or $750 in travel. Points are worth 50% more when you use them to book through Chase Ultimate Rewards and the process is a snap. 3x points are earned on all travel purchases, all restaurant purchases and 1x points are earned on everything else.

Consider if you spend $5,000 at Restaurants every year. You’ll earn 15,000 points with this card which can then be used for $225 in travel. Effectively, that would make this a 4.5% rewards rebate credit card. But there’s more.

Every year, you’ll receive a $300 travel credit against any travel purchases you make. So if you use this card to purchase airfare, book a hotel, or rent a car the first $300 annually will be refunded. In addition, you will receive a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre Check. Signing up for that program can help you avoid the long TSA lines if you’re always in a rush to make your flight.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve does not charge foreign transaction fees and includes elite travel benefits like world class travel protection and access to over 1,000 airport lounges across the world. Keep in mind however, there is a hefty $450 annual fee.

Learn more about this card and other travel credit card here.

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Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

For those who hate to pay an annual fee on a credit card, the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card is a slightly watered down version of the Venture card above. The opening bonus is 20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months and the everyday rewards program 1.25 miles per dollar spent on everything.

One of the big benefits is 12 months of interest free purchases. Included is a 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and after that, the card transitions to a variable interest rate. There are no foreign transaction fees and no blackout dates for flights or hotels. Fly any airline, stay in any hotel. Miles never expire for the life of the account.

There is no annual fee to own the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Learn more about this card and other travel credit cards here.

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

New cardmembers of the The Platinum Card® from American Express can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. This is where the fun just begins.

Every year, you’ll also receive a $200 airline fee credit. This includes checked baggage, meals, in flight Wi-fi or a variety of other fees. If you ride with Uber, you’ll be provided $15 in Uber credits every month and a $20 Uber credit in December, for a total of $200 in annual credits. Yet another fee refund comes in the form of $100 for admission into Global Entry or TSA Pre Check. This statement credit is provided every four years.

When making purchases through American Express Travel (either for airfare or hotels), five points per dollar spent are earned. Single points per dollar spent are earned on everything else. Please remember that this is a CHARGE card, not a credit card. So all purchases must be paid in full every month to keep the account in good standing. This is literally the last card in the world you wan’t to roll interest over with month to month.

Perhaps the most glamorous part of being a Platinum Card® from American Express member are the perks. Too many to name but some of the highlights:

  • Platinum Concierge service available 24/7/365
  • RSVP to invitation only events
  • iPhone purchase protection
  • Preferred seating at events
  • Advance dining reservations
  • Access to over 1,000 airport lounges
  • No foreign transaction fees

No credit card can compare with the benefits that the Platinum Card from American Express can provide. And it’s not close. But in order to earn these rewards and perks, you must be willing to pony up a $550 annual fee.

Learn more about this card and other travel credit cards here.

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More Options: You can see more travel rewards credit cards here.

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.

Article comments

16 comments
Anonymous says:

Oh yea……I am a huge Chase fan. I have most of my accounts with them. I have been debating on if the annual fees are worth the rewards. I have never applied for a credit card that has fees. Thoughts?

Anonymous says:

Flexo,

You need to add “offers” to the title – “The Best Travel Rewards Credit Card Offers, April 2012”. The focus of the article is on signup bonuses and teaser earning rates. This is fine as bonuses are certainly a critical component of choosing a travel rewards card. But when I clicked on the title, I was expecting (and wanted) to see an evaluation of ongoing card performance.

It would be helpful to see basic earn rate (i.e., 1 pt/$), category earn rate (i.e., 2pts/$ for dining, travel), redemption value (i.e., $1/pt) and annual fee for each of these. I could use this to calculate my expected annual profit for the card and add it to any signup/teaser bonuses they offered for that first year.

Also, given your coverage of signup offers, I’m surprised you left out the Capital One Venture Card bonus of up to 100K points (or $1000) that Alec Baldwin has been touting ad nauseam in commercials. To me, the 100K bonus plus the $0.02/pt earn rate, plus earning miles on my flights as well, makes this hands-down the best travel card (for me). I see how others who travel a lot might choose the card from their airline or maybe the Citibank ThankYou Premier (I think this card is worth mentioning, particularly for frequent travelers). And I see Dan’s point – if you’re booking hotels, the SPG card offers outstanding value (not too bad for airlines either).

Ceecee says:

Most of these cards have annual fees after the first year. Not crazy about that. I think I’d rather just have a generic rewards card where you can earn and use points for all purchases.

Anonymous says:

I use a cashback credit card that pays out every January so I’ve got a while to wait yet but It was nice to have £200 taken off my credit card bill last January. I would recommend these cards to anyone who has a good credit history and knows that they can pay off the bill at the end of each month in full. Thanks for a great analysis as ever, You are very good at reviewing the benefits

Anonymous says:

I’ve heard that the Chase Sapphire Preferred card will be lowering the bonus to 40k by April 3rd. Have you heard the same thing? I just got mine in the mail 2 weeks ago and love it! Didn’t know the card was actually ‘metal’ and every time I use it people say something about it.. kinda funny. Anyways, if they are lowering the bonus I’m thinking of signing my wife up so we can both get the 50k bonus

shellye says:

Good article. I have a Visa World points card through B of A that I get 1 pt per dollar I spend regardless of what its on. I cash them out every Christmas for gift cards. I’m sick of B of A, though, so I’ll probably cancel the card at the end of this year.

Anonymous says:

Travel reward credit cards are really very helpful, specially once you are planning you vacations. The above mentioned list of credit cards along with a small description, gives a fair idea about these cards. One can choose the right one for him.

Anonymous says:

We have the Starwood card and earned quite a few points but actually cashed them out for gift cards. I did want to use them for a trip but it’s not going to happen anytime soon so the gift cards are for us now. I’ll probably cancel it when the fee kicks in again this year.

Anonymous says:

Excellent article. But, if you’re talking about The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards, why not consider the other common credit card issuers as Best Travel Rewards Credit cards. IMHO, they include: Citibank-AA Advantage credit cards gives 20,000-35,000miles for applying, but has a $750 spending requirement within 3months approval, and an annual fee of either $60-85. The Chase United Mileage Plus credit card and Chase Continental credit cards (both have $85 annual fees; 1st year waived) gives at least 20,000 miles to 30,000 mileage, depending on card (not including a rare incident in April 2010 when they offered 50,000 for MileagePlus customers). Either way, consumerisms must evaluate on their own what’s worth it to them. But, I’ve found most people do not believe in paying an annual fee for a credit card that does not give them cash back or benefits that are more than the annual fee + 1% cash/points back (which they can get with a no-fee card). YMMV.

Anonymous says:

IMHO, sign-up bonuses aren’t enough to make a card “great”. I think the real intent of the article is to convey what cards are best for ongoing spending. WRT sign-up bonuses, these cards can be worth getting just for the bonus and dumping. It’s what I’m doing with the Chase United 50k bonus.

Anonymous says:

Flexo,

One other thing… you should mention that the SPG program has a Cash & Points option available for redemption as well. Cat 1 C&P awards start at 1200 points + $25. These types of rewards generally give the most bang for the buck. One should note, however, that there are relatively few Cat 1&2 hotels in the USA. More common are the Cat 3&4 hotels, which are 2800pts/$45 and 4000pts/$60 respectively.

Anonymous says:

Flexo, I have the SPG AmEx card and became gold for my $30k in spend last year. I don’t earn points on normal purchases any faster — the only extra points you get are for purchases made at the hotel.

Anonymous says:

Not including the bonus miles, if you spend less than $30k per year the Starwood card is 1.25 points per dollar and is furthermore an American Express. Wouldn’t you be better off with a 1.5% cash back card?

Anonymous says:

A 1.5% cash back Visa or Mastercard, I mean.

Anonymous says:

You only get 1 point per dollar spent if you’re ignoring any bonuses. The 1.25 points/dollar only factors in when you transfer 20,000 points to an airline. As for whether or not a cash back card is better, depends on how you value a star point, doesn’t it?

I use my SPG AmEx like a religion, and I get some excellent values from it. My wife and I are staying at a beach property in Thailand that is going for $340/night during Xmas week. We’re paying 2800 points + $45 each night. Taking taxes into account (17% on the cash portion) we’re getting a value of over $0.10/point.

In fact, during this trip, we’re staying at several properties on C&P award rates. Our value/point ranges from a low of $0.039/point to the high that I mentioned above. Given that we’re staying at some of the nicest hotels and resorts in the cities we’ll be visiting, I’d much, much rather take the points.

Anonymous says:

I’ll just add to this as an Amex Cardholder for 20+ years. Their customer service is second to none, and Starwood’s is even better. You really see it whenever you have a question that’s a bit complex or slightly out of the ordinary – you can explain the problem once and they understand versus the sense I get talking with other company’s CS reps that you can tell are following a script and always need to ask a supervisor. Amex and Starwood really put the customer first.