The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards of 2021
Enjoy free travel with this list of the best travel rewards credit cards of 2021. 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 For The Best Travel Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The 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 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months, equal to $750 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
- $95 annual fee
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.
Read further our Capital One Venture Rewards extensive review.
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 60,000 point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card ownership. Those 60,000 points are good for $600 in cash value (like a statement credit, or gift cards) OR $750 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.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the highest level cards Chase has to offer. Yes, it comes with a $550 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, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card offers 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of card ownership. Those points are good for $1,200 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Points are worth 50% more when you use them to book through Chase Ultimate Rewards and the process is a snap. Earn 5x points on flights and 10x points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually). Plus, earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
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 up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS Fee Credit (statement credit once every four years). 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. Keep in mind, however, there is a hefty $550 annual fee.
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 $500 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 15 months on purchases and balance transfers 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.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
New cardmembers of The Platinum Card® from American Express can earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $6,000 in the first six 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 PreCheck. 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 want to roll interest over with a 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 $695 annual fee.
More Options: You can see more travel rewards credit cards here.
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