Top Travel Credit Cards

Top Travel Credit Cards

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Disclaimer – Well, I wish I could say that I got a commission whenever you click on a link to apply for one of these bad boys. Unfortunately I haven’t been around long enough to be accepted to any credit card affiliate programs. So you can rest assured that, I will not make a cent from your credit card application. Once I am accepted, I will continue to only provide the links with the best deal for you, regardless of commissions.

Chase Cards

Chase by far has the best travel credit cards.  I always recommend starting with Chase cards, not only because they’re the best, but they also become harder to get once you’ve been doing this for a while. Chase has what’s called the 5/24 rule, which means that they won’t approve you for any cards if you have applied for more than 5 credit cards in the last 24 months with ANY bank. Hence the reason you should do Chase cards first.  I recommend starting with Chase Ultimate Reward Point cards.

Ultimate Reward Point Cards

Credit CardSign Up BonusSpending RequirementTime FrameAnnual FeeAnnual Fee Waived First YearApplication Link
Chase Sapphire Preferred50,000 Ultimate Reward Points$4,0003 Months$95YesApply Here
Chase Sapphire Reserve50,000 Ultimate Reward Points$4,0003 Months$450NoApply Here
Chase Ink Business Preferred80,000 Ultimate Reward Points$5,0003 Months$95NoApply Here

From here on out, you can get two more Chase cards in a 24-month period.  The remaining options are all co-branded cards, meaning the points won’t be Chase Ultimate Reward Points, but points within a loyalty program with which Chase has co-branded.  They are grouped by airline and hotel cards.

Hotel Cards

Credit CardSign Up BonusSpending RequirementTime FrameAnnual FeeAnnual Fee Waived First YearApplication Link
Hyatt Credit Card40,000 Hyatt Points $2,0003 Months$75NoApply Here
IHG Rewards Club Select80,000 IHG Rewards Points$1,0003 Months$49YesApply Here
Marriott Rewards Premier80,000 Marriott Points$3,0003 Months$85NoApply Here
Marriott Rewards Premier Business80,000 Marriott Points$3,0003 Months$99NoApply Here
Ritz-Carlton Rewards2 Free Nights in a Category 1 - 4$4,0003 Months$450NoApply Here

Airline Cards

Credit CardSign Up BonusSpending RequirementTime FrameAnnual FeeAnnual Fee Waived First YearApplication Link
British Airways Visa Signature Card
50,000 Avios $3,0003 Months$95NoApply Here
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus
40,000 Rapid Rewards Points$1,0003 Months$69NoApply Here
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
60,000 Rapid Rewards Points$3,0003 Months$99NoApply Here
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business
60,000 Rapid Rewards Points$3,0003 Months$99NoApply Here
United MileagePlus Explorer Card
50,000 United Airlines Miles$3,0003 Months$95NoApply Here
United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
50,000 United Airlines Miles$3,0003 Months$95YesApply Here

I was lucky enough to start when it was more of a free-for-all.  So I’ve been able to do many of these cards.  Since Chase implemented the 5/24 rule, you have to pick and choose much more carefully.  Though I recommend doing the first three Ultimate Reward Points cards and then picking 2 from the co-branded cards, you really can do whatever you want.  You can get all five from the co-branded list if you so choose.

The Rest

Lucky for us, Chase is not the only game in town. American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, US Bank, and Citi Bank all have great cards to choose from. There are more cards out there. Here I have listed those that I have either personally used, or see value in using in the future.

Airline Cards

BankCredit CardSign Up BonusSpending RequirementTime FrameAnnual FeeAnnual Fee Waived First YearApplication Link
American ExpressDelta Reserve Credit Card10,000 Delta Miles1st PurchaseN/A$450NoApply Here
American ExpressGold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
30,000 Delta Miles$1,0003 Months$95YesApply Here
Bank of AmericaAlaska Airlines Visa Signature Card30,000 Alaskan Airlines Miles$1,0003 Months$75NoApply Here
Bank of AmericaAlaska Airlines Business Card30,000 Alaskan Airlines Miles$1,0003 Months$75NoApply Here
BarclayAAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard40,000 American Airlines Points
1st Purchase3 Months$95NoApply Here
BarclayHawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard50,000 Hawaiian Airlines Miles$1,0003 Months$89NoApply Here
BarclayHawaiian Airlines Business Mastercard35,000 Hawaiian Airlines Miles1st PurchaseN/A$89NoApply Here
CitiAAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard50,000 American Airlines Miles$5,0003 Months$450NoApply Here
CitiAAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard60,000 American Airlines Miles$3,0003 Months$95YesApply Here
CitiCitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard
60,000 American Airlines Miles$3,0003 Months$95YesApply Here

Hotel Cards

BankCredit CardSign Up BonusSpending RequirementTime FrameAnnual FeeAnnual Fee Waived First YearApplication Link
American ExpressHilton Hhonors Surpass75,000 Hilton Points$3,0003 Months$75NoApply Here
American ExpressHilton Honors Card50,000 Hilton Points$1,0003 Months$0N/AApply Here
American ExpressStarwood Preferred Guest25,000 Starwood Points
$3,0003 Months$95YesApply Here
American ExpressStarwood Preferred Guest Business25,000 Starwood Points
$5,0003 Months$95YesApply Here
US BankClub Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature85,000 Club Carlson Points
$2,5003 Months$75NoApply Here

Bank Points

BankCredit CardSign Up BonusSpending RequirementTime FrameAnnual FeeAnnual Fee Waived First YearApplication Link
American ExpressAMEX EveryDay Credit Card10,000 Membership Rewards Points$,0003 Months$0N/AApply Here
American ExpressPremier Rewards Gold Card25,000 Membership Rewards Points$2,0003 Months$195YesApply Here
American ExpressThe Platinum Card60,000 Membership Rewards Points$5,0003 Months$550NoApply Here
BarclayBarclay Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard50,000 Barclay Miles$3,0003 Months$89YesApply Here
Capital OneCapital One Venture Rewards Credit Card40,000 Capital One Miles$3,0003 Months$59YesApply Here
Capital OneCapital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card20,000 Capital One Miles$1,0003 Months$0N/AApply Here
CitiPrestige Card40,000 ThankYou Points$4,0003 Months$450NoApply Here
CitiThankYou Premier Card50,000 ThankYou Points$4,0003 Months$95YesApply Here
CitiThankYou Preferred Card15,000 ThankYou Points$1,0003 Months$0N/AApply Here

10 Replies to “Top Travel Credit Cards”

  1. I have long been thinking about getting a credit card where I at the same time could get some rewards whenever spending money on it. I know a few people that have made some really good deals like this.

    If I for example choose one of the cards you have on your airline cards list, and I spend money on it, will I then earn points for that specific airline, or how does it more precisely work?

    Thanks,
    Mikael

    1. Good question Mikael.

      That is exactly how it works. Most cards will give you one point per dollar spent on your card. Some have special spending categories that get you 2 – 5 points per dollar spent.

      Where you can get more bang for you buck is on the sign up bonuses. When you initially sign up for a card, there will usually be an offer to get 50,000 points if you spend a certain amount within a certain time frame; usually $3,000 in 3 months, which is totally doable.

      While you are working on your bonus points you’ll also get you regular points. So if I signed up for a card that gave me one point per dollar, and had a sign up bonus offer of 50,000 bonus points if I spend $3,000 in 3 months, I would have 53,000 points once I completed the minimum spending to get the offer (50,000 from the bonus and 3,000 from spending $3,000).

      Some cards also have a feature where you can get an additional 5,000 points just for adding an authorized user to your account when you sign up. It’s typically an additional 5,000. So you could end up with 58,000 points within 3 months.

      You could continue to spend on this card and earn one point per dollar for as long as you have the card. But if you want to take it further, you could then sign up for a different card and earn even more points through the same method. Basically go as big as you want.

      Regardless of how big you go, I hope you dive in and get some good travel rewards. Best of luck.

  2. I think I need a Hilton Honors card! Thanks for breaking down all these cards. Personally, I am not a fan of annual fees, but I do see that some of these have no annual fees. Do you happen to know what those annual fees are for? Do you get some kind of special benefit that you can’t get with a fee-free card? Take the American Express “The Platinum Card” at $550 annual fee. Wow!

    1. Thanks for commenting Dani,

      Generally, there are perks that offset (and sometimes more than offset) the annual fee, assuming they’re perks that you will use. I generally tell people starting out to get cards that either have no annual fee, or at least have the annual fee waived the first year.

      In the case of the Amex Platinum card, there are three perks that will offset the annual fee if properly used. First is an annual $200 Uber credit. If you live in or travel to a city that is serviced by Uber, that would make up about half the annual fee. Second, is an annual $200 airline incidental fee credit. This allows you to pick an airline and get reimbursed up to $200 for things like lounge memberships, cancellation fees, status challenge fees, and even gift cards in some cases. Third, you will get 5 American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar on hotel bookings through AMEX Travel.

      Like I said, these perks only offset the annual fee if they are something that you actually use. If you read the paragraph above and thought the perks sound worthless, then this card isn’t for you. I’d suggest starting out with the Chase Sapphire. With a lower annual fee of $95 that’s waived for the first year, it’s much easier to see the value, especially after you book your first free trip.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. And happy traveling.

  3. Hey, Dustin. Wow! That is one long list of options to choose from. Thank you for compiling it all into easy to refer to tables! I am happy with my Citibank Premier Miles credit card. Been using it for 5 years now and I get to waive the annual leave and collect multiple reward points especially when out of the country which are pretty cool features. If I had to change or get a second one, which would you recommend?

    1. Hi Cindy.  Thanks for the comment.

      If you’d like to get another rewards card, I’d recommend the Chase Sapphire preferred. It’s pretty much the Chase equivalent of the Citi Premier card. It’s got a great sign up bonus of 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, and it’s annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year.  There’s a lot you can do to maximize chase points. In fact, here’s a post I wrote about how to maximize your Chase points.  It’ll come in handy if you decide to get one. 

  4. Hi Dustin, I appreciate your disclaimer and honesty that you are not making a commission from clicking the links or completing the applications for the credit cards. Finding a travel credit card has been on my to-do list for a while now so I find this article very helpful. Thanks for all of the well-detailed information!

    1. Thanks, Wendi for your kind words. I hope this page helps you decide which travel credit card will suit your particular needs. If you have any questions, during your search I’d love to help. 

  5. Thanks for this information! I’ve had an Alaska Airlines credit card through Bank of America for a couple years now. I’ve been able to use the companion ticket twice now which has saved me a lot of money. I just wish the travel credit cards didn’t require an annual fee. I didn’t notice any for air miles on your lists that didn’t require an annual fee. Do you know of any that weren’t on your list?

    Great post! Thank you!

    Weston

    1. Hi Weston. That is a great question. Unfortunately, all of the airline cards do have an annual fee. 

      Fortunately, some of them waive the fee for the first year. The Citi Aadvantage Platinum card waives its $95 annual fee for the first year. That’s more than enough time to get the bonus points, use them, and cancel the card before the annual fee comes around if that’s what you choose to do. 

      Even those that don’t waive it more than make up for it with the value of the sign up bonus. For example, you could get both the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier cards and once you get the bonus on both of them, you would have 104,000 Rapid Rewards points. Rapid Rewards points have a value roughly of $.015 per point. So your points would be worth $1,560. The annual fee between the two cards would be $168. So even with paying the annual fee, your ahead by $1,392.

      What’s more, is you can get the Southwest Companion Pass if you get 110,000 points ($1,650) in a calendar year, and the pass is valid until the end of the year following the year you get it. So if you could find a way to put another $6,000 on either card during the same calendar year in which you earned the bonuses you would get the Southwest Companion Pass. This essentially doubles your value to $3,300 as you can book an award flight, and take a companion for free.

      Some cards even have anniversary bonuses that make it worth keeping the card. Check out this post for more details.

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