11 best travel credit cards of 2021 | finder.com

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Best credit cards for travel in 2021

We compared more than 100 travel credit cards to find the best.

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked

The best travel credit cards of 2021 offer above average rewards and hundreds of dollars worth of perks for your favorite method of travel. Finder’s expert credit card team spends more than 400 hours each month comparing and reviewing travel cards based on reward opportunities, quality and monetary value of travel perks, and the ability to earn rewards on more than just travel. We’ve listed our top 9 travel card picks for 2021 based on our results to help you hit the ground running when you get back to traveling.

  • Why trust us? Unlike our competitors, Finder’s credit card experts research and write about all credit cards, including those from providers who aren’t partners on our site. Our trustworthy, unbiased evaluations are solely meant to help you choose the best credit card for your financial needs.

What are the best travel credit cards?

Best for lounge access without a high annual fee
Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited® logo
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on Chase's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
$200
Welcome offer
Up to 5%
Cash back
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is one of the most rewarding no-annual-fee credit cards you can get. With up to 5% cash back on select categories and an unlimited 1.5% back on all other purchases, it's hard to find a better alternative.
  • Cash back. Earn 5% cash back on Chase Travel Portal purchases and 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022. Earn 3% back on dining, including takeout and delivery, and 3% back on drugstore purchases. On everything else, earn 1.5% back.
  • Signup bonus. Get a $200 bonus when you spend $500 in your first 3 months of account opening. You'll also get a unique cashback bonus of % back at grocery stores on up to in the .
  • Intro APR on purchases. Enjoy a 15 months 0% intro APR period on purchases. After that, a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% applies.
  • Foreign transaction fee. Purchases made abroad or online with foreign merchants cost 3% of the amount.
  • No intro balance transfer. You won't find an intro period on balance transfers with this card.
Annual fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
Foreign transaction fee 3% of the transaction value
Welcome offer $200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Rewards 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 5% on Lyft, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases

Best for large signup bonus
The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on American Express's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$550
Annual fee
75,000
Points welcome offer
Up to 10x
Points
With a welcome offer worth up to $4,500 in redemption value when maxed out, no other card can match this. Even if you don't max out the welcome offer, you get at least double the value compared to similar premium travel cards offer.
  • Welcome offer. Earn 75,000 membership rewards points after you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months of card membership. Plus, earn 10x points at US supermarkets and US gas stations on up to $15,000 in combined purchases for the first 6 months. That's up to $4,500 worth of rewards when transferred to travel partners.
  • Reward points. Starting January 2021, earn 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked directly through Amex Travel on up to $500,000 annually, reverting to 1x points after. Earn 5x points to prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, but without a limit. All other purchases earn 1x points.
  • Airline fee credit. Select a qualifying airline and receive a $200 airline fee credit each year to cover incidental charges, such as checked bags or in-flight purchases.
  • Annual fee. Expect to pay $550 for the card. This may seem like a lot, but if you travel often, you can easily offset the fee.
  • Can't always carry your balance. Most credit cards let you carry your balance by paying interest. This card, however, lets you carry your balance on some purchases, but not on all of them.
  • Potentially limited acceptance abroad. American Express cards are not as widely accepted worldwide as Visa or Mastercard.
Annual fee $550
Purchase APR See Pay Over Time APR
Foreign transaction fee None
Welcome offer 75,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
Rewards 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on directly-booked flights on up to $500,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on other purchases
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers.

Best for travel credits
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve® logo
Finder Rating: 4.6 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (740-850)
Apply now
on Chase's secure site
Rates & fees

740
Min. credit score
$550
Annual fee
50,000
Points welcome offer
Up to 10x
Points
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a $300 annual travel credit with no airline or hotel restrictions. This is higher than competitor premium cards that offer either $200 or $250 in credit.
  • Annual travel credit. Get $300 in statement credit as reimbursement for your travel purchases every year on your card account anniversary.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in your first 3 months when you open your account. This is worth $750 if you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
  • Rewards points. Earn 3x points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and x points on all other purchases. The 3x points can be worth 4.5% back if redeemed on travel purchases through the Chase Ultimate Rewards. You also earn 3x points on Lyft purchases until March 2022. This can be worth up to 15% back in travel purchases via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Annual fee. You'll pay $550 annual fee for the card.
  • No intro APR period. Like many other travel cards, you won't get a 0% intro APR period on purchases, balance transfers or both.
  • Excellent credit score required. Being a premium card, your chances of approval greatly increase with a credit score of 740 or higher.
Annual fee $550
Purchase APR 16.99% to 23.99% variable
Foreign transaction fee None
Welcome offer 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
Rewards 10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases

Best for gas
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi logo
Finder Rating: 3.6 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (740-850)
Apply now
on Citi's secure site
740
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
n/a
Welcome offer
Up to 4%
Cash back
The Costco Anywhere Visa offers the highest cashback rate on gas purchases. On the downside, you can only redeem your rewards once each year.
  • Cash back. Earn 4% cash back on gas for the first $7,000 spent annually, 1% after that. Earn 3% cash back on restaurants and travel, % cash back on purchases from Costco and Costco.com. Earn 1% cash back on everything else.
  • No annual fee. You won't pay an annual fee to own the card.
  • Acts as a Costco membership card. Use your Costco credit card to enter Costco.
  • Costco membership required. You need to have Costco membership to apply for the card.
  • Limited redemption options. You can only redeem your Costco rewards once a year.
  • No intro APR period. Most cashback cards offer 0% intro APR period on purchases, balance transfers or both. But with this card, you don't get to enjoy this perk.
Annual fee $0
Purchase APR 15.24% variable
Foreign transaction fee None
Welcome offer N/A
Rewards 4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases

Best for everyday spending
Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠ logo
Finder Rating: 4.7 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on Chase's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
$200
Welcome offer
Up to 5%
Cash back
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers 5% cash back on purchases made through the Chase travel portal. This is the same rewards rate you earn with premium travel cards. But unlike the $500 annual fee you pay with these cards, the Freedom Flex has a $0 annual fee.
  • Earn $200 cash back when you spend $500 in your first 3 months of account opening.
  • Earn rewards points. Earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined spending in rotating categories each quarter. Earn 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2022 and 5% back on purchases made through the Chase Travel Portal. Dining purchases, including takeout and delivery, and drugstore purchases earn 3% back, and all other purchases 1% back.
  • Intro APR. Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months, reverting to 14.99% to 23.74% variable.
  • You must activate rotating categories. If you don't activate on time, you won't earn 5% cash back on these categories.
  • Rotating categories hidden. You won't know what the 5% cash back rotating categories are until the quarter draws near.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Every transaction made abroad or online with foreign merchants will cost you 3% of the amount.
Annual fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
Foreign transaction fee 3% of the transaction value
Welcome offer $200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Rewards 5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases

Best for groceries
American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.6 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Apply now
on American Express's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$250
Annual fee
60,000
Points welcome offer
Up to 4x
Points
While you could find a card that earns higher rewards on groceries, the same card can't stand up to the suite of travel perks and benefits offered by the Amex Gold Card.
  • Reward points. Earn 4x points at US supermarkets on up to 25,000 per calendar year, and 1x points after that. Earn 4x points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery such as Uber Eats, and 3x points on flights booked directly or via Amex Travel. All other purchases earn 1x points.
  • Welcome offer. Earn 60,000 points welcome offer after you spend $4,000 within your first 6 months of account opening.
  • Dining and Uber credits. Earn up to $10 monthly statement credit when you pay at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shacks. There's also a $10 monthly Uber cash credit, up to $120 annually, which you can use for Uber rides or Uber Eats. Plus get a $100 hotel credit.
  • Annual fee. Pay $250 annually to own the card.
  • Can't always carry your balance. This card lets you carry your balance on some purchases but not on all of them.
  • No intro APR period. You won't get a 0% intro APR period on balance transfers or purchases.
Annual fee $250
Purchase APR See Pay Over Time APR
Foreign transaction fee None
Welcome offer 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
Rewards 4x at restaurants including delivery and Uber Eats; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points) and 3x points on directly-booked flights
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers.

Best for hotels
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.6 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
See offer
on Creditcards.com's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$89
Annual fee
140,000
Points welcome offer
Up to 25x
Points
The IHG® Rewards Club Premier offers up to 25x points on IHG purchases, which comes at around 15% back. You also get a free night on your card anniversary each year and fourth free night when you book with points. Most hotel cards get you between 5% and 10% back on hotel purchases and rarely give out free reward nights.
  • Reward points. Earn 25x points on IHG stays, 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants and 1x points on everything else you buy.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 140,000 bonus points once you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months of account opening. Most credit cards that offer such generous signup bonuses usually require a higher spend of around $4,000 in the first three months.
  • Fourth reward night free. Redeem your points for four or more reward nights and get an additional reward night.
  • Annual fee. To use the card and its perks, you'll pay $89 annually.
  • No intro APR period. You won't get a 0% intro APR period on balance transfers or purchases.
Annual fee $89
Purchase APR 15.99% to 22.99% variable
Foreign transaction fee None
Welcome offer 140,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
Rewards 25x points at IHG hotels, 2x on gas, groceries and dining and 1x on all other purchases

Best for flat-rate rewards
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Read review
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$95
Annual fee
60,000
Miles welcome offer
5x
Miles
This card offers 2x miles on every purchase, which is the highest flat-rate travel card you can find. Similar cards offer 1.5x miles and they rarely offer additional perks like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credit.
  • Reward miles. Earn an unlimited 2x miles on all purchases, except on Uber Eats where you earn 2x points through January 2021.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months.
  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit. Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee statement credit up to $100. You get this credit once every four years.
  • Annual fee. Pay an annual fee of $95 each year.
  • No intro APR period. You won't get a 0% intro APR period on purchases or balance transfers.
Annual fee $95
Purchase APR 17.24%, 21.99% or 24.49% variable
Foreign transaction fee None
Welcome offer 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months plus miles after spending in the first
Rewards 5x miles on Uber Eats and 2x miles on all purchases

Best for miles match after first year
Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card

Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card logo
Finder Rating: 3.7 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (670-850)
Read review
670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Other
Welcome offer
1.5x
Miles
Where most credit cards offer a simple signup bonus, the Discover it® Miles offers something better: a cashback match. In other words, Discover matches all the miles you earn during the year, without limits.
  • Miles match. Discover will match your miles earned at the end of your first year without any restrictions. This means if you earn 30,000 miles during your first year, Discover will match it with another 30,000 miles.
  • Reward miles. Earn a flat 1.5x miles on your purchases.
  • No annual fee. You won't pay an annual fee to own the card.
  • No 0% intro APR period on balance transfers. This card offers a 10.99% intro APR period on balance transfers for your first 14 months, reverting to 11.99% to 22.99% variable APR.
Annual fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 14 months (then 11.99% to 22.99% variable)
Foreign transaction fee None
Welcome offer Discover will match miles earned at the end of your first card year
Rewards 1.5x miles on all purchases

What’s changed in 2021

The Amex Platinum Card didn’t stand idle. With the massive welcome offer it now stands as the king in its respective category.

The Amex Gold Card card got a boost to its dining credit. You now get up to $120 annual Uber cash credit, in $10 monthly increments.

How do I choose the best travel credit card?

In addition to the basics like APR, there are a few additional major factors to look at when choosing a travel credit card:

Loyalty program

If you spend heavily with a certain airline or hotel chain, consider a cobranded card. Otherwise, pick a flexible-rewards card so you can earn rewards regardless of which airline or hotel you use.

Annual fee

While annual fees can run high on travel cards and you might not like paying for them, annual-fee cards tend to have better signup bonuses and more features.

Earn rate

If you find you spend more on everyday purchases such as groceries and gas, look for a card that has a high earning rate on those categories.

Signup bonus and rewards

Many travel credit cards offer a sizable signup bonus and great that you can use for flights or hotel stays after earning them.

Foreign transaction fees

If you often travel abroad, you’ll want to make sure you don’t rack up fees when you use your card overseas.

Travel perks

While both general travel cards and cobranded travel cards come with perks, cobranded cards are typically tailored to the cobranded business.

Bottom line

The best travel credit card for you depends on your spending and travel habits, as well as your credit score. If none of these feel like the right fit, compare more travel credit cards.

Credit card ratings

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

Our team evaluates credit cards to determine their value against similar cards on the market.

We rank card types — travel, cash back, business — on a set of factors that are most relevant to that type of card. We create these rankings to help you narrow down a credit card that best suits your spending and budget.

Learn the details of our methodology and scoring.

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