Best credit cards for travel 2019

Choose the perfect companion for your travels.

Last updated:

Asian family on the beach

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

If you love to travel, there’s a credit card that’ll take you around the world. Travel cards can get you deals on flights, TSA precheck and even entry to premium airport lounges. However, watch out for high annual fees.

The best travel credit cards

The world of travel credit cards is ultra-competitive. That means there are many top-notch products to choose from. If you want to compare these cards side-by-side, check out our comparison table below.

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

This card offers solid rewards on every purchase, including a fantastic 10x miles on eligible Hotels.com bookings until January 2020. Also enjoy a fee credit on your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application — an unusual perk for a mid-tier travel card.

  • Signup bonus. Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.
  • Rewards on every purchase. Earn unlimited 2x miles on all purchases. This is great if you don’t want to keep track of rewards categories. You’ll also receive 10x miles on eligible Hotels.com bookings until January 2020.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. Every four years you’ll receive a credit of up to $100 when you pay for the fee with your card.

Best for luxury travel: The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express is the card of choice for traveling in style. It offers a market-leading rewards rate on eligible flights and hotels, as well as premium perks like loyalty-program elite status and access to the best-in-class Centurion Lounges.
  • Stellar rewards on flights and hotels. Earn 5x points on eligible flights and hotels. Earn 1x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Fee credits. You’ll receive a $200 airline fee credit per calendar year, up to $200 in annual Uber credits and a $100 statement credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four years.
  • Premium travel perks. Access more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world. Get upgraded to Gold Elite with Marriott Bonvoy and Gold with Hilton Honors. At select hotels you’ll get additional perks, including late checkout, Wi-Fi, expense credits and more.

Compare more luxury credit cards

Best for flexible rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Ultimate Rewards is a powerhouse redemption hub, making this the go-to product for flexible rewards. You can trade your points for travel, gift cards, cash back, experiences and Amazon purchases. Also, you can squeeze more value from points by transferring them to select airline and hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio.

  • Excellent rewards on travel and dining. After you spend your first $300 covered by the annual travel credit in a card year, you’ll start earning 3x points on eligible travel. Earn 3x points on eligible dining at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 50,000 bonus points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.
  • Premium travel perks. Get up to $300 in annual travel credits every card year. Get a $100 credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, airport lounge access and special benefits at properties in The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.

Best for reward nights: IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has long been an impressive mid-tier hotel card.

  • A top-notch signup bonus. Earn 80,000 bonus points after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Rewards. Earn 25x points at IHG hotels and 2x points at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. Earn 1x points on all other purchases.
  • IHG perks. Earn a free night after every account anniversary that’s valid for a night worth up to 40,000 points. Also, get automatic Platinum Elite status.

Compare more welcome offer credit cards

Best for luxury travel perks with no annual fee: PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card

You’ll find two valuable perks that are unusual for a no-annual-fee travel card: an annual travel credit and a credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. Also, earn as high as 4x points on travel — a top-notch rewards rate — and a solid rewards rate on all other purchases.

  • Travel and fee credits. Enjoy a $100 annual air travel credit and $100 credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. The air travel credit can be used for lounge access, onboard food and beverages, baggage fees and more.
  • Welcome offer. Earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening.
  • Rewards. Earn 3x points on eligible travel purchases. If you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage member, that rate is increased to 4x points. On all other purchases, you’ll earn 1.5x points.

Compare travel cards with flight and travel credits

Best for a welcome offer with no annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card is a top-notch travel card with excellent rewards on eligible travel, dining and other categories. For a no-annual-fee card, it also has a stellar welcome offer.

  • Rewards. Earn 3x points on eligible dining, gas, transportation, travel and streaming services. Earn 1x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Welcome offer. Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of card membership. According to Wells Fargo, the welcome offer is worth $300 — a market-leading value for a no-annual-fee card.
  • Intro APR. Get a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months following your account opening, then a variable APR of 15.49% to 27.49%.

Best for rewards with no annual fee: Uber Visa Card

If you’re always on the move, the Uber Visa Card is for you. It offers strong cash back on eligible travel and dining purchases — a perfect combination for a frequent traveler.

  • Rewards. Earn 5% back in Uber Cash on Uber rides and Uber Eats and 3% back on dining, hotels and airfare. On all other purchases you’ll earn 1% back.
  • Signup bonus. Earn a bonus valued at $100 after you spend $500 on purchases within 90 days of your account opening.

Compare more no-annual-fee travel cards

Best for hotels: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Marriott Bonvoy is one of the top hotel programs in the world, and its flagship card is a heavy hitter. With excellent rewards at eligible Marriott Bonvoy properties and high-value perks such as an annual Free Night Award, your annual fee goes a very long way.

  • Welcome offer. Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of card membership.
  • Rewards. On eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties, you’ll earn 6x points. At US restaurants and on eligible flights, you’ll earn 3x points. Earn 2x points on all other purchases.
  • Premium travel benefits. Enjoy $300 in Marriott Bonvoy statement credits each card year. Get a Free Night Award after each card anniversary and Gold Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy, and much more.

Compare more hotel credit cards

Quick look: Best travel credit cards
Here are our picks for the best travel cards on the market:

How we selected our top cards

We compared available travel cards based on several factors, including reward earning options, redemption flexibility, quantity and quality of travel perks, welcome offers, promo APR, annual fees and other areas you might consider when choosing a travel card.

What’s changed in 2019

This is the last year that Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers 10x miles for purchases made at Hotels.com website, which is why it retained its top spot on our list.

Back to top

Our pick for a travel rewards card

American Express® Green Card

  • Receive up to $100 in statement credits towards any eligible purchase made directly with Away in your first 3 months. Offer ends 1/15/2020.
  • Plus, earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 3 months.
  • Earn 3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours.
  • Earn 3x Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide.
  • Receive up to $100 per year in statement credits when you use the American Express® Green Card to pay for your CLEAR® membership.
  • Receive up to $100 in statement credits per year on your LoungeBuddy purchases. Use the American Express® Green Card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy to any of the lounges in the LoungeBuddy network — no memberships, elite statuses, or first class tickets required.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $150 annual fee.
  • Terms apply.
Read less
Read more
See Rates & Fees
Promoted

Compare cards with travel rewards

Updated November 16th, 2019
Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
30,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases
$150
Earn 3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases. Rates & fees
20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
1.25x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a Delta purchase in the same timeframe
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a direct Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees
75,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
$0
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles on all purchases and 10x miles at hotels.com/venture
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

Back to top

Compare travel cards by bank

AMEX logo Barclaycard-Logo Capital-One-Logo Chase-Logo Citi credit cards logo

How does a travel card work?

A travel credit card offers rewards for travel purchases — typically points or miles, but sometimes cash back. Like a rewards card, you can redeem these points or miles for certain goods. In the case of travel cards, this usually includes hotel stays, flights or other travel expenses.

Travel cards also offer a variety of travel perks, such as airport lounge access or travel credits. And you tend to get what you pay for: No-annual-fee cards tend to offer fewer high-class benefits than annual-fee products.

Travel credit cards come in two categories: general travel cards and cobranded travel cards. General travel cards let you earn and redeem on most travel purchases without restrictions. Cobranded cards on the other hand are locked in to a specific hotel or airline brand. These cards tend to earn more than general travel cards, but only when making travel purchases with the associated brand. Similarly, these cards can only redeem their points on flights or stays with that brand.

How to choose a travel credit card

Choosing a travel credit card is very similar to choosing a cashback or hotel card. Before making your decision, consider the following factors:

  1. Do you have a preferred airline or hotel? Travel credit cards come in two categories: general and cobranded. General cards can let you earn and redeem on rewards on a variety of travel purchases. Cobranded cards are limited to specific travel businesses when earning and redeeming. In exchange, cobranded cards offer bigger earning rates than general rewards cards.
  2. Do you want to pay an annual fee? This is an easy starting point when choosing between travel cards. Annual-fee cards tend to have better signup bonuses and more features — but you might not like paying for them. An annual fee doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker, but it can help you narrow your options.
  3. What do you spend most on? 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. Remember that a cobranded travel card will earn the most on the affiliated brand, such as Hilton or Alaska Airlines.
  4. Does the card have a signup bonus? Many travel cards offer a signup bonus to new cardholders who spend a certain amount on purchases within the first few months. An airline-card bonus may offer enough rewards for a flight, while a hotel-card bonus can potentially give you enough for a rewards night.
  5. What perks do you want? While both general travel cards and cobranded travel cards come with perks, cobranded cards are typically tailored to the cobranded business. Examples of unique cobranded perks include free breakfast, upgraded rooms and companion passes.
  6. How are the rates and fees? While many travel cards omit foreign transaction fees, you’ll want to double-check whether you card features them if you plan on traveling abroad. And while you should strive to pay your balance in full each month, a low APR can help should you ever need to carry a balance.

Read more about travel credit cards

Megan Horner

Megan Horner
Credit Cards Publisher

Hi, I’m Megan! I love the travel credit cards in my wallet, especially the one that gives me airport lounge acess and Global entry. Before I open up a credit card, I aways do a ton of research. Here are some articles that might answer the questions you have.
Back to top

Ask the experts

Dorothy Harpool
  • Dorothy Harpool
  • Director of Student and Community Initiatives and Senior Marketing Lecture
  • Wichita State University

Lexi Hutto
  • Lexi Hutto
  • Associate Professor of Marketing
  • Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Eliot Buchanan
  • Eliot Buchanan
  • Plastiq.com
  • Co-Founder and CEO

Lee Huffman
  • Lee Huffman
  • BaldThoughts.com
  • Budget Travel Blog

Back to top
Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes
Go to site