With the growing number of airline miles and hotel points programs, it can be tough to know which card is right for your travel spending habits. Luckily, there are a ton of travel rewards credit cards available that cater to different types of travelers. From frequent fliers to road warriors, there’s a card for you. For most people, having a good travel rewards credit card doesn’t require much thought beyond whether or not an issuer will approve you for their card. However, some cards offer more benefits than others — such as premium hotel chains for those who spend more on hotels and higher annual limits for those who use their card less often — so read on to understand which type of traveler will benefit most from each card before you apply.
What is a travel rewards credit card?
Travel rewards credit cards are designed to help you earn miles and receive rewards when you use your card for purchases. Miles can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, or car rentals with a variety of travel partners. Some cards also offer cash back rewards, though many travel rewards cards offer a combination of rewards types. Travel rewards credit cards typically fall into one of two categories: “travel” cards and “Bon voyage” cards. “Travel” cards are primarily bank-issued credit cards that offer sign-up bonuses when you apply. If you get approved, these cards often have the most flexibility and options for travel rewards. “Bon voyage” cards are issued by foreign banks and are primarily used to travel internationally. The card might have some travel benefits, such as access to airport lounges, but these are often only available to cardholders traveling internationally.
How do you get approved for a travel credit card?
Before you apply for a travel rewards credit card, you’ll need to determine if you’re likely to be approved. You can check your credit score and see how much of a representative sample of consumers was approved for each card. Credit Sesame and NerdWallet are two free resources that allow you to see your credit score and see how much of a new card you may be approved for. You can also use a card’s “beta test” or “soft pull” to see if you’re approved before you apply. A “beta test” is when you apply for a card without going through the full application process. A “soft pull” is when a card provider doesn’t really check your credit score, but it does see your credit report and credit score to see if you’re likely to be approved. Before you apply for a card, make sure you’ve done all the things you need to do to get approved. These include making payments on time, establishing good credit habits, and ensuring your income meets the card’s requirements. If you don’t meet the card’s minimum spend requirement, you may not be approved.
Most important features of travel credit cards
- Annual fee – This is one of the biggest factors in determining which card to get. If the card doesn’t charge an annual fee, chances are it isn’t worth getting. For travel rewards cards, most issuers will waive the fee if you make 12 consecutive payments on time, which is called “making good on your promise to pay.” If the card doesn’t waive the fee, you may be better off with a no-fee card.
- Foreign transaction fee – If you travel internationally, it’s important to know if your card will charge a foreign transaction fee. If it does, you’ll want to look for a card that doesn’t.
- Balance transfer fee – Some cards charge a fee when you use them to pay off a balance transfer. If that’s the case, you should look for a card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee.
- Interest rate – If you’ll use the card mostly for small purchases, you may be better off with a low-interest-rate credit card, especially if you have a high credit score. However, if you have a high credit score and plan to use the card regularly, you may be better off with a card with a higher interest rate.
Which bank offers the best travel cards?
This really depends on your travel habits, what benefits are most important to you and what annual fees are included. Some popular cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinumcard, Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, Capital One Venture® Card, and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. These cards have strong sign-up bonuses, high travel rewards rates, and zero annual fees, making them ideal for business travelers or those who travel often. They also offer some travel benefits, such as access to airport lounges, for cardholders. Other cards, including the Chase Sapphire Card, Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, Visa® Card from Chase, and the Citi Business® Card, are excellent for those who travel less frequently. They have low sign-up bonuses and excellent rewards rates, making them good for those who don’t travel much.
If you’re looking for one of the best travel rewards credit cards for people with excellent credit, look no further than the Citi Premier Card. The card has a $200 bonus if you spend $3,000 within the first four months. This makes it one of the best travel rewards cards for people looking to rebuild their credit. Even if you don’t get the bonus, the card has a solid $96 annual fee that makes it worth it if you can make your payments on time. The card has some great benefits, such as a free FICO score of at least 620, travel accident insurance of up to $50,000, and Citi Price Rewind. This feature automatically searches your email for travel deals and alerts you to get discounts on your next trip.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best travel rewards cards available today. The card offers 2X points on travel and dining purchases and 1 point for every dollar spent on everything else. If you book your trip using Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), you can get an additional 5% cash back on travel expenses. What makes this card even better is that you don’t need to pay a $95 annual fee. The only requirement to get the card is to have a Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card or an Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card. If you get the Preferred, you can get an increased sign-up bonus of 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months. That’s enough for a $625 travel reimbursement. What’s more, the Preferred gives you unlimited access to Global Entry or TSA Precheck benefits for $95.
The annual fee for the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is $95, but it comes with a ton of benefits that can easily make the fee worth it. These include a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, a $200 travel credit every year, and unlimited Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership. Some people also like this card because of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you have this card and you book a trip with Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR), you can get an additional 5% cash back on travel expenses with this card. You can also redeem your card’s travel benefits online. You can easily do this by logging into your card account and clicking on “My Travel Benefits.” Once there, you can click on “Redeem Online” and select your travel benefits.
Travel rewards credit cards vs. airline credit cards
Travel rewards cards are ideal if you travel a lot and are looking for a card that gives you a ton of miles for travel. These cards often have high annual fees and come with a ton of rewards. Some of the top travel rewards cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Citi Premier® Card. These cards offer high rewards with no annual fee. If you don’t travel much or don’t want to pay an annual fee, you can still reap some benefits from a travel rewards card. These cards often come with perks such as complimentary upgrades on flights and hotel stays, free companion tickets, and free hotel stays. Many of the best travel rewards credit cards also offer travel insurance, which can help protect you in the event of a travel mishap.
No matter which type of traveler you are, you’re bound to find a travel rewards credit card that fits your needs. From frequent fliers to road warriors, there’s a card for you. Make sure you understand the most important features of each card before you apply. Once you find the one that’s perfect for you, don’t forget to open the card and use it frequently to earn those miles.