Not all travel cards are the same.To find the best plastic for travelers’ pockets, Money compared sign-up bonuses, rewards, and fees, and consulted with the experts at NerdWallet and ValuePenguin. (Read all of Money’s Best in Travel 2017.)
Best General Travel Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Reserve offers a suite of rewards and perks for heavy travelers that rivals just can’t match, even after recent cuts to the program. Earn a $750 sign-up bonus when you spend $4,000 in three months, in addition to 4.5¢ on every dollar spent on dining and travel when you use Chase’s travel portal.
Cardholders receive a $300 credit on any travel costs, a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and access to nearly 1,000 airport lounges. The $450 annual fee is worth it if you spend at least $300 a year on travel.
Best No-Fee Loyalty Airline Card: JetBlue Card
You may be interested in the travel rewards game but not want to pay the typical $100 a year, much less $450, to play. Enter the new JetBlue Card, ideal for anyone who flies JetBlue and wants to rack up loyalty miles without a fee. The sign-up bonus of 5,000 miles covers some one-way domestic flights, plus you get three points for JetBlue purchases and two points at grocery stores and restaurants.
Some in-flight purchases, such as alcohol and movies, come with a 50% discount. You can earn more miles, plus get a free checked bag, with the $99 annual fee version, but ValuePenguin calculates that you would need to spend almost $1,000 on JetBlue items to make the fee worthwhile.
Best Hotel Card: Starwood Preferred Guest
While Starwood officially became part of Marriott’s empire last September, the Preferred Guest remains your best hotel card option until further notice, since it offers an unbeatable combination of rich rewards and flexibility in how you use them. Earn five points for every dollar spent at one of Starwood’s 1,300 hotels, and two points at any Marriott.
Each point is worth 2.3¢, a greater value than any other hotel card, per NerdWallet. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.