The travel rewards credit card category has been radically reshaped over the past few years by two converging trends: An increase in general-purpose cards that give you credit for your spending regardless of what airline you fly or what hotels you book, and the rise of premium-travel cards that come with hefty annual fees, but offer hundreds of dollars in perks and generous rewards that will appeal to frequent travelers.
When you’re trying to narrow down just what is the best credit card for travel, you need to consider a number of different variables, including the ease of earning and redeeming rewards, extra perks (like airline lounge access) and, of course, those annual fees.
While you’re chasing those perks around the globe, keep in mind that the best travel credit card also is one that’s accepted worldwide. The best credit card for international travel is one that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
Winner: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Rewards: Three points per $1 spent on travel and dining, one point elsewhere
- Annual Fee: $450
- APR: 17.74%-24.74%
Why You Should Get It
Picking a winner used to be all about finding the best travel credit card for travel miles, but with the rising popularity of travel rewards credit cards that aren’t affiliated with an airline, the math has changed. Among top travel credit cards, this card stands out for a few reasons: In addition to triple points per $1 spent on travel and dining, Chase Sapphire Reserve (also a winner in our Best in Travel feature in April) offers a $300 annual travel credit for hotels or flights (including baggage and seat-upgrade fees), plus a $100 credit every four years toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and access to more than 1,000 airport lounges. The card also offers a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months, which is worth $500, or $750 if redeemed through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal.
If you travel just once or twice a year, Bank of America Travel Rewards has a nice, simple rewards structure—you receive 1.5 points to be used for travel for every $1 spent—and there’s no annual fee. If you really want to snag a travel credit, Bank of America Premium Rewards costs $95 a year but offers a $100 credit toward ancillary fees (e.g., baggage and seat-upgrade charges), a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit every four years, and a slightly higher rewards rate than Bank of America Travel Rewards for travel purchases.
Money worked with MagnifyMoney to narrow down credit card options in each category to a set of finalists. Money’s editorial staff was solely responsible for choosing the winners.
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated in the headline that Chase Sapphire Reserve awards three points for every dollar spent. In fact, it is three points for every dollar spent on travel and dining.