Most people looking for travel credit cards gravitate toward cards with flexible rewards — programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Capital One’s Venture miles program. Which program to choose and which card within that program to choose will depend on your travel habits or travel aspirations:

Best Luxury Travel Credit Cards: American Express

Frequent travelers often choose American Express because their cards offer more features that make travel easier. However, those features come at a higher price (as luxury often does), so you’ll want to think about your travel plans and card spending patterns before jumping in. The two best American Express cards for travel:

The Platinum Card® from American Express – If there is one travel credit card that is most associated with “prestige” or “luxury”, this is it. Rewards and perks galore including 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 of these purchases per calendar year), 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on AmexTravel.com, probably the best, most extensive airport lounge network of all the luxury travel cards (The Global Lounge Collection), strong travel insurances/protections, and a wealth of potential credits on airline and hotel purchases as well as certain purchases from Uber, Clear, Saks Fifth Avenue, Equinox and more.

Points can be redeemed for travel booked at AmexTravel.com or you can transfer Membership Rewards points into the loyalty programs of American Express travel partners including Delta, Hilton, Marriott, as well as a number of international airlines and other partners. (You can use your points in other ways, too, if you choose.)

NEW CARDHOLDER BONUS OPPORTUNITY: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. $695 annual fee. See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. American Express is a ProudMoney advertiser.

 

American Express® Gold Card – If you aspire to travel more (but maybe don’t spend a lot on travel now), you might prefer this American Express card with a lower $250 annual fee and more points-earning opportunities on “everyday living” purchases. You can earn: 4X points at restaurants worldwide (including takeout and delivery in the U.S.), 4X points on groceries at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on other eligible purchases.

Points can be redeemed for travel booked at AmexTravel.com or you can transfer Membership Rewards points into the loyalty programs of American Express travel partners including Delta, Hilton, Marriott, as well as a number of international airlines and other partners. (You can use your points in other ways, too, if you choose.)

Potential Credits To Consider Include: Up to $120 in Uber Cash annually (add the Card to your Uber account to get $10 in Uber Cash each month for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S.) and an up to $120 Dining Credit annually (up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.).

New Cardholder Bonus Opportunity: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 within the first 6 months. See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. American Express is a ProudMoney advertiser.

Most Flexible Travel Credit Cards: Chase / Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program gives you the most flexibility as a cardholder when it comes to redeeming the points you receive, and the right combination of Chase cards can really supercharge your rewards earning and spending power. Here’s how:

  1. Chase lets you redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for travel through its own Ultimate Rewards travel portal, where you can book your airfare, hotel, rental car, etc., all in one place OR you can transfer your points into desirable travel partner loyalty programs including Southwest, United, Hyatt, Marriott and more. Even better, if you decide you don’t want to use points for travel, you can still redeem them for cash back at a penny-per-point rate, which is much better than the “cash out” rate from American Express or Capital One.
  2. If you hold the Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the points you earn get a “boost” in value when used through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards booking portal. Specifically, you’ll get a 25% boost with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® and a 50% boost with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. IN ADDITION, you can hold other Chase credit cards like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom Unlimited® and combine the points you earn from those cards with the points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® or Chase Sapphire Reserve® — and still get that 25% or 50% boost on the points that came from the other cards. So what, you say? Well, in the case of the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and its 5% rotating reward categories, the 5 points per dollar you earn could increase in value by another 25% or 50%, meaning that 5% could equal 6.25% (at a 25% boost) or even 7.5% (at a 50% boost) when combined with a Sapphire card and used through the Chase travel booking portal.

Here are the two Chase Sapphire Cards to consider:

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® – This $95 annual fee card recently beefed up its rewards (including 3 points per dollar on dining purchases and 5x/10x on most travel when booked through Chase’s travel portal), making it attractive as an everyday credit card. But, as noted above, it’s maybe even more attractive as the foundation to a larger strategy of obtaining multiple Chase cards and combining points to redeem at a 25% premium through Chase’s travel booking site or to get access to Chase travel transfer partners including United, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott and more.

NEW CARDHOLDER BONUS OPPORTUNITY: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. (Worth $750 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.)

 


Chase Sapphire Reserve® – Why We Like It: Despite a $550 annual fee, a frequent traveler can often find the value to justify that fee, including yearly travel reimbursements of up to $300, airport lounge access, good travel insurances, a 50% boost in reward point value when booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and a great list of travel transfer partners, allowing you to transfer points into the loyalty programs of Southwest, United, Hyatt, JetBlue, Marriott, and a number of international airlines. NEW CARDHOLDER BONUS OPPORTUNITY: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, which is worth $900 toward travel if you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal!

In terms of everyday rewards, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar on flights and 10x points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and 3x points on other travel. (Note that points aren’t earned on purchases toward the yearly $300 travel credit.) Also, you’ll earn 3x points on dining, including restaurants, eligible delivery services, and takeout (and earn 10x if dining reserved through Chase Dining), and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

! And if you choose a Chase Sapphire card, remember you may want to increase your earning/redeeming power with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and/or the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Easiest To Understand: Capital One Miles

Capital One has long emphasized simplicity in its rewards credit cards, and travel cards are no exception. If you are new to travel credit cards, Capital One may be the easiest to understand right away, both in terms of what you earn from your card purchases and how much your “miles” will be worth when redeemed. With both the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on most purchases and those miles will be worth a penny each when redeemed for travel in most circumstances. (For example, 10,000 “miles” generally equals $100 of travel value.) You do earn a bit more in miles when you book travel through the Capital One Travel booking portal. See the card profiles below for details.

On the other hand, Capital One’s simplicity can limit the “home run” redemptions you might find with other travel cards (where points give you unexpectedly high value under certain circumstances). If you are someone who loves to comb through travel deals or dissect the airline alliances for “sweet spot” opportunities, you might find the American Express or Chase cards more to your liking. But if you want simplicity while still getting good value, Capital One could very well be for you.

Our favorite Capital One travel credit card:

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card – Why We Like It: Offers the desirable features of more expensive travel cards, but strips away the fluff to keep the annual fee reasonable. That annual fee is $395, but you can easily offset $300 of that fee when you book through Capital One Travel (you’ll get the first $300 in bookings credited back to your card), and there is an Early Spend Bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

And, with an Anniversary Miles Bonus of 10,000 miles (equal to $100 toward travel) that kicks in starting on your first card anniversary, you could easily get more value in miles and credits than the annual fee ($300 potential credits + $100 in miles = $400 value) — and that’s before we even talk about the everyday rewards and perks!

In terms of everyday purchase rewards, earn unlimited 10 miles per dollar in purchases on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel, plus unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases. And don’t forget airport lounge access through the Priority Pass network as well as access to the Capital One Lounges, plus quite a bit more.

You might also consider:

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – If the Venture X listed above has too high of an annual fee for you (even with the sweet credits), this alternate Capital One travel credit card still offers plenty at a more do-able $95 annual fee. Earn unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase (but 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel), and use those miles to pay for travel or even transfer them into the loyalty programs of Capital One travel partners. Other perks include a credit toward your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application (up to $100 when paid with the card), Hertz Five Star status, no foreign transaction fees on purchases outside of the United States and more. EARLY SPEND BONUS: Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases with the card within the first 3 months from account opening.

Airline/Hotel Credit Cards

If you often travel on a particular airline or stay at a specific hotel chain, you might also consider cards like:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card – Earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest Airlines purchases (and 2X in other purchase categories as well), a 75,000-point welcome bonus opportunity (after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening), another 3000 points every year on your “Cardmember anniversary,” 2 EarlyBird Check-In each year, and more. Annual Fee: $69.
  • Hilton Honors American Express CardNo Annual Fee with generous points-earning opportunities (including  7X points for eligible purchases at hotel and resorts in the Hilton portfolio), a 100,000-point new cardholder bonus opportunity (after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of Card Membership), complimentary Hilton Honors Silver Status, no foreign transaction fees, and more. See Rates & Fees. Terms Apply. American Express is a ProudMoney advertiser.

 

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Author: Adam Jusko