Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for Maximizing Free Travel

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For any traveler, having the right travel rewards credit card will help you save money and ultimately travel better.

These cards are designed to give you valuable travel benefits and maximize your rewards points earning.

Some travel benefits you can get from travel rewards credit card include:

  • Free flights using the miles you earned
  • Airport lounge access where you can eat, drink and relax
  • Free nights in amazing hotels around the world
  • Hotel status that gives you free room upgrades, breakfast, and lounge access with cocktail hour
  • Free checked bags and upgrades when you fly
  • Annual travel credits to cover unexpected travel costs
  • Travel insurance to keep you protected abroad

The fact is that there are tons of benefits to be had from travel rewards credit cards, you just need to choose the card that fits your travel needs the best.

Why sign-up for a travel rewards credit card?

Earning travel rewards points and miles is the quickest way to travel for less.

Many travel credit cards offer sign-up bonuses of 50,000 to 100,000 points, which can be worth $1,000+.

Think multiple round trip flights within the U.S. or a business class flight to Europe or beyond.

How do I choose the right card?

This article will help you narrow down your top choices and make sure you apply for the best travel rewards credit card.

We break down everything you need to know about each card, including sign-up bonus, travel benefits, annual fees, and more.

Keep reading about the top cards below and you’ll be enjoying the travel perks in no time!

Best Starter Travel Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has long been Chase’s bread and butter travel card. And for good reason.

This card provides excellent benefits, yet has a modest annual fee.

It’s the perfect choice for anyone new to travel rewards credit cards who wants to get their feet wet while enjoying free travel perks.

The card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are a flexible points currency that you accrue in your Chase account.

You can use your points in various ways, including booking travel directly through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal, transferring points to airline and hotel programs, or redeeming for gift cards and more.

When you redeem points by booking travel through Chase you will get 25% more value from your points.

The flexibility makes this card incredibly user-friendly and helps you maximize your rewards.

When you sign-up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card you will earn a sign-up bonus to help kick start your points balance. This can be worth $500+ in free travel.

When you continue to use your card, you will earn 2X points for every $1 spend on travel and restaurant purchases. For all other purchases you will earn 1X per $1 spent.

Best Card for Airport Lounge Access

The Platinum Card from American Express

If you are a frequent international traveler who enjoys luxury flights and hotels, you’ll enjoy (and use) the perks of having one of the best high-end credit cards.

The Platinum Card from American Express is just that. This card lets you experience travel perks like never before, including premium airport lounge access, hotel elite status, and annual travel credits.

Here is the long list of premium travel perks that come with the card include:

  • Airport Lounge Access: You’ll get access to Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club, and Centurion Lounges worldwide.
  • Hotel Elite Status: Get complimentary hotel elite status with Marriott and Hilton. Enjoy perks such as room upgrades and late check out.
  • Annual Travel Credit: Use your $200 annual travel credit to cover unexpected travel expenses, such as checked bag fees, seat upgrades, and other incidental airline fees.
  • 5X on Airfare & Hotels: Maximize your points earnings on your travel purchases. You’ll earn 5X points per $1 spent on flights and hotels booked through Amex Travel.
  • $200 of Free Uber: You can ride with Uber or dine with UberEats for free. You’ll receive $15 of statement credits each month, plus $20 in December.
  • $100 Saks Fifth Avenue Credit: Shop at Saks Fifth Avenue or saks.com and received a $50 statement credit semi-annually.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee Credit: Apply for Global Entry of TSA PreCheck using your card and received a statement credit up to $100. From now on you’ll be in the fast lane through security.
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts Perks: Enjoy perks, such as room upgrades, $100 hotel amenity, and late checkout when you stay 2 nights or more at Fine Hotels & Resorts.

With the Amex Platinum card you’ll never be stuck out in the terminal again. The card offers the best airport lounge access of any travel rewards credit card on the market.

Between the 1,300+ Priority Pass lounges, 45 Delta Sky Club, and 9 Centurion Lounges across the world you’ll almost always find a premium lounge to enjoy while flying. This is a huge perk not only since you can relax and freshen up, but you’ll also save money when you enjoy food and drinks in the lounge.

Best Flexible Rewards Travel Card

Venture® from Capital One®

For anyone looking for some of the easiest rewards redemptions, the Venture® from Capital One® is a great choice. The card earns 2X miles per $1 spent across the board.

This adds up to some serious rewards for anyone using this card for everyday purchases. Plus, until January 31, 2020 you can earn 10X miles when you book hotels through the hotels.com/Venture portal.

The best part is that when you want to redeem you Capital One miles, it’s easy. When you want to use your miles you have the option to redeem them for travel or transfer to one of Capital One’s airline partners.

When you redeem miles for a statement credit against travel purchases made with your card you’ll received 1 cent for each mile. This is a great value, but you may even be able to do better if you decide to transfer miles to an airline program. Either way, this card is as straightforward as it gets when it comes to earning and redeeming rewards.

Best Travel Card for International Flyers

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve received huge fanfare when it was released a few years ago. With it’s huge travel perks it set a new bar for premium travel rewards credit cards.

With the card you’ll earn top rewards with your spending, but you’ll also get some of the best travel benefits and insurance protection from any card out there.

Here is a list of travel benefits you get:

  • Airport Lounge Access: Enjoy airport lounges across the world with Priority Pass Select membership.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit: Receive $300 in statement credits towards any type of travel. This benefit revolves around your card account anniversary year.
  • Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Fee Credit: Receive a statement credit up to $100 when you use your card to apply for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • 50% More Value in Travel Redemptions: You’ll get 1.5 cents in value when you redeem points through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal. Other Chase cards only get 1 or 1.25 cents in value.
  • Ultra-Flexible Points: You can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to valuable travel partners, including United, British Airways, Southwest, and more.
  • Supercharged Points Earnings: Earn 3X points for every $1 spent on travel and dining.
  • Excellent Travel Insurance: You’re protected when you travel with trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, and more.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card offers excellent points earning potential with it’s 3X points earning rate on travel and dining. As a frequent traveler you’ll enjoy quickly racking up extra bonus points around the world when spending in these categories!

Ultimate Rewards points are incredibly flexible. You have two great options for redeeming points for maximum value: booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal or transferring points to one of Ultimate Rewards transfer partners.

Out of all Chase credit cards, the Sapphire Reserve is the most rewarding when it comes to redeeming Ultimate Rewards points to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal. You’ll get a whooping 1.5 cents in value per point. That’s more 50% value that you would get using your points for cashback. Note: other Chase cards only get 1 or 1.25 cents in value per point.

The second option for using your Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer points at a 1-to-1 ratio to travel partners. You can transfer points to any of these airlines:

Airline ProgramAllianceTransfer RatioMin Transfer AmountTransfer Time
Aer LingusN/A1:11,000Instant
British AirwaysOneWorld1:11,000Instant
FlyingBlue Air France/KLMSkyTeam1:11,000Instant - 1 Hour
Iberia PlusOneWorld1:11,000Instant
JetBlueN/A1:11,000Instant
Singapore AirlinesStar Alliance1:11,0001-2 Days
Southwest Airlines Rapid RewardsN/A1:11,000Instant
United MileagePlusStar Alliance1:11,000Instant
Virgin Atlantic Flying ClubN/A1:11,000Instant

You can also transfer points to any of Chase’s hotel partners that include:

  • Hyatt
  • Marriott
  • IHG

 

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