Quick Look at the Best Credit Cards for Travel:
- Best for Premium Hotel Rewards: Hilton Honors American Express Card
- Best for Airline Rewards: United℠ Explorer Card
- Best for Earning Miles: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Best for Earning Points: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Travel credit cards are highly rewarding if you live out of your suitcase or love to snag a free flight or upgrade.
Beyond keeping your wallet light of wads of cash, travel cards offer benefits such as cash back, discounts, hotel stays, airline miles, travel upgrades, airport lounge access and much more. Although these cards typically come with a joining or annual fee, the benefits often outweigh these charges.
Check out Benzinga’s review to find the best credit cards for travel.
Best Credit Cards for Travel
Here are our top picks for the best credit cards for travel. Since specific deals often change seasonally, ensure you confirm specific rates, rewards and other terms before selecting your card.
Best for Premium Hotel Rewards: Hilton Honors American Express Card
- Regular APR
20.99% – 29.99% Variable | Hilton Honors American Express Card – Rates and Fees 29.99% variable for cash advancesRating:
*Terms apply ** Be advised that applicants who do not have a credit history in the U.S. but have had credit cards or loans in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, South Korea, Switzerland or the United Kingdom will need to provide a SSN or ITIN during the application process.
When you use the Hilton Honors American Express Card, you gain several opportunities to earn rewards, including:
- Earn 80,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
- Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
- Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
There are no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, and you can also enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
Best for Airline Rewards: United℠ Explorer Card
The United℠ Explorer Card is everything you want in a basic airline card with rewards and perks that more than make up for the annual fee. For other purchases, you earn 1 mile per dollar. You also get a free checked bag for you and a companion and save up to $140 per round trip.
With the card, you pay a $95 annual fee, you earn several rewards with your purchases. $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS fee credit.
25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights and on Club premium drinks when you pay with your Explorer Card
Get one-year complimentary DashPass, a membership for both DoorDash and Caviar that provides unlimited deliveries with $0 delivery fees and lower service fees on eligible orders. After that, you are automatically enrolled in DashPass at the current monthly rate. Activate by 12/31/24.
You earn 90,000 miles after qualifying purchases when you use the card at hotels, restaurants and for other United purchases. United Explorer’s issuer is a member of the FDIC.
Best for Earning Miles: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Venture® Rewards card from Capital One® makes it easy for you to earn miles. You can earn unlimited 2 times the miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. Plus, you can transfer your miles to multiple leading travel loyalty programs.
You can also use your rewards through Amazon t for your online purchases. There’s also no foreign transaction fee, so you won't pay a transaction fee when making purchases outside the U.S.
Best for Earning Points: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
With an annual fee of $95, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is 1 of the best all-round travel credit cards. You earn points on travel and dining or from airfare, hotels and fine dining.
Some other benefits of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® include:
- The ability to transfer your points to leading frequent travel programs at 1-to-1 value.
- 5 times the points on Lyft rides through March 2025. That's 3 times the points in addition to the 2 times points you already earn on travel.
- 60,000 points if an individual spends $4,000 within the first three months. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
Credit Card Responsibility
Credit cards must be used responsibly. Credit cards can allow you to:
- To make payments over time for items you need urgently
- To make the most of the rewards and benefits
- To build a positive credit history to boost your credit rating
Pick the card with benefits that suit your lifestyle and strategize your payment. Don’t get a credit card for a lifestyle you can’t afford. You may begin a dangerous path toward credit card debt.
Here are a few dangers of owning a credit card:
You tend to overspend
Let’s face it, we tend to spend more if we use a card instead of cash because it’s just a piece of plastic. Your credit limit can be deceptive as it might feel like you actually have that kind of money when you really don’t.
Improper use can tank your credit rating
Credit cards are designed to help you build credit rating. If you use a credit card carelessly, it can affect your credit score. A bad credit rating means that lenders won’t extend credit easily. It can then be difficult to get loans or your rates will be much higher.
Debt is a result of not being able to repay your balances in full every month. If you don’t pay your balance in full, the remaining amount that you owe goes toward interest payments. This gets carried forward to the next month and the month after that — resulting in a snowball of debt.
How to Apply for a Credit Card
You can apply for a credit card in multiple ways — online, a paper application or by phone. There are typically 3 steps you should follow when you apply for a credit card.
- Check your credit score
Most credit cards can be categorized based on a qualifying credit score. If you know your credit score, you can apply for products and credit cards you’re likely to qualify for.
For example, if you have a bad credit score, you might want to choose a credit-building card that can help you achieve fair credit. Similarly, if you have a fair credit score, it may be difficult to get approval on a card that requires applicants with an excellent credit score.
- Choose the card you need
There is a range of credit card cards that you can choose from depending on your needs.
For example, if you’re a 1st-time applicant looking for a travel card, a card that does not require an annual fee would suit you best. But, if there’s a card that offers benefits you would certainly use which outweighs the annual fee, then that card would be a better fit.
- Fill out an application
Whether you apply online or by paper, the information required by card issuers is the same — personal information, income information and details of the authorized user (if any).
Once you submit your application, your credit card company will review it. If you’re doing this online, you should find out the result within a few minutes. The results for a paper application will take much longer.
Choose a Travel Card Now
Travel credit cards can offer you valuable rewards. You can take advantage of temporary benefits or use a travel card for everyday expenses to build up points to redeem in the future. Start with our list of recommended travel credit cards to find your match today.