Best Travel Credit Cards 2017
Plenty of credit card companies have realized that their products can appeal to habitual travelers. If credit cards can offer benefits of any sort, why not offer deals that are specifically geared towards traveling?
That is exactly what credit card issuers do. There is an entire subset of credit cards that offer travel benefits as part of a reward package. These cards are fairly hard to qualify for because they can be extremely valuable to travelers, especially the ones who spend a good amount of their time doing so. Owners of these cards can take advantage of reward packages for free hotel stays or airfare. These extensive benefits usually come at a price as these cards generally come with annual fees.
Many of these credit cards are offered through a credit card issuer partnership with an associated airline or hotel. These partnerships are made obvious in order to inspire business, so some are exclusively helpful at partnership locations.
Overall, these cards bode well for those who travel for business or pleasure. Traveling more increases the benefits for many of these cards, so if one can afford to travel, these cards are an absolute must-have. Here is a list of several cards that offer extensive travel benefits. Not only are their benefits observed, but all of their associated costs are listed as well.
The Top 10 Travel Credit Cards for 2017
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express
APR: 15.49% - 19.49%
Rewards: 5pts (cents) /$1 spent at Starwood locations, 1pt/$1 spent elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 25,000 pts ($250) if $3,000 spent in first 90 days
Fees: $95 annual, $37 late, $5 or 3% on balance transfer and cash advance
Kicking off the list in the number one spot is the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. This card comes with an absurd amount of benefits, and it is very hard to get approved for. Card holders can find opportunities at any Starwood location, and there are over 1,200 locations nationwide. This is one of the many products offered by American Express that are specifically meant for travel rewards.
There is hefty bonus deal for spending at least $3,000 during the first ninety days of obtaining the Starwood Card. After reaching this limit, the card holder earns 25,000 bonus Starpoints. These points are redeemable for travel benefits and free hotel stays at Starwood locations. When making purchases at Starwood locations, five Starpoints are given for every dollar spent. On top of this, one Starpoint is awarded for every dollar spent, so card holders can start building up rewards immediately.
Multiple tier statuses are available to devoted card holders who start out as basic card members. There are three tiers above basic membership: Elite Status, Platinum Status, and Gold Status. Card holders can move up this tier system by staying in hotels or reaching a spending minimum each year. 25 nights at participating hotels earns an upgrade to Elite Status; 50 nights earns an upgrade to Platinum Status. When card holders spend at least $30,000 in one year, they are eligible for a Gold Status Upgrade. These membership statuses basically guarantee the card holder certain luxuries and upgrades at hotels; additionally, these members get an extra Starpoint per dollar spent at Starwood locations.
In light of the various potential benefits, Starwood card holders have multiple fees to look after. These members start out with a $0 annual fee that precedes a regular $95 annual fee. There are balance transfer and cash advance fees that both cost either $5 or 3%. There is no foreign transaction fee. Penalty fees for late and returned payments can cost up to $37 each. As far as APR goes, this card is relatively tame. Regular purchases and balance transfers go at a rate of 15.49% to 19.49% which is a relatively tight range. Cash advance APR is 25.49% while the penalty APR is 29.49%.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express offers plenty of benefits for the habitual hotel visitor, and it can offer some exclusive deals for upper tier members. The annual fee is minimal compared to plenty of top tier cards which makes this a solid product for anyone with excellent credit.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
APR: 16.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 2pts/ $1 for travel and restaurant purchases, 1pt/$1 elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 50,000 pts ($500) if $4,000 spent in first 3 months, 5,000 pts ($50) for first purchase
Fees: $95 annual, $15-$37 late, $5 or 5% balance transfer, $10 or 5% cash advance
Cruising in at second place is the Sapphire Preferred Card offered by Chase bank. This card comes with some serious travel benefits that makes it worthy of one of the top positions on this list. These rewards are able to be redeemed at multiple different partner businesses including plenty of airlines.
This credit card takes the cake when it comes to introductory bonus deals. It offers 50,000 bonus points for spending at least $4,000 within the first three months. On top of this, an extra 5,000 points are awarded for simply making the first transaction during that three month period. Overall, that is 55,000 bonus points which is worth over $600 towards travel.
There are a couple of point rates on purchases with the Sapphire Preferred Card. Two points per dollar are awarded while spending in the travel or restaurant niche, and one point is given per dollar spent on all other purchases. These points are valued higher by Chase than other competitors; basically, the end result is a 20% discount on travel redemptions.
Since this is an upper tier travel rewards credit card, there is an annual fee of $95 for holding onto the card; however, the first year is free of charge. There are a couple of transaction fees for balance transfers (either $5 or 5%) and cash advances (either $10 or 5%). There is no foreign transaction fees which is typical of a travel rewards card. Fees for late payments range between $15, $27, and $37 depending on how large the balance is. Returned payments bring about a $37 fee. There are no introductory periods involved with annual percentage rates. Regular purchase and balance transfer APRs range between 16.24% and 23.24% while both cash advance and penalty APRs are set at 25.24%.
The premier Chase travel rewards credit card has some enticing benefits. They rank as some of the best on the market given the accompanying credit card costs. This card is somewhat difficult to obtain, but it rewards spending with ample travel benefits.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
APR: 13.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 2pts/$1 redeemable on flights
Bonus Reward: 40,000 pts ($400) if $3,000 spent in first 90 days
Fees: $59 annual, $35 late, $10 or 3% cash advance, NO balance transfer
The Venture Rewards Credit Card is Capital One's answer to the top competitors in the travel rewards card market. It offers the usual slew of travel benefits to its card holders in the form of free airfare and other perks. It falls short in some respects, but it makes up for these shortcoming with its pricing and terms.
The Venture Rewards card starts out with an introductory bonus deal numbering 40,000 points. These are earned by spending at least $3,000 during the first ninety days with the credit card. On top of this bonus deal, a rate of return of 2 points per dollar is available on all purchases. These points constitute the travel rewards program; they are redeemable for flights and worth approximated one cent a piece. These points do not expire.
One of the best selling points of this card is the annual fee. After waiving the first year of membership fees, card holders are only required to pay $59 annually in order to hold onto the card. There are only a few extra fees to consider. There is a cash advance fee of either $10 or 3%, and late payments are charged a maximum of $35. This means there is no foreign transaction fee or balance transfer fee. Interest rates are always relevant; for instance, regular purchases are subject to either a 13.24%, 18.24%, or 23.24% APR. Cash advances see an APR of 23.24%. These rates are all variable.
This Capital One Credit Card is a great card to get if one is looking for travel rewards. The combination of low fees and good rewards makes for a competitive product overall. While this card is placed at number three on the list, the package is one of the best deals to consider. It offers comparable rewards at lower costs to the holder.
Virgin America Visa Signature Card
APR: 16.23%, 20.24%, or 25.24%
Rewards: 5pts/$1 spent on Virgin America air fare and 3pts/$1on all other Virgin America purchases, 1pt/$1 else
Bonus Reward: $150/year toward companion ticket, 20% off in-flight purchases, free first bag check
Fees: $49 annual, $10 or 3% balance transfer, $10 or 5% cash advance, $37 late fee
Virgin America offers its own travel package in the form of the Visa Signature Card. It offers unique benefits that are specifically geared towards traveling via airlines. This card follows the low cost and moderate benefit path in order to appeal to the middle ground of potential customers. There are two different types of cards: the Premium Card and the other basic Visa Signature Card.
For members who were approved for the Premium Card, they are eligible for a bonus reward of 15,000 Elevate points. Those who do not have the Premium Card can get 10,000 Elevate points to their account. This bonus gift is awarded if the card holder can spend at least $1000 within the first three months with the credit card. Elevate points are the base units for the Elevate Program where card holders can build up redeemable rewards towards their travel expenses.
There are a couple of travel reward rates for making purchases. When purchasing air fare from Virgin America, Elevate members receive five points per dollar spent. When spending at Virgin America for other reasons besides air fare, card holders get three points per dollar spent. This normally amounts to eight points per dollar on many Virgin America expenses which is an above average rate. All other purchases garner one point per dollar. These points are redeemable towards gifts and discounts at Virgin America.
There are several other perks with the Virgin America travel card. Card holders get a $150 credit towards a companion ticket which is renewable every year. The first bag check fee is waived when using a Virgin America Visa Signature Card. All in-flight purchases can be made at a 20% discount. The Premium Card comes with more perks than its Visa Signature counterpart.
There are multiple different fees and rates for this card depending on card type. The Premium Visa Card requires $150 per year while the standard Virgin America Visa Card requires only $49 annually. Common transaction fees are also present with this card. Balance transfers cost an additional $10 or 3%. Cash advances and convenience checks can cost up to $10 or 5% per transaction. Even though this is a travel card, there is a foreign transaction fee of 3% on each transaction; however, the Premium Card does not come with a foreign transaction fee. Late and returned payments may cost anywhere up to $37.
The annual percentage rates do not differ between the Premium Cards and Visa Signature Cards. Standard purchases are subject to rates of either 16.23%, 20.24%, or 25.24%. There is no differentiation between cards for cash advances either; for instance, the cash advance APR is 27.24% for both cards. There is both potential for an excellent rate and a poor rate, but this all depends on credit history.
The Virgin America credit cards, both Premium and Visa Signature, offer decent deals when it comes to travel. The benefits of the Premium Card may not outweigh the additional cost, so the ideal product choice may very well be the standard Visa Signature Card.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
APR: 16.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 5pts/$1 spent at Marriott, 2pts/$1 spent on travel, 1pt/$1 elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 80,000 pts ($800) if $3,000 spent in first 3 months & 7,500 pts ($75) if one additional person added to account (redeemable at Marriott)
Fees: NO annual, 3% on balance transfers, $10 or 5% on cash advances, $37 late
This credit card offers a ton of great benefits as Chase's prime credit card offering hotel rewards. The Marriot Rewards Premier Credit Card competes well with its counterparts such as the Hilton Honors and Starwood Guest Preferred Card. It is one of the top credit cards in the hotel benefit market place.
A headlining bonus deal sets the tone for this credit card. Chase and its partner, Marriott, offer an introductory reward of 80,000 points for spending $3000 during the first three months of opening an account. In addition to this huge deal, card holders can earn an extra 7,500 points to their rewards account. In order to qualify, they must make a single purchase with their credit card and sign up one extra additional user to their account. These points are redeemable towards free hotel nights and stays at Marriott and participating locations.
On top of the sweet bonus deal, there are multiple different rates at which bonus points can be earned. For every dollar spent at a Marriot location, five points are awarded. There are certain niche purchases that gain two points per dollar; these niches include car rentals, airline tickets, or restaurants. All other purchases typically receive one point per dollar. These points do not expire so long as the account is left open and active.
There are a few extra perks that come with this card. Every year, card holders receive a free hotel night from Chase. On top of this, there is a chance to receive 15 free hotel nights. Card holders must make it through a year in good standing credit-wise and with Chase. This is known as the 15 Nights Elite credit award. There are more rewards available as well; for instance, every $3000 in purchases earns a free night at an Elite Status hotel.
In light of all these deals, there are several rates and fees to cover. There is an annual fee of $85 which is slightly below average for cards of this caliber. Balance transfers cost the card holder a minimum of $5 or a maximum of 5%. Cash advances cost a little more at a max rate of 5% or a minimum fee of $10. Foreign transactions are luckily not applicable for this card. The usual Chase late fee guidelines are in place. $15 is charged on balances less than $100, $27 is charged on balances between $100 and $250, and $37 is charged on balances over $250. Returned payments lack the flexibility since they simply will charge anywhere up to $37. Regular purchase and balance transfer APRs range between 16.24% and 23.24% depending on credit worthiness. Cash advance and overdraft advance APRs are at 25.24% which as variable.
This card appears to be a great deal, and it really is. It offers minimal fees for awesome rewards which is exactly what everyone wants. The only issue is getting approved because it requires good credit history which is barrier number one to a majority of people.
Hilton HHonors Card by American Express
APR: 15.49% - 19.49%
Reward: 3pts/$1 on all purchases, 2 additional at supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants, 7 additional from Hilton affiliates
Bonus Reward: 50,000 pts ($500) if $750 spent in first 3 months redeemable at Hilton locations
Fees: NO annual, 3% or $5 balance transfer and cash advance, $37 max late
American Express holds true to its reputation as a top competitor in the consumer traveler industry; in this case, this is their second product that focuses on hotel rewards. With the Starwood locations covered, it was only natural to move on to the Hilton locations. The Hilton HHonors Card from American Express offers good rewards and rates for the Hilton client base.
Card holders can get a head start of saving bonus points with this card by reaching the $750 minimum within three months of getting a card. The bonus offer numbers at 50,000 Hilton HHonors points which are redeemable at any Hilton location. On top of this bonus offer, there are several above average rates at which points can be earned. To start, three Hilton HHonors points are awarded for regular purchases. Members get an additional two points when making purchases at supermarkets, restaurants, or gas stations (so a total of five points per dollar). Finally, card holders get seven points on the dollar for purchasing directly with a Hilton affiliate. These are impressive rewards point rates.
In addition to a sweet point system, there is a tier system associated with the Hilton HHonors Credit Card. The starting tier is known as Hilton HHonors Silver Status; it is given as a compliment for qualifying for the credit card. Silver members receive several free hotel nights a year, and they get a %15 on reward points earned through transactions. The next tier is Gold Status. This is awarded for spending at least $20,000 annually with the credit card. There is a 25% bonus on HHonors points, and they receive more free hotel nights a year compared to Silver status. Both statuses receive complimentary upgrades when applicable, but preference always goes to Gold status.
With this many perks, the Hilton HHonors Card must be expensive, but this is not the case. There is no annual fee for this credit card which is unprecedented given the number of perks and reward programs. Charges of $5 or 3% are applied to balance transfers and cash advances. There happens to be a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%, and late or returned payments are charged a max penalty of $37. The regular and balance transfer APRs are set between 15.49% and 19.49%. Cash advance APR is 25.49% while penalty APR is 29.49%.
The overall package of the Hilton HHonors Credit Card from American Express is excellent. This segment did not even cover the standard perks of an American Express product; this card becomes even more valuable when factoring those in. This is one of the best products on this list when considering the expense to reward ratio.
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card by American Express
APR: 15.49% to 19.49%
Rewards: 2 miles (cents)/$1 spent at Delta Airlines, 1 mile/$1 spent elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 50,000 miles ($500) for spending $2,000 in first 3 months, $50 for making first purchase
Fees: $95 annual (first year free), $5 or 3% on balance transfers and cash advances, $37 late
In partnership with Delta Airlines, American Express offers yet another competitive travel credit card for consumers. It offers great deals and special Delta Airlines perks, and it is a relatively low cost card.
The SkyMiles card starts out with a typical bonus deal, 50,000 miles for spending $2,000 within three months of getting the card. Miles are redeemable towards travel discounts; since this is worth $500, the intro deal is effectively a 25% return. In addition to this deal, card holders earn another $50 credit for simply making a purchase at Delta. This makes the introductory deal worth an overall $550 which is a considerable return on investment.
There are several standard rates of return for making purchases. Two miles are awarded to a member account for every dollar spent at Delta Airlines. For any other purchase, one mile per dollar is the standard rate. These are the standard rates that account for most of the points built up in a rewards account.
There are various other perks so consider. A Gold Delta SkyMiles card holder can get their first bag check fee waived, and they enjoy expedited seating at Delta Airlines. Members can also get guaranteed lowest pricing on hotel destinations. On top of that, they can join the Delta Sky Club at a reduced price.
On to the pricing details, there is an annual fee of $95 with the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card, but the first year with the card is free of charge. While there is no foreign transaction fee, there is a charge of either $5 or 3% for cash advances and balance transfers. Penalties for late or returned payments are $37 which is typical. The balance transfer and regular purchase annual percentage rates are set between 15.49% and 19.49%. Cash advance APR is 25.49% while penalty APR is 29.49%.
This product is a good travel rewards credit card. It's benefits are solely centered around Delta Airlines which makes it worthwhile for anyone who is a frequent customer. The overall rewards package is worth the card expenses to say the least.
Bank Americard Travel Rewards
APR: 15.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 1.5pts/$1 on all purchases, 2x pts at Travel Center, extra 10% for those with Bank of America checking or savings account
Bonus Reward: 20,000 pts ($200) for spending $1,000 in first 3 months
Fees: NO annual, $10 or 3% on balance transfers, $10-$12 or 3%-5% on cash advance, $37 late
A standard deal for those looking to get a good travel rewards card can be found at Bank of America. The Bank Americard Travel Rewards Credit Card is their product that competes in the consumer travel rewards market. It has a decent set of benefits and pricing terms.
The main offer of this travel rewards card is fairly basic, so there are multiple different tiers or special statuses to worry about. New card holders can look forward to a bonus point offer of 20,000 points when reaching $1,000 in expenses after the first three months. There are multiple rates where points can be earned on transactions. A rate of 1.5 points per dollar is awarded on all types of purchases; this rate is doubled when making purchases at the Travel Center, a feature of this card and Bank of America. 10% extra points are awarded to card holders who have an checking or savings account with Bank of America. These points are part of a reward system where redemptions are available for gift cards and travel discounts.
While there are several travel points and bonus deals to consider, there are of course multiple fees to keep track of. Luckily, there are no annual fees associated with the Bank Americard Travel Rewards Card. Wire transfers are charged either $10 or 5% while balance transfers are charged either $10 or 3%. Cash advances are charged either $10, $12, 3%, or 5% depending on the type of transaction. There are no foreign transactions applicable for this card. Late payments and returned payments both stack up to the maximum $37 charge which is typical.
There are a couple of introductory annual percentage rates which have not been seen so far. Regular purchase APR runs between 15.24% and 23.24% after a twelve month introductory rate of 0%. The same range, 15.24% to 23.24%, is utilized for balance transfers as well. An increased range of 18.24% to 25.24% is used for transactions that involve a direct deposit or check cash advance. The rate of 25.24% is used for bank cash advances. When penalties are needed, a penalty APR of 29.99% is used
This credit card is a decent card in terms of rewards and benefits. It does not have ridiculously awesome bonus deals, but it is an average card for someone with average credit.
Discover it® Miles Card
APR: 11.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 1.5 miles (cents) / $1 spent
Bonus Reward: Double cash back during first year
Fees: NO annual, 3% balance transfer, $10 or 5% cash advances, $37 late
Discover offers a travel rewards product that is not as prominent as some of the top performers, but it is a decent card with some benefits. It is not going to turn any heads with any bonus deals, but it is an obtainable product to say the least.
While there is no bonus deal for reaching some transaction amount in the first few months, there is an effective twelve month introductory rate of return on all transactions. The Miles Card from Discover has a rate of return of 1.5%; in other words, this means that card holders earn 1.5 miles per dollar spent. These miles are basically points, so they are redeemable towards travel discounts. Back to that twelve month introductory offer, at the end of the first year with the card, Discover matches the number of miles that have been accrued on an account. This is essentially a double cash back rate for the first twelve months with the Discover it Miles Card.
What the Miles Card lacks in rewards, it makes up for in pricing details. There is no annual fee for having the Discover Miles Card; additionally, there is no foreign transaction fee which makes sense for a travel credit card. 3% is charged on all balance transfers, and either $10 or 5% is charged on cash advances. While the first late payment fee is waived, these fees normally cost up to $37 (so do returned payments).
Multiple APRs are offered, both introductory and standard. Regular purchases start out at 0% APR for twelve months, but this converts to a range between 11.24% and 23.24%. Balance transfer rates start at 10.99% for a year, but this rate settles within a range of 11.24% and 23.24% afterwards. The cash advance APR is 25.24%. All of these rates are variable which is normally the case with annual percentage rates.
At first glance, the Discover it Miles Card does not seem to compare with some of the other competitors on this list. It is much more obtainable than the others however because only moderate credit history is needed. For those having trouble finding a card with any sort of benefit, this card is an ideal candidate.
U.S. Bank LANPASS Visa Signature Card
APR: 13.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 2pts/$1 spent on LAN ticket purchases, 1pt/$1 elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 20,000 miles ($200) for making first purchase, 4,000 miles ($40) per year for being a member, 20% discount up to $1,000 on single purchase per year, 25% bonus miles each year
Fees: $45 annual (besides first year), 3% or $5 balance transfer, 4% or $5 cash advances, $37 late
The United States Bank provides its own version of a travel rewards credit card, the LANPASS Visa Signature Card. It has plenty of bonus offers which is evident in the description; overall, the card has surpasses many in the case of sheer volume of bonus offers. There is a secondary card for those who do not qualify for the signature card which has less to offer.
U.S. Bank skips the introductory bonus stipulations. New card holders receive 20,000 LANPASS miles for simply making their first purchase with the Signature Card. There is an annual bonus as well. 4,000 miles are given out each year for simply maintaining a membership. These miles are redeemable at partner airlines with no cap limit on miles.
There are several mile rates when making purchases with the Visa Signature Card. Two miles per dollar spent are awarded for LAN ticket purchases. The standard base rate is one mile per dollar spent on any type of transaction.
Plenty of discounts and gifts are available to LANPASS Visa Signature card holders. There is an annual, one-time discount of 20% on LAN purchases that is good for up to $1,000 on a single purchase. There are three fight upgrade coupons that are renewed each year. When purchasing tickets, there is a 25% bonus on miles each year.
For those who do not qualify for the Visa Signature Card, travel rewards are offered at a reduced rate with fewer discounts (LANPASS Visa Card). While the rewards differ, the annual percentage rates are fairly similar with some fee variations.
The annual fee of the Visa Signature Card is $75 following an introductory annual fee of $0; those who qualify for the lesser card only owe $45 a year after an initially waived annual fee. There are various transaction fees to remember. Balance transfers and check cash advances are charged either 3% or $5. ATM and over-counter cash advances are charged either 4% or $5. There are two foreign transaction rates: 2% of U.S. Currency or 3% of foreign currency. The late payment fee is $37, and the returned payment fee is $35. The regular purchase and balance transfer APR are set between a range of 13.24% and 23.24%. Cash advance APR is 24.24%, but keep in mind that all of these rates are variable.
The LANPASS Visa Signature Card has an absurd amount of benefits while the LANPASS Visa Card is fairly limited. The latter is most likely not worth the trouble, but the former is definitely a good deal.