Best Travel Credit Cards of 2018
- June 28, 2016
- Posted by: Ashley Sutphin Watkins
- Category: Credit Cards
Credit card companies know their products appeal to many frequent travelers. So many of them try to offer the best travel credit card to gain your business.
Owners of these cards can take advantage of 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 the best travel credit cards are offered through a credit card issuer partnership with an associated airline or hotel. However some of the best travel credit cards on this list are offered by the issuers themselves.
Overall, a travel credit card can be beneficial to both people 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 can yield free perks, upgrades, and many coveted benefits.
You can compare your options below to find the best travel credit card for your needs.
12 Best Travel Credit Cards
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
Rewards: 5 points per $1 spent at Starwood locations, 1 point per $1 spent elsewhere
Bonus Reward: Up to $200 in statement credits within the first 6 months
Fees: $95 annual fee ($0 first year), $38 maximum late fee, $5 or 3% fee on balance transfer and cash advance
Kicking off the list of the best travel credit cards is the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. This card comes with a higher than average number of benefits, and it is very hard to get approved for. Cardholders can find opportunities at any Starwood location, and there are over 1,200 locations nationwide. This is one of many credit cards offered by American Express that is specifically meant for travel rewards.
You can earn up to $200 in statement credits: a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,000 within the first three months, and an additional $100 statement credit after your first SPG or Marriott Rewards hotel purchase within the first six months. 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 on other purchases.
Multiple tier statuses are available to devoted cardholders who start out as basic cardmembers. There are three tiers above basic membership: Elite Status, Platinum Status, and Gold Status. Cardholders can move up this tier system by staying in hotels or reaching a spending minimum each year. Twenty-five nights at participating hotels earns an upgrade to Elite Status; 50 nights earns an upgrade to Platinum Status.
When cardholders spend at least $30,000 in one year, they are eligible for a Gold Status upgrade. These membership statuses basically guarantee the cardholder certain luxuries and upgrades at hotels; additionally, these members get an extra Starpoint per dollar spent at Starwood locations.
APR & Fees
In light of the potential benefits, Starwood cardholders have multiple fees to keep track of. 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 travel credit card is relatively tame. Regular purchases and balance transfers have a rate of 16.99%–20.99%, which is a relatively tight range. Cash advance APR is 26.99%, and the penalty APR is 29.99%.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express offers plenty of benefits for the habitual hotel visitor, and it can provide 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
Rewards: 2 points/$1 for travel and restaurant purchases, 1 point /$1 elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 50,000 points ($500) if $4,000 spent in first 3 months, 5,000 points ($50) for first purchase and adding an authorized user
Fees: $95 annual, $15 to $37 late, $5 or 5% balance transfer, $10 or 5% cash advance
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card comes with some serious travel benefits that make it worthy for consideration as the best travel credit card. These travel rewards are redeemable at multiple partner businesses.
This travel 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 and adding an authorized user 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.
APR & Fees
Since this is an upper-tier travel 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 fee, which is typical of a travel 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 17.49% and 24.49%, while both cash advance and penalty APRs are set at 26.49%.
This Chase travel credit card has some enticing benefits. Chase credit cards rank as some of the best on the market given the accompanying credit card costs. This card is somewhat difficult to obtain, but has ample travel benefits.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Rewards: 2 points per $1 redeemable on flights
Bonus Reward: 50,000 points ($400) if $3,000 spent in first 90 days
Fees: $95 annual ($0 first year), $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 credit card market. It offers the usual slew of travel benefits to its cardholders in the form of free airfare and other perks. It falls short in some respects, but it makes up for these shortcomings with its pricing and terms.
The Venture Rewards card starts out with an introductory bonus deal of 50,000 points. These are earned by spending at least $3,000 during the first 90 days with the credit card. On top of this bonus deal, the rate of return is two points per dollar on all purchases. These points constitute the travel program; they are redeemable for flights and are worth approximately one cent a piece. These points do not expire.
APR & Fees
After waiving the first year of membership fees, cardholders pay $95 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 14.74%, 21.24%, or 24.74% APR. Cash advances have an APR of 24.74%. These rates are all variable.
This Capital One credit card is worth considering if one is looking for travel rewards. The combination of lower fees and good rewards makes for a competitive product overall. As one of the best travel credit cards to consider, it offers comparable benefits at lower costs to the holder.
Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
Rewards: 6 points/$1 spent at Marriott, 2 points/$1 spent elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 100,000 points if $5,000 spent in first 3 months
Fees: $95 annual fee, 5% or $5 fee on balance transfers, $10 or 5% fee on cash advances, $37 maximum late fee
This travel credit card provides a number of benefits. The Marriot Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card competes well with its counterparts, such as the Hilton Honors and Starwood Guest Preferred Card. It is certainly one of the best travel credit cards.
A headlining bonus deal sets the tone for this credit card. Chase and its partner, Marriott, offer an introductory reward of 100,000 points for spending $5,000 during the first three months of opening an account. These points are redeemable towards free hotel nights and stays at Marriott and participating locations.
On top of that bonus deal, there are multiple rates at which bonus points can be earned. For every dollar spent at a Marriot location, six points are awarded. All other purchases typically receive two points per dollar. These points do not expire so long as the account is open and active.
There are a few extra perks that come with this card. Every year, cardholders receive a free hotel night from Chase. On top of this, in 2019, there is a chance to receive 15 credits toward Elite Status. Cardholders must make it through a year in good standing credit-wise and with Chase. There are more benefits available as well; for instance, every $3,000 in purchases earns another Elite Status credit.
APR & Fees
In light of all these deals, there are several rates and fees to cover as well. There is an annual fee of $95, which is comparable for cards of this caliber. Balance transfers cost the cardholder 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.
This travel card charges no foreign transaction fee. Regular purchase and balance transfer APRs range between 17.49% and 24.49% depending on creditworthiness. Cash advance and overdraft APRs are at 26.49%, which are variable.
This card appears to be a worthwhile deal; it offers minimal fees for substantial travel perks, which is exactly what everyone wants. The only issue is getting approved, because the card requires good credit, which is a barrier for some people.
Hilton Honors Card from American Express
Reward: 3 points/$1 on all purchases, 2 points/$1 at supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants, 7 points/$1 from Hilton affiliates
Bonus Reward: 50,000 points ($500) if $1,000 spent in first 3 months: redeemable at Hilton locations
Fees: No annual fee, 3% or $5 balance transfer and cash advance, $38 max late fee, no foreign transaction fee
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 travel rewards. With the Starwood locations covered, it was only natural to move on to the Hilton locations. The Hilton Honors Card from American Express offers solid rates for the Hilton client base.
Cardholders can get a head start on saving bonus points with this travel card by reaching the $1,000 spending minimum within three months of getting the card. The bonus offer is 50,000 Hilton Honors 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 Honors 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, cardholders get seven points on the dollar for purchasing directly with a Hilton affiliate. These rates are higher than average.
In addition to a point system, there is a tier system associated with the Hilton Honors Credit Card. The starting tier is known as Hilton Honors Silver Status; it is given as a compliment for qualifying for the credit card. Silver members receive several free hotel nights per year, and they get 15% on 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 Honors points, and cardholders receive more free hotel nights per year compared to Silver status. Both statuses receive complimentary upgrades when applicable, but preference always goes to Gold Status.
APR & Fees
There is no annual fee for this credit card, which is notable given the number of perks. Charges of $5 or 3% are applied to balance transfers and cash advances. Late or returned payments are charged a max penalty of $38. There is no foreign transaction fee.
The regular and balance transfer APRs are set between 17.49% and 26.49%. Cash advance APR is 26.99%, and penalty APR is 29.99%.
The overall offering of the Hilton Honors Credit Card from American Express is a worthwhile consideration. 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 travel credit cards on this list when considering the expense-to-reward ratio.
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
Rewards: 2 miles/$1 spent at Delta Airlines, 1 mile/$1 spent elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 50,000 miles ($500) for spending $1,000 in first 3 months, $50 for making first Delta purchase
Fees: $95 annual fee ($0 first year), $5 or 3% fee on balance transfers and cash advances, $38 max late fee
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 Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card starts out with a typical bonus deal—50,000 miles for spending $1,000 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, cardholders 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.
There are various other perks to consider. A Gold Delta SkyMiles cardholder 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.
APR & Fees
As for 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 $38. The balance transfer and regular purchase annual percentage rates are set between 17.49% and 26.49%. Cash advance APR is 26.99%, and the penalty APR is 29.99%.
This product is a travel credit card worth considering. Its benefits are solely centered around Delta Airlines, which makes it worthwhile for anyone who is a frequent customer. The overall package is worth the card expenses to say the least.
Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card
Rewards: 1.5 points/$1 on all purchases, extra 10% for those with Bank of America checking or savings account
Bonus Reward: 20,000 points ($200) for spending $1,000 in first 3 months
Fees: No annual fee, $10 or 3% fee on balance transfers, $10–$12 or 3%–5% fee on cash advance, $38 max late fee
A standard deal for those looking to get a good credit card for travel rewards can be found at Bank of America. The Bank of America 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 credit card is fairly basic, so there are no different tiers or special statuses to worry about. New cardholders can look forward to a bonus 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. Ten percent extra points are awarded to cardholders who have a 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.
APR & Fees
While there are several travel points and bonus deals to consider, there are also multiple fees to keep track of. Luckily, there are no annual fees associated with the Bank of America 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 transaction fees for this card. Late payments and returned payments both stack up to the maximum $38 charge.
There are a couple of introductory annual percentage rates which have not been seen so far. Regular purchase APR runs between 16.74% and 24.74% after a 12-month introductory rate of 0%. The same range applies to balance transfers as well. An increased range of 19.74% to 26.74% applies to transactions involving a direct deposit or check cash advance. The rate of 26.74% is used for bank cash advances. When necessary, a penalty APR of 29.99% is used.
This travel credit card is a decent card in terms of benefits. It does not have exceptional bonus deals, but it is can offer plenty of perks for those with average credit.
Discover it Miles Card
Rewards: 1.5 miles/$1 spent
Bonus Reward: Double cash back during first year
Fees: No annual fee, 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.
While there is no bonus deal for reaching a certain transaction amount in the first few months, there is an effective 14-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 cardholders earn 1.5 miles per dollar spent. These miles are basically points, so they are redeemable towards travel discounts.
Back to that 14-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 14 months with the Discover it Miles Card.
APR & Fees
What the Miles Card lacks, it makes up for in pricing details. There is no annual fee for having the Discover it Miles Card; additionally, there is no foreign transaction fee, which makes sense for a travel credit card. Three percent 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 14 months, but this converts to a range between 13.74% and 24.74%. Balance transfer rates start at 10.99% for a year, but this rate settles within a range of 13.74% and 24.74% afterward. The cash advance APR is 26.74%. All of these rates are variable.
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, because only a moderately good credit history is needed. For those having trouble finding a card with any sort of benefits, this card is an ideal candidate.
PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
APR: 12.24%–17.99% (0% for 12 months)
Rewards: 3 points/$1 spent on travel; 1.5 points/$1 spent on everything else; 4 points/$1 spent on travel for PenFed Honors Advantage Members
Bonus Rewards: 25,000-point bonus for spending $2,500 within first three months
Fees: No annual fee, 3% balance transfer fee, 5% or $5 cash advance fee
The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card is an American Express card offered by PenFed Credit Union. PenFed is the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which is the second-largest federal credit union in the U.S.
This card features 1.5 points per dollar spent on purchases not related to travel. On travel-related purchases, the card allows users to earn three points per dollar. For travel purchases made by participants in the PenFed Honors Advantage program, there is the opportunity to earn 4x points on all travel purchases.
There is also a $100 annual air travel credit, which can be used for baggage fees, onboard food and drinks, and lounge access. Cardholders receive a $100 application fee credit if they apply for TSA PreCheck.
There is a sign-up bonus offered with this travel credit card. First, there’s the 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers. There is also a 25,000-point bonus for people who spend $2,500 within three months of opening an account.
APR & Fees
When people first sign up for the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express, there is a 0% APR promotional balance transfer rate for 12 months. After that, the APR for any new balance transfers as well as the unpaid balance can range from 12.24% and 17.99%, based on creditworthiness and market rate.
The card has no annual fee. But balance transfers are charged 3%, and cash advances have a 5% or $5 fee.
There are quite a few benefits to the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express. To get the card, you have to be a member of the PenFed Credit Union, and it is a good card for earning general points even outside of travel.
However, the fact that you can earn up to three points per dollar on travel expenses makes this an excellent option, as well as the lack of an annual fee. Even if you’re not spending on travel, you’re still getting 1.5x points, as opposed to one point per dollar, which is more common with a lot of travel cards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
Rewards: 3 points/$1 spent on travel and dining
Bonus Rewards: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months
Fees: $450 annual fee, $75 for each authorized user, no foreign transaction fee, up to $37 for late or returned payments
The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is relatively well-known among travel benefit cards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card has a high fee, but that tends to be offset by the many benefits. It’s considered one of the top-level cards offered by Chase.
The current new cardmember offer for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening a new account. The Chase Sapphire Reserve’s rewards are also impressive.
First, the card offers three points per dollar spent on both travel and dining throughout the world. This can include cruises, flights, hotels, car rentals, taxis, and public transportation. In terms of dining, it can include everything from spending at fast food eateries to fine dining.
There is also a $300 annual credit for travel expenses charged to the card. There is VIP access to events and experiences, and the points earned are worth 50 percent more when redeemed for airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruise lines. That would mean, as an example, that for 50,000 points, a cardholder would receive $750 to be used for travel.
APR & Fees
The annual fee on this card is very high. It’s $450 per year, and there’s a $75 fee for each authorized user. With that being said, if you are a frequent traveler, this fee can be more than made up for relatively quickly. Most of the fee is covered by the $300 travel credit, for example. And fortunately, cardholders will pay no foreign transaction fees when spending and traveling abroad.
The APR range for this card is anywhere from 17.49% to 24.49%, depending on prime rates and creditworthiness.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers the opportunity to earn points and other benefits including the travel credit, complimentary airport lounge access, a credit for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee, and no foreign transaction fees. The fee is high for this card, but cardholders who log a lot of travel miles and cash in on the rewards will likely find the benefits pay for the fee.
American Express Platinum Card
APR: No interest charges because balance is paid in full each month
Rewards: 5 points/$1 spent on flights booked directly with an airline or with American Express Travel, and on hotels booked and prepaid through American Express Travel
Bonus Rewards: 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in your first 3 months
Fees: $550 annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, up to $38 for late or returned payments
The American Express Platinum card is considered one of the best travel credit cards available. It’s a premium card with a high annual fee but a lot of perks. It’s in the same league as the Chase Sapphire Reserve in many ways.
The current signup bonus with the American Express Platinum Card is the possibility to earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on the card within the first three months.
With the American Express Platinum Card, cardholders have access to a huge number of benefits, and the earnings are excellent. First, there are 5x points on flights booked directly with an airline or with American Express Travel. There are also 5x Membership Rewards points on hotels booked and prepaid through American Express Travel.
Cardholders get a $200 airline fee credit each calendar year and $200 in Uber rides. There is a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and there are benefits of up to $550 with the Fine Hotels & Resorts Program. Platinum cardmembers have access to more than 1,100 airport lounges around the world, including the Centurion Lounges.
Cardmembers receive high-level participation in other travel programs as well. For example, cardholders are enrolled as a Starwood Preferred Guest Gold member, and they earn Gold Status in the Hilton Honors program.
APR & Fees
The annual fee for the Platinum Card is $550. For cardholders who enjoy lounge access and who travel frequently, the fee pays for itself very quickly. The Centurion Lounges are an experience in and of themselves, and they’re also expensive to access without a card like the Platinum American Express. The Platinum Card’s fee can pay for itself after a few visits to a Centurion Lounge.
With the American Express Platinum, there are no interest charges because the balance is supposed to be paid each month. This card keeps the traveler in mind by charging no foreign transactions fees. However, late payments and returned payments can cost up to $38.
There are a lot of perks to enjoy with the American Express Platinum Card. Since it’s technically a charge card, you’re also likely to get a higher limit than you would with other cards, although you have to ensure you can pay it off each month.
For luxury travelers, it can be a great card even with the high fee. However, regarding points earnings and transferring points, it’s not always the best value. Cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve might be a better overall value for some people.
Citi ThankYou Premier Card
APR: 16.24% to 25.24%
Rewards: 3 points/$1 on travel and gas; 2 points/$1 on dining and entertainment; 1 point/$1 on all other purchases
Bonus Rewards: 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
Fees: $95 annual fee ($0 first year), no foreign transaction fees, up to $35 for a late or returned payment
The Citi ThankYou Premier Card features a lower fee than some of the other premium cards on this list, and it’s good for earning points on everyday costs that can be used for travel.
After making $4,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of opening an account, new members can receive 50,000 bonus points.
After that, there are 3x points earned on travel expenses, including gas stations. For dining out and entertainment, there are 2x points. For all other purchases, it’s 1x points. Everyday travel includes public transportation, parking, tolls, and taxis. Dining and entertainment includes any kind of eatery and takeout. Entertainment includes music downloads, sports events, concerts, movies, and more.
APR & Fees
The interest and fees for this card are pretty standard compared to the other travel cards on this list. The purchase APR range for the Citi ThankYou Premier Card is 16.24% to 25.24%. The annual fee for the ThankYou Premier Card is $95, which is waived during the first 12 months after opening an account. Cash advances carry a 26.99% APR.
Balance transfers carry a fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. Meanwhile, cash advances will cost $10 or 5% of the amount of the transaction.
In some ways, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card does offer more flexibility than other travel cards since it offers extra points for everyday travel and entertainment. There are also travel protections available with the card, such as travel insurance. The sign-up bonus is decent, and the annual fee is relatively low. Also, since the card is part of the Citi ThankYou Rewards Program, there are a lot of travel transfer partners to choose from.
More on Travel Credit Cards
Can You Use a Travel Credit Card Internationally?
If you love to travel, using a credit card that gives you the ability to earn miles or points toward trips is a no-brainer. You can work your way towards the vacation of your dreams just by buying things you already do, like groceries, clothes, or restaurant meals.
Once you are on your trip, you may be wondering if you can continue to use your travel credit card to accumulate points—especially if you are traveling overseas. Will there be additional fees? Can you earn points in the same way that you do stateside? Read on to learn some of the tips and tricks for using your travel credit card internationally.
Pros and Cons of International Travel Card Use
First, the good news, yes, you can use your travel credit card internationally. The majority of credit cards can be used anywhere in the world, provided that the country you are in has the ability to process payments and is not a cash-only culture. In many ways, using a credit card is a good choice when traveling abroad. Typically, you are able to take advantage of better exchange rates than exchanging cash at a foreign bank or currency exchange outlet.
And now the bad news, most cards charge a foreign transaction fee overseas. This fee is typically 3%, which may negate the benefit of the rewards you can obtain. If you use your credit card for all of your purchases while on a trip, the transaction fees can add up quickly. For example, if you spend $1,000 on your card, then you pay $30 in fees; the more you spend, the higher the fees will be. There are some credit cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee. These are the cards to look for, especially low-fee travel cards that do not limit their rewards.
For many travelers, using a travel credit card internationally still makes sense. The fee is often offset by the favorable exchange rate and the possibility of earning miles or points on each of your purchases. Many of the best travel credit cards offer higher points or miles for using their cards for vacation purchases, which can help you quickly build up your points balance (getting you closer to your next trip!).
This is particularly true for credit cards that are associated with a particular hotel or airline, such as the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card. With a generous sign-up bonus, a free night for every two consecutive nights at a participating hotel, and the possibility to earn points at hotels all around the world, the 2.7% foreign transaction fee may be outweighed by the extensive credit card benefits package.
In addition, using a credit card internationally is often more secure than using cash or traveler’s checks. If you lose cash or a check, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to recoup your loss. But if your credit card is stolen, the company will protect you from unauthorized charges and may be able to get a new card to you quickly. You won’t have to cut your trip short! Using a credit card to book a hotel room can also give you additional protection, such as coverage for stolen property.
How to Decide If Using Your Travel Card Internationally is a Good Choice
If you want to use your travel credit card internationally, the first thing you should do is make sure the destination country accepts credit cards. Next, read the fine print. Take a close look at the fees associated with using the travel credit card abroad, particularly the foreign transaction fees. Then determine if your credit card rewards are applicable for overseas travel, and make sure that you are booking flights or hotels that earn you travel points.
Look at other credit card features—such as trip insurance and security options—that will protect you throughout the vacation. Then do the math. Are the foreign transaction fees outweighed by the benefits of using the card? If so, then it makes sense to use your travel credit card while on an international vacation. If not, then you may want to consider one of the best rewards credit cards, where you may be able to earn more on the trip.
There are many advantages and benefits to using a travel credit card while abroad, but these benefits must be carefully weighed against the fees associated with foreign transactions. If you do your homework before leaving, then you can rest easy knowing that you are getting a great deal by earning rewards on your travel credit card.
Compare Travel Credit Cards
For many travel aficionados, credit cards that offer travel rewards can be a good idea when used responsibly. Earning miles, points, or even cash back on the purchases you make can be an easy way to fund your next trip. But knowing which travel credit card is the right fit for you can sometimes be a hard call.
If you are in the market for a travel credit card, then the first thing you should consider is whether you want a card that offers points or miles. Understanding the difference can be the key to maximizing the potential of your travel credit card.
What is the Difference Between Travel Points and Travel Miles?
When it comes to credit card rewards, there are typically three options: points, miles, or cash back. Because this article is devoted to travel rewards, we will focus on credit card points and miles.
Both travel points and travel miles work in a similar way. Whenever you make a purchase using your credit card, you will earn rewards that can later be used for services such as a flight or hotel. Depending on the credit card, you may earn more for certain transactions such as double points for meals at a restaurant or triple points for booking a hotel or flight with your credit card.
The biggest difference between travel points and miles is how they can be used. As a general rule, miles are less flexible than points because they tend to be tied to a particular airline or group of airlines. They can typically only be used for purchasing airline tickets (not for other items such as hotel rooms, rental cars, or gear that you may need for travel). Credit card travel mile programs often give great travel perks such as discounts and higher rewards for travel purchases. However, your ability to redeem these miles may be limited to a brand or a specific type of reward.
Points tend to offer more flexibility since they can be used for anything within the program, from hotels and airline tickets to consumer goods like suitcases or clothes. In some cases, points can be converted into travel miles for flights, you can even use credit card points on Amazon for some cards. Just be careful when converting points to miles. Points may be less valuable after being converted to miles.
Of course, each credit card is different. It is important to read the terms and conditions of each travel credit card before signing up. You may find that some deals are actually a bit of a lemon after a second glance.
What Travel Cards Offer Points and Miles?
The best travel credit cards on this list offer many options between earning points and miles. Major credit card companies such as Chase, Citi, and Visa all have credit cards specifically geared towards travelers, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, and the Platinum Card from American Express.
Before you start applying for some of the best travel credit cards, think about the type of travel that you do. Is there an airline that you like more than others or that offers the most flights to your top destinations? Do you tend to stay in big hotel chains or in small, local places? Use this information to help narrow down the field of possible travel credit cards that fit your needs.
Which Should You Choose?
When it comes to choosing travel points or travel miles, the decision should be based on a number of factors, including how much flexibility you desire. If you travel via methods other than planes, then a points program may make more sense since it allows you to pay for hotel rooms, travel gear, and other items. If you fly often, then it might be better to choose a travel miles program, especially if you tend to use one specific airline. You can often earn flights more quickly with a travel miles program compared to points, and you may find fewer travel booking restrictions when using miles instead of points.
Financing travel through a credit card rewards program has never been easier. Armed with information about the advantages and disadvantages of travel points and miles rewards programs, you can choose a credit card that helps you get to where you want to travel.
Is an Annual Fee Common on a Travel Credit Card?
For many Americans, having a travel credit card makes a lot of sense, but many people may be turned away from travel credit cards because of a common feature: annual fees. You can view our best no annual fee credit cards if you don't want to pay a fee each year.
While annual fees are not universal for all travel credit cards, they are a typical feature. As a general rule, the better a rewards program is, the higher the annual fee. A card with a $500 annual fee may make it easier to rack up free flights and hotel stays, but a card with a $99 annual fee may not have the same generous terms.
There are a number of travel credit cards that offer premium rewards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card ($450 annual fee), the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card ($99 annual fee), and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express ($95 annual fee after the first year).
However, there are alternatives out there for anyone who does not want to pay an annual fee. These cards don’t have massive introductory bonuses or significant point or mile accumulations, such as triple rewards for certain purchases, but they will allow you to earn points or miles throughout the year without incurring additional costs or fees.
If you are in the market for a travel credit card with no annual fee, the Amex Everyday Credit Card, Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard, and Capital One VentureOne may all be great choices.
If you are new to the world of travel credit cards, you may want to choose a rewards program without an annual fee while you learn the ropes of using points and miles for travel. But if you want to unlock greater rewards or have a dream vacation planned, then a card with an annual fee and greater potential may be the best choice.
Do Travel Credit Card Earnings Expire?
Using a credit card to accumulate miles and points can be a fantastic way to take vacations without breaking the bank. But if you aren’t careful, your hard-earned rewards could be lost.
Unfortunately for consumers, points and miles earned through travel credit cards can expire, depending on the terms and conditions of the program. This can be particularly problematic for anyone “saving up” points or miles for a big trip, only to find that their accumulated points are significantly reduced or entirely gone when it comes time to book a flight or a hotel.
There is no single industry standard for the expiration of travel points and miles; while one program may have no expiration date, another may require you to take steps to keep your points or miles active. You can avoid this by learning as much as you can about your credit card rewards program—and making sure that you take the necessary steps to prevent the points from expiring.
Generally, most travel programs will keep your points and miles active as long as you are actively using the program. In other words, if you keep using your card or taking other steps associated with the card, then you can prevent your rewards from expiring. The credit card companies call this "qualifying activity," and it can take a number of forms.
One way to stay in good standing is by continuing to use your card. Regular use of your credit card will typically keep your points or miles active, even if it is just to pay the annual fee or to make a small purchase.
If you can’t use your miles or points before they expire, you can find ways to utilize them even if it isn’t for personal use. For example, you can donate or transfer your miles or points to a charity or another person. Transferring them to a friend or family member essentially resets the clock on the expiration date.
A fee usually applies for transferring points or miles to another person. Donating to a charitable organization is another great way to use up your miles before they expire, with the added bonus of some credit card companies donating cash on top of your donation.
Credit card companies may also deny you access or take away points if you miss payments or become delinquent on your account. Stay current on your credit card bills to avoid this—and never put more on your credit card than you can afford to pay.
Be sure to pay attention to the expiration date for your travel card. Knowing the rules that apply to your points or miles will help make sure that you can take advantage of the full value.
Do Travel Credit Card Points and Miles Have Blackout Dates?
If you use a travel credit card to earn points or miles towards vacations, chances are good that you don’t want your use to be limited. However, many credit card programs have restrictions on when and how you can redeem your travel points or miles—making it even harder to book the trip of your dreams. Blackout dates are a common limitation that can be a thorn in the side of any traveler.
A blackout date is any period of time where airline tickets or hotel stays booked with credit card programs are not available. Typically, these blackout dates apply during popular travel times, such as on holidays or during spring break. In some cases, travel or rooms may be booked for these dates, but at a much higher rate. This gives participants an incentive to travel at less busy times, when flights and hotels are less likely to be full.
Blackout dates are a fairly common feature of credit card programs. After all, the airlines and hotels are not getting paid for your travel when you use the points or miles, so they want to maintain availability for people who are paying full price. If your credit card program has blackout dates, carefully review the terms and conditions to see if there are ways around these restrictions. This could include using additional points or miles to book a flight or room on a “premium” date or for a discounted rate instead of a free ticket or hotel room.
However, if you prioritize flexibility, there are a number of travel credit cards that do not have blackout dates. One such card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. If you use their rewards program, you can book travel directly through the company’s online portal to avoid blackout dates.
However, not all airlines participate in the portal, which may limit your ability to book the travel you want. If you want to be able to book a flight through any airline, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card may be a better choice. This card operates in a unique way; instead of using miles or points to book a flight, you purchase whatever flight you want using the card. After the travel has been purchased, you can then use your earnings to essentially remove the charge from your account. That option gives you a high degree of flexibility to travel when and where you want without worrying about blackout dates or limited availability.
If you are using a travel credit card, blackout dates can be a tricky issue to navigate. But, with a little research, you can get around these dates by signing up for a card with no restrictions on when you travel, or by finding alternate ways to book the travel you want on the dates you want.
Travel Credit Cards and Bad Credit?
Travel credit cards can be a great deal for anyone who wants to take vacations on a budget. By building travel points or miles through using a credit card, you can easily pay for flights, hotels, and other travel necessities. But for people with a checkered history when it comes to credit, is applying for a travel credit card a good idea?
When it comes to approving people for credit cards, companies want to know that they’re taking a good risk. After all, it doesn’t make much sense for them to agree to lend people money with no guarantee that they will be paid back. Credit card companies decide whether or not someone is a “good risk” for credit by examining a number of factors, including one key factor: the credit score.
A credit score is essentially a rating of how trustworthy you are as a borrower. It may also be called a FICO score. The higher this number is, the more creditworthy you are. Your credit score is based on several items, such as your history of making on-time payments on bills, the amount of outstanding debt you have, and your debt-to-credit ratio (i.e., how much debt you have in comparison to how much you can still borrow). If your credit score is below a certain number—usually 549 or lower—then you will likely be considered to have bad credit.
If you have a poor credit score, then you probably will not be approved for a travel credit card. A credit card company will see you as a bad risk and will not want to allow you to have certain benefits (like getting free airline tickets through miles) if you may not be able to pay your bills. This is particularly true for any card with a large sign-up bonus. It makes little sense for a credit card company to give a person with bad credit 100,000 miles (for example) to put towards a free airline ticket if that person will ultimately default on their debt.
If you have bad credit you can look at the best secured credit cards to get yourself closer to getting approved for one of the cards on this list.
Of course, having bad credit does not necessarily mean that you won’t pay your bills. A low credit score can be caused by any number of things, and you may be working hard to try to rebuild your credit. If that is the case, you should avoid applying for a travel credit card. The likelihood of being approved is low, and when the company checks your credit, it will actually hurt your overall score. The better bet is to take your time to repair your credit and only apply once you have raised your score and know that you can handle a travel credit card responsibly.
How Does Travel Credit Card Insurance Work?
Across the country, Americans are taking advantage of travel credit cards as a simple way to pay for their vacations. From airline miles to points that can be redeemed for hotel stays and more, these programs can be incredibly beneficial to anyone who wants to travel for a fraction of the cost.
Yet, what many cardholders do not realize is that travel credit cards offer advantages beyond points and miles. For example, most travel credit cards offer insurance that can be incredibly important as you traverse the country and the globe.
Travel insurance through credit cards can be very valuable, as it protects users from a number of potentially bad situations. This includes trip interruption or delay, trip cancellation, lost baggage, accidents that happen while you travel, rental car insurance, and even stolen property while you are on your trip.
The way it works is relatively simple: if you book your trip with a travel credit card, you will likely have some form of protection if these events occur. Read on to learn more about how you can gain access to these protections just by using your travel credit card.
Trip Interruption or Delay Insurance
If you fly on a regular or even semi-regular basis, chances are good that you have experienced some form of delay in your travel plans. In most cases, airlines offer little restitution for the delay or interruption. But, if your credit card company offers this type of travel insurance, then you may be compensated. The catch is that the delay or interruption has to be due to a covered reason, such as weather, equipment failure, injury, labor strikes, or illness.
Rental Car Collision Insurance
When you rent a car, you will likely be asked if you want to purchase additional insurance through the rental company (on top of what your personal car insurance will cover). This insurance can be expensive, often costing $30 per day or more. What many travelers may not realize is that your travel credit card company may provide collision insurance for rentals paid for with the card. Keep in mind that this type of coverage is usually limited to collisions only, which means that if you hit someone else or cause injuries, your own insurance will have to foot the bill.
Lost Baggage Insurance
With approximately 87,000 flights in the U.S. every day, it should not be surprising that a high number of checked bags are lost or stolen. The good news is that if you booked your flight with a travel credit card, it may cover the cost of replacing your items up to a certain limit, such as $3,000. Just be sure to read the fine print, as certain items are not covered under these policies. And if your luggage is merely delayed—not lost or stolen—then the insurance may not cover the cost of buying new clothes or toiletries while you wait for your bag to arrive.
Stolen Property Insurance
Whether you’re in the U.S. or traveling abroad, there is always a risk that your personal items will be stolen from your hotel room. If you booked your hotel using a travel credit card, then you may be entitled to replace these items. Your credit card will cover the cost of purchasing new goods, subject to various exclusions. This type of protection can prevent a crime from ruining your vacation entirely.
Trip Cancellation Insurance
In life, we should generally expect the unexpected—especially when traveling. We cannot predict illness or injury, but if you bought a nonrefundable airplane ticket with your travel credit card, it may reimburse the cost of the flight if you cannot go on the trip or if you have to return from the trip unexpectedly. As with other types of travel credit card insurance, this coverage only applies to certain situations, like if you have an accident or are struck with an illness before the flight or while you’re on vacation. It generally will not cover things like pre-existing conditions or weather.
Travel Accident Insurance
Anything can happen when we travel, including a serious accident that results in death or dismemberment. If this happens, your travel credit card may provide compensation to you or your survivors if you booked your travel using the card. This type of insurance is usually fairly limited, offering payment only if you lose a limb or die while on a trip. If you are concerned about becoming ill or suffering an accident that results in a less grave injury, consider purchasing separate travel insurance. It will typically cover other types of accidents and injuries, including evacuating you if necessary to get medical treatment.
Using your travel credit card to pay for a flight, hotel, or rental car is a smart way to buy yourself a little extra protection—without paying a dime. While this type of insurance is in no way comprehensive, it can help mitigate the effects of something bad happening either before you leave for the trip or while you are traveling. Check out the terms and conditions of your travel credit card to learn more about the type of coverage you have for these situations.
Unique Benefits Offered on Travel Credit Cards
Using a travel credit card to accumulate points or miles is a no-brainer for many people. If you are already spending the money to buy something, it just makes sense that you earn something back while you’re doing it. In the case of travel credit cards, getting points and miles for your regular purchases may mean that you can take vacations you otherwise could not afford. What many people may not know is that beyond the miles and points, travel credit cards offer some perks that can help make your life—and your vacation—even better. Read on to learn more about the unique benefits offered by travel credit cards.
If you are new to the world of travel credit cards, you may not realize that you can rack up points or miles quickly by taking advantage of bonus programs. These range from large sign-up bonuses to getting miles just for spending a certain amount of money within a specific time frame.
For example, you could earn 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first three months with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card—which is the equivalent of $625 toward travel. If $4,000 seems like a lot of money, consider what you spend on everyday necessities like groceries and household goods or what you spend during the holidays.
If you like to travel, chances are good you don’t necessarily want to go alone. That’s why credit cards that offer ticket benefits are so popular. Depending on the card, you could get a free or heavily discounted plane ticket for a friend or loved one. These benefits are offered by credit cards that are affiliated with a specific airline, and each travel credit card has a different way to get the companion fare.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card gives unlimited free companion flights once cardmembers reach 110,000 points. This can be used for both paid and award fares. Other credit cards, such as the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, give cardholders annual companion coach fares for $121, to be used for any paid flight. Be sure to shop around to find a travel credit card that offers the best companion fares for the airline that you use the most!
Many consumers do not realize that if they use their travel credit card to book a flight or a hotel, the credit card company provides some insurance for their trip. This can include anything from trip cancellation insurance to rental car collision insurance to protection for your property being stolen from your hotel room.
As with all credit card benefits, be sure to read the terms and conditions of your card to learn more about the coverage available. There are typically strict limitations and exclusions on this insurance, and you generally will have to file a claim in order to take advantage of it.
Free Checked Bags
If you have a travel credit card, particularly one linked to an airline, you may be able to check your bags for free on that airline. While this benefit may not seem very valuable, remember that small fees for things like checked bags can add up over time. Having a credit card that offers free checked bags without a fee can also ease travel stress, as you won’t have to worry about fitting everything into a carry-on bag.
Free Nights at a Hotel
If you like to stay at name-brand hotels when you travel, then this benefit may be particularly appealing to you. Many travel credit cards that are linked to a hotel may offer a free night stay at their properties. Each card structures these perks differently; some give cardholders a certain number of free stays per year, while others offer a free night when you book a certain number of nights.
For example, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card gives users one free night stay every year, while the Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature Card awards one free night for every two or more consecutive nights booked using points at one of their hotels.
Great Exchange Rates
When you travel internationally, you may be subject to the whims of the currency exchange market. You might end up getting less foreign currency for the dollar if you go to a bank or a kiosk at the airport, which is where travel credit cards are important.
When you use your credit card internationally, one of the benefits is that it guarantees a good exchange rate. Using your card when you are abroad can get you a better deal when it comes to the exchange rate—but make sure that the foreign transaction fee (often 3%) does not eat up the cost savings.
There are many benefits to using a travel credit card that go beyond just earning points or miles to use for travel. If you already have a travel credit card, do your homework to make sure you are taking full advantage of all the perks. If you don’t have one, make sure to research the available options to find one that fits your travel needs, from earning free tickets to getting trip insurance.
For some travelers, lounge access might be a make-or-break factor when choosing a credit card. Most U.S. airlines have a co-branded credit card featuring airport lounge access. Then, some credit cards offer airport lounge access. Most of the cards offering the best lounge access options have high annual fees.
The Platinum Card from American Express is excellent for lounge lovers, but the annual fee is $550, as was touched on above. Cardholders get a Priority Pass Select Membership, so they can go to any of the lounges that are part of the American Express Global Lounge Collection. This includes the Delta Sky Club and the American Express-branded Centurion Lounges.
Without certain credit cards, travelers either can’t access lounges at all, or they have to pay high fees.
Concierge services can be a perk for cardholders that allow them to have personalized help when it comes to everything from booking travel plans to dealing with emergency situations that might occur when traveling. If you want tickets to a certain event, bookings at a popular restaurant, or you just have a question, many of the best travel credit cards have concierge services.
Concierge services can also provide recommendations, such as where to stay in a city you’re going to be traveling to. Companies like American Express are the gold standard for concierge services, although other companies have started focusing more on operating like a personal assistant to cardholders.
Annual Travel Credits
Annual travel credits are a perk that is increasingly common on many of the top travel credit cards, and they’re one of the best ways to offset a high annual fee, which is also common with the best travel cards. Annual travel credits mean cardholders are reimbursed for certain travel expenses. Reimbursements are provided as statement credits.
If you have a travel credit for airline tickets, you can receive a reimbursement up to the amount that’s advertised with the card’s policy. Every card has its own set of requirements for travel credits, and some are pretty specific as to which expenses are reimbursed in the form of travel expenses, while others have more broad spending requirements.
Upgraded Statuses at Airlines and Hotels
Another reason people are often willing to pay the higher fees attached to travel credit cards is the opportunity for upgraded status. This can include airlines and hotels. Some elite status airline programs that are among the most popular with travelers include American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles, and United Mileage Plus.
In terms of hotels, programs that are the most valuable include the Hilton Honors Program, World of Hyatt, and the Starwood Preferred Guest Program. These programs can provide for complimentary upgrades in seating on flights and room upgrades or added guest perks.
Access to Travel Programs
For frequent travelers, programs like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and Clear can take a lot of hassle out of the whole experience. Many travel reward cards will provide the cardholder with the opportunity to save money on the application fees for these programs. Some cards may even make it so that enrolling in these programs is free for cardholders.
What Happens to Your Points and Miles If You Close a Travel Credit Card?
If you cancel a travel credit card, it’s possible you’re going to lose all the points or miles you’ve accumulated. Generally, if you cancel a card that has allowed you to earned points or miles for a specific brand of hotel or airline, then you will be able to keep those even if you cancel a card.
This is because these points are usually deposited into your traveler account with the company, and it would be difficult for a card company to take those back. However, if you cancel a card and the card issuer controls your points, then they can take those back.
If you’re worried about this, before you close an account, you can redeem your points. In some cases, you might be able to transfer points out of your account before you cancel your card.
Should You Apply for Multiple Travel Cards at the Same Time?
In general, not just regarding travel cards but with all cards, it’s not necessarily a good idea to apply for multiple cards all at once. When you apply for a credit card, travel or otherwise, your credit report is dinged with a hard inquiry, which can cause your credit score to go down. A hard inquiry will stay on a credit report for two years.
With certain types of credit, such as mortgages and car loans, if you’re applying for several all at once, they’re all grouped together. That means these will only show up as a single inquiry, because the consumer is just comparing rates and they’re only going to end up going with one option.
Credit cards are different, and the best credit cards can often-times be tempting to own, but each will lead to a hard inquiry. The better option is to research all of the cards you’re considering and choose the one that really is the right option for you, as well as the one you’re most likely to be approved for.