3 Top Credit Cards for Travel Rewards

Flying over Greenland

American Express is an advertising partner of JohnnyJet.com, but the opinions and beliefs in this post are those of the author alone, who makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information.

Do you travel with a favorite carry-on bag, or an amazing smartphone that you never leave home without? While these travel essentials might have earned your affection, your most important travel tool is probably your credit card.

The best travel rewards credit card can offer benefits that speed you through airports and hotels while unlocking the possibility of award travel at little or no cost. These cards offer rewards in the form of airline miles, hotel points or travel statement credits. In addition, some of these products offer points that can be transferred to several different airline and hotel programs.

Here are five of my favorites:

1. Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® (Expired)
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is an essential card for any traveler. Cardholders can earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days and earn two miles per dollar on every purchase. Since these miles are worth one cent each toward travel statement credits, this bonus alone is worth $500. This card also gives back 5% of miles earned for travel redemption, which equates to a total rate return of 2.1%. Miles are worth one cent each as statement credits towards travel purchases, and cardholders must redeem a minimum of 10,000 miles at once. Furthermore, this card has an EMV smart chip that is PIN-enabled, which allows for compatibility with unattended credit card terminals overseas, such as those at train stations and toll booths. There’s an $89 annual fee that is waived in the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

2. Citi ThankYou® Premier Card
The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card makes sense for domestic and international travelers alike. New applicants earn 50,000 bonus points after making $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. ThankYou® points can be redeemed for gift cards, airline tickets and merchandise, or transferred to 11 different travel partners. Cardholders earn three ThankYou points per dollar on travel purchases, including gas and parking fees, and two ThankYou points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment, along with one point per dollar on all other purchases. When using the ThankYou Travel Center, earned points are worth 25% more, giving travelers 1.25 cents per point redeemed. Points can also be redeemed on nights through the Hilton HHonors rewards program or transferred to miles with 10 different airlines including Singapore, Air France/KLM and Virgin Atlantic. The Citi ThankYou Premier Card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived in the first year. It also includes no foreign transaction fees.

3. Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®
The Citi®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® offers new applicants 30,000 bonus miles after making just $1,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. Cardholders earn double miles on all American and US Airways purchases, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere, plus a 10% rebate on your redeemed AAdvantage miles. In addition, this card offers plenty of perks when traveling on American and US Airways such as priority boarding, a 25% discount on in-flight purchases, and your first bag checked free for yourself and up to four other companions. Other benefits include lost baggage protection, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, and purchase protection against damage and theft of covered items. There is a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year.

*Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Jason Steele

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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About the Author

Jason Steele
Jason Steele is a credit expert with CompareCards.com and a freelance journalist with a passion for credit cards and travel. As an expert in using credit cards to earn reward travel, he and his family love to explore the world using their points and miles, and helping others to do so.As a freelance journalist, Jason has been contributing to many of the top personal finance sites on the subjects of credit cards and travel. After covering the credit card industry daily for over five years, he has become one of the nation's premier credit card industry experts. Yet as a freelance journalist, he still has the time to attend all of his favorite travel, aviation and personal finance conferences and to continue to use his points and miles for plenty of leisure travel.

5 Comments on "3 Top Credit Cards for Travel Rewards"

  1. I have to strongly disagree with the recommendation of the American Airlines CitiCard. I had it for years. The last few years I have been unable to redeem my miles for flights, even though I have called as much as nine months ahead of time. The last time I redeemed miles, it was 110,000 miles to fly from Los Angeles to London.

    So, I applied for and got the Barclaycard Arrival +. It is wonderful so far! And it covers not just airline miles but also the cost of tours, baggage fees, etc. Very simple to redeem.

    • Hi, so I am not familiar with the Barclaycard…please tell me about it. Thank you

      Sincerely,

      Lori

    • There is no denying that the Barclaycard Arrival+ offers tremendous flexibility; that’s why it’s #1 on the list! Customers who are fed up with blackout dates and limited availability are a huge reason why cards like the Barclaycard Arrival+ have become so popular. I would certainly agree that for the average traveler, it is a better option than the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, however, there is still a lot of value to be had from the Citi AAdvantage card, particularly if you’re a frequent flyer with American Airlines.

      If you’re flying off-peak dates, a round trip ticket within the continental U.S. is only 25,000 AAdvantage miles. But if you paid in cash, this could easily cost over $500, or 50,000 Arrival miles. Also, the intangible perks like a free checked back and priority boarding might be more valuable to some consumers than to others. Different people will find different credit cards to be a better fit for them for a variety of reasons, but I’m glad that you’ve settled on the Barclaycard Arrival+ and that you’re happy with it!

  2. Is Sam’s Club considered a US supermarkets for the porpuse of earning 3 points per dollar using Amex EveryDay Preferred card?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Kalboz,

      Unfortunately, Sam’s Club will not be categorized as a supermarket on the Amex Everyday Preferred. If you check in the Benefit Terms of the card, you’ll see that “superstores and warehouse clubs are not considered supermarkets.”

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