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Many across the country are planning summer road trips. In addition to bringing the proper travel gear, earning rewards for road trips can help you save for future journeys. If you normally travel by plane, these credit cards can be a better fit for traveling by car.
The Best Credit Card Rewards for Road Trips: Bonus Points On Every Purchase
Earning the same number of points on every purchase keeps travel simple. Not too long ago, flat-rate cards earned 1 point per $1. Several cards today earn 1.5 points or 2 points per $1 so you always earn bonus points.
Whether you are renting a car or using an RV rental service like RVshare, using a travel credit card while on the road can help you maximize purchases. Here are some of the best credit card rewards for road trips.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
One of the best overall travel credit cards for road or air travel is the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. This metal credit card earns 2 Venture miles per $1 on every purchase. And until January 31, 2021, cardholders earn 5x miles per $1 spent on Uber Eats. You can redeem your Venture miles for travel statement credits, booking upcoming flights, or transferring to airline partners.
Amazon shopping points and retail gift cards are two other possibilities. However, your points are only worth 0.8 cents each instead of 1 cent each.
The Capital One Venture Card also includes a fee credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to avoid long airport security lines. There isn’t a foreign transaction fee when you travel abroad.
The annual fee is $95. Your signup bonus is 50,000 bonus miles ($500 value) after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Learn more: Rewards Credit Cards
Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a cash back credit card that gets at least 1.5% back on every purchase. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. There is no limit to how much cash back can be earned and no annual fee to worry about.
Cardholders also have DoorDash and Lyft benefits. These include 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022 and 3 months of DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service that offers unlimited $0 delivery fees, and reduced service fees on orders of $12 or more.
Citi Double Cash
The Citi® Double Cash Card is a flat-rate cash rewards card that earns up to 2% cash back on every purchase. Cardholders earn 1% back when they make a purchase and the other 1% back when they pay for their purchase. There are no special categories to think about or no annual fees to worry about.
However, the Citi Double Cash card does have a 3% foreign transaction fee so you will only want to use it for US purchases. You can redeem your rewards with a $25 account balance for cash statement credits, direct bank deposit, and paper check.
Rental Car Insurance and Restaurants
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is an excellent travel credit card for road trips and air travel. One reason why is for its strong travel protection benefits while having a reasonable $95 annual fee. It’s also a top contender for earning bonus points on restaurants, takeout, and food delivery thanks to the addition of DoorDash DashPass benefits.
You can have more peace of mind this road trip with primary rental car insurance. Decline the rental agency’s collision damage waiver at pickup to qualify for this coverage. Chase can insure most rental cars up to the actual cash vehicle of the car for theft and collision claims. Your personal auto insurance policy activates after the Chase coverage pays out.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred also has these benefits that can be handy on a road trip:
- Earn 2x Ultimate Rewards on travel and dining purchases
- Non-bonus purchases earn 1 point per $1
- Up to 1 year of free DoorDash DashPass ($0 delivery fees and reduced service fees on $12+ orders)
- 25% redemption bonus on award travel booked on Chase (includes hotels and car rental bookings)
- 1:1 airline and hotel point transfers
The annual fee is $95 with no foreign transaction fee. A one-time signup bonus worth $750 in award travel is available for new cardmembers. Spend $4,000 in the first 3 months to earn 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Most premium travel credit cards cater to air travel rewards. These benefits tend to be the most valuable travel rewards. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® can be a good option because it’s making it easier to redeem the premium travel benefits. This card has a $550 annual fee but it’s a good option for frequent travelers.
Like the Sapphire Preferred, rental car insurance is primary on most rentals. The maximum coverage limit is up to $75,000 for theft and collision-related damages.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has these benefits:
- Earn 3x points on travel (immediately after earning the $300 travel credit) and dining
- Earn 1x points for all non-bonus spending
- 50% travel redemption bonus on award travel booked on Chase travel portal
- $300 annual travel credit (also redeemable for gas stations and groceries from 06/01/2020 to 12/31/2020)
- Up to $120 in DoorDash credits ($60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021)
- Special benefits at the Luxury Hotel and Resorts Collection
Elite air travel benefits include Priority Pass Select lounge membership and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee reimbursement. New cardmembers can earn a 50,000-point signup bonus ($750 value) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
Free Hotel Nights
World of Hyatt Credit Card
Lodging can be your largest road trip cost. Hotel loyalty can have its perks. The World of Hyatt Credit Card (and the WoH loyalty program) can be one of your best options. Hyatt requires fewer points for award nights than most other hotel loyalty programs.
First, the signup bonus is worth up to 10 free nights at category 1 hotels and resorts (5,000 points per night). You earn the first 25,000 bonus points by spending $3,000 in the first 3 months and another 25,000 points by spending a second $3,000 in the first 6 months.
Each card anniversary, get one free night certificate for a category 1-4 hotel or resort stay. Earn a second free night by making at least $15,000 in total annual card purchases.
Your purchases earn up to 4 Hyatt points per $1.
You also get instant World of Hyatt Discoverist loyalty status. Perks include getting 5 qualifying night credits toward elite status. Plus you get another 2 elite night credit for every $5,000 in card purchases. Discoverist perks also include resort fee waivers on free nights, premium internet, and one free bottled water daily.
The annual fee is $95 and there isn’t a foreign transaction fee.
Related: Best hotel credit cards
Gas Station Rewards
Road trips mean stopping at gas stations to fuel your car and keep the journey going. Many hotel and airline credit cards give you bonus points at gas stations. Alternatively, flexible travel rewards credit cards, like the Capital One Venture, earn 2 miles per $1 on all purchases, including gas.
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
Most families may appreciate the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express for buying gas, groceries, and other daily purchases.
- 6% back at U.S. supermarkets on the first $6,000 per year (then 1% back)
- 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions (includes Spotify, SiriusXM, Apple Music, etc.)
- 3% back at U.S. gas stations
- 3% back on public transit, parking, and tolls
- 1% back on everything else
Cash back comes in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. Additionally, Plan It gives cardholders the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest. The annual fee is $95 (See Rates & Fees). The signup bonus is a $250 statement credit by spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
Related: Best Gas Credit Cards
Summary of Best Credit Card Rewards for Road Trips
It’s easy to find a rewards credit card that is a good fit for your road trip plans. You may want a card that’s perfect for travel. Other options are excellent at balancing your travel and at-home purchases.
Which credit card is best for traveling?
The best credit card for traveling and road trips depends on what purchases you want to maximize. Here are some of the first cards to consider:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Primary rental car insurance, earn 2x points on travel and dining, and primary rental car coverage
- Capital One Venture: Earn 2 miles per $1 on every purchase, redeem miles for travel statement credits and transfers to airlines or hotels
- Citi Double Cash: Get up to 2% cash back on all purchases, no annual fee
- World of Hyatt Credit Card: Award nights start at 5,000 points per night and annual free night certificates
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Earn up to 2 Rapid Rewards per $1
What is a travel statement credit?
A travel statement credit is redeeming credit card points for recent travel purchases (usually within the last 90 days). One card offering travel statement credits as a redemption option is the Capital One Venture.
Some of the qualifying travel purchases include:
- Plane tickets
- Hotels and vacation rentals
- Rental cars
- RV rentals
Most credit card points have a 1 cent redemption value (1,000 points equals $10) when requesting travel statement credits.
Should I get a travel rewards credit card?
A travel credit card can be a good option if you want to redeem your credit card points in these ways:
- Statement credits for recent travel purchases
- Book upcoming travel on the credit card travel portal
- Transfer points to airline and hotel partners
You might also consider getting a co-brand airline or hotel credit card to get special loyalty program benefits. For instance, you might get accelerated loyalty status, free hotel night certificates, or earn bonus points on qualifying travel purchases with that airline or hotel.
A cash rewards credit card can be better if you only travel sporadically and the travel credit card benefits are not worth the annual fee. The best cash back credit cards–like the Citi Double Cash–earn up to 2% back on all purchases and don’t charge an annual fee. Tiered rewards credit cards earn up to 5% back on select purchase categories.
- Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Best Credit Cards for Purchasing Flight Tickets
- Best Limited-Time Credit Card Offers
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
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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.