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Many of us are looking forward to when travel restrictions lift so we can visit family and explore new places. As that day inches closer, now is the time to start accumulating travel points to use in the near future. The best credit cards after travel restrictions lift can also be some of the best cards to use now for purchases.
American Express Gold Card
The American Express® Gold Card is one of the best cards for maximizing your travel and daily purchases. You earn up to 4 Membership Rewards per $1 on purchases:
- 4x points on dining worldwide, including takeaway and deliveries
- 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year, then 1 point per $1)
- 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
- 1x points on everything else
You also get a $100 airline fee credit for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline. The American Express Gold Card also gives an annual $120 dining credit ($10 per month) at select restaurants including Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Grubhub, and Boxed. Enrollment is required.
Your points are most valuable when booking award flights or gift cards. You can also transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to airline and hotel partners including Delta Air Lines, British Airways, and Avianca LifeMiles. The annual fee is $250 and there are no foreign transaction fees (See Rates & Fees) which is reasonable if you use the travel and dining credits.
New American Express® Gold Card cardholders can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months.
Learn more: Johnny Jet Recommended Credit Cards
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a good fit if you want a travel credit card that earns the same amount of miles on each purchase. You get 2 miles per $1 on domestic and international purchases. You can redeem your miles for travel statement credits, booking upcoming travel, or transfer to the Capital One travel partners.
One additional travel perk is getting a fee credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. The annual fee is $95.
New cardholders can earn 60,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of the account opening.
Learn more: Rewards Credit Cards
Citi Double Cash Card
Citi® Double Cash Card gives you the flexibility of earning the highest cash back rates before and after travel restrictions are lifted. You get up to 2% back on all purchases and can redeem your rewards with a minimum $20 cash balance. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. To earn the cash back, you must pay at least the minimum due on time.
This card doesn’t have an annual fee but has a foreign transaction fee. You won’t get a signup bonus either, but, getting 2% back instead of 1.5% back can be more rewarding if you use this card long-term.
Related: Citi Double Cash Review
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Your best option for earning cash back on foreign purchases is the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card. You get 1.5% back and don’t pay an annual fee or foreign transaction fee. This is no-fuss Capital One credit card is easy to have in your wallet.
New cardholders can earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Learn more: Cash Back Credit Cards
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is another great card for earning travel rewards. You earn 2 points per $1 on travel and dining.
Additional Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits include unlimited deliveries with no delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with a DoorDash DashPass subscription. Activate your card by December 31, 2021.
Cardholders also earn 5x points on Lyft rides, through March 2022. Through April 30, 2021, cardholders automatically earn 2x points per $1 spent at grocery stores, up to $1,000 per month.
Additionally, cardholders can earn up to $60 in statement credits on Peloton Digital and All-Access Memberships through December 31, 2021. Points are worth 25% more now through April 30, 2021, when redeemed for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories with the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature. Points are also worth 25% more when redeemed through the new Chase Dining hub in Ultimate Rewards, now through April 30, 2021.
Your points are worth 25% more (1.25 cents) when booking any award travel on the Chase travel portal. You can also redeem your points for cash and gift card rewards.
The signup bonus is 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth up to $750 in travel) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee is $95.
Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred Review
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card
You may decide to travel locally instead of internationally at first. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is one of the best for earning frequent flyer miles. Southwest award flights usually cost less than the legacy carriers. And your first two checked bags fly free.
You earn 2x Rapid Rewards on all Southwest purchases. However, for a limited time, cardholders can earn 5x points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases, up to $2,000 spent per month. This offer is available through March 31, 2021. All other purchases earn 1x point per $1 spent.
New cardholders can also earn up to 80,000 bonus points! New cardholders will earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Then, they can earn an additional 30,000 points after spending $10,000 in the first 9 months of account opening.
Each point you earn (including the signup bonus) counts toward the Southwest Companion Pass. You need 125,000 qualifying points (or 100 qualifying flights) to earn the pass.
Southwest Priority Card benefits include:
- $75 annual Southwest travel credit
- 4 Upgraded Booking per year (when available)
- 7,500-anniversary points
The annual fee is $149.
Related: Best Southwest Airlines credit cards
World of Hyatt Credit Card
The World of Hyatt Credit Card lets you earn some of the most valuable hotel points. You may find yourself taking more road trips than flights for the near future. Hyatt has some of the nicest properties with reasonable award night prices. Award nights start at 5,000 points and most properties cost 20,000 points or less.
You get one free night at any category 1-4 hotel and resort each account anniversary. Making $15,000 in annual card purchases gives you a second free night.
You also get automatic World of Hyatt Discoverist loyalty status. Benefits include premium internet, free daily bottled water, and late checkout at 2 pm. Hyatt is also extending select loyalty benefits through 2021.
You earn 4 points per $1 on Hyatt purchases. This card also makes it easy to earn 2x points on lifestyle spend:
- Airline tickets you buy directly from the airline
- Local transit and commuting
- Fitness club and gym memberships
All remaining purchases earn 1 point per $1.
The annual fee is $95 and earns a two-step signup bonus worth up to 10 free nights. Get the first 25,000 bonus points by spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Earn the remaining 25,000 bonus points when you spend $6,000 total in the first 6 months.
Related: Best Hotel Credit Cards
The roads and skies will gradually reopen as travel restrictions are lifted. A rewards credit card with flexible point redemption options can be your best choice. But using one that earns bonus points on your daily spending can be good too.
What are the top 3 credit cards?
Credit cards with flexible point redemption options can be your best option. Here are three travel and cash rewards credit cards to consider first:
- Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture (Earns 2 miles per $1 on all purchases)
- Tiered travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred (25% redemption bonus on award travel)
- Cash rewards: Citi Double Cash (Unlimited 2% back)
You may also consider a branded airline or hotel credit card if you are loyal to that particular loyalty program.
Is American Express better than Visa or Mastercard?
American Express can be an excellent option for U.S.-based purchases. Amex credit cards also tend to have good rewards programs and card benefits, especially with their premium credit cards and Membership Rewards programs.
American Express also has co-brand relationships with Delta Air Lines, Hilton Honors, and Marriott Bonvoy.
One downside of American Express credit cards is merchant acceptance. Nearly as many domestic merchants accept Amex payments as Visa and Mastercard. But you may encounter issues for international travel outside major tourist areas. In this case, Visa and Mastercard have near-universal acceptance.
How do I choose a credit card?
You can follow these steps to choose the best credit card:
- Find the best credit cards for your credit score
- Decide if you want to earn travel or cash rewards
- Compare the card benefits and annual fees (Avoid cards where the benefits are worth less than the fees)
- Find the best signup/welcome bonus you can earn
- Apply for the credit card
You can try pre-qualifying for a credit card from the bank website or using the CardMatch™ tool. This step can narrow the search process quickly. Prequalifying lets you easily see which cards you have the best approval odds for without impacting your credit score.
For rates and fees of The American Express® Gold Card, please click here.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward 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.