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COVID travel restrictions are causing many of us to rethink our international travel plans and instead travel locally. Many people are opting for staying within a single driving day radius while others are aiming for fresh air in the outskirts of cities. The credit cards you use for your new travel habits may be different than when you were a frequent flyer. Here are a few of the best credit cards for use when COVID travel restrictions are in place.

COVID Travel Restrictions
California dreaming in Los Angeles, CA as COVID travel restrictions have us rethinking our travel plans. Photo by Johnny Jet

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Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can be a good fit for most wallets as it’s easy to earn bonus points. Every purchase earns 2 Venture Miles per $1 you spend on this metal credit card.

However, if you are wanting to earn a few more miles on travel, good news—earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Plus, Venture cardholders will earn 5x miles when booking through the Turo app or on Turo.com (through May 16, 2023). 

Your points are redeemable for travel statement credits, upcoming travel, and transferring to airlines and hotels.

You can also get a fee credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck for when you do take to the skies again. The annual fee is $95 upon application approval.

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel, with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a travel rewards card at heart but is catering to lifestyle purchases while you stay home.

Enjoy Chase Sapphire benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x points on dining, and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more.

When you travel, the Sapphire Preferred offers a suite of travel protection benefits and primary rental car insurance benefits, including collision and theft damage coverage.

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The annual fee is $95.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Capital One Venture

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® can be your best option for a premium travel credit card. But, the COVID travel restrictions make being a frequent flyer difficult. While now isn’t necessarily the best time to get a premium credit card as you need to fly often to enjoy all of the card perks, Chase has made some adjustments. Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, some of the Sapphire Reserve perks are temporarily social-distancing friendly.

Your points are worth 50% more when booking award travel on Chase, including hotels and car rentals.

Premium air travel benefits you can enjoy include a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and Priority Pass lounge access.

Plus, earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

New Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,200 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The annual fee is $550 but is offset by the $300 travel credit and other perks.

Related: Chase Sapphire Reserve Perks and Benefits

Citi Double Cash

Cash back credit cards are not always the most exciting option, but the flexibility of redeeming cash rewards is nice when travel is so uncertain. The Citi® Double Cash Card earns up to 2% back on purchases. Cardholders earn 1% cash back when they buy, plus 1% cash back once they pay for the purchase. To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time. You can redeem your rewards for cash statement credits, direct deposit, and paper checks.

This is also one of the best Citi credit cards to have in your wallet. There is no annual fee, but there is a 3% foreign transaction fee. It’s one of the highest rates for a flat-rate credit card.

Related: Citi Double Cash Review

The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a good pick for grocery and streaming services:

  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%)
  • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
  • 3% cash back on transit, including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses, and more
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
  • 1% cash back on other purchases

Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

Cardholders can also enjoy $7/month back in the form of a statement credit after spending $13.99 or more each month on an eligible The Disney Bundle package (which includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+) subscription with the Blue Cash Preferred Card. Enrollment required.

The welcome bonus is the ability to earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. There is a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 (See Rates & Fees). 

Learn more: Cash Back Credit Cards

American Express Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card is an excellent choice to earn bonus points. It earns 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earns 4X Membership Rewards® Points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). Plus, earn 3X Membership Rewards® Points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Your points are most valuable when transferring to airline partners at a 1:1 ratio. But you can also redeem your points for award flights on AmexTravel or gift cards for 1 cent each.

Another perk is the ability to earn up to $10 in statement credits on a monthly basis when you use your Gold Card to pay at the following dining establishments (enrollment is required):

  • Grubhub
  • The Cheesecake Factory
  • Goldbelly
  • Wine.com
  • Milk Bar
  • Shake Shack (only at participating locations)

This perk can save you up to $120 annually.

It’s one of the best credit cards for eating at home.

The annual fee is $250 and there are no foreign transaction fees (See Rates & Fees).

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. Cardholders can choose between Gold or Rose Gold. 

Learn more: Johnny Jet Recommended Credit Cards

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Southwest Airlines can be one of your best domestic airline options because of its low flight prices. You can find discount flights across the United States. One of the few places you might be able to easily reach outside the United States is the Caribbean islands where Southwest Airlines flies to.

There are three consumer Southwest Airlines credit cards you can choose from. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is the most luxurious card:

  • 1 Rapid Rewards points per $1 for everything else
  • 7,500-anniversary points per year
  • Annual $75 Southwest travel credit card
  • 4 Upgraded Bookings per year

Additionally, get 25% back on inflight purchases.

Cardholders earn unlimited:

  • 3x points on Southwest® purchases
  • 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshares
  • 2x points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming purchases

New Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card cardholders can earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

The annual fee is $149.

Related: Best Southwest credit cards

Summary of the Best Credit Card for COVID Travel Restrictions

If you’re rethinking which credit cards are in your wallet, these cards excel at maximizing your daily purchases while still offering benefits for when it’s safe to fly again. You also have flexible point redemption options for cash or travel rewards. Note that many of the cards on this list of best credit cards to use during COVID travel restrictions are also some of the best travel credit cards for beginners available.

FAQs

What credit card is best for travel?

There are two top options for the best travel credit card if you want flexible ways to earn points:

  • Capital One Venture: Earn unlimited 2 miles per $1 on all purchases and redeem your miles for travel statement credits and upcoming travel
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: Earn 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, and 2x points on all other travel purchases. Your points are worth 25% more when redeeming points for travel you book on the Chase travel portal.

Neither card charges a foreign transaction fee, great for international travel.

If you’re loyal to a particular airline or hotel brand, a branded credit card may be more valuable to you. The Southwest Airlines credit cards are worthy contenders. They are especially good if you can book award flights more often or even qualify for A-List status or the Southwest Companion Pass® sooner.

Here’s more information on the credit score needed for Southwest Airlines credit cards.

What credit card gives 2% back?

The Citi Double Cash awards up to 2% cash back on every purchase. You earn 1% back at the time of purchase and the second 1% back when paying your credit card statement. This card doesn’t have an annual fee.

Another credit card offering 2% back is the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card, also without an annual fee. This can be a good option if you want a credit card for investing.

How can I use my credit card for free travel?

Credit cards offer you two ways to travel for free:

  • Travel credits
  • Redeem or transfer rewards points you earn from purchases

Travel credits are closer to being a “free travel option.” For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $300 travel statement credit that applies to your first travel purchases for the year. Another popular option is hotel or airline fee credits that reimburse your first purchases for a specific airline or hotel brand.

Redeeming credit card points requires you to first make card purchases. Most travel cards award between 1 and 10 points per $1, depending on the bonus category and rewards program. Some credit cards only let you redeem points through their travel portal.

Other cards also give you the option of transferring points to airline and hotel partners. Point transfers can make your points more valuable as each point can be worth between 3 and 5 cents each for first-class flights. Your points may only be worth 1 cent each when booking the same first-class flight on the credit card portal.

Related Articles:

For rates and fees of The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.

For rates and fees of The American Express® Gold Card, please click here.

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