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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.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
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. 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.
New Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card cardholders can earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Learn more: Travel Rewards Credit Cards
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 new 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.
Points are worth 25% more now through March 31, 2022, when redeemed for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories with the Chase Pay Yourself Back feature.
Some of the other benefits you may like include one year of free DoorDash DashPass. 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.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card currently has an offer of 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening, worth $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The annual fee is $95.
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.
Other benefits you may enjoy throughout the year include:
- One year of free DoorDash DashPass
- One year of free Lyft Pink membership
- Earn up to 10x points on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
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 air travel 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® cardmembers can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, worth $750 towards travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The annual fee is $550 but is offset by the $300 travel credit and other perks.
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. 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% back at U.S. supermarkets (on the first $6,000 per year, then 1% back)
- 6% back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions
- 3% back on transit purchases
- 3% back at U.S. gas stations
- 1% back for all non-bonus purchases
Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
Cardholders can also enjoy $0 plan fees when using Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 plan fees on plans created during the first 12 months after account opening. Plans created after that will have a plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.
The welcome bonus is the ability to earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months. There is a $0 introductory 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 at home and while you travel:
- 4x Membership Rewards at US supermarkets (on the first $25,000 per year and then 1x points)
- 4x Membership Rewards at restaurants, including takeout and delivery
- 3x Membership Rewards on flights you book directly from airlines or on AmexTravel.com
- 1x Membership Rewards on all non-bonus purchases
- Terms apply
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. You also get an annual $120 dining credit ($10 per month) at select restaurants and food delivery apps (enrollment required). 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
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 cardholders can earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months their account is open. Plus, now enjoy more benefits and more ways to earn.
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.
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.
- Best Dining Rewards Programs Let You Double-Dip Rewards Points
- How to Keep Earning Points and Miles While in Quarantine
- Credit Card Providers Adjusted for COVID-19
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.
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 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 03/31/22.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
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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.