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Many of us are looking forward to holiday travel to see family, get away from work, or possibly just to take a little break from everything that has been happening over the last few months. You may be interested to know that many banks are offering exciting perks and bonuses that can help you book your travel. Here are some of the best credit cards for holiday travel to have in your arsenal.

Use the best credit cards for holiday travel and visit a Christmas market, like this one is Bratislava Slovakia that Johnny visited in December 2013. Credit: Johnny Jet

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is one of the best travel credit cards you can own. You earn 2 points per $1 for travel and dining purchases. Your points are worth 25% more when booking award travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You can also transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to hotel and airline partners including Southwest, United, and World of Hyatt.

Some partner benefits can come in handy as well. You get 5x points on Lyft rides through March 2022 and unlimited $0 delivery fees on restaurant deliveries with a free DoorDash DashPass membership.

The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is $95.

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, worth $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus, they can earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within the first year of account opening.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is another exciting card as you earn 2x miles per $1 on every purchase. You can redeem your Venture miles for travel statement credits or transfer them to airlines and hotels.

One add-on benefit of the Capital One Venture Rewards card you may appreciate is a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit, up to $100.

New Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card cardholders can earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Learn more: Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Compare the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Capital One Venture if you aren’t sure which one you prefer.

Citi Double Cash Card

One of the best credit cards for holiday travel that you might appreciate for its simplicity is the Citi® Double Cash Card. This card earns cash rewards and has an above-average rewards rate.

The Citi Double Cash earns up to 2% back on purchases (1% back when you buy, 1% back when you pay). There is no limit to how much cash back you can earn. Your cash redemption options include statement credits and bank account deposits.

There is no annual fee but there is a foreign transaction fee. International purchases have a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Chase Freedom Flex

A card you may enjoy that earns tiered rewards is the Chase Freedom Flex℠. This card replaces the Chase Freedom® by having more ways to earn bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards and continues to have no annual fee.

You earn up to 5% back on the first $1,500 in quarterly bonus categories, once activated.

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® share these bonus categories:

  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% on dining, including takeout and delivery services
  • 3% on drugstore purchases
  • 1% on non-bonus purchases (1.5% for the Chase Freedom Unlimited)

There isn’t an annual fee. If you already own a Chase Sapphire product (either a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve®), you can transfer your Freedom earnings to capitalize on the Sapphire family travel redemption options.

The signup bonus is $200 bonus cash by spending $500 in the first 3 months.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

One card you can use for local and travel purchases is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. You earn cash rewards for these categories:

  • 6% back at US supermarkets (on the first $6,000 per year, then 1%)
  • 6% back on select US streaming subscriptions
  • 3% back on transit including taxis, rideshares, parking, trains, tolls, buses, and more
  • 3% back at US gas stations
  • 1% back for everything else

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

This is one of the best credit cards for holiday travel because you can earn on several different purchase categories. If your winter travel plans involve driving or taking mass transit, this card can earn more. The 6% grocery store and streaming services bonuses are lucrative too. You can redeem your earnings as a cash statement credit.

The annual fee is $0 the first year, then $95 (See Rates & Fees). The welcome bonus is the ability to earn a $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases on the card within the first 6 months. 

Learn more: Cash Back Credit Cards

Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express can be a good fit for a premium travel credit card. The Amex Platinum continues to be one of the best cards for earning airline miles quickly.

You will earn 5 Membership Rewards per $1 on flights you book directly from the airline or with American Express Travel, up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Hotel bookings using AmexTravel also earn 5 points per $1. All non-bonus purchases earn 1 point per $1.

The other Platinum Card from American Express benefits include:

  • Up to $200 in annual airline fee statement credits for incidental fees at one qualifying airline
  • Up to $200 in annual Uber Rides and Uber Eats credits
  • Global Lounge Collection access
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status
  • 1:1 airline and hotel point transfers

The annual fee is $550 (See Rates & Fees). 

New cardmembers can earn 75,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. Cardholders also earn 10x points on eligible purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets, up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership.

Learn more: Johnny Jet Recommended Credit Cards

Southwest Airlines Credit Cards

The Southwest Airlines credit cards can almost always be a good option as the best credit card for holiday travel. If you fly Southwest regularly, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has several perks.

  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 4 Upgraded Bookings per year (when available)
  • 7,500 anniversary points each card renewal

The annual fee for the Priority Card is $149. All three consumer Southwest cards earn 2x points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases. Non-bonus purchases earn 1x point per $1 spent.

New cardholders can earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, earn 3x points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.

If you happen to be a business traveler or can take a “bleisure” trip, there’s the possibility to earn 80,000 bonus Rapid Rewards with a Southwest Airlines business card. New Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card cardmembers can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Earning the full bonus gets you close to earning the standard Companion Pass.

As always, your first two checked bags on Southwest fly for free and there are no change fees to worry about.

Related: Best Southwest Airlines Credit Cards

Citi Premier Card

The Citi Premier® Card is another top pick for air travel or road trips. You have many ways to earn ThankYou points.

These purchase categories earn unlimited 3 ThankYou points per $1:

  • Restaurants
  • Supermarkets
  • Gas Stations
  • Airlines
  • Travel Agencies
  • Hotels
  • Cafes
  • Bars
  • Lounges

All non-bonus spending earns 1 point per $1. You can redeem your points for award travel, transfer at a 1:1 ratio to airlines or gift cards. Each Citi ThankYou point can be worth 1 cent each for the redemption options. Each year, you can get a $100 annual hotel savings benefit. Once annually, cardholders can enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) through thankyou.com.

The annual fee is $95 and there are no foreign transaction fees. The signup bonus is 60,000 ThankYou points ($600 value) by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of the account opening.

Summary of the Best Credit Cards for Holiday Travel

Banks are currently offering some of the best credit card offers and purchase rewards since the pandemic onset. You can use these incentives to finalize your holiday travel plans and make your daily purchases more rewarding as well. Hopefully, you’ll find that one of these best credit cards for holiday travel options is perfect for you.

FAQs

How does a travel credit card work?

Credit cards either earn cash rewards or travel rewards. A travel credit card, as you may expect, earns travel rewards. You earn rewards points on each purchase and travel-related purchases typically earn bonus points.

Most travel credit cards let you redeem your points as a statement credit for recent travel purchases or to book upcoming award flights, hotel nights and car rentals. Some cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, let you transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to participating airlines and hotels.

There are also branded airline and hotel credit cards. These cards earn points for the loyalty club. For instance, a Delta Air Lines credit card earns Delta SkyMiles. Co-brand cards can be a good option if you travel with a specific airline or hotel. Despite the limited redemption options, you’re more likely to get add-on loyalty perks like free checked bags or accelerated loyalty status.

Is it a good idea to get a travel credit card?

Travel credit cards are a good option when you can earn bonus points from your largest or most common monthly expenses. More importantly, you should only consider cards that have redemption options that match your travel habits. If you have a hard time redeeming your points, you may end up losing your points in time.

A cash rewards credit card, like the Citi Double Cash, can also be a good option. The Double Cash earns up to 2% back on purchases (1% at the time of purchase, 1% when you pay your balance) and you can redeem your rewards for cash statement credits or bank deposits. Although travel miles can have a higher redemption value, you can spend cash rewards to offset travel and non-travel expenses.

There is also limited time offers you might want to take into consideration.

How much money is 50,000 miles worth?

Most credit card points are worth 1 cent each, making 50,000 miles worth $500 in award travel. This can be the case with the standard Capital One Venture signup bonus of 50,000 miles that you redeem for travel statement credits or booking upcoming travel in the Capital One Travel portal.

Your miles can be worth more if you can transfer them to an airline or hotel and book your travel directly through that loyalty program. As a quick example, your 50,000 miles are worth more than one cent each when they book at least $501 in award travel.

Related Articles:

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

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

Josh Patoka
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 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.
  • 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 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
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