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It may come as a surprise that this is one of the most exciting times to earn travel credit card rewards. There are new earning categories to take advantage of, major enhanced bonuses on a number of cards, and even more redemption options than ever before. Even better, you don’t have to have travel planned anytime soon to take advantage of these rewards.
The best rewards credit cards in 2021 can help you maximize your daily spending while offering exciting card benefits. If you’re ready to maximize your credit card spending, now is one of the best times to explore the many credit card reviews to find what option fits you best.
We all have different spending styles and reward preferences. That’s why we’re giving you several options for some of the best travel credit cards for 2021 and some of the best cash back credit cards for 2021.
Here are some of the best rewards credit cards in each category. Also, these are the best credit cards for online shopping, helpful as we tackle coronavirus.
The Best Credit Card Rewards in 2021
Here are our picks for the credit card rewards and perks in 2021. You can jump to specific cards using the table below:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – $1000 Award Travel Bonus (Application Info)
- Chase Sapphire Reserve® – Premium Rewards Travel Card (Application Info)
- The Platinum Card® from American Express – largest bonus offer (Additional Info)
- Avianca LifeMiles credit cards – Airline miles (Additional Info)
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – 2x miles on all spending
Travel, Hotel, Airline, and Business Credit Cards
Use this table to jump to our picks for specific subgroups of credit cards like travel, airline, hotel, cash back, and business credit cards:
- Flexible Travel Credit Cards
- Airline Credit Cards
- Hotel Credit Cards
- Cash Back Credit Cards
- Business Credit Cards
Flexible Travel Credit Cards
If you like options, you need a flexible credit card that earns travel rewards. These are the best options when you’re not loyal to a certain airline or hotel brand. The following rewards credit cards may also offer point redemption bonuses and point transfers that help make each point worth more than the benchmark 1 cent redemption value.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – 80,000 Bonus Points and 1:1 Point Transfers
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.
Plus, you earn unlimited 2x points on all travel and dining purchases (1 point for everything else).
The best reason to consider this card is for the point redemption options. Each point is worth 25% more (1.25 cents each) when booking any award travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Here’s an example. Your 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth $125 in award travel. However, you need 12,500 points with other cards to book the same travel reward.
Another option that makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred card unique is the 1:1 airline and hotel transfer partners. Some partners include Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, British Airways, and World of Hyatt. You might be able to squeeze more value by transferring and booking directly through the travel provider. The Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits for travel also make this a worthwhile option.
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.
Plus, 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 Sept. 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 Sept. 30, 2021.
Chase Sapphire Reserve – $300 Travel Credit & Signup Bonus Worth $900 in Award Travel
If you travel constantly, the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve® can be a better option than the Sapphire Preferred. If you can use the Sapphire Reserve travel benefits, you can help justify its $550 annual fee. These benefits include a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass lounge membership, and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit.
Two new benefits include one free year of Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value) and a free DoorDash DashPass subscription (activation required by 12/31/21).
This is one of the best dining credit cards. Travel purchases earn 3x points per $1 once cardholders earn the $300 travel credit. Dining purchases earn 3 points per $1. All remaining purchases get 1 point per dollar spent. You also have access to the 1:1 Chase travel transfer partners and you get a 50% redemption bonus when booking award travel directly through Chase. Aesthetically speaking, this is one of the best metal credit cards to have.
New Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardmembers can earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, worth $900 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
More Perks for 2021
Gas station and grocery store purchases will also count towards earning the annual $300 travel credit, through Dec. 31, 2021. Additionally, through April 30, 2021, cardholders automatically earn 3x points per $1 spent at grocery stores, up to $1,000 per month. Cardholders can also earn up to $120 in statement credits on Peloton Digital and All-Access Memberships through December 31, 2021.
This is in addition to the complimentary DoorDash DashPass subscription that lets cardholders get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees. They also earn up to $120 in statement credits on DoorDash purchases ($60 in statement credits through 2020 and another $60 in statement credits through 2021).
Sapphire Reserve cardholders earn 10x points on Lyft rides, including bikes and scooters. Complimentary Lyft Pink Membership is also available when activated by March 21, 2022. Points are worth 50% more through Sept. 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 50% more when redeemed through the Chase Dining hub in Ultimate Rewards, now through Sept. 30, 2021.
The Platinum Card from American Express – Premium Air Travel Perks
The Platinum Card® from American Express is one of the best premium credit cards this year. Frequent flyers benefit the most from this card. That’s because you get an annual $200 airline fee credit, complimentary access to several leading airport lounge networks including The Centurion and Priority Pass, and earn 5x points when booking flights directly through the airline or AmexTravel.com, up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Cardholders also earn 5x points on prepaid hotel bookings through amextravel.com.
Your points are most valuable when transferred to one of the 1:1 Membership Rewards airline transfer partners. These airlines include Delta, Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines, British Airways, and Asia Miles. You can also book award flights directly through Amex Travel.
You will need an excellent 740 credit score to have the best approval odds.
This card’s 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
Citi Premier Card – Earn 3x Points on Air Travel
The Citi Premier® Card is a good alternative to the Chase Sapphire Preferred when the Chase 5/24 rule flags you for too many recently opened credit card accounts. In fact, you might earn more points on your daily purchases with the Citi ThankYou rewards program:
- 3x points on air travel, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations
- 1x points on all remaining purchases
You can also transfer your points to airlines including Asia Miles, JetBlue, and Avianca LifeMiles. Note that Avianca LifeMiles credit cards currently have an easy signup bonus opportunity. There is an annual $100 hotel benefit. Cardholders can enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com, once per calendar year.
The annual fee for the Citi Premier® Card is $95 and there is no foreign transaction fee. New Citi cardmembers can also earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – 2x Miles on Every Purchase and Global Entry Fee Credit
Flat-rate rewards credit cards don’t receive a lot of attention. But they are a better option if you have trouble maximizing another card’s tiered bonus categories. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns unlimited 2x miles on every $1 spent.
Miles are redeemable as travel statement credits, upcoming travel, and even transferrable to airline and hotel loyalty programs. There isn’t a redemption minimum when getting a travel statement credit.
Capital One also covers your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee by offering a fee credit. The Capital One Venture is another good travel card that often gets compared with the top cards available, such as the Sapphire Preferred. Check out our review of the Capital One Venture Rewards vs Chase Sapphire Preferred to learn more about each.
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
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card – No Annual Fee
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card defies the expectation that travel credit cards without an annual fee are lackluster. This card, one of the best Wells Fargo credit card options, has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. If you want a travel credit card with a premium credit card-like rewards program without the additional benefits and fees, this is a great option.
You get unlimited 3x points on these purchases:
- Eating out and dining in
- Gas, rideshares, transit
- Popular streaming services
Points are worth an impressive 1.5 cents each (50% more) when redeeming for award flights using the Wells Fargo Travel Center. One downside is that the Propel doesn’t have point transfer partners. If no annual fee credit cards are of interest to you, you may want to review our best no annual fee travel credit cards list.
Learn more: No Annual Fee Credit Cards
Airline Credit Cards
Loyalty has its perks, especially in the travel industry. These airline credit cards offer plenty of perks that are worth the annual fee.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card – $75 Travel Credit and 4 Upgraded Bookings
Southwest Airlines continues to push the envelope with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. You get a $75 Southwest travel credit and four Upgraded Bookings (when available) each year. All Southwest purchases earn 2x points. 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.
Plus, you earn a 7,500-point anniversary bonus each card anniversary. As short-haul award flights start around 5,000 points each way, this bonus can be enough for a free flight.
Related: Best Southwest Credit Cards
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card – Up to 9 Free Checked Bags
The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card lets you and up to 8 travel companions check your first bag for free on Delta flights. That’s potentially $540 roundtrip savings in waived checked bag fees. Even if you fly solo, you offset the $99 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year — See Rates & Fees) after two roundtrips.
You also earn 2x SkyMiles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets. You also get a 20% discount on in-flight purchases in the form of a statement credit after you use your card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
When you want the chance to earn Medallion Qualification Miles or get an annual companion certificate, you might try upgrading to one of the higher-end best Delta credit cards.
This card comes with the opportunity to earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on their new card in the first 3 months. This offer expires on 04/28/2021.
The annual fee for this card is $0 for the first year, then $99 (See Rates & Fees).
Learn more: Airline Credit Cards
United Club Infinite Card – Premier Access benefits
United Airlines has one of the best premium co-brand airline credit cards in the United Club℠ Infinite Card. The first two checked bags are free for you and one companion. You also get complimentary access to the United Club lounge which can save you up to $650 a year. Bear in mind this card’s annual fee is $525.
Being a cardholder also gives you United Premier Access perks including priority check-in, security and baggage processing, and boarding. Space-available Premier Upgrades are also available. Like the cards listed above, there are other United credit card options if this isn’t exactly what you’re looking for.
New United Club℠ Infinite Card cardholders can earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
Learn more: Airline Credit Cards
Hotel Credit Cards
You can also scoop up good travel deals, such as the ability to earn 75k bonus points with some of the best Marriott credit cards. One of the best benefits of having hotel credit cards can be annual night certificates that can be worth more than the annual card fee.
World of Hyatt Credit Card – Up to 2 Free Nights Each Year
Hotel points are generally worth less than airline miles. However, Hyatt points are a rare exception to this rule as you can usually get 1.5 to 2 cents per award booking. The World of Hyatt Credit Card is one of the best ways to earn Hyatt points.
Hyatt purchases earn up to 9x points (4x points per $1 spent at Hyatt hotels & 5x per $1 as a World of Hyatt member). You also get 2x points on dining, plane tickets purchased directly from the airline, local transit and commuting, and fitness club and gym memberships. Non-bonus spending earns an unlimited 1 point per $1 spent.
One of the most exciting card perks is getting up to two free nights at any category 1-4 hotel that normally cost 15,000 points or less per night. The first free night is automatic each card anniversary. You get the second free night by spending $15,000 during a cardmember anniversary year.
Owning this card also gives you instant Hyatt Discoverist loyalty status. Discoverist status benefits include 10% bonus points, free breakfast at SLH hotels and select Hyatt Place locations, and space-available room upgrades.
New cardmembers can earn a signup bonus of up to 60,000 World of Hyatt bonus points. Earn the first 30,000 points by spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus, earn up to 30,000 more bonus points with 2 bonus points per $1 spent on purchases that earn 1 bonus point, up to $15,000, in the first 6 months of account opening.
Learn more: Hotel Rewards Credit Cards
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card – Up to $600 Travel Credits
The information for the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
There are four different co-brand Hilton credit cards. The Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card is the most crown jewel of the Hilton lineup. Although you pay a $450 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), you can enjoy at least $600 in yearly travel credits and perks.
Here is everything you can get by owning the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card:
- First Weekend Night Reward at card opening and each anniversary
- Second Weekend Night Reward after spending $60,000 in a calendar year
- $250 Hilton Resort statement credit
- $100 Hilton on-property credit
- $250 airline fee credit
- Priority Pass Select membership (you and up to two guests per visit)
- Hilton Honors Diamond status
- Earn up to 14x points per $1 spent on eligible purchases at participating hotels and resorts
You can also earn a welcome offer of 150,000 bonus Hilton Honors points by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. Award nights start at 5,000 points making this bonus worth up to 30 free Hilton nights. Or you can also bank your points for swanky stays like the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island which costs 95,000 points per night.
Cash Back Rewards Credit Cards
Sometimes there’s nothing better than getting cash rewards. These cards help you earn more than the standard 1% cash reward.
Chase Freedom Flex – Up to 5% Back
One of the most exciting cash rewards credit cards is the Chase Freedom Flex℠. You get up to 5% back on the first $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories, once activated. Some of the bonus categories include gas stations (making it one of the best gas credit cards), grocery stores, and tolls.
Cardholders also earn:
- 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.
New cardholders can earn a $200 cash bonus by spending $500 in the first 3 months.
This card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You may consider this card if you own a Chase Sapphire product for the 5x bonus categories. Then you redeem your points for travel with your Sapphire card for the travel redemption bonus or 1:1 point transfers, making this one of the best Chase credit cards.
Blue Cash Preferred from American Express – 6% Back at U.S. Supermarkets
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express pays 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year then 1%). It also offers 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services. You get 3% back on transit and U.S. gas stations (1% for everything else).
This can be one of the best credit cards for millennials.
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
Business Credit Cards
Your business spending can be more rewarding with these rewards credit cards. Because business spending tends to be different, you’ll see how these cards offer perks for business spending.
Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – Signup Bonus
The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the first $150,000 in combined spending for travel, shipping purchases, social media and search engine advertising, and cable, phone, and Internet service provider purchases.
Your points are worth 25% more when redeemed for award travel on Chase or you can transfer them to the 1:1 Chase airline and hotel partners.
This Chase business credit card also has a 100,000-point signup bonus worth up to $1,250 in award travel. Spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months to qualify. The annual fee is a reasonable $95 per year.
For a no annual fee business credit card, consider the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card which earns 1.5x cash back on every card purchase.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Rewards Credit Card – Flight Perks
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card brings various air travel benefits. And you can earn 80,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points. 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.
You get four Upgraded Booking per year (when available), inflight WiFi credits, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit, and 9,000 Rapid Rewards card anniversary points.
You also earn 3x points on Southwest purchases. Social media and search engine advertising plus Internet, phone, and cable service purchases earn unlimited 2x points. All non-bonus spending earns 1 point per $1.
It’s easy to earn bonus points on almost any of your most common purchases. More importantly, these cards make have valuable rewards and sometimes additional card perks. If you want to strengthen your spending power, these best credit cards to earn travel rewards are a good starting point.
Here are the best rewards credit card offers this year:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Platinum Card’s largest bonus offer
- Avianca LifeMiles credit cards
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, please click here.
And for rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.
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 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.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
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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.
- 1 Flexible Travel Credit Cards
- 2 Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – 80,000 Bonus Points and 1:1 Point Transfers
- 3 Chase Sapphire Reserve – $300 Travel Credit & Signup Bonus Worth $900 in Award Travel
- 4 The Platinum Card from American Express – Premium Air Travel Perks
- 5 Citi Premier Card – Earn 3x Points on Air Travel
- 6 Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – 2x Miles on Every Purchase and Global Entry Fee Credit
- 7 Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card – No Annual Fee
- 8 The information related to Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected by Johnny Jet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
- 9 Airline Credit Cards
- 10 Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card – $75 Travel Credit and 4 Upgraded Bookings
- 11 Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card – Up to 9 Free Checked Bags
- 12 United Club Infinite Card – Premier Access benefits
- 13 Hotel Credit Cards
- 14 World of Hyatt Credit Card – Up to 2 Free Nights Each Year
- 15 Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card – Up to $600 Travel Credits
- 16 Cash Back Rewards Credit Cards
- 17 Chase Freedom Flex – Up to 5% Back
- 18 Blue Cash Preferred from American Express – 6% Back at U.S. Supermarkets
- 19 Business Credit Cards
- 20 Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – Signup Bonus
- 21 Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Rewards Credit Card – Flight Perks
- 22 Summary