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With all of the different options for finding the best travel rewards credit card, it can be hard to figure out which one(s) deserve a place in your wallet – especially if you’re not a super-frequent traveler. So to help narrow the field, here are a few suggestions for personal credit cards you may want to take a look at.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Yes, this card has a $450 annual fee. But if you’re doing any traveling at all – even catching a bus across town or using a rideshare service like Lyft to get to work – you shouldn’t have any problem getting the $300 annual travel credit, which is reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. This effectively reduces the annual fee to $150.
For that price, you get access to the full power of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which gives you a significant amount of flexibility. You can transfer them to airline and hotel loyalty programs, or use them in place of cash to book flights, hotels, rental cars, and activities through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal. When you sign up for the card, you’ll get 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 within 3 months of opening the account.
You’ll also get some useful travel benefits: a Priority Pass membership, which gives you access to a global network of airport lounges and restaurants; Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment; and trip delay and cancellation insurance for when things don’t go according to plan.
You’ll earn points at a great rate: the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3 points per dollar spent on restaurant purchases. You can also earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. You’ll be on your way to your next vacation in no time.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® (Expired)
If a $450 annual fee isn’t quite your speed, you may want to take a look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred card instead. While it doesn’t include premium benefits like lounge access or Global Entry enrollment, you’ll still be able to transfer your points to all the same airline and hotel partners. Plus, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel. You’ll also get the same welcome bonus – 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
If you’re looking to earn more points on your travel purchases without a steep annual fee, you may want to check out the Citi Premier MasterCard. You’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel (including gas!), and 2 points per dollar spent on restaurants and entertainment. These are Citi ThankYou Points, which can be transferred to various airline and hotel partners. Or, you can redeem them directly for travel through the Citi ThankYou Portal.
This card also comes trip delay and cancellation benefits and a 50,000 point welcome bonus when you spend $4,000 within three months of opening the card. The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. This best travel rewards credit card option is great for someone who is testing the waters first.
Best Travel Rewards Credit Card – Your Favorite Hotel Credit Card?
Almost every hotel chain offers a credit card with an annual free night certificate or anniversary points. Chase offers cards from Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott that come with a free night certificate every year. American Express has the Starwood Preferred Guest cards (which come with free annual night certificates starting in August 2018). Even US Bank’s Radisson Rewards card has an annual 40,000 point bonus.
These cards typically have annual fees in the $75-$100 range. They typically include bonus points earning at their respective hotels. Lower earning rates in other categories like restaurants are also usually included. Plus, a baseline level of elite status in that hotel’s rewards program is usually also part of the package.
For instance, the World of Hyatt Credit Card comes with the ability to earn 50,000 bonus points that can equal up to 10 free nights in Category I properties (conditions apply). It has an annual fee of $95 and doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Also, your points don’t expire as long as you own a Hyatt credit card.
If you’re looking for a Hilton free night though, you’ll have to fork over some cash to American Express. You can only get an annual night certificate with the $450/year Hilton Ascend card, or by spending $15,000 on the Hilton Aspire card.
A 2% Cash Back Credit Card
Cash is the ultimate flexible rewards currency. If you’re looking to keep all your options open, a credit card that earns 2% cash back everywhere like the Citi Double Cash Card or Fidelity Rewards Card might deserve a place in your wallet. These cards don’t have a lot of flashy benefits, but they also don’t have an annual fee.
You never have to think about whether you’re getting enough rewards to outweigh what you’re paying for the card. Just keep in mind that they do have foreign transaction fees. So when you cash out your rewards and head to your favorite tropical paradise, you may want to carry a different card in your wallet.
The Bottom Line on the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card Options
Every traveler is different, so the best travel rewards credit card for you depends on your priorities and travel patterns. You may even want to round out your wallet with several cards that earn you benefits in different areas. Let us know if your favorite credit card didn’t make the list!
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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.