Travel Credit Cards

Not all travel cards are created equal. Find out the best one for you as points & miles can add up fast before your next trip which will save you a ton on your budget.

I use a small army of major credit cards to book my flights, accommodations and rental cars. These cards below offer me the most value, but your situation may be different.

 

Updated: July 20201

You’ve probably seen an ad or twenty on your TV or walking in the shopping mall about credit cards. With so many cards to choose from, it’s hard to know which ones are actually good for travel and which are not worth your time.

It can be especially confusing trying to navigate all the welcome offers, loyalty programs, perks, offers, fine print details, rules, and hidden fees of each credit card company.

Your first credit card is kind of a big deal and you may not even know it yet. your credit score is partially based on your longest opened credit card.

If you already have a credit card, your next one could be important as well. It could put you on track to earn cash back, free flights, hotel rewards, among other things.

Sound too good to be true? Don’t worry, it’s not.

In this article, I am going to tell you how to easily pick the best credit card for travel so you can maximize your points and earn free travel — because it’s a lot easier than you think!

How Do You Pick a Travel Credit Card?

Fiirst things first! Do not invest your time researching credit cards if you can’t pay your bill on a monthly basis. This goes without saying but, you need to be able to pay your bill on time. Otherwise, getting into the points game is not for you. You will quickly find yourself in debt and buried under high interest rates and all your hard work of earning points will go to waste.

Enough disclaimers, let’s move into the first step.

Establish where you loyalties lie with specific brands. Maybe your not keen to one brand, such as Marriott Hotels or American Airlines. That is fine. But I want you to think about this from a consumer perspective and notify which brands you like.

The tricky part is finding the card that works for you, your travel goals, and your budget.

So how do you pick the best travel-related credit card? Here’s how…

There is No Perfect Card

The first thing you need to know is that there is no perfect travel card. Every card offers different benefits that will fit different lifestyles, budgets, and travel goals.

 

I use an AMEX card for booking flights (3x points per dollar spent), Chase Sapphire Reserve for my everyday spending, a different Chase card for my phone bills (5x points), and a Chase Ink for my business expenses! I have friends who only want cash back and others who only want United miles.

 

There is no perfect card. There is only the perfect card for YOU!

 

Start off by asking yourself “what is your goal?”

 

Are you interested in loyalty to a brand, free rewards, or avoiding fees? Do you want to milk the rewards and welcome offers to get free flights or do you just want a card that won’t charge you a fee for using it at that restaurant in Brazil?

 

Is elite status the most important perk for you? Do you want points you can use for anything, like cash?

 

If you just want points to spend wherever you choose, get the Chase or American Express cards because you can use their points with a variety of travel companies. They each have their own rewards programs (Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards), and points can be transferred to multiple airlines or hotel partners and used to book travel directly through their sites.

 

Just want free hotel rooms? Sign up for hotel cards.

 

Want points that can be used like cash? Get a Capital One Venture Card.

 

By first focusing on what you want, you can maximize your short-term goals and get the hang of travel hacking. For example, I tend to avoid hotel cards since I rarely stay in hotels.

 

I dislike Hilton and never fly United so I don’t waste time getting their points.

 

I don’t like cashback cards because I travel so often that points — not cashback — are more useful for me.

 

Using credit cards that get me airline miles or that have good transfer bonuses to airline programs is what I go for.

 

Find your goal and then find the cards that match your goal as well as your spending habits.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The first travel credit card I use is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Chase card is great for beginners and travel-hacking seasoned veterans. If you apply for the card at the right time, you can earn up to 100,000 bonus miles. However, the spending is higher than most cards at $4,000 in the first three months to be eligible. Chase requires a $99 per year fee to hold the power of the Sapphire Preferred card and its benefits. If $4,000 seems like too much, how about using the card to pay for utility or reccurring monthly bills. Other ideas include car maintenance/repair, birthday gifts, or my favorite, Christmas spending sprees’!

So, what I do is, I usually apply for a card in mid-November, before my Christmas shopping spree. That way, all of my purchases go towards earning those important travel miles for the following year.

Use the points you have pooled up methodically to earn a lump sum to go on your next trip for practically free. If you save up enough, it’s conceivable that you can earn a free flight, and even a few nights for free at a hotel too.

I use the CSP for online groceries, dining, and steaming services. Each category earns me 3x rewards.

Anyways, on to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal where you will learn how to save and use of the best tools in the travel industry!

Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal

Chase rewards are great because they are incredibly flexible for award travel. You can transfer Chase point to 13 different airline and hotel travel partners. Those options make it easy to book everything from beach-side resorts to lie-flat business-class seats. But did you know you can use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for more than just fancy hotels and expensive flights with travel partners?

The Chase travel portal is a powerful tool you can use to book rental cars, tours, event tickets, and more with Chase Ultimate Rewards points. It’s super easy to book travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards site and in many cases it can cost fewer points to book through the travel portal instead of transferring your Chase points to travel partners.

Want insurance covered on your rental car insurance? Chase has your back.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are our favorite transferable points for a lot of reasons. They transfer to lots of great travel partners and they’re easy to earn.

Is This the Right Card for You?

 

The bottom line is that Chase Reward points are useful for more than just airfare and hotels. You can use the Chase travel portal to book everything from rental cars to boat tours to vacation rentals. This makes it easy to use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to save on the other travel expenses besides just flights and hotels.
  

Travel Hack: Reach out on Twitter to any airlines if you have customer service inquiries. They are more responsive and much more likely to sort out your issue. Remember to be polite, courteous and understanding.

Whatever your preference; Bed and Breakfast, Hotels, Apartments, Campsites or a new friend’s couch, I can help you! Below you will find some of the best sites to book any of these accommodations. Use the links below!

Expedia.com is my preferred hotel partner for travelers looking for hotel accommodations.

new 12 transfer partners

CapitalOne Venture

The second card I always have in my wallet is the Capital One Venture card. Believe it or not, this was my second travel rewards card (2016) I ever used and I’m still using it today! Back in 2016, a big perk with this card was pairing it with hotels.com. At hotels.com I could earn free hotel nights for each hotel I booked I’d earn 10x the rewards for booking. This was a crazy promotion and while it no longer exists, I made sure to use my CapitalOne car evert time I booked a hotel. In recent years, I’ve still booked over 10 hotels a year at hotels.com and I’m earning my free hotel night.
 

Now, that means I’ve been traveling a lot. So, pick your poison, but that’s the reason we are all here! Basically, the way it works is, after you stay at a hotels.com property 10 times, you get a free night for the average value of your 10 nights.

 

For all purchases with the Capital One Venture card, you are earning 2x the points for every dollar you spend. Like the Chase card, there is a $95 fee after the first year of ownership but the pros outway the cons.

 

 

Is This the Right Card for You?

In addition to the hotels.com benefit, I’m also covered for car rental insurance and trip protection. For those who travel internationally, Capital One offers a $100 credit on Global Entry and TSA Pre-check.

If you can’t find a good use for your Capital One miles, feel free to transfer them to 15+ travel partners in the Capital One network. Talk about perks!

Where does it makes sense to own both of these cards? Personally, I use this card to this day for groceries, gas and everyday spending.

How to Find the Right Card

There are a ton of credit card companies trying to grab your attention. Each of them offer different benefits, included rental car insurance, big bonus signups, rewards points and travel partners.

 

I have two cards that I like to use for various reasons. These cards are the Chase Sapphire Preffered and CapitalOne Venture.

 

The card that fits your travel goals, is the right card for you. 

 

Do you live in an American Airlines hub? Do you love Mariott Hotels? Do you enjoy free flights? Is cash back important to you? Do you want to fly first class?

 

By focusing on your goals, you can maximize your rewards and points. Personally, I prefer big bonus signup cards for free flights. I avoid hotel cards since I rarely stay in hotels and prefer unique accomadations.

 

I happen to live near an American Airlines hub, but not a Southwest hub, so I earn AA miles but avoid Southwest flights.

 

I love to travel and most often I prefer to earn points — not cashback — as miles are more important to me.

 

Using credit cards that get me airline miles or that have good transfer bonuses to airline programs is what I go for- Enter the CapitalOne Venture card.

 

Find your goal and then find the cards that match your goal as well as your spending habi

What other questions do you have about travel credit cards or travel rewards in general? Comment in the section below

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, I earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).