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If you are familiar with award travel, you have probably heard of some of the big names, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express. For the unfamiliar, these cards allow consumers to earn reward points on purchases that they can then turn into highly discounted travel. But aside from these cards, there is a whole host of lesser-known travel credit cards with decent benefits.
Not everyone talks about these, but they should. Let’s take a look at the five best under-the-radar credit cards for travel.
1. Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is like the little sibling of the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card. Although both cards offer the ability to earn points on your purchases, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has no annual fee and a very simple earning structure: Cardholders get 1.5x points on every purchase. That’s it.
Where this card truly stands out, however, is for loyal Bank of America® customers. As with the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, the amount of points you’ll earn per dollar can shift based on your relationship with the bank. The more you have invested, the higher your return. At its peak, this means you can earn up to 2.62 points per dollar spent everywhere, which isn’t just excellent for a no-annual fee card — it puts the card firmly at the top of earners for everyday spend, period.
Redeeming points is just as easy. Points are worth one cent each and can be redeemed as statement credits against any dining or travel purchase on your card.
2. United Quest℠ Card
United’s newest credit card, the United Quest℠ Card, launched in 2021 and offers a suite of unusual benefits for its $250 annual fee. As one of Chase’s four co-branded consumer cards, it’s neither the cheapest nor the most expensive option. And while it may not offer swanky perks like a United Club membership, the United Quest℠ Card can still be very worthwhile — even if you’re just flying once a year.
Some of its most valuable benefits include an annual United credit of up to $125, two free checked bags and a 5,000-mile rebate on up to two flights each year. Best of all, since United award flights start at just 5,000 miles, you can effectively get two nearly-free flights by holding this card.
» Learn more: Is the United Quest card worth its annual fee?
3. U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card
One of the lesser-known travel card issuers is U.S. Bank, whose $95 per year credit card offers some truly excellent points earning. Although you’ll only get the 5x points on prepaid hotels and rental cars booked via its travel portal, otherwise being able to earn 4x points on all travel and gas stations means it’s easy to earn rewards.
You also earn 2x points on streaming, dining and groceries, which rounds this card out as a top contender in your wallet, especially if you’re trying to minimize the amount of cards you lug around each day. As a Visa Signature card, it offers cardholders access to the Luxury Hotel Collection, which mimics elite status at certain hotels.
Points are worth one cent each and can be redeemed toward travel, cash back and gift cards, among other options.
4. Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Business Credit Card
Although Wyndham has a few consumer credit cards, its business card, the Wyndham Rewards® Earner℠ Business Credit Card, is what really shines. With a $95 annual fee, you’ll get Diamond elite status as long as you hold the card, 8 points per dollar on gas and Wyndham hotels, and 15,000 anniversary points each year.
Since rooms at Wyndham start at 7,500 points per night, you can conceivably redeem those anniversary points for two free nights. And due to its excellent partnership with Vacasa, you can also opt to redeem your points for an entire vacation rental home from 15,000 points per bedroom per night.
Wyndham cardholders also receive a 10% discount on all free night awards.
Finally, Wyndham has a reciprocal partnership with Caesars, which means that your Diamond elite status at Wyndham will also qualify you for Diamond status at Caesars. Benefits at Caesars include a $100 celebration dinner each year, waived resort fees at Caesars hotels and four free nights in the Bahamas each year (though you’re on the hook for taxes and fees).
As you can see above, even if you’re not a huge Wyndham fan, holding the card comes with some serious travel benefits.
» Learn more: The complete guide to Wyndham Rewards elite status
5. The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
Our second small business option on this list is from American Express and is the only one we’re featuring that earns a flexible points currency. The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express earns a flat 2x American Express Membership Rewards on all purchases, up to $50,000 each year.
Although you have the option to choose 2% cash back rather than points — you probably shouldn't. After extensive analysis, NerdWallet has determined that AmEx points are worth 1 cent each, which effectively doubles your return.
AmEx also offers an additional 1x bonus point on all travel booked via AmEx Travel, whose website allows you to book hotels, flights, rental cars and cruises.
It has no annual fee, which means it’ll cost you nothing out of pocket, and the ability to easily earn up to 100,000 AmEx points per year is valuable. American Express has over 20 different hotel and airline transfer partners, making them easy to use for travel.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
If you’re looking for a new under-the-radar credit card for travel ...
All of these cards are solid options, even if they aren't frequently cited on best-of lists. Before applying, try to determine if you're going to be able to take advantage of each card’s perks. The right cardholders will be able to utilize hundreds of dollars in benefits and excellent point-earning categories to score significant discounts on travel.
Be sure to carefully consider what type of travel you'll be spending on to maximize these money tools.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card