When it comes to travel rewards, families have different needs than solo travelers. They need good award availability to facilitate traveling together, as well as credit cards with category bonuses to help earn points faster to cover multiple tickets. At hotels, families often need multiple rooms, which makes reasonable redemption rates important, too. And saving cash on fees, food and other activities when traveling can be critical.
So what are the best rewards credit cards for family travel? Below is a roundup of our top picks.
Southwest credit cards
The Southwest Rapid Rewards program is great for families who want easy award redemptions and the convenience of free checked bags. Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass is a great savings tool, since it allows a designated companion to travel free of charge — even on award flights.
» Learn more: Top airline credit cards that offer companion tickets
When you earn the sign-up bonus from a Southwest credit card, those points count toward the 110,000-point requirement to earn a Companion Pass. Now all that’s left is deciding which Southwest credit card you should get.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
The Wyndham Rewards® Visa Signature® Card
Wyndham Rewards is one of the most underrated hotel loyalty programs out there. While other programs have award charts broken up into multiple categories ranging from 5,000-100,000 points per night, Wyndham keeps it simple: All hotels are either 7,500, 15,000 or 30,000 points per night. Vacation club properties range from 15,000-30,000 points per bedroom. If you don’t quite have enough points for a free night, you can choose a Go Fast redemption for a combination of cash and points (1,500, 3,000 or 6,000 per night).
Wyndham offers condo-style properties with kitchens, in-room laundry facilities and multiple bedrooms that can be ideal for families. This is a great option if you’d otherwise spend a lot of money dining out or booking book multiple hotel rooms.
With The Wyndham Rewards® Visa Signature® Card, you earn 15,000 points after your first purchase or balance transfer — there's no big spending requirement to meet. The card earns 3 points per dollar spent at Wyndham properties, 2 points per dollar on gas, utility and grocery purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
For many families, those 2x categories are some of their biggest expenses each month, so this card may be a great way to maximize your return on money spent.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
There are times when redeeming miles, especially for more than two people, is incredibly difficult. During those times, having rewards like those from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can save the day.
When it comes to vacation planning, many families schedule with the school calendar. But increased demand means school breaks are the busiest times of year to travel, meaning award space can be limited. During those times, you’re better off redeeming cash back rewards for travel.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card could fit the bill here, since your “miles” essentially function as statement credit that can be redeemed as a reimbursement for travel purchases. If you want to redeem rewards for something other than travel statement credits, Capital One has 15+ transfer partners to choose from.
In addition to being simple to redeem, this card’s earning structure is simple, too: You’ll earn 2 miles per $1 spent (equivalent to 2% cash back) on everything. That’s great if you don’t want to deal with category bonuses and deciding which card to use where.
Be mindful of the card's annual fee: $95.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Why is a card with a $450 annual fee making this list? Because the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card offers lots of valuable benefits that can help families save money on travel. Cardholders get Hilton Diamond status, which comes with free breakfast and club lounge access. This could be a huge money saver (some international club lounges serve as full-blown restaurants), and it’s incredibly convenient. If the kids get peckish, the club lounge may have snacks for them throughout the day (or milk for crying babies at night).
In addition to the free food perks, this card can help families save on travel with its annual $250 airline fee credit, $250 Hilton resort statement credit and $100 Hilton on-property credit. You’ll also get a Priority Pass Select membership to over 1,000 airport lounges, which is good for you and two guests — and can be a lifesaver when traveling as a family.
» Learn more: Find the best hotel credit card for you
Earning free nights with Hilton is also easy, thanks to the card’s category bonuses:
14x Hilton Honors bonus points at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
7x Hilton Honors bonus points on eligible purchases for:
Flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com.
Car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies.
3x Hilton Honors bonus points on all other eligible purchases.
So how quickly can you earn a free night? Considering Hilton charges between 5,000 and 95,000 points for a free night (depending on the property and date), your spending could break down as follows:
Free night after $358-$6,786 worth of spending at Hilton hotels.
Free night after $715-$13,572 worth of spending on direct flight bookings, car rentals and U.S. restaurants.
Free night after $1,667-$31,667 worth of spending on all other purchases.
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card is another good hotel credit card option. The fourth night free on award stays is great for families scrambling to get enough points together for one or more hotel rooms. If you still only have enough points for one room, the annual free night benefit can help cover a second one.
While it does have an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $89, the card offers an appealing category bonus rate:
Earn 25 points per $1 spent at IHG properties (including the regular points earning rate and the Platinum Elite bonus that comes with the card).
Earn 2 points per $1 at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants.
Earn 1 point per $1 everywhere else.
The average U.S. household has $40,814 worth of nonhousing expenditures. Putting all of that spending on the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card would earn you 81,628 points in a year. That’s enough for at least one free night at a high-end IHG hotel like the Intercontinental London Park Lane.
You can stretch your points even further with lower-level redemptions too. For example, the Intercontinental Mendoza requires just 20,000 points per night, meaning those points from regular spending could cover a four-night stay. Or you could spend a week at the Holiday Inn Express Belgrade City, which is a bargain at 10,000 points per night.
» Learn more: IHG hotel card review: Free nights on a silver platter
Information related to the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
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 2021, 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