Travel credit cards are great in theory (free trips!) but in practice are sometimes difficult to manage. It seems like they all come with complicated restrictions about how rewards can be earned and redeemed.
This is one reason the Nerds love travel credit cards that allow customers to redeem their points or miles for a statement credit. With these cards, you can book your travel however you choose and simply pay yourself back with the rewards you’ve racked up. Think it’s tough to find plastic that offers this type of flexibility? Take a look at our two top picks below!
If you hate fees: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit CardBank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is a good choice. It charges a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, a rare combination among travel credit cards. Plus, the rewards are nothing to sneeze at: You’ll earn 1.5 points on every dollar you spend on purchases, which equates to a 1.5% rewards rate.
What’s more, if you’re a Bank of America® banking customer, you’ll have the opportunity to earn a points dividend of 25%, 50% or 75% through the Preferred Rewards program. The bonus you’ll receive depends on the type of account you have and the total amount of your assets. But even if you don’t qualify for Preferred Rewards status, just having a Bank of America® checking or savings account will give you a boost: You’ll get a 10% dividend on the points you earn.
Plus, if you book your travel through the Bank of America® Travel Center with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, you can earn 3 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases (excluding insurance). One caveat is airline purchases – you can only earn the extra 1.5 points per dollar spent on up to $6,000 in airfare per calendar year. Since the portal offers over 200 airlines and 10,000 hotels and resorts to choose from, this is an easy way to drive up the earning power of your Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card.
And don’t forget, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card comes chip-enabled. If you’re planning a trip abroad, this will come in handy.
To sweeten the pot a bit, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card also comes with a modest signup bonus: 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases. You really can’t go wrong with this card!
If you want a sky-high rewards rate: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is a good option.
With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll earn two miles for every dollar you spend. Since each mile is worth $.01, that equates to a 2% rewards rate. You also get 5% of your miles back when you redeem.
Also, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® allows you to redeem for a wide variety of travel purchases. You can cash in your miles for travel expenses ranging from airfare to hotel stays to campground fees to passenger rail tickets. This provides a lot of flexibility.
If you plan to travel internationally, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is a great choice. Like the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, it charges no foreign transaction fee and comes chip-enabled with PIN capability. This means you don’t have to worry about extra fees or less-than-universal acceptance when you head overseas.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® carries a hefty sign-up bonus: Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase. But keep in mind that it also charges an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $89.
Couple redeeming credit card rewards image via Shutterstock.
Updated Aug. 2, 2017.