Our pick for

Airline miles and a large bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now

on Chase's secure website

Bonus value
$500
Annual fee
$95
waived first year
Recommended credit score
Excellent 720-850
Good 690-719
We like it for
Foreign travel Flexible rewards Large sign-up bonus Wow factor

Benefits

Unlike cards tied to a specific airline or hotel brand, you can use the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card’s rewards in many places. You earn 2 points on dining and travel per $1 spent and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Points are worth 25% more when you use them to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, or you can transfer them at a 1:1 rate to several other loyalty programs. Plus, the card comes with a sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Finally, we can’t help but note the high-end impression this metal card makes when you pull it out of your wallet.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


Our pick for

Flat-rate rewards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now

on Capital One's secure website

Bonus value
$400
Annual fee
$59
waived first year
Recommended credit score
Excellent 720-850
Good 690-719
We like it for
Flexible rewards Simple earning structure Easy redemption Foreign travel

Benefits

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the most flexible travel cards available. You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on everything, and you redeem rewards for a credit against most travel expenses. And you’re not restricted to one airline or hotel, as is the case with co-branded cards. You just book your own travel, then pay for it with your rewards. The annual fee is fairly low relative to other travel cards, and there are no foreign transaction fees, making it ideal to take abroad. This card also comes with a sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, equal to $400 in travel.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


Our pick for

Flat-rate rewards with chip-and-PIN

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Apply Now

on Barclaycard's secure website

Bonus value
$400
Annual fee
$89
waived first year
Recommended credit score
Excellent 720-850
Good 690-719
We like it for
Flexible rewards Simple earning structure Easy point redemption Foreign travel Balance transfers

Benefits

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® gives you 2 miles for every $1 spent. Simply pay for travel with your card, then redeem your miles for a statement credit. You’re not restricted to one airline or hotel, as is the case with co-branded cards. You’ll also get 5% of your miles back every time you redeem — a great way to start saving for your next trip. This card comes with a sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. And it’s one of the only travel cards with a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers, although there’s a 3% transfer fee. And it has chip-and-PIN capability and no foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks

Bottom line



Our pick for

No annual fee

BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card

Apply Now

on Bank of America's secure website
Or call (800) 211-3740

Bonus value
$200
Annual fee
$0
Recommended credit score
Excellent 720-850
Good 690-719
We like it for
Bank of America® account holders Flexible rewards Easy redemption Foreign travel

Benefits

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card earns 1.5 points per $1 spent, and each point is worth 1 cent. That’s a relatively high rewards rate considering the card has an annual fee of $0. Plus, if you’re a Bank of America®, Merrill Lynch® or Merrill Edge® customer, you can earn a bonus of 10% to 75% when you redeem, depending on how much you have in your accounts. You can redeem points for a credit against travel purchases, giving you the freedom to book during any season, with any carrier or hotel chain. Further, you can use points for credit against travel purchases for up to 12 months after those purchases post to your account — a much longer window than most other cards offer. And the card comes with a sign-up bonus: 20,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases.

Drawbacks

Bottom line



Our pick for

Hotels

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now

on American Express's secure website

Bonus value
$575
Annual fee
$95
waived first year
Recommended credit score
Excellent 720-850
Good 690-719
We like it for
Starwood hotel stays High earnings rate Transferring points to airlines Frequent travelers

Benefits

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers up to 5 Starpoints per $1 spent at participating SPG locations, and 1 Starpoint on all other purchases. Redeeming points for hotel stays provides the most dollars per point, but Starpoints can also be transferred to more than two dozen frequent flier programs. Plus, the card comes with a sign-up bonus: Get 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply

Drawbacks

Bottom line


 

To recap our selections:

Nerdwallet’s best travel credit cards

Best for … Card
Airline miles & large bonus Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Flat-rate rewards Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Flat-rate rewards with chip-and-PIN Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
No annual fee BankAmericard Travel Rewards® credit card
Hotels Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Our methodology

NerdWallet’s credit cards team selects cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to win in multiple categories.

Kevin Cash is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: kcash@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @kevin_cash.