Here are the best travel credit cards:

Best for flat-rate rewards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now on Capital One's secure site

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95
  • Bonus offer: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • What our experts like about it

Best for airline miles and a large bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Apply Now on Chase's secure site

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure site
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95
  • Bonus offer: 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®
  • What our experts like about it

Best for no annual fee

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now on Bank of America's secure site

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Bank of America's secure site
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: 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
  • What our experts like about it

Best for chip-and-pin

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Apply Now on Barclaycard's secure site

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Apply Now on Barclaycard's secure site
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $89
  • Bonus offer: 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
  • What our experts like about it

Best for hotels

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
Apply Now on American Express's secure site

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure site
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95
  • Bonus offer: Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.
  • What our experts like about it

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Our pick for

Flat-rate rewards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 23.99%, Variable

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Bonus Offer

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
  • Get a metal Venture Card when you apply today
Bonus value
$500
Annual fee
$95
waived first year
Recommended credit score
690
850
Good - Excellent
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 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


Our pick for

Airline miles and a large bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure site

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99%, Variable

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Bonus Offer

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®

  • 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Bonus value
$500
Annual fee
$95
waived first year
Recommended credit score
690
850
Good - Excellent
We like it for
Flexible rewards Sign-up bonus restaurants

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, the card is metal, not plastic, which gives it a certain wow factor.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


Our pick for

No annual fee

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Apply Now on Bank of America's secure site

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 12 billing cycles

APR

  • APR: 15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
  • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% APR
  • Cash Advance APR: See Terms

Annual Fee

$0

Bonus Offer

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

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 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
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, then 15.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you’re a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
Bonus value
$200
Annual fee
$0
Recommended credit score
690
850
Good - Excellent
We like it for
Bank of America® account holders Flexible rewards Easy redemption Foreign travel

Benefits

The Bank of America® 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

Chip-and-PIN

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Apply Now on Barclaycard's secure site

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)

APR

  • APR: 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24%, Variable

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $89

Bonus Offer

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

  • 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
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling abroad
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness. There is a fee for balance transfers.
Bonus value
$400
Annual fee
$89
waived first year
Recommended credit score
720
850
Excellent
We like it for
Flexible rewards Simple earning structure Easy point redemption Foreign travel Balance transfers

Benefits

While most credit cards now have an EMV chip, few offer chip-and-PIN capability. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® does. Why does it matter? Outside the U.S., self-service card readers commonly require you to authenticate credit card purchases with a PIN code. If you want to buy a train ticket at a kiosk, for example, you need chip-and-PIN.

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, and it’s one of the only travel cards with a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers, although there’s a 3% transfer fee.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


Our pick for

Hotels

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Apply Now on American Express's secure site

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24% - 20.24% Variable APR
  • Penalty APR: 29.99%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24%, Variable

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Bonus Offer

Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

  • Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. Earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Redeem Starpoints® at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Planning a road trip? Rent your car, fill up your tank, book your hotel, and pay for it with your American Express® Card.
  • Terms Apply.
  • View Rates and Fees
Bonus value
$250
Annual fee
$95
waived first year
Recommended credit score
690
850
Good - Excellent
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, 2 Starpoints per dollar at Marriott Rewards properties, and 1 Starpoint per dollar 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: Earn 25,000 Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


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.

Last updated Aug. 2, 2017. 

Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon.