Travel credit cards have become increasingly popular due to the valuable perks and rewards they offer to frequent travelers. These cards can assist you in earning points or miles. Provide travel insurance coverage, offer airport lounge access, and more. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the best credit cards for travel benefits and discuss what makes them stand out.
1. Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is often regarded as one of the top travel credit cards available. Here’s a closer look at its features and benefits:
- Welcome Bonus: As of my last knowledge update, the card offered a substantial welcome bonus (typically in the form of points) after meeting the spending requirement within the first few months of card membership.
- Points Earning: The card allowed cardholders to earn valuable Ultimate Rewards points on their purchases, with bonus points for travel and dining expenses.
- $300 Annual Travel Credit: This credit could be used to offset various travel-related expenses, such as flights, hotels, rental cars, and more.
- Airport Lounge Access: Cardholders enjoyed complimentary access to Priority Pass lounges, which are available at many airports worldwide. This perk provides a comfortable and relaxing environment before or between flights.
- Travel Insurance: The Sapphire Reserve offers a suite of travel insurance benefits, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay coverage, and primary rental car insurance.
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit: Cardholders can get a statement credit to pay for the application fee of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Making airport security processes faster and more convenient.
- Transfer Partners: Ultimate Rewards points could be transferred to various airline and hotel loyalty programs, offering flexible redemption options.
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve had a relatively high annual fee. While the benefits often outweighed the cost for frequent travelers, there may be better choices for occasional travelers.
- Eligibility for this card typically requires a good to excellent credit score.
2. American Express Platinum Card
The American Express Platinum Card is a high-end travel credit card with luxurious benefits. Take a closer look:
- Welcome Bonus: The card offered a substantial welcome bonus (typically in the form of Membership Rewards points) after meeting the spending requirement within the initial months.
- Airport Lounge Access: American Express Platinum cardholders gained access to an extensive network of airport lounges, including Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Club (when flying Delta), and more.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit: This credit could be applied to various airline fees, such as checked baggage fees or in-flight purchases, with a selected airline each year.
- Hotel Elite Status: Cardholders received complimentary elite status with Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, which included benefits like room upgrades and late checkout.
- Fine Hotels & Resorts: Access to this program allowed cardholders to enjoy benefits like room upgrades, daily breakfast, and late checkout at participating luxury hotels.
- Travel Insurance: The American Express Platinum Card provides a range of travel insurance coverages, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance and premium global assistance services.
- The card came with a high annual fee, which might be a significant consideration for some users.
- While the lounge access is extensive, it’s essential to ensure that the lounges you frequently visit are part of the American Express Platinum’s lounge network.
- As with other premium cards, eligibility typically requires a good to excellent credit score.
3. Citi Prestige Card
The Citi Prestige Card is a high-end travel credit card that offers exceptional benefits. Here’s an in-depth look at what it provides:
- Fourth Night Free: One of the standout features of this card was the “fourth-night free” benefit, which allowed cardholders to receive a credit for the cost of the fourth consecutive night when booking a hotel stay through the Citi Prestige Concierge.
- Airport Lounge Access: Cardholders enjoyed Priority Pass Select membership, providing access to numerous airport lounges worldwide.
- $250 Travel Credit: The card offered an annual travel credit that could be used for various travel-related expenses.
- Transfer Partners: Citi Prestige cardholders had the option to transfer ThankYou Points to various airline loyalty programs, increasing the value of their rewards.
- Travel Insurance: The card provided a suite of travel insurance coverages, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance and trip delay coverage.
- The Citi Prestige Card has a high annual fee, so it’s essential to consider whether the benefits align with your travel habits.
- While the fourth-night free benefit was attractive, it required booking through Citi’s travel portal and was limited to two times per year.
4. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is known for its simplicity and flexibility when it comes to redeeming rewards for travel expenses. Here’s what you need to know:
- Miles Earning: Cardholders earned unlimited miles on all purchases, with bonus miles for travel-related expenses.
- Redemption Flexibility: One of the card’s strengths was its flexibility in redeeming miles for travel expenses. Cardholders could book travel through the Capital One portal or use their miles to “erase” travel purchases made on the card.
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit: Like other premium cards, this card offers a statement credit for application fees for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees: For international travelers, the card had no foreign transaction fees, which could save you money on overseas purchases.
- While the Capital One Venture Rewards Card offered simplicity in earning and redeeming rewards, it may provide a different level of luxury perks and benefits than some premium travel cards.
- The annual fee was moderate compared to premium cards, making it a good option for those who want travel benefits without a high cost.
5. United Explorer Card
The United Explorer Card is an excellent choice for those who frequently fly with United Airlines. Here are the benefits:
- Free Checked Bags: Cardholders and a companion on the same reservation could check their first standard checked bag for free when flying with United.
- Priority Boarding: Cardholders received priority boarding, allowing them to board the plane early and secure overhead bin space.
- Two United Club Passes Annually: Cardholders received two one-time passes to United Club lounges each year, providing a comfortable place to relax before their flights.
- Miles Earning: The card offered miles for United purchases and other everyday spending.
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit: Similar to other premium travel cards, this card provided a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.
- The United Explorer Card is primarily beneficial for those who frequently fly with United Airlines. If you primarily fly with other airlines, consider a more versatile travel card.
- While it provides some valuable perks for United loyalists, it may offer fewer luxury benefits than premium travel cards.
6. Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card
If you’re a loyal Delta Air Lines customer, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card has several perks tailored to your needs:
- Companion Certificate: Each year, upon card renewal, you receive a Companion Certificate, allowing you to bring a travel companion on a domestic flight for a reduced fare.
- Delta Sky Club Access: Cardholders enjoyed complimentary access to Delta Sky Club lounges when flying Delta.
- Priority Boarding: You received priority boarding when flying with Delta, ensuring you have ample overhead bin space for your carry-on items.
- Miles Earning: The card offered miles for Delta purchases and other eligible spending.
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck Credit: This card, like other premium cards, offers a statement credit for application fees for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
- The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card is tailored to Delta Air Lines customers, so it’s best suited for those who frequently fly with Delta.
- While it provides excellent benefits for Delta loyalists, there may be better choices for travelers who primarily use other airlines.
7. Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
For loyalists of the Marriott Bonvoy hotel chain, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card offers some attractive perks:
- Free Night Award: Cardholders received an annual free night award valid at Marriott Bonvoy properties, which can provide substantial value.
- Silver Elite Status: You gained complimentary Silver Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program, which includes benefits like priority late checkout and bonus points on stays.
- Points Earning: The card allowed you to earn Marriott Bonvoy points on your everyday spending, as well as bonus points for Marriott purchases.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees: Like many travel cards, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card had no foreign transaction fees.
- This card is most valuable for travelers who frequently stay at Marriott Bonvoy properties. If you prefer other hotel chains, consider a co-branded card from your preferred brand.
- While it offers valuable benefits for Marriott stays, it may have a narrower range of travel perks than some premium travel cards.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Travel Credit Card
When selecting a travel credit card, there are several key factors to consider:
1. Your Travel Habits:
- Consider your typical travel patterns, including whether you primarily fly with a specific airline or stay at a particular hotel chain. Some co-branded credit cards offer tailored benefits for loyal customers.
2. Annual Fee:
- Premium travel cards often come with high annual fees. Evaluate whether the benefits and rewards offered justify the cost of your travel needs.
3. Rewards Structure:
- Look at how the card earns points or miles. Some cards offer bonus rewards for specific spending categories, such as travel and dining, while others have a flat earning rate.
4. Redemption Options:
- Consider how flexible the card’s rewards program is. Can you transfer points to airline or hotel loyalty programs? Can you redeem points for travel expenses directly, or do you have to go through a specific portal?
5. Travel Perks:
- Review the card’s travel benefits, such as airport lounge access, travel credits, and travel insurance. Incorporating these additional benefits can greatly improve your travel experience and offer more worth.
6. Credit Score Requirements:
- Ensure you meet the card’s credit score requirements before applying. Premium travel cards typically require good to excellent credit.
7. Foreign Transaction Fees:
- If you travel internationally, consider whether the card charges foreign transaction fees. Cards without these fees can save you money on overseas purchases.
8. Welcome Bonuses:
- Look for cards with attractive welcome bonuses. When you first get the card, these rewards can significantly boost your balance.
9. Customer Service:
- Consider the card issuer’s customer service reputation. Reliable customer support can be crucial when dealing with travel-related issues.
Choosing the right travel-friendly credit card can significantly enhance your travel experience. The best card depends on travel habits, preferences, and spending patterns. Whether you prioritize earning miles, enjoying airport lounge access, or receiving premium benefits, a travel credit card is tailored to your needs.
Now, armed with knowledge about the perks, contenders, and strategies for maximizing benefits, you’re better prepared to embark on your travel adventures confidently.