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Best Travel Credit Cards For Frequent Travelers (Updated 2017)

Best Travel Credit Cards For Frequent Travelers (Updated 2017)

Travel credit cards offer many perks and rewards focused on travel discounts, free flights, airline miles as well as free meals at restaurants. There are a wide variety of travel cards to choose from with each one offering slightly different features then the other. If used correctly travel credit cards can save a lot of money for all travelers alike. We have tried over 80 credit cards and have featured the very best we could find. Read onwards, and you will find the best travel credit cards for frequent and semi-frequent travellers.

Who Should Get One?

These cards are ideal for anyone who makes frequent purchases with their card in an effort to accumulate points that can be used for travel. If you are a frequent traveler, a travel credit card should be the card you would want to apply for. Some of the cards are partnered and co-branded with specific hotel chains or airlines while others offer points that can be used for free rooms and flights or a discount with any airline or hotel. Below are the best travel credit cards that can help you save money while traveling.

Generally, you have two types of travel credit cards: co-branded, which are cards tied to specific companies and regular travel credit cards. Co-branded can offer quite a few additional perks over regular travel credit cards if you use the card with the company tied to it. If you do not, however, regular travel credit cards will likely be much better for general travel use.

Best Features to Have on a Travel Credit Card

If you pick the right travel card that best matches your intended usage, you can save quite a bit of money. Here are the main ways to save money on and with a travel card.

The sign up bonus

Look for cards with the best sign up bonus; however be aware of how much you have to spend to get the sign up bonus. On average, the free bonus points are good for a free domestic round trip flight if you meet the spending requirement. Stay away from travel credit cards that have a small or non-existent sign up bonus.

Rewards earned per dollar spent

Look for cards that offer more then the average of one reward point per $1 dollar spent. The co-branded hotels and airlines often offer you 3-5 points per $1 dollar spent on purchases with that specific airline or hotel. Some of the non co-branded cards can also offer multiple points such as the IHG Rewards Club credit card that rewards 5 points for every $1 spent at hotels.

Which card should I get?

This all depends on what your main intentions are. If you are interested in avoiding as many fees as possible go with a credit card that features no foreign transaction fee and no annual fee. If you are more interested on getting the most reward value per $1 spent then go with the types of credit card that offer X number of points for every $1 spent on hotels and things of that nature. If you are interested in a co-branded credit card looking for high reward points go with specialty credit cards that do things such as award X number of reward points for every $1 spent at certain locations or with certain businesses.

Furthermore if you are interested in free flights or flight discounts go with the credit cards that are sold based on their free flight and flight discount offers. For example, some offer you anniversary points every year that accumulate up to free flights. In addition, you get things such as X number of points for every $1 spent on certain flights with certain airlines. It all depends on what benefits you are most interested in receiving.

Annual Fees

Many of the co-branded cards have an annual fee, however if you use the card frequently you will get more then enough value with rewards, which will equate to a lot more then the cost of the annual fee. On the contrary, if you are not a frequent user then go with a travel card with no annual fee.

Foreign transaction fee

Whether you choose a card with a foreign transaction fee or not depends on how often you will use your card in foreign countries. If you do use it in foreign countries there is usually a 3-5% fee on top of the purchase price. If you are spending a lot of money this can add up. However if you are racking up the rewards with a co-branded card it may over ride the costs of the foreign transaction fee and still benefit you.

How to Save Money by Using a Travel Credit Card

Travel credit cards, when used right, can save travelers quite a bit of money. Here are some tips to help you save with them.

If you plan on buying tickets or booking hotels from a specific company often, consider getting a Co-Branded Travel Credit card and put all those purchases (such as airline tickets) on that credit card. You’ll be able to take advantage of extra perks for using that credit card with the company tied to it such as extra air mile bonuses, extra hotel reward points, etc.

To access cash when you travel, use your credit card to withdraw from an ATM. You’ll have access to the bank rate exchange (the best you can get) and you won’t have to pay any ATM fees if you have the right type of card. However, to avoid paying interest on the amount you withdraw, put extra money on your credit card so it has a surplus before leaving home to travel. For example, if you are going to be abroad for two weeks, considering adding an extra 1000 or 2000 onto your credit card so it has this positive balance on it, then withdraw that amount in cash when you are at your location.

Best Travel Cards

Here’s our picks for the best travel cards that are not co-branded. These are more general for people who do not have a favorite destination, travel company or airline.

The Best Travel Cards Winner – For Frequent Travelers

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

You earn a solid 1.5 points for every $1 spent. The offer comes with no limits, and your points may be used for a wide variety of traveling rebates and perks.

Best travel cards for frequent travelers - BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

Benefits

  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you make at least $1000 in purchases in the first 90 days
  • Apply your 20,000 points towards a $200 statement credit towards a travel purchase
  • 0% intro APR. for 12 billing cycles
  • Their regular variable APR is only 15.74% to 23.74%
  • Earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent with no limits
  • Redeem points for statements credit to play for flights, hotels, and travel packages

Pros

  • No annual fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • The points you earn do not expire

Cons

  • If you have excellent credit there are cards with better value
  • It is more of an all-round credit card for travelers

Is this card right for me?

  • Ideal for low/medium spenders
  • Ideal if you want basic card with easy reward system
  • Not ideal for the frequent traveler who repeatedly visit the same place

How will this card save me money?

If you visit the same place repeatedly, then you may be able to save more money with a specialized credit card, such as one that is administered or collaborating with the hotels you frequently use. Otherwise, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card is a strong contender for your custom.

You may earn extra points if you have a Bank of America checking or savings account, and you may increase that bonus further if you are a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client.

Since the points don’t expire, if you spend a lot of money and let the points accumulate, you will have a large amount of points to use for free flights, hotels, and travel packages in general.

The Best Travel Cards Winner – For Moderate Travel Spenders

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

We have featured the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card before on previous reviews because they offer some great deals, but this year they have made our job even easier. Their purchase APR rate has gone down, and their introductory offer of 20,000 bonus miles has bounced up to 40,000. The only downside is that after your first year they are going to start charging you an annual fee of $59. They have even increased the rewards you get per dollar. Last year, they gave you 1.5 points per dollar, and now they are giving you 2 points per dollar.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card bonus offer

Benefits

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months
  • Earn an unlimited 2 miles on all purchases
  • The bonus equals $400 worth of travel

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee
  • A high rate of 2 miles per $1 spent
  • Use the Venture card app to make easy travel purchases

Cons

  • There are no bonus categories
  • The annual fee of $59 starts after the first year

Is this card right for me?

  • Ideal for the average/moderate travelers
  • Not ideal for the frequent flier/travel as there are cards with better value

How will this card save me money?

If you travel two or more times per year, then the rate of 2 points per dollar will soon add up to a reasonable bonus. The annual fee starts after the first year, so make sure you add up how much you spend during the first year to be sure are spending enough on your credit card to earn enough points to cover the annual fee.

If you frequently use your credit card for bills, groceries, gas, online shopping and so forth, then you may as well earn miles on your spending. You need to spend $2459 within a year to earn enough points to cover the annual fee of $59. Spend more than $2459 and you are on a winner, and don’t forget there is no restrictions on what you may spend it on.

A Winner From Last Year – With 2017 Updates

Citi are still offering a very good rewards rate, but as you will see from the updates below, the rewards are not as good as they were. Despite it still being a good card, there are better ones of offer.

Citi Thank You Premier Card

Earn points when you spend money. Points have the highest rate when used for travel purchases.

Benefits

  • Earn 50 000 bonus points after spending your first $3000 in purchases in first 3 months
  • 2017 Update – You now only earn 30,000 points if you spend $3000 within the first three months
  • Earn 3x the points on travel and gas, 2x the points on dining out and entertainment and 1x the points on all other purchases
  • Points have 25% more value when purchased for travel
  • 2017 Update – This is only true if you redeem your points through the ThankYou Travel Center
  • Regular variable APR ranges from 13.99% to 22.99%
  • 2017 Update – Purchase APR is now 15.24% – 24.24% variable

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fees for purchases
  • Points do not expire and are also unlimited
  • Great rewards rate on travel purchases

Cons

  • Has an annual fee of $95 per year
  • 2017 Update – The fee is waived for the first 12 months
  • Limited hotels and flights available

Is this card right for me?

  • Ideal if you have excellent credit
  • Great for travel rebates
  • Not ideal if you stay at specific hotels as they might not be offered with this program

How can this card save me money?

There is a large reward rate for spending at hotels at 3x the points, so pay for your hotel stay with your card and you will quickly accumulate points for some free stays.

A Winner From Last Year – With 2017 Updates

As you will read from the updates added to this entry, a little too much has changed to enable us to define this credit card company as a winner in our best travel credit cards review. In other words, it kinda sucks now. It is still a reasonably good offer for people who already have a banking history with US Bank, but there are better options available for travel hackers.

U.S. Bank Flex Perks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card

This card has a good bonus offer of 20,000 bonus points after you spent $3500 in purchases as well as a yearly 3500 bonus points when you spend $24 000 in a year. 2017 Update – Their bonus offer of 20,000 points still exists, but you now have to spend $2000 within four months, and you only get points for spending money on eligible net purchases.

Benefits

  • Earn two flex points for every dollar spent on gas, grocery or airline purchases
  • Earn 20 000 bonus points after you spend your first $3500 within first four months
  • 2017 Update – You now have to spend $2000 within four months from the date you open your account.
  • Earn 1 flex point for every $1 spent on all other items
  • 2017 Update – It is now only one point per $1 spent on net purchases.
  • Earn triple flex points on charitable donations
  • 2017 Update – You only earn triple points by donating to qualifying charities that the US bank has listed in its terms and conditions.
  • Regular variable APR ranges

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn triple flex points on charitable donations
  • Can redeem points once you reach 20,000 points

Cons

  • Has an annual fee
  • Have to spend big money to earn the yearly bonus

Is this card right for me?

  • Ideal for big spenders who use card for big purchases
  • Ideal for individuals who use card frequently for gas, and groceries
  • Not ideal for individuals who don’t spend large amounts with the card

How will this card save me money?

This card is suited for the big spenders. If this is you will get a lot of value in return. If you spend big throughout the year you will get another 3500 bonus points every year. The intro offer of 20,000 bonus points is enough for a nice trip in itself. 2017 Update – The extra 3500 points offer no longer exists.

Best Co-branded Travel Credit Cards

Sometimes, airlines, hotel companies and travel companies will join forces with credit card issuers. They offer deals and rewards for people who use a certain credit card with a certain company. For example, quite a few of the bigger hotel chains have joined forces with credit card companies so that people may receive discounts on certain hotel stays.

I like to think of these as specialized credit cards because they only offer benefits to a small minority of people. The credit cards we reviewed above are good for just about anybody, but the ones listed below are only good for people who frequently use the services associated with the co-brander. For example, if you use a certain hotel, you gain more points and you get free nights or perks.

The Best Travel Cards Winner – For Starwood Hotels And Resorts

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

You get 25,000 bonus Starpoints if you make £3000 worth of purchases within three months from first opening your account. The first year has no annual fee, but after that, you will have to pay a $95 annual fee. This credit card nearly didn’t make it onto this list because their claims of 5x points, 3x points and so forth are confusing, especially since they make it very unclear what an “eligible” purchase is. However, this card earned its place on our review because it offers a fair few points for each dollar spent, and you have plenty of choice as to where you spend your points.

Benefits

  • The APR rate is between 15.99% and 19.99%
  • There are plenty of hotels to choose from
  • A large starting offer with 25,000 bonus points
  • Join gold member programs to increase your rewards
  • There are no blackout date for free nights

Pros

  • No foreign exchange fees
  • Receive free in-room Internet access at participating hotels
  • Convert your points into free nights at participating hotels
  • Some hotels cost as few as 1500 Starpoints for a night’s stay

Cons

  • There is an annual fee of $95 after the first free year
  • You cannot pay for service or resort charges with your points
  • Their penalty APR lasts for six months
  • What is an eligible purchase and what is not is very unclear

Is this card right for me?

This credit card is best used by people who already spend money in Starwood hotels and resorts, and for people who are SPG members, and for people who spend money in Marriot hotels. You receive more points for spending money in these places and with these businesses.

How will this card save me money?

If you use your credit card frequently and you visit Starwood hotels and resorts more than two or three times per year, then you may save money. The goal is to spend enough so that your rewards points are worth more than the $95 annual fee.

The Best Travel Cards Winner – For People Who Travel Domestically

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Spend $2000 on purchases within three months of opening your account and you get 60,000 bonus points. You get one point per dollar spent on purchases, and they have a starter offer where you get points for balance transfers. You get one point for each dollar of balance transfers you make within the first 90 days of your account being open. The limit for the balance transfer offer is $15,000.

Benefits

  • There are no blackout dates
  • Earn one point per each dollar you spend on purchases
  • Points do not expire so long as your account is open

Pros

  • You get 2x points for purchases with Southwest
  • The APR is between 16.74% and 23.74%
  • They do not apply foreign transaction fees
  • Earn benefits such as your bags flying free

Cons

  • There is an annual fee with this credit card
  • You have to pay the $99 annual fee on your first billing statement
  • It takes up to eight weeks for your bonus points to be applied

Is this card right for me?

It only really benefits people who already use Starwest. Start buying your tickets with your new credit card, and use your credit card through the year to earn more points, and then apply them to your next purchase. If you do not use Starwest at least a few times per year, then this card may not be the one for you.

How will this card save me money?

It suits people who already spend money with Southwest. If you spend a fair amount of money with Starwest over the course of a year, then you get 2x points for your purchases. The points may be used to lower the price of your next purchase with Starwest.

The Best Travel Cards Winner – For People Who Frequently Travel By Train

Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard

The great thing about the Amtrak card is how little they expect you to spend on your credit card before they give you 20,000 bonus points. Spend $1000 within 90 days from when you open your account, and they give you 20,000 bonus points. If you use your card on Amtrak travel, then you get 3x points. You get 2x points for spending on most other types of domestic travel, and 1 point per $1 for any other purchases.

Benefits

  • Amtrak travelers receive bigger points rewards
  • Make purchases on anything for their 1 point per $1 spent rate
  • Book with Amtrak redemption travel to get a 5% points rebate

Pros

  • Receive a companion and one-class upgrade every year you renew your card
  • Earn point on any purchase you make with your card
  • There are no foreign transaction fees
  • There is no limit to how many points you earn

Cons

  • The annual fee of $79 is the only genuine downside
  • It is a MasterCard and is not as widely accepted as VISA

Is this card right for me?

If you frequently travel with Amtrak, then this card is going to pay for itself if you buy your tickets with it. Frequent travelers will easily earn enough points to pay for the annual fee and to enjoy discounts on future Amtrak travel purchases.

How will this card save me money?

Use the card for all your travel purchases, and use it in general, and soon you will earn oodles of points. Use the points to save money on future travel purchases with Amtrak. There is no need to worry about “eligible” purchases, unless your purchase is considered to be a cash advance, such as if you gamble online with your card.

The Winners From Last Year – With 2017 Updates

We spent a lot of time last year trying to find you the best co-branded deals, so we have included last year’s winners into this article, except that they have been updated with the most recent changes and rates.

IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card

One of the reasons we like this card is because it gives you the potential to accumulate points very quickly. Plus, they have a large intro offer where only $1000 needs to be spent to earn a whopping 60,000 points. You have three months to spend your $1000, which is fairly easy if you are a regular credit card user.

Benefits

  • Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at IHG hotels
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on grocery, gas, and restaurants
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $1000 in purchases within first 3 months
  • The APR is between 16.74% and 23.74%

Pros

  • There are over 5000 hotels to choose from
  • They give you an anniversary gift that usually includes a free stay for a night
  • A large introductory offer of 60,000 points
  • Become an elite status member for more rewards
  • Earn reward on a variety of items including groceries and gas which is great value for a travel card
  • Pays a higher rate of points for every $1 spent with their IHG hotels

Cons

  • Has an annual fee, but it is only $49
  • Rewards are limited to IHG and associated purchases

Is this card right for me?

  • It is ideal if you use hotels frequently to allow your to accumulate points quickly
  • Ideal for the average traveler
  • Not ideal for this frequent business traveler and frequent flier

How will this card save me money?

The more you use this card for hotel stays the more points you will accumulate for free hotel stays as you earn 5 points for each $1 that is spent. The intro offer of 60 000 bonus can go a long way with some free travel and vacations just for qualify for the card after spending just $1000 to get those bonus points.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on Delta purchases, if you consistently use Delta, then you get to watch your reward miles accumulate quickly.

Benefits

  • Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1000 in purchases in your first three months
  • 2017 Update – you now have to spend $3000 within the first four months to get 60,000 points
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all Delta purchases with your card, and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases
  • 2017 Update – They only give you one point per dollar for Delta purchases now
  • Regular variable APR of 15.24% to 19.24%
  • 2017 Update – The APR is now between 16.49% and 25.49%

Pros

  • A great introductory offer
  • The highest interest rate you can pay is only 19.24%
  • 2017 Update – This is now 25.49%, which is not so great
  • Free bag check on every Delta flight
  • Earn a $50 statement credit after any Delta purchase on your card within the first 3 months
  • 2017 Update – It is now within the first four months

Cons

  • It has an annual fee of $95 (waived in first year)
  • You need to have excellent credit

Is this card right for me?

  • Ideal if you are a frequent flier
  • Ideal if you are willing to fly with Delta consistently
  • Not ideal if you don’t use the card often

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card

You can earn many free nights with this card, and you get one free night awarded on your card anniversary date

Benefits

  • Earn 50 000 bonus points after you spend $2000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 2017 Update – You now get a whopping 80,000 bonus points for spending $3000 in your first three months
  • Earn 5 points for every $1 spent at Marriott locations
  • Earn 2 points on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and car rentals
  • Get 1 point for purchases anywhere else
  • Regular variable 15.99% APR
  • 2017 Update – The APR is now between 16.74% and 23.74%

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No limits on how many points you can earn
  • Get 1 free nights on your anniversary card date

Cons

  • Has an annual fee of $85
  • You need to have excellent credit
  • Your points will expire if you don’t make a purchase every 24 months

Is this card right for me?

  • It is ideal if you enjoy the Marriott
  • You don’t have to be frequent traveler to benefit from this card

How will this card save me money?

You will receive one free night per year for being a card member. In addition, you will save on foreign transaction fees and frequent stays at the Marriott will help to earn you further free nights at a quicker pace. Even if you don’t spend much money in Marriot hotels, you may still use your card for regular purchases until you have earned enough money to enjoy a free night’s stay in a Marriot.

About The Author

Ben Todd

Ben was a seriously broke graduate student with bad credit who after finding himself rejected for any sort of credit card or loan for most of his adult life, finally decided to get his financial life in order. ‘

He spent several years reading as many financial advice books and blogs as he could.

And suprisingly, Ben found he actually LIKED the topic of personal finance; after fixing his own finances, starting his own successful work at home website business, and using his earnings to get out of debt, created echeck.org to help others do likewise!

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