If you’re a frequent traveler, you may be considering a travel credit card to get rewarded for all your flights and hotel stays. Travel credit cards let you earn points for every dollar you spend, and you can use them to pay for flights, hotels, rental cars and other travel-related expenses.
Keep reading to learn how travel credit cards work, and how to find the best travel card for you.
What’s a travel credit card and how does it work?
Travel credit cards are designed for frequent travelers who want to save money on future trips. Every credit card company designs its program a bit differently, but in general, you earn points for every dollar spent on your credit card. Spending on eligible purchases such as airline tickets, hotels and other travel expenses typically earns you extra points.
When you’re ready to redeem all those points, you may be able to apply them directly toward an airline ticket or hotel stay, transfer the points to a partner hotel or airline rewards program, or get a statement credit to cover travel expenses you’ve already made on your card. Your travel and spending can effectively build up to a free trip.
Credible lets you compare credit cards to find one that’s right for you.
Types of travel credit cards
You’ll find several different kinds of travel rewards credit cards, and the best credit card for you will depend on your travel habits.
- Airline credit cards — Airline cards are co-branded by an airline and a credit card issuer. Money you spend can earn you points or miles to be redeemed for free flights on that airline, and you may also get travel perks like priority boarding, booking travel with no blackout dates, waived baggage fees or access to airport lounges. If you typically fly with a single airline, these can be a good option.
- Hotel credit cards — These cards are co-branded by a hotel chain and credit card company. Points add up to free stays, and perks can include late check-outs, free breakfast or room upgrades. If you’re brand-loyal to a particular hotel, these might work for you.
- General travel cards — These cards are issued by a bank or credit card company and aren’t tied to any particular airline or hotel. You’ll earn points that you can redeem for travel expenses with any airline, hotel or other travel provider. You may also get travel perks like Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. If you find yourself using different airlines and hotels, you might choose a general travel card.
How to find the best travel credit cards
As you hunt for the best travel credit card for you, pay attention to these factors.
- Annual fee — Some travel credit cards don’t charge an annual fee, but some may have a fee of $95 to as much as $550. Cards with annual fees typically have better perks and may earn you rewards faster, but you’ll want to be sure you’ll be able to take advantage of them to make the fee worth it. If you’re an infrequent traveler, consider a travel card with no annual fee.
- Sign-up bonus — A travel rewards card will often get you started faster with a certain number of points or credits that you’ll earn if you meet a minimum spending threshold in the first few months of account opening. A more generous sign-up bonus may help you pay for that upcoming trip.
- Reward rates — Different cards offer different rewards programs or ways to earn bonus points for travel expenses, like double points or triple points. A card’s rewards might also include points for non-travel-related bonus categories, like dining purchases or grocery store purchases. You’ll want to evaluate your spending habits and pick a program that fits you best.
- Elite status — Airline or hotel cards in particular may offer cardholders entry into elite programs that offer perks like seat upgrades or lounge access.
- Travel protections — Cards may offer benefits like trip cancellation or interruption insurance, or even rental car insurance.
- Foreign transaction fees — Many travel credit cards don’t charge fees for transactions in other countries. If you travel overseas, make sure the card you choose has this benefit.
- Other perks and benefits — Travel credit cards come with a long list of other perks and premium rewards that vary by card, so see if any pique your interest…Read more>>