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Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards Of September 2020

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I cover travel and personal finance topics for millennials.
Caroline Lupini
Advisor
Caroline Lupini is the Credit Card and Travel Analyst for Forbes Advisor. She's a credit card enthusiast and digital nomad who has leveraged credit cards to travel around the world for next to nothing, often in style
Editorial Note: Forbes may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn't affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.

Thanks to the internet, and in particular, Instagram, travel hacking is all the rage. With bloggers stealing headlines for snagging free around-the-world flights with miles, it might seem like the points game is just for the most frequent of flyers.

Guess again. If you have a decent credit score, you too can snag free flights and upgrades.

Now, a word to the wise. Travel rewards cards come with hefty fees and high rates. If you’re bad at paying bills on time or often carry a monthly balance, a travel rewards card may not be for you.

Here’s our guide to the best travel rewards cards for your particular spending habits and travel interests. Note that specific deals often change seasonally, so make sure to confirm specific rates, rewards and other terms before selecting your card.

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Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Our ratings take into account the card’s rewards, fees, rates along with the card’s category. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.
Featured Credit Card Featured Card

Best for Lounge Access

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Up to 5X Reward Rate
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American ExpressRead More
Welcome Bonus
60,000 Membership Rewards® Points
Annual Fee
$550
Regular APR
See Pay Over Time APR
Credit Score
Excellent/Good (700 - 749)

Best for Lounge Access

The Platinum Card® from American Express
Click Here To Apply Now

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Apply Now
On American Express's Secure Website
See Rates & Fees / Terms Apply
Partner Offer
On American Express's Secure Website
Partner Offer

The Amex Platinum Card® is destined for frequent travelers who intend to fully leverage the rich set of luxury travel benefits and Platinum Concierge service. In the right hands, the classic status card's staggering $550 annual fee is well justified.

Pros

  • Excellent luxury travel benefits
  • Complimentary Gold Status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors
  • Earn 5x points on travel

Cons

  • High minimum payment for Pay Over Time option
  • No default option to carry a balance on purchases
  • Very high annual fee with no first-year waiver
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,000 properties. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months
Our ratings take into account the card’s rewards, fees, rates along with the card’s category. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

[back to summary]

Featured Credit Card Featured Card

Best Sign Up Bonus

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Up to 3X Reward Rate
Earn 3X points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel,Read More
Welcome Bonus
New Offer! Earn 100,000 bonus points
Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
15.99%-20.99% Variable
Credit Score
Excellent Credit (750 - 850)

Best Sign Up Bonus

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Click Here To Apply Now

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Apply Now
On Chase's Secure Website
On Chase's Secure Website

Frequent business travelers who spend generously within the bonus categories will find extreme value in this card.

Pros

  • Remarkable welcome bonus
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Free cards for employees
  • Rewards for common business expenses

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Very high cash advance fee
  • Very high balance transfer fee
  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases – with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don’t expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee
New Offer! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Our ratings take into account the card’s rewards, fees, rates along with the card’s category. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.
Featured Credit Card Featured Card

Best Airlines Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Up to 2X Reward Rate
Earn 2X points per $1 spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rentalRead More
Welcome Bonus
Earn 40,000 points
Annual Fee
$149
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
Credit Score
Excellent/Good (700 - 749)

Best Airlines Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Click Here To Apply Now

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Apply Now
On Chase's Secure Website
On Chase's Secure Website

Southwest's highest level rewards card is an excellent value for their frequent flier set. Its set of rewards and perks, including a $75 annual travel credit, easily offsets the annual fee — plus your purchases earn tier qualifying points toward A-list status.

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Outstanding welcome bonus
  • Earn points toward A-list status
  • Unlimited rewards seats

Cons

  • High regular APR
  • No intro APR offer
  • Rewards flights only available on Southwest, no partner airlines
  • $149 annual fee
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary each year.
  • $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases and your points never expire.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
Our ratings take into account the card’s rewards, fees, rates along with the card’s category. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

[back to summary]

Featured Credit Card Featured Card

Best Travel Rewards Card for Frequent Travelers

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Up to 3X Reward Rate
Earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit; Earn 3X pointsRead More
Welcome Bonus
50,000 points
Annual Fee
$550
Regular APR
16.99%-23.99% Variable
Credit Score
Excellent Credit (750 - 850)

Best Travel Rewards Card for Frequent Travelers

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Click Here To Apply Now

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Apply Now
On Chase's Secure Website
On Chase's Secure Website

This card offers superior points earning rates if you spend frequently on travel and dining out. The $300 travel credit will offset much of the annual fee, and redeeming points for travel on Chase Ultimate Rewards nets you a 50% bonus.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Point transfers to airline and hotel partner programs
  • Up to 3x rewards
  • Welcome bonus

Cons

  • High regular APR
  • High annual fee of $550, not waived in first year
  • No intro APR offer
  • Requires excellent credit
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Our ratings take into account the card’s rewards, fees, rates along with the card’s category. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.
Featured Credit Card Featured Card

Best Co-Branded Loyalty Program

United℠ TravelBank Card

Up to 2% Reward Rate
Earn 2% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United; Earn 1.5%Read More
Welcome Bonus
$150 in United TravelBank cash
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Credit Score
Good/Excellent (700 - 749)

Best Co-Branded Loyalty Program

United℠ TravelBank Card
Click Here To Learn More

United℠ TravelBank Card

With its simple and respectable rewards rates, plus Visa Signature benefits, casual fliers who are loyal to United will find value in United's only card with no annual fee.

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee
  • 2% rewards rate on tickets purchased from United
  • 1.5% flat rewards rate on all other purchases

Cons

  • High regular APR
  • Rewards points are only redeemable for United flights
  • TravelBank cash is less valuable than United Miles
  • $150 in United TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 2% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased from United
  • Earn 1.5% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food and beverages onboard United-operated flights, when you pay with your United TravelBank Card
  • TravelBank cash is easy to use. $1 in TravelBank cash = $1 when used toward the purchase of a United ticket
  • $0 Annual fee
$150 in United TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Our ratings take into account the card’s rewards, fees, rates along with the card’s category. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

[back to summary]

Featured Credit Card Featured Card

Best No Annual Fee Credit Card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Up to 3X Reward Rate
Earn 3X points on eating out and ordering in; Earn 3X points on gas stations,Read More
Welcome Bonus
20,000 points
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.49% - 24.99% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Credit Score
Good/Excellent (700 - 749)

Best No Annual Fee Credit Card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Considering that there's no annual fee, cardholders gain access to 3x points reward rates across an impressive range of spending categories.

Pros

  • Option to transfer points to other Wells Fargo cards
  • 3x points reward rate on several spending categories
  • Points don’t expire

Cons

  • Low 1x points reward rate on non-bonus categories
  • No points transfer partners
  • No bonus points reward rate for groceries
  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – a $200 cash redemption value
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign currency conversion fee
  • Earn 3X points on eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points on flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 3X points on gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points on popular streaming services
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • No limit to the points you can earn
20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – a $200 cash redemption value
Our ratings take into account the card’s rewards, fees, rates along with the card’s category. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.
Featured Credit Card Featured Card

Best for Budget Travelers and Students

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Up to 6x Reward Rate
Earn 6X points on purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties worldwide; earn 3X points onRead More
Welcome Bonus
75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points
Annual Fee
$450
Regular APR
15.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases
Credit Score
Good/Excellent (700 - 749)

Best for Budget Travelers and Students

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Just a few Marriott stays per year is enough to offset the $450 annual fee via the $300 annual hotel credit and free night. The complimentary Gold Elite status, lavish Bonvoy perks, and substantial welcome bonus add sweetness to the deal.

Pros

  • Annual Free Night Award
  • Complimentary Bonvoy Gold Elite status
  • 15 annual Elite night credits
  • $300 annual Marriott Bonvoy credit

Cons

  • The APR on purchases can exceed 24%, depending on your creditworthiness
  • Very high annual fee
  • No introductory APR offer
  • Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • 6X points on purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties worldwide
  • 3X points on U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2X points on all other purchases
  • $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy properties
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status
  • Priority Pass membership
Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
Our ratings take into account the card’s rewards, fees, rates along with the card’s category. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

[back to summary]

Here's a summary of the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Credit Card
Best For
Credit Score
Annual Fee
Welcome Bonus
All-Around Best Travel Rewards Card
Excellent/Good
$95
80,000 bonus points
Best No-Categories Travel Card
Good/Excellent
$95
Earn 100,000 miles
Best for Lounge Access
Excellent/Good
$550
60,000 Membership Rewards® Points
Best Sign Up Bonus
Excellent Credit
$95
New Offer! Earn 100,000 bonus points
Best Airlines Credit Card
Excellent/Good
$149
Earn 40,000 points
Best Travel Rewards Card for Frequent Travelers
Excellent Credit
$550
50,000 points
Best Co-Branded Loyalty Program
Good/Excellent
$0
$150 in United TravelBank cash
Best No Annual Fee Credit Card
Good/Excellent
$0
20,000 points
Best for Budget Travelers and Students
Good/Excellent
$450
75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

It’s hard to pick the “best” travel credit card. What’s best for one person might not be best for another. A lot depends on how frequently you travel, if you are loyal to a single airline or hotel, and your non-travel purchases on a credit card. With those caveats aside, we think the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best all purpose travel credit card.

You earn two points per dollar spent on travel and dining. You also earn a 25% bonus when you use the points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The card also offers lost luggage insurance, travel insurance and one-to-one point transfers to its partner hotel and airline programs.

New card members can also Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The card does charge a $95 annual fee, but it’s worth it if you travel even a modest amount each year. For more frequent travelers, check out the Chase Sapphire Reserve® later in this article. You can read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred here.


Venture® Rewards from Capital One® *

For those looking for simplicity without sacrificing rewards, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card* is the answer. You’ll earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on all purchases. There are no categories to remember or spending caps.

Here it’s important to understand how Capital One miles work. While you earn 2 miles for every $1 spent, the value of the miles depends on how you use them. If you use them to pay for travel purchases you’ve made with the card, they are worth one cent, making it a 2% rewards card (remember, you earn 2 miles for every $1 spent). Use them for anything else, however, and they are worth half as much.

New cardmembers also can Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. If used for travel, the bonus is worth up to $1,000. You also receive a credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fee.

The annual fee is $95.


The Platinum Card® from American Express

Some get into travel rewards for the free flights or hotel rooms while others get into the game for lounge access. For consultants and road warriors who spend lots of time in airports, relaxing before a flight in a private area with free food and WiFi is worth an annual fee. And the best card for lounge access, whether domestically or internationally, is The Platinum Card from American Express.

With the card, you have access to the card’s own Centurion Lounges, International American Express Lounges, as well as hundreds of others through partnerships with Priority Pass, Plaza Premium, Air Space and Escapes. Card holders can also use Delta Sky Club lounges when flying on that airline.

Domestically, airlines have made it more difficult in recent years to garner lounge access through their networks using the Priority Pass. But if you make a point of flying on Delta or through airports that have Centurion Lounges (examples: Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and San Francisco International Airport), it shouldn’t be a problem.

You can also supplement your Platinum Card and sign up for LoungeBuddy, an app that maps airline lounges around the world and offers access for around $35 a pop.

Of course, the The Platinum Card® from American Express offers more than lounge access. You can also Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. In addition, the card offers a laundry list of rewards:

  • Up to $200 a year in Uber credits
  • 5x Membership Rewards Points on flights booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel
  • 5x Membership Rewards Points on hotels booked on amextravel.com
  • Up to $200 airline fee credit
  • Fee credit for GLOBAL ENTRY or TSA PRE✓

These rewards don’t come cheap. The card charges a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees). You can read our full review of the Platinum Card from American Express here.


Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Although points per dollar spent is an important factor to look at when deciding on a rewards card, there are some who say nabbing a card is all about one thing: the sign-up bonus.

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is a card that typically offers one of the best sign up bonuses – New Offer! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Points can be spent directly on travel (in that case they’re worth 1.25 cents apiece) or converted to airline miles or hotel points, where the potential value is higher. You can read our full review of the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card here.

However, sign up bonuses for cards change seasonally. If you have a particular card in mind that fits your spending habits, it might make sense to shop around. Typically, the best offers for airline cards are in November, while hotel cards make their best offers in August.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

To be honest, there’s some debate among the Forbes Money Advisor staff on the best airlines and co-branded cards. That being said, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card should make the top of any list.

To start, you can Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Unlike many other frequent flyer programs, how many points it takes to fly for free on Southwest varies based on the cash price of the ticket.

Beyond the bonus, you’ll earn 2x points on all Southwest purchases and 1x point on all other purchases. Southwest adds another 7,500 point bonus on each card anniversary. You’ll also get an annual $75 travel credit and four upgraded boardings per year.

There is a $149 annual fee.


Chase Sapphire Reserve®

If you’re not committed to one airline or hotel group, the Chase Sapphire Reserve makes our list as the best travel card for frequent travelers. It offers a big sign-up bonus, select lounge privileges and an awesome points-per-dollar conversion.

You earn three points per dollar spent on travel and dining. You also earn a 50% bonus when you use the points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The result is a 4.5% rewards structure on all travel and dining purchases. The card also offers lost luggage insurance, travel insurance and one-to-one point transfers to its partner hotel and airline programs.

New card members can also Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® If used for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, these points are worth $750.

The card does charge a $550 annual fee. While steep, it is partially offset by a $300 annual travel credit and the $100 Global Entry waiver. You can read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.


United℠ TravelBank Card *

If you’re interested in the travel rewards game for the perks, getting a co-branded loyalty card is probably the best option for you. Many travel hackers will have one card that they use to accrue points and then one that they use for a specific loyalty program.

Different cards offer different perks. In general, however, when you cut through all the details, their benefits are pretty similar.  So if you are already loyal to one airline or hotel group, choose that company’s card. Here’s a list airline miles cards to consider. Typical perks for airlines include free luggage check, lounge access and upgrades, while typical perks for hotels include complimentary breakfast and WiFi, free nights and upgrades.

See: The Best Ways To Use Your Miles

All of these will depend on what level of card you qualify for as well as how much you’re willing to pay in annual fees, so consider what the perks are worth to you personally.

That said, if we had to pick the best no fee co-branded loyalty program card, we’d go with the United TravelBank Card*. You earn 1.5% on all purchases (2% when used to purchase United Flights). Moreover, the rewards come in the form of cash, not points or miles. While this eliminates the chances of finding redemption options that could result in high reward rates, we like the simplicity.


Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card *

Although it is important to look at annual fees, when it comes to choosing among travel rewards cards, the annual fee generally should not be a deciding factor. Oftentimes, an annual fee is offset by other benefits, such as travel vouchers or lounge access.

However, if you don’t want to pay an annual fee or can’t afford one, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is a good option. It currently offers 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – a $200 cash redemption value. Although, it will offer a 50,000 point bonus from time to time. Cardholders also get three points per dollar on dining, travel, gas and select streaming services. You can read our full review of the Wells Fargo Propel Amex Card here.


Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card *

Although it is important to look at annual fees, when it comes to choosing among travel rewards cards, the annual fee generally should not be a deciding factor. Oftentimes, an annual fee is offset by other benefits, such as travel vouchers or lounge access.

However, if you don’t want to pay an annual fee or can’t afford one, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is a good option. It currently offers 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – a $200 cash redemption value. Although, it will offer a 50,000 point bonus from time to time. Cardholders also get three points per dollar on dining, travel, gas and select streaming services. You can read our full review of the Wells Fargo Propel Amex Card here.

When we think of travel rewards programs, we often have in mind a consultant who racks up miles on weekly cross-country business flights. But the truth is, anyone can get into the reward points game.

“If you’re a backpacker or budget traveler, the number one thing you can do to save money on travel is to start collecting points and miles,” says Matt Kepnes, the budget travel guru behind Nomadic Matt. “Every time you spend money, you have a chance to collect travel points. Over time, those points add up to free flights, free hotel stays, and much more.”

The go-to card for budget travelers is Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. Points earned can be transferred to more than 40 airlines. The card also offers a hefty welcome bonus, but does come with a not-so-budget $450 annual fee.


Frequently Asked Questions

How many miles do you need for a free flight?

The number of miles you need for a free flight depends on different factors including which airline miles you are using, where you are flying to and from, when you are traveling and other factors. Domestic flights in the U.S. will generally require fewer miles than an international flight. Typically, count on spending between 4,000 and 20,000 miles for a domestic one-way flight in economy.

Long-haul international flights can cost quite a bit more. Plan on spending between 20,000 to 30,000 miles each way to fly to Europe and even more for flights to Asia, Africa, and Oceania.

Don’t forget to consider the cost of checked bags and fuel surcharges before booking your ticket.

What’s better: cash back or travel rewards?

Whether you should earn cash back or travel rewards depends on your personal preferences including when and where you want to travel, how much work you want to put into a redemption and how often you want to be able to use your rewards. As a general rule, using cash back rewards for travel-related purchases would be unwise. Travel rewards typically offer a higher rewards rate for travel-related purchases then a typical cash back rewards card.

The inverse is also true. If you are using a travel rewards credit card and redeeming your points for statement credit, you are typically losing out on a higher rewards rate than if you had used a cash back card instead. Therefore, if you’re a frequent traveler, choose a travel rewards card. If traveling is not your thing, a cash back rewards card would be a wiser choice.

Keep in mind, you can have both types of cards in your wallet.

Are travel rewards credit cards with an annual fee worth the cost?

Credit cards with annual fees typically are packed full of benefits that can make paying the annual fee worthwhile as long as you use the benefits offered. Before applying for a card with an annual fee, and regularly while you have the card, look at the benefits that you actually use and weigh those benefits against what you are paying to keep the card open.

How do travel rewards credit cards work?

A travel rewards credit card accrues miles or points for each purchase made with the card. Often, these cards have an enticing sign-up bonus that typically requires spending a certain amount of money within a specific time period after opening the card. After earning miles or points, there are typically a few redemption options including redeeming for airline tickets, gift cards or statement credits. As a general rule, redeeming miles and points for travel will result in the most value.

Why types of travel cards are there?

There are two types of travel credit cards.

Branded credit cards are specific to one airline or hotel chain. They typically offer less flexible rewards but sometimes offer greater value, especially when considering additional perks of the card like free checked bags or complimentary elite status.

Non-branded travel cards typically offer more flexible rewards that can either be transferred to a number of different airlines and hotels or redeemed at a fixed cash-value for travel, gift cards, and/or statement credits.

It makes sense to consider the rewards rate, additional perks, you travel patterns and your goals before determining if a branded or non-branded credit card is the best choice for you. It could also make sense to have one (or multiple) of each.

What credit score do you need to get a travel rewards credit card?

A travel rewards credit card will typically require good to excellent credit in order to qualify. Plan to have a credit score of at least 700 to get approved by the top credit cards on the market. Some of the top travel cards on the market might even require applicants to have a credit score of 720 or higher.


Conclusion

Whatever card piques your interest, make sure to do your research and double-check the fine print. A big part of the rewards game is deciding which card will offer the biggest benefit to you personally. That means you should consider not only how much you spend on travel, but also where you go and how you get there.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, please visit this page.


Other Credit Cards To Be Considered

Forbes adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. To the best of our knowledge, all content is accurate as of the date posted, though offers contained herein may no longer be available. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and have not been provided, approved, or otherwise endorsed by our partners.
Credit Score ranges are based on FICO® credit scoring. This is just one scoring method and a credit card issuer may use another method when considering your application. These are provided as guidelines only and approval is not guaranteed.
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months
New Offer! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
$150 in United TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – a $200 cash redemption value
Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
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