The Best Credit Cards For Travel Rewards

The Best Credit Cards For Travel Rewards [Best Airline Rewards 2021]

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The Best Credit Cards For Travel Rewards 

Whether you are getting ready to go on a big vacation or are on the road for work, travel can be expensive. In fact, the average cost for a vacation these days is over $4,500 for a family of four. This is likely to do some damage to your bank account.

However, there are some ways to make your money go a little further while you are away. One of these ways is to use credit cards that provide travel awards.  If you’d like to keep travel costs in check the next time you get ready for a trip, you may be able to save some money by using the right credit card.

There are many ways to stretch dollars while traveling. Whether it is being frugal in dining or other activities that interest you, you can also benefit from using a credit card that allows your spending to work for you. Thrift will benefit you while on your travels but we’re going to focus mainly on the best credit cards for travel rewards. 

In addition to travel rewards, there are many other ways that you can leverage your money while you are traveling. This can be done by being smart with your money and planning your expenses ahead before you travel.

It is easy to let yourself go loose financially while on vacation. This can set you up for a rough month or two after your vacation in your effort to get back to where you were before the trip. In order to prevent a morning-after catastrophe, we are going to walk through a couple of the best ways to save money in your travels.

There are several great cards with rewards geared specifically for people who travel. Many of them offer increased rewards for common travel-related expenses, too.

Airline miles are valuable to frequent travelers. Airline miles are programs offered by some credit cards that accumulate points as you spend your credit line on plane tickets. The more you travel, the more points you earn.

Once you accumulate enough points you can either purchase plane tickets entirely with points or get tickets at a discounted rate. 

If you’d like to keep travel costs in check the next time you get ready for a trip, you may be able to save some money with your credit card.

So, if you’re planning to travel soon, here are some of the best credit cards for travel rewards you should check out today.

The Best Credit Cards For Travel Rewards

Max Your Airline Miles With Discover It Miles

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Points (per dollar spent): All Purchases: 1.5x

If you are a frequent air traveler or planning a trip that involves plenty of pricey flights, you should definitely consider getting the Discover it Miles card. This is easily one of the best credit cards for airline rewards. Discover it Miles will reward you 1.5 airline miles for every dollar you spend using the card. Additionally, this card will match all of the miles you earn at the end of the year, doubling your rewards. Also, unlike some other travel rewards programs, the miles you earn with Discover it Miles never expire. 

Since points accumulate over time as you travel, it will only benefit you if you travel often. Say, at least a few times per year. This will make it so that you are able to save up points in order to put it towards a free or discounted flight. Taking the flight price off of a trip is going to significantly reduce your expenses. 

Rack Up Rewards Points With Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Points: Restaurants & Travel: 2x, Lyft rides: 5x

If you’re on the road a great deal for business or pleasure, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card has some of the best overall travel rewards programs out there today. This card rewards you BIG for travel; you’ll earn double points for major travel expenses like airfare and train tickets as well as hotels; you’ll also earn double points for taxi fares and events using Lyft.

Additionally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card rewards users double points for dining out at any restaurant around the world.  This card also has many other great benefits, including trip cancellation insurance, baggage delay insurance, and zero foreign transaction fees. 

This makes this card ideal for someone who does a good amount of travel through public transportation as opposed to air travel. Even those living in a city are likely to be in a good place to utilize this card to your benefit, regardless of travel outside of the area.

With this card, there are also rewards given out for airfare. Cardmembers are getting the benefit of traveling on the ground as well as through the air. Ultimately, this card is an all-around travel card for any city visitor or dweller.

RELATED: HSBC Gold Mastercard Review.

No Annual Fee With The Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Points: Gas & groceries: 5x (up to $12,500 for the first 6 months). Points are multiplied 1.5x when redeemed for airfare

If you want a good travel card that doesn’t hit you hard with high annual fees, you should definitely check out the Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card, with no annual fee and a 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months.

Best of all, unlike many other great travel rewards credit cards, the Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card, offers the same interest-free period on balance transfers. 

Annual fees can be brutal on some cards. In many cases, it isn’t worth it to have to pay an annual fee since there are so many great cards out there that have no annual fee, and this one offers an interest-free period.

The Best Credit Card For Airline Rewards

Do Big Business with the American Express Business Platinum Card

  • Annual Fee: $595
  • Points: All purchases: 1x (1.5x for purchases over $5,000)

If you are looking for a great card to reap travel rewards while you’re on costly business trips, the Business Platinum Card from American Express is a great choice. Business travelers earn five times the points for each dollar spent on travel costs such as airfare and prepaid hotel expenses.

The card also offers one $200 credit each calendar year for airline fees. Additionally, users earn 1.5 points for any purchase on the card that is $5,000 or more, too. Business Platinum cardholders can also make use of a wide network of lounges in many domestic and international airports, an added plus for harried business travelers. While this card has a hefty $595 annual fee, it may well be worth it for business travelers seeking real value while traveling. 

If you are thinking about getting into this card it is very important that you are going to get a return on the annual fee. This means that you are going to want to assess your finances and determine how you need to use this card in order to justify the $595 annual fee. There are certainly other cards out there that are either free or cheaper and offer great benefits, but this card is a higher echelon of business travelers that can benefit from a level of rewards at this cost.

If you are spending thousands of dollars a month on your business travel, the annual fee shouldn’t steer you away if you are going to receive thousands of dollars in rewards per year based on travel expenses required for your occupation or lifestyle. That would mean that you’re seeing a return on the investment for that fee. The bottom line is that this is a card that you need to consider seriously before opening due to the fact that you can hurt yourself if the benefits are not to your advantage. 

RELATED: Wells Fargo Platinum Card Review.

Maximize Student Travel Value with the Bank of America Travel Rewards Visa for Students

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Points: All purchases: 1.5x  

If you’re a student traveling abroad for studies or are conducting field research in multiple locations in a degree program, all of that travel can put a strain on your budget. You can realize real savings and value by using Bank of America’s Travel Rewards Visa for Students. This card offers 1.5 points for every dollar of purchases made using it, plus 25,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 or more on the card during the first 90 days of use. 

This card doesn’t have an annual fee and there are no foreign transaction fees, another reason why it makes great sense to use while traveling. You must be 18 years or older and enrolled in a school or other qualifying study program to be eligible for this card; if you are a student who has to travel occasionally and are looking to build up your credit, you should definitely consider this card. 

It is very beneficial to have a card with no annual fee for students as it’s typical for money to be tight when paying for an education, and one is generally not earning the kind of money they would expect if they were able to focus instead on full-time employment. With that being said, this card makes it easy to use and build credit and enjoy travel benefits while you have little or no income being generated. 

RELATED: The Best Credit Cards For Balance Transfers.

Round out your Spending and Rewards with The American Express Gold Card

  • Annual Fee: $595
  • Points: Restaurants and supermarkets: 4x 

This card is good for travel for a couple of reasons – you earn rewards for travel and dining and the cash back incentive at the beginning is extraordinary. You are awarded 60,000 points if you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 6 months of opening (they are currently running a special boosting the award to 75,000 points). 

After those initial six months, there are still many perks. The one that makes The America Express Gold Card good for travel is the fact that you are awarded 4x membership rewards points on worldwide restaurants and supermarkets in the US. This means that no matter where you travel to, you are going to be granted that high margin of rewards points. There are points rewarded on purchases of airfare as well as transportation services. 

They take it a step further by allowing this multiplication of rewards points on takeout and services like Uber Eats. Amex teamed up with Uber to credit account holders with $10 in Uber credits each month ($120 per year) which can be used for rides or Uber Eats deliveries. And just like restaurants and supermarkets, you’ll earn 4X points when you redeem your Uber credits.    Utilizing this reward pays you back almost half of the $250 annual fee.

Overall, this card is slightly different in the way that the main attraction isn’t points for miles. While those miles are still rewarded, there are more points given out for purchases in restaurants. This will benefit you whether you are across the country or in your hometown. 

RELATED: Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card Review.

Know What You’re Getting withThe Capital One Venture Rewards Card

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Points: All purchases: 2x  

This is another card that is great for all-around purchases, including travel. With the The Capital One Venture Rewards card, you are rewarded 2X miles on every purchase, whether or not it is travel related. The miles on this card never expire and can be redeemed to book travel, including flights, hotels, vacation rentals or car rentals, booked through virtually any website. In addition, points can also be redeemed for cash, gift card or even transfer to Amazon cash. 

Big spenders will be rewarded with the current offer of 100,000 bonus points when you spend $20,000 in the first year. This would be in addition to the 40,000 points earned directly from purchases. The bottom line is that with this card you have a simple rewards program that offers flexible redemption for a modest $95 annual fee. 

RELATED: Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card Review.

Book Your Destination with Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Points: Travel: 5x, Restaurants: 3x, Other purchases: 1.5x 

Right off the bat, this card offers a pretty good deal. If you spend $500 on anything in your first three months, you are given $200 in cash back. In addition to that, you are given a grace period of no interest for fifteen months of account opening. After that, you are going to be working with interest rates which range anywhere from 14.99% to 23.74%. These are pretty standard rates for credit cards. 

In regard to travel, you are rewarded 5% on all travel purchases. This is great because of the flexibility. Whether it is an Uber ride or a plane ride you are going to be earning that 5% on those purchases. In addition to the generous travel rewards, you are also going to be looking at 3% on restaurant or takeout purchases and then a base of 1.5% on all other purchases. 

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card makes it easy to get a generous reward on both travel expenses as well as feeding yourself while you‘re away. 

RELATED: Blue Cash Everyday America Express Credit Card Review.

Other Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Using credit cards to your advantage is a great way to leverage your money while traveling. This can make it so you are generating rewards points or earning cashback while you are away, but why should this stop at credit card rewards? There are countless other ways to save money while you are traveling. 

RELATED: Citi Diamond Preferred Card Review.

Purchase Tickets in Advance

If you are looking to travel a few months down the road, buying your tickets now will give you the simple peace of mind in knowing that the plane tickets are already taken care of.

On top of that, the plane tickets are generally less expensive if you buy them far in advance. The reason behind that is the fact that there likely haven’t been that many tickets sold for that specific flight. With a large supply of tickets, you’ll get a lower price than “last minute” purchases on almost-full flights.

RELATED: Can You Pay A Mortgage With A Credit Card?

Plan Out Your Meals

If you are going for a week-long trip, then you probably aren’t going to want to eat out every night because that will rack up huge expenses. First, check to see if your hotel offers a free breakfast. Many of them do as the cost for breakfast is covered in your bill. This could knock one meal out of each day because it is already paid for when you book the hotel. 

From there, check to see if your room has a mini-fridge and a microwave. While you may not be making seven-course dinners, this is great for storing & heating snacks or leftovers. 

If you rely on restaurants every day of your trip you are going to end up spending a ton of money. Those food purchases can add up quickly and put you in a tight spot with money while you’re away. 

Check for Rental Car Packages

Sometimes you can find a package that offers the plane ticket as well as the car rental for the week. This can make it cheaper overall because you are purchasing them in a package. These packages could offer a percentage discount or a free day of rental. Also, make sure to keep an eye out for rental coupons as those are pretty easy to come by. 

Depending on your plans, renting a car may cost less than relying on Uber for the duration of your trip. You will be able to pay the flat rental fee which will allow you to travel as much as you need to throughout the course of your trip, especially if you have several destinations in mind.

Pack Lightly

Baggage fees are often underestimated when it comes to traveling. It seems as if this is always an afterthought. However, recently airlines have begun to charge for carry-on bags sometimes even at a higher rate than a checked bag. This leads to a mental exercise concerning not only how much to bring, but whether you prefer the convenience of turning your bag in at check-in or the ease of having your items with you when the plane lands, skipping the baggage return area completely.    

Of course, you want to make sure you are properly prepared for the trip with whatever you need. The key here is to bring what you need and not much more. For a casual vacation, you can get away with four or five outfits for a seven-day trip, especially if you have laundry services. If it’s a more formal business trip or convention you’re going to need clean ironed clothes every day and possibly evening attire, in addition to beachwear if you’re lucky enough to take some time for yourself.

Little things like these can add up quickly while you are traveling so it is always important to be mindful of what you are bringing along with you.

RELATED: US Bank Visa Platinum Card Review.

Shop with Intent

While you are on a vacation it is highly likely that you are going to find some exotic or location-specific souvenirs. While this is tempting and often under the guise of bringing home a gift for a loved one, make sure you’re looking at prices and adding them up. In addition, make sure your purchases can fit into your luggage!   

Street vendors tend to have very similar inventory concerning T-shirts, key chains, and mugs and will do very well to bargain with you on the sale price of common souvenirs, especially since the vendor knows the same items can be purchased just a little way down the street.

Even better, natural objects also make great souvenirs. A favorite seashell, twisted driftwood, or piece of broken pottery can be cherished objects to remind you of a special place. 

Parting Thoughts: The Best Credit Cards For Travel Rewards

Things like planning in advance, packing lightly, and making smart rental decisions can go a long way during your trip. If you want to keep your travel costs down and even have a chance at some added perks and benefits, you should definitely get a credit card with a travel rewards program.

Each of the cards discussed here has its own unique benefits, along with some associated costs or limitations. So, take a moment to study all the different travel rewards cards out there, and find the best one for your own personal situation. 

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