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Already booked your holiday travel? Here are the best cards for making your trips more comfortable

Oct. 18, 2022
17 min read
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Maybe you've booked your holiday travel already (if you haven't yet, you should do so ASAP!). If you've got your tickets confirmed and your hotel plans set in stone, there is something you may still need: tips on how to make your trip more comfortable.

This could include anything from zipping through the airport to avoiding crowds, taking advantage of more comfortable seats on your flight and getting freebies and upgrades along the way. Today, let's look at the best credit cards for making your next trip more enjoyable.

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Premium credit cards that improve your travel experience

Having a premium credit card can offer a lot of perks. You can breeze through airport security, skip the line at rental car facilities and wait in comfort at an airport lounge simply by having a premium credit card in your wallet.

Let's look at three popular examples to see how these cards can make your travel experience better.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Those who hold The Platinum Card® from American Express have access to numerous travel benefits to make your next trip more comfortable.

First, you can access a myriad of lounges while waiting for your flight at the airport. These include American Express Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Club lounges (when flying Delta that day), Priority Pass Select lounges, Escape Lounges -- The Centurion Studio Partner, Airspace lounges, Plaza Premium lounges, Lufthansa lounges and other Global Lounge Collection partner lounges (search for locations here). Enrollment is required in advance for some benefits.

The Centurion Lounge at Seattle-Tacoma (SEA). ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

In order to move quickly through security checkpoints, you can receive reimbursement from your Amex Platinum Card when paying for your membership fees to Global Entry, TSA PreCheck and Clear. These programs provide dedicated security lanes, which often mean shorter waiting times. Enrollment is required in advance for these benefits.

You also can make your flights more comfortable thanks to up to $200 in statement credits per year for airline incidentals. You must select a preferred airline in advance, and then you can be reimbursed for expenses like checked bags, preferred seats or even inflight Wi-Fi purchases.

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Related: How to use the Amex Platinum $200 airline fee credit

Amex Platinum cardmembers also have access to Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts and The Hotel Collection and can enjoy up to a $200 annual hotel credit in the form of a statement credit on prepaid Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings with Amex Travel. Note that there is a two-night minimum stay for The Hotel Collection bookings. These programs provide access to high-quality hotels and also allocate benefits like room upgrades, free breakfast or late checkout.

The Park Hyatt Aviara. CHRIS DONG/THE POINTS GUY

Other hotel benefits come in the form of room upgrades and earning points at higher rates, thanks to elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. Amex Platinum cardmembers can enroll for complimentary Gold status in both programs.

To elevate your rental car experience, enroll in elite status in rental car programs including Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive. This will provide benefits like car upgrades, a free second driver and skipping the line when picking up your car — meaning you can head straight to your car and get on the road.

Related: Is the Amex Platinum worth the annual fee?

Plus, if you need a ride to an airport or hotel during your trip, you can take advantage of up to $200 in Uber Cash per year. You can use this for rides or Uber Eats orders in the U.S. by adding your Amex Platinum card as a payment method in your Uber account.

All of these benefits from the Amex Platinum Card come with an annual fee of $695 (see rates and fees).

Official application link: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a slightly lower annual fee ($550) and also comes with numerous perks to make your next trip more comfortable.

Like Platinum cardmembers, Sapphire Reserve cardholders also have access to over 1,300 Priority Pass lounges around the world. They also have access to Chase Sapphire Lounges, coming to nine airports. These will include popular airports like New York-LaGuardia, Boston, San Diego, Hong Kong, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Washington-Dulles.

The Sapphire Reserve card also provides reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or quicker access between the U.S. and Canada through Nexus.

ASPECTS AND ANGLES/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

If you need help securing difficult reservations or booking activities during your trip, Sapphire Reserve cardholders have access to a concierge service to provide assistance.

And those looking for boutique hotel experiences also have access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. These bookings provide benefits like daily breakfast for two people, a $100 on-property credit and room upgrades (when available).

Related: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

While the Sapphire Reserve card doesn't provide credits strictly allocated to airline incidental credits, ride-hailing apps or even elite status, it does have something that can help you with these expenses. Cardholders have up to $300 in annual travel credits that apply automatically to the first $300 you spend in broad travel categories each year. This means you can offset expenses like rides to the airport, airport parking, seat upgrades or even the beachside cabana that requires a paid reservation at your resort.

When renting a car, you'll enjoy complimentary National Emerald Club Executive membership plus benefits with Avis and Silvercar.

Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

With an annual fee of just $395, the Venture X card may seem like a bargain when compared to the Amex Platinum Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, it still comes packed with benefits to make your next trip more comfortable.

Along with access to Priority Pass lounges, cardholders also have unlimited visits to Capital One lounges and Plaza Premium lounges. Lounge benefits also extend to your authorized users, who can also bring two guests of their own — meaning your whole family could access a lounge for free during your next trip.

Capital One Lounge at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW). SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

Venture X cardholders can also enjoy reimbursement for their Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, which can help cardholders move through airport checkpoints much easier.

For rental cars, Venture X cardholders (and Venture X authorized users) enjoy top-tier Hertz President's Circle status. After registering for this benefit, you can enjoy skip-the-line privileges, guaranteed upgrades, the widest range of selection and a free additional driver. Moreover, once you have rental car status with one company, you can use this to match your status to other rental car programs.

Related: Is the Capital One Venture X worth the $395 annual fee?

For other comforts you want to add to your trip, you can take advantage of 10,000 bonus miles on every account anniversary and up to $300 in annual statement credits for travel booked through the Capital One Travel portal. Great uses of these credits would be booking a boutique hotel or even stacking benefits with your Hertz car rentals.

Official application link: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Airline cards that make your flight more comfortable

Breezing through security without the need to take off your shoes or wait in a long line is great. So is waiting comfortably in an airport lounge. However, your trip doesn't end there.

Let's look at how cobranded airline credit cards can make your next flight more comfortable.

WUNDERVISUALS/GETTY IMAGES

A key feature of nearly every airline credit card is getting a free checked bag. This can save you money and also improve your experience at the airport since you won't be carrying as many things through security or onto the plane. You can enjoy a free first checked bag on your flight across a range of credit cards and a range of annual fees. This includes the United Explorer Card ($0 introductory annual fee, then $95), the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card ($550 annual fee; see rates and fees) and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. You can get two free checked bags with premium airline credit cards like the

Many credit cards also extend the checked bag benefits to other people on your same reservation. The number of people covered by this perk depends on the card and can vary widely, however. And while this benefit generally extends to any trip associated with your frequent flyer account number, United Airlines credit cards are an exception. In order to get free checked bags on your United flight, you must pay for the ticket with your United Airlines credit card.

For more details, see the following:

Beyond offering free checked bags, there are other comfort-adding perks you can enjoy from airline credit cards. These include things like priority boarding and access to preferred seats or seat upgrades.

BRENDAN DORSEY/THE POINTS GUY

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is an exception here, as it doesn't provide any type of preferred boarding on Alaska Airlines flights. However, those holding credit cards with American Airlines, Delta Air Lines or United Airlines will enjoy some level of preferred boarding when flying on those airlines. Generally, this means boarding before economy passengers but after passengers in business class or first class. By boarding early, you can have access to overhead storage bins before they're full.

Airline credit cards can also offer you the chance to upgrade to better seats. Aside from using airline credits or travel credits on the premium credit cards discussed above, United and Delta flyers can access preferred seats in other ways.

Those who hold the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex can request complimentary upgrades prior to their flight, potentially moving up to Comfort+ seats. These cardholders receive upgrades ahead of those who hold the same status and seating cabin but don't hold the Reserve card. Those who have the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card can also receive upgrade priority after meeting the Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) waiver requirement of spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year.

With United Airlines, those who hold elite status normally don't receive upgrades on award flights — just on paid flights. However, those who hold a United Airlines credit card with an annual fee can receive complimentary upgrades according to their elite status level even when flying on award tickets. Thus, you could get a roomier seat if you have some type of status with United Airlines — and you can even get that roomier seat on an award flight if you also hold a card like the United Quest Card.

Related: 4 reasons someone in your family needs a United credit card

Hotel cards that improve your stay

When you think about adding comfort to your hotel stays, your first thought probably includes upgraded rooms. However, things like free (or faster) Wi-Fi, free breakfast, free parking and expedited check-in lines can also elevate your stay.

Having the right credit card in your wallet could offer you automatic entry-level status that offers a few extra points and a free bottle of water. But it also might offer top-tier elite status that qualifies you for upgrades to suites and luxury treatment during your stay.

The Gabriel Miami, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. HILTON

Hilton Honors credit cards

If you want top-tier Diamond status with Hilton — which includes perks like suite upgrades based on availability at check-in, lounge access at hotels that have these, bonus points, free breakfast and more — you can get this without the effort of counting your hotel nights every year. Simply holding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card confers Diamond status automatically for as long as your account is open. The card's annual fee is $450 (see rates and fees), but this may be less than what you would spend on the necessary hotel stays to qualify for Diamond status on your own.

The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Another option for Hilton status is carrying the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, which confers automatic Hilton Gold (mid-tier) status. There's an annual fee of $95 (see rates and fees). For this fee, your Gold status will confer benefits like bonus points on paid stays, room upgrades (but not suites) based on availability at check-in and either food and beverage credits or free breakfast, depending on the hotel.

Related: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you

IHG One Rewards credit cards

If you're looking for elite status with IHG One Rewards, you can receive complimentary Platinum Elite status (the third-highest of the four tiers) pretty easily. Cardholders of the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card receive Platinum Elite status automatically for as long as they hold the card, which has a $99 annual fee. Platinum Elite status offers benefits like bonus points on paid stays, upgraded rooms (including suites at some properties), welcome gifts of points or snacks and discounts on reward nights.

Related: IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card review

IHG's Atwell Suites Miami Brickell. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

Marriott Bonvoy credit cards

For those wanting elite status with Marriott Bonvoy, you can unlock Platinum Elite status simply by having the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. This status offers benefits like bonus points on paid stays, welcome gifts (which can range from points to free breakfast), lounge access at hotels that have these and upgrades to suites, based on availability at check-in. These benefits come with an annual fee of $650 (see rates and fees) on this card.

The next status tier below Platinum is Marriott Bonvoy's Gold Elite status. There are two personal credit cards that offer this status simply by holding them in your wallet: the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful credit card. Both cards carry an annual fee of $250 (see rates and fees of the Bonvoy Bevy card). Gold status provides benefits like enhanced internet speeds in your hotel room, upgrades to preferred rooms when available at check-in, late checkout and a welcome gift of bonus points.

The information for the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Which Marriott credit card is right for you?

World of Hyatt credit cards

It's also possible to gain elite status with World of Hyatt by holding a credit card. However, you'll only gain entry-level Discoverist status by holding the World of Hyatt Credit Card, which has an annual fee of $95. Discoverist status offers benefits like space-available upgrades to preferred rooms — such as a preferred location within the hotel or a nicer view — complimentary bottled water each day during your stay, premium internet access and late checkout.

Hyatt elites also can match their status to MGM Rewards, gaining Pearl status at this level, and can enjoy benefits from Hyatt's partnership with American Airlines. This will include earning Hyatt points for spending money on AA flights.

Related: ‘One of the most valuable hotel cards’: A review of the World of Hyatt Credit Card

The swimming pool at the Park Hyatt New York. HYATT

Bottom line

As you can see, there are multiple credit cards that can make your next trip more comfortable. From better seats on your flight to better rooms at your hotel and better experiences at airport security, what you hold in your wallet could elevate your next trip and remove stress points.

Premium credit cards can offer a range of perks and help you skip the lines at multiple points in your journey. Airline credit cards can offer perks like free checked bags, better seats and priority boarding. And hotel cards can get you free breakfast, room upgrades and late checkout.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Reserve card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Aspire card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Surpass card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy Amex card, click here.

Additional reporting by Summer Hull and Stella Shon.

Featured image by BARCROFT MEDIA/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023