Going on a road trip? Take these credit cards with you

May 4, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit card information. 


Before the pandemic, many of us took to the skies in order to get to our destination in the most efficient way possible. However, despite more people getting vaccinated and more places opening up for travel, there are still those who are choosing to do more road trips this summer.

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Couple taking selfie on beach with masks on
Many are expected to take to the road for summer travel in 2021. (Photo by Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images)

Despite the circumstances, there still remains something special about jumping into the car for an old-fashioned road trip. However, with such travel comes unavoidable costs in the form of food, lodging, gas, and various miscellaneous expenses (i.e., those must-have roadside souvenirs).

While these costs can put a damper on any trip, using the right credit card can help you maximize your return in the form of valuable rewards. So whether you are just escaping for the weekend or getting your kicks on Route 66, here are the best credit cards to use on your next road trip.

In This Post

Citi Premier® Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: 60,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

Annual fee: $95

Standout benefits: The Citi Premier is the best credit card for road trips, in our opinion. Its earning structure is one aspect where the card really shines. Cardholders earn 3x ThankYou points per dollar spent on the following categories — with no caps or annual limits: Air travel, hotels, gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants (including takeout). The card earns 1 ThankYou point per dollar on everything else. It also comes with a $100 annual credit eligible on a single-stay hotel reservation of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) made through ThankYou.com (available once per calendar year). Combined with a reasonable $95 annual fee, these benefits make the Citi Premier card a must-have for any road tripper.

Read our review of the Citi Premier card.

Application link: Citi Premier card available for 60,000 bonus points. 

Related: The best Citi credit cards of 2020

American Express® Gold Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Welcome offer: 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first six months of membership.

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Standout benefits: This card is one to consider if your road trip involves dining and U.S. supermarkets, thanks to the 4x points earned in those categories (up to $25,000 per calendar year at U.S. supermarkets; then 1x). Dining covers everything from fancy restaurants to fast-food joints; supermarkets can cover those necessary road trip food and supply purchases. Plus, earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Amex Gold card at participating dining partners, including Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, some Shake Shack locations and Boxed.com while on the road. You can also register your card to your Uber account and automatically get $10 in Uber Cash each month, for a total of up to $120 per year to cover Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S. When you book a stay through the Amex Hotel Collection, you’ll receive up to $100 credit toward dining, spa and resort activities at the property. Note that the credit only applies to stays of two consecutive nights or longer. The card has an annual fee of $250 (see rates and fees).  Enrollment required for select benefits. 

Check the CardMatch Tool to see if you may be targeted for a 75,000-point welcome offer (offer subject to change at any time).

Read our review of the Amex Gold card.

Application link: Amex Gold card available for 60,000 bonus points. 

Related: 8 ways to make the most of the Amex Gold card

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Card from American Express

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Welcome offer: 15,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card membership

Annual fee: $95

Standout benefits: For travelers who tend to skip restaurants while road tripping, the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card is an excellent option. For a reasonable annual fee of $95, the card earns 3x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year; then 1x) and 2x points at U.S. gas stations. But what makes this card shine is that you earn 50% bonus points after making 30 purchases in a billing cycle. That makes it a solid road trip option, especially if it’s a longer one. The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred 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. 

Read our review of the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card.

Related: Amex EveryDay vs. Amex EveryDay Preferred: Which Should Be In Your Wallet?

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: 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

Annual fee: $95

Standout benefits: The appeal of the Venture card is its simplicity – it earns a flat 2x miles every time you swipe the card. Those miles can easily be redeemed for future travel-related purchases made on the card during a road trip. Capital One made this card even more valuable by adding four new transfer partners: British Airways, Turkish Airlines, TAP Portugal and Choice Hotels. It also created a new, 1:1 transfer ratio for select partners. Given the fixed value of Venture miles, this amounts to a 2% return on all road trip purchases. So you can rack up the miles when you swipe this card for gas, hotels, fast food, grocery stores, highway tolls and anything else you charge on your road trip.

Read our review of the Venture Rewards card.

Application link: Venture card available for up to 100,000 bonus miles. 

Related: The best Capital One credit cards of 2021

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months from account opening

Annual fee: $550

Standout benefits: The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points for a broad definition of both dining and travel (after using the annual $300 travel credit), which includes everything from hotels and Airbnb bookings to parking and even road tolls. Considering it can be difficult to maintain hotel brand loyalty on road trips (as there are often limited roadside hotel options), the broad application of the Reserve’s travel bonus ensures a return no matter where you choose to lay your weary head.

The Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit applies to a wide range of travel-related expenses and can drastically cut down on road trip costs. In fact, you can use your travel credit on gas and groceries through June 30, 2021. Chase is considering them as eligible purchases – as long as they have full grocery sections (including a bakery and/or deli). You can also use the Pay Yourself Back feature, with each point worth 1.5 cents towards a statement credit used to offset purchases at grocery stores, home improvement stores and dining establishments through Sept. 30, 2021. The Reserve is one of the best rewards cards on the market and is a solid addition to your wallet for any type of travel.

Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve card available for 60,000 bonus points. 

Related: 4 things to do once you get your Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months from account opening. Plus, earn up to a $50 in statement credit towards grocery store purchases within your first year from account opening.

Annual fee: $95

Standout benefits: If the $550 annual fee on the Reserve is a bit too high, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is an excellent alternative, with 2x Ultimate Rewards points for the same broad definitions in dining and travel as the Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, it doesn’t offer bonus points for gas purchases. With only a $95 annual fee, the Sapphire Preferred is a more economical option for those seeking valuable travel rewards.

Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred available for 80,000 bonus points. 

Related: Who should (and who shouldn’t) get the Chase Sapphire Preferred?

Citi Prestige® Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $4,000 with the card within the first three months of account opening

Annual fee: $495

Standout benefits: The Citi Prestige is another solid option for roadtrippers, given its excellent hotel benefits, including 3x points on all hotel purchases. Furthermore, if you plan on staying in one location for an extended period of time on your road trip, the 4th Night Free benefit is one of the best perks on the market. The 5x points earned on dining are ideal when it’s time for a meal and snacks on the road.

Citi is another card issuer trying to help cardholders during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s temporarily expanding the use of the $250 travel credit for use at supermarkets and restaurants through the end of 2020, including online grocery delivery services like Instacart and delivery services such as Grubhub and DoorDash, since they code as dining. The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Read our review of the Citi Prestige card.

Related: Even though the Citi Prestige has lost a lot of benefits, I’m still keeping mine (for now); Here’s why

Chase Freedom Flex

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening

Annual fee: $0

Standout benefits: Earn 5% on the first $1,500 spent on rotating categories each quarter (activation required), with second-quarter 2021 categories include gas (perfect for road trips) and home improvement stores. You also earn 5% on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining (also great for road trips) and drug stores and 1% on all other purchases.

And as part of Chase’s partnership with DoorDash, cardholders get three months of complimentary DashPass, which gets you free delivery on eligible orders and reduced service fees just in case room service isn’t available in your hotel. You must enroll for this perk by Dec. 31, 2021.

If you want to maximize your spending truly, you can pair your Freedom Flex card with another card offering Ultimate Rewards points — the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Ink Business Preferred — and transfer your Freedom cash-back rewards to that card. Even better, the Freedom Flex card has no annual fee.

Read our review of the Chase Freedom Flex.

Application link: Freedom Flex card available for $200 cash back.

Related: Why I switched from the Chase Freedom to the all-new Chase Freedom Flex

Chase Freedom Unlimited

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening

Annual fee: $0

Standout benefits: Using the Chase Freedom Unlimited on your road trip gives you some solid flexibility. Earn 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and drug store purchases, and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases (including gas or a new Spotify subscription to keep you fueled and entertained for your road trip). More importantly, like the Freedom Flex card, you can pair the Freedom Unlimited with an Ultimate Rewards card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, to earn even better redemptions via point transfers. Combine this return with the fact that the Freedom Unlimited is yet another no-annual-fee card and you have an extremely versatile option to cover your road trip costs.

Read our review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Application link: Chase Freedom Unlimited card available for $200 cash back.

Related: The power of the Chase Trifecta: Sapphire Reserve, Ink Preferred and Freedom Unlimited

Citi® Double Cash Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: N/A

Annual fee: $0

Standout benefits: The Citi Double Cash Card offers 2% cash back (1% cash back when you make a purchase and an additional 1% cash back as you pay). For those who value cash back, this card will provide a 2% return on all spending as long as you pay your balance on time. You can even convert your cash back rewards to Citi ThankYou points if you hold the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier card. Combine these perks with no annual fee, and this card is a solid option for roadtrippers who value simplicity and value.

Read our review of the Citi Double Cash Card.

Application link: Citi Double Cash Card 

Related: What credit score do you need to get the Citi Double Cash Card?

Bottom line

While there are many credit cards to choose from when traveling, some are simply better for common road trip purchases than others. With this in mind, the next time you decide to hit the road, make sure to bring at least one of the above cards with you to get the maximum returns on from your adventures.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.

Featured photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.