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Best credit cards to use on ski trips

Oct. 21, 2021
8 min read
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.


Skiing usually makes for an expensive family vacation, and some of the biggest purchases are lift tickets and lessons.

Although $35-plus daily lift tickets still exist out there at some smaller mountains, you can expect to spend at least $100 — to upward of $200 per day — on lift tickets at some of the most prominent mountain resorts in the U.S. One alternative to the hefty per-day costs is a multimountain season pass, such as the Epic or Ikon passes that cost $500 to $900-plus per adult per season.

Need ski school? That runs over $250 per day at major resorts and private lessons are several times that number.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.)

Those are (very) painful numbers for most of us to swallow. The silver lining is that you can earn a whole lot of points on these big-ticket winter vacations with your rewards credit cards.

So, which card is the best one for your ski trip?

Bonus categories for lift tickets and lessons

More kids in ski school means more points. (Photo courtesy of Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Depending on how and where you buy your lift tickets and lessons, the purchases may code differently. Unfortunately, you won’t know how these purchases will code until the charges post. But to help you make an educated guess, here are some ski purchase examples from TPG staffers and readers:

Coded as entertainment

  • Epic Pass.
  • Mountain Collective season pass.
  • Liftopia lift tickets.
  • Breckenridge lift tickets and ski school.
  • Keystone lift tickets, ski school and tubing.
  • Heavenly ski school.
  • Deer Valley lessons and tickets.
  • Crotched Mountain lift ticket.
  • Telluride lift ticket.
  • Vail lift ticket.

Coded as travel

  • Whitefish Mountain advance-purchase lift tickets.
  • Tremblant lift tickets and rentals.
  • Copper Mountain season pass and day lift ticket.

See what we mean by the absence of consistent purchase codes? This is harder than deciding between the Simba and Poppyfields runs at Vail.

Overall best credit card for ski charges

Since ski lift tickets and lessons tend to code either as travel or entertainment, your safest bet is to use a card that offers a flat rewards rate. For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card awards 2 miles per dollar on all purchases.

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(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

It’s also a pretty good card to use for all other purchases on the ground since you know you'll always earn 2x. Capital One Venture miles are transferable to several hotel and airline partners and are currently valued by TPG at 1.85 cents each, giving you a solid return of 3.7%.

If you decide to opt for your Chase Sapphire Reserve and your ski charges post as travel or dining at 3 points per dollar, you could be looking at a return of 6% since Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2 cents each. But if your ski expenses don’t charge in those categories, and instead code as entertainment, you’ll earn just 1 point per dollar. And yes, that happened with me and a pricey Vail ticket when I charged it to my Sapphire Reserve.

(Screenshot courtesy of Chase)

Cards that offer bonus points on entertainment

If you know your ski charges will code as entertainment, the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card both offer bonus points on entertainment. Here are the two cards compared:

CardSign-up bonusRewards rateAnnual fee
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit CardEarn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • 4% back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services.
  • 3% back at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target).
  • 1% on everything else.
$95
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit CardEarn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
  • 3% back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target).
  • 1% on everything else.
$0

The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit 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.

Cards that offer bonus points on on-mountain meals and dining

When you are spending the day skiing or boarding, you will get hungry — very hungry. Sadly, on-mountain meals often come at a pretty steep markup (allow us to recommend the $5 pizza lunch special in Vail). But again, the small upside of higher prices is more points.

Restaurants in Vail can get very expensive. (Photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy)

Although our results are not 100% consistent, most on-mountain dining usually codes as dining/food and drink. We have occasionally seen on-mountain meals code as general merchandise instead of dining, but for the most part, I’d use the card in your wallet that is best for dining. This may be the American Express® Gold Card with 4 points per dollar at restaurants or the Chase Sapphire Reserve with 3 points per dollar on dining.

Cards that offer bonus points on travel

If you know for sure a ski charge will post as travel (and that’s likely with bundled lodging and lift ticket packages), below are the best cards to use for that expense. Another idea to encourage your ski expenses to code as travel is to purchase your lift tickets or passes via Undercover Tourist. They don’t have all ski resorts available, but purchases on that site typically code as a travel charge — we often use them for Disney too.

CardCategory bonus: TravelValue of the rewardsReturn (based on TPG's valuations)Annual fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve3x2 cents6 cents$550
Chase Sapphire Preferred2x2 cents4 cents$95
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card2x1 cent2 cents (up to 3.5 cents with the Bank of America Premium Rewards program)$95

Other cards that offer bonus points for everyday spending

If you aren’t sure how a ski expense will code, using a card that is strong on everyday spending isn’t the worst plan.

CardCategory bonus: All other purchases Value of the rewardsReturn (based on TPG's valuations)Annual fee
The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express2x on the first $50,000 in purchases each calendar year, then 1x2 cents4 cents$0 (see rates & fees)
Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card1.5x1 cent1.5 cents (up to 2.25 cents with the Bank of America Premium Rewards program)$95
Chase Freedom UnlimitedEarn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!2 cents (if you also have a premium Ultimate Rewards card)3 cents (with a premium Ultimate Rewards card)$0

Bottom line

We found that the Capital One Venture Rewards is the overall best credit card for ski trips, thanks to its bonus points on all charges. Although most of our ski-related charges are coded as entertainment, your results may vary based on where you ski and where you purchase your lift tickets, ski school, etc. Of course, any necessary flights and lodging will likely code as travel, or better yet, use your miles and points to get you to the powder and then let your credit card do the rest.

Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Official application link: Capital One SavorOne
Official application link: Amex Gold
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Official application link: Bank of America Premium Rewards
Official application link: Amex Blue Business Plus
Official application link: Chase Freedom Unlimited

For rates and fees for the Blue Business Plus card, click here.

Featured image by 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 premium travel card for value
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

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

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

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 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.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
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 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • 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

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 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.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more