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There are lots of great travel rewards credit cards out there, but the reality is that the best one for you is the one that suits your specific travel needs. I review all the details, including bonus offers and perks such as Global Entry fee credits and Priority Pass lounge access. Travel rewards can add up quickly, especially when a welcome bonus is involved, so it’s important to apply and start earning as soon as you can and start maximizing your points and miles! Now, without further ado, here are my top picks for the best travel credit cards.

The Best Travel Credit Cards of 2019: 

Research Criteria

I reviewed numerous travel credit card offers and spent countless hours studying the pros and cons of each offer.  My method to assigning value to these cards relied upon assessing the real value of the sign up bonus, travel perks, APR, annual fees, redemption difficulty, and more. Each points program has its own point valuation, which you can study here. The value of the individual point will always be a very important factor when rating travel credit cards and their promotional offers.

Things to consider before applying:

As always, head to the All Cards Hub to see every credit card currently available. With that out of the way, here are more details about the best travel credit card offers available right now.

Travel Credit Cards: Detailed Assessments

I’ve done lots of research for you, so let’s take a look at the details of each of these cards and offers, including their bonus values and some of the ways I’ve been able to put the cards’ benefits to use.

The Platinum Card from American Express

american express platinum credit card
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Best For: Purchasing airfare, total value

Current Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $1,200

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 5x points on airfare booked directly with the airline or Amex Travel and prepaid hotels purchased through Amex Travel. You can transfer the Membership Rewards points you earn with this card to a total of 20 airline and hotel partners.
  • $200 annual airline rebate for incidental fees
  • Up to $200 in annual Uber credits
  • Up to $100 in credit at Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Rebate for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee
  • Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass lounge access, plus Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta.
  • Terms Apply
  • Read the full card review here.

Annual Fee: $550

Why it’s worth it: As you can see in the chart above, a ton of factors contribute to this card’s overall value; it’s not just the 60k bonus that lands it near the top of this list. But even apart from the $200 annual airline fee credit, the $200 in Uber credits awarded each year, the recently added $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit and the various lounge access options, the Amex Platinum is a stellar premium card that can pave the way to some amazing award flights and other redemptions. Among the Membership Rewards program’s 20 travel partners is Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, which is your only option if you want to book the ultra-premium Singapore Suites using miles. Other highlights include an amazing 5 points per dollar on airfare (equal to a 10% return on these purchases), complimentary Hilton Honors Gold and the ability to add three authorized users for a total of $175.

LEARN MORE: Platinum Card from American Express

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Best For: Those who are new to award travel, an introduction to transferable points.

Current Bonus: 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $1,200

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 2 points per dollar on travel
  • Earn points per dollar on dining
  • Transfer points to 13 travel partners
  • Redeem points for 1.25 cents apiece through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal
  • No foreign-transaction fees

Annual Fee: $95

Why it’s worth it: We’ve long suggested the CSP as a great option for those who are new to earning travel rewards, because it lets you earn valuable, transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points with strong bonus categories and a reasonable annual fee. The card just increased its sign-up bonus from 50,000 points to 60,000 points, so if you’ve been holding out, you’ve been rewarded for waiting. The $95 annual fee is no longer waived the first year, but based on TPG’s valuations the additional 10,000 points are worth $2,000, so it’s still an improvement.

LEARN MORE: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Best For: Hotel elite status

Current Bonus: 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $900

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 14 points per dollar on Hilton purchases
  • Earn 7 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies and at US restaurants
  • Earn 3 points per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Complimentary Hilton Diamond status
  • Enjoy one weekend night each year, plus earn an additional night after you spend $60,000 on the card in a calendar year.
  • Up to $250 Hilton resort statement credit each year of card membership
  • Up to $250 per calendar year in credits for airline incidental fees
  • $100 Hilton on-property credit when you book a two-night minimum stay with the card at HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard
  • Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee: $450

Why it’s worth it: As far as hotel cobranded cards go, this one’s pretty impressive. In exchange for the steep $450 fee, you get generous earning rates at Hilton hotels and a variety of annual travel credits (up to $500 between the airline incidental fee credit and the Hilton resort statement credit, and more if you can utilize the $100 on-property credit for Hilton stays). Beyond that you get a Priority Pass airport lounge membership, giving you and up to guests free access.

LEARN MORE: Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Best For: Travel perks and points earning on travel and dining

Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $1,000

Standout Benefits: 

  • Earn 3 points per dollar on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
  • Redeem points directly through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents apiece
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Priority Pass Select lounge access
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Trip cancellation coverage
  • Primary car rental insurance
  • Read the full card review here

Annual Fee: $450

Why it’s worth it: The Sapphire Reserve won our battle of the premium credit cards for a reason: It offers a stellar selection of perks, from a $300 annual travel credit that can be used toward a wide variety of purchases, to the ability to redeem points for 1.5 cents apiece through the Chase travel portal. Best of all, if you have this card, the Ultimate Rewards points you earn on other Chase cards can also be redeemed at the 1.5-cent rate. You also get an impressive 3x points on travel (after $300 travel credit exhausted) and dining purchases, which equates to a 6.3% return based on my valuations. This card is a prime example of benefits more than making up for a steep annual fee.

LEARN MORE: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Best for: Hotels.com purchases, diversifying your transferable point currencies

Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $700

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 10x miles on Hotels.com purchases at Hotels.com/Venture
  • Earn 2x miles on all other purchases
  • Get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Transfer your miles to a selection of airline partners at a 2:1 or 2:1.5 ratio

Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Why it’s worth it: The Venture Card was already a very strong value proposition with 10x miles at Hotels.com and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee, but now you can also transfer the miles you earn with this card (as well as the VentureOne card and Capital One’s two Spark Miles cards) to 14 airline transfer partners including Avianca, Etihad and Singapore Airlines. The transfer ratio is 2:1.5 for 12 partners and 2:1 for two, meaning for every dollar you spend on this card you’re getting 1-1.5 points or miles with a partner airline. This greatly enhances the potential value you can get with this card, as miles are no longer worth a fixed 1 cent apiece.

LEARN MORE: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

American Express Gold Card

Best For: Dining

Current Bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $700

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 4x points on dining
  • Earn 4x points at US supermarkets, on the first $25,000 spent each year; then 1x
  • Earn 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • Up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold card at participating dining partners
  • Up to $100 annual airline fee credit
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee: $250

Why it’s worth it: Amex revamped its Premier Rewards Gold Card and reintroduced it as the Amex Gold Card, with new bonus categories and a strong focus on dining. With 4x points on dining, the card now offers the most competitive return on dining spending (8% based on our valuations), though you’ll want to use another card to earn bonus points when you eat abroad. The card also earns 4x points on the first $25,000 spent per year at US supermarkets, and 3x points on flights. With this card, Amex finally has a strong option for dining purchases. The annual fee is now $250 and not waived the first year, but thanks to the new earning rates and benefits it could be worth it for you.

LEARN MORE: American Express Gold Card

United Explorer Card

united 77w polaris brian featured Travel credit card
Redeem your United miles for a seat in the carrier’s new Polaris cabin.

Current Bonus: Earn 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months

Current Bonus Value: $520

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.
  • Access to enhanced award availability
  • Priority boarding and a free checked bag for you and one companion on the same reservation
  • 2 United Club passes each year
  • No foreign-transaction fees

Annual Fee: $95 (currently waived the first year)

Why it’s worth it: Just as the Citi / AAdvantage cards make sense if you frequently travel on American, this cobranded option can make your life easier if you often fly with United. This United card is currently waiving the annual fee for the first year, so now could be an ideal time to add it to your wallet, especially because it’s also offering an elevated sign-up bonus of up to 60,000 miles. One of the most appealing benefits is the extra United award seat availability you get access to, letting you book seats that non-card holders can’t. Another solid perk is the ability to waive the Premier-Qualifying Dollar (PQD) requirement for United elite status (excluding Premier 1K) when you spend $25,000 on the card (or across multiple United cards) in a calendar year.

LEARN MORE: United Explorer Card

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Best For: Occasional Marriott stays

Current Bonus: Earn 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $600

Standout Benefits: 

  • Earn 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott hotels
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on all other purchases
  • Receive a free night award every year after your card member anniversary, good for one night at a property that costs up to 35,000 points
  • Automatic Silver elite status
  • Earn Gold status when you spend $35,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • Get 15 elite night credits toward status each calendar year

Annual Fee: $95

Why it’s worth it: If you want a personal Marriott credit card and don’t want to pay the premium annual fee of the Bonvoy Brilliant Amex, the Bonvoy Boundless card from Chase fits the bill — it’s offering a 75,000-point welcome bonus, which gets you $600 in value based on TPG’s valuations.

LEARN MORE: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card

Best For: Frequent Marriott stays

Current Bonus: Earn 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $600

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 6 points per dollar at participating Marriott hotels
  • Earn 3 points per dollar at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on everything else
  • Up to $300 in statement credits each year for Marriott purchases
  • Receive a free night award every year after your card member anniversary, good for one night at a property that costs up to 50,000 points.
  • Complimentary Gold elite status
  • Earn Platinum status by spending $75,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • Terms Apply

Annual Fee: $450

Why it’s worth it: This is the most premium card in the Marriott brand. Previously, it was known as the SPG Luxury Amex, but it’s now the Bonvoy Brilliant, as Marriott’s unified its cobranded credit card lineup. You can use this card to earn Marriott points that can be redeemed at more than 6,000 Marriott properties. The $300 in annual statement credits can be used for room rates as well as incidentals at eligible hotels, and the complimentary Gold status you get as a card holder entitles you to a 25% point bonus, priority late checkout and space-available upgrades to enhanced rooms. Plus, as of Mar. 28, this card added a $100 luxury credit for eligible stays of two nights or more at St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton properties.

LEARN MORE: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Best For: IHG Stays

Current Bonus: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

Current Bonus Value: $600

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 10 points per dollar on IHG purchases
  • Earn 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Get an anniversary free night each year after your account anniversary for properties that cost up to 40,000 points
  • Complimentary Platinum elite status
  • Get a fourth night free on award stays

Annual Fee: $89

Why it’s worth it: You can put that stash of points earned from the welcome bonus to use at the hotel chain’s PointBreaks properties that start at just 5,000 points per night, and you’ll enjoy Platinum elite status during your stays.

LEARN MORE: IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

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.

Know before you go.

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2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.