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Most of us can’t afford a multi-million dollar luxury house or a $100,000 sports car, but a $450 or $550 annual fee for a premium travel rewards card could be within reach — and entirely worth the splurge. And unlike with many luxury goods, the benefits you’ll receive from these cards can easily outweigh their costs.

In today’s post, I want to take a close look at the best premium travel cards available in 2017, so you can find out which one might be right for you.

In This Post

What makes a travel rewards card “premium”?

In recent years, credit card issuers have bunched nearly all of their cards around three price points. There are cards with no annual fee and cards with fees from $49 to $200, with the majority charging $95-$99 per year. Nearly all premium travel rewards cards — including all those featured in this post — fall into the highest pricing group, and most have an annual fee of $450 (with no foreign transaction fees).

When choosing a card with such a high annual fee, you should expect at least some of the following features:

  • Airport lounge access — With a premium travel rewards card, you pretty much always receive some form of airport business lounge access. However, the specific rules, such as whether your access includes authorized cardholders or guests, vary from card to card. Premium cards from American, Delta and United offer membership in their respective lounge programs, while other cards feature a Priority Pass Select membership, which grants you access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world.
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credits — Most premium reward cards will offer a statement credit to cover either the $100 application fee for the Global Entry program or the $85 fee for the TSA PreCheck program. Cardholders can receive this statement credit once every five years (or every four years with Amex Platinum and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card).
  • Travel statement credits — Many premium travel rewards cards come with $200 to $300 in annual statement credits toward travel expenses. Be sure to pay attention to the details of these offers, as each card has different terms for qualifying purchases.
  • Additional travel insurance policies — Nearly all travel rewards cards come with at least some basic travel insurance coverage, and a premium card offers additional policies that can cover travel disruptions, luggage delays and even medical evacuations.
  • Elite status — Premium credit cards that are co-branded with an airline can offer elite-qualifying miles that count toward earning status — usually awarded after you meet a certain spending threshold on the card. In addition, a premium travel rewards cards can offer elite status with hotel chains and/or rental car programs.
  • Hotel programs — Expect your premium rewards card to offer a hotel program that gives you benefits when you book paid stays through its travel agency. Perks could include room upgrades, free breakfasts and credits toward dining and spa services at the property.

Now that you know what types of benefits to expect from these high-end cards, let’s dive into the list of our top picks.

Best Premium Credit Cards

1. Citi Prestige
2. Platinum Card from American Express
3. Chase Sapphire Reserve
4. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
5. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
6. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
7. United MileagePlus Club Card

1. Citi Prestige

Annual fee: $450

Current bonus: Currently, none.

Rewards: 3 ThankYou points per dollar spent on air travel and hotel purchases, 2 points per dollar on dining and entertainment and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Airport lounge access: This card offers a Priority Pass Select lounge membership with unlimited complimentary access for the primary cardholder and all authorized cardholders. In addition, both primary and authorized cardholders can bring in two guests for no additional charge.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credits: Yes, in addition to the travel statement credit.

Travel statement credits: $250 annual air travel statement credit will automatically be applied to flight-related expenses charged to your card, including airline tickets, baggage fees and upgrades.

Additional travel benefits and insurance policies: The Citi Prestige offers one of the most comprehensive sets of travel insurance benefits among all premium cards. It includes travel and emergency assistance, trip cancellation and interruption protection and trip delay protection. You also receive both lost baggage and baggage delay protection. Finally, it covers medical evacuation and roadside assistance at no cost for most minor services.

Elite status: This card doesn’t offer any elite status benefits.

Hotel perks: This card features a fourth night free when you book four consecutive nights through its travel service. For reservations made on or after July 23, 2017, the benefit will be calculated as the average nightly rate of your total stay, not including taxes.

Additional cardholders: $50 per additional authorized cardholder per year

2. Platinum Card from American Express

The Amex Platinum card gets you access to Centurion Lounges, with locations including Las Vegas (LAS).

Annual fee: $550

Rewards: 5x points on flights and hotels booked directly with American Express Travel, 2x points for other travel services booked through American Express Travel and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Current bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 within three months of account opening.

Airport lounge access: You get Delta Sky Club access when you have a same-day ticket on Delta (just for the cardholder; there’s a $29 charge for each guest). The card also offers Priority Pass Select membership (with two free guests). Finally, you receive complimentary access to American Express Centurion lounges (for the cardholder and up to two guests).

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credits: Yes, in addition to the travel statement credit.

Travel statement credits: $200 annual air travel credit which is good for most non-ticket airline purchases such as seat assignment fees, change fees, and in-flight food and beverage. You also get $200 in annual Uber ride credits and Uber VIP status.

Additional travel benefits and insurance policies: This card offers relatively few travel-specific insurance policies. You get travel accident insurance, a baggage insurance plan and complimentary roadside assistance up to four times per year for minor services.

Elite status: Cardholders receive Gold elite status with Hilton and Starwood hotels as well as status with Avis, National and Hertz.

Premium hotel programs: Cardholders receive access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which offers perks like free nights, complimentary breakfasts, late checkouts and resort credits.

Additional cardholders: There’s a $175 total charge for up to three additional authorized cardholders each year.

3. Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Sapphire Reserve earns an outstanding 3x points on travel and dining purchases.

Rewards: This card offers 3x points on all travel and dining purchases, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Current bonus: 50,000 points after new cardholders spend $4,000 within three months of account opening.

Airport lounge access: You receive a Priority Pass Select membership that includes guest access. However, individual lounges may have their own, more restrictive guest policies.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credits: Yes, in addition to the travel statement credit.

Travel statement credits: You receive an annual $300 statement credit that automatically applies to all travel charges.

Additional travel insurance policies: This card includes baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and trip delay reimbursement. Emergency evacuation and transportation coverage are also provided.

Elite status: You receive status with National and Avis car rentals, and a discount code worth 30% off of Silvercar rentals.

Premium hotel programs: The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection offers room upgrades, early check-in and other special cardmember-only amenities.

Additional cardholders: Each additional cardholder is $75 per year.

4. Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card

Enjoy on-property credits and Club Level upgrades with the Ritz card. Image courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan.

Rewards: Earn 5x points at Ritz-Carlton Rewards, Marriott Rewards and SPG hotels, 2x points on airline tickets purchased directly from the carrier, car rentals and at restaurants and one point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Current bonus: Two free nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after spending $4,000 within three months after account opening. You can also earn 10,000 bonus points after adding an authorized user who makes a purchase within the same three-month period.

Airport lounge access: Both the primary and authorized cardholders receive a Priority Pass Select membership that includes guests.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credits: Yes, in addition to the travel statement credit.

Travel statement credits: $300 annual travel credit toward non-ticket purchases including airline seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight internet and entertainment and in-flight meals.

Additional travel benefits and insurance policies: You receive baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and trip delay reimbursement. And, as a Visa Infinite card, you can a receive a $100 credit toward the total cost of qualifying round-trip, domestic coach airline tickets for two to five passengers on the same itinerary.

Elite status: You get Gold elite status in The Ritz-Carlton Rewards program for your first account year, and each subsequent year that you spend $10,000 on your card. You can also earn Platinum elite status when you spend $75,000 on purchases each account year. Also, you receive elite status with National and Avis car rentals, and a discount code worth 30% off of Silvercar rentals.

Premium hotel programs: You receive three Club Level upgrades each year on paid stays of up to seven nights (subject to availability). You also get a $100 hotel credit toward dining, spa or other hotel recreational activities on paid stays of two nights or longer.

Additional cardholders: No cost.

5. Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Rewards: This card offers double miles for Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

Current bonus: Earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months.

Airport lounge access: You receive Delta Sky Club access, with a $29 charge for each guest.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credits: No

Travel statement credits: No

Additional travel benefits and insurance policies: The only significant travel insurance benefit this card offers above lower-priced cards is the baggage insurance plan and complimentary roadside assistance up to four times per year for minor services. However, you also receive a first bag checked free, priority boarding and upgrade priority above other non-cardholders at the same elite level. You also receive a companion certificate each year that’s valid for free airfare (plus taxes and fees) on qualifying economy or first-class tickets within the 48 contiguous United States.

Elite status: Earn 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs after you spend $30,000 or more in eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year, and another 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 MQMs once you spend a total of $60,000 in a calendar year. By itself, this is enough to earn Silver Medallion status.

Premium hotel programs: None

Additional cardholders: $175 for each additional cardholder.

6. Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Enjoy priority airport services and Admirals Club membership with the American co-branded Citi AAdvantage Executive card.

Rewards: This card offers double miles on all American Airlines purchases and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

Current bonus: New cardholders can earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Airport lounge access: Admirals Club membership for the cardholder, including complimentary guests. Authorized cardholders also receive lounge membership (and may access the lounge when flying AA).

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credits: Yes

Travel statement credits: No

Additional travel benefits and insurance policies: Trip cancellation and interruption protection and lost baggage protection are included. Other benefits include a free checked bag for you and eight companions on domestic itineraries and priority check-in, screening and boarding.

Elite status: You’ll earn 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 on the card within a calendar year.

Premium hotel programs: None

Additional cardholders: No additional fee.

7. United MileagePlus Club Card

The MileagePlus Club Card includes United lounge membership.

Rewards: This card offers 2x miles on United purchases and 1.5x miles everywhere else.

Current bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months

Airport lounge access: You receive a membership to the United Club lounges which includes the primary cardholder and his or her immediate family or two guests. Authorized cardholders do not receive a United Club membership.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credits: No

Travel statement credits: None

Additional travel benefits and insurance policies: You receive baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and trip delay reimbursement. You also receive Premier Access priority check-in, security screening (where available) and boarding. Finally, you and a companion receive two free checked bags when flying on United. United also waives all close-in booking fees on award travel reservations.

Elite status: Discoverist status in the World of Hyatt program.

Premium hotel programs: The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection offers room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and other special cardmember-only amenities at more than 900 properties around the world.

Additional cardholders: There’s no additional charge to add authorized cardholders, but they won’t receive a United Club membership.

Bottom Line

Whether you want to earn transferable points while enjoying lounge access and other high-end perks or are prioritizing earning miles and working toward airline elite status, there’s a premium travel rewards credit card that fits your needs. Hopefully this post has helped you narrow down the options to the ones that make the most sense for you.

What’s your favorite premium travel card?

Featured image of the Houston (IAH) Centurion Lounge.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are 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.