The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards of 2019

Oct 31, 2019

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While there are many great credit cards for travel out there, the reality is that the best one for you is the one that suits your specific travel needs. In this guide I’ll review all the details, including bonus offers and perks such as Global Entry fee credits and Priority Pass lounge access, to bring you a list of the very best cards. Remember that 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 to start maximizing your points and miles.

Without further do, here are my top picks:

Best travel credit cards of October 2019

To start our analysis, here are some comparisons of the best travel credit card offers available right now:

Summary of the best travel credit card offers

 

credit card Current Bonus*** Bonus value** Annual fee Total value (including perks)
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 60,000 Points. Terms apply $1,200 $95 $1,105
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 50,000 Miles. Terms apply $700 $95* $800
The Platinum Card from American Express 60,000 Points. Terms apply $1,200 $550
(see rates and fees)
$1,575
Capital One Spark Miles for Business Up to 200,000 Miles. Terms Apply $2,800 $95* $2,800
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 80,000 Points. Terms apply $1,600 $95 $1,505
Chase Sapphire Reserve 50,000 Points. Terms apply $1,000 $450 $1,049
American Express Gold Card 35,000 Points. Terms apply $700 $250
(see rates and fees)
$670
Bank of America Premium Rewards 50,000 Points. Terms apply $500 $95 $605
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express 150,000 Points. Terms apply $900 $450 $1,050

*Annual fee waived the first year.
**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.
***After meeting minimum spend requirements.

I’ve done lots of research for you, so let’s take a look at the details of each of these travel credit cards and offers, including their bonus values and some of the ways I’ve been able to put the credit cards’ benefits to use. (Note that the bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.)

Best Travel Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Best travel card for total value

Current bonus: Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months (valued by TPG at $1,200).

Standout benefits:

  • Earn 2 points per dollar on travel
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on dining
  • Transfer points to 12 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 Chase Sapphire Preferred 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. This travel credit 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 $200, so it’s still an improvement.

Further reading:

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Best travel credit card for Hotels.com

Current bonus: Earn 50,000 Capital One miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months (valued by TPG at $700).

Standout benefits:

  • Earn 10x miles on Hotels.com purchases at Hotels.com/Venture
  • Earn 2x miles on all other purchases
  • Get up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years
  • 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 Capital One Venture 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 credit card (as well as the VentureOne credit card and Capital One’s two Spark Miles cards) to 15 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.

Further reading:

APPLY HERE: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Platinum Card from American Express

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Best credit card for travel perks

Current bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months (valued by TPG at $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 credit 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
  • Up to $100 rebate for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee once every four years
  • Centurion Lounge access, plus Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta (valued by TPG at $250 annually)
  • Priority Pass lounge membership without restaurant access (valued by TPG at $75 annually)
  • Terms Apply

Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)

Why it’s worth it: As you can see, a ton of factors contribute to this credit 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 travel 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 (see rates and fees).

Further reading:

APPLY HERE: Platinum Card from American Express

Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Best for small business travelers

Current bonus: Earn up to 200,000 Capital One miles: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, and 150,000 bonus miles when you spend $50,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of your account opening (valued by TPG at $2,800).

Standout benefits:

  • Earn 5 Capital One miles per dollar spent on hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Up to $100 credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee
  • Free employee cards
  • No foreign transaction fees

Annual fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Why it’s worth it: If you’re a business looking for a travel credit card, this is your chance to score a great card for all your everyday business purchases and a huge sign-up bonus at the same time. For a limited time, you can get up to a whopping 200,000 bonus miles when you apply for the card and spend $50,000 on it in the first 6 months. That’s a large spending requirement, but entirely feasible for many businesses with significant monthly expenses. Since the card already earns 2x miles on all other purchases, you’ll end up with at least 300,000 miles just from the bonus and $50,000 in minimum spend. Plus, Capital One has just added a new bonus category to the card — 5 miles per dollar spent on hotels and car rentals through Capital One Travel. Finally, Capital One has greatly expanded its mileage program in the last year, adding 15 airline transfer partners, which means you can book premium cabins such as Lufthansa First Class using the miles earned with the Spark Miles card.

Further reading:

APPLY HERE: Capital One Spark Miles for Business

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

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

Best card for business bonus categories

Current bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on the card in the first three months (valued by TPG at $1,600).

Standout Benefits: 

    • 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent per year in combined purchases for:
      • Travel (including airfare, hotels, rental cars, train tickets and taxis)
      • Shipping purchases
      • Internet, cable and phone services
      • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines.
    • 1 point per dollar on everything else
    • Cell phone insurance
    • Primary rental car insurance
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No foreign transaction fees

Annual fee: $95

Why it’s worth it:

If you spend a lot on business travel or social media advertising, you’ll be able to keep earning significant points with this card after the sign-up bonus, thanks to its 3x bonus categories for the first $150,000 in combined purchases made each year. Since TPG’s most recent point valuations peg the value of Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, you’ll get a fantastic return of 6% on purchases in these categories. If you spend the full $150,000, you’ll take home 450,000 Ultimate Rewards points, which TPG values at $9,000.

You also get great value out of Chase Ultimate Rewards points by transferring them to nine airline and three hotel loyalty programs, which can get you outsized value when you redeem points for free flights with carriers such as British Airways and United, or for award stays at Hyatt properties. Plus the card gives you 25% more value for the points you earn when you redeem them for travel in the Ultimate Rewards portal.
Further reading:

APPLY HERE: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Best travel credit card for travel purchases and perks

Current bonus: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months (valued by TPG at $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 (valued by TPG at $99 annually)
  • Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Trip cancellation coverage
  • Primary car rental insurance

Annual fee: $450

Why it’s worth it: The Chase 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 Credit Cards can also be redeemed at the 1.5-cent rate. You also get an impressive 3x points on travel (after the $300 travel credit is exhausted) and dining purchases, which equates to a 6% return based on my valuations. This credit card is a prime example of benefits more than making up for a steep annual fee.

Further reading:

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Reserve

American Express Gold Card

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

Best travel credit card for worldwide dining

Current bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months (valued by TPG at $700).

Standout benefits:

  • Earn 4x points at restaurants
  • Earn 4x points at U.S. 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 $120 in statement credits each year when you pay with the Gold card at participating dining partners
  • Up to $100 annual airline fee credit
  • Terms Apply

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

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 at restaurants, the card now offers the second-most competitive return on dining spending (8% based on our valuations, compared to 8.5% with the Citi Prestige® Card), and the category has now been expanded to restaurants worldwide. The card also earns 4x points on the first $25,000 spent per year at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000, then 1x), and 3x points on select flights. With this credit 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.

Further reading:

APPLY HERE: American Express Gold Card

Bank of America Premium Rewards

Best travel credit card for everyday spending

Current bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening (valued by TPG at $500).

Standout benefits:

  • Earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points on everything else
  • Bank of America Preferred Rewards elites earn an additional 25%-75% points on every purchase
  • $100 Airline Incidental statement credit annually for qualifying purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit

Annual fee: $95

Why it’s worth it: You might not think of the Bank of America Premium Rewards card as a typical travel credit card, since the points it earns can’t be transferred to travel partners but rather are redeemable at 1 cent apiece for cash, gift cards or by booking travel at the Bank of America travel portal. But it can potentially be a valuable option for your purse or wallet as an everyday spending card. Its basic earning rates are reasonable, but where the card really shines is if you’re able to participate in Bank of America’s separate Preferred Rewards program. Reach the top Platinum Honors tier in Preferred Rewards and you’ll earn a 75% bonus on each purchase you make with this card, bringing the earning rate on travel and dining expenses to an impressive 3.5x points per dollar and the everyday earning rate on all other purchases to a market-leading 2.625x points per dollar.

Further reading:

APPLY HERE: Bank of America Premium Rewards

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Best for hotel elite status

Current Bonus: 150,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 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 (see rates & 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 two guests free access.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

How we choose the best travel credit cards

I reviewed numerous travel credit card offers and spent countless hours studying the pros and cons of each offer. My method for assigning value to these credit cards relied on 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 each individual type of point will always be a vitally 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 our best credit cards currently available.

What are the advantages of a travel credit card?

Travel credit cards are a great way to earn rewards that allow you to travel the world for less money — or even practically for free — simply by using a credit card to buy the same daily items you’d otherwise buy with cash or a debit card. With certain travel credit cards, you can also get perks to use while traveling, which include everything from airport lounge access and hotel elite status to free airline companion certificates and discounts or credits on your travel purchases.

What types of travel credit cards are out there?

There are two main types of travel credit cards. The first are travel credit cards that earn a specific type of airline miles or hotel points. These are sometimes known as cobranded credit cards because they usually have the name of the airline or hotel on the card. Examples of cobranded travel credit cards include the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, among many others.

The second type of travel credit card are the ones that earn flexible travel points. Generally these points can then be redeemed either directly for purchases you make through a travel portal like Amex Travel, or they can be transferred to many different airline or hotel programs. Examples of these types of cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Capital One Venture Rewards card, among others.

How much is a point or mile worth on a travel credit card?

Every type of airline, hotel and flexible bank point and mile is worth a different amount, so you can’t assume that a 50,000-point bonus on one card is equivalent to a 50,000-point bonus on another. That’s why The Points Guy maintains a guide to point and mile valuations, which explains how much each type of points and miles are worth for all the major programs. You can use those valuations to determine how much a sign-up bonus is actually worth, or even a bonus category.

For instance, Amex Membership Rewards are worth 2 cents each based on TPG’s valuations, which means the 60,000-point bonus on the Amex Platinum is worth $1,200. That’s because 60,000 x 2 cents = $1,200. And since that card earns 5 points per dollar on airfare, you can also determine that each dollar you spend on airfare will get you 10 cents back in points, because 5 points x 2 cents = 10 cents.

How do I choose a travel credit card?

With so many travel credit cards on the market, there are a ton of options and it’s important to ask yourself what credit card benefits would best meet your travel goals. If you fly multiple times a year on Delta and pay to check a bag every time you fly, you should strongly consider getting a Delta credit card that waives the fee for your first checked bag every time you fly on the airline. That perk would save you from paying the $30 fee every time you fly, and would quickly make up for the annual fee on the card.

On the other hand, if you only fly occasionally and aren’t exclusive to one airline, you might be better off with a flexible travel credit card that doesn’t offer perks on any one airline, but that earns points or miles that can be redeemed across a variety of different airlines, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred. And if you’re a road warrior who flies every week, you’ll want to think about a premium travel credit card that offers lots of travel perks, such as the Amex Platinum with airport lounge access and hotel elite status.

Final notes on ranking travel credit cards

As you can see, the bulk of the value comes from the bonus itself — I used my latest valuations to calculate a dollar amount for each offer. From there, I added in the value of perks such as annual travel credits and lounge access. For instance, for the Platinum Card from American Express, which offers Centurion Lounge access plus Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta, I assigned a value of $250 for these perks, not including the value of Priority Pass access. But for the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, which won’t provide Centurion Lounge access until the end of January 2020, I only assigned a value of $100 for the current Sky Club access when flying Delta. I also didn’t include a value of any of the other new benefits of the revamped Delta cards, since they aren’t in effect until January.

While I haven’t added in the value of Priority Pass lounge access and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit in the past, we now factor these into a card’s total value, as not everyone has multiple cards that confer these benefits. We peg the value of the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit at its face value of $100. That’s the application fee for Global Entry; PreCheck costs $85, but applying for Global Entry is the way to go since it includes PreCheck as well. And don’t forget: If you already have Global Entry and PreCheck, you can use your credit card’s application fee credit to gift it to someone else.

The value of Priority Pass lounge access is a bit more complicated, especially now that American Express-issued cards with this benefit no longer get access to the lounge’s networks restaurants, where you can get $28-$30 worth of food and drink per visit. I’m pegging Priority Pass Select membership with restaurant access at the purchase price of $99, and Priority Pass Select membership without restaurant access at $75.

Finally, in the case of cards offering tiered bonuses, if the total spending requirement across multiple tiers is higher than $5,000, I’ve focused on the value you’d get by meeting the lowest spending requirement.

Related Credit Card Guides

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


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page for the best travel credit cards, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for updates. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older offers below.

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Visa® credit card

This card from Bank of America gets really interesting if you have a BofA checking, savings or investment account. Depending on the value of your combined accounts you can potentially get as much as 3.5x points on travel/dining and 2.625x points on other purchases making it the richest consumer banking bonus out there.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Low $95 annual fee
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, 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.