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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’ve reviewed 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 travel rewards credit cards.

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 for 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 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. With that out of the way, here are more details about the best travel credit card offers available right now.

Comparing Value

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Terms Apply. $1,200 Up to $200 airline fee credit to cover incidental fees, up to $200 annual Uber credits, up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, $250 Centurion and Sky Club lounge access, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit worth $100, Priority Pass Select lounge membership without restaurant access (worth $75) ($925 total). Terms Apply. $550 (see rates & fees) $1,575

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. $1,200 N/A $95 $1,105

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months $1,000 $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select lounge membership worth $99, Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit ($100) ($499 total) $450 $1,049

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months $900 Up to $250 in statement credits for Hilton purchases each card member year, $250 in airline incidental fee credits per calendar year, Priority Pass Select lounge membership without restaurant access (worth $75) ($575 total). Terms Apply. $450 (see rates & fees) $1,025

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
75,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Offer ends 7/2/2019. Terms Apply. $900 Delta Sky Club access ($545) $450 (see rates & fees) $995

Citi Premier Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. $1,020 N/A $95 $925

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months $840 N/A $99* $840

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
75,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Get a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months. Terms Apply. $900 $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase int he first 3 months. $195 (see rates & fees) $805

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months $700 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit ($100) $95* $800

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
60,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. Get a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months. Terms Apply. $720 $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months. $95* (see rates & fees) $770

American Express Gold Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
35,000 miles after you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months. $700 Up to $120 in statement credits each year when you pay with the Gold card at participating dining partners. $100 airline fee credit ($220 total). $250 (see rates & fees) $670

United Explorer Card

Bonus Offer Bonus Value** Perks Value Annual Fee Total Value
40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months $520 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit ($100) $95* $620

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

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 you spend $5,000 in the first 3 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 once every 4 years
  • Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass lounge access, plus Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta
  • Terms Apply

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 (See Rates & Fees).

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: 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 you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Current Bonus Value: $1,200

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 2 points per dollar on travel
  • Earn 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 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 $200, so it’s still an improvement.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

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 3 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

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% return based on my valuations. This card is a prime example of benefits more than making up for a steep annual fee.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Reserve

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

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

delta planes operations salt lake city slc airport
Frequent Delta flyers (and big spenders) can earn big MQMs with the Delta Reserve. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Best For: Delta loyalists

Current Bonus: Earn 75,000 SkyMiles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months.

Current Bonus Value: $900

Standout Benefits: 

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases
  • Earn 1 mile per dollar on everything else
  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta
  • Get a companion certificate for a domestic round-trip flight in the main cabin, Comfort+ or first class each year upon renewal of your card
  • Earn 15,000 MQMs toward status and 15,000 redeemable miles when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, and earn an additional 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 redeemable miles when you spend $60,000 in a calendar year
  • Priority boarding
  • First bag checked free

Annual Fee: $450

Why it’s worth it: If you want Delta Sky Club access (and you don’t have it through the Amex Platinum) and the ability to earn extra MQMs toward Delta elite status, this top-of-the-line card is your best bet. Also, note that with the Delta Reserve’s annual companion certificate, your companion can fly in first class or Comfort+; not just in the main cabin, as is the case with the Platinum Delta Amex.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express

Citi Premier Card

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

Best For: Its 3x travel category, which includes gas purchases.

Current Bonus: Earn 60,000 ThankYou Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.

Current Bonus Value: $1,020

Standout Benefits: 

  • Earn 3 points per dollar on travel (including gas stations), 2x on restaurants and entertainment and 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Redeem points directly through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center for airfare at a rate of 1.25 cents apiece
  • Transfer points to any of Citi’s 15 airline transfer partners
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Access to Citi Price Rewind among other purchase and travel protection benefits.

Annual Fee: $95

Why it’s worth it: The Citi Premier is a perfect mid-tier entry card to access Citi’s ThankYou Rewards program, which gives you the ability to transfer points to 15 airline partners, including useful programs such as Avianca LifeMiles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. The card has an unusually broad travel category that even includes most gas purchases, so it’s an easy card to maximize from an earning perspective. You’ll also have the ability to avoid searching for award space by redeeming ThankYou points at a rate of 1.25 for airfare via the Citi ThankYou Travel Center for any flight available for cash. And don’t forget about Citi’s Price Rewind service, which is not only automatic once you register your purchase, but is also one of the few remaining credit card price protection coverages.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Citi Premier Card

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Best For: American Airlines flyers

Current Bonus: Earn 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

Current Bonus Value: $840

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and at restaurants and gas stations and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.
  • Earn a $125 flight discount after spending $20,000 in a cardmember year and then renew.
  • Get a free checked bag on domestic AA itineraries
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on AA

Annual Fee: $99 (waived the first year)

Why it’s worth it: The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select now offers bonus miles on purchases beyond airfare. In addition to earning 2x miles on spending with American Airlines, with this card you’ll get 2x miles at restaurants and gas stations. It’s not the most rewarding card for these spending categories, but if earning American miles is your top priority and you use this card for most spending, this is welcome news, as is the just-added ability to earn a $100 flight discount after you spend $20,000 on the card in a membership year. Another reason to sign up now: The card’s offering an elevated sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select 

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Current Bonus: Earn 75,000 SkyMiles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months and a $100 statement credit after you make an eligible Delta purchase in the first 3 months.

Current Bonus Value: $900

Standout Benefits: 

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases
  • Earn 1 mile per dollar on everything else
  • Get a companion certificate for a domestic round-trip flight in the main cabin each year upon renewal of your card
  • Earn 10,000 MQMs toward status and 10,000 redeemable miles when you spend $25,000 on the card in a calendar year, and earn an additional 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 redeemable miles when you spend $50,000 in a calendar year
  • Priority boarding
  • First bag checked free

Annual Fee: $195

Why it’s worth it: Aside from a higher welcome offer than the more entry-level Gold Delta Amex, the Platinum Delta Amex comes with a companion certificate each year (you only need to pay taxes and fees) and the ability to earn additional MQMs toward Delta elite status by meeting spending thresholds.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

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 3 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 every 4 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 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 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.

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Best for: Occasional Delta flyers

Current Bonus: Earn 60,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. Get a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months.

Current Bonus Value: $720

Standout Benefits: 

  • Get a first bag checked for free on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding
  • 20% off inflight purchases
  • Earn 2x miles on Delta purchases, and 1 miler per dollar on everything else

Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

Why it’s worth it: This card could definitely be worth a look if you want to enjoy some freebies like a checked bag when you travel on Delta. Unfortunately it’s not currently offering an elevated welcome bonus, but we see those on a pretty regular basis.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

American Express Gold Card

Best For: Dining

Current Bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.

Current Bonus Value: $700

Standout Benefits:

  • Earn 4x points at restaurants
  • 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 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), 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.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: 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. 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.

Further Reading:

APPLY HERE: United Explorer Card

Final Notes on Ranking Criteria

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 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.

While we 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 in to 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 will no longer get access to the lounge’s networks restaurants, where you can get $28-$30 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’ll focus on the value you’d get by meeting the lowest spending requirement.

Related 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 Gold Delta Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Delta Amex, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Amex, please click here.


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page for the best travel rewards 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.

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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.