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Looking to add a new travel rewards credit card? I’ve ranked all the offers out there by their signup bonus and perks using my latest valuations. (I’ve started separating best offers between personal and business cards. You can see the top 10 business travel rewards cards here.)
Jump to our list of the best travel credit cards.
As you can see in the table below, the bulk of the value comes from the sign-up 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. Yes, the cards do offer Priority Pass lounge access as well, but this benefit is available through many cards so I opted to leave this — along with Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credits — out of my calculations.
Also, a few of these cards offer tiered sign-up bonuses. For these cards, I focused on the value you’d get by meeting the lowest spending requirement. As an example, with the British Airways Visa Signature Card, I calculated the value of 50,000 Avios rather than 75,000, which you could earn if you spent $10,000 on the card in your first account year.
Before diving into the list, make sure to check out these posts for information on how applying for new cards affects your credit score, what to know about credit scores, mistakes to avoid and more. Keep in mind that applying for multiple cards and using them responsibly can actually boost your credit score in the long run, but you definitely need to know what you’re doing before just signing up for every appealing offer that comes your way.
- 5 Things To Understand About Credit Before Applying For Cards
- 3 Key Considerations for Improving Your Credit Score
- Debunking Credit Card Myths: Does Applying For A Card Permanently Impact My Credit Score
- Avoiding Late Payments and Other Silly Credit Card Mistakes
With that out of the way, here’s my list of the best travel card offers available right now. As always, head to the All Cards Hub to see every credit card currently available.
Here are the best travel credit cards of 2018:
- $1,240 Total Value: The Platinum Card from American Express
- $1,050 Total Value: Chase Sapphire Preferred
- $900 Total Value: Chase Sapphire Reserve
- $420 Total Value: Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
- $675 Total Value: Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
- $655 Total Value: British Airways Visa Signature
- $675 Total Value: Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
- $700 Total Value: United MileagePlus Explorer Card
- $505 Total Value: Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card
- $500 Total Value: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Here’s how each of our top picks stack up against each other.
Best Travel Credit Cards: Full Details
|Card||Bonus Offer||Bonus Value**||Perks Value||Annual Fee||Total Value|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Terms Apply.||$1,140||$200 airline fee credit to cover incidental fees, up to $200 annual Uber credits, $250 lounge access ($650 total). Terms Apply.||$550||$1,240|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months||$1,050||N/A||$95*||$1,050|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months||$1,050||$300 annual travel credit||$450||$900|
|Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard||30,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months||$420||N/A||$95*||$420|
|Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express||25,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months||$675||N/A||$95*||$675|
|British Airways Visa Signature||50,000 Avios after you spend $3,000 in the first three months (earn an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $10,000 in the first year.)||$750||N/A||$95||$655|
|Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card||75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months||$675||N/A||$85*||$675|
|United MileagePlus Explorer Card||50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months||$700||N/A||$95*||$700|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card||50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days||$500||$100 airline incidental statement credit||$95||$505|
|Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months||$700||Admirals Club membership (valued at $250)||$450||$500|
*Annual fee waived the first year.
**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.
Now, let’s take a look at the details of each of these cards and offers, including their sign-up bonus values and some of the ways I’ve been able to put the cards’ benefits to use.
Current Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
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. You also get a $200 annual airline rebate for incidental fees, up to $200 in annual Uber credits and a rebate for the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. Additionally, the card offers Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass lounge access, plus Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying Delta.
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 sign-up bonus that lands it near the top of this list. But even apart from the $200 annual airline fee credit, the recently added $200 in Uber credits awarded each year 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 9.5% return on these purchases), complimentary Hilton Honors Gold and SPG Gold status and the ability to add three authorized users for a total of $175.
Current Bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can also earn another 5,000 bonus points by adding an authorized user and making a purchase within the first three months.
Standout Benefits: Earn 2 points per dollar on all travel purchases and on dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Transfer points to 11 different travel partners. Primary auto rental insurance, trip cancellation coverage and no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)
Why it’s worth it: It doesn’t offer the bells and the whistles of the much more expensive Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a great pick for earning bonus points on travel and dining, and for enjoying some solid travel protections in the process. I’ve utilized Ultimate Rewards points with partners such as United, which I used to book an emergency ticket home in Lufthansa first class, but you can also redeem the points directly through the Chase travel portal for 1.25 cents apiece. Whether you simply don’t want to spend $450 a year to get the Sapphire Reserve or if your credit score currently isn’t high enough to qualify for that premium card, the Sapphire Preferred remains a very solid option — and the $95 annual fee is even waived for the first year.
Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Standout Benefits: Earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else. You can 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, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit, no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation coverage and 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 and dining purchases, which equates to a 6.6% return based on my valuations. This card is a prime example of benefits more than making up for a steep annual fee.
Current Bonus: Earn 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
Standout Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. First bag checked free and preferred boarding on American Airlines flights. Access to reduced mileage awards. Earn 10% of your redeemed mileage back. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)
Why it’s worth it: If you don’t want to pay $450 for the Citi AAdvantage Executive card but still want an avenue for earning more AAdvantage miles, this option could be worth a look. It’s currently offering an increased sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles, which is enough for a one-way business-class flight to Europe among other redemptions. You also get some of the same elite-style perks offered on the more premium card, including a free checked bag and preferred boarding (for you and up to four companions on the same reservation). Best of all, the annual fee’s waived the first year, so you have so time to test out its benefits before you have to pony up $95.
Current Bonus: Earn 25,000 Starpoints after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
Standout Benefits: Earn 2 points per dollar at Starwood and Marriott properties, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Get 2 stay and 5 night credits toward elite status each year, and earn Gold status when you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year. Free in-room premium internet access. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)
Why it’s worth it: While the personal Starwood Amex isn’t currently offering an elevated sign-up bonus like the business version, it’s still a great card, especially since Starpoints are my highest-rated loyalty currency and there are so many ways to redeem them, from transferring to airline partners to SPG Moments to Starwood and Marriott award stays. If you’re working toward Starwood Preferred Guest elite status, the 2 stay and 5 night credits (on each card, each year) can also come in handy.
Current Bonus: For a limited time, you can earn up to 75,000 Avios — 50,000 Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months, an additional 25,000 Avios after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first year.
Standout Benefits: Earn 3 Avios per dollar on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios per dollar on everything else. If you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year, you’ll get a Travel Together Ticket for a companion to use. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $95
Why it’s worth it: Even if you don’t spend a total of $10,000 in the first year to earn 75,000 Avios, earning 50,000 Avios can open the door to some great redemptions, such as domestic business-class awards on American and off-peak Aer Lingus flights to Europe. And if you can put a lot of spending on this card, you might be able to unlock the Travel Together Ticket, which gets a companion a free flight but doesn’t include taxes and fees, which can be substantial.
Current Bonus: Earn 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months from account opening.
Standout Benefits: Earn 5 points per dollar at Marriott and SPG hotels, 2 points per dollar on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, and at car rental agencies and restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Get a free night at a Category 1-5 hotel each year after your account anniversary. Automatically earn 15 credits toward elite status, and the ability to earn an additional credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card each calendar year. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $85 (currently waived the first year)
Why it’s worth it: There are plenty of great uses for Marriott points, especially now that you can transfer them to Starwood at a 3:1 ratio. But even within the Marriott Rewards program you have some great options, such as Hotel + Air packages, which I’ve booked for my parents. This card also stands out for the free night at a Category 1-5 property, which you get after your account anniversary. And the 15 elite credits you get as a cardholder are enough to enjoy Marriott Silver status.
Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months
Standout Benefits: You’ll get 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. As a cardholder you’ll have access to enhanced award availability and will enjoy priority boarding and a free checked bag for you and one companion on the same reservation. Plus, get two 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 co-branded 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 (though we have seen higher sign-up offers, without a waived fee). One of the most appealing benefits is the extra United award seat availability you get access to, letting you book seats that non-cardholders 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.
Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. That’s $500 worth of rewards.
Standout Benefits: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points per dollar on everything else. Get an annual $100 airline incidental statement credit toward seat upgrades, baggage fees and more. Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit. Earn up to a 75% points bonus if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member.
Annual Fee: $95
Why it’s worth it: This recently launched credit card stands out in a few interesting ways. For one, it acts more like a cash-back card, with points worth 1 cent apiece as a statement credit or as a deposit into eligible Bank of America or Merrill Lynch accounts. So even though this card’s value of $505 is lower than many others on this list, those other values are based on our valuations and assume you’ll be redeeming points for lucrative award travel, such as a premium-cabin flight. With the Bank of America Premium Rewards card, on the other hand, you’re getting straight cash, arguably making it even more valuable. This card can be even more lucrative if, like me, you’re a Preferred Rewards member. As a Platinum Honors member with $100,000+ in BoFA/Merrill Lynch accounts, I earn a 75% bonus on top of the card’s 2x and 1.5x categories — netting me 3.5x on travel and dining and 2.625x on everyday spend.
Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
Standout Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Get a full Admirals Club membership. Priority check-in, screening and boarding on American Airlines flights, along with a free checked bag and 25% off in-flight purchases. Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit. Earn 10,000 EQMs when you spend $10,000 on the card in a calendar year. No foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $450
Why it’s worth it: This card has a sizable annual fee, but it could be worth it if you can easily meet the $5,000 requirement in three months and don’t have airport lounge access through another card. As a cardholder you’ll get a full Admirals Club membership, and you can add up to 10 authorized users for free and they’ll get full access as well. The AAdvantage Executive card could also be worth a place in your wallet if you’re working toward elite status with American, though you’ll need to spend $40,000 on the card in a year to get 10,000 Elite-Qualifying Miles (EQMs).
Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees