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Here are the best travel credit cards for 2018 that will raise your travel to the next level and help you earn travel rewards worth over $1000. Travel international or just travel across country. I have ranked the best travel credit card offers by their welcome bonus and travel perks using my latest valuations. Find which card will make your travel even better. Below you will find the best credit cards for travel.
Here are the Best Travel Credit Cards of 2018 based on my valuations:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Citi ThankYou Premier Card
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard⭐
- Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
- United Explorer Card
- British Airways Visa Signature Card
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
A star (⭐) indicates a limited time offer with the highest ever publicly available welcome bonus.
Best Travel Credit Card Valuations
As you will see in the table below, 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. 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 bonuses. For these cards, if the total spending requirement across multiple tiers is higher than $5,000, 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 100,000, which you could earn if you spent $20,000 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 detailed list of the best travel credit card offers available right now. As always, head to the All Cards Hub to see every credit card currently available.
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 ThankYou Premier Card||50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first four months||$850||N/A||$95*||$850|
|Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard ⭐||60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months||$840||N/A||$99*||$840|
|Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card||100,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months||$900||N/A||$95||$805|
|United Explorer Card||40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months, plus $100 statement credit after first purchase||$660||N/A||$95*||$660|
|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. Plus, an extra 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 total in the first year.)||$750||N/A||$95||$655|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months||$500||N/A||$95*||$500|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express||30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Terms Apply.||$360||N/A||$95*||$360|
*Annual fee waived the first year.
**Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.
The Details on the Best Travel Credit Cards
Now, 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.
Current Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
Current Bonus Value: $1,240
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. 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 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.
Current Bonus Value: $1,050
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 13 different travel partners. Primary auto rental insurance, trip cancellation coverage and no foreign transaction fees. Read the full card review here.
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.
Current Bonus Value: $900
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. 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 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.
Current Bonus: Earn 50,000 ThankYou points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Current Bonus Value: $850
Standout Benefits: Earn 3 points per dollar on travel including gas stations, 2 points per dollar on dining out and entertainment and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Transfer your points to 15 airline programs, or book flights through the Citi travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. There are no foreign transaction fees. Read the full card review here.
Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)
Why it’s worth it: Citi ThankYou Rewards isn’t the most impressive loyalty program when it comes to transfer partners, especially since it no longer has a hotel partner after Hilton moved to an exclusive relationship with Amex. Still, programs like Avianca LifeMiles and Flying Blue can be great destinations for your points when you’re looking to book flight awards. The ThankYou Premier offers a solid return on travel — and unlike other cards with bonus rewards for travel purchases, it includes gas stations in its 3x category. Plus, you get a full year to test out the card before you have to pay the annual fee.
Current Bonus: Earn 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three 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 $100 flight discount after spending $20,000 in a cardmember year and then renewing. Get a free checked bag on domestic AA itineraries and enjoy preferred boarding. Read the full card review here.
Annual Fee: $99 (waived the first year)
Why it’s worth it: The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select is the latest airline co-branded personal credit card to start offering bonus miles on purchases beyond airfare. Now, 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 — 10,000 miles more than the previous offer. The card’s annual fee did increase from $95 to $99, but that’s easy to swallow especially given the favorable changes and elevated sign-up offer.
Current Bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.
Current Bonus Value: $805
Standout Benefits: Earn 6x points at Marriott and SPG hotels and 2x points on everything else. Get a free night award every year after your account anniversary, valid for a one-night hotel stay at property with a redemption level of up to 35,000 points. You also get automatic Silver elite status, plus 15 elite night credits each calendar year (starting in 2019).
Annual Fee: $95
Why it’s worth it: This card replaces the Marriott Rewards Premier Card, and was announced alongside plenty of other updates about the combined Marriott and SPG program. Though the annual fee is $10 higher, this new card is a step up in several ways. For one, you now earn 6 rather than 5 points per dollar on Marriott and SPG stays, plus the free night award is now effectively more generous since previously it was only good for properties that cost up to 25,000 points per night (Category 5 hotels). The card also offers you the option to spend your way to Gold elite status, after making $35,000 in purchases each account year, starting in 2019. The sign-up offer of 100,000 points, worth $805 based on my valuations, is a good reason to consider this card as well.
Current Bonus: You can earn up to 100,000 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. Plus, an extra 25,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 total in the first year.
Current Bonus Value: $655
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 $20,000 in the first year to earn 100,000 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 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months, plus a $100 statement credit after your first purchase.
Current Bonus Value: $660
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 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.
Current Bonus Value: $500
Standout Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, and 10 miles per dollar on hotel rooms when booked at Hotels.com through the dedicated link and paid for with the card. The card also has no foreign transaction fees. Read the full card review here.
Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)
Why it’s worth it: The Capital One Venture Rewards card has always been a popular choice for folks who prefer to keep things simple and don’t want to chase award availability. The card’s “Purchase Eraser” feature allows customers to use their Venture Rewards miles to offset the cost of any travel purchases made on their card in the previous 90 days at a rate of 1 cent per mile. But the addition of Capital One’s partnership with Hotels.com has made this card a true standout when it comes to hotels, since you can effectively earn 20% back on all your hotel stays by stacking the Hotels.com Rewards program with the 10x miles earned on those stays with the Venture Rewards when booked and paid through Hotels.com/venture.
Current Bonus: Earn 30,000 SkyMiles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first three months.
Current Bonus Value: $360
Standout Benefits: Earn 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Enjoy some elite-style perks with the airline, including priority boarding and a first bag checked free. This card has no foreign transaction fees.
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.
Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer.
Best Travel Credit Cards of 2018 Review:
|Credit Card||Total Value|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||$1,240|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||$1,050|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||$900|
|Citi ThankYou Premier Card||$850|
|Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard ⭐||$840|
|Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card||$805|
|United Explorer Card||$660|
|British Airways Visa Signature||$655|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||$500|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express||$360|
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards