Fortune Recommends the best travel credit cards


Fortune Recommends™ has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Fortune Recommends™ and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. 

Travel credit cards make it possible for you to earn free and discounted travel with your everyday spending. What’s more, some of the best travel credit cards also offer valuable perks that elevate your trip experience.

At the same time, each card has its own set of rewards rates, intro bonuses, annual fees and other terms, so take your time picking one that aligns well with your travel and spending habits. We reviewed over 50 travel credit cards to help you find the ones that take flight and those that are best left on the ground. Learn more about our methodology.


The best travel credit cards of May 2024


Best premium card: Capital One Venture X Card

The Venture X packs a lot of travel rewards into a card that costs hundreds of dollars less than its competitors.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Intro bonus


Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening






Annual Fee $395
Purchase APR 19.99%–29.99% variable
Foreign Transaction Fee None


Why we like it: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers rich rewards and travel perks, and unlike many other premium travel credit cards, the Venture X doesn’t make you jump through many hoops to earn back the cost of its steep annual fee. In addition to a Capital One Travel credit and bonus miles each year, you’ll also get complimentary access to a number of airport lounge networks with more than 1,300 locations around the world. 

The card also offers ultimate flexibility when it comes to redeeming your rewards for travel. You can book with miles through Capital One Travel, or if you want more options, you can use your card to pay for travel-related expenses and request a statement credit. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even transfer your rewards to various frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs and potentially get more value from your miles.

Best flat-rate rewards card: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Venture Card puts the power into your hands by earning miles that you can either use against your travel purchases or transfer to travel partners.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Intro Bonus


Earn 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening





Annual fee $95
Regular APR 19.99%–29.99% variable


Why we like it: Travel rewards can get complicated, which is why the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card feels like a breath of fresh air. The card offers a high, flat rewards rate on your everyday spending, so you don’t need to keep track of different bonus rewards categories. It also offers extra miles on select travel booked through the Capital One Travel platform.

You can redeem your miles by booking travel through Capital One Travel or by using your card to pay for travel on your own and requesting a statement credit. Alternatively, you can transfer your miles to airline and hotel rewards program partners for more dynamic redemptions. The card also comes with complimentary Hertz Five Star status, which lets you skip the rental counter and get access to a wider selection of vehicles. When you use it to pay the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, Capital One will reimburse you.

Best for lounge access: The Platinum Card® from American Express 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

See Rates and Fees

Intro bonus


Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after spending $8,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of card membership






Annual Fee $695
Purchase APR See Pay Over Time APR
Foreign Transaction Fee None


Why we like it: The Platinum Card® from American Express charges an annual fee that some will find hard to stomach. But if you’re a frequent flyer, it may well become your favorite travel companion. The card offers access to more airport lounge networks than any other credit card. At larger airports, you may even have your pick among several lounge options. 

The card also comes packed with more than $1,500 in annual travel and lifestyle credits, CLEAR Plus membership credit, concierge service, elite status with select hotel and car rental rewards programs and many other perks that touch just about every aspect of your travel experience. That said, many of the credits are doled out in increments and are for specific vendors, making them harder to redeem.

Best mid-level card: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers both robust earnings on travel and a useful suite of travel protections. Plus, Chase’s dozen-plus transfer partners offer flexibility in travel redemptions.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Intro bonus


75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.





Annual fee $95
Regular APR 21.49%–28.49% variable


Why we like it: If you’re looking for a way to maximize your travel rewards without paying a steep annual fee, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The card offers an impressive welcome bonus and several opportunities to earn bonus points on your everyday spending. Annual perks include a $50 credit toward hotel stays booked through Chase Travel℠, a 10% points bonus on your spending throughout the year and benefits with partners like Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Peloton. It also has a healthy sign-up bonus for a card with a moderate annual fee.

The card offers flexible redemption options, including cash back, but you’ll get 25% more value if you use your points to book travel through Chase. Alternatively, you can transfer your rewards to one of the card issuer’s airline or hotel rewards program partners and potentially squeeze more value out of your points. It even offers primary rental car insurance, which means you don’t have to contact your insurer first if you have a fender bender in a rental car.

Best for airline loyalists: UnitedSM Explorer Card

The United Explorer card makes sense if you are one of the over 140 million passengers that flew United last year.

UnitedSM Explorer Card

Intro bonus


Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open





Annual fee $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (then $95)
Regular APR 21.99%–28.99% variable APR


Why we like it: If you like the idea of enjoying rewards and perks with an airline rather than general travel rewards and benefits, you can’t go wrong with the United Explorer Card. The card offers a sizable welcome bonus and a few different bonus rewards categories, and with a strong domestic and international presence, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to redeeming your miles for award flights.

You’ll get some standard airline card benefits, such as a free checked bag for you and a companion, priority boarding, and a discount on select inflight purchases. But you’ll also get some perks that most mid-tier airline cards don’t offer, including expanded access to Saver award tickets, premier upgrade eligibility on award tickets, two one-time passes to the United Club lounge each year, and an application fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

If you’re loyal to United but not sure if the Explorer is right for you, check out our list of the best credit cards for United Airlines. Or if you’re loyal to a different airline (or none at all) check out our list of best airline credit cards.

Best for hotel loyalists: IHG One Rewards Premier Card

The IHG One Rewards Card offers a free night upon card renewal along with a slew of other benefits, making it well worth the modest annual fee.

IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card

Intro bonus


Earn 140,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening





Annual fee $99
Regular APR 21.49%–28.49% variable


Why we like it: If you want to focus your efforts on earning free hotel stays, the IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card offers an impressive array of benefits. The card makes it easy to earn points quickly, though it also requires a lot of points to get free stays with IHG. 

Where it really shines, though, is in its perks, which offer value that far outweighs the card’s modest annual fee. You’ll get a free night reward each year worth up to 40,000 points, plus a $100 statement credit and 10,000 bonus points if you spend $20,000 in a calendar year. When you stay at IHG hotels, you’ll enjoy Platinum Elite status, which includes perks like the fourth night free on award bookings, reward night discounts, complimentary upgrades, and a welcome amenity. You’ll also get an application fee credit toward Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS.

To see all of the IHG options check our list of the best credit cards for IHG, or if you’re loyal to a different chain check out our list of the best credit cards for hotels.

Best no annual fee card: Bilt Mastercard

The Bilt Mastercard® not only has no annual fee, it has a robust set of travel transfer partners. Even better, it lets you earn rewards for paying rent.

Bilt Mastercard®

See Rates and Fees

Special feature


The Bilt Mastercard offers the unique ability to earn points on rent.



Why we like it: While it technically isn’t billed as a travel credit card, the Bilt Mastercard®—the only credit card that offers rewards on rent payments—offers travel benefits that are hard to ignore. Most importantly, the card allows you to transfer your points to several airline and hotel loyalty programs, a rare feature for a travel card with no annual fee. You’ll also pay no foreign transaction fees—so it’s great for international travel—and get a few trip protections, including trip cancellation and interruption reimbursement, trip delay protection and auto rental collision damage waiver.

For more no-annual-fee options, check out our list of the best travel cards with no annual fee.

To view rates and fees of the Bilt Mastercard®, see this page

Best 0% intro APR card: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

If your vacation plans stretch farther than your budget, the VentureOne has an extended 0% APR period on purchases so you can enjoy the sun without getting burned with interest.

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Intro Bonus


Earn 20,000 miles after spending $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening







0% balance transfer term 15 months
Balance transfer fee 3%

 

Annual fee $0
Regular APR 29.99% variable


Most travel credit cards don’t offer introductory 0% APR promotions, but if that feature is a top priority and you don’t want a cash-back card, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card may be worth a look. 

The card offers an introductory 0% APR promotion on both purchases and balance transfers, giving you plenty of time to pay off a large chunk or all of a significant purchase or high-interest debt from another card. The card’s rewards rate isn’t very exciting, but it does offer flexible travel redemption options, including access to transfer partners.

For more 0% APR options check out our list of the best 0% APR cards.

Best for earning on travel: U.S. Bank Altitude Connect

If cash back is your preference, the U.S. Bank Altitude Connect has a robust rewards rate on travel purchases plus a selection of perks unusual for a sub-$100 annual fee card.

U.S. Bank Altitude Connect

Intro bonus


Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in the first 120 days worth $500 towards travel and more.





Annual fee $0 first year, then $95
Regular APR 21.24% to 29.24%


Why we like it: Interestingly enough, many travel credit cards don’t offer great rewards on travel spending unless you’re booking through the card issuer’s travel portal. If you want a card that offers best-in-class rewards on all of your travel spending, the U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card is your best bet. 

The card also offers great rewards on other everyday spending categories, along with four free visits to Priority Pass lounges each year (which made it top our list of best credit cards for cheap airport lounge access), an application fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and an annual bonus when you use your card to pay for an eligible streaming service.

Best for fair credit: Credit One Wander

The Credit One Wander card flies under the radar but is worth a look for its strong earnings on travel, dining and gas in addition to its more lenient fair credit score requirements.

Credit One Bank Wander® Card

Special feature


The Credit One Wander offers robust travel rewards to people with less than perfect credit.





Annual fee $95
Regular APR 29.74% variable


Why we like it: You typically need good or excellent credit to qualify for one of the best travel credit cards, but if you’re not quite there yet, the Credit One Bank Wander® Card should be on your radar. The card offers great rewards on select travel purchases and other everyday spending. 

Points can be redeemed in a variety of ways, but to get a consistent redemption rate, statement credits are your best option.

Best for credit building: Capital One Quicksilver Secured Card

You aren’t out of options if you need to build your credit score before getting a standard travel card. The Capital One Quicksilver Secured Card is a rewarding option while you get on track.

Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card

Who is this card good for?


The Capital One Quicksilver Secured card is good for those who are rebuilding from poor or fair credit and want a card that earns rewards with no foreign transaction fee.






Annual fee $0
APR 29.99% variable
Security deposit $200–$1,000 to $3,000 (depending on your creditworthiness)


Why we like it: If you’re looking to build or rebuild, you’ll be hard-pressed to get approved for a true travel credit card. However, the Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card can be a solid alternative until you have the chance to establish a good credit score.

The card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, making it a good choice for international travel, and you’ll earn a solid rewards rate on every purchase you make. While you need to make a security deposit equal to your desired credit limit when you get started, you don’t have to wait to close your account to get your money back. With responsible use, you can start earning unsecured credit line increases after six months, and you can also qualify for an upgrade to an unsecured Quicksilver card down the road, at which point you’ll get a deposit refund.

Our methodology

The Fortune RecommendsTM team analyzed more than 50 travel credit cards across various issuers to come up with the top picks.

Here are the key elements we ranked each card by:

  • Annual fee: Some card issuers require cardholders to pay an annual fee for cards with rewards and extra features or benefits. For most of our rankings, we rated cards with lower or zero-dollar annual fees higher.  
  • Rewards: Travel cards typically provide rewards in the form of points or miles. For some rankings, we rated cards with better rewards rates higher on our list. 
  • Insurance and protections: When you use your card to make purchases, you may be eligible for different types of protections on those purchases. Some cards offer insurance on travel-related expenses, like trip cancellation insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, and more. Some cards also provide non-travel-related reimbursements like cell phone protection. For some rankings, we rated cards higher based on the number of protections they offered.
  • Welcome bonus: When you sign up for a new credit card, you may be eligible for a one-time welcome bonus in the form of points or miles. You’ll need to spend a certain amount within a few months of card opening to earn the bonus. We ranked cards with higher bonuses and lower spending requirements higher on our list. 
  • Perks: Travel credit cards may offer a variety of perks—like statement credits for TSA PreCheck, airport lounge access, a free checked bag, and more. We rated cards with more perks higher for some of our rankings. 
  • Foreign transaction fees: Some cards charge a flat rate on purchases when you use your card abroad. We rated cards with no foreign transaction fees higher.  

How do travel credit cards work?

Unlike cash-back rewards, which tend to work the same regardless of the card issuer, travel rewards can get complicated quickly. Ultimately, your redemption options and the value of your points and miles will vary depending on the rewards program. For a primer, check out our beginner’s guide to travel rewards.

Flexible travel rewards

Flexible travel rewards credit cards offer points or miles through the card issuer’s proprietary rewards program. Some examples include Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Capital One Miles. 

With flexible travel rewards, you’ll typically get several redemption options, and your rewards are worth a set amount — usually between 0.5 cents and 1.5 cents apiece — depending on how you redeem them. Travel redemptions typically get more value, but that can vary by program.

Many of these programs also allow you to transfer your points to airline and hotel loyalty programs, giving you access to more dynamic redemptions. If you’re savvy enough, you could get more value with a transfer partner than if you were to redeem through the card issuer’s rewards program.

Airline rewards

Airline miles, or points in some cases, are designed primarily to help you earn award flights with your favorite airline, such as American, Delta, or Southwest. But unlike general points or miles, airline rewards typically don’t have a set value. 

In some cases, the number of points or miles required for a flight may be linked to the cash value of the ticket, but they may be unrelated. As a result, the value of your rewards will vary based on your flight dates, itinerary, cabin choice, and other factors. 

In some cases, you may be able to redeem your airline rewards in other ways, but you typically won’t get as much value that way.

Hotel rewards

Hotel points allow you to book free hotel stays with a single hotel chain, such as Hyatt, Hilton, or Marriott. Like airline rewards, hotel points have dynamic value, so your redemption rate will vary based on your destination, the property, your stay dates, and other variables.

Hotel loyalty programs may also allow you to redeem your rewards in other ways, but it’s generally best to stick to free nights.

Should you pick a travel credit card?

If you frequently travel or you’re looking for opportunities to travel more in the future, a travel credit card can make it easier to earn free or discounted flights, hotel stays, rental cars, and more. 

What’s more, some of the top travel credit cards also offer perks that can save you more money or give you a better overall experience at the airport, in flight, or throughout your trip. 

That said, most travel credit cards don’t offer as much redemption flexibility as cash-back credit cards. If you’re not sure you want to go all in on travel rewards, a cash-back credit card may be a better choice. 

Also, most of the top travel credit cards charge an annual fee. While many of them make it easy to offset that cost with rewards and perks, the fee is still an out-of-pocket cost. If you’re on a tight budget or you’re generally fee-averse, think carefully about whether you can afford that yearly cost and make sure you can get enough value from a card to make its annual fee worthwhile.

How to choose the best travel credit card

With so many different options available, there’s no single travel credit card that’s best suited for all travelers. To determine which one is best for you, you’ll want to think about your travel habits, spending profile, and general preferences.

Travel habits

Consumers who travel frequently may benefit more from a premium travel card that offers a broad range of perks, while more casual travelers may be better off with a mid-tier or no-annual-fee travel card. 

If you’re loyal to a specific airline or hotel chain, it could make sense to get an airline or hotel credit card, but if you don’t want to be tied down to a single brand, a general travel card might be the right move.

You’ll also want to think about how you travel and which travel card benefits would give you the best experience. For example, if your home airport has one or more airport lounges, it can make sense to get a card that offers lounge access. 

Spending profile

Most travel credit cards offer tiered rewards, meaning you’ll earn bonus rewards on certain spending categories. If you spend a lot in certain areas of your budget, try to find a card that will reward you more for those purchases. 

However, if you don’t spend a lot in any single category or you don’t want to earn a low rewards rate on most of your spending, consider a card that offers a high, flat rewards rate on everything.

General preferences

Consider other features you’re looking for in a travel credit card. Options may include transfer partners, straightforward benefits, redemption options, 0% APR promotions, and more. 

As you research and compare travel credit cards, familiarize yourself with all of their benefits to determine which one feels like the best fit based on your needs and preferences.

Frequently asked questions

Which card is better for international travel?

Generally speaking, you’ll want a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. With cards that do charge this fee, you’ll typically pay an extra 3% on all of your purchases made abroad.

Additionally, Visa and Mastercard credit cards tend to be better for international travel because they’re more widely accepted than American Express and Discover credit cards. If you have an Amex or Discover card, consider bringing a Visa or Mastercard as a backup.

Is Visa or Mastercard better for travel?

Mastercard boasts acceptance in more than 210 countries, while Visa says it operates in more than 200 countries. So, if you’re traveling to a country that’s off the beaten path, so to speak, Mastercard may be a better choice. But for most major international destinations, you’re likely fine with either Visa or Mastercard.

What is the best credit card to accumulate travel miles?

Miles have historically been associated with airline frequent flyer programs, but some card issuers, including Capital One and Discover, use the miles nomenclature for their rewards currency. 

With that said, the best miles credit card for you depends on your travel habits and preferences. If you want to earn miles with a particular airline, check out that airline’s co-branded credit cards to see which one offers the best fit. If you want more general rewards, consider a card that offers miles or points with more flexible redemption options.


Please note that card details are accurate as of the publish date, but are subject to change at any time at the discretion of the issuer. Please contact the card issuer to verify rates, fees, and benefits before applying.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions, and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

Fortune Recommends™ has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Fortune Recommends™ and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. 



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