Make Your Travel Easier and Less Expensive – Credit Cards With Travel Rewards 2014


Do you find yourself traveling often, perhaps for work or pleasure?

Using a credit card that offers travel rewards is a great way to earn extra perks or get a little back for your trips (sometimes a lot back).  Traveling can be expensive and a travel rewards card can go a long way to earning something back for your spending.

We all like getting something back, don’t we?

There are a number of different travel reward cards out there.  Among them you can find benefits like:

  • Earning free nights at hotels;
  • Earning hotel upgrades;
  • Earning free flights;
  • Not paying foreign transaction fees;
  • Earning free car rentals;
  • And more…

The cards below offer a variety of these benefits as well as others.


These are the best credit cards for travel rewards that I’ve found (if you know of others, please let me know so I can add them!).  Look through each of the cards and see which benefits mean the most to you.  I’m sure you can find one that will make your travel a little less expensive and maybe a little more fun as well.

One note though — make sure you are actually going to use the benefits!

air_travel_rewardsIf you aren’t taking advantage of what a particular card offers then you are wasting the usefulness of a travel rewards credit card.  Some of these have annual fees, so you need to make sure you are making up for that fee in the card’s use (yes, I’d prefer there were no fees, but these cards will quickly pay for themselves if you are using the benefits).  If you aren’t taking advantage of the rewards then there’s probably another type of card that will work better for you.

Finding the best credit card to fit your particular traveling needs is a great way to maximize your credit card and your spending.  That’s just smart use of your spending power (and I know you’re smart!).  Some people don’t like credit cards but I’m all for responsible spending and if a card can give me some awesome benefits for using it them I’m all for it.

Take a look at the list below and find the best travel rewards credit card with benefits to match your travel habits.

Best Credit Cards for Travel Rewards

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

First off you earn points towards Starwood hotels for free nights (free nights start at 2,000 points) and upgrades in the Starwood Preferred Guest® program.  There are over 1,100 hotels in over 100 countries worldwide to choose from.

But the benefits aren’t only for the hotels. 

You can redeem your Starpoints for airline travel as well, mostly on a one-to-one point basis (you can redeem at over 350 airlines).  The hotels and airlines offered have no blackout dates.

Get 5,000 bonus Starpoints when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to a frequent flyer program with more than 30 airlines.

You can earn up to 5 points for every dollar spent at Starwood Preferred Guest® hotels and resorts – 2 points for every dollar spent at the hotel or resort and 2 for being a member.  If you reach Gold or Platinum member status you earn an additional point.  For regular spending you get one point per dollar.  The first year there is an intro annual fee of $0, and is $65 after the first year.  Terms and restrictions apply.

You can see that if you do a lot of traveling, this can become a card with a lot of great benefits.  See our review of the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card for more details.

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Blue Sky from American Express®

This Blue Sky card may have one of the easiest-to-understand rewards programs on this list.  It’s really a great all-around travel card.

You earn 1 point for virtually every dollar you spend (on eligible purchases of course).

Enjoy a welcome bonus of 7,500 points after you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of card membership.  Now check this, every 7,500 points you earn can be redeemed for a $100 statement credit toward any airline ticket, any hotel stay, car rental, or cruise.  Yeah, you can earn that pretty quick with this card.

There is no annual fee, a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (after the intro period the APR is a variable rate, currently 17.24%-22.24%), and your travel rewards have no restrictions or blackout dates.

Your points are redeemable for flights on any airline, stays at any hotel, and car rentals with any company.  You will also get American Express’ protection from fraudulent charges and extensions on manufacturer’s warranties on eligible purchases.

And don’t forget Amex’ 24/7 Global Assist® Hotline, which provides emergency assistance worldwide.

There’s also no annual membership fee for this card.  Terms and restrictions apply.  See our review of the Blue Sky from American Express for more details.

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

*Note – This particular offer is not currently available*

Alright, I’m telling you off the bat that this card isn’t for everyone.  It’s certainly not for the average credit card user.  By far it has the highest annual fee of any card on this list.  But if you use the benefits you get from the card, and there are a lot, then you will easily cover the cost of the card.

This prestigious card gives you access to airport lounges around the world (over 600 of them) when you enroll in Priority Pass™ Select.

If you travel out of the country, the Platinum Card has no foreign transaction fees.

When you enroll and select an airline you get up to $200 in Airline Fee Credits to cover incidental fees (like baggage fees, flight-change fees, in-flight food and drinks, and more) with your airline, annually.

You can earn 25K Membership Rewards® points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months of being a member (already good for one domestic round-trip Coach-Class airline ticket).  Also receive Amazon Prime free for a year when you meet the bonus requirements.  You also have the privilege of the 24/7  Platinum Card® Concierge to help you from gift buying to reservations.

There are no blackout dates or restrictions on points redeemed for air and travel and you can earn double points when you book online.

The Platinum Card is a charge card so there is no pre-set spending limit and no interest charges when your balance is paid in full.  The annual fee is $450 and can be well worth it if you take advantage of all of the card’s benefits.

There are plenty more benefits that I don’t have room to write about.  See our review of The Platinum Card for more details.  Terms and restrictions apply.

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American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold Card

The Premier Rewards Gold Card is a step down from the Platinum card with an annual fee that is much easier to swallow.  Still, it’s a card chock full of benefits.

With the American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold Card you can earn 25K Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months of having your card (this can earn you one domestic round-trip Coach-Class airline ticket).

Get another 15K points if you spend $30,000 within one calendar year.

You can pile on the points with this card.  Earn triple points on airfare booked with airlines, double points on gasoline at U.S. gas stations, double points at U.S. supermarkets, and single points on other purchases.  Terms and limitations apply so make sure to check the fine print.

When you book two consecutive hotel nights through American Express Travel you can receive $75 back at checkout (restrictions may apply).

By using Pay with Points at American Express Travel you can fly ANY airline, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE without blackout dates or seat restrictions.  You also get the backing of Amex’ Global Assist® Hotline should you have an emergency when you are 100+ miles from home.

There’s also roadside assistance and you get Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance when you use your card to rent a card.  The card also gives you their Baggage Insurance Plan* with coverage for lost, stolen, or damaged bags that are checked or carried on with tickets you purchased on your card.  The Baggage Insurance Plan, Extended Warranty*, and Return Protection* are underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

This first year the annual fee is an introductory fee of $0 ($175 after).  Terms & restrictions apply.  See our review of the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card for more.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred(SM) Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a fan favorite for a lot of people.  Right off the bat you can earn 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months (that’s $500 towards travel rewards).

When you book airfare, car rentals, cruises, and hotels through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards(SM) site you use 20% fewer points.  When you use your card outside of the United States there are no foreign transaction fees.  Use your card to book airfare and hotels through Ultimate Rewards(SM) and get 2X the points (oh, and when you call to book you get an actual person, not a prompt).

You’ll earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining while all other purchases are one point for every dollar spent.  At the end of the year you get a 7% points bonus/dividend for all points earned the previous year.  You can transfer the points you’ve earned to participating frequent travel programs at a 1:1 value (a very nice feature if you use different travel programs).  The first year’s annual fee is waived ($95).  There are also no blackout dates or restrictions when airfare or hotel is booked through Ultimate Rewards(SM).

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Capital One® Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Venture Rewards card allows you to redeem your miles for any travel expense, making it a pretty flexible card.  You earn 2 miles for every dollar in purchases you make and there’s no limit on the miles you can earn; they don’t expire either.  You can also fly on any airline without any blackout restrictions.  Oh, and when you’re overseas, or across the border, there will be no foreign transaction fees.  They start you off with a 10,000 mile bonus when you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of having your card.  The annual fee for the card is a reasonable $59 for which you get an intro $0 annual fee the first year.

Finally

Remember – In order to truly get the most from a travel rewards card you should not be carrying high-APR debt.  You’re a smart credit user, remember?  Once you start paying interest on credit card debt you quickly eat into any credit card travel rewards you may be earning.

“Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.”

“This content is not provided by Bank of America. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, however this site may be compensated by Bank of America.”

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Published or updated March 10, 2014.

Comments

  1. Personally, I like the airline cards better. American Express is a good choice except for the high fee. It might make sense if your employer paid for it or you could deduct the expense on your taxes.

    • Glen Craig says:

      It really depends on what you are using the card benefits for. If you are concentrating on airline miles then an airline card may be better. A travel rewards card is more broad in scope.

      American Express’ fees shouldn’t be a problem if you taking advantage of all of the benefits. You have to make sure you are getting a card that matches your needs.

      • @ffb, Good point about the american experss fee. I used the card one year and paid the fee. The rewards and the perks more than made up for the the fee. You can cancel the card anytime and Amex will give you a prorated fee back.

  2. I do like my Amex Gold. I mentioned on another site this week that their customer service is excellent. I don’t use credit cards, but with our finances completely under control for the past 15 years I don’t feel like I would let a balance accumulate. I’m just so used to paying cash for everything that I will probably forget to use the card.

    I am looking at an airline reward card. I know it is probably a good strategic move, but it is hard to pull the trigger after being without debt for so long.

    • Glen Craig says:

      Amex does have excellent customer service.

      As for getting an airline miles card or a travel rewards card, you need to know yourself. It sounds like you wouldn’t let yourself be in debt. If you pay off your balance and track your spending then an excellent travel rewards or airline miles card can help you get more out of your purchases. BUT, you have to make sure you aren’t spending more than you have and that you pay off your card every month.

      We pay our card off so a credit card becomes a convenient tool for purchases that offers us other perks as well.

  3. I tend to stick with the cash back cards, simply because I usually find better deals on travel on my own. That said, the list here looks pretty good if travel points are what the person is looking for.

    • Glen Craig says:

      Use a card that works best for your purchases. But did you know you don’t have to always buy your trip through a card’s site in order to take advantage of travel points?

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