You may think that travel credit cards are a great way to earn rewards such as free airline flights and complimentary stays at luxury hotels and resorts – and you’d be right. But in today’s competitive credit card market, many also offer other significant perks such as free checked bags, no foreign transaction fees, and discounted or free fares on cruises and train travel. That’s what we look for at RewardsGuru. While most travel cards come with an enticing signup bonus, it’s important to choose a card that (over the long run) will allow you to earn rewards on the things you purchase the most. So to that end, we have put together our choices for the best travel cards – and we’ve broken them down to let you see where they shine in terms of rewards.
- Best Overall Travel card: Chase Sapphire
- Best Premium Travel card (tie): United MileagePlus Club Card
- Best Premium Travel card (tie): American Express Platinum
- Best Branded Airline card: Southwest Airlines Rewards Visa
- Best No Annual Fee card: Discover it Miles
- Best Hotel card: Starwood American Express
- Best Business-Related card: Chase Ink Plus Business Card
- Best Gas Purchases card: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa
- Best Free Checked Bags card: American Airlines Platinum MasterCard
- Best No Foreign Transaction Fees card: Capital One Venture Rewards
- Best Train Travel card: Amtrak Rewards MasterCard
- Best Cruise card: Carnival MasterCard
Best Overall Travel card: Chase Sapphire
Advantages of Chase Sapphire:
- Chase Sapphire offers one of the most generous signup bonuses on the market today. New members can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases during the first three months that your account is open. These bonus points are worth $625 in Travel Rewards when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- New members can earn an additional 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make an initial purchase during the first three months that your account is open.
- Cardholders earn 2X points per dollar spent on travel and restaurant dining purchases. All other transactions earn 1X point per dollar spent.
- Members can transfer points at full value to numerous frequent travel programs – this means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points. Travel programs include: British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, United Mileage Plus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards.
- Card members pay no foreign transaction fees when using the card to make purchases while traveling outside of the U.S. Plus the card is chip-enabled for greater security when making transactions at a chip-enabled terminal.
- Account holders get 20% off travel when you redeem points for airfare, car rentals, hotel accommodations and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. As an example, a $625 flight requires only 50,000 points.
- The annual fee is waived for the first year of membership. After that, members are charged $95 per year.
Disadvantages of Chase Sapphire:
- There are no airline-specific perks offered with this card such as you might get with a branded travel card. This means no free checked bags, no lounge access and no priority boarding.
- While the 50,000 bonus points signup offer is generous, the spending threshold of $4,000 during the first three months is substantial.
Earning unlimited double points on travel and restaurant purchases is a great deal. Even though the card is not airline or hotel specific, the 1:1 redemption value with its numerous travel partners make this card a solid value. Add in the 20% bonus when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and the significant signup bonus and it’s easy to see why the Chase Sapphire is our pick for Best Overall Travel card.
Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Card.
Best Premium Travel card (tie): United MileagePlus Club Card
- The United MileagePlus Club Card, which is issued by Chase, currently offers new members a $100 statement credit after making your first purchase on the card.
- Card members receive United Club membership which is valued up to $550 per year. United Club locations offer a convenient and welcoming place to work and relax plus members enjoy complimentary beverages and snacks. Prior to your flight, you as the primary cardholder and other eligible travel companions will enjoy access to all United Club locations as well as participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges around the world.
- Tickets purchased directly from United earn 2 miles per dollar spent.
- Members earn 1.5 miles per dollar spent on every purchase.
- Miles never expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. Plus there is no limit to the number of miles you can earn.
- The primary cardholder and one companion traveling on the same reservation receive their first and second standard checked bags free of charge – a potential savings of up to $240 round trip for two people.
- Members receive Premier Access travel services which offers preferential treatment at the airport with priority check-in, security screening (when and where available) and boarding and baggage handling privileges.
- Cardholders are not charged foreign transaction fees when making purchases on the card while traveling internationally.
- Members can use miles to book any available seat, at any time, on any United operated flight. If seats are available for sale, they can be redeemed at the MileagePlus Standard Award level.
- Card members can book United tickets for close-in dates without paying an additional booking fee.
- Primary cardholders are eligible for Platinum status in the Hyatt Gold Passport program. Registration is required.
- Members are eligible to receive room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and other special cardholder-only amenities at more than 700 hotels, spas and resorts in the U.S. and around the world.
Disadvantages of the United MileagePlus Club Card:
- This card is designed for frequent travelers who routinely choose United Airlines when they fly. This means that people who don’t use United that often will have a difficult time realizing the benefits of this card.
- The annual fee of $450 is fairly steep. It is not waived for the first year of membership. You should determine if the rewards you earn will more than make up for the annual fee.
This card offers people who routinely fly on United Airlines great benefits. If lounge access is important to you, the United MileagePlus Club Card delivers that with United Club membership included (a value of up to $550 annually). Plus the primary cardholder and one companion traveling on the same reservation receive their first and second checked bags free – a potential savings of $240 per round trip flight. You also receive Platinum status in the Hyatt Gold Passport program once you register. While the $450 annual fee is considerable, the benefits easily make this card a must-have for frequent United Airlines travelers.
Read our full review of the United MileagePlus Club Card.
Best Premium Travel card (tie): American Express Platinum
- New members who are approved for the American Express Platinum card can receive 40,000 Membership Rewards points after making $3,000 in eligible purchases on the card during the first three months that your account is open.
- Cardholders enjoy complimentary access to more than 850 airport lounges, including the Centurion lounge network, Delta Sky Club and Airspace Lounges. Members can also enroll in Priority Pass Select at no additional charge.
- Card members receive a $200 Airline Fee Credit which can be used for various perks when you fly. These include in-flight meals and checked bags. Simply choose a qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 a year in statement credits when incidental fees are charged to your Platinum Card by that airline.
- Members automatically qualify for Hilton HHonors Gold Status Enrollment. Members enjoy benefits at hotels and resorts within the Hilton Portfolio and earn reward stays faster with Hilton Bonus Points.
- Account holders are eligible to receive a statement credit every five years when you apply for Global Entry ($100) or TSA Precheck ($85) and the application fee is charged to your card.
- Every dollar you spend on the card earns one Membership Rewards point. Points can be redeemed for retail, dining, and entertainment purchases online. They may also be used towards your next travel experience.
- Certain purchases earn double Membership Rewards points. These include air, prepaid hotels, including the Hotel Collection bookings, vacation packages (flight and hotel), American Express Vacations or cruise reservations. To be eligible for double points, all purchases must be made through amextravel.com and charged to your American Express Platinum card.
- Members receive Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status which offers upgrades to enhanced rooms upon check-in (when available).
- Cardholders can get up to a $75 hotel credit on qualifying charges when you stay at a Hotel Collection property. Members also can receive a room upgrade at check-in (if available) when you book a stay of at least two consecutive nights.
- Members are not charged foreign transaction fees when making purchases on the card while traveling outside of the U.S.
Disadvantages of the American Express Platinum:
- The American Express Platinum is a charge card rather than a credit card. The upside of this is you don’t pay interest charges but the downside is the entire balance is due in full each month.
- American Express cards are not as widely accepted as MasterCard and Visa so you should take this into consideration if you travel often (especially internationally).
- The annual fee of $450 is not waived. Unless you plan to take advantage of the many travel benefits offered, the high membership fee may be hard to justify.
This card currently comes with a considerable signup bonus – earn 40,000 Membership points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. It offers luxury perks which frequent travelers will really appreciate. These include an annual $200 Airline Fee credit, a Global Entry application fee credit and access to more than 850 airport lounges to name just a few. If you travel often and enjoy doing it in style, the American Express Platinum card doesn’t disappoint.
Read our full review of the American Express Platinum Card.
Best Branded Airline card: Southwest Airlines Rewards Visa
- New card members who are approved for the Southwest Airlines Rewards Visa (which is issued by Chase) have the opportunity to earn 25,000 points after spending $1,000 on qualified purchases during the first three months that your account is open.
- New account holders also earn one point for each $1 of balance transfers that are completed within 90 days of account opening. The maximum number of points allowed is 15,000 which is equal to $15,000 in balance transfers.
- Members earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) for every $10,000 spent on eligible purchases. These points are solely used towards elite status qualification and have no redemption value. The annual number of TQPs you can earn is 15,000 which equates to $100,000 worth of net purchases made on the card.
- Members earn 6,000 bonus points after your account anniversary date each year.
- Rapid Rewards points are unlimited and never expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing.
- Each dollar you spend on Southwest Airlines purchases earns you two points. Plus, purchases made at participating Rapid Rewards Hotel and Rental Car Partners also earn double points.
- All other eligible transactions earn one point per dollar spent.
- There are numerous redemption options available to cardholders including: Southwest flights, hotel stays, car rentals, gift cards, and merchandise.
- Flight benefits include no blackout dates, no change fees, two checked bags fly free, and no seat restrictions.
- Rapid Rewards has many hotel Preferred Partners such as Marriott, SPG- Starwood Preferred Guest, Choice Privileges, Best Western, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Hyatt, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and MGM Resorts International.
- Members can take advantage of the many car rental partners offered by the Southwest Airlines Rewards Visa. These include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar Rent-a-Car, Hertz, National Rental Car, Payless Car Rental and Thrifty Car Rental.
- Cardmembers are not charged foreign transaction fees when making purchases while traveling internationally.
- The annual fee for this card is $99 which is applied to the first billing statement.
Disadvantages of the Southwest Airlines Rewards Visa:
- This card delivers the highest rewards (2X) on purchases made with Southwest Airlines so obviously people who fly with the airline on a regular basis stand to earn the most rewards. All other purchases earn only one point per dollar which is fairly run-of-the-mill in terms of reward credit cards.
- If you want the ability to redeem rewards on any airline, this card isn’t for you.
- Luxury travel perks and upgrades are not offered with the Southwest Airlines Rewards Visa.
This card is a great choice for anyone who is a dedicated Southwest Airlines customer. It offers a good signup bonus of 25,000 points which is sufficient to redeem for a round-trip award ticket. The Southwest Airlines Visa also offers many hotel and car rental Preferred Partners (purchases made at these establishments also earn double points) making it an attractive choice for frequent travelers.
Read our full review of the Southwest Airlines Rewards Visa Card.
Best No Annual Fee card: Discover it Miles
- The Discover it Miles card offers cardmembers a good rewards program along with its award-winning customer service – and all with no annual fee.
- Members earn an unlimited 1.5 Miles per dollar spent on every purchase. Additionally, there are no rotating categories and no spending limits.
- For new account holders, the Discover it Miles card automatically matches all the miles you’ve earned at the end of the your first year. This means if you earn 25,000 Miles during your first 12 months, those 25,000 Miles become 50,000 Miles.
- Cardholders can redeem Miles in any amount for a travel credit on your statement or cash back. 100 Miles always equals $1.00.
- This card is not affiliated with a specific airline so members are free to choose any airline at any time when redeeming Miles. Plus, there are no blackout dates and Miles never expire.
- New members receive an introductory 0% APR on purchases for 12 months from the date your account is opened. For people who plan to make a big purchase, this offer provides an excellent opportunity to pay off your purchase within a year while incurring no finance charges.
- The card currently offers an introductory APR of 10.99% for 12 months on balance transfers (time period begins from the date of the first transfer). This is a limited time offer.
- Members receive reimbursement of up to $30 per year for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases which are given as automatic credits to your billing statement.
- The Discover it Miles card offers members the Freeze It feature which allows you to prevent unauthorized transactions if your card is ever lost or misplaced. Simply use the mobile app to freeze your account within seconds.
- Cardholders have access to 100% U.S. based call center service.
- Members are never charged foreign transaction fees for purchases made on the card while traveling internationally.
Disadvantages of the Discover it Miles card:
- While new members do receive matching Miles for whatever number of Miles are earned during the first twelve months of membership, you do have to wait an entire year to get those Miles. So if you’re looking to get a large amount of rewards immediately – this card won’t deliver.
- There are no travel partners associated with the card. Even though this card is marketed as a travel rewards credit card, Miles do not actually transfer to hotel, airline or car rental frequent traveler programs.
- Discover is certainly expanding its global reach but it is not as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard. If you frequently travel overseas, you may want to consider this fact.
The Discover it Miles card comes with solid benefits – especially the Double Miles offer for new members (although you have to wait a year to receive those double miles). The fact that it charges no annual fee makes it even more appealing. It has a simple rewards program that allows members to earn 1.5 Miles on every purchase with no rotating categories and no spending caps. Add to that an introductory 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months and you have a flexible travel rewards card that delivers great value.
Read our full review of the Discover it Miles Card.
Best Hotel card: Starwood American Express
- New members can earn 35,000 bonus Starpoints after making at least $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months that your account is open.
- Cardholders earn up to five Starpoints for every dollar spent at SPG hotels (one base point plus two for elite status and another two for having the card). The Starwood Preferred Guest portfolio consists of the following hotel and resort properties: W Hotels, Regis, Le Meridien, The Luxury Collection, Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft Hotels, Westin, and element by Westin.
- All other purchases earn one Starpoint per dollar spent.
- Members can easily turn Starpoints into Airline Miles. Account holders are eligible for free award flights on more than 150 airlines including American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Airlines and United Airlines. Another great feature of the card is when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints at one time, you will receive an additional 5,000 bonus Starpoints.
- Starpoints can be redeemed for free nights at over 1,200 hotels and resorts around the world with no blackout dates. For example, a weekend night at a Category 1 SPG hotel can be redeemed for as low as 2,000 Starpoints.
- Cardmembers receive credit for five nights and two stays each year towards SPG Elite Status. That leaves just 20 more nights for SPG Gold status and 45 more nights for SPG Platinum status (per calendar year).
- Overall, Starpoints are worth more than the standard 1:1 ratio. Members receive the best value when booking hotel stays at any SPG property. Starpoints are estimated to be worth around 2.3 cents each when used to book SPG award nights. Here’s a breakdown of the Starpoint redemption values for free nights: 7 cents per point for domestic weekday stays; 2.4 cents per point for domestic weekend stays; 2.2 cents per point for international weekday stays; and 1.9 cents per point for international weekend stays.
- Starpoints can also be redeemed for rental car certificates, gift cards and audience rewards but these options provide much less value per point.
- Members are not charged foreign transaction fees when making purchases on the card while traveling outside of the U.S.
- The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year of membership.
Disadvantages of the Starwood American Express:
- This card is designed to give the greatest return on rewards to people who stay at Starwood hotels on a regular basis (5X). All other purchases earn a meager one point per dollar spent. If you rarely choose to stay at a hotel in the Starwood portfolio it may be difficult to earn significant rewards.
- Starpoints can take up to 12 weeks to become available in your account so if you are planning to use your earn points for an upcoming flight or hotel stay – be forewarned.
- American Express is not as widely accepted as Visa and MasterCard especially overseas. If you often travel internationally, it is a fact worth considering.
- It was announced recently that Marriott was in the process of buying the Starwood portfolio of hotels although the deal had not been finalized. Now it appears that the China – based Anbang Insurance has made a more lucrative bid for Starwood. No matter which group ends up purchasing Starwood hotels, it seems likely that changes could be made to the Starwood Rewards program – something you may want to consider before deciding on the card.
If you are a frequent traveler and routinely choose Starwood Hotels for your accommodations, this card is a great choice. Additionally, the Starwood American Express allows you to transfer Starpoints to numerous frequent flier programs usually on a 1:1 basis. And if you transfer 20,000 points at one time, an additional 5,000 bonus Starpoints will be deposited into your account. It also comes with a relatively low annual fee of $95 (waived for the first year), a good signup bonus (35,000 Starpoints) and charges no foreign transaction fees on international purchases.
Read our full review of the Starwood American Express Card.
Best Business-Related card: Chase Ink Plus Business Card
- New members can take advantage of the a large signup bonus currently available – earn 60,000 bonus points after making at least $5,000 in eligible net purchases in the first three months that your account is open. That’s equal to $750 in travel rewards when you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- For a business credit card, the Chase Ink Plus card offers a great rewards rate on purchases. Cardholders earn five points for every dollar spent on office supplies, Internet, cable TV, cellphones and landline phone service for the first $50,000 in combined purchases annually. Once the spending threshold is met, purchases in these categories will earn one point per dollar for the remainder of the year.
- Members earn two points per dollar spent on gas station transactions and hotel accommodations that are booked and purchased through the hotel directly. This category also comes with a spending threshold of $50,000 in combined purchases annually. Again, purchases above the spending threshold will earn one point per dollar for the rest of the year.
- All other purchases earn one point per dollar spent with no spending cap.
- Members who reach the spending caps in the 5X and 2X categories can earn $3,500 in rewards each year with this card.
- Points never expire as long as your account is open and active.
- Members get 20% off airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, a $500 flight will only require 40,000 points.
- Members can redeem points at a 1:1 ratio for both hotel loyalty and airline frequent flyer programs. Hotels include: Hyatt Gold Passport, IHG, Marriott Rewards and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. Airlines include: British Airways, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
- The Chase Ink Plus Business card lets you set and change spending limits on employee cards. Plus, there is no additional cost for these cards.
- Members are not charged foreign transaction fees when making purchases while traveling outside of the U.S.
- There is an annual fee of $95 which is not waived.
Disadvantages of the Chase Ink Plus Business card:
- While this is a great business card for travel, members do not receive some of the perks that normally come with co-branded airline cards. For example, this card does not offer waived baggage fees, priority boarding, or access to airport lounges.
- This card may not be the best choice for companies that don’t spend a significant amount in the 5X bonus categories.
- Conversely, businesses that spend a lot more than the bonus rewards cap each year may want to consider a card that offers rewards without spending thresholds.
The Chase Ink Plus Business card is a solid choice for companies that routinely spend between $25,000 and $50,000 per year on travel expenses as well as office supply purchases and internet and phone services. It also lets you set spending limits for employees and does not charge for additional cards. Members also receive a 20% discount when redeeming points through Chase Ultimate Rewards for flights, hotels, car rentals and cruises. Plus, the large signup bonus (60,000 points) is equal to $750 worth of travel rewards.
Read our full review of the Chase Ink Plus Business Card.
- New members can earn a $100 statement credit after making $1,500 worth of eligible net purchases within the first 90 days from account opening.
- New members can also earn either a $50 statement credit for a balance transfer of $5,000 to $9,999 or a $100 statement credit for any balance transfer of more than $10,000.
- This card currently offers a 0% promotional APR for 12 months on balance transfers subject to approval.
- Card members earn 5 points per dollar on every gas purchase (with no spending caps).
- Members earn 3 points per dollar on all supermarket purchases (again, with no caps).
- All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar.
- A minimum of 1,000 points is required for redemption. Points can be used for travel, hotel and flight rewards, merchandise and gift certificates.
- Members are not charged foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling internationally.
- There is no annual fee for this card which is remarkable considering the rewards rate offered.
Disadvantages of the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa:
- Applicants are required to be a member of PenFed Credit Union to apply for this card. Eligibility can be met in the following ways:
- Be a member of the U.S. military
- Be an employee of the Federal Government or other qualifying organization
- Belong to a qualifying organization or association
- Live or work at an eligible location
- Be a relative or housemate of someone who is eligible
- Make a one- time donation to Voices for America’s Troops ($14) or the National Military Family Association ($15)
- To earn the 5X and 3X bonus points, transactions must be submitted with the proper Merchant Category Codes for gas stations and supermarkets according to Visa USA guidelines. Transactions made at discount retailers such as Walmart and Target as well as warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club often do not qualify for the bonus rewards points. Purchases made at these locations will earn the basic 1 point per dollar spent.
The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature is a good option for people who spend a lot of their monthly income on gas and food purchases. The 5X and 3X bonus rewards categories come with no spending limits like many other rewards cards – plus there is no annual fee. You do have to be a member of PenFed Credit Union but worst case it will cost you a one-time donation of either $14 or $15 – well worth it for the rewards rates you can earn.
Best Free Checked Bags card: American Airlines Platinum MasterCard
- New members can earn 30,000 American Airlines Aadvantage bonus miles after spending a minimum of $1,000 in eligible net purchases within the first three months that your account is open. The 30,000 bonus miles can be redeemed for one round-trip Main Cabin Continental U.S./Canada MileSAAver awards.
- The Rewards Program lets you earn 2 Aadvantage miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines purchases.
- All other eligible transactions earn 1 point per dollar spent.
- There is no limit to the amount of Aadvantage miles you can earn – plus miles never expire as long as your account remains open and active.
- Members can redeem miles for flights to over 1,000 destinations around the globe as well as upgrades, vacation packages, hotels and car rentals.
- Cardholders receive the first checked bag for free on domestic American Airlines itineraries as do four companions traveling with you on the same reservation.
- Members enjoy Group 1 boarding on American Airlines flights.
- As an account holder, you will receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights.
- Members earn 10% of redeemed miles back – capped at 10,000 Aadvantage miles per calendar year.
- Reduced Mileage Awards allows you to fly to select destinations on American Airlines flights for 7,500 fewer Aadvantage miles.
- Cardholders are not charged foreign transaction fees when using the card to make purchases while traveling abroad.
- There is an annual fee of $95 which is waived for the first year.
Disadvantages of the American Airlines Platinum MasterCard:
- The bonus miles signup offer is not available to anyone who has opened or closed an American Airlines Platinum MasterCard in the last 18 months.
- For new members who meet the purchase requirements for the bonus miles offer, it may take 8-10 weeks for the miles to be deposited into your account (from the date you fulfill the $1,000 spending threshold). So technically you could be waiting for over five months for the bonus miles to hit your account.
- This card is designed for people who travel often and are loyal to American Airlines. Double miles are only available on American Airlines purchases and all other transactions earn a meager one point per dollar.
The American Airlines Platinum MasterCard (which is issued by Citi) is a solid choice for people who travel often and choose American Airlines for their travel needs. It delivers a lot of benefits for a card with an annual fee of only $95 (which is waived for the first year of membership). These include: first bag checked free on domestic flights, priority boarding, 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights and 10% of redeemed miles back – up to 10,000 Aadvantage miles per calendar year. Plus, you earn double miles on American Airlines purchases and one mile on all other transactions. Add to this no foreign transaction fees and a signup bonus of 30,000 miles (enough for a round-trip domestic flight in the Main Cabin) and you have the makings of a very solid rewards card.
Read our full review of the American Airlines Platinum MasterCard.
Best No Foreign Transaction Fees card: Capital One Venture Rewards
- This card currently offers new members the opportunity to earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending at least $3,000 on eligible net purchases during the first three months that your account is active. These bonus miles are equal to $400 in travel rewards.
- Members earn 2X miles for every dollar spent on every purchase, all the time. There are no spending caps or rotating categories to keep track of. Plus, there is no limit on the amount of miles you can earn.
- Cardmembers can redeem miles as a statement credit towards any eligible travel purchase made on the card. 100 miles is equal to $1 in travel rewards.
- Miles can also be redeemed for cash, gift cards, and merchandise but the redemption rates vary depending on which option you choose.
- Reward miles never expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing.
- With the Capital One Venture Rewards card you have the flexibility to make travel purchases on any website or on any app – any hotel, airline, rental car company and more.
- Members are never charged foreign transaction fees on purchases made while traveling internationally.
- There is an annual fee of $59 which is waived for the first year of membership.
Disadvantages of the Capital One Venture Rewards:
- If you simply want to earn cash-back rewards this card may not be the best choice. Rewards rates are weighted towards travel purchases and many of the benefits are aimed at people who travel often (especially internationally).
- Miles do not transfer to other airline and hotel rewards programs so if you are loyal to a specific airline or hotel group you may want to consider an actual branded rewards card.
- Travel perks such as free checked bags and priority boarding are not available with this card.
The Capital One Venture Rewards card delivers solid value to people who love to travel and want to earn flexible rewards while doing so. Every purchase you make with the card earns double miles per dollar spent and best of all – these miles are unlimited and never expire. You can travel whenever you want because there are no blackout dates when you use this card. You can choose any airline, any hotel and any car rental agency – plus you can make your reservations on any website or on any app. And there are never any foreign transaction fees assessed on international purchases. The Capital One Venture Rewards card keeps it straightforward and easy – two great features you will appreciate in a rewards credit card.
Read our full review of the Capital One Venture Rewards Card.
Best Train Travel card: Amtrak Rewards MasterCard
- New members who are approved for the Amtrak Rewards MasterCard (which is issued by Bank of America) can earn 20,000 bonus points after spending a minimum of $1,000 in eligible net purchases within 90 days from when your account is opened. These bonus points are enough to redeem for a trip to many of Amtrak’s 500+ destinations.
- Cardholders earn 3 Amtrak Guest Rewards points for every dollar spent on qualifying Amtrak travel including onboard purchases.
- Members earn 2 points on other eligible travel purchases.
- All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent.
- There is no limit to the amount of points you can earn.
- Members can redeem points for the following: free Amtrak travel starting at 800 points, hotel stays starting at 5,000 points, car rentals starting at 6,000 points and gift cards starting at 6,000 points.
- When your account is opened members also receive a complimentary Companion Coupon, a One-Class Upgrade and a single-day Club Acela pass for Club Acela, Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge or First Class lounges.
- Members receive a 5% point rebate every time you redeem points for Amtrak Award travel.
- Account holders earn 1,000 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) towards earning status each time your eligible spending reaches $5,000 in a calendar year. The amount of TQPs you can earn in one calendar year is capped at 4,000.
- Each year when you renew your card membership you will receive a Companion Coupon and One-Class Upgrade.
- Members enjoy World MasterCard benefits which include acceptance at more than 32 million locations worldwide, 24/7 assistance with travel – related emergencies and access to Global Concierge which can help with hotel accommodations, dining reservations and more anytime in the day or night.
- Cardholders are not charged foreign transaction fees when making purchases outside of the U.S.
- There is an annual fee of $79 which is not waived.
Disadvantages of the Amtrak Rewards MasterCard:
- This card is specifically designed for people who use Amtrak for their travel needs on a regular basis. The rewards program gives members the highest return on Amtrak purchases and while it does give double points for other qualifying travel purchases, everyday transactions earn a paltry one point per dollar spent.
- It can take up to 12 weeks for the 20,000 bonus points to be available in your account once you meet the spending threshold. Keep that in mind if you are planning a trip in the near future and hope to use those points.
If you are a regular traveler on Amtrak this is a good choice to earn rewards on your purchases. The World MasterCard version of this card offers a hefty signup bonus (20,000 points which can be worth up to $500 in travel rewards), triple points on Amtrak purchases and double points on other qualifying travel purchases. Additionally, upon account opening, members receive a complimentary Companion Coupon, a One-Class Upgrade and a single-day Club Acela pass for Club Acela, Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge or First Class lounges. The Amtrak Rewards MasterCard does come with a $79 annual fee – but if you routinely travel with Amtrak the rewards and benefits will more than make up for this cost.
Read our full review of the Amtrak Rewards MasterCard.
Best Cruise card: Carnival MasterCard
- New members can earn 10,000 Fun Points after making an initial purchase on your card. There is no specific amount you are required to spend in order to receive the bonus Fun Points. 10,000 points are enough to earn a credit of up to $100 towards your next cruise purchase.
- New members can take advantage of a 0% promotional APR on balance transfers for the first 15 billing cycles of your account. To qualify, any balance transfers must be completed and post to your account within 45 days of account opening.
- Account holders earn 2X points per dollar spent on Carnival Cruise vacation and Carnival Vacation Club purchases.
- Members earn 2X points per dollar spent on any purchases charged to the Sail and Sign account onboard any Carnival Cruise ship.
- All other transactions earn 1X point per dollar spent.
- Members can redeem points for a statement credit towards the following items: purchases made with Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises or the Yachts of Seabourn or any hotel or airline charge that is $50 or greater and has posted within the last 180 days. The number of points needed for redemption purposes varies by transaction.
- The Carnival World MasterCard does not charge foreign transaction fees for purchases made while traveling outside of the U.S.
- There is no annual fee for this card.
Disadvantages of the Carnival MasterCard:
- Like most branded rewards credit card, the Carnival MasterCard (issued by Barclay’s) is best suited to people who like to go on cruises fairly often – especially Carnival and its associated cruise lines. Members earn double points only on cruise purchases. All other transactions earn a meager one point per dollar.
- The redemption terms are somewhat restrictive with this card. Redemption options are based on stateroom/category availability and are also limited by capacity.
- Fun Points can be redeemed for Onboard Credits but the rates are high. For example, a bathrobe will require 7,200 points and you will need 20,000 points for a $200 Spa Credit. This a very poor rate-of-return.
- There is no cash-back rewards option with this card.
The Carnival MasterCard is designed for people who frequently book cruises with Carnival Cruise Lines or one of the other World Leading Cruise Lines and want to earn rewards towards those vacations. You will receive 10,000 bonus Fun Points after making your initial purchase on the card which is equal to $100 in credit towards your next cruise. Plus there is currently a promotional offer of 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 15 months that your account is active. Add to that no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee and you have a card that should appeal to every cruise enthusiast.
Read our full review of the Carnival MasterCard.