Best Travel Credit Cards: Top 5 Rewards Cards, According To Experts

Visiting countries you’ve not previously visited, learning about new cultures, and escaping the daily grind are some of the benefits of travel. Though travel in and of itself is a reward, there’s something that can elevate it to another level: being rewarded to travel. This is where the perks of travel credit cards come in, and it’s why we searched the web to find the best travel credit cards that gain points abroad and keep you financially secure.

How often do you get to go away? Research reveals that 42 percent of Americans never went on vacation as a kid. And if you fall into that category, you may be itching to jet set once and for all. The study shows that a third of Americans didn’t take a vacation until early adulthood. Moreover, the survey also looked at people’s feelings about vacation FOMO and found that the average person has been on six vacations purely for leisure and relaxation and longs for more. But a piece of the travel equation can make or break a trip.

Flying can be a fun experience or an absolute nightmare. Many people dread airports because of the things that may go wrong: long lines, lost luggage, delayed flights, the list goes on. But there is new AI-powered research from the University of Missouri [that] may have a high-tech solution to all your airline woes. Researchers used AI to analyze close to 400,000 unique, publicly available customer reviews for six major U.S. airline companies. And with that data, the computer program discovered 11 ways to create more satisfied airline customers across the board. One of those ways being to introduce a more flexible booking policy (no cancellation charges, no change fees, upfront information about costs), which would make many people happy. Sounds too good to be true.

Dreaming of sun-kissed beaches, bustling foreign markets, or mountain vistas that take your breath away? While wanderlust may ignite your soul, the reality of travel involves expenses. But hold on, globetrotters! Enter the best travel credit cards, your secret weapon for maximizing every mile, maximizing every perk, and making your travel dreams a reality.

The benefits of a credit card with travel rewards:

  1. Earn Rewards, Reap Savings: Forget generic rewards programs. Top travel cards shower you with points, miles, or cash back specifically for travel purchases. Flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises – your playground, your points. Imagine booking that dream trip to Bali with points earned from your daily latte habit! Talk about travel hacking like a pro.
  2. Bid Farewell to Foreign Transaction Fees: The world is your oyster, and international transactions shouldn’t be bogged down by pesky fees. The best travel cards often waive these charges, letting you explore exotic locales without worrying about hidden costs. So, browse those Parisian boutiques or savor gelato in Rome without financial heartburn.
  3. Unlock VIP Lounges and Experiences: Say goodbye to cramped airport terminals and hello to luxurious havens. Certain travel cards grant access to swanky airport lounges, offering respite from the travel chaos with comfy seating, complimentary food and drinks, and even spa treatments. Think of it as your personal oasis before takeoff. Plus, exclusive travel experiences like priority boarding or airport fast tracks can make your journey smoother than ever.
  4. Travel Insurance in Your Pocket: Unexpected trip cancellations or medical emergencies can cast a shadow on any vacation. But with the right travel card, you can breathe easy. Many offer built-in travel insurance, providing coverage for trip cancellation, baggage loss, or even medical emergencies abroad. It’s like having an invisible safety net, letting you explore with confidence.
  5. Level Up Your Security: Top travel cards prioritize your financial well-being with advanced fraud protection features. Real-time transaction monitoring, zero-liability protection, and even chip-and-pin technology safeguard your hard-earned money, allowing you to focus on making memories, not fretting about security.

Remember, the best travel credit cards aren’t one-size-fits-all. Consider your travel style, spending habits, and desired perks before picking your perfect plastic passport. But be prepared to unlock a world of travel benefits, maximize your rewards, and turn your travel dreams into reality, one swipe at a time.

To finally go on that long-awaited trip without the stress of foreign transaction fees, but with added rewards, we’ve got you covered. StudyFinds turned to the experts to create this list of the top five best travel credit cards to take on your next getaway. Of course, we want to hear from you. Comment below to tell us which credit card gives you the most bang for your traveling buck!

Black Payment Terminal with credit card
(Photo by energepic.com on Unsplash)

The List: Best Travel Credit Cards, Per Experts

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

This travel credit card is recommended on every expert list we reviewed, and it topped most of them. To be considered for this card your credit needs to be in the good to great range, generally a score of 670 or higher.

“The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the best-known travel rewards credit cards, featuring 5 points per dollar on travel booked through the Chase travel portal and Lyft purchases, 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services and online grocery store purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else,” writes The Points Guy. “These valuable points can be transferred to airline and hotel partners or redeemed directly for travel at a rate of 1.25 cents per point through Chase Ultimate Rewards.”

WalletHub likes this credit card for the sign-up bonus: “Spending at least $4,000 during the first 3 months your account is open will trigger a 60,000-point rewards bonus. That can be redeemed for $750 in travel booked through Chase or $600 as a statement credit…there is a $50 annual credit for hotel stays booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and you won’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees when using this card.” You’ll also “get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.”

“The card stands out for its travel protections,” writes Business Insider. “You’ll enjoy insurance if your flight is delayed, if your baggage is delayed or lost, primary car rental insurance, and more if you book eligible travel and meet the benefit requirements.” But if you frequent airports do consider that this credit card “doesn’t offer some of the travel perks you’ll get with competing cards, such as airport lounge access and a statement credit for Global Entry.”

2. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Both the Capital One Venture and Venture X cards made many experts’ lists, but the Venture X squeaked out the victory. Though both come highly recommended, there are differences between the two that are worth looking into before deciding which is best for you. This card is accessible to those with excellent credit, generally a score of 750 or higher.

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (capitalone.com)

Forbes writes, “The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card changed the game in the travel rewards space and is not only our best travel card, it’s among the best cards on the market in any category. The points are easy to earn and simple to redeem, the card comes with a bevy of benefits and the credits can easily make the annual fee worthwhile. Just make sure you value using your rewards for travel.” While that annual fee coming in at $395 may seem hefty to some, Forbes still thinks the perks outweigh the fee: “The annual fee may give you pause, but the card comes with up to a $300 annual travel statement credit for bookings through the Capital One Portal and a 10,000-point anniversary bonus worth $100 in travel. A Priority Pass membership also provides value, giving you access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide.”

“The Venture X is an instant top contender in the premium card market with its fully-loaded benefits, including large sign-up bonus, unlimited miles in all purchase categories (with no expiration or blackout dates), lounge access and up to $100 in statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck,” adds CreditCards.com. “Travel rewards cards packed with this many features typically come with sky-high annual fees, but the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card delivers with luxury benefits and a more down-to-earth annual fee.”

According to Bankrate, “Frequent travelers who can’t justify an elite card with a $500 or more annual price tag and a bloated list of luxury benefits will find the Capital One Venture X a suitable alternative. Yearly bonuses nearly offset the card’s annual fee and Capital One offers both flexible travel redemption and solid rewards for everyday spending.”

3. The Platinum Card from American Express

You know the name, though it’s often the shortened version, Amex. Many people want a card from this credit card company simply because of the prestige associated with it. But The Platinum Card consistently showed up on experts’ lists as one of the top travel credit cards on the market. Though with prestige comes a hefty price tag in the form of a rather large annual fee.

The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express x Kehinde Wiley Design (card.americanexpress.com)

Value Penguin writes, “The Platinum Card from American Express is an elite travel card that gives you access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 650 cities in 140 countries. Its annual fee is $695, but it comes with a long list of other perks, like large travel credits and hotel statuses (enrollment required). With strong travel protections and a large welcome offer, it can be well worth the steep annual fee for frequent travelers.”

If you’re looking for hotel perks, this card offers them, according to Money: “The card awards cardholders gold status in the Marriott and Hilton loyalty programs, which makes you eligible for perks like room upgrades, free breakfast and late checkouts. You would typically need to stay at least 25 nights in Marriott and 28 nights in Hilton locations per year before achieving gold status with each company.” And if you need a rental car, you’ll also be covered: “Platinum cardmembers also get elite status in three car rental programs: Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive. This status gives you perks such as skipping the line, car upgrades and/or discounts.”

The Ascent adds, “You’ll earn a welcome offer of 80,000 bonus points for spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of Card Membership. The offer and spending minimum are fairly competitive with popular sign-up bonuses.” And if you’d prefer not renting a car while traveling, this card offers an alternative: “American Express cardholders get cash toward Uber rides and an automatic bump up to Uber VIP status. Uber Cash is doled out in monthly installments of $15 each (plus an extra $20 in December). The only frustrating part is that any unused cash amount won’t roll over to the next month, so you need to use Uber frequently to get the most from this benefit.”

4. Citi Premier Credit Card

This travel credit card is recommended on seven out of ten experts’ lists that we reviewed. Though many recommended it, they did find some areas in which this card is lacking. But, overall, most think the card is a good entry point into the world of travel credit cards.

NerdWallet writes, “The $95-annual-fee Citi Premier Card offers bonus rewards across popular spending categories, so it could make for a good everyday credit card, especially if you do a lot of international traveling…it struggles to live up to the status its name suggests, especially compared with other travel credit cards at the same price point. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for example, carries the same annual fee but its points can be redeemed for travel at a rate of 1.25 cents each, as compared to the 1 cent value you’ll get from your ThankYou points.” Finally, they think that “Because of some drawbacks in key areas, like point values and transfer partners, it’s not so much ‘premier’ as it is middle-of-the-road territory.”

According to The Points Guy, “You’ll not only earn triple points on air travel and hotel, but also on restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations — offering plenty of opportunities to earn on your everyday purchases. Best of all, your points are flexible and can transfer to a variety of frequent flyer programs in every airline alliance. Finally, enjoy an annual $100 hotel savings benefit through Citi on single-stay bookings of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees).” Though they do point out that this card “lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with.”

Bankrate writes, “The Citi Premier Card is the issuer’s flagship rewards card, and — although its travel perks and rewards aren’t the strongest in its class — its everyday spending-oriented bonus categories, annual hotel savings benefit and excellent pairing opportunities make it a valuable option for a wide variety of travelers.”

5. Wells Fargo Autograph Credit Card

You may not have expected this one. Many people don’t associate this bank with a travel credit card, but the experts like this offer from Wells Fargo. Many listed it as their best no-annual fee travel credit card option.

Wells Fargo Autograph Credit Card
Wells Fargo Autograph Credit Card (wellsfargo.com)

“The Wells Fargo Autograph Card has no annual or foreign transaction fees and earns high rewards for travel, dining, gas, streaming services and cell phone plan purchases,” writes Money. “Travel credit cards typically only earn rewards when you book flights and hotels through the card issuer’s travel portal. If you were to book your vacation through one-stop travel sites like Booking.com, you’d only earn the card’s minimum bonus (which is usually one point per dollar).” But this card “gives you 3x points on flights, hotels, timeshares, auto rentals, cruise lines, travel agencies, travel sites and campgrounds, regardless of where you make your purchase.”

The Ascent points out: “The Wells Fargo Autograph Card has a sign-up bonus offer of 20,000 points, with a cash redemption value of $200. This offer is available to new cardholders and can be earned after spending at least $1,000 within three months of account opening.” But keep in mind that it’s a limited time offer so do check to see if the offer is still available should you decide on this travel credit card.

The lack of an annual fee and the points system “makes this card a candidate to be a primary — even front-of-wallet — credit card to carry with you, as well as one you can ‘set and forget’ for recurring streaming and phone payments,” adds NerdWallet. “Rewards are unlimited, unlike some competing cards that cap bonus rewards. That’s a big deal for big spenders. You won’t get the transfer partners or upscale perks of high-annual-fee travel credit cards, or brand-specific perks like free checked bags that airline credit cards often offer.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.

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