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When I talk about how much I travel, most people respond, “It must be nice!” But travel can be affordable for everyone if you know how to leverage travel credit cards to your advantage. Laying a solid financial foundation is the most important thing to do before you start. Next, pick your first destination! Then, pick the best travel credit cards for your goals. (I say “cards” because sometimes it takes more than one, but, remember, start slow!)

Below you’ll find my recommendations for the best travel credit cards. I only discuss cards that our family has personally used. As such, I’ve included our credit card referral links to assist you with applying. Using these links helps me continue to provide great content for this blog in the form of bonus points & miles. You don’t have to use our links, but I sure appreciate it when you do. I will always let you know if there is a better offer available to the public.

This post will be updated as we add more travel credit cards to our points & miles strategy. Make sure to bookmark or pin it so you can refer to it later.

Best Travel Credit Cards for Beginners

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Best Travel Credit Cards Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: Chase Ultimate Rewards

Pros:

  • 50,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.
  • 5,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you add an authorized user.
  • 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on every $1 spent on travel and dining. 1x points on every other $1 spent.
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.25 cents when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Sign-up bonus is worth $625 in travel when redeemed this way.
  • 1:1 point transfers to 13 airline and hotel travel partners.
  • $95 annual fee waived 1st year.
  • No foreign transactions fees.
  • Primary rental car insurance.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

Cons:

  • Falls under the Chase 5/24 rule. More than five new accounts in 24 months will result in denial of application.
  • Cannot have both CSP and Chase Sapphire Reserve at the same time.
  • Cannot received sign-up bonus if you’ve received CSP or CSR sign-up bonus in the past 2 years.
  • $95 annual fee after 1st year.

How Long in Wallet: Less than 1 year each.

Click here to find out how we redeemed our sign-up bonuses for over $1,000 (and counting) in value.

Favorite Destinations with CSP: Oahu

Chase Freedom*

(*When paired with CSP or CSR.)

Best Travel Credit Cards Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: Cash Back or Chase Ultimate Rewards

Pros:

  • $150 bonus after you spend $500 in 3 months. Or 15,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
  • $25 bonus when you add an authorized user. Or 2,500 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
  • 5% cash back or 5x Chase Ultimate Rewards on every $1 spent in rotating bonus categories up to $1,500 quarterly.
  • 1% cash back or 1x Chase Ultimate Rewards on every other $1 spent.
  • Transfer points instantly to CSP or CSR which increases their value when redeemed for travel to 1.25 cents with CSP and 1.5 cents with CSR when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Points transferred to CSP or CSR can then be transferred to airline and hotel travel partners.
  • Points are worth 1 cent when redeemed for cash back.
  • No annual fee.

Cons:

  • Keeping track of rotating bonus categories.

How Long in Wallet: Less than 1 year.

Chase Freedom Unlimited*

(*When paired with CSP or CSR.)

Best Travel Credit Cards Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: Cash Back or Chase Ultimate Rewards

Pros:

  • $150 bonus after you spend $500 in 3 months. Or 15,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
  • $25 bonus when you add an authorized user. Or 2,500 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
  • 1.5% cash back or 1.5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on every $1 spent.
  • Transfer points instantly to CSP or CSR which increases their value when redeemed for travel to 1.25 cents with CSP and 1.5 cents with CSR when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • Points transferred to CSP or CSR can then be transferred to airline and hotel travel partners.
  • Points are worth 1 cent when redeemed for cash back.
  • No annual fee.

Cons:

  • None

How Long in Wallet: Less than 1 year. Downgraded from CSP.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

Best Travel Credit Cards Starwood Preferred Guest

Starwood Preferred Guest Amex Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: Starpoints

Pros:

  • 25,000 bonus Starpoints when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.
  • 5,000 bonus Starpoints when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to partner airlines.
  • Book “Cash & Points” rates to maximize rewards on hotel stays.
  • 2x Starpoints on every $1 spent at Starwood and Marriott hotels. 1x points on every other $1 spent.
  • $95 annual fee waived first year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

Cons:

  • Once per lifetime sign-up bonus so wait for elevated bonus to apply.
  • $95 annual fee after 1st year.

How Long in Wallet: Over 3 years.

Click here to find out how we redeemed our sign-up bonuses for over $1,600 in value.

Favorite Destinations with SPG Amex: Maui and Caribbean Cruise

Best Travel Credit Cards for Airlines

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card

Best Travel Credit Cards Alaska Airlines Visa

Alaska Airlines Visa Application Link

Points & Miles Currency: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles

Pros:

  • 30,000 bonus Mileage Plan miles when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
  • Introductory companion fare for just taxes and fees.
  • Annual companion fare each subsequent year for $99 plus taxes and fees.
  • 3x Mileage Plan miles on every $1 spent with Alaska Airlines and Virgin America. 1x points on every other $1 spent.
  • Redeem Mileage Plan miles with Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, and 18 airline partners.
  • Redeem 15,000 Mileage Plan miles for first class upgrades when traveling on certain paid fares.
  • Free checked bag on Alaska Airlines and Virgin America flights for cardholder and up to six other passengers on the same reservation.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons:

  • $75 annual fee NOT waived 1st year.

How Long in Wallet: Less than 1 year.

Favorite Destinations with Alaska Airlines Visa: Caribbean Cruise

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Best Travel Credit Cards Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: Southwest Rapid Rewards

Pros:

  • 50,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.
  • 2x Rapid Rewards points on every $1 spent with Southwest. 1x points on every other $1 spent.
  • 3,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points each card member anniversary.
  • Bonus counts towards earning the powerful Southwest Companion Pass.
  • Redeem Rapid Rewards for Southwest flights with no blackout dates.
  • Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.5 cents when used for “Wanna Get Away” fares. Sign-up bonus is worth about $750 when used this way.

Cons:

  • $69 annual fee NOT waived 1st year.
  • Falls under the Chase 5/24 rule.
  • Cannot receive sign-up bonus if you’ve received sign-up bonus within the past 2 years.

How Long in Wallet: Less than 1 year.

Favorite Destinations with Southwest Plus: Las Vegas

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Best Travel Credit Cards Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: Southwest Rapid Rewards

Pros:

  • 50,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.
  • 2x Rapid Rewards points on every $1 spent with Southwest. 1x points on every other $1 spent.
  • 6,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points each card member anniversary.
  • Sign-up bonus counts towards earning the powerful Southwest Companion Pass.
  • Redeem Rapid Rewards for Southwest flights with no blackout dates.
  • Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.5 cents when used for “Wanna Get Away” fares. Sign-up bonus is worth about $750 when used this way.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons:

  • $99 annual fee NOT waived 1st year.
  • Falls under the Chase 5/24 rule.
  • Cannot receive sign-up bonus if you’ve received sign-up bonus within the past 2 years.

How Long in Wallet: Less than 1 year.

Favorite Destinations with Southwest Premier: Las Vegas

Best Travel Credit Cards for Hotels

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card

Best Travel Credit Cards Hilton Honors Ascend

Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: Hilton Honors Points

Pros:

  • 75,000 bonus Hilton Honors points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.
  • 25,000 bonus Hilton Honors points when you spend an additional $1,000 in the first 6 months.
  • 12x Hilton Honors points on every $1 spent at Hilton hotels.
  • 6x Hilton Honors points on every $1 spent on dining and gas.
  • 3x Hilton Honors points on every other $1 spent.
  • Book with “Points & Money” to maximize rewards on hotel stays.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Hilton Honors Gold status.
  • Hilton Honors Diamond status when you spend $40,000 in a calendar year.
  • Free Weekend Night Reward from Hilton Honors when you spend $15,000 in a calendar year.

Cons:

  • $95 annual fee NOT waived 1st year.
  • Hilton Honors requires an extremely large number of points for some hotel stays.

How Long in Wallet: Less than 1 year.

Click here to find out how we redeemed our sign-up bonus from this card’s predecessor for over $700 in value.

Favorite Destinations with CSP: Maui

Hyatt Credit Card

Hyatt Credit Card

Hyatt Credit Card Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: World of Hyatt Points

Pros:

  • 40,000 bonus World of Hyatt points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.
  • 5,000 bonus World of Hyatt points when you add an authorized user.
  • 3x World of Hyatt points on every $1 spent at Hyatt hotels and resorts.
  • 2x World of Hyatt points on every $1 spent at restaurants, airlines, and car rental agencies. 1x points on every other $1 spent.
  • Free night certificate every card year anniversary for category 1-4 hotel or resort.
  • No foreign transactions fees.
  • World of Hyatt Discoverist status.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
  • Does not fall under Chase 5/24 rule.

Cons:

  • $75 annual fee NOT waived 1st year.

How Long in Wallet: Less than 1 year.

Favorite Destinations with Hyatt Credit Card: Las Vegas

Best Travel Credit Cards for Advanced Users

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Best Travel Credit Cards Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: Chase Ultimate Rewards

Pros:

  • 50,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.
  • 5,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you add an authorized user.
  • $300 travel credit per card member year.
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck every 4 years.
  • 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on every $1 spent on travel and dining. 1x points on every other $1 spent.
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Sign-up bonus is worth $750 in travel when redeemed this way.
  • 1:1 point transfers to 13 airline and hotel travel partners.
  • No foreign transactions fees.
  • Primary rental car insurance.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

Cons:

  • $450 annual fee NOT waived 1st year.
  • Falls under the Chase 5/24 rule.
  • Cannot have both CSP and CSR at the same time.
  • Cannot received sign-up bonus if you’ve received CSP or CSR sign-up bonus in the past 2 years.

How Long in Wallet: Over 1 year.

Click here to find out how we redeemed our sign-up bonus for over $1,800 in value.

Favorite Destinations with CSR: Las Vegas, Orlando

Platinum Card from American Express

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards American Express Platinum

American Express Platinum Referral Link

Points & Miles Currency: Membership Rewards Points

Pros:

  • 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards Points when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months.
  • $200 Airline fee credit per calendar year.
  • $200 annual Uber credit distributed on a monthly basis.
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck every 4 years.
  • 5x Membership Rewards Points on every $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5x Membership Rewards points on every $1 spent on eligible hotels booked on Amextravel.com.
  • 1x Membership Rewards Points on every other $1 spent.
  • No foreign transactions fees.
  • Hilton Honors Gold status.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.
  • Secondary rental car insurance.
  • Premium membership in car rental programs of Avis, Hertz, and National Car Rental.

Cons:

  • $550 annual fee not waived 1st year.
  • Once per lifetime sign-up bonus so wait for elevated bonus to apply.
  • Uber credits hard to redeem since they are distributed a monthly basis and expire each month.

How Long in Wallet: Less than 1 year.

Click here to find out how we redeemed our sign-up bonus for almost $1,300 in value.

Favorite Destinations with Amex Platinum: Caribbean Cruise

The best travel credit cards for U.S. travelers whether you're a beginner or more advanced there's a card for anyone who wants to travel (nearly) free with points and miles.