Our Picks for the Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Ready to start earning rewards for your next trip? Take a look at our top picks for the best travel reward credit cards in 2021-with benefits all the way into 2022.

Travel Rewards Cards with No Annual Fee

If you do not want to pay an annual fee – but still want to have the perks of a travel credit card – look no further.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card is from Chase®,  but unlike many of their point rewards cards, this one doesn’t carry an annual fee. Want to earn unlimited point rewards for Marriott/Bonvoy hotel stays? This is the point rewards credit card for you.

This credit card is best for the frequent traveler who is loyal to a hotel chain or whose company allows business trip stays to be booked on a personal credit card. 

30,000 bonus points


15.99% - 22.99% variable


  • No annual fee
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn up to 14X total points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™.
  • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on other travel purchases (e.g. airfare, taxis, trains).
  • 1X point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Receive 15 Elite Night Credits annually, which qualifies you for Silver Elite Status. 
  • No foreign transaction fees.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Credit Card

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ credit card is made for those who love getaways but don’t want the annual fee.

The frequent American Airlines traveler who wants to be rewarded in miles for their purchases. 

10,000 bonus miles


15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)


  • Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months 
  • No annual fee
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores and on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • Save 25% on in-flight food and beverage purchases when using your card on American Airlines flights

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

If you’re an airline loyalist, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is a great travel rewards credit card that rewards you in airline miles.

Frequent Delta Airline travelers who pay more than $99 in checked bag fees each year. 

70,000 miles

$0 for the first year (then $99 after that)

15.74% - 24.74% variable


  • Earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 3 months
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, US supermarkets,and purchases made directly with Delta
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases
  • Your first checked bag is free
  • Main cabin 1 priority boarding on Delta flights
  • If you spend $10,000 in purchases on your card within a calendar year, receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit (expires 12/31/21)
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99
  • No foreign transaction fee

Best Business Travel Reward Card

If you are a business owner and travel often (or your employees do), this could be the most rewarding travel business credit card.

CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

This business credit has some perks you will want to take advantage of, including 65,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 within the first 4 months of opening your account. 

The business owner who travels frequently for work, or whose employees travel often for work on domestic American Airlines flights. 

65,000 miles

$0 for the first year, $99 after that

15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)


  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of opening your account.
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations.
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines flights 
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

Travel Rewards Cards for Good-to-Excellent Credit

If you have good-to-excellent credit, then you’re likely eligible for some seriously rewarding travel credit cards, including the Chase Ultimate Rewards Points.

Chase Sapphire PreferredⓇ Credit Card

Chase Ultimate RewardsⓇ points are some of the most valuable credit card points in existence.  With the Chase Sapphire PreferredⓇ introductory offer, you’ll receive 100,000 ultimate rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. That’s the equivalent of $800 towards travel, which makes this an ideal card for the jetsetter.

Frequent travelers who don’t mind the annual fee and can meet the spending requirements to redeem points for airfare, hotels, cruises, car rentals. 

100,000 points


15.99% - 22.99% variable


  • Introductory offer of 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account
  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase
  • 3X points on online groceries, dining, select streaming services
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Ultimate RewardsⓇ points carry 25% more value when they’re redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate RewardsⓇ
  • 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022
  • 5X points on Peloton equipment

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit card could be a great partner to the Chase Saphire Preferred® credit card since Ultimate Rewards® points can be transferred to Southwest (though not the other way around).

This kind of point flexibility is great, but so is the introductory offer of 40,000 Rapid Rewards points – and the possibility of the companion pass when you earn 150,000 Rapid Rewards points.  If you play it right, you’ll end up with free flights, which is a major reason this earned a spot on our best point rewards cards list.

The frequent traveler who can make targeted purchases in order to earn travel rewards points and companion passes. 

40,000 Rapid Rewards points


15.99% - 22.99% Variable


  • Earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 3 points per $1 spent on dining in the first year
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases, as well as Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No fee for first and second checked bags
  • No change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events, and more

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Despite the steep annual fee of $550, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card has a series of sign-up bonuses and regular perks that help offset this cost, making this an appealing credit card for the frequent traveler.

The serious traveler who spends serious time in airports, can activate the fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®, and plans to meet the spending requirement of $4000 within the first 3 months. 

50,000 bonus points (and more)


16.99%-23.99% Variable


  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account ($750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®)
  • $300 annual travel credit reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary. 
  • 10X points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase after earning your $300 travel credit
  • 10X points on Chase Dining purchased through Ultimate Rewards
  • 5X points on travel purchased directly through Chase after earning your $300 travel credit
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit
  • 3X points on dining at restaurants 
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. 
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • One year complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value) 
  • Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash if activated by 12/31/21
  • 10X points on Peloton equipment

American Express® Green Card

The American Express® Green Card is a versatile travel rewards card that doesn’t have a wide range of rewards. It has zero foreign transaction fees and is designed for exploring new cities with major rewards for hotel stays, city tours, and restaurants.

The traveler who is a self-proclaimed foodie and plans to explore everything a new city has to offer with their card. 

50,000 points


Terms Apply



  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $2,000 on purchases on your new card within the first 6 months
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, from subway swipes and window seats to hotel stays and city tours
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points at restaurants worldwide
  • Receive up to $100 per year in statement credits when you use the American Express® Green Card to pay for your CLEAR® membership at select airports and stadiums across the US. This extends to Permissible Biometric Scanning Technology terms: eye, iris, and fingerprints scanning.
  • Use the American Express® Green Card to purchase lounge access through the entire LoungeBuddy network. Earn up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year on your LoungeBuddy purchases.
  • Terms Apply for APR- you must see the website for current offers
  • Free Uber Eats pass for one year
  • No foreign transaction fees

Travel Rewards Cards for Fair Credit

If you’re building your credit history and have fair credit, the Discover itⓇ Miles could be the perfect rewards card for you. 

Discover itⓇ Miles

The Discover itⓇ Miles card is a travel credit card that rewards you in airline miles. Your rewards never expire, you can earn an unlimited number of miles, and there’s no annual fee. 

Annual domestic travelers who take advantage of travel rewards earned from everyday purchases. 

Discover Mile Match


11.99% - 22.99% variable

0% for 14 months

  • Discover will automatically match all of the miles you've earned at the end of your first year. 
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x miles for every dollar spent on all purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No blackout travel dates
  • Freeze It on/off switch for your account (on mobile app)
  • Use rewards at Amazon.com

Best Hotel Travel Rewards Cards

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card provides Hilton Gold Elite status. This means free complimentary breakfasts and room upgrades based on availability, making it one of our top picks for those who love Hilton stays.

Semi-frequent guests of Hilton or Hilton properties who do not spend enough to earn Gold Elite status organically (but would still like to benefit from Hilton Rewards).

200,000 points


15.74% - 24.74% variable


  • Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points when you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account 
  • Earn an additional 50,000 points after spending another $8,000 in the first six months of opening your account
  • Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for eligible purchases made at a Hilton hotel or resort
  • Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases at US restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your card
  • Complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases within a calendar year and earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year

The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

The World Of Hyatt Credit card offers cardholders a free night’s stay every year. In addition,  you can cash in just 5,000 points for a free night stay, making this a highly-rewarding hotel credit card.

Those who are loyal to the Hyatt chain and will stay at least one night per year in their hotels (to utilize the free night and make up for the annual fee). 

30,000 Bonus Points


15.99% - 22.99% Variable


  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of opening your account
  • Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after spending $6,000 total within 6 months of opening your account
  • Earn 2 Bonus Points per $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting, as well as on fitness club and gym memberships
  • Earn 1 Bonus Point per $1 spent elsewhere
  • Free nights start at 5,000 points
  • Receive 1 free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt Hotel or Resort for your Cardmember Anniversary.
  • Earn an extra free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt Hotel if you spend $15,000 during your Cardmember Anniversary year. 
  • Get automatic World of Hyatt Discoverist status – and 5 qualifying night credits every year – as long as your account is open.
  • Earn 2 qualifying night credits towards tier status each time you spend $5,000 on your card.

Best Travel Rewards Cards

It’s amazing to board a plane or check into a hotel knowing that you won’t be paying a dime. The best travel rewards credit cards make this possible. If you’re ready to plan your next vacation or business trip, the travel rewards guide below will give you the essential information you need to choose the best card for you.

How Do Travel Rewards Cards Work?

Depending on the kind of travel rewards credit card, you can earn points or miles when you:

  • Use your card for your regular spending. 

  • Strategically use your card for purchases that offer a higher reward rate. For example, some travel reward cards offer 3x the points when you spend in a specific category like restaurants. 

  • Find a travel rewards card with a big sign-up bonus. You will need to meet a spending requirement in order to receive the sign-up bonus. 

When you have earned enough points or miles, you can redeem them for your next trip. This is done through the credit card issuer rewards portal.

How Do Travel Rewards Work?

There are two main flavors of travel card rewards: points and miles. Earning and redeeming these points might seem tricky until you know what to look for.

Travel Reward Points

Points are a common type of travel reward. Look for a high reward rate with an easy-to-understand point redemption system.

A high reward rate typically involves: 

  • Extra points for certain purchases in a specific category (such as 5 points per $1 spent on travel). 

  • A high-value flat rate (such as 2 points for every dollar spent). 

  • A combination of these two offers. 

Earning points isn’t everything though: You also want to make sure that points convert for a fair redemption rate. Generally speaking, your points should be redeemable for at least $0.01 per point in value. Some rewards points are actually worth more than their dollar equivalent if redeemed through the credit card’s preferred booking system. For example your points may be worth 20% more than the cash equivalent if spent on travel through that credit card’s reward site.

Transferable Points Are the Best

Transferable points are flexible and make rewards very valuable. The best point travel rewards card should have the option to transfer points. This can take one of two forms: 

  • Points transfer to “cash” and are applied to your balance for eligible travel purchases, or

  • Moving points to a “transfer partner” (which may include other airline and hotel companies).

Travel Reward Miles

Just like points, airline miles are earned when you use the credit card. If you fly often, this type of travel rewards system might benefit you best – as long as you find a high reward rate. 

A high reward rate for airline mile credit cards is 1 mile for every $1 spent on normal purchases, combined with a higher rate for purchases in specific categories (i.e. 3 miles per $1 spent on travel). 

Most of the time, travel credit cards that offer miles are co-branded travel rewards cards. This means they are offered by a credit card issuer (like Chase or American Express) who have partnered with an airline like Delta or Southwest. Miles earned on these credit cards can only be used with that specific airline or an airline transfer partner. Before you sign up for a miles travel rewards card, make sure the airline offers flights to your desired destinations.

How to Choose the Best Travel Rewards Credit Card

To choose the best travel rewards credit card, you’ll need to compare multiple cards. The most important features to take note of are the introductory offers, rewards rates, travel perks, and annual fees.

1. Find the Best Introductory Offer for Your Next Trip

Introductory offers (or sign-up bonuses) are what make so many travel reward cards worth it. The opportunity to earn a huge amount of points or miles can make your next trip close to free. 

The trick is to find a travel credit card with a high-value sign-up offer and a spending requirement you can easily meet with regular purchases. You don’t want to end up in credit card debt just to earn a sign-up bonus!

2. Review the Rewards Rate

The rewards rate should be high enough that you can accumulate points or miles at a reasonable rate (i.e. 1 point/mile per $1 or more). 

You’ll also want to choose a card that gives rewards in an area you spend often. This way, you can earn as many points as possible. That could be a card with a high flat rate for all purchases or a card that rewards in a specific category. 

For example, if you spend regularly at restaurants and a travel card offers 3x the points for every dollar spent dining out, this might be your perfect match.

3. Check out Travel Perks

Travel rewards credit cards allow you to earn free travel credit and perks. A few perks may include:

  • Elite status with a hotel chain or airline 

  • Airport lounge access

  • A Companion Pass (that allows you to take a friend on a flight for free) 

  • Free checked bags

  • Free stays at hotels for a certain number of nights 

  • No foreign transaction fees 

While these perks are a major plus, your choice of travel credit card should really be influenced by the rewards rate and introductory offer. Also, to state the obvious, the value of the benefits from a travel rewards card is highly dependent on how much you anticipate travelling.

4. Don’t Forget About the Annual Fees

Travel credit cards may have an annual fee attached. The fee can range from $90 all the way to  $400+ for premium cards.

No one wants to pay a fee, but in some cases, the travel credit card’s annual fee might be wiped out by rewards. See what the credit card offers and if you’ll use all of the perks (plus sign-up bonus) before making your decision. 

Note: If you can’t stomach the thought of paying to maintain a card, it’s also possible to find zero annual fee travel reward credit cards.

Why Choose a Travel Rewards Card?

Debating between a travel rewards and another type of credit card? These pros and cons should help you make a decision.

How to Benefit from a Travel Rewards Cards

In order to get the most out of your travel reward credit card, you will want to follow these 4 steps.

1. Get the Sign-up Bonus

The sign-up bonus is a huge part of why you would apply for a new travel credit card. Make sure you are eligible for the card’s offer and that you can meet the requirements to earn said offer.  

2. Use the Card Regularly

The more you use your travel reward credit cards, the more you’ll accumulate points or miles. Also be sure to use the card for purchases that offer a higher reward rate.

3. Pay off your Credit Card Balance

While you should use your card for your regular purchases (to earn the most rewards), you need to be able to afford it. Pay off the credit card balance at the end of each month. Additionally, restructure your money management to keep cash in your bank account in order to pay off your card.

4. Redeem Your Rewards for Travel

Travel rewards cards are meant to be redeemed on travel for the biggest benefit. While some card issuers will allow you to redeem points for a statement credit or online purchases, it’s usually at a less valuable ratio. Redeeming points or miles for anything other than travel means you’re not getting the optimal value for your hard-earned rewards.

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All of our content is verified for accuracy by Mark Herman, CFP and our team of certified financial experts. We pride ourselves on quality, research, and transparency, and we value your feedback. Below you'll find answers to some of the most common reader questions about Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2021 and How to Get the Most Out of Them .

How often should you apply for travel reward credit cards?

Each time you apply for a credit card, you will incur a credit inquiry. Usually this is considered a ‘Hard inquiry’ meaning they are actually checking your credit and it will very likely reduce your credit score slightly. We suggest you apply for one credit card at a time, and not to apply for more than 3 within a 6 month window, as more could impact your credit score negatively. It’s also important to avoid applying for credit cards if you anticipate needing a larger loan such as a home mortgage in the near future.

A good rule of thumb  is to wait until you have used the sign- up bonus for travel and paid off the credit card before you apply for a new one. Also certain cards will limit the number of bonuses you can claim in a 1-2 year period, even if applying for different cards from that company.

Are travel reward credit cards worth it?

If you follow these general guidelines, then a travel rewards card is definitely worth it:

  • You can qualify for the sign-up bonus with your current credit score

  • You can meet the spending requirement without overspending 

  • You can pay off the credit card in full each month 

  • You will use the rewards for travel

If you are someone who only takes a trip every few years, then a travel rewards card won’t benefit you. Instead, look into cash back reward cards.

Mark Herman has been helping friends with financial questions since serving as an Army helicopter pilot. Since then, he’s gained valuable experience in the corporate world before moving on to become a Certified Financial Planner™.

If you have a question about Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2021 and How to Get the Most Out of Them , then please ask Mark.

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