Best Travel Credit Cards of 2024

Best Travel Credit Cards of 2024 – Compare Benefits, Rewards, and Bonuses

This is the ultimate guide to choosing the best travel credit cards in 2024.

The best part?

We will compare all the top travel rewards cards so you can maximize points, miles, bonuses and travel perks even if you’re new to collecting travel rewards.

If you want to travel more, experience luxury vacations, fly business class, or stay at high-end hotels for less, then leveraging the right travel credit cards is key.

With the major upgrades coming to many popular travel cards in 2024, now is the time to evaluate your options so you can enjoy exclusive benefits.

Ready to explore the world while saving money? Let’s dive into the top contenders for best travel card and find the ideal one for your needs.

How Do Travel Credit Cards Work?

Travel credit cards function similarly to traditional credit cards but are specifically designed to incentivize spending through travel perks and rewards.

Most travel cards earn users points or miles that can then be redeemed for hotel stays, flights, rental cars, cruises, and other travel expenses. The incentives vary across cards but often include:

  • Sign-Up Bonuses: New cardmembers can earn from 25,000 – 100,000 points by meeting a minimum spending requirement within the first 3 months. This immediate lump sum of points holds tremendous value.  
  • Rewards Points on Purchases: Cardholders earn anywhere from 1-5X points per $1 spent on not just travel, but also dining, groceries, gas, streaming services, and more. Rates depend on the category.
  • Travel Statement Credits: Some cards offer statement credits towards travel purchases, essentially gifting you cash back to splurge on your next trip. 
  • Elite Status & Loyalty Perks: Cards can provide complimentary elite status with hotels chains and airline programs, early check-in, room upgrades and more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees: For international trips, cards with no foreign transaction fees prevent exorbitant charges on purchases made abroad.

The application process for travel credit cards is also similar to traditional cards. Issuers will evaluate your personal credit score and income to determine your creditworthiness before approving your application.

Maintaining good credit and paying balances in full each month are key to reaping the long-term perks premium travel cards can offer.  

4 Best Travel Credit Card For 2024

1. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

This card makes earning travel rewards super simple.

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all everyday purchases
  • Get 5x miles when booking Capital One hotels and rental cars
  • Score a 75,000 mile sign-up bonus (worth $750 in travel) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months

Why We Like It

The Venture Rewards Card is great for beginners because:

  • You earn miles on all purchases without tracking categories
  • Easy to earn over 147,000 miles in the first year
  • Miles can be redeemed for travel at 1 cent each through Capital One or anywhere else

Key Perks

  • 2 airport lounge visits per year
  • Hertz Five Star elite status
  • Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit every 4 years

Potential Downsides

  • $95 annual fee
  • Fewer airline/hotel transfer partners than some competitors

Good Fit If…

You want one card to put all everyday spending on and earn travel rewards without hassle. The flat earning rate makes racking up miles simple.

2. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

This popular travel card offers strong earning rates and redemptions if you use Chase’s portal:

  • Earn 5x points on Chase travel, 3x dining/groceries, 2x general travel
  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in first 3 months

Why We Like It

  • Points worth 1.25¢ when booking travel through Chase
  • Can transfer points to airline/hotel partners to maximize value
  • $50 annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit

Key Perks

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual 10% points bonus on all earning

Potential Downsides

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lower point value when booking non-Chase travel

Good Fit If…

You spend heavily on dining, groceries, and travel – especially Chase travel. This card really rewards using the proprietary Chase portal. If you maximize partners and Chase redemptions, it can be very lucrative.

3. Capital One Venture X Rewards Card

This premium card offers luxe travel perks and credits to offset the fee.

  • Earn 2x miles on all purchases
  • 10x miles for Capital One hotels/cars, 5x miles on Capital One flights
  • $300 annual travel credit, plus lounge access and Global Entry credit

Why We Like It

  • Offset the $395 fee with the $300 travel credit
  • Flat earning rate makes racking up miles simple
  • Luxury perks like lounges and rental car status

Key Perks

  • $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit every 4 years
  • Hertz President’s Circle elite status
  • 10,000 anniversary mile bonus

Potential Downsides

  • High $395 annual fee
  • Perks best for frequent travelers

Good Fit If…

You want premium travel benefits but find other luxury cards too expensive. Between the credits and mileage earning, the fee is easy to offset for frequent travelers. More occasional jet-setters may not find the perks worthwhile.

4. The Platinum Card® from American Express

This premium card is packed with credits and perks to justify the high annual fee.

  • Earn 5x on airfare purchased through Amex Travel and hotels booked through Amex
  • 80,000 point welcome bonus after spending $6,000 in first 6 months

Why We Like It

  • $200 annual hotel credit for 2+ night Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings
  • Airport lounge access, Uber credits, digital entertainment credits
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck and Clear credits

Key Perks

  • Up to $500,000 annually in airfare purchases eligible for 5x points
  • No foreign transaction fees

Potential Downsides

  • Steep $695 annual fee
  • Perks require activations and benefit from frequent travel

Good Fit If…

You’re a frequent traveler who can take advantage of the many statement credits and elite perks. Occasional travelers may not find value exceeding the high annual fee. Maximizing partners and credits takes some effort.

Factors to Consider For Choosing the Best Travel Credit Card

With travel credit cards spanning the gamut from hotel cards to airline cards to general points and cash back cards, choosing the right one for your habits requires some due diligence. Keep these key factors in mind while evaluating your options:

  • Annual Fee: Annual fees for beginner travel cards average $95, though they span from $0 to $700. Weigh your expected spending and perks earned against the fee when selecting a card.
  • Point Earning Rates & Categories: The earnings rate on bonus categories should align closely with your spending profile. Frequent flyers need a card that racks up airline points quickly with bonus airfare purchases rather than groceries. 
  • Redemption Value Per Point: Evaluate if you receive better redemption cents/point with an airline or hotel program versus converting points to cash.
  • Travel Partners: If you frequent specific hotel chains or stick to one airline alliance, choose a co branded travel card with that partner to pool points into their loyalty program.  
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: Dodging this unnecessary charge makes a huge difference when traveling internationally. 
  • Perks: Do free checked bags, airport lounge access, rental car insurance and other built-in benefits match your travel style?
  • Sign-Up Bonus: A hefty lump of 50,000+ points can make a new card worthwhile, but ensure you can hit the minimum spend level.

Weighing factors such as point multipliers on spend categories you currently fall into against the redemption value and conversion rates associated with a card’s loyalty program is key to maximizing potential savings.  

How to Redeem Travel Points

One of the best parts of travel credit cards is redeeming points for free trips. These cards typically let you trade points for cash back, gift cards, etc., but you’ll get superior value from flights and hotels.

On average, rewards points are worth 1 cent each – so 100,000 miles = $1,000 in travel. How far it goes depends on fares and rates. As of early 2023, round trips from some major airports average:

  • Los Angeles: $389 (2.6 flights with 100k points)
  • Chicago: $394 (2.5 flights)
  • Denver: $336 (2.9 flights)
  • Atlanta: $406 (2.5 flights)
  • Newark: $400 (2.5 flights)

With the average sign-up bonus over 100,000 points, you could earn 2-3 free round-trips after meeting spending requirements. Future earnings vary based on your annual card usage and bonus categories.

Transferring points to travel partners instead of redeeming for credit card travel can increase value. For example, 100,000 Chase points moved to Southwest Rapid Rewards are potentially worth around $1,500 in flights due to Southwest’s higher redemption values.

Alternatives To Travel Credit Cards

While churning travel credit cards can pay off in truckloads of points to jet set across the world, they aren’t the only rewards credit cards out there. Depending on your habits and financial situation, a different type of cashback or points card may suit you better. Here are some alternatives worth considering if travel cards seem misaligned or too complicated:

  • Cashback Credit Cards: Simple yet lucrative, straight cash back cards can help you earn 5% back or more in popular categories without worrying about redemption values. Great for everyday spending.
  • Business Credit Cards: Business cards also provide solid rewards rates and sign-up bonuses similar to travel cards but with perks tailored towards entrepreneurs. 
  • No Annual Fee Credit Cards: If travel perks don’t outweigh yearly costs, choose a fee-free card with slightly lower earning rates but long term savings. 
  • Low Interest Credit Cards: For those still carrying balances month-to-month, a low 15% or less APR saves enormously on interest rather than bonus categories.  
  • Charge Cards: Options like American Express Platinum provide travel perks and entertainment access without technically being a credit card since balances must be paid in full.

Even if you already have a go-to travel card, mixing in alternatives from this list can maximize rewards potential across spending categories the travel card fails to touch.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best travel credit card?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is considered the best overall travel card with valuable points, credits, and travel protections.

What is the best credit card for travel rewards?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you earn flexible, easy-to-redeem points on travel and dining with a lower annual fee.

What’s the difference between points and miles on a credit card?

Points are earned through credit card spending and redeemed for statement credits or travel, while miles are earned through travel and redeemed for award travel.

What is the best credit card for international travel?

Top options for overseas travel include the Capital One Venture X with its Global Entry credit and no foreign transaction fees.

Which credit card has the best travel rewards?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is regarded as having the most valuable rewards program, with points worth 50% more when booking travel through Chase.