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Updated October 17, 2016

How to Choose a Travel Credit Card

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Looking for a new travel credit card?

You have our sympathy. There are simply WAY too many out there to choose from now.

So, how do you find the right card for you?

Narrow down your search dramatically by deciding what features matter the most to you.

Here is a list of the 5 travel credit cards you should not ignore. We'll go into detail about these in this article:

While the bonus offer, annual fee, and rewards structure are all important factors, there's one thing that's more important - your overall travel goal. You need a credit card that will give you rewards you can actually use. In other words, don't get a hotel card if you rarely stay in hotels.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering different cards:

  • Do you want free flights and hotel rooms? If you want to earn award flights, the best cards to get are ones that allow you to transfer points to airline partners. If you're looking for free hotel rooms, hotel cards are a no brainer.

  • Do you prefer a certain airline or hotel? A card that's co-branded with your preferred airline or hotel chain will usually give you extra perks.

    For example, Gold Delta SkyMiles ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95) lets you check your first bag free on Delta flights.

  • Are you willing to play the miles game? You can often reap the most value out of your points by transferring them to airline partners, such as with the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95). If you'd rather not deal with the airline miles transfer game, though, you might appreciate the simplicity of a card like the Capital One Venture ($0 intro annual fee for first year, then $95).

Travel Credit Card Promotions for December 2018

We've put together an up-to-date list of the top credit card promotions out there for this month. Check it out and hopefully you'll be able to find the right card to suit your needs.

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Travel Card with a Sign-Up Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred

    Chase Sapphire Preferred
    Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • If you spend over $1,334 per month on your credit card, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you'll earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • You'll earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. Travel purchases include airfare, hotels, cruises, rental cars, and train tickets. Restaurants include fast food.

  • Now here's our favorite part: You can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to a leading frequent travel program such as United MileagePlus or Marriott Rewards.
    • Ultimate Rewards airline partners include: United, Southwest, JetBlue, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Singapore Airlines
    • Ultimate Rewards hotel partners include Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, and the Ritz-Carlton

  • There is a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

This card is a good fit if you want a hot deal or you plan to transfer points to one of Chase's airline or hotel partners. Plus, travelers will appreciate the following benefits: $0 foreign transaction fees, wide-ranging Visa acceptance, primary auto rental collision damage waiver, trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, and baggage delay insurance

So, is it really worth the annual fee? Read our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred before you apply to see why we think so.

Tip: Get inspiration for your next vacation. Take a look at our guide to the 23 best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Travel Card for Big Spenders: Capital One Venture

  • Capital One Venture offers a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. 50,000 miles is equal to $500 in travel. This card earns 2x miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem miles toward travel purchases on any airline, hotel, or car rental. There are no foreign transaction fees. You get up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®. There is a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year).

This card is a good fit if you want a travel rewards card that's simple to use. With this card, you don't have to deal with transferring miles to travel partners. Rewards are redeemed for statement credit toward travel-related expenses, including airfare and hotel stays, with no seat restrictions or blackout dates.

Tip: Get ideas on how to meet your credit card's minimum spending requirements.

Travel Card for Ultra-Premium Travel Benefits: American Express Platinum

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    American Express Platinum
    Apply for The Platinum Card from American Express
  • The Platinum Card from American Express, a CreditDonkey partner, offers 60,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months.

  • With Global Lounge Collection, you get complimentary access to five airport lounge networks: Delta Sky Club, Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass Select, The International American Express Lounges, and Airspace Lounges.

    Enrollment is required for Priority Pass Select. When you enroll in Priority Pass Select, you can access over 950 participating airport lounges worldwide.

  • You earn Membership Rewards points, which you can transfer to over a dozen frequent traveler programs.
    • Airline transfer partners include Delta, Hawaiian, and JetBlue.
    • Hotel transfer partners include Hilton, Best Western, and Starwood.

This card is a good fit if you travel frequently and want Platinum benefits such as Platinum Concierge Service and access to select airport lounges. Keep in mind, the travel-friendly benefits come at a price. There is a $550 annual fee and this is a charge card, not a credit card. In other words, you must pay off your balance every month.

Is the Platinum Card worth it? Read our Platinum Card review to help you decide.

Tip: If you frequently fly American Airlines, look into the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, which lets you transfer SPG points to AAdvantage. Plus, you get 15,000 bonus points when you transfer 60,000 points to an eligible airline transfer partner such as American Airlines, Delta, or Hawaiian Airlines.

Vacation Credit Cards

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The right travel card for you will depend on how much you spend per month:

  • If you spend over $1,000/month:
    Capital One Venture offers a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. 50,000 miles is equal to $500 in travel. This card earns 2x miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem miles toward travel purchases on any airline, hotel, or car rental. There are no foreign transaction fees. You get up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®. There is a $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year).

  • If you spend over $334/month:
    Capital One VentureOne offers a one-time bonus of 20,000 miles if you spend $1,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. 20,000 miles is equal to $200 in travel. This card earns 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases. You can redeem miles toward travel purchases on any airline, hotel, or car rental. There is a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months. After that, a variable APR, currently 13.74% to 23.74%. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is no annual fee.

Travel Credit Cards with No Annual Fee

  • If you are domestic traveler:
    Discover it Miles will match all the miles you've earned at the end of your first year. This offer is limited to new cardmembers only. This card earns 1.5x miles on all purchases and has no annual fee.

    Plus, Discover will pay you back for your in-flight WiFi fees, up to $30 a year, through an automatic statement credit.

  • If you are a Bank of America customer:
    Bank of America Travel Rewards offers 25,000 online bonus points if you spend at least $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. 25,000 points is worth a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases. This card earns 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases. You can redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, car rentals, or baggage fees. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is no annual fee.

Airline Credit Cards

    Gold Delta SkyMiles
    Apply for Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  • If you like to fly Delta:
    Gold Delta SkyMiles offers 30,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your new account. In addition, you can earn a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase within your first 3 months. This card earns airline miles: 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases. There is a $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year).

    If you fly Delta, here's what you should know: you can check your first bag free on Delta flights with this card - that is a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of 4. Plus, you can enjoy Priority Boarding. Terms apply.

    Did you know: One-way award tickets for domestic travel within the continental US and to Alaska and Canada start at 10,000 miles (plus taxes and fees).

    To learn more, read our Delta credit card review.

  • If you like to fly American Airlines:
    Citi AAdvantage offers up to 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles: you earn 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account and another 10,000 bonus miles after you make a total of $6,000 in purchases within the first 12 months of account opening. Plus, you earn a $100 AA Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card.

    This card earns 2 miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases. This card lets you enjoy preferred boarding on American Airline domestic flights. You also get the first checked bag free on domestic AA itineraries for you (and up to 4 companions traveling with you on the same reservation). There is a $99 annual fee (waived for the first 12 months).

  • If you spend over $700/month on airfare:
    American Express Gold Card lets you earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months. This card earns 4x points at U.S. restaurants. 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000/year in purchases, then 1x). 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. You can earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House (enrollment required). There is a $250 annual fee.

    This card includes benefits for travelers: There is no foreign transaction fee and a $100 airline fee credit to cover up to $100 per calendar year in incidental fees (such as baggage fees) at one selected qualifying airline. Terms Apply.

Hotel Credit Cards

  • Hilton Honors Ascend
    Apply for Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card
    Hilton Honors Ascend offers 125,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your new card account. You earn a Weekend Night Reward after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year. You earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases spent directly at a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio. You earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases spent at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations. For all other eligible purchases, you earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points. If you spend $40,000 on eligible purchases in a calendar year, you earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year. There is a $95 annual fee. Terms apply.

  • Starwood Preferred Guest
    Apply for Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
    Starwood Preferred Guest: Want to score free hotel stays? With the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express, spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months to earn 75,000 points.

    This hotel credit card is useful for flights too. You can transfer points into airline miles at SPG airline transfer partners such as American Airlines and Delta. Plus, whenever you transfer 60,000 points to an airline transfer partner in a single transaction, you will receive 15,000 bonus points.

    SPG airline transfer partners include American Airlines, Delta, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, British Airways, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France (Flying Blue), Emirates, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles), Virgin Atlantic, Avianca, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Etihad, Asiana Airlines, Air China, Alitalia, Air Berlin, Jet Airways, China Southern Airlines, Japan Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Thai Airways, Virgin Australia, Aegean Airlines, Miles and More, All Nippon Airways, and China Eastern.

    What could hold you back from this tempting offer? There is a $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year). Read our Starwood Preferred Guest credit card review to help you decide if the fee would be worth it to you.

Business Travel

    Ink Business Preferred
    Apply for Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
  • Ink Business Preferred lets you earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 80,000 points is worth $1,000 toward travel when you redeem via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is a $95 annual fee.

  • If your business spends over $6,667/month:
    American Express Business Platinum offers up to 75,000 points. You earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. You get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com. Earn 1.5 points per dollar on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million additional points per year). Earn 1 point per dollar for qualifying purchases under $5,000. You can use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back (up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year). There is a $450 annual fee.

    This card has premium benefits for travelers: The card includes access to the Global Lounge Collection, which gives you complimentary access to over 1,000 airport lounges worldwide. That includes Delta Sky Club, The Centurion lounge network, The International American Express lounges, Priority Pass Select lounges (enrollment required), and Airspace Lounge. In addition, you can enroll your card with Gogo to get 10 Gogo inflight internet passes annually. And you can enroll with Boingo for unlimited Wi-Fi at Boingo hotspots. Terms Apply.

Wait, There's More Than Just Travel Rewards to Consider

  • International Travel: For overseas travelers, consider using a credit card with no foreign transaction fee to help save money while traveling abroad. Most credit cards have a foreign transaction fee of 3%, which applies to all purchases you make while overseas.

  • Airline: If airfare is your biggest concern, look for an airline credit card to help you earn free flights. Several of these cards include great introductory deals such as bonus miles toward free flights or special perks such as free checked baggage.

  • Hotel: To save on hotel expenses, consider applying for a hotel credit card promotion. Special offers may include bonus hotel points toward free hotel stays.

  • Gas: A gas credit card can help stretch your budget. Read our guide to see how using credit cards can help drivers save money.

  • Redeeming Points: Some travel rewards cards give you airline miles or hotel points with certain companies' frequent traveler programs, such as United MileagePlus or Hilton Honors. Other cards give you points that you can use only with the credit card issuer's reward program.

    Consider how you would like to book your reward travel: some cards require you to book through the card issuer's website while others have more flexible options. Be sure to review the card's terms and conditions to see whether it has blackout dates or other restrictions on redeeming points.

Terms and conditions apply.

Tip: Most travel and airline credit cards require very good to excellent credit to apply. Like most rewards cards, travel and airline credit card tend to charge higher interest rates compared to other types of cards, so if you don't plan on paying your balance in full each month, consider a low interest credit card instead.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, Discover it® Miles, and Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.