These are the top picks from our team of points pros
Not all rewards credit cards are one-size-fits-all, and indeed there is no one perfect card for the aspiring world traveler, but choosing one or more cards from our top 10 list will surely get you closer to your travel goals, whether it’s a first class round-the-world honeymoon trip, monthly trips to the world’s best beaches, or enough points to see your family on the other coast whenever you want. We’ve included some photos from trips taken on points, so maybe they’ll help inspire you to start dreaming about your next trip 🙂 Bear in mind, many of these cards offer additional perks not covered in this post, such as trip cancellation or travel insurance, rental car coverage, access to exclusive hotel deals, cell phone insurance, purchase protection, and more.
In this post...
1. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Topping our list is the classic Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With an annual fee of only $95 (waived the first year!), this card has a 60,000 point sign-up bonus when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of having the card. These points are transferable to 9 airlines and 4 hotels, giving you the option of booking directly via these loyalty programs for some potentially lucrative award redemptions (like Singapore A380 Business Class). If you don’t want to transfer to the transfer partners, Ultimate Rewards points from the Sapphire Preferred can be redeemed via Chase Travel, in which case each point is worth $0.0125 per point, so 60,000 points = $750 towards travel. As is key for all travelers, this card has no foreign transaction fees.
- Sign-up bonus: 60,000 UR points after spending $4k in the first 3 months.
- Bonus categories: 2x points on dining including food and grocery delivery services, 2x on travel including hotels, airfare, and transportation services like Uber.
- Best for: those looking for a great all-around card travel card with the option of transferring points to airline and hotel programs, all for a low annual fee.
One of our editors flew to Thailand on points earned with this card, where he stayed in this amazing suite at Naka Island in Phuket. Pretty sweet!
2. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
This card moved up into second place after its recent deal announcement with hotels.com, where you get a whopping 10x miles when you book on hotels.com with your Venture® or VentureOne® rewards card — that’s pretty hard to beat! Add to that the fact that you earn unlimited 2x miles on all purchases, and you’ve got yourself a points-earning powerhouse of a card. This card currently comes with a 50,000 bonus miles offer after you spend $3k in the first 3 months from account opening, and it has a $95 annual fee which is waived for the first year
- Early spend bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3k in the first 3 months.
- Bonus categories: 10x on hotels.com bookings and unlimited 2x miles on all purchases!
- Best for: when you just want to earn lots of miles without having to worry about bonus categories and such.
Book amazing flights with your Venture® Rewards miles, like this Thai Airways first class suite from Bangkok to Tokyo.
3. Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ Card
Warning: this card and the next card are premium cards with high annual fees designed for those with excellent credit, but with those fees come some amazing perks you won’t find on any other card. The Sapphire Reserve℠ is the go anywhere do anything travel card for the team here at Credit Card Rewards, as it earns 3x on dining, airfare, hotels, and travel, which is huge if you travel at least a few times a year. Its current sign-up bonus is 50,000 UR points which can be transferred to airlines like Singapore and Korean Air for amazing first class suites experiences for pennies on the dollar. The $450 annual fee may seem like a lot, but when you factor in the annual travel credit and lounge access, this card pays for itself in no time.
- Major perks: Priority Pass lounge access, Global Entry/PreCheck fee credit, $300 annual travel credit.
- Sign-up bonus: 50,000 UR points after spending $4k in the first 3 months.
- Bonus categories: 3x points on dining, airfare, hotels, and travel.
- Best for: frequent travelers looking for premium benefits in a card that earns UltimateRewards points with Chase.
Chase points transfer over to Korean Air, which is one of the best values for redeeming points on premium flights to Asia.
4. The Platinum Card® from American Express
This is the other premium rewards credit card that has a permanent place in the wallets of the CCR team because of the unmatched perks this card from American Express has. Let’s start with a 60,000 point welcome offer after spending $5k in the first 3 months, then at 5x on airfare booked directly with airlines (and hotels booked on amextravel.com), sprinkle in automatic SPG Gold stats and Hilton Gold status, and for good measure a $200 annual airline credit, $200 in Uber credits, a Global Entry/PreCheck fee credit, and access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, where you often get a free night and a $100 property amenity. Oh, I almost forgot about Centurion Lounge, Priority Pass, and Delta SkyClub lounge access. Did you catch all that?? If you’ve got excellent credit, don’t have this card, and you travel at all, just think about what you’re missing and consider getting this card now.
- Major perks: Priority Pass, Centurion, and Delta lounge access; Global Entry/PreCheck fee credit, $200 annual travel credit, $200 in Uber credits; automatic SPG and Hilton Gold status; FHR hotel program access.
- Welcome offer: 60,000 MR points after spending $5k in the first 3 months.
- Bonus categories: 5x points on airfare booked directly with airlines and hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Best for: frequent flyers who want the best in lounge access, hotel perks, and rewards for booking travel.
Get upgraded into rooms like this Parlor Suite at the Wynn in Las Vegas through the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) program.
5. The American Express® Gold Card
Coming in as a close second to the Amex Platinum card mentioned above, the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express offers some great perks and bonus categories with a lower annual fee ($0 for the first year, then $195/year after that). This card earns American Express Membership Rewards at a rate of 1 point per dollar, but it also earns 3x points on airfare booked directly with airlines, and 2x points on U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. supermarkets. You also get a $100 annual airline fee credit, which effectively cuts this card’s annual fee in half.
- Welcome offer: 25,000 MR points after spending $2k in the first 3 months.
- Bonus categories: 3x points on airfare booked with airlines; 2x points on U.S. restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets.
- Best for: frequent flyers who want to earn valuable Membership Rewards points for a lower annual fee than the Platinum Card.
Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Emirates, which has perhaps the most famous – if not most luxurious – first class suites.
6. Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
This card may actually be better than the SPG card, at least if it’s hotel stays and not flights that you’re after. With a 100,000 point sign-up bonus and a 6x earn rate at Marriott hotels, this card is hard to beat. Add to that the fact that you get 2x points on all other categories, and you’ve got a card that can earn you bonus points on all of your travel spend. That sign-up bonus, btw, is worth 3 free nights at a category 5 hotel with Marriott, which is pretty sweet! It also has a low $95 annual fee which is waived the first year.
- Perks: 1 free night stay every cardmember anniversary.
- Sign-up bonus: 100,000 rewards points after spending $3k in the first 3 months.
- Bonus categories: 5x points at Marriott hotels; 2x points on all other categories.
- Best for: travelers who like Marriott hotels who want don’t want to pay the high annual fee of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
Marriott points can be used for redemptions at luxurious classics like the St. Regis in Rome.