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The Best Travel Reward Credit Cards of 2018

Travel reward credit cards is a very broad category. It encompasses everything from airline miles cards to more generic rewards cards. Some cards offer miles, others use points. As a result, picking the best travel rewards card can be a challenge.

To narrow down the list, I divide travel cards into four categories:

1 All-purpose travel cards: These cards aren’t part of an airline or hotel brand. Instead they offer miles or points that can be used with any travel. As you’ll see below the top cards in this category offer at least 2% in rewards. The “catch,” if you will, is that these rewards must be used for travel.

2 Airline miles cards: Offered from every major airlines, these cards can offer the highest value in rewards. The key is to understand your travel patterns. These cards are ideal for those who fly frequently with the same airline.

3 Hotel rewards cards: As with airline miles, these cards can offer good rewards for those who stay with the same hotel brand.

4 Specialty cards: Finally, there are some travel cards that don’t fit neatly into the above categories. An Expedia credit card is a good example, and I’ve placed these types of cards in their own category.

For each of these categories I’ll share my top choice, followed by several excellent options.

All-Purpose Travel Rewards Cards

Editor’s Pick: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns top honors for an all-purpose travel rewards card. Its 2x points for every $1 spent and $50,000 bonus points for new cardmembers lead the pack in the travel category.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

  • Welcome Offer: Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Receive 20% back as a statement credit at U.S. Restaurants within the first 3 months, up to $100 back. Offer available to new card members who apply by 1/9/2019.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • 1X points on other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees, making this an excellent card for international travel.
  • $100 airline fee credit and up to $100 per calendar year for baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Annual Fee $250.
  • Terms Apply.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • One-time Bonus: Earn 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day.
  • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre?®
  • Miles aren’t specific to any airline or hotel, so they can be used antwhere
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won’t expire for the life of the account
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Welcome Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Uber Bonus: Up to $200 for Uber rides annually.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Receive 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 50k points are worth $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants
  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and similar credit cards.

Airline Miles Cards

Editor’s Pick: My favorite airline card is the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. It gets my vote for two reasons. It offers an excellent signup bonus of 50,000 miles. And it’s a great airline to fly.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Annual Bonus: Earn 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2X Rewards: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1X Rewards: Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn points on employee spending
  • No blackout dates when you redeem points, no seat restrictions, bags fly free®, and no change fees
  • No foreign transaction fees

Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and similar credit cards.

Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

  • Welcome Bonus: Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • 2 Miles Rewards: Earn 2 miles per dollar at US restaurants and on purchases made directly with Delta.
  • 1 Mile Rewards: Earn 1 mile on every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Receive a 20% In-Flight Savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

  • Welcome Bonus: Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after you make $1,000 in purchases on your new card within your first 4 months. Offer expires on 9/19/2018.
  • Earn a $50 statement credit once you make your first Delta purchase within the first three months.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta.
  • Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights
  • Priority Boarding.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply

British Airways Visa Signature

British Airways Visa Signature
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Here’s how–
    • Earn 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening;
    • Earn 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $10,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening; and
    • Earn 25,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year from account opening.
  • Each year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa card, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.
  • Earn 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases
  • Earn 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Pay no foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad.

Click here to learn more about the British Airways Visa Signature and similar credit cards.

Hotel Rewards Cards

Editor’s Pick: The top pick goes to the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. It offers excellent value in terms of redemptions, and you can earn free night stays very quickly.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Earn an additional 20,000 after spending $12,000 within your first year.
  • 6,000 bonus points after you’ve had the card for one year
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Bags fly free

Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and similar credit cards.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express

  • Welcome Bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at over 6,700 participating SPG and Marriott Rewards hotels worldwide.
  • Earn 4 points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and on U.S. purchases for shipping. Earn 2 points for all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary.
  • Enjoy complimentary Silver Elite status with your Card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases and $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Terms Apply

     

Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American Express

  • Welcome Bonus: Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you use your new card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 12X Bonus: Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your card directly with a participating hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio.
  • 6X Bonus: Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your card at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Bonus: Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your card.
  • Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn Hilton Honors Diamond status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • Terms Apply

Hilton Honors Card from American Express

  • Welcome Bonus: Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you use your new card to make $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for every dollar of eligible purchases charged directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton Honors portfolio of brands.
  • Earn 5X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for every dollar of eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets, and U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your card.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with your Card.
  • No Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card

Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card
  • Earn 2 Free Night Awards (each valued up to 35,000 points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Annual Bonus: Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
  • 6x Rewards: Earn 6 points per $1 spent at participating Marriott Rewards & SPG hotels.
  • 2x Rewards: Earn 2 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year.

Click here to learn more about the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card and similar credit cards.

 

 

 

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