5 Best Starter Travel Credit Cards in 2019

Jumping into the world of points and miles? Here's a complete list of the best starter credit cards that will help you travel the world for free
5 minute read | 3/19/19March 19, 2019

I remember the very first time I overheard someone talking about travel rewards. It was on a plane going from Seoul to JFK and we were about 8-hours into the 12-hour flight. I was also 18 years old and a total know-it-all (you know the type).

The idea of someone being able to book any type of trip for free using credit card points sounded like a trick to me. Still, I couldn’t help but continue eavesdropping on the conversation happening behind me.

The main takeaway? 

“Travel rewards are a very real thing! Don’t believe me? Look it up when you get home – people are really booking trips for free.”

And so, I did.

Now, several years and trips later, I can honestly say that travel rewards cards have had a huge impact on the way I travel. Learning how to maximize points and miles has become a fun hobby and I love connecting with others who feel the same. There are a lot of communities out there, but the FBZ Elite Travel & Points Community is my favorite. Yes, I may be a little biased.

If you’re just getting started, you’ve probably already felt overwhelmed by all the options out there. The best way to determine which card is the right fit for you is to figure out your travel goals.

Sure, you want to travel for free, but let’s get a little more specific. Are you hoping to spend a week on the beach in Florida in the next coming months or would you rather hold out to earn enough points for a 2 week getaway in Europe?

The sky’s the limit on the type of trip you’re itching to take, but try to brainstorm a few places you’d like to cross off your bucket list, then see what card(s) will help you get there.

I personally like to book a mixture of both short and long trips, domestic and international, and have racked up quite a stack of cards in the past several years. One thing I didn’t rack up, however, is credit card debt. Falling into debt to earn points and miles defeats the purpose and takes away from the fun.

So, if you’re just starting out – and I’m guessing you are – here are three quick questions and answers to get the most out of your points and miles before you even begin.

3 Quick Questions to Ask Yourself

1. How many credit cards should I have?

Take it slow. There’s a lot to learn and digest about travel rewards, so starting out with one or two cards until you know the ins and outs of travel rewards is a good idea.

2. Best advice for credit card newbies?

Always pay your balance in full and on-time in order to really maximize your rewards!

3. What’s the fastest way to learn about travel rewards?

Our free beginner's guide to travel rewards is packed with information to help you get started on the right foot. Remember to have fun with it and connect with others to find the best ideas for redeeming rewards.

Best Starter Travel Credit Cards for 2019

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

2. Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

3. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 

4. United Explorer Card

5. Hilton Honors Card from American Express

Why Each Card is Valuable

Each of the travel rewards credit cards above are awesome in their own way, so if you’re looking to break into the world of points and miles but not quite sure which card to start with, this breakdown can help.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Great value for travel rewards beginners, experts, and anywhere in between.

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening – valued at $750 toward travel!
  • 2x points on dining & travel
  • 1x point on everything else
  • Travel protection, Price/Purchase Protection, Auto Rental Insurance, and more
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee
  • Review additional card details and apply

2. Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Known for its incredible flexibility with earning and redeeming miles.

  • Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days
  • 2x miles on all purchases
  • Miles can be redeemed for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise
  • Use the same miles again! Get 5% miles back to put toward your next redemption
  • Miles never expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • Added benefit of 0% introductory APR for 12 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • $89 annual fee
  • Review additional card details and apply

3. Capital One Venture Rewards

Highly rated for its high rewards rate and ease of redeeming rewards

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2x miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn unlimited rewards that never expire
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • No blackout dates
  • Choose your own monthly due date
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • $0 annual fee first year, then $95
  • Review additional card details and apply

4. United Explorer Card

Incredibly valuable card for frequent flyers of United (hello, international travel!).

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • 2x miles per dollar at restaurants, hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel, and eligible United purchases
  • 1x mile per dollar on everything else
  • Free first checked bag (up to $100 per roundtrip)
  • Priority boarding on all United-operated flights
  • 2 United Club one-time passes each year for your Cardmember anniversary (over a $100 value)
  • Miles never expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee
  • Review additional card details and apply

5. Hilton Honors Card from American Express

If you stay at Hilton hotels and want to rack up points fast, you’ll love this highly-rated travel rewards card from American Express. 

  • Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after making $1,000 in first 3 months
  • 7x points per dollar on hotel stays within Hilton portfolio
  • 5x points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, and U.S. gas stations
  • 3x points per dollar on everything else
  • Automatic Hilton Honors Silver status, which provides several exclusive benefits
  • Bump up to Hilton Honors Gold status when you make $20,000 in purchases each calendar year
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • $0 annual fee
  • Review additional card details and apply

Disclaimer: This content and the opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and have not been provided, commissioned, or endorsed by the credit card issuer. All information was accurate at the time of this post but card terms and conditions may change at any time.

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