6 Travel Credit Cards with the Best Rewards (If You Aren’t Loyal to Any Particular Airline)

Co-branded airline credit cards can offer lucrative travel rewards, but these general travel cards may be more valuable if you tend to fly a variety of airlines.
Last updated Jul 8, 2020 | By Ben Walker
Travel Credit Cards with the Best Rewards

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The best travel credit cards can help you travel more while spending a lot less money. The rewards you can earn from these cards can offer opportunities to fly for free and stay at hotels for free.

Airline credit cards and hotel credit cards are terrific options when you want to fly on specific airlines or stay at specific hotel chains. But your travel plans may not always align with the same airline and hotel brands.

Fortunately, the credit cards with the best travel rewards don’t have to hold you to any particular airline or hotel. Instead, these travel rewards cards offer a wide variety of redemption options across many hospitality brands. And with more options, you can get more value out of your credit card points.

You might consider applying for one of these general-purpose credit cards if you want to keep your options open while you travel. Here’s what you need to know to pick the right one for you.

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What makes these the best travel credit cards

The best travel rewards credit cards offer great travel perks and rewards-earning potential, but also don't charge cardholders for things like foreign transaction fees. They also aren’t limited to rewards programs with only one airline or hotel.

The cards we’ve listed provide significant travel benefits and rewards that can work with many airlines and hotels. If a credit card had limited earning potential, we didn’t include it on this list. For example, a card like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire is ideal if you want to stay at Hilton properties, but it doesn’t make as much sense for staying at other hotels.

Many American Express credit cards, Chase credit cards, and other cards aren’t limited in how you can use them for airfare and hotels. You can use the Chase travel portal to book airfare or hotel stays with a number of different companies. The same goes for using Amex Membership Rewards points to book flights or hotels through Amex Travel. And if the online travel portals don’t have what you’re looking for, you can always transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex points to applicable transfer partners such as Emirates or JetBlue.

As you read through the descriptions of the travel credit cards we’ve compiled, keep in mind that each card is not the best card for every individual traveler. The best credit card for you is the one that best fits your travel preferences and spending habits. Keep an eye out for specific travel benefits you might want in a card so you can consider which card to apply for.

The credit cards with the best travel rewards

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • American Express Gold Card
  • The Platinum Card from American Express
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card
Card Welcome bonus Rewards rate Travel perks
Chase Sapphire Preferred Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases DoorDash and Lyft benefits; travel insurance coverages; transfer points to more than 12 travel partners
Chase Sapphire Reserve Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else $300 annual travel credit; TSA PreCheck or Global Entry reimbursement; airport lounge access with Priority Pass Select; Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection benefits; DoorDash and Lyft benefits; travel insurance coverages; transfer points to more than 12 travel partners
American Express Gold Card Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year) and at restaurants worldwide, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases $100 annual airline fee credit; up to $120 annual dining credit; The Hotel Collection benefits; travel insurance coverages; transfer points to more than 20 travel partners
The Platinum Card from American Express Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare and hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases $200 annual airline fee credit; up to $200 annual Uber credit; airport lounge access with Priority Pass Select, The Centurion Lounge, and The International American Express lounges; TSA PreCheck or Global Entry reimbursement; Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits; The Hotel Collection benefits; Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status; Hilton Honors Gold status; travel insurance coverages; transfer points to more than 20 travel partners
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months 2X miles on every purchase, every day TSA PreCheck or Global Entry reimbursement; travel insurance coverages; transfer miles to more than 10 travel partners
Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card Earn 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months 3X points on eligible dining, transportation, travel, and streaming service purchases; and 1X points on other purchases Cell phone protection; travel insurance coverages

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Annual fee: $95

Sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening.

How you earn rewards: With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you earn 5X on Lyft rides, 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases.

What makes this card special: Points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for airfare, hotels, and other travel through the Chase travel portal. You can also transfer points to over a dozen airline and hotel travel partners. Built-in benefits include both Chase Sapphire travel insurance and Chase purchase protection.

Who this card is best for: Frequent travelers and diners who want flexible travel redemption options with a low annual fee.

#1 Travel Rewards Card

Benefits

  • 80,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 3X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee: $550

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening.

How you earn rewards: With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you earn 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else.

What makes this card special: Points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for airfare, hotels, and other travel through the Chase travel portal. Or you can transfer points to more than a dozen different travel partners. You also receive a $300 annual travel credit, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee credit, and complimentary Priority Pass airport lounge access. If that wasn’t enough, built-in benefits also include a free year of Lyft Pink, up to $120 in DoorDash credits, travel insurance, and purchase coverages.

Who this card is best for: Frequent travelers who want premium card benefits.

#1 Premium Travel Credit Card

Benefits

  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 10X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020
  • 5X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020
  • 3X points on travel and at restaurants
  • $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 and 2021
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access

American Express Gold Card

Annual fee: $250

Welcome bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you make $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months after account opening.

How you earn rewards: With the American Express Gold Card, you earn 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year) and at restaurants worldwide, 3X on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com, and 1X on all other eligible purchases.

What makes this card special: You can receive an annual airline fee credit of up to $100 and up to $120 in dining credits each year. That alone nearly covers the $250 annual fee, but you also receive rental car insurance, baggage insurance, and access to Amex Travel. With Amex Travel, you can redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, and more. You can also transfer your points to more than 20 travel partners.

Who this card is best for: Frequent travelers and diners who want to earn travel rewards on both everyday and travel purchases.

Big Rewards for Dining Out

Benefits

  • 35,000 Membership Rewards point welcome offer
  • High rewards rate in certain categories
  • Up to $100 airline fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Terms apply

The Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $550

Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months after account opening.

How you earn rewards: With the Platinum Card from American Express, you earn 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare and hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

What makes this card special: The Amex Platinum is filled with unique benefits and perks. You can receive up to $200 in annual airline fee credits, up to $200 in annual Uber credit, and up to $100 in annual Saks shopping credit. In addition to Priority Pass airport lounge access, you also receive access to Amex Centurion Lounges and other Amex lounges. Other built-in benefits include TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee reimbursement, Fine Hotels & Resorts benefits, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, Hilton Honors Gold status, travel insurance, and more. Amex points can be transferred to more than 20 travel partners.

Who this card is best for: Frequent travelers who want luxury card benefits.

Best Luxury Travel Benefits

Benefits

  • 60,000 Membership Rewards point welcome offer
  • 5X points on eligible flights and hotels
  • $15 in free U.S. Uber rides each month ($20 in December)
  • $200 airline fee credit each year
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Terms apply

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee: $95

Early spend bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after account opening.

How you earn rewards: With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

What makes this card special: You can receive up to a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees and Venture miles can be transferred to more than 10 travel partners. You also receive travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, and extended warranty protection.

Who this card is best for: Frequent travelers who want quality card benefits without a high annual fee.

Incredibly Flexible Rewards

Benefits

  • 50,000 bonus mile welcome offer
  • 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card

Annual fee: $0

Welcome bonus: Earn 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months after account opening.

How you earn rewards: With the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card, you earn 3X points on eligible dining, transportation, travel, and streaming service purchases; and 1X points on other purchases.

What makes this card special: With a $0 annual fee and multiple bonus categories for spending, it’s easy to rack up rewards. You also get cell phone protection, lost luggage reimbursement, and car rental insurance.

Who this card is best for: Frequent travelers who want to avoid an annual fee.

An Amazing Free Card for Travelers

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card

Benefits

  • 3X points on several popular categories
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction or currency conversion fees
  • Terms apply

A note about transfer partners

Many travel credit card issuers offer the option to transfer your miles or points to a variety of travel partners in the airline and hotel industries. This gives you the opportunity to potentially gain more value from your rewards than you would be able to otherwise.

For instance, 10,000 Membership Rewards points on the Amex Platinum Card would normally be worth $100 toward airfare in the American Express travel portal. That’s a 1 cent valuation ($100 / 10,000 = $.01) per point.

Travel Credit Cards with the Best Rewards

However, as a cardmember, you can also transfer your points to one of many Amex transfer partners, including airline partners Singapore Airlines. I recently found one-way flights from New York City to Frankfurt for $385.10 or 22,500 KrisFlyer miles via the Singapore Airlines website. Because Amex points transfer to KrisFlyer at a 1:1 ratio, this type of redemption would increase your points valuation to 1.7 cents ($385.10 / 22,500 = $.017) per Membership Rewards point.

Best Credit Cards with Travel Rewards If You Aren't Loyal to Any Particular Airline

Best Credit Cards with Travel Rewards If You Aren't Loyal to Any Particular Airline

You can also take advantage of Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners or Capital One transfer partners depending on which credit card you’re using.

For hotels, Amex transfer partners include the popular Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors hotel loyalty programs. Chase hotel partners include Marriott Bonvoy, IHG Rewards Club, and World of Hyatt. Capital One transfer partners include Accor Live Limitless.

Transferring credit card points or miles to travel partners won’t always present the best deal for your rewards. Make sure you do the math beforehand — comparing the points it takes to book a flight or hotel stay compared to the dollar value — to see whether a transfer is a good deal. You can’t transfer points back to your credit card after, so it’s always best to check the number first.

Note: always do the math on the redemption value of your points and miles when it comes to gift cards and cash back as well. While almost every card offers these types of redemptions, that doesn't mean they're always the best way to use your rewards.

Bottom line

If you travel often, a travel rewards credit card can be a valuable addition to your wallet. They provide plenty of options for earning rewards points and can come with loads of essential travel benefits for cardholders. Often the welcome bonus alone can greatly offset the cost of the card in the first year.

As you search for your optimal credit card, use this list to pinpoint the card attributes that best match your needs. Luxury travel benefits could offset the cost of a high annual fee. Or you might want a dual-purpose card that earns bonus points from travel expenses and dining. You may be more interested in a card with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers or one of the best travel credit cards with no annual fee. Remember, the best credit card for someone else might not be the best new card for you. 

But if you don't want to have to sort through a stack of hotel cards and airline cards, a more flexible travel rewards card could be a great fit for you.

#1 Travel Rewards Card

Benefits

  • 80,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 5X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 3X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) until September 30, 2020
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits