The 6 Starter Travel Credit Cards for Beginners

CREDIT CARDS - TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS
Want a travel rewards credit card but not sure which one to choose? Start here.
Updated May 24, 2024
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The 5 Travel Credit Cards That Are Awesome for Beginners

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There are card options for travel credit card beginners that don’t have steep annual fees, require near-perfect credit, or involve a ton of complicated restrictions. Those free flights and hotel stays you've heard about are within your reach, too — if you choose one of the travel credit cards that aligns with your spending habits. Here’s what you need to know.

The 6 starter travel credit cards for beginners:

In this article

Key takeaways

  • We recommend the Wells Fargo Autograph Card as one of the best travel credit cards for beginners because it has a $0 annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and an elevated rewards rate.
  • If you want to take advantage of more travel benefits, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is easily one of our top choices. It has a $95 annual fee, but you can earn some of our favorite rewards (Chase Ultimate Rewards points) and take advantage of multiple travel benefits and protections.

6 best travel credit cards for beginners

Card Annual fee Welcome bonus Key travel perks
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card(Rates and fees)
4.7

$0 Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (that’s a $200 cash redemption value)
  • Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases
  • Auto rental insurance (secondary coverage)
  • Roadside dispatch
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • No foreign transaction fees
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
4.1

$0 Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • No foreign transaction fees
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
(Rates and fees)
4.0

$0 Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Auto rental insurance (secondary coverage)1

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
4.9

$95 Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases
  • $50 annual hotel credit for stays booked through the Chase portal

  • 1:1 transfer for travel partners

  • Trip cancellation insurance

  • Auto rental insurance (primary coverage)

  • Baggage delay insurance

  • Trip delay reimbursement

  • Emergency assistance

  • No foreign transaction fees

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card(Rates and fees)
4.7
$95 Earn a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25
  • No foreign transaction fees

  • Credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

  • Transfer for travel partners

  • MasterRental Insurance 1

American Express® Green Card American Express® Green Card
4.6
$150 (Terms apply) Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 6 months (plus, earn 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases during the first 6 months, up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit)
  • 3X points on eligible travel and transit purchases, and at eligible restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S.; and 1X points on all other eligible purchases
  • Foreign transaction fee: None

  • Credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

  • Auto rental insurance

All information about American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by FinanceBuzz.

Awesome Rewards Rates + Intro APR

4.7

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Current Offer

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Elevated rewards rate
  • Intro APR offer on purchases
  • No intro APR offer on balance transfers

Why we like it: The Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card is a solid card for earning elevated rewards rates on specific everyday purchases and it also comes with some unexpected perks for a $0-annual-fee card.

This card offers a 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable). So you could earn rewards for future travel and be able to make big purchases without spending a lot on interest charges as long as you pay them off during the intro period.

Other benefits that can be helpful for a traveler include:

  • Cell phone protection
  • Travel and emergency services assistance, such as lost luggage locator service, emergency message service, and medical referral assistance
  • Up to $50,000 in car rental coverage toward a covered accident or theft on eligible car rentals

What we don’t like: If you want to take advantage of different intro APR offers with the Wells Fargo Autograph, note that it doesn’t have an intro APR offer on balance transfers.

Check out our full Wells Fargo Autograph Card review.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

4.1

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Annual Fee

$0

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Simple rewards rate
  • Intro APR offers
  • No bonus categories

Why we like it: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card can be a great addition to your wallet if you're looking for excellent everyday earning potential with rewards that you can put toward travel. In addition, you can boost that earning rate by 25% to 75% if you’re also a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member.

For the traveler, this card offers some potentially valuable benefits:

  • Travel and emergency assistance

  • Trip delay reimbursement

  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance

  • Lost luggage reimbursement

  • Visa Signature Concierge

If you're looking for perks beyond travel or have some big purchases planned, this card could also be a great fit for you. This card provides:

  • 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then 19.24% - 29.24% Variable)
  • 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles on purchases (then 19.24% - 29.24% Variable)

What we don’t like: The Bank of America Travel Rewards doesn’t provide a way to earn bonus rewards in specific categories, such as travel or dining. 

Check out our full Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card review.

Long 0% Intro APR Offer

4.0

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Current Offer

Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Pros Cons
  • $0 annual fee
  • Simple rewards rate
  • Intro APR offers
  • Low rewards rate

Why we like it: The VentureOne Rewards shares many of the same features with its Venture Rewards cousin, such as redeeming rewards for statement credits as well as auto insurance protection.2 But there are two important differences that make this credit card a better choice for some applicants.

The VentureOne Rewards Credit Card doesn’t have an annual fee, which is a nice perk in the rewards card space.

New VentureOne Rewards cardholders get 0% intro APR on purchases during the first 15 months (then 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable) APR).

With such amazing perks, why would anyone choose the Venture Rewards? The answer is simple: the Venture Rewards gives you 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25. With VentureOne Rewards, you’ll earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

So, for everyday purchases, the Venture Rewards comes out on top. But if you want a $0-annual-fee and have a big upcoming purchase that you want to pay off interest-free over time, the VentureOne Rewards Card might be right for you.

What we don’t like: You can find higher rewards rates on other cards.

Check out our full VentureOne Rewards Credit Card card review.

Great for Flexible Travel Rewards

4.9

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Current Offer

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

5X points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Pros Cons
  • Useful bonus categories for travelers
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠
  • Earn up to $50 statement credits each account anniversary for hotel stays purchased through Chase Travel℠
  • $95 annual fee

Why we like it: Chase built the Sapphire Preferred travel credit card for a beginner audience, and it’s easy to see why consumers like it. Plus, the “travel” category can include things like Uber and tolls.

The Sapphire Preferred also offers robust travel-specific benefits: Think a $50 annual hotel credit for stays booked through the Chase portal, purchase and extended warranty protection, and travel-related insurances not offered by other issuers at this level.

Best of all, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders also get access to the Chase Travel℠ program. Chase Travel℠ is your gateway to trading your points for loyalty program rewards. You can also find deals on retailer gift cards or redeem your points for cash.

What we don’t like: Cardholders have to pay a $95 annual fee.

Check out our full Chase Sapphire Preferred card review.

Incredibly Flexible Rewards

4.7

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Current Offer

Earn a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Pros Cons
  • Simple rewards rate
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, once every four years
  • $95 annual fee

Why we like it: The Capital One Venture Rewards takes a lot of the hassle out of rewards cards with one simple feature: redeeming rewards for statement credits. Book travel with the card and, at your request, Capital One will redeem your miles and apply a statement credit. Easy! 

Plus, unlike other credit card rewards programs, there’s no redemption minimum. That means if you really want to trade miles to pay for your $5 airline headphone purchase, you can do it.

You’ll also get a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry registration reimbursement — valued at $78 or $100, respectively. Already have it? Apply it toward a family member or friend’s fee instead.

What we don’t like: You have to pay a $95 annual fee as a cardmember.

Check out our full Capital One Venture Rewards card review.

Powerful Benefits with a Low Annual Fee

American Express® Green Card
4.6

American Express® Green Card

Current Offer

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 6 months (plus, earn 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases during the first 6 months, up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit)

Annual Fee

$150

Rewards Rate

3X points on eligible travel and transit purchases, and at eligible restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S.; and 1X points on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

American Express® Green Card

Pros Cons
  • Useful bonus categories for travelers
  • Get up to $189 CLEAR Plus credit per calendar year
  • Earn up to $100 LoungeBuddy credit per calendar year
  • $150 annual fee (terms apply)

Why we like it: The Amex Green has a generous welcome offer and a reasonable annual fee. Its rewards rate is a great fit for travelers, allowing you to earn 3X for eligible travel and transit purchases, and at eligible restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S..

It also has a statement credit of up to $189 for CLEAR Plus, which can speed up your trips through airport security. Other benefits that could be helpful include the LoungeBuddy credit of up to $100 and car rental and baggage insurance.

What we don’t like: Cardmembers have to pay a $150 annual fee.

Check out our full American Express® Green Card review.

What to look for in your first travel credit card

At a basic level, all travel rewards credit cards work the same way. Every time you use the credit card, you earn points or miles that you can redeem for travel, merchandise, or cash. 

Some cards reward points or miles based on spending in certain categories, such as booking flights or eating out. Others offer the same reward structure no matter what you spend your money on.

What often sets credit card offers apart are their perks and benefits, such as:

  • Airline transfer partners
  • Hotel partners
  • Airport lounge access
  • Travel insurance options

Here are a few other steps to take when getting your first travel card:

  1. Travel credit cards aren’t always easy to qualify for. If your credit history is thin or you occasionally pay your statement balance late, getting approved could prove difficult. But more on that later. 
  2. Take the time to review each credit card’s rewards and travel partners because they don’t all offer the same perks. In other words, if you’re a loyal Marriott Bonvoy member but the card you’re eyeing partners with Hilton or Hyatt, you might want to reconsider. Or if you fly Southwest or Delta, be sure to get a card that partners with one of those airlines.
  3. Consider your payment history. If you typically pay your statement balance in full, that’s helpful because interest charges won’t offset the value of your rewards. If you occasionally carry a balance and have good credit, you’ll want a lower APR (annual percentage rate) — just in case.

In short, you’ll need good credit, a card with the right perks, and the lowest possible interest rate in case you have to roll your balance from month to month.

Points vs. miles

In very general terms, points are rewards in a credit card loyalty program, while miles are earned in an airline’s loyalty program or with a co-branded airline credit card and can be used toward purchasing flights.

You typically get the most redemption value out of using miles toward flights and upgrades with the associated airline or with partner airlines. You may be able to make other types of redemptions, such as getting gift cards, but those have a much lower redemption value, so you don’t get as much out of your miles.

Points tend to be more flexible, and you can use them for a variety of travel types, including hotel stays and car rentals, as well as for other types of redemptions, such as gift cards. As with miles, you tend to get less value out of redemptions for gift cards or statement credits.

Some programs use the terms “miles” and “points” interchangeably, however. For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards card allows you to earn miles, but they can be used toward various types of travel through Capital One’s travel portal.

Travel cards vs. airline cards

Travel cards are geared toward travel in general and are associated with a card issuers rewards program, like American Express Membership Rewards. You earn points that you can use for a variety of travel options.

For example, I have points with the Chase Travel℠ Program through my Chase Sapphire Preferred card. We did have plans to travel to New Orleans for a week and used our points to cover our hotel stay.  

When a music festival came up that my wife couldn't resist during the week of our planned trip, we were easily able to get our points refunded and use them for flight tickets to Maryland instead by transferring them over to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.

Airline cards earn points for an airline loyalty program, and the ways you can earn points may also be more limited. For example, with the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card, you earn 2X miles on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and at restaurants worldwide, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and 1X miles on all other eligible purchases (terms apply). While this isn’t a bad earnings rate by any means, there are other cards that allow you to earn more rewards. If you’re a Delta loyalist, though, this card might make sense for you.

Compare Travel Credit Cards

The right travel card for you is the one that matches your interests and spending habits, allowing you to earn valuable rewards and travel the way you like — for less. Learn more about these top cards and choose what's best for you.

»Compare Travel Credit Cards

What credit score is needed for a starter travel credit card?

Remember the credit score caveat I mentioned earlier? It’s important because the best travel credit cards usually require at least a “good” credit score of 680.

If your credit score is below 680, you’ll want to improve your credit score before you apply. The best way to raise your score is to always pay your bills on time. Pay in full whenever possible. Avoid maxing out your credit cards — in fact, keep your balances below 30% of your total available credit. Lastly, don’t open too many cards at once, and keep your old accounts open, even if you don’t use them.

How to choose the best travel credit card for beginners

Annual fee

Premium travel credit cards with lots of benefits tend to have annual fees of $250 or more. The many benefits and annual costs could be overwhelming, which is why we recommend different cards to travel credit card beginners.

You can easily find cards with annual fees that run less than $100, including cards with no annual fees at all. You might not get luxury benefits, but your experience with managing your card will be less stressful.

Foreign transaction fees

Nearly every travel credit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on applicable purchases. But just in case, make sure you check for this fee as you compare credit cards. Paying around 3% on any foreign purchase might not seem like a lot, but it can add up if you make a lot of credit card purchases on an international trip.

Type of rewards

Most rewards cards earn cash back, points, or miles. If you want to use your rewards on travel-related redemptions, such as flights or hotel stays, you typically want a card that earns points or miles. These are cards designed with the traveler in mind.

Spending categories

To help maximize earning travel rewards on your everyday purchases, consider cards with bonus categories that align with your spending habits. For example, if you dine out a lot, find a card that earns bonus points in the dining category.

Perks and benefits

Travel credit cards for beginners don’t tend to have a lot of benefits. However, you can still find cards with a few perks here and there that don’t have high annual fees.

For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a $95 annual fee, provides multiple travel insurance benefits, and offers up to $50 in statement credits each anniversary year for hotel stays purchased through Chase Travel℠.

FAQs about travel credit card for beginners

What's the easiest travel card to get?

To get approved for a travel rewards credit card, you'll likely need good to excellent credit. If you're in the market for a new card, check out our picks for the best credit cards for fair credit. Consider those options to build your credit history and credit score, and then apply for a travel rewards card down the line once your credit score falls within the good to excellent range.

Which card offers the best travel rewards?

Several travel rewards cards offer attractive benefits and perks for cardholders, but the best one for you depends on how often you travel, your travel preferences, and the types of benefits and perks you're looking for. Those who are new to travel rewards may appreciate the perks and features of the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Capital One Venture. 

Seasoned award travelers may appreciate high-end perks that come with a higher-annual-fee card, like Priority Pass access, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credits, airline fee credits, or free checked bags. If you prefer luxury perks, The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve® might be worth considering.

Is a travel credit card worth it?

Whether a travel card is worth it for you or not depends on a few different factors, including how often you travel, your typical spending habits, and the card's annual fee. If you're a frequent traveler that can take advantage of all the benefits that a travel rewards card has to offer, chances are it will help offset the cost of your travel expenses and help you keep some cash in your pocket. Just make sure you do your research to find the best travel card for your wallet. 

Bottom line on the best travel credit cards for beginners

With responsible money management habits and the right rewards credit card, you can get access to incredible discounts on travel — and potentially free hotel stays or flights — or redeem for merchandise or cash. And next time your friend brags about their next vacation, you can share a tale or two of your own, too.

Methodology

To choose the best starter travel credit cards, we identified credit cards with travel benefits and compared features like welcome offers, annual fees, and rewards rates. We did not include all possible options.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
4.1
Apply Now

on Bank of America’s secure website

Read Card Review

Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

$0

+

Why we like it

Author Details

Lisa Bigelow Lisa Bigelow is an award-winning freelance content creator who helps people learn smarter credit, borrowing, saving and information security habits. In addition to FinanceBuzz, Lisa has contributed to Life and Money, MagnifyMoney, Well + Good, Smarter With Gartner, Popular Science and Cadre Insights. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

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