How To Compare Travel Credit Cards

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Picking a travel credit card might be a wise choice if you want to save money and travel in luxury, but you have do the homework to select the best card for your requirements. There are several sorts of travel credit cards to meet different rewards schemes and personal preferences, and some cards are substantially more versatile than others.

Here are the primary card kinds you’ll run into:

  • Flexible travel credit cards: Lets you redeem points or miles with a broad choice of airlines and hotels or transfer your points to a loyalty club you may already have
  • Hotel credit cards: Lets you earn points inside a hotel loyalty program
  • Airline credit cards: Lets you earn points with certain airlines and their partners

Note

Some cards fall into a few distinct categories. For instance, an airline credit card may enable you earn and redeem miles for hotels and rental vehicles, and vice versa.

As you begin comparing travel cards, there are several aspects to consider—some of which are wholly determined by your personal spending habits and travel ambitions. Here’s all you need to know to pick on the correct card for you.

Earning Potential

Each travel credit card has its unique points earning scheme. others flexible travel cards give the same rewards rate for every dollar you spend—maybe 1.5 or 2 points or miles every $1 you charge—although others are more generous with travel costs or other specialized spending categories, including eating out, groceries, or petrol.

Cards linked with a certain hotel or airline (such as American Airlines, Marriott Bonvoy, or Hilton Honors) tend to give a greater degree of benefits when you spend inside their brands, and the variety is vast. You could see 2, 6, or 14 miles or points for $1 spent.

As you compare, examine how often you travel and where you spend the majority of your monthly spending.

Redemption Options

Each travel card has limits regarding how you may spend your points or miles, and the value of those rewards vary a lot, depending on the card and how you redeem the rewards.

For instance, editors at The Balance value miles on American carriers AAdvantage cards at 2.04 cents each when redeemed for tickets on American or its partner carriers, compared with just 1.44 cents per mile earned on Delta SkyMiles cards.

You should also assess how much flexibility is crucial to you. On the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for example, points redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal aren’t worth as much as AAdvantage miles, but you have the option to transfer your points to a variety of airline loyalty programs and still get a respectable point value—as much as 1.98 cents, on average.

Annual Fees

Many travel cards carry an annual fee, and you should be sure you can more than recover this cost with the incentives and privileges you’ll get. Annual fees start at roughly $95 and may peak out at more than $500.

On cards at the top end, you may receive free access to airport lounges, exemptions on your checked-bag costs, or reimbursement for your TSA PreCheck membership or other airline expenses. Airport lounge access alone may normally cost hundreds of dollars, so the card’s premium may be well worth it if you travel enough to make comfort your priority.

Note

You may be able to discover a card that waives the for the first year (typically these have a price around $100), allowing you time to establish how often you’re truly using the card and its advantages.

Travel Perks

You may receive a card with a lot of travel bonuses, very little, or something in between. Make sure you know which ones are significant to you. Besides airport lounge access, checked-baggage waivers, and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck refund, you may discover cards with free hotel stays, gratis travel for your partner, priority boarding on flights, or insurance coverage in the case your luggage is misplaced or your vacation gets cut short. Again, the cards with higher-value bonuses tend to come with heavier annual fees.

Bonuses

Most cards provide a welcome bonus for new users who satisfy a certain spending criterion during the first several months. Some incentives may easily be worth several hundred dollars, but be sure you can satisfy the spending criterion without having to run a balance on your card. Interest charges are a simple way to negate the financial advantage of a travel card.

Foreign Transaction Fees

Some travel cards impose foreign transaction fees—approximately 3% of each purchase—when you use your card overseas. There are lots of cards that don’t, however, so if you intend to go outside the U.S. (or simply charge a lot with a foreign shop), be sure your card doesn’t include this cost. It might potentially wipe out any miles or points you accumulate.

International Acceptance

Some credit cards are not recognized as extensively overseas, so if you’re a globe-trotter, be sure you can use your card wherever you travel. Discover cards, for example, are not accepted at all in portions of South America, the Middle East, and Africa, and may only be accepted sporadically in other chosen locations.