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Best Travel Rewards Cards
13 Mar 2018

Travel Rewards Competition: Which Card Should You Get?

There are many reasons why people enjoy travel. Some travel to visit family or spend time with friends, while others fly around the globe simply seeking better weather. With the cost of travel constantly changing, credit cards are becoming a key tool for booking airfare, hotels, and more.

Whatever motivation you may have for traveling, there are numerous reasons to find the best travel rewards cards available to you.

With competitive perks ranging from no annual fee to extra bonus points, it can be difficult to narrow down all of the options. Some travel credit cards will provide bonus miles after spending a certain amount within a short period of time. Other cards will offer luxury travel perks at certain hotels and resorts.

There are several great travel credit cards. But where can you find the best travel rewards cards? Let’s take a look at the competition, so you can decide for yourself.

Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card

Why you should get this card: This Bank of America card doubles as both a travel and cash back credit card. As a newly launched card from 2017, it quickly became one of the best travel rewards cards. It reflects each point earned as either a statement credit or as a deposit into a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch account.

If you are a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can get even greater bonuses. A Platinum Honors member, for example, earns an additional 75% bonus on top of the card’s already competitive points program. This can mean up to 3.5x points on travel and dining expenses.

Sign-up Bonus: With at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days, the account will earn 50,000 bonus points, which equals out to $500 worth of rewards.

Benefits: Earn 2 points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases. Earn 1.5 points per dollar on all other purchases. Earn up to 75% bonus points for Preferred Rewards members. Annual $100 airline incidental statement credit toward seat upgrades, baggage fees and more.

Annual Fee: $95

United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card

Why you should get this card: If you frequently travel on United, this Chase card just might be for you. It offers perks such as access to book seats non-cardholders can’t.

Having this card also offers priority boarding on United flights. They are presently waiving the annual fee for the first year, so it could be a great time to get signed up.

Sign-up Bonus: Similar to the Bank of America credit card above, this cards offers 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months after account opening.

Benefits: With specific benefits to United flights, this card provides 2 miles per dollar when spent on their airfare tickets. All other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar. You also get one free checked bag for you and one flight companion per reservation. You can additionally gain access to the United Club and other amenities with two free passes per year.

Annual Fee: $95, but current promotion to waive for the first year.

Marriott Rewards Premier Card

Why you should get this card: Marriott offers some great options that make it one of the best travel rewards cards. This includes great hotel and airfare packages, as well as the ability to transfer points to Starwood (SPG) at a 3:1 ratio.

After each year of having this card, Marriott offers a free night at any of their category 1-5 properties.

Sign-up Bonus: With a larger signup bonus than the previous two cards, the Marriott Rewards Premier Card offers 75,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months after account opening.

Benefits: When using your card to stay at any Marriott or SPG hotels, you earn 5 points per dollar. You will also earn 2 points per dollar on car rentals, restaurants, and airline tickets purchased from the airline. The card will automatically put 15 credits toward elite status, with an additional credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card every calendar year.

Annual Fee: $85, but current promotion to waive for the first year.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Why you should get this card: This is one of the best travel rewards cards with extra perks through American Airlines, similar to the United MileagePlus Explorer card. It has a lower annual fee than the executive card through the same company with some of the same benefits. They are presently waiving the first year’s annual fee.

Sign-up Bonus: Offering a smaller bonus for a smaller spend amount, the Platinum Select card has a 30,000 mile bonus after spending $1,000 in the first three months after account opening.

Benefits: When using your card to fly with American Airlines, you earn 2 miles per dollar. You will also earn 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. You also get preferred boarding on AA flights and your first bag checked free.

Annual Fee: $95, but current promotion to waive for the first year.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Why you should get this card: The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has been a popular pick among the best travel rewards cards for years now. One of the main perks is being able to trade your points for 1.25x their value toward airfare and hotels when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards system.

It offers a low annual fee that is currently being waived the first year and you can earn additional points by adding an authorized user who makes a purchase within the first three months.

Sign-up Bonus: With at least $4,000 in purchases in the first 90 days, the account will earn 50,000 bonus points. This equals out to $625 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Benefits: Earn 2x points per dollar on all travel, taxi, train, and dining purchases. Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. You can also transfer your points at a 1:1 rate to be used with other travel partners. This card also provides primary car rental insurance, no foreign transaction fees, and trip cancellation coverage.

Annual Fee: $95, but current promotion to waive for the first year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Why you should get this card: Though this card has what some may consider a steep annual fee, its perks and benefits make it an easy candidate for one of the best travel rewards cards. One of those incentives being a $300 annual travel credit.

If you have any other Chase reward credit cards along with this one, the points from those can be redeemed at a 1.5 cent rate.

Sign-up Bonus: The Reserve card has the same bonus as its Preferred counterpart. Earn 50,000 points with at least $4,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. However, this amount equals out to $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards, as opposed to $625 with the Preferred. This great option easily makes it one of the best travel rewards cards when considering sign-up bonuses.

Benefits: One of the extra benefits behind the higher annual fee shows up on travel purchases. Earn 3 points per dollar on all travel, taxi, train, and dining purchases. All other purchases still earn 1 point per dollar spent. On top of the primary car rental insurance, no foreign transaction fees, and trip cancellation coverage, you can also get Priority Pass Select lounge access and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck new card fee credit.

Annual Fee: $450

Platinum Card from American Express

Why you should get this card: With the highest annual fee on this list, the Platinum Card obviously needs to have some serious perks. A large sign-up bonus, extra points for airfare, and multiple fee credits are just a few of those benefits.

As long as you can see beyond the $550 annual fee and recognize the benefits, you’ll understand why this is one of the best travel rewards cards out there.

Sign-up Bonus: The Platinum Card has the highest bonus available on this list, which allows you to earn 60,000 points after spending $5,000 or more in the first three months.

Benefits: You can earn 5 points per dollar spent on airfare travel when booked either with the airline or through AMEX travel. This same amount also pertains when you use AMEX travel to book your hotel accommodations. These points are able to be transferred to 20 different airline and hotel partners.

An annual $200 airline fee rebate, as well as up to $200 in Uber credits each year, are added on top of the travel benefits. The card also offers access to the Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass, plus access to the Delta Sky Club when you’re flying with Delta.

Annual Fee: $550

The Bottom Line

All of these travel credit cards have great benefits when used properly. They can offer anything from high sign-up bonuses to extra mileage rewards for your other day-to-day purchases.

Bonsai Finance can help you determine the best options for all of your credit needs. Whether you are ready to decide between the best travel rewards cards or need assistance with easy approval credit cards, we can get you moving in the right direction.

Please feel free to contact us to learn more about the best travel reward cards and our other services.