Top 11 Best Rated
Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Rewards so powerful, you may get a FREE vacation
Enjoy FREE flights, FREE accommodation and FREE upgrades
Choose your preference, specific airline or hotel group points vs. Flexible points. The choice is yours!

Real opinions always: At Seek Capital, our goal is to provide content that helps you make informed financial decisions. All products featured here are from our partners. That said, our business relationships do not affect our evaluations. Opinions are of the writer alone. Advertiser Disclosure 

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business

Rewards Rates:
$121Airfare

Earn a free companion pass when you hit the signup bonus

6People's Baggage

Get a free checked bag for you and up to 6 other passengers on the same reservation with this card

3xMiles

Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly with Alaska Airlines

1xMiles

For all other purchases with unlimited earning capacity

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
3x Miles
Annual Fee
$50 for the company and $25 per card
Annual Fee $50 for the company and $25 per card
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Intro Balance Transfer APR N/A
Regular APR 15.99% to 23.99%
Great for Alaska Airlines, Flight, Food
Regular Purchase APR 15.99% to 23.99%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 15.99% to 23.99%
Cash Advance APR 24.24% variable APR
Balance Transfer Fee $17.24 or 25.24%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 4%
Foreign Transaction Fee 0%

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Excellent (750-799)

Bank of America Spirit Airlines World MasterCard

Rewards Rates:
2xMiles

Earn 2x miles on every purchase

5,000Bonus Miles

If you spend $10,000 annually, you earn 5,000 bonus miles

$0Preferred Boarding

Receive preferred boarding and domestic priority check-in

$0Introductory Fee

$0 Introductory fee for the first year, then only $59 a year

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
2x miles
Annual Fee
$59
Annual Fee $59
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Intro Balance Transfer APR N/A
Regular APR 17.49% to 25.49%
Great for Spirit Airlines, Travel, Gas
Regular Purchase APR 17.49% to 25.49%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 17.49% to 25.49%
Cash Advance APR 20.49% to 26.49%
Balance Transfer Fee $10 or 3%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 3%
Foreign Transaction Fee 0%

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Very Good (720-749)

Bank of America Alaska Airlines

Rewards Rates:
3xMiles

Earn 3 miles for every dollar spent on Alaska Airline purchases

1xMiles

Earn 1 mile for every dollar spent

$0Companion Fare

Each year, get a companion fare for just taxes and fees

$0Checked Bag

Each year, get a companion fare for just taxes and fees

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
2x points
Annual Fee
$75
Annual Fee $75
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Intro Balance Transfer APR N/A
Regular APR 17.49% to 25.49%
Great for Alaska Airlines, Travel, Gas
Regular Purchase APR 17.49% to 25.49%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 17.49% to 25.49%
Cash Advance APR N/A
Balance Transfer Fee $10 or 0%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 3%
Foreign Transaction Fee 0%

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Very Good (720-749)

HSBC Platinum MasterCard® with Rewards

Rewards Rates:
1xRewards Program Point

Earn 1 Rewards Program Point for every dollar in new card purchases

0%Introductory APR

0% APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

$0Annual Fee

No annual fee

$0Foreign Transaction Fee

No foreign transaction fees when using this card

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
0 Interest for 12 Months
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
0 Interest for 12 Months
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
1x points
Annual Fee
$0
Annual Fee $0
Intro Purchase APR 0 Interest for 12 Months
Intro Balance Transfer APR 0 Interest for 12 Months
Regular APR 14.74% to 24.74%
Great for Travel, Shopping, Restaurants
Regular Purchase APR 14.74% to 24.74%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 14.74% to 24.74%
Cash Advance APR N/A
Balance Transfer Fee $4 or %
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 4%
Foreign Transaction Fee 0%

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Excellent (750-799)

HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard

Rewards Rates:
1.5%Unlimited Cash Back

Unlimited Cash Back on all purchases

10%Anniversary Cash Back Bonus

Earn an extra 10% in Cash rewards earned each year

$0Annual Fee

No annual fee with this card

$0Foreign Transaction Fee

No foreign transaction fees when using this card

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
0 Interest for 15 Months
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
0 Interest for 15 Months
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
1.5% Cash Back
Annual Fee
$0
Annual Fee $0
Intro Purchase APR 0 Interest for 15 Months
Intro Balance Transfer APR 0 Interest for 15 Months
Regular APR 14.74% to 24.74%
Great for Travel, Shopping, Restaurants
Regular Purchase APR 14.74% to 24.74%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 14.74% to 24.74%
Cash Advance APR N/A
Balance Transfer Fee $10 or 4%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 4%
Foreign Transaction Fee 0%

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Good (680-719)

U.S. Bank Business Leverage™ Visa Signature® Card

Rewards Rates:
2xPoints

Earn 2x Points On The Top Two Categories Where You Spend The Most Each Month

1xPoints

Earn 1x Point For Every Other Eligible Net Purchase

FlexibleRedemption

Redeem Points For Your Choice Of Cash Back, Travel, Gift Cards And Merchandise

$0Annual Fee

No Annual Fee For First Year, $95 Thereafter

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
2% Cash Back
Annual Fee
$95
Annual Fee $95
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Intro Balance Transfer APR N/A
Regular APR 15.99% to 20.99%
Great for Travel, Shopping, Restaurants
Regular Purchase APR 15.99% to 20.99%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 15.99% to 20.99%
Cash Advance APR 25.99%
Balance Transfer Fee $5 or 5%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 4%
Foreign Transaction Fee 3%

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Excellent (750-799)

Discover Chrome Gas & Restaurant

Rewards Rates:
2%Cash Back

Earn 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations up to $1,000 each quarter

1%Cash Back

Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases

$0Annual Fee

No annual fee

$0Fraud Liability

Zero dollar liability on fraudulent charges

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
0% Interest for 14 Months
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
2% cashback
Annual Fee
$0
Annual Fee $0
Intro Purchase APR 0% Interest for 14 Months
Intro Balance Transfer APR N/A
Regular APR 11.99% to 22.99%
Great for Gas, Grocery, Restaurant
Regular Purchase APR 11.99% to 22.99%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 11.99% to 22.99%
Cash Advance APR $10 or 5%
Balance Transfer Fee $10 or 5%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 5%
Foreign Transaction Fee %

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Very Good (720-749)

Discover it Miles

Rewards Rates:
1.5Miles

Earn unlimited 1.5 miles per every dollar spent

$0Annual Fee

No annual fee for this card

0%Introductory APR

0% Introductory APR for 14 months on Purchases

Zero Fraud Liability

Zero dollar liability on fraudulent charges

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
0% Interest for 14 months
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
10.99% Interest for 14 months
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
1x miles
Annual Fee
$0
Annual Fee $0
Intro Purchase APR 0% Interest for 14 months
Intro Balance Transfer APR 10.99% Interest for 14 months
Regular APR 11.99% to 22.99%
Great for Airfare, Hotel, Grocery
Regular Purchase APR 11.99% to 22.99%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 11.99% to 22.99%
Cash Advance APR 24.99%
Balance Transfer Fee $10 or 5%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 5%
Foreign Transaction Fee %

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Very Good (720-749)

Citi AAdvantage Executive

Rewards Rates:
2xAAdvantage Miles

Earn 2 AAdvantage Miles for every dollar spent on airlines, gas stations, and restaurants

1xAAdvantage Miles

Earn 1 AAdvantage Mile for every dollar spent on all other purchases

25%Inflight savings

Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights

$0Foreign Transaction Fee

No foreign transaction fees when using this card

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
3x miles
Annual Fee
$450
Annual Fee $450
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Intro Balance Transfer APR N/A
Regular APR 17.74% to 25.74%
Great for American Airline, Hotel, Restaurants
Regular Purchase APR 17.74% to 25.74%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 17.74% to 25.74%
Cash Advance APR 27.24%
Balance Transfer Fee $5 or 3%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 5%
Foreign Transaction Fee 0%

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Excellent (750-799)

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select

Rewards Rates:
2xAAdvantage Miles

Earn 2 AAdvantage Miles for every dollar spent on airlines, gas stations, and restaurants

1xAAdvantage Miles

Earn 1 AAdvantage Mile for every dollar spent on all other purchases

$100American Airlines flight discount

Earn $100 American Airlines flight discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card year and renew your card.

FreeChecked Bag

First checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
2x miles
Annual Fee
$99
Annual Fee $99
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Intro Balance Transfer APR N/A
Regular APR 17.99% to 25.99%
Great for American Airlines, Hotels, Restaurants
Regular Purchase APR 17.99% to 25.99%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 17.99% to 25.99%
Cash Advance APR 27.24%
Balance Transfer Fee $5 or 3%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 5%
Foreign Transaction Fee 0%

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Good (680-719)

Citi ThankYou Premier

Rewards Rates:
3xThankYou Points

Earn 3 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on travel including Gas Stations

2xThankYou Points

Earn 2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent when dining out and on entertainment

1xThankYou Points

Earn 1 ThankYou Point per dollar spent on all other purchases

$0Foreign Transaction Fee

No foreign transaction fees when using this card

If I Make Purchases,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
If I Balance Transfer,
My Intro Rate will be
N/A
When I Spend Money,
I Earn
3x points
Annual Fee
$95
Annual Fee $95
Intro Purchase APR N/A
Intro Balance Transfer APR N/A
Regular APR 16.49% to 25.49%
Great for Travel, Restaurant, Shopping
Regular Purchase APR 16.49% to 25.49%
Regular Balance Transfer APR 16.49% to 25.49%
Cash Advance APR 27.24%
Balance Transfer Fee $5 or 3%
Cash Advance Fee $10 or 5%
Foreign Transaction Fee 0%

Recommended credit score to apply for this card:

Excellent (750-799)

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

The best travel rewards credit cards let you save big bucks on travel costs, especially if you know how to put them to work. With the right rewards card, you can earn free flights and hotel stays every year; factor in the sign-up bonus, and some cards let you rack up hundreds or even thousands in rewards the first year alone.

What’s a Travel Rewards Credit Card?

A travel rewards credit card is an unbranded card that lets you earn travel perks you can use with a variety of accommodate businesses.

For example, American Express offers a number of travel rewards credit cards. As you use the cards, you build up points or miles that can be used to book travel via Amex’s own web portal. Options might include using points to cover the cost of hotel stays, flights, car rentals, upgrades or even cruises.

Here are just some of the reasons we love travel rewards cards:

  • They often come with a sign-up bonus that makes it easy to rack up enough points the first year to fund vacation flights or get a couple nights (often more) in free hotel stays.
  • They’re offered by major players such as Amex and Chase, so they can come with a variety of money management and protection perks that add to the value.
  • If you know how to use them, you can earn money simply by using the cards to pay for things you’re already going to buy.

Travel Rewards Cards versus Airline or Hotel Cards

There’s a difference between true travel rewards cards and co-branded airline or hotel cards.

  • True travel rewards cards let you earn points and redeem them to cover travel expenses with a variety of providers.
  • Co-branded airline or hotel cards usually save the best redemptions for when you’re using points to cover costs with the brand. For example, points with a Hilton-branded card may only be redeemable with Hilton brand hotels. In some cases, you might be able to transfer points to another program, but they’d likely be worth less than if you redeemed with Hilton.
  • True travel rewards cards usually let you earn points on every purchase, though spending in certain categories may earn more points per dollar.
  • The better co-branded cards let you earn points on every dollar, but they tend to award higher points amounts when you spend on travel or with the brand itself.

So, which type of travel credit card is right for you?

If you’re a brand loyalist — meaning you prefer to always stay with a certain hotel chain or fly on a specific airline — and you do a lot of traveling where those preferences can be accommodated, a co-branded card might be right for you. Similarly, if you live near a hub airport, such as Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which offers flights with specific airlines, you might want a co-branded card from that airline.

Otherwise, a regular travel rewards card may be a better option because it leaves your travel arrangements more open.

Earning and Redeeming With Travel Rewards Cards

With rewards cards, it’s all about maximizing what you get out of the deal. And the best travel rewards cards offer some of the most spectacular perks in the business.

While every card offer is different, travel rewards cards do tend to have some common ground. Here’s a look at what you need to know to get the most out of a top travel rewards credit card.

All About Sign-Up Bonuses

The sign-up bonus can make or break a travel credit card for us. Yes, we want a card with great customer service and ongoing annual perks, but sign-up bonuses can be worth hundreds of dollars.

Imaging: scoring free flights for your next vacation just because you used a certain card to cover the monthly grocery bill. Yes, it’s possible!

Here’s what you need to know about sign-up bonuses.

  • Travel rewards cards with sign-up bonuses typically provide you with a certain number of rewards points if you meet the bonus requirements. Sign-up bonuses range from 10,000 to 75,000 bonus points.
  • Redemption values on rewards points tend to range from one penny per point to 1.5 cents per point, making sign-up bonus values as low as $100 and as high as $1,125. Most of the time, the sign-up bonus is at least enough to cover a free flight or a couple nights in a hotel.
  • To earn the bonus, you typically have to spend a certain amount of money on the card within the first few months of opening your account. Common sign-up bonus requirements include things like:
  • Spending $1,000 the first three months
  • Spending $3,000 the first three months
  • Spending $5,000 the first four months

If you hit the spending requirement within the time frame, you’re awarded all the bonus points in the offer and can redeem them for travel or other perks, depending on the type of card and program you signed up for.

But, how easy is it to earn a sign-up bonus?

When you first look at the sign-up bonus requirements for a travel rewards card offer, you might think it sounds too hard to achieve. Let’s do some math on a common sign-up offer to see how it’s actually really easy to score these extra points.

Some cards offer a sign-up bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days. That’s just $233.33 a week. Use the card to pay for groceries, eating out and fuel purchases you were already planning to make, and chances are, you’ll hit the sign-up bonus even before the 90 days is over.

Even if you need to spend $5,000 in the first 90 days, that’s only $388.89 a week. Cover all your normal purchases with the card, and you’ll find the bonus is easier to achieve than you think.

Another way we like to score a sign-up bonus is by using a travel rewards card to make a large purchase we were already planning, such as computer equipment or furniture. Plus, a few travel rewards cards have 0 percent APR interest offers, so you might even get to pay on that large purchase for a few months without paying interest. We love when perks stack like that!

Earning Points on Regular Spending

Even before you hit the sign-up bonus (and long after), you can earn points with travel rewards cards. Most cards offer a standard one point per dollar in rewards earnings. If you spend $100 a week on groceries with your card, for example, you’ll spend $5,200 in a year. That would equal 5,200 points.

Some cards include special rewards categories. You might earn more points when you use your card to dine out or pay for fuel, for example.

Because travel cards often cater to people who fly or stay in hotels, they often offer the best rewards on those types of spending. Some travel rewards cards might offer three points per dollar spent on airfare, hotel expenses and car rentals, for example, and one point per dollar on everything else.

Understanding the rewards structure is key to maximizing how many points you can earn.

Rotating Categorical Rewards

Some cards offer rotating rewards structures. Although this is more common with cash back rewards cards, a couple travel cards may have this type of program. Rotating rewards means that you earn more on certain types of purchases, but the details change every so often (typically, every quarter).

You might earn five points per dollar on grocery spending in the first quarter and one point per dollar on everything else. During the second quarter, the offer might change to five points per dollar on travel, with the category for the high point earnings changing throughout the year.

These types of cards can help you rack up rewards quickly if you can plan a lot of your spending so you’re maximizing each category.

Rewards Redemption Options

However you earn travel rewards on your credit card, you usually have a few options when it comes to redeeming them.

  • Travel redemptions. As we said before, the target audience for travel rewards cards are people who travel fairly frequently or would like to. That means most of the best rewards redemptions are in the travel category. Usually, an overarching travel rewards card comes with a web portal — either through the bank or credit card company itself or via a corporate partner. You usually get the best value for your points when you book travel through those web portals.
  • Transfer points. Some travel rewards cards let you transfer your points to many other travel rewards points. You might be able to transfer your credit card rewards to your Delta SkyMiles or Hilton Honors account, for example. The upside to this redemption choice is that you might have built up to gold or other elite status with an existing membership program, and transferring your points lets you take advantage of more of those perks. The downside is that transferred points are often not quite as valuable as those you redeem directly through the card program.
  • Upgrade travel. You can often use points to upgrade flights or hotel stays you’ve already paid for or purchase entrance to experiences that may not be available without points.
  • Gift cards or merchandise. Some travel rewards cards programs let you redeem rewards for select merchandise or gift cards with major retailers. This can be a great perk if your rewards expire and you want to use them before you plan on traveling again.

Other Perks Common to Travel Rewards Cards

Card perks differ for every offer, but some of the best travel rewards credit cards come with elite-level perks that we really like. Some common perks to look for include:

  • Travel insurance offers, including baggage delay or loss insurance, cancelled trip insurance or car rental insurance. Many credit card companies include them on any card marketed to travelers, and such perks really add peace of mind to personal or business travel.
  • Purchase protection. A lot of cards offer purchase protections that credit you if an item you purchase goes on sale in the next few weeks. Another common perk is an extended warranty that applies to select purchases and can increase warranty coverage on items you purchase with your card for up to a year.
  • Fraud protection. We don’t think consumers should apply to any card that doesn’t come with some fraud protection. Look for cards that allow customized alerts, cover you in case fraudulent purchases are made and let you manage your account online and via text for convenience.

What the Banks Don’t Tell You About Travel Rewards Cards

Credit card companies and banks are required to disclose or publish a lot of details about any credit card offer, but digging through the fine print can be a bit cumbersome. Banks are quick to tout a big sign-up bonus and other marketable perks — and they should be; we think those perks are pretty awesome ourselves.

But we also think, as a consumer, you need to be armed with all the knowledge so you can make the most of those perks. Here are just some important things banks won’t jump through hoops to make sure you know about travel rewards cards.

  • Rewards may expire. Check the fine print on your offer to see exactly how long you have to use your rewards. The best travel rewards cards come with points that remain viable as long as you keep the card open. In most cases, if you close the account with active points, you lose those points.
  • Transferring points may be a way to save them. If your travel rewards credit card allows transfer of points to another program (such as an airline’s frequent flyer program), you may be able to transfer all remaining points the statement cycle before you close the card.
  • Late payments can negatively impact your account. Specifically, late payments can cause fees and a bump in your interest rate. If you lucked into a travel rewards card with a great 0 percent APR offer, a late payment can wipe out those benefits.
  • Rewards don’t typically hit right away. Usually, you have to wait at least one statement cycle for your account to be credited with appropriate rewards, so don’t spend this week and expect to cover hotel costs next week with the relevant points.
  • Some fees may apply to redemptions. Depending on the program or vendor, you may not be able to cover certain fees or taxes with points. While flight fare might be covered (and thus free) with your points, you might have to pay the associated taxes. You can still save a great deal of money with rewards points, but understanding the fine print leaves you with less surprises during redemption checkout.

A travel rewards credit card is a great way to turn your everyday spending into huge travel savings. Opt for a general travel rewards card if you’re not tied to a certain hotel or airline brand and travel at least once a year.

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