The Top Travel Credit Cards

Selecting the best travel credit card is going to be an individual process for each consumer.  This list includes the most recent signup offers available for the selected credit cards.  The most important questions to keep in mind when you review our top picks include the following:

  • How often do you travel?
  • Are you willing to pay an annual fee?
  • Is there a particular airline you prefer to travel with?
  • Do you travel internationally or domestic?

Keep this in mind as we go through our top 10 travel credit cards for 2019 (now includes a bonus 11th ranking based on popular demand).  If one of these cards fits your style of travel based on the above questions, it may be your number one choice!  It is important to note that none of these credit cards charge foreign transaction fees and this will not be commented on individually for each card.

best travel credit cards

11. Delta Gold Card

  • Earn 35,000 miles with new customer sign up offer
  • Earn a $50 credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months
  • First-year annual fee waived then $95
  • The first bag checked free with Delta

Pros: The Delta Gold Card offers a great sign up bonus for Delta Customers and a waived annual fee for the first year.

Cons:  Delta miles are reported to have slightly less value than competing airlines which ranks it as slightly less valuable.  This card also has a $95 annual fee.

Who this card is best for:  For travelers who regularly travel with Delta, this card will be a winner due to the signup bonus and free checked bag.

Read our write up about the Delta Gold Card and maximizing your bonus offer for more information about this credit card!

10. Discover IT Miles Card

best no annual fee travel credit cards

  • Earn unlimited 1.5x miles on all purchases
  • 0% introductory interest rate for 14 months
  • Free FICO credit score
  • First-year mileage match
  • No annual fee (best no annual fee travel credit cards)

Pros:  The Discover IT Miles Card has no categories means every purchase you make is eligible for 1.5 miles.  Discover will match your first-year bonus miles at a 100% rate.

Cons:  No signup bonus.

Who this card is best for:  Consumers who are looking for a straightforward, no annual fee travel card will love the Discover IT.

9. Bank of American Premium Rewards

  • 50,000 bonus point sign up offer
  • 2 points for each dollar spent on travel and dining
  • 1.5 points for all other purchases
  • FICO Score
  • TSA/Global Entry Credit
  • $100 airline incidental credit

Pros:  The Bank of American Premium Rewards Card allows cardholders to earn an even bigger rewards rate as a Bank of America preferred client (25-75% more depending on your tier).  Use rewards for statement credit if you are not interested in spending on travel.

Cons:  This card charges an annual fee of $95 and is only available for Bank of America clients.

Who this card is best for:  This card will be best suited for Bank of America preferred clients who want to earn big reward rates.

8. Citi Premier Card

  • 50,000 bonus point sign up offer
  • 3x points travel and gas 2x points dining and entertainment
  • 25% bonus when booking through ThankYou Travel Center
  • Point transfers available for partner airline programs

Pros:  The Citi Premier Card provides an excellent signup bonus with the ability to earn additional value from rewards when you book travel with The ThankYou Travel Center.

Cons:  The annual fee comes in at $95 for this credit card.

Who this card is best for:  This card is great for anyone looking for a generous signup bonus and high reward rates.  The card will appeal to customers who don’t mind bucking up a modest annual fee.

7. American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select

travel rewards credit cards

  • 60,000 AAdavantage Miles sign up offer
  • The annual fee is waived for the first year
  • The first bag is checked free for the cardholder and up to 4 companions
  • Preferred boarding with American Airlines
  • 2x miles for gas, dining and AA charges

Pros:  The American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select offers a great sign up bonus that will easily cover substantial travel with American Airlines.  Customers who make this their daily spending card can earn an additional $125 AA credit when they spend $20,000 annually.

Cons:  This card has a $99 annual fee after the first year (waived for year one).

Who this card is best for:  This card is ideal for frequent American Airline Travelers who are looking to make this their daily spending card.

6. United Mileage Plus Explorer Card

  • Earn up to 60,000 bonus points for as a new cardholder
  • 2x points with United, dining and hotels and 1x for all else
  • Free checked bag for cardholder and companion with United
  • Global Entry/TSA Pre-check credit

Pros:  The United Mileage Plus Explorer Card is one of the most “versatile” branded airline cards.  United offers a huge selection of domestic and international flight options.  The signup offer includes a 40,000 point portion and an additional 20,000 point offer.  The first-year annual fee is waived with this current promotion.  Customers also receive 2 United Club Passes each year.

Cons:  $95 annual fee after the first year.

Who this card is best for:  This card is great for travelers who do not have set plans.  Because United travels just about everywhere, the bonus points are very useful for travelers both domestic and internationally.

Read our full write up about The United Explorer Card for more information about this credit card!

5. Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card

best credit cards for travel miles

  • Earn 40,000 miles points with the signup offer
  • 7,500 points awarded annually on your card anniversary
  • $75 annual travel credit with Southwest
  • 4 upgraded boardings each year on available flights
  • Points count towards the companion pass

Pros:  The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card offers great value for Southwest Customers. While the exact value of points/miles with airline cards is in dispute, Southwest routinely comes in as one of the top value in terms of the points they offer.  Southwest provides flights throughout the US including some international locations (Mexico).  The annual fee is partially offset with 7,500 annual points awarded to cardholders.  The bonus offer also requires a very low spending threshold ($1,000).

Cons:  High annual fee of $149.

Who this card is best for:  This card will appeal to domestic travelers who regularly use Southwest.  Because Southwest is known for its budget pricing your points will go further than many competitors.

Read up on more information about the full family of Southwest Credit Cards with our full review.

4. Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 50,000 bonus points for new cardholders
  • Annual travel credit of $300
  • 3x points for dining and travel
  • 50% bonus when booking travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards

Pros:  The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card offers a big sign up bonus but the real appeal is the yearly $300 travel credit.  Along with the 3x bonus category, cardholders will earn free travel very quickly with this card.

Cons:  This card has a huge annual fee of $450.  While the bulk of this fee is offset by the annual travel credit, this fee will be prohibitive for many consumers.

Who this card is best for:  This card is ideal for very frequent travelers who are looking for one of the most premium travel cards on the market.  There are many additional travel features and exclusive benefits with this card that will appeal to high-end travelers.

3. Citi Premier Card

  • 50,000 bonus point sign up offer
  • 3x points travel and gas, 2x points dining and entertainment
  • 25% bonus when booking through ThankYou Travel Center
  • Point transfers available for partner airline programs

Pros:  The Citi Premier Card provides an excellent signup bonus with the ability to earn additional value from rewards when you book travel with The ThankYou Travel Center.

Cons:  The annual fee comes in at $95 for this credit card.

Who this card is best for:  This card is great for anyone looking for a generous signup bonus and high reward rates.  The card will appeal to customers who don’t mind bucking up a modest annual fee.

2. Capital One Venture Card

top travel credit cards

  • Earn 50,000 miles with sign up offer
  • All purchases are eligible for 2x miles
  • First year annual fee waived – $95 dollars after the first year
  • Earn 10x miles on hotel purchases with hotels.com
  • TSA Pre-check/Global Entry Credit

Pros:  The Venture Card is a great card for general travel with a generous signup bonus and an every 4-year credit for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry.  Add in the fact that all purchases earn a flat 2x miles, cardholders will quickly be traveling for free.

Cons:  $95 annual fee after the first year.

Who this card is best for:  This card is perfect for travelers who want general travel options with their card.  You can use your points for any aspects of your travel – hotels, flights, and more.

1. Barclaycard Arrival Plus

best travel rewards credit cards

  • Earn 70,000 bonus miles with sign up
  • 2x miles on all purchases
  • 5% miles back when you redeem your reward miles
  • $89 annual fee with the first year waived

Pros:  The Arrival Plus Card provides one of the biggest sign-up bonuses available for travel credit cards and earns the number one spot.  There are no categories with this card and all purchases earn a flat rate of 2x miles.  The annual fee is much lower than an ultra-premium card like the Sapphire Reserve.

Cons:  $89 annual after the first year.

Who this card is best for:  This card is great for general travel.  It is perfect for customers who do not fly with a dedicated airline.

How To Use This List

This list includes 10 of the top travel credit cards – many other options exist but these are some of our favorites.  There was a weight given towards select airline credit cards due to the overall popularity of these airlines.  Airline-branded credit cards are great opportunities for travelers due to their notoriously high sign up bonuses.  A branded airline credit card is generally a great plan if intend to fly with this airline regularly.  Customers should make their travel card decision based on their personal habits and what they feel comfortable paying for an annual fee.

This list should be seen as a guide based on some of the best reward rates and sign up offers.  Your best match may not be based on this same criteria.  When you are looking for a travel card – envision your dream trip and then, ask yourself how a potential card will help you achieve that destination!

What Makes a Great Travel Credit Card For You?

The most obvious factor is that if you fly regularly with a particular airline, their branded credit card is likely to be a good choice.  The bonus offers for the cards in this list all have a value well in excess of their associated annual fees.  Typically, the bonus offer alone would account for several years of an annual fee.  While burning (or churning, as it is often called) through credit cards for sign up offers is not going to be a particularly smart decision for many consumers – it is worth noting that signup bonuses allow you to pay an annual fee for several years before you are in the red on the card.

If you consider yourself a “general traveler” – for instance, you do not have a dedicated airline or particular destinations – then cards like the Arrival Plus, Venture Card, Citi Premier Card, or The Bank of America Premium Rewards Card may be great for you.  These cards offer general travel points/miles which can be redeemed for any sort of travel with many airlines and destination options.  Finally, if you are dead set against paying an annual fee, a card like the Discover IT Miles may be a great choice.

Do you have a favorite travel credit card?  Let us know in the comments below and we will consider updating this list with any new suggestions!

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