If you are reading this guide, chances are you like to travel! And if you do like to tour the world, you surely know that making smart financial choices can make travel easier, cheaper and ultimately more enjoyable. One very important decision you can make is selecting a good credit card for traveling. This guide will help by listing the best travel credit cards of 2019, and explaining how to choose the right one for you.
Even if you are someone who doesn’t usually use credit cards, it’s still worthwhile to get one for your upcoming trip. The benefits of the top options include travel perks like airport lounge access, no foreign transaction fees, and lucrative rewards on travel related purchases. Keep reading to help find the best option for you!
Choosing the Best Travel Credit Card
Selecting the best travel credit card is going to be an individual process for each consumer. 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?
- Do you have a good credit score? (Many premium travel cards require good to great credit)
Keep this in mind as we go through our list of the top travel credit cards for 2019. 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.
10. Delta Gold Card
- Earn 30,000 miles with new customer sign up offer (after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months)
- Earn a $50 credit after making a Delta purchase in the first 3 months
- Annual fee of $95, waived the first year
- 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 after the first year.
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!
9. Discover IT Miles Card
- Earn unlimited 1.5x miles on all purchases
- 0% introductory interest rate for 14 months
- Free FICO credit score
- All rewards earned in the first year are doubled
- No annual fee (one of the best no annual fee travel credit cards)
Pros: The Discover IT Miles Card has no purchase categories, which means every purchase you make is eligible for 1.5 miles. Discover will match your first-year bonus miles at a 100% rate. That means that every mile you earn in the first 12 months will be doubled!
Cons: No signup bonus (beyond the first-year doubling)
Who this card is best for: Consumers who are looking for a straightforward, no annual fee travel card will love the Discover IT.
8. Bank of American Premium Rewards
- 50,000 bonus point sign up offer (after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months)
- 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). You can also 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 existing 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.
7. Citi Premier Card
- 60,000 bonus point sign up offer (after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months)
- 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. Rewards points have flexible uses.
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.
6. American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select
- 50,000 mile signup bonus (after spending $2500 in the first 3 months)
- 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.
5. United Mileage Plus Explorer Card
- 40,000 bonus mile signup bonus (after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months)
- 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
- $95 annual fee; waived first year
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 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. The first-year annual fee is waived with this current promotion. Customers also receive 2 United Club Passes each year for access to United airport lounges.
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. It’s also a good choice for people who don’t have access to Priority Pass or another airport lounge program, as the United Card offers 2 free lounge passes each year.
Read our full write up about The United Explorer Card for more information about this credit card!
4. Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red
- Earn 60,000 bonus miles with sign up (after making a single purchase)
- Earn a companion certificate for the first year
- First checked bag free on American Airlines
- 2x miles on AA purchases
- Preferred boarding and other benefits on AA flights
Pros: The Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red offers one of the best travel signup bonuses of any credit card, while also having one of the lowest requirements to receive the bonus. You just need to make a single purchase on the card, and pay the $99 annual fee, and you’ll receive 60,000 miles PLUS a companion certificate!
Cons: $99 annual after the first year. Ongoing benefits are not very enticing.
Who this card is best for: This card is great anyone who is unable to meet the higher spend requirements of many premium travel cards. To get the signup bonus on the Aviator, you simply have to make a single purchase and pay the annual fee.
3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card
- Earn 40,000 miles points with the signup offer after spending $1000 in the first 3 months
- 7,500 points awarded annually on your card anniversary
- $75 annual travel credit with Southwest
- 7500 Southwest points every year on your cardmember anniversary
- 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 can vary, 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 (such as 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.
2. Chase Sapphire Reserve
- 50,000 bonus points for new cardholders (after spending $4,000 in the first 3 montsh)
- Annual travel credit of $300
- Airport lounge acces
- Exclusive travel benefits
- 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. Plus, you’ll enjoy lots of exclusive travel perks: Priority Pass lounge access, rental car damage protection, no foreign transaction free, the ability to transfer points to travel partners, and more.
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 may still 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.
1. Capital One Venture Card
- Earn 50,000 miles with sign up offer (after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months)
- 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. It also has a very flexible rewards currency that can be used for just about anything travel-related.
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.
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!