I love credit card rewards! They’ve saved my family tens of thousands of dollars in travel.

My rule is that I’m always trying to work towards a credit card bonus. Between my wife and I, we apply for around one new personal and one new business card every year. To much surprise, a simple strategy like this has been enough to take 1-2 free trips a year. 

My goal here is to make it as easy as possible for you to find the right card for your travel goals. Scroll down or click a link below to get started.

 

Best Overall Travel Credit Card

chase saphire preferredWinner: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

What’s To Like: Chase Ultimate Rewards are flexible. Use them for travel, at a 1.25 cents per piece. Exchange them to many quality airline and hotel partners to get even more value.

Details

  • Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (worth up to $625 in travel) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Cash Back: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining. Earn 1 point on everything else.
  • Annual Fee: $0 annual fee in year # 1. Then, $95 after.
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: This is a must-have card for travelers. There’s no-annual fee in the first year. Chase Ultimate Rewards are super flexible. After hitting the minimum spend, the sign-up bonus is worth an impressive $625 if used for travel.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred

 

chase sapphire reserve card

Runner Up: Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

What’s to Like: A premium card with a lot of benefits. Most important for travelers are 50K bonus points after spending $4K in the first three months, you get 50% more value when booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, $300 annual travel credit, and 50% more value when you redeem your points through the Chase Travel Portal.

Details

  • Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (worth up to $750 in travel) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Cash Back: Earn 3 points per dollars on travel (excluding travel eligible for statement credit) and dining. Then, 1 point on everything else.
  • Annual Fee: $450, and $75 for each authorized user
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: $0
  • Recommended Credit: Excellent

Analysis: If you travel, you’ll likely get more value from this card than the Sapphire Preferred. The $300 annual statement for travel expenses, makes the $450 annual fee a lot easier to stomach. And, lounge access is always nice. If you’re not sure whether the annual fee is worth it, go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

 

Best Travel Credit Cards for Beginners

chase saphire preferred

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

What’s To Like: Beginner travel hackers need flexibility and the Chase Sapphire Preferred card delivers. After earning the bonus, you’ll have at least 54,000 points to use. You can book $675 worth of travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, which is simple to use. If you’re feeling advanced, you can transfer the points to a number of airline or hotel partners and potentially get even more value. For example, you can currently get a United Airlines Saver Award ticket from mainland U.S. to Hawaii for just 45,000 miles.

Details

  • Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (worth up to $625 in travel) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Cash Back: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining. Earn 1 point on everything else.
  • Annual Fee: $0 annual fee in year # 1. Then $95 after.
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: I love this card for beginners because of its flexibility. It’s not hard to find great value when using Chase Ultimate Rewards. Just as important though is the annual fee. Not only is it waived the first year, it’s a very respectable $95 thereafter. Applying for cards you plan on keeping long-term is vital because the length of your credit history is a factor in your credit score. As such, applying for a high-fee card, that you’ll likely cancel is a big mistake.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred

 

capital one venture rewards credit cardRunner Up: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

What’s To Like: Don’t want to mess around with transfer partners or finding limited availability? Capital One has a simple and straightforward travel rewards program. Just spend on travel as you normally would and use your miles for a statement credit at a rate of one cent per mile.

Details

  • Bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within 3 months of account opening ($500 of value in travel)
  • Cash Back: Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchase and 10 miles per dollar spent at hotels.com
  • Annual Fee: $0 annual fee in year # 1. Then $95 after.
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: Great bonus, a low annual fee, and an easy-to-understand rewards program. What’s great about this card is the variety of expenses Capital One categorizes as travel and therefore you can use miles for. As you’ll learn, there are a lot of flights and hotels were rewards can’t help you out. And that’s where the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card really shines. For example, say you’re taking a road trip and want to stay in an Airbnb. To help pay for your Airbnb you can use your Capital One Rewards, which will be worth at least a $560 statement credit after hitting the bonus.

Learn more about this card

 

Best Business Travel Credit Cards

chase business ink preferredWinner: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

What’s To Like: My favorite sign up bonus available right now at 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards. That’s enough to book $1,000 worth of travel.

Details

  • Bonus: 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Cash Back: 3 Points per dollar on select categories and 1% on everything else
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: One of my favorite cards due to the sign-up bonus and the ability to earn 3X points in select categories.

Learn more about the Ink Business Preferred Card

 

Chase Business Ink UnlimitedRunner UpInk Business Unlimited Card

What’s To Like: Solid bonus offer at $5oo or 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward Points. Plus, no annual-fee. Combine it with the Ink Business Preferred by using it for non-bonus spending to optimize your business expenses.

Details

  • Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards or $500 after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Cash Back: 1.5% on everything
  • Annual Fee: 0%
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: Worth having, especially if you have a separate premium card with Chase. For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer points you earn with the Ink Business Unlimited to the Sapphire Preferred to redeem for travel with a 25% bonus. This makes this sign up bonus worth up to $625, which is as good as it gets for a no-annual fee card.

Learn more about the Ink Business Unlimited

 

Best Cards for International Travel

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

chase saphire preferred

What’s To Like: With transfer partners like British Airways, Iberia Plus, Singapore, and United–Chase has multiple transfer partners to help you get to your international destination of choice. For example, an off-peak award from Chicago to London costs only 26K with British Airways.

Details

  • Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (worth up to $625 in travel) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Cash Back: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining. Earn 1 point on everything else.
  • Annual Fee: $0 annual fee in year # 1. Then $95 after.
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: With its $0 first year annual fee, great bonus, and quality airline transfer partners–the Chase Sapphire Preferred wins out again.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred

American Express Platinum CardRunner Up: The Platinum Card from American Express

What’s To Like: With a 60K welcome offer and quality transfer partners, the Platinum Card from American Express is a solid choice. American Express is also known for consistently offering quality bonuses to transfer partners. For example, up until November 15th, there’s a 40% bonus for transferring Member Rewards to British Airways and Iberia Plus. Making this welcome bonus worth 84,000 miles on these airlines.

Details

  • Welcome offer: 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • Cash Back: 5X points on flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel, 1% on everything else
  • Annual Fee: $550
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: While the bonus and benefits such as Centurion lounge access, $200 in airline fee credits, and up to $200 in Uber credits a year are top of the line–the decision comes down to whether or not the annual fee at $550 is worth it for you. For those who travel frequently, it definitely can be. But if you’re just looking to book a one-off trip, I’d go with the Sapphire Preferred Card.

Learn more about this card

 

Best Airline Credit Cards

If you’re looking to book a flight with rewards, I’d first consider a card that allows transfers to airline partners, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

But there are exceptions.

For those who fly a particular airline a lot, an airline-branded card can offer perks such as free checked baggage, lounge access, and priority boarding.

The most value, however, is in understanding the ins-and-outs of how a program works.

Instead of the typical winner/runner-up format, below are two examples of airline cards, along with when that card may make sense.

  • British Airways Visa Signature Card– British Airways uses a distance-based award chart. This makes it a great option for those looking to book short domestic flights. For example, a round-trip ticket from Chicago to Orlando booked using Avios cost just 15,000 miles
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card – If you can get eligibility for the companion pass, the easiest way is to earn 110,000 miles in a calendar year, which sign up bonuses do count, you’re eligible for the Southwest Companion Pass. This allows you to choose one person to fly with you for free every time you fly for the rest of the year and the following year. If you time it right, you can get almost two years out of the pass.

 

Best Hotel Credit Cards

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

chase saphire preferred

What’s To Like: The bonus alone is worth $625 in hotel stays if booked through the Chase Travel Portal. Chase does allow you to transfer points to Hyatt, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, and Ritz Carlton Rewards. However, these redemptions typically don’t offer great value. In most cases, you’d be better cashing out the rewards and finding alternative accommodations through Airbnb or Priceline.

Details

  • Bonus: 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (worth up to $625 in travel) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Cash Back: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining. Earn 1 point on everything else.
  • Annual Fee: $0 annual fee in year # 1. Then $95 after.
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: You’ll likely have enough for a few nights at your destination of choice after earning the bonus. Not bad for a card that waives its annual fee in year # 1.

Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred

 

Winner: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

capital one venture rewards credit card

What’s To Like: The thing to love about the Capital One Venture Rewards card is how the miles work. Instead of having to book inside of a portal or transfer to partners, you can use miles for any travel related expense. This includes Airbnb, stays inside national parks, or independent hotels not associated with any hotel loyalty program. This opens up A LOT of opportunities.

Details

  • Bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within 3 months of account opening ($500 of value in travel)
  • Cash Back: Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchases and 10 miles per dollar spent at hotels.com
  • Annual Fee: $0 annual fee in year # 1. Then $95 after.
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: I gave the slight edge to in this category to Chase Sapphire Preferred due to the 25% bonus when booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Learn more about this card

 

Best Travel Credit Cards With N0-Annual Fee

venture one rewardsWinner: Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

What’s To Like: One of the higher bonuses, for a no-annual fee card.

Details

  • Bonus: 20,000 bonus within 3 months of account opening ($200 of value in travel)
  • Cash Back: Earn 1.25 miles per dollar spent on every purchases and 10 miles per dollar spent at hotels.com
  • Annual Fee: $0 annual fee
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 0%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: A solid option for a low-spender, who wants to save a few bucks on an upcoming trip. Keep in mind, the above mentioned Capital One Venture Rewards has no annual fee its first year and just $95 after. Plus, it pays 2X points per dollar spent. So, as long as your spending around $13,000 or more a year on the card, the annual fee would pay for itself.

Learn more about this card

 

chase freedom unlimitedRunner Up: Chase Freedom Credit Card

What’s To Like: Solid bonus at $150 but biggest benefit is the rotating 5% cash back categories. Plus, there’s a 0% APR for the first 15-months.

Details

  • Bonus: $150 after $500 in purchases in the first 3-months after account opening
  • Cash Back: 5% on rotating categories, 1% on everything else
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%
  • Recommended Credit: Good to Excellent

Analysis: With the rotating 5% categories, you can really rack up points throughout the year and exchange them for travel through the Chase Travel Portal. Or even better, transfer them to a premium chase account like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Business Ink Preferred, where they increase in value.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom Card

 

The Ultimate Cash Back Credit Card Hack

As you know, I’m a huge fan of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Well, there’s a way to make each dollar you spend, get a minimum value of 2.25 points per dollar spent on every purchase!

One little-known benefit of Chase Ultimate Rewards is that you can combine rewards from different Chase cards.

For example, say you have the Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Reserve cards.

The Chase Freedom Card allows you to earn 5% back in rotating categories. As such, you can use your Chase Freedom card, then transfer the points to your Chase Sapphire Reserve account. Since the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card allows you to get 50% more value when redeeming for travel, that’s like getting 7.5% back!

If the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has too high of an annual fee, you can use the same strategy with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. With the Preferred Card, points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel.

Chase also has the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, which earns you 1.5% back on every purchase.

You can use this card for non-bonus category spending, then transfer the points to a Chase Sapphire Reserve card to get a minimum 2.25% on every purchase when you redeem for travel.

Let’s do a quick recap:

Note: I would definitely space out these applications. As a rule of thumb, I don’t apply for more than one card in a three-month span. 

This is my # 1 strategy (with a slight twist) for maximizing cash back.

That slight twist is due to the fact Chase allows you to combine rewards from business and personal accounts (or vice versa) AND from one other account in a household (such as a spouse’s rewards account)

In my household, this then looks like:

If this sounds confusing, it would to me at first.

That’s why I created a free email course “The Beginner’s Guide to Free Travel through Credit Card Rewards”

My goal for the course was to allow someone with no experience the ability to book their first trip with credit card rewards for free or very little cost.

Simply enter your email below to get free access.

 

 

See the best credit cards for travel all in one place. Broken down into the Best Overall Travel Credit Cards, Best Travel Credit Cards for Beginners, Best Business Travel Cards, Best Cards for International Travel, Best Airline Cards, Best Hotel Credit Cards, Best Travel Credit Cards With N0-Annual Fee, & The Ultimate Cash Back Credit Card Hack.#travel #budgettravel #travelhacking