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Earn Free Holiday Travel With These Rewards Credit Cards

Want a credit card that offers free travel perks? These options are worth considering.

Advertiser Disclosure: Most products in our articles are from partners who may provide us with compensation. However, opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain.

There are many reasons why paying for your day-to-day transactions with credit cards can be a good idea. Credit cards offer robust fraud protection and the ability to build credit without going into debt. Yet the potential to earn rewards in exchange for purchases that I need to make anyway is one of my favorite credit card perks.

As someone who loves to travel, my favorite rewards credit cards are the ones that help me and my family see the world for free. Here are four of my preferred credit card picks that could help you earn free travel too.

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $95
Bonus: 60,000 Points
APR: Variable Rate
Rewards Rate: 1X-5X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $95

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: The card offers 5x points per dollar on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining (including eligible takeout and delivery services), as well as 3x points on select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs). This card earns 2x points on all other travel spending and 1x point per dollar everywhere else. Chase broadly defines travel to include not just airfare, hotels and rental cars, but expenses like parking, tolls and public transit too.

Sign-Up Bonus: New applicants can earn 60,000 bonus points after using their card to spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. That’s $750 when redeeming points to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who are beginning with travel rewards cards.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred actually works like having over a dozen different rewards credit cards. That’s because this credit card allows you to transfer your rewards points into miles with 11 airlines and points with three hotel programs.

Although the Chase Sapphire Preferred might not be ideal for the most frequent travelers and highest spenders, it’s part of a family of Chase cards that has a built-in upgrade path. So when it comes time to take your travel rewards game to the next level, you won’t have to start from scratch with an entirely different credit card and rewards program.

The card has a $95 annual fee, but the $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit effectively reduces that fee to $45. Plus, the credit card allows you to continue earning points through bonus categories and a 10% anniversary points boost. But when it comes time to redeem your rewards for travel, this card really shines. You can take advantage of some really strong transfer partners such as United, Southwest, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Hyatt. Similarly, you can just book any reservation you want through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center.


The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card makes it easy to earn free travel, even as a beginner. When travel rewards newbies ask me to recommend the best starter rewards credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred always makes my short list.

The card comes with an affordable $95 annual fee that’s easily offset by perks such as the following.

  • Sign-Up Bonus: 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.
  • 1x-5x Points: Earn 5x points per dollar on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards, 3x points for spending on dining, 2x points on other travel and 1x point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enhanced Rewards Redemption Rate: Redeem the points you earn for 25% more when booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or through Chase Pay Yourself Back.
  • Travel Protections: Enjoy trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage, baggage delay coverage and rental car insurance.

The sign-up bonus alone is worth up to $750 in free travel when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards. And you could potentially cash those points in for even more value if you transfer them to a Chase airline or hotel travel partner.


Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $550
Bonus: 60,000 Points
APR: Variable Rate
Rewards Rate: 1X-10X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $550

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: The card offers 10x points per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars as well as 5x points on air travel booked directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after you spend $300 on travel purchases annually. Additionally, earn 3x points per dollar spent on all other travel and dining purchases and 1x everywhere else.

Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after using your card to spend $4,000 within three months of account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Frequent travelers who are serious about earning travel awards.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card

Right off the bat, Chase Sapphire Reserve features a $300 annual credit for travel purchases. That means the annual fee is effectively just $250 per year for frequent travelers. You also get free access to more than 1,300+ Priority Pass lounges and restaurant options around the world. Those lounges usually give you free food and drinks, cleaner bathrooms, fast internet and a comfortable place to sit outside of the ruckus of an airport terminal. Plus, the Sapphire Reserve will get you access to the upcoming Chase Sapphire Lounge network.

If you’re looking to elevate your travel experience, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Reserve. When you first get approved, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months — that’s worth $900 in travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and potentially more if you transfer your rewards to one of Chase’s airline or hotel partners.


The Chase Sapphire Reserve is what I would consider the big sister of the Sapphire Preferred Card. This premium travel rewards credit card delivers a lot of value, but comes with a pricey $550 annual fee.

If you can use enough of the following benefits to offset the annual fee, however, the card can be well worth the cost.

  • Sign-Up Bonus: 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • 10x Points: Earn 10x points on hotel and rental car reservations made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • 5x Points: Earn 5x points on air travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
  • 3x Points: Earn 3x points on eligible travel and dining purchases. Get 1x point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enhanced Rewards Redemption Rate: Redeem points for 50% more when you use them to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or Chase Pay Yourself Back.
  • Travel Credit: Get up to $300 in statement credits each year for travel purchases.

On top of these great perks, you can enjoy all of the travel protections available through the Sapphire Preferred card. Plus, receive complimentary airport lounge access with a free Priority Pass Select membership, a Complimentary Lyft Pink membership for one year, and more. The 60,000-point sign up bonus is worth $900 in free travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards—possibly more with a travel partner transfer.


Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Offer Details
capital one ventureone card art

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: 20,000 Miles
APR: Variable APR Between 17.99% – 27.99% After Intro 0% APR Period
Rewards Rate: 1.25X-5X Miles
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

Intro APR: The card offers an introductory 0% APR for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases. The VentureOne Rewards Card charges a 3% balance transfer fee for transferred balances during the 15-month promotion.

APR: After the intro 0% APR offer concludes, a 17.99% – 27.99% variable APR will apply.

Rewards Rate: The card offers unlimited 1.25x miles per dollar on every purchase you make. You’ll also earn 5X miles on all hotel and rental car purchases that you make with the card through Capital One’s proprietary travel booking platform.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders can earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $500 with the card during the first three months of account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Travel rewards enthusiasts who want simplicity in credit card rewards and benefits without paying an annual fee.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card features several standout benefits. The 20,000 bonus mile opportunity with a low $500 spending requirement is certainly notable.

But perhaps the most appealing feature of this travel credit card is the ability to transfer miles to Capital One travel partners—an uncommon feature on a card with no annual fee. Plus, the ability to transfer miles to travel partners—both airlines and hotels—is arguably the most attractive feature of this travel card.


Once upon a time, I wasn’t a fan of annual-fee credit cards. If you prefer to avoid annual fees, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offers you a chance to earn travel rewards without this cost. And while the rewards rate isn’t as high as you may find elsewhere, the card does feature several attractive features and benefits such as:

  • Sign-Up Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • 1.25x Miles: Earn 1.25x miles on all eligible purchases.
  • 5X Miles: Earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.
  • 0% Intro APR: Pay 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months after you open your account (then a variable APR of 17.99% – 27.99% applies based on creditworthiness). The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card charges a 3% balance transfer fee for transferred balances during the 15-month promotion.

The sign-up bonus is worth $200 in travel statement credits. Capital One also allows you to transfer points to any of its numerous hotel and airline travel partners. So, if you’re strategic, you may be able to redeem those 20,000 bonus miles for more value.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $69
Bonus: 50,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-2X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $69

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 2X points on Southwest purchases. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who fly Southwest several times a year.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

This is the entry-level card for aspiring Rapid Rewards point earners, and new cardholders can earn a 50,000-point sign-up bonus, which can help get you closer to booking flights for your next travel destination.

Above all, for a modest $69 annual fee, the Rapid Rewards Plus credit card helps you rack up points as cheaply as possible, and all points earned with this card get you closer to a Southwest Companion Pass®.

Our favorite Rapid Rewards Plus perks include the 3,000 bonus points and 2 EarlyBird Check-Ins awarded to cardholders on the anniversary of your account opening. It’s all added incentive to retain the card after you’ve earned the introductory sign-up bonus.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is the entry level card for aspiring Rapid Rewards point earners. This airline credit card earns 2X points per dollar spent with Southwest and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar spent on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing services, as well as on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Finally, the credit card earns 1X points on all other purchases.

Above all, for a modest $69 annual fee, the Rapid Rewards Plus credit card helps you rack up points as cheaply as possible. Our favorite Rapid Rewards Plus perks include the 3,000 bonus points and 2 EarlyBird Check-Ins awarded to cardholders on the anniversary of your account opening. It’s all added incentive to retain the card after you’ve earned the introductory sign-up bonus.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $99
Bonus: 50,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-3X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $99

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 3X points on Southwest purchases. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who fly Southwest a couple times a year.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

In addition to perks like no foreign transaction fees and being able to earn A-list flight status, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier also offers a generous 6,000 bonus points every cardholder anniversary. It’s these types of benefits that help round out the value of the $99 annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card also offers two EarlyBird Check-Ins each year, and all points earned with this card get you closer to a Southwest Companion Pass®.

In addition to perks like no foreign transaction fees, two complimentary EarlyBird Check-In vouchers each year and being able to earn A-list flight status, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card also offers a generous 6,000 bonus points every cardholder anniversary, which can often be enough to cover the cost of a one-way domestic flight. It’s these types of benefits that help round out the value of the $99 annual fee.

This airline credit card also earns 3X points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing services. Additionally, this Southwest card rewards 2X points per dollar spent on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. It earns 1X points on all other purchases.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $149
Bonus: 50,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-3X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $149

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn 3X points on Southwest purchases. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Southwest loyalists and frequent flyers.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

When you look at benefits like a $75 annual travel credit, four upgraded boardings each year, free checked bags and discounts on in-flight purchases, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority is probably the most affordable of all the Southwest credit cards. Similarly, the 7,500 bonus points each cardmember anniversary really pack on the value and offset this card’s $149 annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is as close to a premium credit card that Southwest Airlines offers non-business account holders. While its rewards-points earnings are the same as the Premier, the $149 annual fee does reward cardholders with a generous 7,500 bonus points on their account anniversary, as well as a $75 annual travel credit.

When you look at benefits like a $75 annual travel credit, four upgraded boardings each year, free checked bags and 25% back on in-flight purchases, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority is probably the most affordable of all the Southwest credit cards. Similarly, the 7,500 bonus points each cardmember anniversary really pack on the value and offset this card’s $149 annual fee.

This airline credit card also earns 3X points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing services. Additionally, this Southwest card rewards 2X points per dollar spent on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. It earns 1X points on all other purchases. Read our full review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card here.


The Platinum Card® from American Express

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $695
Welcome Bonus: 100,000 Membership Rewards Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1-5X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $695

APR: The card charges a variable APR on balances, depending on your credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: This card awards 5X points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com up to $500,000 a year and prepaid hotels also booked via amextravel.com. You’ll also earn 1X point on all other eligible purchases.

Welcome Bonus: New cardholders can earn 100,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $6,000 with the card during their first six months of card membership.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who travel frequently will be able to make the most use of this premium credit cards multiple perks and statement credits.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the American Express Platinum Card®
The American Express Platinum Card is a cornucopia of perks and annual credits that reminds one of a fancy coupon book. Each year, cardholders have a variety of credits to look forward to including a $200 hotel credit, $240 digital entertainment credit, $155 Walmart+ credit, $200 airline fee credit, $200 in Uber Cash, and more.

Like other premium credit cards, households that are able to use all of these statement credits and benefits will easily offset the cost of hefty annual fees. But people who have no use for Equinox or Saks Fifth Avenue rebates will most likely find the Platinum Card’s annual fee out of reach.

Still, this credit card is extremely popular among rewards credit card enthusiasts, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it offer new cardholders a generous welcome bonus, but the perks alone could add up to eclipse the annual fee — but only if you already use services like Walmart+ and Uber enough to warrant the expense of a luxury card. Otherwise, you may end up spending $150, just to save $10.

The American Express Platinum Card has long been a symbol of extravagance and affluence. And with its precious annual fee, it’s easy to see why. Yet, this premium credit card is more than just wallet candy — it offers cardholders a diverse lineup of statement credits and benefits that may negate the yearly cost for many people.

Each year, Platinum Card members look forward to a collection of rebates, including:

  • $200 hotel credit: Prepaid bookings with select hotels
  • $200 airline fee credit: Benefit can be applied to one selected airline
  • $240 digital entertainment credit: $20 benefit per month
  • $155 Walmart+ credit: Benefit covers monthly membership cost
  • $200 Uber Cash: Receive $15 monthly benefit for rideshares and meal delivery
  • $300 Equinox credit: $25 benefit each month
  • $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit: $50 benefit between January and June and then again between July through December
  • $179 CLEAR credit: Benefit applies to annual membership

Some of these benefits will more exciting than others, depending on the merchants and services you already use. Still, cardholders who can take full advantage of what the Platinum Card offers will find outsized value for its yearly fee.

Keep in mind, with any credit card benefit, terms and conditions apply. Read our full review of the Platinum Card.

How to Choose a Travel Rewards Card

Figuring out which travel rewards card is best can be tricky. But in reality, no credit card holds this title. There’s no “best” travel rewards credit card, but there may be a card that’s for you at this moment in time.

Next, you can research how to get approved for a new credit card. (Tip: A credit check is an important step you don’t want to skip.)

You can also consider factors like which cards will reward you the most for your spending habits, sign-up bonuses and benefits that you can use. Compare card benefits to any annual fees to make sure they’re worth the cost.

Once you find the perfect-for-you rewards card, be careful to manage it wisely. It’s important to pay your full statement balance every month. Otherwise, the interest you pay on your credit card could cancel out the rewards you earn.

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Michelle Black
Michelle Black
Michelle Black is founder of CreditWriter.com and HerCreditMatters.com. Michelle is a leading credit card journalist with over a decade and a half of experience in the financial industry. She’s an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting, small business, and debt eradication. Michelle is also a certified credit expert witness and personal finance writer.

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