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Best Travel Credit Cards in May

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.

Travel credit cards help you earn valuable miles or points through one-time bonuses and ongoing rewards-earning activities for free and discounted travel.

In fact, some of the best travel rewards credit cards help you waive foreign transaction fees and provide non-travel perks.

Travel Credit Card Bonuses
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $95
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $550
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Welcome Bonus: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $6,000 during the first six months of card membership.
Annual Fee: $695
American Express® Gold Card
Welcome Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases during their first six months of card membership.
Annual Fee: $250
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee: $95
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 20,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening
Annual Fee: $0
Citi Premier® Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 60,000 ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $95
United Gateway℠ Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening | 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months
Annual Fee: $0
United℠ Explorer Card
Bonus Offer: Earn up to 70,000 miles (earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, then an additional 10,000 miles after spending $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months)
Annual Fee: $95†
United Quest℠ Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 70,000 miles after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $250
United Club℠ Infinite Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 100,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $525
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 75,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $69
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 75,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $99
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 75,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $149
World of Hyatt Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 30,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $95
Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 30,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $0
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 3 Free Nights after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $95
IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
Bonus Offer: Earn 140,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
Annual Fee: $99

† Annual fee is waived for the first year of card membership

>>Review the methodology our financial experts use to evaluate credit cards to determine the best travel card offers from our partners, or skip to the most frequently asked questions about travel credit cards.

Best Travel Credit Card Bonuses in May 2022 From Our Partners

If earning free and discounted travel sounds good to you, here’s a list of our partners’ best travel credit card bonuses and deals.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $95
Bonus: 80,000 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 80,000 bonus points after using their card to spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. That’s $1,000 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 Card is one of the gold standards for earning travel rewards. This travel credit card helps users earn points quickly with accelerated rewards in everyday spending categories like travel and dining.

Cardholders enjoy perks like a $50 annual hotel credit, 10% anniversary point boost and access to the Ultimate Rewards Travel portal, powered by Expedia.

New cardmembers can earn 80,000 bonus points after using their credit card to spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 in travel reservations booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, but potentially more when transferred to airline and hotel partners. Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.


Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $550
Bonus: 50,000 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 50,000 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 Preferred® 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 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months — that’s worth $750 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 among the top premium travel cards available. While this credit card comes with a hefty $550 annual fee, the Sapphire Reserve is packed with travel perks that more than make up for the expense.

Right off the bat, the Chase Sapphire Reserve features a $300 annual travel credit. You also get free access to more than 1,300 Priority Pass lounges and restaurant options in airports 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.

New cardholders can also earn a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after they spend $4,000 during the first three months of account opening. This Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus is worth $750 in travel redemptions when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal — where each point is worth at least 1.5 cents. Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve review.


Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $95
Bonus: 75,000 Miles
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 2X-5X Miles
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $95

APR: Variable APR based on creditworthiness.

Rewards Rate: The card offers a flat 2X miles on every purchase you make, giving cardholders predictability and simplicity. 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: You can earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Travel rewards enthusiasts who want simplicity in credit card rewards and benefits.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a lot of value to beginner and expert travelers alike. The card’s big upfront bonus and high ongoing rewards rate aren’t easy to beat, making it a solid option for a large audience. Where it really shines, though, is with the redemption process. When it comes to travel credit cards, it can be really challenging to find a way to use your rewards in the way you want.

With hotel and airline credit cards, for instance, you’re basically stuck redeeming your points or miles with the co-branded hotel or airline partner. And with some general rewards programs, you might get less value if you use your points or miles to book a flight versus a rental car or hotel.

With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, though, you’ll get a lot of flexibility. Here are some of the top redemption options that are available: redeem miles to cover past travel expenses, book travel through Capital One or transfer miles to any of Capital One’s multiple airline and hotel loyalty programs.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a lot of value to beginner and expert travelers alike. This travel rewards credit card’s big upfront sign-up bonus and high ongoing rewards rate aren’t easy to beat, making it a solid option for a large audience.

You’ll also get a lot of flexibility when it comes time to redeem your travel rewards including access to booking travel through Capital One and a long list of transfer partners (both hotels and airlines). Similarly, with no foreign transaction fees, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is ideal for people who regularly make international purchases. Read our full review of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.


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 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 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 introductory, 15-month APR of 0% is notable, and so is the 20,000 bonus mile opportunity with a low $500 spending requirement.

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.

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card may work well for travel credit card users who want to earn rewards without the cost of an annual fee.

The ability to transfer rewards miles to travel partners—both airlines and hotels—is arguably the most attractive feature of this travel card. The 0% introductory APR for 15 months, no foreign transaction fees, sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months, give the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card added value as well. Read our full review of the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.


Citi Premier® Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $95
Bonus: 60,000 ThankYou Points
APR: Variable APR Between 16.74% – 24.74%
Rewards Rate: 1X-3X ThankYou Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $95

APR: Variable APR based on creditworthiness.

Rewards Rate: The card offers 3x ThankYou Points per $1 spent at supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants, air travel and hotels. Beyond that, the card awards 1x ThankYou Points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New account holders can earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou Points after making $4,000 worth of purchases during the first three months of account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who want to maximize rewards in multiple spending categories and welcome transferring points to airline partners.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Citi Premier® Card

The Citi Premier Card, from our partner Citi, is worth considering if you’re looking for accelerated travel rewards, but don’t want to pay a huge annual fee. It earns 3X points per dollar on air travel, hotels and spending at gas stations. You’ll also earn 3X points per dollar at supermarkets and restaurants and 1X point on everything else.

It’s easy to quickly rack up lots of points on this card. While you can redeem ThankYou points for gift cards, you’ll get more value when you redeem points for flights and hotels, and potentially even better value when you transfer points to travel partners.

Citi has dramatically improved the ThankYou Rewards program in recent years as well as the cards that earn those points, especially the Citi Premier Card. To compete with American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi has onboarded new airline partners like Avianca LifeMiles and JetBlue TrueBlue.

The Citi Premier Card, from our partner Citi, is worth considering if you’re looking for a travel credit card, but don’t want to pay a huge annual fee. The Citi Premier Card offers new cardholders a sign-up bonus of 60,000 ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 during the first three months of account opening.

Additionally, this Citi credit card offers a range of incentives, such as bonus points, gift cards and deals with retail partners. Best of all, you’ll get more value when you redeem points for flights, and potentially even better value when you transfer points to Citi’s travel partners. Read our full review of the Citi Premier Card.


United Gateway℠ Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: 20,000 Miles
Intro APR: 0% APR on Purchases for 12 Months
APR: Variable APR After Intro 0% APR Period
Rewards Rate: 1X-2X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

Intro APR: New cardholders receive 0% APR on purchases for 12 months.

APR: Variable APR depending on creditworthiness at the conclusion of the Intro APR period.

Rewards Rate: The card earns 2X miles per dollar spent on United Airlines purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who fly United 2-3 times a year.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the United Gateway℠ Card

The United Gateway Card is the airline’s basic no-annual-fee credit card. It doesn’t offer a lot of perks. But if you’re just looking to dip your toe into airline rewards or want to try out United, it could be a good way to do that.

The United Gateway Card does offer some travel insurance and purchase protections such as rental car insurance, trip cancelation and interruption insurance, extended warranty protection and purchase protection that covers purchases against theft or damage up to 120 days after the transaction date, with up to $500 per claim and $50,000 total coverage.

The United Gateway℠ Card is a strong option for people interested in earning free flights with United Airlines, but who also don’t want to pay an annual fee. The Gateway Card gets new cardholders started off with a sign-up bonus of 20,000 MileagePlus Miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months of account opening. Additionally, enjoy 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months (variable APR applies after).

The United Gateway Card doesn’t offer a lot of the perks that other premium United credit cards provide, but for a no-annual-fee airline credit card, you’ll get 25% back on United inflight purchases, such as food, beverages and Wi-Fi, when you use your card to pay. You’ll also have the ability to use your miles to access exclusive experiences that aren’t available to non-cardholders. Read our full review of the United Gateway Card.


United℠ Explorer Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $95 (fee waived first year)
Bonus: Up to 70,000 Bonus Miles
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-2X Miles
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $95, waived for the first year

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: The card features 2X miles for every dollar spent on United purchases, at restaurants and eligible meal-delivery services like GrubHub, DoorDash, Seamless and Caviar. You also earn 2X miles for every dollar spent on hotel accommodations booked directly through the hotel. Additionally, you get 1X miles per dollar everywhere else.

Sign-Up Bonus: This card’s bonus is worth up to 70,000 bonus miles. New cardholders earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases with their new cards in the first three months of account opening. Then, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles by spending $6,000 total on purchases in the first six months the account is open.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? United loyalists who want to earn free and discounted airfare.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the United℠ Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card’s benefits are what makes it really stand out from the crowd. Here’s what you’ll get: One free checked bag for each flight, priority boarding, 25% back on inflight purchases, two United Club airport lounge passes every year and Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application fee credit every four years.

The United Explorer Card also offers several trip protections including primary rental car insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement and trip delay reimbursement. The card’s annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95 after that, which will give you some time to confirm that it’s a good fit before the fee hits.

The best airline credit card for you is likely the card offered by the airline you fly with most. For total value, the United Explorer Card is tough to beat. Perks like free checked bags and complimentary airport lounge passes can more than compensate for its $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year. The cardholder and a companion can get one free checked bag each way. Use that once per calendar year for a roundtrip flight and you’ve already saved $140 with the card, more than the annual cost.

Additionally, new cardholders can earn a sign-up bonus of up to 70,000 MileagePlus Miles. First, earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. After that, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after spending $6,000 total on purchases in the first six months of account opening.

United MileagePlus Miles can be used for United flights, as well as with partner airlines, upgrades, hotel accommodations, car rentals, gift cards and more. Read our full review of the United Explorer Card.


United Quest℠ Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $250
Bonus: 70,000 Miles
APR: Variable Rate
Rewards Rate: 1X-3X Miles
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $250

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: The card features 3X miles per dollar on United purchases, 2X miles per dollar on restaurants, select streaming services and all other travel and 1X mile per dollar on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders earn 70,000 miles after spending $4,000 with their new cards during the first three months of account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? United loyalists who travel frequently with the airline.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the United℠ Quest Card

The United Quest Card comes with a lot of flair, and it can be an excellent choice for United enthusiasts who don’t travel quite enough to justify paying for the airline’s premium credit card.

Between the annual United purchase credit and award flight bonuses alone, you should be able to recoup the cost of the card’s annual fee. And if you regularly check bags, this card can be a lifesaver — most airline cards only offer the first checked bag free, so this would be a solid card to use for international flights.

Airline credit cards can be incredibly competitive. But in most cases, you have to shell out $450 or more to get the best airline benefits. With the new United Quest Card Card, though, you can take advantage of some of the best perks United Airlines has to offer with an annual fee that’s easier to stomach.

New United Quest cardholders can earn a sign-up bonus of 70,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. You’ll also get a laundry list of travel perks including an annual $125 United purchase credit, two free checked bags for you and a companion, priority boarding and an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® every four years — worth up to $100. Read our full review of the United Quest Card.


United Club℠ Infinite Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $525
Bonus: 100,000 Miles
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-4X Miles
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $525

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: The card earns 4X miles per dollar spent on United purchases, 2X miles per dollar spent on all other travel and dining purchases and 1X mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 during the first three months of account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? United loyalists who can look past the card’s big annual fee.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the United Club℠ Infinite Card

If you love United Airlines, can fly with the airline often and enjoy benefits like airport lounge access free checked bags and quick trips through airport security on busy travel days, then the United Club Infinite Card is made for you. It’s loaded with travel perks such as statement credits and valuable insurance benefits. Though, the card’s $525 annual fee is one of the highest on the market.

In addition to United Club membership, the card also offers up to a $100 statement credit for your application to TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry every four years, and priority check-in, security screening, boarding and baggage handling. Plus, the first and second checked bags free for you and one companion on every United flight — that’s worth up to $320 per round-trip itinerary.

The United Club Infinite Card is the airline’s premium rewards card. Although it carries a $525 annual fee, the United Club Infinite offers a host of luxury perks including complimentary access to the airline’s United Club lounges for you and a companion, two free checked bags for you and a companion, priority boarding, and a $100 statement credit for your application to TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry every four years.

New cardholders can earn a valuable sign-up bonus of 100,000 MileagePlus Miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening. Read our full review of the United Club Infinite Card.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $69
Bonus: 75,000 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 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 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 75,000-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: 75,000 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 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 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®.

Southwest’s entry-level business card is a great option for business owners who want to maximize company spending to earn free Southwest flights. Like most business credit cards, there’s an annual fee to pay, but the signing bonus, two free EarlyBird Check Ins each year, and travel and purchase perks provide enough value to negate the fee.

The Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card earns 3X points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partners. It also earns 2X points per dollar spent on local transit and commuting, including ride-sharing and 1X point on all other purchases.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $149
Bonus: 75,000 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 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 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.


Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $0
Bonus: 30,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-14X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $0

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: This card offers up to 14X total Bonvoy points per dollar spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy, 2X points on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains) and 1X point on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: This card offers 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Marriott loyalists who want to earn rewards without an annual fee or for people who are dipping their toes into the Marriott rewards program.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card is a solid choice if you’re interested in getting into the travel rewards game, but don’t want to commit to an annual fee. This credit card offers a solid welcome bonus and can be a great place to start, especially if you’re loyal to Marriott. Every cardmember year, you’ll receive 15 Elite Night Credits, which is enough to qualify you for Silver Elite Status with Marriott. This status level comes with 10% bonus points when you book Marriott stays with cash, late checkout when available and ultimate reservation guarantee.

As with other hotel cards, this one offers outsized rewards on purchases made with the hotel brand. You’ll earn up to 14 points per dollar at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels — that includes 3X points per dollar from the card, 10x points per dollar as a Marriott Bonvoy member and 1X point per dollar as a Marriott Bonvoy Silver member, which you get automatically as a cardholder. The card also offers 2X points per dollar on other travel purchases and 1X point per dollar on all other purchases you make with the card.

The Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card is the hotel chain’s entry-level credit card. While this hotel credit card doesn’t offer the numerous perks that other Marriott credit cards do, the Bonvoy Bold has no annual fee. So it’s a nice addition to your wallet if you’re fee-averse and just want to dip your toe into Marriott Bonvoy Rewards.

New cardholders can earn a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening. Plus, every cardmember year, you’ll receive 15 elite night credits, which is enough to qualify you for Silver elite status with Marriott. This status level comes with 10% bonus points on eligible hotel purchases, late checkout when available, and ultimate reservation guarantee. Read our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Bold.


Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $95
Bonus: 3 Free Nights
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 2X-17X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $95

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: This card offers up to 17X total points for every dollar spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy, 3X points on groceries, gas stations and dining (valid for first $6,000 spent in combined purchases annually) and 2X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: This card offers new cardholders 3 Free Nights (valued at up to 50,000 points each) after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Marriott loyalists and anyone who will stay in a hotel several times a year.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card is a solid choice if you’re interested in getting into the travel rewards game and find yourself staying at Marriott properties several times a year. This hotel credit card offers some solid benefits, including the free elite night credits, a free anniversary night every card membership year, a welcome bonus, Silver Elite Status and more.

A lot of the ongoing value this card provides comes through its rewards program. In addition to the annually-awarded Elite Night Credits, cardholders can earn 1 Elite Night Credit towards Elite Status for every $5,000 spent. This helps make Elite Status more achievable, as all purchases made with the card count toward additional Elite Night Credits.

Cardholders earn up to 17X points per dollar on eligible purchases at Marriott properties — that’s 6X points per dollar from the credit card, 10X points per dollar as a Marriott Bonvoy member and 1X point per dollar for having Silver Elite Status, which is automatic with the card. You’ll also earn 3X points on the first $6,000 spent in combined annual purchases on gas stations, groceries and dining. Plus, earn 2X points per dollar on other purchases you make with the card. That base rewards rate is high compared with most travel credit cards, which settle on a 1X point per dollar base rate.

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card is one of two Bonvoy cards offered by Chase, a card issuer that’s known for its top-of-class credit cards. For a limited time, new cardmembers can earn a sign-up bonus of 3 Free Nights (valued at up to 50,000 points each) after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.

On the whole, the Bonvoy Boundless offers a lot of long-term value through rewards and various perks, including complimentary Marriott Silver Elite Status and a Free Night worth up to 35,000 points every cardmember anniversary when you renew your account. It’s these types of benefits that make up for the cost of this hotel credit card’s $95 annual fee. Read our full review of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless.


World of Hyatt Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $95
Bonus: Up to 60,000 Points
APR:Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 9X-1X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $95

APR: Variable APR based on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: Earn up to 9x points total for Hyatt stays – 4x points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels and 5x base points per dollar from Hyatt as a World of Hyatt member. Plus, earn 2x points per dollar spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airlines, on local transit and commuting and on fitness club and gym memberships.

Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2x points total per dollar spent in the first six months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1x point, on up to $15,000 spent.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? People who travel frequently and want access to status benefits from a hotel loyalty program.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the World of Hyatt Credit Card

Among all of the top hotel rewards programs, World of Hyatt offers the most valuable rewards, and the World of Hyatt puts you on the fast track to enjoying some of the program’s preferred benefits.

The rewards program also offers a range of properties, including all-inclusive resorts. That said, Hyatt has the smallest footprint of any hotel chain on our list, with roughly 1,000 properties in 68 countries.

In addition to a generous sign-up bonus, the World of Hyatt Credit Card also offers a free night every year, as well as automatic Discoverist status, which is the program’s lowest status level. However, there is a path to earn up to Globalist status, depending on how much you spend on the card.

The World of Hyatt Card is the key to unlocking the benefits of arguably one of the best hotel rewards programs, World of Hyatt. Once you reach Hyatt’s Globalist status, you can say goodbye to annoying charges like resort fees, parking and even breakfasts, while enjoying some outstanding room upgrades.

In addition to a generous sign-up bonus, the World of Hyatt Card also offers a free night every year after your cardmember anniversary, as well as automatic Discoverist status, which gets you perks like upgrades to preferred rooms, a 2 p.m. late checkout and free bottles of water during your stay. Read our full review of the World of Hyatt Card.


IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $99
Bonus: 140,000 Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1X-26X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $99

APR: Variable APR depending on credit worthiness.

Rewards Rate: This hotel credit card awards up to 26X points per dollar at IHG Hotels, 5X points at gas stations, travel and restaurants and 3X points on all other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: New cardholders earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Frequent customers of IHG hotels and other people who enjoy earning rewards nights for hotel stays and premium hotel status.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card

Aside from its astounding sign-up bonus, the IHG Rewards Premier offers tons of value, especially for loyal IHG customers. You get a free Reward Night every year on your account anniversary for use at eligible IHG hotels. Plus, when you redeem points for stays of three nights or longer at any IHG hotel, you earn a Reward Night.

Cardholders also enjoy Platinum Elite status as long as you remain a Premier card member. Plus, it offers a Global Entry, NEXUS or TSA Pre✓® fee credit of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for the application fee charged to your card. IHG Rewards Bonus points are redeemable at hotels such as InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza®, Kimpton®, EVEN® Hotels, Indigo® Hotels and Holiday Inn®.

This IHG card is a traveler’s dream, especially if you’re already a loyal IHG customer. The perks accompanying this Chase co-branded credit card are worth way more than the $99 annual fee that comes with it.

The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is a traveler’s dream, especially if you’re already a loyal IHG customer. The perks accompanying this co-branded Chase credit card are worth way more than the $99 annual fee. The IHG Rewards Premier Card comes with Platinum Elite Status, a free anniversary night every year and a free rewards night for reward stays three nights or longer. It’s great for international travel because there are no foreign transaction fees.

This hotel credit card comes with an attractive offer — new cardholders can earn a sign-up bonus of 140,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.  A sign-up bonus like this can go a long way towards free reward nights at participating IHG hotels around the world, including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Kimpton, EVEN Hotels, Indigo Hotels and Holiday Inn. Read our full review of the IHG Rewards Premier card.


Best American Express Travel Rewards Cards

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.


American Express® Gold Card

Offer Details

Secure application on issuer’s website.

Annual Fee: $250
Welcome Bonus: 60,000 Membership Rewards Points
APR: Variable APR
Rewards Rate: 1-4X Points
Details: Full Review

Terms and restrictions apply

Offer Terms

Annual Fee: $250

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

Rewards Rate: This card awards 4X points per dollar at U.S. grocery stores, up to $25,000 each calendar year (1X point afterwards), and 4X points at restaurants worldwide, including eligible takeout and delivery services in the U.S. . Also earn 3X points on flights booked directly through airlines or with amextravel.com. Earn 1X points on all other eligible purchases.

Welcome Bonus: New cardholders can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases during their first six months of card membership.

Who Should Use This Credit Card? Households that spend a large portion of their budget on food, either at grocery stores or restaurants, will find a lot of value with this credit card.

Why We Like It

Why We Like the American Express® Gold Card
The American Express Gold Card is a foodie’s dream. Not only will you earn outsized rewards at U.S. grocery stores and restaurants worldwide, you’ll also enjoy perks like $120 in dining credits each year with select merchants including Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations.

Yet, benefits like no foreign transaction fees for international purchases and $120 in annual Uber Cash credits make this card ideal for travelers as well. While the hefty annual fee may look daunting, households that are able to take advantage of the $240 worth of annual statement credits will easily offset that recurring cost.

All things considered, the American Express Gold Card is among the most appealing rewards credit cards currently on the market.

The American Express Gold Card is a foodie’s dream come true. This appetizing credit card awards 4X points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide, including eligible takeout and delivery services in the U.S., and 4X points at U.S. supermarkets, up to $25,000 each calendar year (then 1%). You’ll also earn 3X points on flights booked directly through airlines or amextravel.com, and 1X point per dollar on all other purchases.

While the $250 annual fee may seem out of reach for many households, when you consider that this credit card also offers $120 annual Uber Cash credits (valid for both rideshare and meal delivery) and $120 in annual dining credits for select merchants including The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth Chris Steakhouse, Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations — families who use these services will undoubtedly offset the recurring cost of card membership.

Plus, the generous welcome bonus will go along way towards booking that next family vacation. Read our full review of the American Express Gold Card to learn more about its benefits and costs.

How to Choose a Travel Credit Card

Travel credit cards can be YMMV — “your mileage may vary” — which is true both figuratively and literally. Don’t sign up for a reward card just because a travel blogger is benefiting from it. Your spending habits and lifestyle might do better with a different card. Here’s what to look for:

  • Rewards you will use: Think about which airlines and hotels you love the most. Now think about the ones you dislike. You want a card that partners with your favorite airlines and hotels so that you can maximize where you spend your points. You don’t want to earn thousands of points towards vacations you don’t want to take.
  • High earning rate: You can learn the point valuation for each card with a quick web search. Look at the card’s travel partners and the transfer ratio too.
  • Sign-up bonus: The best credit card bonuses can kick-start your vacation plans, but make sure you can afford the spending requirements.
  • Travel credits: Some travel cards offer a yearly travel credit or rebate, which is a nice incentive if you are paying an annual fee.
  • Travel benefits: Can this card save you money alongside earning you points? Take a look at the travel perks, such as insurance or free checked bags to weigh how much a card will help you.
  • Point redemption: Take a look at a card’s reward program before signing up to ensure it is right for you. Ideally, your points should easy to redeem toward travel with companies you love.
  • Annual fee: An annual fee is not an automatic negative. You just need to weigh the fee against the perks and benefits.
  • Balance Transfers: While not many travel cards are among the list of best credit cards for balance transfers, this type of benefit helps people pay down debt and big-ticket purchases faster and cheaper with introductory 0% interest rates.

Get the absolute best deals on your trips with Travelocity Promo Codes and status-based discounts. Booking.com also offers loyalty programs that can help you save more. Booking.com promo codes can help you earn points and miles for your next trip. 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Travel Rewards Credit Card

If you want to be one of those credit card success stories where the user pays for their whole trip to Tahiti with points, you need to use your travel rewards credit card right. Here’s how the pro card users get the most of their travel rewards:

  • You need to earn the sign-up bonus. The sign-up bonus is designed to reel you in and get you spending. However, if you plan wisely, you can use the huge bonus to your advantage. Keep tabs on how close you are to the bonus. You can always contact your card’s customer service line to confirm how much you spent towards the sign-up bonus.
  • Pay your monthly statement. Staying on top of your monthly payments is essential if you want to increase your credit. It is also important not to carry debt on these cards because the interest rate paid will negate any travel points earned.
  • Understand the perks and benefits. Make sure you are using your card to your full advantage. Use yearly credit and rebate offers, airport lounge access and companion passes to ensure your card is saving you money each year.
  • Put all of your spending on the card. Simply put, you aren’t going to rack up the travel points if you forget to use it on big and small purchases alike. Load your card into your Amazon or Uber Eats account or set it up to automatically pay your phone bill. Every dollar spent will get you closer to your dream vacation.
  • Only use your points towards travel redemptions. When you are short on cash, it can be tempting to convert your credit card rewards to a bank deposit. Resist the urge since travel rewards are usually worth more when they are spent toward travel.
  • Earn bonus point opportunities. Keep an eye on your card’s bonus offers and shopping portal to earn even more points. You can score additional points on online shopping you were already going to do just by going through the card issuer’s link.

What Are Points and Miles Worth?

There is no set answer to how much a point or mile is worth since all cards set their points at a different evaluation. It is key to know the baseline point valuation for your card so that you can set that as a minimum worth. This will enable you to get the most bang for your travel points.

Here’s what we mean: Say your travel card points are worth 1.8 cents per mile/point. If you have 50,000 points to redeem, that is $900 at a 1.8 cent valuation. If you wanted to use your points to book a flight, you would then find out how many miles/points the flight is versus how much it would cost you in cash.

For example, if the flight you wanted cost 50,000 points or $500, this would be a poor deal. If you redeem your points towards this flight, your points would only be worth one cent each, and essentially, you would have lost out on $400 worth of possible travel. No bueno!

Similarly, if you find a flight that normally costs $1,200 for 50,000 points, then this is a great deal, since your points are being redeemed at 2.4 cents per point.

How to Apply for a Travel Rewards Credit Card in 6 Steps

Whether you’re getting a travel rewards credit card to build your credit history or earn a bonus, here are some clear steps to take.

1. Check Your Credit Score

When you get approved for a credit card, you enter into a credit relationship with the card issuer. As a result, issuers will run a credit check to determine how likely you are to repay whatever debts you incur with the account.

Your credit score is a three-digit number that represents the overall health of your credit history. If you’re brand new to credit, you have a limited history or your credit score is poor, it can be difficult to get approved for some of the best credit cards on the market.

That said, there are some cards that are more targeted to people with lower credit scores and thin credit profiles. Check all three of your credit reports for free with a service like Experian or Credit Karma to get an idea of where you stand. Based on what you see, focus your search on cards that fit your credit range. You may even be able to improve your FICO® credit score quickly using the free Experian Boost™ service.

2. Determine Your Spending Habits

Not all credit cards offer rewards, but if you’re comparing cards that do, you may see varying rewards rates. For example, some cards offer a flat rewards rate on everything, while others provide bonus rewards on certain spending categories. Checking how much you spend in different areas over the last few months can give you an idea of which card can give you the most bang for your buck.

That said, also consider your preferences. For example, if you prefer simplicity over making the most of your purchases, a card with a flat rewards rate may be a better fit for you than a card with a tiered rewards system.

3. Decide What Type of Credit Card You Want

There are thousands of credit cards in the U.S., and they’re broken down into roughly eight different categories, including:

  1. Cash rewards credit cards: These cards offer cash rewards on every purchase you make. Review our list of the best cash rewards credit cards.
  2. Travel rewards credit cards: You’ll earn points or miles that you can use to book travel. You can earn general travel rewards or points or miles with a specific hotel brand or airline. Visit our roundup of the best travel credit cards.
  3. Low-interest credit cards: With these cards, you’ll either get an introductory 0% APR promotion on purchases or a low ongoing interest rate.
  4. Balance transfer credit cards: If you have high-interest debt on a credit card, you can transfer it to one of these cards and pay it down with an introductory 0% APR promotion (though there’s also typically a balance transfer fee from 3% to 5%).
  5. Student credit cards: These cards are designed for college students and often offer rewards, but you’ll still need income and possibly at least some experience with credit to get approved. 
  6. Secured credit cards: They function like traditional credit cards but require a security deposit — typically equal to your credit limit — to get approved. They’re best for people who are new to credit or have a poor credit score. There are some unsecured credit cards for people with bad credit, but many of them charge exorbitant fees and interest. Read our guide to the best credit cards for bad credit.
  7. Store credit cards: These cards are co-branded with a specific retailer and typically offer benefits with that specific retailer. Depending on the card, though, you may or may not be able to use it anywhere else.
  8. Business credit cards: If you’re a small business owner, these cards typically come with rewards, higher credit limits, business-specific perks and a way to separate your personal and business expenses.

Take some time to think about your goals and general preferences to decide which type of card is the best fit for you.

4. Find Out if You Pre-Qualify

Some credit card issuers have a pre-qualification tool that allows you to see what your chances are of getting approved. This process typically doesn’t require a hard credit check, so it won’t affect your credit score.

Note, however, that just because you’re pre-qualified, it doesn’t mean approval is guaranteed. When you officially apply, the card issuer will still run a hard credit check and make its decision based on the information it finds.

5. Prepare Required Materials

In most cases, you don’t need to put together any documentation to apply for a credit card. However, you should take a look at your pay stubs and other income sources to make sure you include all of your income on the application. Also, be ready to provide other personal information, including your Social Security number, address, contact information and more. If you’re applying for a business credit card, you may also need to provide your employer identification number (EIN), revenue and expenses.

6. Apply Online

Some credit card issuers may allow you to apply over the phone or in-person at your local branch. But the fastest way to get approved for a credit card is to visit the financial institution’s website and apply online. The process takes just a few minutes, and you’ll typically get a response within seconds after you submit your application. Compare the best credit card offers using the Slickdeals Credit Card Hub.

Approval Tips if You’re Worried You Won’t Qualify

If you don’t have a strong credit profile, you may be wondering what your chances are of getting approved for a card. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to say because credit card issuers don’t disclose their eligibility criteria publicly. However, here are some tips for improving your chances of getting your next credit card.

  • Improve your credit: If your credit isn’t in great shape, consider working on improving it before you apply for a new account. Check your credit report to see which areas need work and address them as quickly as possible.
  • Apply within your credit range: Rewards credit cards are appealing, but most of them require good or excellent credit (that’s a FICO credit score of 670 or higher). If your credit isn’t quite there yet, focus on cards that market to people who are working on building their credit.
  • Don’t give up: If you’ve had a credit card application declined recently, it can be easy to take it personally or get discouraged. In some cases, you may be able to call and ask them to reconsider. If they won’t, just because one card issuer denied you, it doesn’t mean all of them will. While it’s best to avoid applying for multiple credit cards in a short period, don’t be afraid to apply again in the future.

As you follow these steps and consider these tips, you’ll be in a better position to apply for and get the credit card you want to have.

Methodology

We chose our best rewards credit cards based on the total value they offer to cardholders through ongoing rewards, welcome bonuses, 0% APR promotions and other perks. We also broke the cards down into clear categories that highlight features that credit card users are typically interested in — for example, premium travel vs. general travel, flat rewards vs. tiered rewards, and so on.

While some cards charge annual fees, we only picked ones that make it easy to make up for them with the value they provide. Before you apply, though, take some time to compare these cards with other best rewards credit card offers to make sure you get the best fit for you.

Travel Credit Card FAQ

How Do Travel Credit Cards Work?

Travel credit cards award you points or miles for purchases made through the card. Most travel credit cards offer bonus categories where cardmembers can earn accelerated points and miles for spending at grocery stores, restaurants, travel expenses and gas stations. Once you’ve accumulated enough points or miles, you can redeem them for travel, including flights, hotels, rental cards and other eligible expenses.

What Are Airline and Hotel Credit Cards

Airline and hotel credit cards are types of travel cards. The main difference between these categories of credit cards is that with both hotel and airline credit cards, you’ll earn points and miles that are redeemable only through the co-branded merchant. As an example, United credit cards earn MileagePlus Miles that can be used only for United flights. Likewise, Marriott credit cards earn Bonvoy Points that can only be used to book free and discounted hotel stays.

How Are Travel Credit Cards Different From Cash-Back Cards?

Both travel cards and cash rewards cards have their perks, and one is not notably more beneficial than the other unless you plan to travel. If your main purpose for earning credit card points is to travel extravagantly for less, then a travel card is the way to go. With cash rewards cards, you earn a percentage back on all of your purchases. Many times, a specific purchase, such as buying gas, will earn you more back than the new headsets you bought on Amazon. The best cash-back credit cards are generally easier to keep track of, and you can redeem your points as deposits into your bank account.

How Do You Redeem Travel Credit Card Points

Each travel card issuer is set up differently, but most will allow you to redeem your points/miles through their own travel booking platform. If the card has travel partners, you can also transfer your points to a loyalty program and redeem them through that company’s site instead.

Should You Pay an Annual Fee for a Travel Card?

Annual fees used to be the devil of credit card talk, but now, many cards with fees pack on so many perks, the fee is worth it. For example, both the Chase Sapphire Preferred and its premium cousin, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, are among the most popular annual fee travel cards. You cannot just take a card’s perks at face value, though. If you don’t plan on using these bonuses each year, then the card’s annual fee might not be worth it for you.

What Is Chase Ultimate Rewards?

If you are excited by the idea of free and discounted travel, then you should know about Chase Ultimate Rewards. Among credit card rewards programs, Ultimate Rewards is considered one of the best. Chase Ultimate Rewards points are a valuable currency you can use to purchase flights, hotels, cruises, vacation rentals, travel activities and more. Chase offers multiple credit cards that earn Chase points with every dollar you spend. They may even come with a bonus worth tens of thousands of points worth enough for multiple round-trip flights.

What Are Ultimate Rewards Points?

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are travel rewards points from Chase. They are best redeemed for travel either through the Ultimate Rewards secure site or transferring to travel partners.

Do Ultimate Rewards Points Expire?

Chase points never expire as long as your account remains active and in good standing. When redeemed through the Chase website, you can use them for virtually any flight, hotel, rental car and other travel.

Can You Transfer Ultimate Rewards Points?

Chase travel rewards are powered by Expedia, so you can book just about anything through their portal directly with your Chase points. You can also transfer points to an airline or hotel partner at a 1:1 ratio. That means one Chase point is worth one United mile, one Marriott point or one point in any of the participating programs.

How Much Are Ultimate Rewards Points Worth?

Depending on the credit card you use, the points are worth between one cent and one and a half cents each for bookings through the Chase website. However, premium award bookings on partner airlines tend to offer the biggest value per point. On some flights, I’ve been able to get over five cents per point.

What Are the Best Chase Ultimate Rewards Earning Credit Cards

The best cards to earn Chase points are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card. Each has unique features and benefits worth reviewing before making a choice. You can also earn cash back with the Chase Freedom®, Chase Freedom Unlimited®, Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card and Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card.

How to Earn Ultimate Rewards points

Here are the main ways to earn and accumulate Chase Ultimate Rewards points: regular purchases with a Chase credit card, bonuses for opening a new credit card, retail shopping bonuses through the Ultimate Rewards portal, and converting cash-back rewards into Ultimate Rewards on your account dashboard.

What Are the Best Ways to Use Ultimate Rewards Points?

The best way to use Ultimate Rewards points is for travel. However, there are additional redemption options including gift cards, cash back, statement credits, shopping credits with Chase retail partners and exclusive entertainment experience offered through the Ultimate Rewards site.

Who Are Chase’s Travel Partners?

The very best value and use for points usually comes from moving your Chase points to a transfer partner. The list of Chase travel partners include Aer Lingus, British Airways, Emirates, Flying Blue (Air France/KLM), Iberia, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, IHG, Hyatt and Marriott.

How to Redeem Ultimate Rewards Points?

When you are ready to redeem your points, the first place to go is your Chase account. Click on the link to redeem or view your Ultimate Rewards account for details and redemptions. You can shop for travel and redeem directly on the Chase’s secure site. You use the same site to transfer points to partners. Most transfers are instant if you log out and log back into the partner’s rewards website. From there, you can book your award flight or hotel reservation directly.

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.

Eric Rosenberg
Eric Rosenberg
Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel, and technology writer in Ventura, California. He is a former bank manager and corporate finance and accounting professional who left his day job in 2016 to take his online side hustle full-time. He has in depth experience writing about banking, credit cards, investing, business, and other financial topics. When away from the keyboard, Eric enjoys exploring the world and spending time with his wife and little girls. You can connect with him at Personal Profitability or EricRosenberg.com.