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Biggest Travel Credit Card Deals and Bonuses: Up to $1,250 in Free Travel and More

Advertiser Disclosure: At Slickdeals, we work hard to find the best deals. Some products in our articles are from partners who may provide us with compensation, but this doesn’t change our opinions.

Credit Card Bonus Bonus Eligibility Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 100,000 points Spend $4,000 during the first 3 months of account opening. $95
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card 60,000 points Spend $4,000 during the first 3 months of account opening. $550
United℠ Explorer Card 70,000 miles Spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open to earn 60,000 bonus miles. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months. $95
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card 40,000 points Spend $1,000 on purchases during the first 3 months of account opening. $69
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card 40,000 points Spend $1,000 on purchases during the first 3 months of account opening. $99
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card 40,000 points Spend $1,000 on purchases during the first 3 months of account opening. $149
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card 25,000 points Spend $1,000 during the first 90 days of account opening. $0
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card 50,000 points Spend $3,000 during the first 90 days of account opening. $95
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Card 20,000 bonus miles Spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. $0
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card 150,000 points Spend 3,000 during the first 3 months of account opening. $89

†Annual fee waived for the first 12 months.

>>Review the methodology our financial experts use to evaluate credit cards to determine the best in various categories.

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Best Travel Credit Card Deals (September 2021)

If you’re planning post COVID-19 travel and want to score a great deal on a flight, hotel or other travel costs, you might be searching for the best travel credit cards.

The best 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 fess and provide non-travel perks. If that sounds good to you, here’s a list of Slickdeals’ best travel credit card deals and bonuses. Additionally, you’ll find card details to help you pick the one that’s right for your travel goals and spending needs. 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. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the gold standards for earning travel rewards. New cardmembers can earn 100,000 bonus points after using their card to spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. This is worth $1,250 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.

Additionally, Chase recently made updates to the Sapphire Preferred which give the card even more value than before. Cardholders now enjoy new perks like a $50 annual hotel credit, 10% anniversary point boost and new bonus categories like online groceries (excluding Walmart and Target) and select streaming services.

Sapphire Preferred also allows cardmembers to take advantage of some really strong transfer partners such as United, Southwest, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Hyatt.


Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus rewards new cardholders with 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after they spend $4,000 during the first three months of opening the account. The Chase Sapphire Reserve bonus is worth $900 in travel redemptions when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve review.

Right off the bat, this card features a $300 annual travel credit. That means the card’s hefty $550 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. Throw in perks like a complimentary DashPass, an annual statement credit, no foreign transaction fees and 24/7 customer service through a secure website and it’s easy to see why so many consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve to be a high-value card.

The card offers you 10x points per dollar on hotel stays, car rentals and Chase Dining purchases made using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. You also earn 5x points when booking air travel through Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on all normal travel and dining purchases and 1x on all other purchases. In fact, Chase broadly defines travel to include not just airfare, hotels and rental cars, but expenses like parking, tolls and public transit too.


United℠ Explorer Card

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. It offers 65,000 bonus United MileagePlus Miles. This is a tiered bonus, which means you earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months. 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.

Perks like free checked bags and 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, the United Explorer Card awards 2X miles per dollar spent on United purchases, at restaurants and eligible delivery services including GrubHub, DoorDash, Seamless and Caviar. You’ll also earn 2X miles per dollar spent on hotel accommodations when booked directly through the hotel and 1X miles on all other purchases.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is the entry level card for aspiring Rapid Rewards point earners. Above all, for a modest $69 annual fee, the Rapid Rewards Plus credit card helps you rack up points as cheaply as possible. Additionally, our favorite ongoing Rapid Rewards Plus perk is the 3,000 bonus points that are awarded to cardholders on the anniversary of your account opening. It’s an added incentive to retain the card after you’ve earned the one-time sign-up bonus.


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 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. Visit our offer page to learn more about this sign-up bonus.


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. Our offer page has all of the details on this limited-time offer.


Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

With the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card, you can earn 1.5 points per dollar on purchases you make with the card. You don’t have to worry about rotating categories or purchase limits. Each time you swipe, you earn points that can be redeemed for future travel. And once new cardholders spend $1,000 with their new cards during the first 90 days of account opening, they earn 25,000 bonus points — good for $250 worth of travel expenses. Read our full review of the Travel Rewards credit card.

One of our favorite benefits of the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card is the fact that you can easily redeem your points for different travel experiences. You don’t have to worry about blackout dates or special conditions. There’s no need to worry about loyalty to a particular brand, either. Your points are used for a statement credit to pay for travel expenses, including hotels, flights, cruises, vacation packages and rental cars. You can even redeem your points to pay for baggage fees.


Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

Premium credit cards with large annual fees often require a lot of spending to justify paying so much money. The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card has a reasonable $95 annual fee that offers valuable benefits to cardholders. You’ll receive a large 50,000 point sign-up bonus (a $500 value), unlimited 2 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry reimbursement, no foreign transaction fees and $100 every year in airline incidental fee credits. Plus, if you become a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. Read our full review of the Premium Rewards card.

Airline fees are becoming a way of life as airlines shift to a la carte pricing. The Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card has you covered when those fees pop up. You will be reimbursed up to $100 in airline incidental fees each year. Fees eligible for reimbursement include nuisance fees like those for checked bags, ticket changes or cancellations, as well as fees for things you actually want to spend money on. This includes preferred seating upgrades, onboard food and beverages, in-flight entertainment and airport lounge access. Additionally, you’ll be reimbursed up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fees (credit available every four years).


IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

The IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card comes with an attractive offer. For new cardholders, you can earn a valuable 150,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months from card 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 Club Premier.

This IHG card is a traveler’s dream, especially if you’re already a loyal IHG customer. The perks accompanying this Chase credit card co-brand are worth way more than the $89 annual fee that comes with it. Rewards earning is incredible for IHG purchases, with 25X points per dollar spent at IHG hotels. You’ll also earn 2X points for fuel, dining and grocery purchases and 1X points for other purchases. The IHG card comes with Platinum Elite Status, a free anniversary night every year and a free rewards night for reward stays four nights or longer. It’s great for international travel because there are no foreign transaction fees.


Best Airline Credit Card Deals

Many airlines co-brand with a credit card issuer like Chase or American Express to offer frequent flyers travel credits, in-flight perks and airline-specific rewards for eligible purchases. If you’re looking for a credit card bonus with an airline who will give you free Wi-Fi and other flight-related perks, then take a look at these limited-time offers.

Credit Card Bonus Bonus Offer Details Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fees
United℠ Explorer Card 70,000 miles 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months. $95† No
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card 40,000 points Spend $1,000 on purchases during the first 3 months of account opening. $69 Yes
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card 40,000 points Spend $1,000 on purchases during the first 3 months of account opening. $99 Yes
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card 40,000 points Spend $1,000 on purchases during the first 3 months of account opening. $149 Yes
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Credit Card 10,000 bonus miles Spend $500 during the first three months of account opening. $0 No
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Credit Card 50,000 bonus miles Spend $2,000 within three months of account opening. $99 No
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Credit Card 60,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) Spend $3,000 within three months of account opening. $250 No
Delta SkyMiles Reserve® American Express Credit Card Earn 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) Spend $3,000 during the first three months of account opening. $550 No

†Annual fee waived for the first 12 months.


Best Hotel Credit Card Deals

If you travel often and lodge with the same hotel chain, then applying for a hotel-branded credit card is straightforward. But if you’re not already loyal to a hotel, then picking the right hotel-specific card can unlock big travel rewards.

Credit Card Bonus Bonus Offer Details Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fees
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card 150,000 points Spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. $89 No
Hilton Honors Card from American Express 100,000 Hilton Honors points Spend $1,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. $0 No
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card 150,000 Hilton Honors points Spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership. $95 No

Best Business Travel Credit Card Deals

Credit Card Bonus Bonus Offer Details Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card 100,000 bonus points Spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. $95 No
United℠ Business Card 150,000 bonus miles Spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open. $99† No
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card Up to 100,000 bonus points Spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months. $199 No
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card 60,000 bonus points Spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. $99 No

†Annual fee waived for the first 12 months.

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

If you’re a business owner who travels a lot for work or pleasure, the Ink Business Preferred is an ideal choice. It offers a whopping 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months. Additionally, with the card’s 25% bonus on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards secure site, that’s worth $1,250. It awards 3x points on your first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and on advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines on each account’s anniversary year. Plus, 1x point per dollar spent on all other purchases.


United℠ Business Card

The United Business Card℠ comes with a sign-up bonus of up to 150,000 MileagePlus miles. Earn 75,000 miles after spending $5,000 during the first three months of account opening and then an additional 75,000 miles after spending a total of $20,000 in the first six months of membership. Beyond the generous bonus, cardmembers will also receive a $100 annual United travel credit after seven United flight purchases of $100 or more. Earning this extra bonus will make up for the $99 annual fee attached to the card. However, this annual fee is waived for the first year to give you time to decide if the card aligns with your spending and traveling needs. Another perk to highlight is a 5,000 bonus miles each anniversary if you have both this new United Business Card and a personal United card. These new benefits, along with a list of other valuable travel perks, make the United Business Card a near-perfect business credit card for those who travel regularly on United.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

New account holders can earn up to 100,000 bonus points. Earn 70,000 points after spending $5,000 during the first three months the account is open and an additional 30,000 points for spending $25,000 during the first six months. This credit card is perfect for small business owners who have employees who travel (employee credit cards at no additional cost). It also offers the most generous point rewards structure of any of the Southwest cards: 3x points per dollar spent with Southwest. Let’s not forget the sign-up bonus and the 9,000 cardmember anniversary points you can receive. Plus, you’ll get other benefits like four upgraded boardings per year, free inflight WiFi credits, no foreign transaction fees and credit toward a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application. In other words, these can help you have a much smoother flight, which is helpful if you’re on an important business trip.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

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 and travel and purchase perks provide enough value to negate the fee. With the Premier Business Credit Card, you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on your card in the first three months from account opening. You’ll also receive 6,000 points annually on your cardmember anniversary. Additionally, cardmembers can earn 2x points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and 1x point on all other spending.


Best American Express Travel Rewards Cards

American Express offers arguably some of the best travel credit cards available. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers premium travel-related perks like Priority Pass and Centurion Lounge access, Global Entry and TSA Pre✓® statement credits and Gold Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Gold status with Hilton Honors.

While often thought of as a dining card, the American Express® Gold Card also offers valuable travel rewards including access to offers and discounts from both the Hotel Collection by American Express as well as the Travel Collection by Travel Leaders Group. Use the card for checked bags, in-flight purchases or other airline incidentals and get up to $100 back in statement credits.

Travel Credit Card Welcome Bonus Bonus Offer Details Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express 75,000 Membership Rewards Points Make $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. $550 No
American Express® Gold Card 60,000 Membership Rewards Points Make $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. $250 No
American Express® Green Card 30,000 Membership Rewards Points Make $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. $150 No

*Slickdeals updates American Express credit card offers periodically. These details are accurate as of Sep. 14, 2020.

Best Capital One and Wells Fargo Travel Rewards Cards

If you scoff at the idea of paying an annual fee for a credit card, you still have some decent options for travel rewards. Both Capital One and Wells Fargo offer some of the most exciting travel credit cards — two of which have no annual fee.

Often regarded as the best no-annual-fee travel credit card, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card offers a big welcome bonus and a valuable rewards rate. Points are part of the Go Far Rewards program and are worth a fixed-value of one cent each. You can redeem for travel in the Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards portal or redeem for cash and other less-exciting redemptions.

Travel Credit Card Bonus Bonus Offer Details Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Card 20,000 bonus miles Spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. $0 No
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card 20,000 bonus points Earn 20,000 bonus points once you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. $0 No

man walks with face mask
Credit: iStock/ NorthAgency

Methodology: How We Chose the Best Travel Credit Cards

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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Credit Cards

How Do Travel Rewards Credit Cards Work?

Travel rewards credit cards are a good fit for those who travel a lot for work or pleasure or for those wanting to spread their wanderlust wings. There are two main types of travel credit cards to consider when building up your wallet:

  • General-purpose credit cards: These travel cards offer the most flexible options for earning and redeeming points. General travel cards are usually packed with travel perks and might have a preference for travel partners, but they aren’t exclusive.
  • Airline and hotel co-branded cards: Co-branded cards, on the other hand, are usually exclusive to the airline or hotel. You might still be able to transfer earned points to another travel partner at a 1:1 ratio, but expect to earn the most points when spending it at a specific hotel or airline.

Travel Cards Versus Cash Rewards 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.

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!

TRAVEL: How I Earned Over 300,000 Amex and Chase Rewards Points in 6 Months

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 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.

Is an Annual Fee Worth It?

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.

>>SAVE: Best ‘No Annual Fee’ Credit Cards: Compare Rewards, Bonuses and Offers

Read one Slickdeal writer’s experience with annual fee cards. They realized that a travel card with an annual fee was giving them over $1,000 in added value over a no-fee cash rewards card.

How To Redeem Travel Credit Card Points

carrying suitcase through a city
Credit: Twenty20

Each 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.

Once, I was able to redeem my credit card points for 3X the value just by transferring them over to my hotel loyalty program. The hotel’s website offered a special all-resort package for the points that would have cost much more through the credit card issuer’s travel portal.

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.

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 your 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.

What Is Chase Ultimate Rewards?

If you are excited by the idea of free and discounted travel, then you should know about 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. Here’s what you need to know to get started and maximize the value of your Chase rewards.

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. According to The Points Guy, Chase points are worth two cents each. That’s in the top tier of rewards points.

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. Use Expedia promo codes and status-based discounts to potentially decrease your overall travel expenses.

How Much Are Ultimate Rewards Points Worth?

Depending on the card and how you use your points, they can be worth less than a cent or more than five cents. Based on a range of factors including transfer partner award bookings, respected travel rewards site The Points Guy values Ultimate Rewards points at two cents each.

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.

How to Earn Ultimate Rewards points

You can earn Ultimate Rewards points with one of the credit cards listed in the next section. When using your card, here are the main ways to earn and accumulate points:

  • Regular purchases: Chase cards typically give a bonus on categories such as travel and restaurants while offering one point per dollar on general purchases.
  • Bonus rewards: If you meet minimum spending requirements within the published timeframe, usually three months, you can earn a sign-up bonus worth up to 60,000 points. Sometimes higher bonuses are available.
  • Shopping bonuses: If you shop through the Ultimate Rewards website, you can earn additional rewards with a list of supported retailers.
  • Converting cash back: If you pair an Ultimate Rewards card with a Chase cash rewards card, you can move cash back into Ultimate Rewards at a rate of one cent to one point.

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.

Ways To Use Ultimate Rewards Points

The best way to use Ultimate Rewards points is for travel. Here’s a longer list that includes additional redemption options:

  • Travel: Book directly through Ultimate Rewards secure site and get at least one cent per point. With the Sapphire Preferred, points are worth 1.25 cents each. With the Sapphire Reserve, they are worth 1.5 cents each.
  • Transfer partners: Moving points to airline and hotel partners including United, Southwest, Hyatt, and Marriott can get you even bigger value. See below for a full list.
  • Experiences: Chase offers unique and exclusive experiences for sporting events, concerts, highly rated restaurants and more.
  • Gift cards: Gift cards give you a lower value per point than travel, usually around one cent per point. You can choose from over 200 brands.
  • Cash back: If you’re feeling uninspired or need the extra money, you can redeem for cash at a value of one cent per point.
  • Shopping: Retail partners Amazon and Apple allow you to redeem points for purchases directly. Again, this tends to offer a lower value than travel.

Chase Travel Partners

The very best value and use for points usually comes from moving your Chase points to a transfer partner. Don’t move a point until you have a plan to use the resulting miles or points. Keeping them in the bank at Chase is the best strategy until you’re ready to book.

The list of airline partners includes:

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Chase Ultimate Rewards gives you access to all of the three big airline alliances. For example, you could use British Airways points to book flights on American Airlines.

Hotel partners include mega-brands Hyatt, IHG and Marriott. Marriott has the biggest list of properties of any hotel chain in the world. The Hyatt program has gained popularity since Marriott launched its new Bonvoy program, however. IHG also offers a large list of popular and luxury brands.

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.

In my experience, 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 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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Benefits Update

This popular card just got even more benefits and the 100,000 point bonus offer remains.