GOBankingRates’ Best Travel Credit Cards

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Whether you’re always on the go or want to save up points and perks for an annual vacation, a travel credit card can help you make the most of the experience. That’s why so many people rely on credit cards to book travel — a recent GOBankingRates survey found that 53% of Americans use their cards for this purpose.

But with so many travel cards available, it’s hard to know which ones are actually worth signing up for. To find the Best Travel Credit Cards of 2021, GOBankingRates analyzed a number of factors including annual fees, APR for purchases, promotional APRs, sign-up bonuses, rewards, foreign transaction fees and travel perks, and identified the cards with the top offerings.

Before you book your next trip, consider opening one of our top-rated travel credit cards.

Our Top Travel Card

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why we like it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited card’s rewards structure offers users 5% cash back on unlimited travel purchases, plus 5% cash back for a limited time on groceries and Lyft rides. Other cash-back categories include 3% on drugstore and dining purchases and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. The cash-back rewards and a lower-than-average starting APR, a sign-up bonus and $0 annual fee all make this card worth considering.

Benefits

  • No annual fee
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase
  • Easy rewards redemption for cash, gift cards or travel
  • 15-month promotional 0% intro APR period

Drawbacks

  • This card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee

Key Features

  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase
  • 3% cash back on dining, including takeout, and at drugstores
  • 1.5% cash back on everything else
  • 5% cash back at grocery stores, excluding Target and Walmart, on up to $12,000 spent in the first year

Sign-Up Bonus

  • Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months

APR

14.99% to 23.74%

Promotional APR

0% for 15 months

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee

3.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

None

Redeeming Rewards:

Redeem for cash back (via statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts); shop with Points at Amazon; redeem for a variety of gift cards and certificates for shopping, dining and entertainment, and more; book your travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards®

How To Get This Card:

You can apply for the card online here with just some basic personal and financial information (clicking the link will take you to Chase's application page). READ OUR FULL REVIEW

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Best Travel Credit Cards 2021

Keep reading to find out what other travel credit cards offer the best rewards and features.

Chase Freedom FlexSM Credit Card

Key Benefits

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 on combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase
  • 3% cash back on dining including takeout and drugstores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart®) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year

Sign-Up Bonus

  • Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months

APR

14.99% to 23.74%

Promotional APR

0% for 15 months

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee

3.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

None

Redeeming Rewards:

Redeem for cash back (via statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts); Shop with Points at Amazon; Redeem for a variety of gift cards and certificates for shopping, dining and entertainment, and more; Book your travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards® GET DETAILS

On Chase's site

Barclays JetBlue Plus Credit Card

Key Benefits

  • 6x miles per dollar spent on JetBlue purchases
  • 2x miles per dollar spent at grocery stores
  • 1x miles per dollar spent on all other purchases

Sign-Up Bonus

  • Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases and paying the annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days

APR

15.99% to 24.99%

Promotional APR

N/A

Annual Fee

$99

Foreign Transaction Fee

0.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

5,000 bonus miles every year after your account anniversary; 50% inflight savings on cocktails and food; Free first checked bag; An annual $100 statement credit after purchasing a JetBlue Vacations package of $100 or more; Mosaic benefits if you spend $50,000 or more on purchases each calendar year

Redeeming Rewards:

Redeem TrueBlue Points for the base fare of a JetBlue operated and marketed flight (or use a combination of TrueBlue Points and a monetary payment for Cash + Points redemption bookings) and for JetBlue Vacations packages GET DETAILS

On Barclays' site

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U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Credit Card

Key Benefits

  • 5x points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in Altitude Rewards Center
  • 4x points on travel
  • 4x points on gas
  • 2x points on grocery
  • 2x points on dining
  • 1x points on all other eligible purchases

Sign-Up Bonus

  • 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 120 days

APR

15.99% to 23.99%

Promotional APR

N/A

Annual Fee

$95

Foreign Transaction Fee

0.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, up to $100 in statement credits to reimburse your application fee

Redeeming Rewards:

Redeemable towards merchandise, gift cards, cash back, travel and more GET DETAILS

On U.S. Bank's site

U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Gold American Express® Card

Key Benefits

  • 5x FlexPoints on prepaid hotels and car rentals
  • 3x FlexPoints at restaurants
  • 2x FlexPoints at airlines
  • 2x FlexPoints at gas stations
  • 1x FlexPoint on everyday spend

Sign-Up Bonus

  • 30,000 bonus FlexPoints worth $450 on airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and more, after spending $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first four months

APR

14.49% to 24.49%

Promotional APR

N/A

Annual Fee

$85

Foreign Transaction Fee

0.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, up to $100 in statement credits to reimburse your application fee; Complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi

Redeeming Rewards:

Redeem rewards for merchandise, gift cards, cash back or travel GET DETAILS

On U.S. Bank's site

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TD Bank First ClassSM Visa Signature® Credit Card

Key Benefits

  • 3x First Class miles on travel
  • 3x First Class miles on dining
  • 1x First Class miles on all other purchases

Sign-Up Bonus

  • 25,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 within the first 6 billing cycles

APR

13.24%

Promotional APR

N/A

Annual Fee

$89

Foreign Transaction Fee

0.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

None

Redeeming Rewards:

Miles may only be redeemed by the primary cardholder at specified levels for a variety of cash back, gift cards, merchandise and travel GET DETAILS

On TD Bank's site

Navy Federal Credit Union Visa Signature® Flagship Rewards Credit Card

Key Benefits

  • 3x points on travel
  • 2x points on everything else

Sign-Up Bonus

  • 40,000 bonus points (a $400 value) when you spend $4,000 within 90 days

APR

9.99% to 18.00%

Promotional APR

N/A

Annual Fee

$49

Foreign Transaction Fee

0.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

Receive statement credits (up to $100) for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Redeeming Rewards:

Redeem points for cash, merchandise or gift cards; directly book flights, hotels, and car rentals on all programs except nRewards® GET DETAILS

On Navy Federal Credit Union's site

American Express Green® Credit Card

Key Benefits

  • 3x points at restaurants
  • 3x points on transit
  • 3x points on travel
  • 1x points on all other purchases

Sign-Up Bonus

  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 6 months of card membership

APR

15.99% to 22.99%

Promotional APR

0% for 12 months

Annual Fee

$150

Foreign Transaction Fee

0.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

Receive up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits, when you pay for your CLEAR membership; Use the American Express® Green Card to purchase lounge access through LoungeBuddy and receive up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year

Redeeming Rewards:

Book travel; pay with points at checkout; get a statement credit when you use points for recent Card charges; get gift cards; use Membership Rewards points to place an offer on a seat upgrade with over 20 participating airlines; go shopping; make charitable donations GET DETAILS

On American Express' site

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American Express Gold® Credit Card

Key Benefits

  • 4x points on dining
  • 4x points on groceries
  • 3x points on flights
  • 1x points on all other purchases

Sign-Up Bonus

  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 6 months of card membership

APR

15.99% to 22.99%

Promotional APR

0% for 12 months

Annual Fee

$250

Foreign Transaction Fee

0.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

None

Redeeming Rewards:

Book travel; pay with points at checkout; get a statement credit when you use points for recent Card charges; get gift cards; use Membership Rewards points to place an offer on a seat upgrade with over 20 participating airlines; go shopping; make charitable donations GET DETAILS

On American Express' site

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Credit Card

Key Benefits

  • 5x points on gas paid at the pump and EV charging stations
  • 3x points at the supermarket
  • 3x points at restaurants
  • 1x points on all other purchases

Sign-Up Bonus

  • 15,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in first 90 days

APR

13.49% to 17.99%

Promotional APR

N/A

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee

0.00%

Misc. Travel Benefits:

None

Redeeming Rewards:

Redeem for gift cards for shopping, dining and entertainment and more, travel and shopping with reward points GET DETAILS

On PenFed's site

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FAQs About Travel Credit Cards

Are you still not sure if a travel credit card is right for you? Here are the answers to common questions you might have:
  • What credit score do I need to get a travel credit card?
    • When you apply for a travel credit card, the lender will consider your credit score before deciding whether to approve you for the card. To qualify for the cards with the most attractive features, you'll want an exceptional or very good credit score. Here's a breakdown of FICO credit score ranges:
      • Exceptional: 800 or higher
      • Very Good: 740-799
      • Good: 670-739
      • Fair: 580-669
      • Poor: 579 or lower
      Check your credit score to see where you fall. If you're interested in a travel rewards card, reach out to the card issuer to see if your score is high enough to qualify.
  • Which travel card is the easiest to get approved for?
    • It's impossible to pinpoint which travel card is the easiest to get. However, the cards with the best benefits are usually harder to qualify for. But here's a rule of thumb: The better your credit score, the easier it is for you to get approved for a top-notch travel card. You might be able to get approved for a card that offers travel rewards even if your score isn't exceptional, though. To find travel cards that you most likely qualify for, browse all of the options on the card issuers' websites. Sometimes, these companies will explain if their travel cards are best suited for people with excellent credit levels.
  • Can you earn cash back with a travel credit card?
    • Some airline programs will let you redeem your miles for cash, while some hotel cards will allow you only to redeem your points for stays at their properties.
  • Can you earn extra travel points by adding an authorized user to the card?
    • You earn points for all purchases charged to your account, and that includes charges made by an authorized user. In addition, some cards offer bonus points just for adding an authorized user to your account.
  • Can you earn extra travel points by referring a friend or family member?
    • Some cards will give you extra points when you refer someone who opens an account. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card awards members 20,000 points for every person they refer who opens an account, up to 100,000 points per year.
  • Can you earn extra points if you transfer your balance to a travel card?
    • Most credit cards do not award points or miles on a balance you transfer from another card. If you find a card that lets you earn points on balance transfers, know that this is very rare.
  • Can you earn points for travel and non-travel purchases with a travel credit card?
    • Yes. All the travel rewards cards on this list offer points, cash back or miles for every purchase -- whether it is travel-related or not.

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More From GOBankingRates

Karen Doyle contributed to the reporting for this article.

Last updated: Oct. 19, 2021

Methodology: GOBankingRates identified the best travel credit cards by analyzing the following factors: (1) annual fees; (2) APR for purchases; (3) promotional APR; (4) sign-up bonuses; (5) rewards and features; (6) foreign transaction fees; and (7) travel perks. All fees and rates are subject to change at the credit card issuers’ discretion. Some bonus offers may no longer be available on the credit card issuers’ websites, depending on how one accesses the web page. All data was sourced from each financial institution’s website or promotional material and is accurate as of Aug. 18, 2021. Please verify terms and conditions before opening an account. In order to be considered in this category, the card had to be sponsored by an airline or have travel be an option in redemption for points or cash back.

About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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