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Best Travel Credit Cards for Summer Vacation

[cnet.com]2 weeks ago

Travel credit cards can help you finance a trip, earn rewards toward your next trip or upgrade your flight. There's a wide variety of features available for all sorts of travelers and budgets. Travel credit cards can cost hundreds of dollars -- or have no annual fee -- so it's important to make sure you're able to benefit from the perks offered. Perks may include features like annual travel credits, welcome bonuses, flight upgrades, airport lounge access and more. They all have no foreign transaction fees, so using them abroad will not cost you extra.

Intro OfferEarn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

APR17.49% - 24.49% Variable

Intro Purchase APRN/A

Recommended Credit Excellent/Good

Reward Rates

  • 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards┬«
  • 3x on dining.
  • 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

Annual Fee$95

Balance Transfer APR17.49% - 24.49% Variable

Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Foreign Transaction Fees $0

Penalty APR Up to 29.99%

  • 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards┬«
  • 3x on dining.
  • 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

Our Take

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has the best travel rewards program relative to the annual fee. The rewards and welcome bonus seem roughly equivalent to other cards at its price point, but the 25% redemption value boost for points when booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal puts this card's rewards program far ahead.

It also includes other common travel cards perks like no foreign transaction fees and some travel insurance coverage. This card also offers travel credit -- a $50 Annual Hotel Credit for hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards each account anniversary. A unique feature is 1-to-1 points transfers with airline and hotel partners, allowing you more flexibility in your rewards redemption.

See more details in our full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Intro OfferNew Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

APR18.49% - 25.49% Variable

Intro Purchase APRN/A

Recommended Credit Excellent

Reward Rates

  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards┬«.
  • Earn 5x total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards┬«.
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Annual Fee$550

Balance Transfer APR18.49% - 25.49% Variable

Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater

Foreign Transaction Fees $0

Penalty APR Up to 29.99%

  • Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards┬«.
  • Earn 5x total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards┬«.
  • Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Our Take

The Chase Sapphire Reserve may look expensive at first glance, but the credits and rewards can easily compensate for the cost for frequent travelers. Not only will you earn great travel rewards, but you'll receive perks that save you time and energy during your journey. You'll get a statement credit reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck (worth $100 for Global Entry or $85 for TSA PreCheck, both valid for five years), which can save you the hassle of long security lines at the airport.

You'll automatically be reimbursed for up to $300 of travel expenses per year via the annual travel credit, plus you'll get airport lounge access through Priority Pass Select and a number of other VIP-style travel perks. 

For more details, see our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Intro Offer25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.

APR16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Intro Purchase APR0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases

Recommended Credit Excellent/Good

Reward Rates

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.

Annual Fee$0

Balance Transfer APR16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

Late Payment Fee See terms

Foreign Transaction Fees None

Penalty APR up to 29.99% APR

  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire.

Our Take

This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

For travel cards with no annual fee, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card offers one of the best flat rewards rate at 1.5 points per $1 spent on purchases. If you use the card to book your flights, hotels or other accommodations when you first get it, you'll likely be able to earn the welcome bonus -- and then later spend it on your charges as a statement credit. The introductory APR on purchases can offer some security as an emergency card while you're traveling, as well. If the unexpected happens and you need a last-minute flight back, you'll have time to pay it off.

For more details, see our full review of the Bank of America Travel Rewards card.

Intro OfferFor a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

APR17.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

Intro Purchase APRN/A

Recommended Credit Excellent, Good

Reward Rates

  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Annual Fee$95

Balance Transfer APR17.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

Balance Transfer Fee Balance transfer fee applies with this offer 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.

Late Payment Fee Up to $41

Foreign Transaction Fees 0%

Penalty APR Up to 29.99% (Variable)

  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Our Take

The Citi Premier® Card is Citi's competitor to the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Though the Sapphire Preferred may offer higher rewards rates on certain travel, the Citi Premier Card is less restrictive in the purchases that earn you points -- and 3x points is a respectable rate to offer for so many categories. The 80,000 point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months is fairly competitive, too: If you earn it, it's redeemable for $800 in gift cards, a statement credit or travel rewards at Thankyou.com.

There is a travel credit -- $100 Annual Hotel Savings Benefit toward a single hotel stay of $500 or more when booked through Thankyou.com, excluding taxes and fees -- but it's more restrictive than that of some of its competitors. 

For more information, check out our full review of the Citi Premier Card.

Intro OfferNew Venture cardholders can earn 75,000 miles once they spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

APR17.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

Intro Purchase APRN/A

Recommended Credit Excellent, Good

Reward Rates

  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

Annual Fee$95

Intro Balance Transfer APRN/A

Balance Transfer APR17.49% - 25.49% (Variable)

Balance Transfer Fee $0 at this Transfer APR

Late Payment Fee Up to $40

Foreign Transaction Fees None

Penalty APR None

  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.

Our Take

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a straightforward, easy-to-use option for those who want to book travel with travel reward miles generated from general spending, instead of worrying about eligible purchase spending categories. Besides the rewards and welcome bonus, The Capital One Venture also gives cardholders up to a $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, as well as travel accident insurance and auto rental collision insurance (terms, conditions and exclusions apply. Refer to your Guide to Benefits for more details).

Check out our full review of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

What are the benefits of travel rewards credit cards?

Travel rewards cards are designed for a few purposes. They can help you earn points or miles to be redeemed for travel expenses, insure trips from unexpected mishaps or upgrade your accommodations. Annual fees for travel cards can range from $0 to hundreds of dollars, so it's important to understand what you'll get before signing up.

Common travel card benefits include:

Boosted travel rewards: Many travel credit cards offer elevated rewards rates for travel purchases, such as flights and hotels.

Travel booking portals: Several major credit card issuers have their own travel portals for booking flights, hotels, rental cars and more. Sometimes, these portals offer better deals if you book using your points or miles.

Trip insurance: Many travel credit cards offer some combination of baggage insurance, trip delay, trip cancellation, trip interruption or car rental collision insurance. You'll have to check the fine print of each specific card for the details.

TSA PreCheck or Global Entry: Some credit cards will offer a credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. These programs help you get through security lines at the airport faster and may benefit frequent flyers.

Lounge access: A perk common among premium travel cards, some credit cards offer access to airport lounges. There, you can wait for your flight in comfort with refreshments, lounges and work areas.

Annual travel credits: Many travel cards offer some sort of annual travel credit, whether for hotels, flights or general travel purchases. These credits can range from $50 into the hundreds of dollars, but they typically only come with travel cards that have an annual fee.

Consider the combination of these travel perks along with rewards rates in a credit card offer, and compare it to your own travel habits before choosing a travel credit card.

FAQs

What are foreign transaction fees?

You won't find foreign transaction fees on most travel credit cards. Foreign transaction fees are charged by other types of credit cards when you use your card internationally. This charge is meant to cover transactional costs. In most cases, foreign transaction fees amount to 3% of the amount you charge to your credit card.

What are premium travel cards?

Premium travel cards are more expensive than most travel credit cards -- they typically have annual fees ranging in the hundreds of dollars. In exchange, they offer better benefits than typical travel cards, such as higher rewards rates, more annual credits or better travel upgrades. They're typically marketed to frequent travelers.

What's the difference between airline credit cards and travel credit cards?

Co-branded airline credit cards are designed for frequent flyers of a specific airline. Their benefits are usually more targeted to flights than general travel. For example, perks often include a discount on in-flight purchases, or companion fares that allow you to bring a guest on your trip. If you're not loyal to one airline, a general travel card usually offers better rewards for most travelers.

Read more: Airline Cards vs. Travel Credit Cards

Our methodology

CNET reviews credit cards by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each major category, including cash-back, welcome bonus, travel rewards and balance transfer. We take into consideration the typical spending behavior of a range of consumer profiles -- with the understanding that everyone's financial situation is different -- and the designated function of a card. 

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/credit-cards/best-travel-credit-card/

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