With the staggering number of different credit card companies that are in operation today comes a heightened need for each company to stay competitive, and stand out from the rest. One of the most popular methods of attracting new customers is the reward program, which offers different monetary, product-oriented, or service-related incentives. Prime among these is the travel rewards credit card.
What Is a Travel Rewards Credit Card?
As its name would indicate, a travel rewards credit card gives you travel incentives when you sign up the program or spend a specific amount of money with the card. There are three primary types of travel rewards programs.
- Airline: These award “miles” you can use towards the purchase of plane tickets at the specific airline cobranded with the card company. Miles are acquired in two ways, either as a large sum given as a bonus when you sign up, or a specific number of points for each dollar you spend. Some programs also provide you with access to a VIP lounge at the airport, class upgrades, or reduced or free baggage charges.
- Hotels: These award points usable towards the specific hotel chain that is partnering with the credit card company offering the program. Points can be used towards free nights, or accumulate towards an Elite status. This status can give you valuable benefits like guaranteed availability of rooms whenever you need one, and room upgrades.
- General: General travel rewards programs are usually not tied to a specific company, such as an airline or hotel chain. Instead, points or miles can be used with a variety of companies, giving you a flexibility not seen in the previous two types. In addition to airlines and hotel chains, some general rewards programs let you redeem points for things like car rentals and cruises.
The Best Programs Currently Available
There are a few things to look for when searching for the best travel rewards credit card program. These include how many points or miles you get when you sign up, how many you earn for each dollar spent, and if there are any spending thresholds you need to cross to qualify, to name just a few. While there are a number of quality programs available, there are some that definitely stand out as the most useful and valuable.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
As an all-around best pick for travel rewards programs, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card usually wins hands down. The Sapphire Preferred is an extremely flexible general card that allows you to use the points you accrue at many different airlines, hotels, and other travel-related products and services.
It starts off with a sizable 50,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 with the card in the first four months after acquiring it. Rewards are gained at an excellent 2.5 percent, one of the highest rates in the business. You can also transfer the Ultimate Rewards points you accumulate to other rewards programs, adding even more value if you want to use a specific brand or company.
Platinum Card from American Express
If you are looking for the best premium card, the Platinum Card from American Express is an excellent choice. Premium cards usually have a sizable annual fee, such as the $550 you will need to plunk down to get the Platinum Card. However, for many people with excellent credit (another requirement usually associated with premium cards) the rewards definitely make these hurdles well worth surmounting.
While the 60,000 points you receive as a sign-up bonus (if you make $5,000 worth of purchases in the first three months) is notable, it is the extra perks that really make this a fun card to have. Things like $200 towards Uber travel, a $200 airline credit towards extras like baggage fees, and access to the only worldwide lounge network, make the Platinum Card from American Express best for those with a more liberal budget.
Capital One Venture
Those who have a more limited budget, want flexibility, and prefer flat rates usually will gravitate towards the Capitol One Venture card. This starts out with no annual fee for the first year, followed by a reasonable $95 annually after that. A 50,000-point sign-up bonus (if you spend $3,000 in the first three months), and 10x mile bonus when you book stays through hotels.com also make this the right card for many people. You can also spend your points on many different travel-related expenses, such as paying for a cab, or going on a cruise.
Using a travel rewards credit card is an excellent way to save for those who do a decent amount of personal or business-related traveling. Always make sure to pick the card right for your individual situation and needs, and you will be reaping the benefits in no time.