The Ins and Outs
Why Travel Credit Cards?
When it comes to traveling, there are a few general tips and tricks that people tend to talk about. Being one of the most prominent topics, travel credit cards are extremely beneficial if used properly. Personally, I use a travel credit card that does not contain any annual fees and earns me points on every purchase (with higher rates of points on specific purchases like travel, restaurants, etc.). Each year, my girlfriend and I go on a large trip to Europe; after a year of activity on my travel credit card, I have enough points to cover my flight and a bit beyond that.
That is, simply by using my credit card all year and paying off the balance each month (no carrying costs, no interest charges) I earn roughly $600-1,000 that I put towards the trips that I go on each year. Travel credit cards are a simple “hack” that should not be overlooked – they’re pretty easy to get and could earn you quite a substantial amount of money.
Top 5 Travel Credit Cards
Best for No Annual Fee - Wells Fargo Autograph Card
- No annual fee.
- 3x points on specific transactions.
- $200 cash bonus if $1,000 is spent in the first 3 months.
- Lower credit requirements.
- 0% intro. APR for the first 12 months.
- Cannot transfer points.
- Less benefits than the paid cards provide.
- No “specialized” rewards.
Wells Fargo’s Autograph Card is a great one to consider if you do not want to pay any annual fees for your credit card! For me, I have steered clear of annual fee cards as I never found it worthwhile personally; this card is right up my alley. This card offers a $200 sign-up bonus and 3x points on travel, dining, gas stations, transit, streaming services and phone plans. The only downside to this card is the lack of “specialized” travel rewards and less up-front credit than other competing cards might provide.
Best Overall - American Express Gold Card
- $120 dining credit for eligible restaurants.
- $120 Uber credit.
- 4x points at restaurants; 3x points on flights.
- Baggage insurance for up to $1,500 if damaged, lost or stolen.
- No international purchase fees/charges.
- $250 annual fee.
- Requires great credit.
- No intro. APR period.
The American Express Gold Card is pretty popular and well-known amongst everyone; it has gained quite a recognition, even beyond the idea of a travel card. AMEX is a great overall call due to the great benefits and credits that members have access to – you pretty much pay off your annual fee just through access to those initial credits and benefits. The biggest struggle with this card, though, is the high credit score requirement paired with the moderate annual fee.
Best for Luxury Travel - Chase Sapphire Reserve
- $300 annual travel credit.
- $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit.
- Access to 1,000+ VIP lounges internationally.
- Special benefits at luxury hotels.
- $550 annual fee.
- No intro. APR period.
- 5% balance transfer fee.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is best for luxury travelers looking to get more high-class benefits out of their card. Most notably, cardholders get $300 annual travel credit, $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit and access to 1,000+ VIP lounges. When traveling, cardholders have access to lounges in over 500 countries and can use their card for benefits at various participating luxury hotels. This card is on the more expensive side, though, with a $550 annual fee and a high balance transfer fee.
Best Airline Card - United Club Infinite Card
- No foreign transaction fee.
- 1st and 2nd checked bags are free when booked with a United card.
- 80,000 bonus miles if you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
- 4x points on United purchases; 2x points on all other travel and dining.
- $525 annual fee.
- No intro. APR.
- High regular APR.
The United Club Infinite Card is an exceptional option if you are looking for an airline-specific travel card. This card has no foreign transaction fees, covers the 1st and 2nd checked bag on United flights and offers 80,000 bonus miles if you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Again, the biggest downside to this card is the $525 annual fee and the high regular APR charged.
Best for Students - Bank of America Travel Rewards
- No annual fee.
- No limit or expiration on points.
- $250 welcome bonus if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.
- No fees are charged on purchases outside of the U.S.
- 0% intro APR for first 18 months.
- No student-centric benefits.
- 3% balance transfer fee.
- Requires good to excellent credit.
Like the Wells Fargo card mentioned above, Bank of America offers a free travel rewards card. The Bank of America Travel card has no annual fee, no limit or expiration on points, a $250 welcome bonus and no fees charged on purchases made outside of the United States. This is a great free option for those who do not like to pay annual fees on their card!
Consider Your Options!
As always, consider your options before applying for a specific travel credit card. Each card will have its own fee structure, rewards programs and credit requirements – depending on your needs or desires, one of the five cards mentioned above should do the trick!