Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards for 2017

by Sean Bryant on November 10, 2017

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

My wife and I love the thrill of traveling. We usually will take at least one big trip each year and sometimes we try for two. To make our trips a little bit more affordable, we both carry travel rewards credit cards. This allows us to earn airline miles or hotel points just for making our normal purchases, like groceries or a night out with friends. Below I have listed off what I personally feel are the best travel rewards credit cards. Each of these cards will get you on your way to a free vacation.

5 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

One of the best new travel cards available is the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠. This card is perfect for any traveler looking for a luxury travel experience. When you sign up, you will receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. The signup bonus is worth $750 worth of travel.

When you use the card on travel or at restaurants you will earn 3x points. Purchases made on all other purchases will earn 1x points. When it’s time to redeem the points you earn, there are several different options. Two of the most popular are to transfer points to one of the Chase Ultimate Reward travel partners or booking travel directly through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

The biggest downside to the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is the high $450 annual fee. However, with the annual fee you will receive several valuable travel benefits. To start, you will receive a $300 annual travel credit that can be used toward any travel expense. You will also receive a $100 statement credit toward TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Plus, you will also have access to over 1,000 Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide. You will also receive no foreign transaction fees.

Apply for Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express gives you the best of both worlds. You’ll receive the benefits of a hotel branded credit card and the convenience of a transferable points card. After signing up, you will receive 30,000 Starpoints® after making $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. Cardholders will receive up to five Starpoints® per $1 spent at Starwood Properties, two points at Marriott Properties, and one point on everything else.

Starpoints® can be redeemed at most Starwood properties. You can also transfer your points to more than 20 different airlines at a 1:1 ratio. When you go this route you will receive an extra 5,000 airline miles for every 20,000 Starpoints® transferred.  Cardholders will also receive five nights and two stays towards elite status. There are no foreign transaction fees and an annual fee of $95, which is waived the first year.

Apply for Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express

Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®

The Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® makes our list of the best travel credit cards because of its redemption flexibility. Instead of being restricted to how you use your miles, you can redeem your Arrival Plus miles on any travel expense that you have.

When you sign up for the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® you will receive 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. Each mile is worth one cent, which means the sign up bonus would be worth $400 towards travel. When you use the card on purchases you will receive 2x miles for every $1 spent. Plus, when you redeem your miles, you will receive five percent back into your account for future use.

Have a balance from a high interest credit card? When you transfer that balance to the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® within the first 45 days, you will receive an introductory zero percent APR for 12 months. There is an $89 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.

Apply for Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

If you are looking for a flexible travel credit card then the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card is another great option. When you sign up you will receive 20,000 points after making $1,000 in purchases within 90 days. This is good for a $200 statement credit toward any travel purchase. Then each time you use your card you will receive an unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent.

If you are a Bank of America banking customer then you will earn an additional 10% on top of the standard rewards. Plus, if you are a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client, you could earn a bonus of 25 percent to 75 percent. Not a bad deal for a card that has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Are you planning to make a large purchase in the near future? With the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card you will receive an introductory 0 percent APR on purchases for 12 months.

Apply for Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

If you’re frequently spending money on travel or at restaurants then the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card might be a great option. With this card you will earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in three months. You can earn an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user and they make a purchases within three months. When you use the card on travel or at restaurants you will earn 2x points for every $1 spent. All other purchases will earn 1x points per $1 spent.

What makes the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card so valuable is all the ways you can redeem your points. You can book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Each point will be worth 1.25 cents. Otherwise, you can transfer your points to one of several different transfer partners including, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and Hyatt.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card does come with a $95 annual fee, however it’s waived the first year.

Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred®

Travel for free

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created OneSmartDollar.com in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and he wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his daughter Colette and dog Charlie.

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  • I have a crappy travel rewards card from about 6 years back that I keep because it has a big credit line. I almost never use it because the rewards are so terrible. I would have a hard time getting another travel card after that because I am biased towards my Discover cash back card.

    • If you are not going to be buying a home or car soon, I would highly suggest looking into the Chase Sapphire card. You can always grab the bonus which is worth $500 in travel and then cancel it if you don’t find it worth the annual fee that you will get in year two.

  • Kim

    I have heard so many good things about Chase Sapphire, but I just really don’t want to apply for another card and don’t know that I’d have 3K to put on it unless I could pay the mortgage with a credit card!

    • Kim

      OK, I just have to get that travel reward before the holidays so I applied through your site. I realized I can use it for my business and will meet the reward minimum in less that a month. Hope you get a good reward as well.

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