touristsTravel junkies – we all know one of them. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them, or at least aspiring to become one.

Luckily, it’s easier now than ever to travel for free thanks to generous credit card rewards programs. If you use credit cards, you need to start taking advantage of the best rewards programs.

Whether you’re getting around by plane, train, or automobile, churning credit cards or just looking for a little bonus, here are the 17 best credit cards for travel rewards.

Best for Everyday Use

Capital One Venture Rewards

This has consistently been rated as one of the best travel credit cards for years due to the flexibility of its redemption system. You can redeem your points for a huge variety of travel rewards. No blackout dates, no expiration date.

Sign-on bonus: 40,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months

Annual fee: $0 first year, $59 after

Rewards: 2 miles per $1 spent

Best for Free Hotel Nights

Chase Hyatt

While the sign-on bonus here doesn’t get you as many nights as others, the perk here is that you can use your free nights at any Hyatt property in the world, including properties that normally cost nearly $1,000/night. Think 2 nights at the Park Hyatt New York, one of their nicest properties in the world, for New Year’s Eve – for FREE!

Sign-on bonus: 2 free nights at any Hyatt resort or hotel worldwide if you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months, 5,000 extra points for adding an authorized user who makes a purchase in the first 3 months

Annual fee: $75

Rewards: 3 points per $1 spent at Hyatt properties, 2 points per $1 at restaurants, airlines, and car rental agencies, 1 point for everything else

Other perks: 1 free night every year

Chase IHG

This is a great card to start racking up rewards with, especially if you can get the 80,000 points bonus.

Sign-on bonus: I’ve seen 60,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months and 80,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.

Annual fee: $49, waived the first year

Rewards: 5 points per $1 at IHG properties, 2 points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, and restaurants, 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.

Other perks: 1 free night every year

Marriott Rewards Premier

Sign-on bonus: 80,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months

Annual fee: $85

Rewards: 5 points per $1 spent at Marriott and SPG properties, 2 points per $1 spent at airlines, car rentals, and restaurants, 1 point for everything else.

Other perks: 1 free night each year, automatic silver elite status which includes 20% bonus points on stays, late checkout, and a 10% discount on weekend stays.

Best for Air Travel (Specific Airlines)

Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite

Sign-on bonus: 30,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Rewards: 2 miles for every $1 spent on AA, 1 on all other purchases

Other perks: 25% savings on in-flight food and beverages, 10% of your redeemed miles are earned back each year

Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express

Sign-on bonus: 30,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months, but look around for better offers. I’ve seen them as high as 50,000 miles.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Rewards: 2 miles for every $1 spent on Delta, 1 for everything else

Other perks: $50 statement credit if you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months, first checked bag free, priority boarding

Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express

Sign-on bonus: 35,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. However, I’ve seen much larger offers before, as high as 75,000, so wait for a good one.

Annual fee: $195, not waived the first year, but you get a $100 statement credit if you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months.

Rewards: 2 miles per $1 spent on Delta, 1 for everything else

Other perks: 20% savings on in-flight purchases, first checked bag free, priority boarding

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

Sign-on bonus: 40,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months, 50,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months

Annual fee: $99

Rewards: 2 points per $1 spent on hotels, car rentals, and Southwest purchases, 1 on everything else

Other perks: 6,000 points every year on your card anniversary, a companion pass if you hit 110,000 points in a year (not including sign-on bonus)

Best for Air Travel (Flexible)

Chase Sapphire Preferred

This card has been named the “Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption” by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards system is widely loved by travel rewards aficionados for being valuable and easy to redeem. If you can hit the minimum spend requirements, you can get a lot of valuable points.

Sign-on bonus: 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, 5,000 extra points for adding an authorized user who makes a purchase in the first 3 months

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Rewards: 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining, 1 points on everything else

Other perks: 25% extra value added to your points if you redeem them through Chase

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

The points you earn aren’t tied to a specific carrier and can also be redeemed at a range of partner airlines and hotel chains.

Sign-on bonus: 50,000 points if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months

Annual fee: $89, waived the first year

Rewards: 2 points for every $1 spent

Other perks: 5% points back when you redeem points for travel

Best for Airport Lounge Access and VIP Travel

The Platinum Card from American Express

This card is not cheap, but the perks are endless.

Sign-on bonus: 40,000 MR points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. This bonus has gotten up to a whopping 100,000 MR points, one of the highest sign-on bonuses out there.

Annual fee: $450

Rewards: 5 points for every $1 spent at an airline or on AmEx Travel, 1 on everything else

Other perks: Exclusive airport lounge access, including access to the Global Lounge Collection. This is the only credit card that gives you proprietary lounge access worldwide. You also get $200 airline fee credit and up to $200 a year off baggage fees, including more perks at one airline of your choice. You also get Hilton Honors Gold status. Finally, you get a fee credit to pay for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

This is another spendy but high-reward card.

Sign-on bonus: 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months

Annual fee: $450

Rewards:

Other perks: Priority pass select membership which gives you access to over 900 airport lounges worldwide, a $300 travel credit every year on your card anniversary, 25% value added to your points if you redeem them through Chase, and a fee credit that pays for TSA PreCheck or Global entry.

Best for Free Rental Car Days

Although flexible rewards systems like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points and American Express Membership Rewards points will allow you to use your points for a rental car, it’s never a good deal compared to booking flights or hotel nights. You also still have to pay taxes and insurance fees when you show up to rent the car.

On top of that, while many credit cards offer rental insurance that’s extremely helpful to have, it’s only valid when you pay for the car in full with that credit card. If you paid for part of the rental using rewards points, you might not be covered.

While booking rental cards with points isn’t a great deal, these cards will give you elite status with companies like Avis and National so you can accumulate free rental days faster:

  • Any American Express Platinum Card
  • Citi Prestige
  • Citi ThankYou Premier
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite
  • United MileagePlus Club Card

Best for Train Travel

Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard

Redemption is very limited with this card (you can only redeem rewards for, you guessed it, train travel with Amtrak), but it is very high value. Rewards rates are as high as 2.6%-7.8%.

Sign-on bonus: 20,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. A round-trip ticket from Boston to LA is usually 10,500 points.

Annual fee: $79

Rewards: 3 points per $1 spent on Amtrak, 2 points per $1 spent on other travel, 1 point for everything else

Other perks: One buy one get one free Companion Coupon every year, as well as one class upgrade and a single day ClubAcela Amtrak lounge pass

Best for High Value Points

Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

The biggest sign-on bonus this card has ever had is back, but not for long. It doesn’t look as big as other cards, but Starpoints are consistently ranked as the most valuable points in the credit card game, often worth twice the value of other point systems. You can stay at a beautiful resort in Bali for just 7,000 points per night.

Sign-on bonus: 25,000 Starpoints if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, 10,000 more if you spend another $2,000 in the first 6 months.

Annual fee: $95, waived the first year

Rewards: 2 points per $1 spent at SPG and Marriott properties, 1 on all other purchases

Other perks: Free in-room internet access at SPG and Marriott hotels and incredible ways to redeem your points, including a luxury suite at a Lakers game at the Staples Center or backstage passes to Coachella.

Best for No Annual Fee

BankAmericard Travel Rewards

Sign-on bonus: 20,000 points if you make $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days

Annual fee: None

Rewards: 1.5 points for every $1 spent

Other perks: 0% APR for first 12 billing cycles, flexible rewards, 10-75% off when you redeem your points if you’re a Bank of America customer

Discover it Miles

Sign-on bonus: None, but at the end of your first year they match the rewards you’ve earned dollar for dollar

Annual fee: None

Rewards: 1.5 miles for every $1 spent, 3 miles for every $1 spent your first year due to their matching program

Other perks: No cap on miles you can earn, no minimum spend, miles can be redeemed on all kinds of airlines, hotels, car rentals, and even taxi rides, tours, and subway passes.

Best Business Credit Card for Travel Rewards

Chase Ink Business Preferred

This one has a big sign-on bonus right now, and works great with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards. Pair it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-on bonus, and you’ve racked up 130,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

Sign-on bonus: Right now they’re running a bonus that gets you 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points if you can spend $5,000 within the first 3 months

Annual fee: $95

Rewards: 3 points per $1 spent on travel, shipping, internet, cable, and phone services, and advertising purchases, 1 point per $1 spent on everything else

Other perks: Points are worth 25% more when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 1:1 point transfer to major airlines and hotel chains, trip insurance, employee cards at no additional cost.

Which card do you use to travel?

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