Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards of 2021
Our collection of the best credit cards to maximize travel rewards makes it clear that travel reward rates are at an all-time high and should make it easy to find a great offer for you.
How Travel Reward Credit Cards Work
Before you start applying, let's take a look at how travel credit card offers work. The three most popular travel programs offer fixed value points, transferable points, or are co-branded.
- Fixed value cards offer you a certain value per point. For example, each point you earn may be worth a penny, with no limitations on the hotels or flights you can apply them toward.
- Transferable point programs allow you to accumulate points, but then let you choose between several designated programs. You transfer as many points as you'd like to the program of your choice for redemption, or use the card's travel portal to book travel with points.
- Co-branded programs usually partner with only one airline or hotel chain, but they often come with extra perks for those who are loyal to that brand, although their rewards aren't as flexible and in many cases, not as lucrative.
The biggest difference between fixed value and transferable point programs is how they are redeemed. Fixed value cards allow you to purchase travel with your card (also accumulating points for those purchases) and then redeem points as a statement credit to pay for those travel expenses.
With transferable programs, you must either transfer your points to a travel program to redeem travel, or use the credit card's travel portal to book travel with your points. Usually this gives you a few more options in travel partners than with a co-branded card which is designated for one particular program.
Of course, you'll need to review the terms of any program you choose. Some reward programs only allow you to fly economy, while others will give you the option to upgrade to first class at a reduced rate. Some of the best credit cards to maximize travel rewards will also include other valuable benefits like large signup bonus offers, flexible reward redemption or travel insurance.
What to Look for When Comparing Travel Credit Card Offers
As you might guess, no two credit cards are created equal. So, what should you look for as you consider travel credit card offers?
- Does the card have an annual fee? Some don't have an extra fee at all, but others have fees ranging from $95 to $550 per year. Consider how often you travel to be sure the rewards will outpace the fee.
- Does the program cap the number of miles or rewards points you can earn per month, quarter, or year?
- Is the card giving you perks you can apply toward future travel or are you simply getting cash back on travel-related purchases?
- Are the reward rates limited to certain purchase categories, or are they unlimited?
- What type of signup bonus offer does the program have and how much is it worth?
- What additional travel rewards are offered for purchases?
Qualifying for Travel Reward Credit Cards
Ready to see if you qualify? Take a look at our list of the best travel credit cards in 2019. Make sure you take a look at the terms and conditions and consider interest rates, fees, and credit score limitations before you apply.
When you're ready, click the green “Apply Now” button to go directly to each card's application page. As soon as you have your card information, you can start tracking your spending, racking up your travel rewards, and planning your next trip!