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Top 5 Credit Cards for Travelers

Rewards ranging from free flights and hotel rooms to cash back and event tickets

Flickr/Robert S. Donovan

While most travelers are looking forward to their next vacation, the smartest travelers are constantly looking for ways to save on their next trip. Travel is usually expensive and most of us could use a hand paying for our next adventure. Luckily, there are options beyond the tiny ceramic piggy bank and booking at the right time.

Travel rewards credit cards are great tools for earning free flights, hotel stays and, in some cases, cash back and a whole lot more. We sized up the competition and have compiled a list of the best credit cards for travelers. In our comparison, we considered a few of the most important factors: the initial bonus, the value over time, flexibility in both earning and redeeming rewards, the foreign transaction fee and the annual fee were the main factors in our rankings.

No single card is best for everyone, it’s important to know your spending habits, credit score and how you’ll likely use the rewards. You’ll find a quick look at some of the more notable features of each card below, but before applying or using any card be sure to read the terms and conditions. Check out our list and get one step closer to your next getaway.

5 The US Airways Premier World MasterCard

Best for frequent US Airways or American Airlines flyers that are looking to earn free flights and airline perks.
Bonus: 40,000 miles after first purchase and payment of the annual fee—equivalent to a flight to the Caribbean.
Return on Spending: Earn two miles per dollar spent on US Airways and one mile on every dollar spent elsewhere.
Redeeming Miles/Points: Redeem miles for US Airways or American Airlines flights booked through US Airways.
Annual Fee: $89
Foreign Transaction Fee: 3 percent

4 Marriott Rewards Premier Card

Best for loyal Marriott guests looking to earn free hotel stays.
Bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months, a free night upon opening the account and one free night every year the account is open. Additionally, earn one Elite Night Credit for every $3,000 spent.
Return on Spending: 5 points per dollar spent at Marriott locations, 2 points for select travel expenses and 1 point for every dollar spent elsewhere.
Redeeming Points: Points can be redeemed through Marriott’s reward program, where you can choose from flights, car rentals, packages and, of course, hotel rooms.
Annual Fee: fee waived for the first year, then $85 annually
Foreign Transaction Fee: no fee

3 The Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express

Best for those looking to save on hotels and flights—the program offers savings on more than 1,100 hotels in nearly 100 countries, or flights from more than 150 different airlines.
Bonus: Up to 25,000 points: 10,000 points after first purchase and 15,000 after you spend $5,000 in the first six months—equivalent to $550.
Return on Spending: 3-5 points per dollar on purchases made at a Starwood property; one point per dollar on all other purchases.
Redeeming Points: Either redeem through their program or one of almost 30 other frequent flyer programs (usually on a one-to-one basis). When you transfer more than 20,000 points to a frequent flyer program, you’ll earn a 5,000 point bonus.
Annual Fee: fee waived for the first year, then $65 annually
Foreign Transaction Fee: 2.7 percent

2 Chase Sapphire Preferred

Best for those who travel or eat at restaurants frequently, as the card only returns one point for everyday expenses like groceries and gas.
Bonus: 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in three months—equivalent to $500, when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Return on Spending: 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and restaurants; one point per dollar on all other purchases.
Redeeming Points: Easy redemption with additional savings when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Annual Fee: fee waived for the first year, then $95 annually
Foreign Transaction Fee: no fee

1 Barclaycard Arrival

Best for those who want flexibility (in spending and redeeming rewards); this card offers the best return on everyday spending.
Bonus: 40,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days—equivalent to $440.
Return on Spending: 2x miles on all purchases.
Redeeming Miles: Easy and flexible travel rewards redemption, with options to redeem for cash back or other items. Typically miles can be redeemed for anything travel related. I have this card and I’ve redeemed everything from flights to concerts and my daily commute (NYC subway). Every time you redeem travel miles, you get 10 percent of those miles back.
Annual Fee: fee waived for the first year, then $89 annually
Foreign Transaction Fee: no fee

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