How to Pick a Travel Rewards Credit Card 

Many credit cards offer perks for occasional and frequent travelers. Here’s what to look for. 

Overhead photo of hands holding a credit card and using laptop to make a travel reservation

A good credit card can be more than just a way to pay the bills. When used responsibly, the right card can make your travels even better, giving you extra perks and additional security. When searching for the best travel credit card, look for these features and membership rewards to get the most from your trips. 

Earn rewards and travel benefits on what you buy most.

Many cards let users earn bonus points, merchandise or cash for every purchase, but those aimed at travelers often offer rewards based on types of purchases—usually more for travel-related transactions. For example, buying cruise tickets might earn three points for each dollar spent, while other transactions would earn one point per dollar. Many cards, like the AAA Cashback Visa Signature Card®, also offer additional rewards on common expenses you’d shop for anyway, like gas or groceries. The rewards points add up quickly, providing you with easy savings.

Collect big bonuses up front on travel purchases and more.

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For new customers who meet certain spending habits during the first few months, some travel credit cards offer extra incentives—in the form of points, airline miles for general travel or cash beyond standard rewards. In addition, some annual travel credit cards provide a welcome offer (or welcome bonus or signup bonus), statement credit, and even extra bonus categories, too. These cards usually require excellent credit (and credit score), but the payoffs can add up quickly. For example, new AAA card members can get a $100 statement credit when they spend $1,500 in qualifying purchases*.

When you consider the expenses for a vacation—airfare, hotel stays, rental cars, dining
purchases or even the requirements for international travel—it’s easy to meet the qualifying purchase limit.

Get extra perks and protection across spending categories.

Look for travel protections such as rental car insurance, travel and emergency assistance and lost-luggage coverage. If you travel abroad, you’ll want a card that waives foreign transaction fees on purchases you make with your credit card, which usually range from 1% to 4%. These international travel fees can become costly quickly. Some cards offer additional perks, like concierge services, free checked bags and priority boarding. Before booking, look for any blackout dates during your given calendar year.

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Cardholders should use the latest tech to stay secure.

Chip-enabled cards are relatively new in the United States, but they’re standard overseas, where traditional “swipe” cards often are declined. To avoid inconvenience during your international travels, and to frustrate would-be thieves, be sure your travel rewards credit card has the latest safety technology.

Don’t be blinded by the benefits of credit card offers.

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Travel rewards credit cards often have higher interest rates than regular cards, so if you carry a monthly balance, you might pay more in interest than you earn in rewards.

Also, be sure the travel credit card’s annual fee doesn’t offset its benefits. (Some cards come with a high annual fee—even for a frequent flyer.) And if you’re considering a card for travel expenses—or even if you already have a card with a rewards program—compare multiple offers to find those that best fit your travel needs and offers the best travel rewards and travel perks.

Also look to see what types of travel are covered by the card, as well as the rewards rate, intro APR and if there’s a fee for balance transfers.

With plenty of credit card issuers available, you should have your choice of offers.

*Cash back can be redeemed in the form of a statement credit or ACH deposit. *Earn $100 cash back when you spend $1,500 within the first 90 days of account opening.

The creditor and issuer of these cards is U.S. Bank NA dba ACG Card Services, pursuant to a license from Mastercard International Incorporated. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. © 2018 ACG Card Services. All Rights Reserved. Equal Credit Opportunity Lender.

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