Top 10 Travel Reward Cards for 2021
Are travel reward cards only for frequent travelers?
What do I have to do to get a travel reward card?
These are the questions that have crossed all our minds at some point. You are in the right place as this article will answer all of your questions.
The rise of social media platforms travel influencers, and the popularity of YouTube travel vloggers is an accomplice to the traveling craze. More and more people are discovering exotic places on the planet we call home, wondering how to snag free around-the-world holidays using free rewards.
However, travel freedom does not come with exclusivity for social media celebrities. If you have a decent credit history/score, you too can enjoy the perks of a travel reward card. But, you must remember nothing comes for free, and you will pay higher rates and hefty fees with some.
Therefore, if you are bad at handling your finances, think twice before opting for a travel reward card. Let us explore what these travel-made-easy cards are and if they are really worth it.
What is a Travel Reward Card
A travel reward card offers you to earn rewards that you can use towards travel. If lucky, you can even score a complimentary night’s stay at your favorite hotel or get a free airline ticket.
Moreover, a travel reward card can help you get a free upgrade to a first-class seat, access free meals at the airport’s exclusive lounge, etc. The perks for each card may vary, but all of them come with bountiful benefits to leverage your traveling dreams.
Types of Travel Reward Cards
- General travel Card – This card offers you flexible terms on how to earn and redeem the reward points. You may also earn points through your daily shopping. Some general travel reward cards come with the added benefits of making your trips more convenient—for example, no international transaction fee, TSA pre-check entry globally, etc.
- Airline Reward Credit Cards – If you are an avid flyer with a specific airline, they may offer you a reward credit card through their loyalty program. These travel reward cards allow you to earn a generous sum of air miles or reward points. You can redeem these points to enjoy several perks such as free flights, seat upgrades, free checked bags, early boarding, etc.
- Hotel Reward Credit Cards – A hotel travel reward card allows accelerated accumulation of reward points you can use to book rooms with the issuing hotel. Other perks may include complimentary breakfast, room upgrades, and access to exclusive events.
Is there an Annual Fee?
Some travel reward cards ask for an annual fee; however, you must weigh the fee against the perks and determine if it is worth it.
If you are a frequent flyer and shopper, it will not hurt to pay a fee to grab free checked bags, prioritized boarding, and reimbursements of your in-flight spending. All of them and more can help you save a considerable amount on your trips.
How to Choose a Best Travel Reward Card
If you are looking to buy a travel reward card that can suit and support your traveling and shopping lifestyle, here are a few things you must consider.
- What kind of rewards does it offer?
- Will you be using all of the perks and benefits offered?
If a reward card offers a lot of perks but does not suit your lifestyle, it is no good for you. Have you ever tried to look for a pattern in your traveling and spending habits?
If not, now is the perfect time to jot it all down on paper and see where you fly, shop, and dine the most. Next, weigh if a travel reward card can help you earn points for all your spending.
Pros and Cons of Using a Travel Reward Card
Remember only to get a travel reward card if you believe that you will be making the most out of it. Otherwise, it will be like one of those gym memberships that you pay for every month but never visit. Why put an extra burden on your finances if you will not use it for its purpose?
That said – here are some of the pros and cons that will surely help you decide if you need a travel reward card in your wallet.
- Now earn, as you spend – As much as it sounds too good to be true, but it is correct that now you can earn reward points while you spend hard-earned cash. You will earn reward points for every dollar you spend with your travel reward card. Once you have accumulated enough points, you can redeem them on flights, accommodation, etc.
- Get Discounts – Apart from the reward points, you can avail of real-time discounted rates and rebates on your shopping spree. This is a double treat meaning every time you purchase an item, you may get a percentage discount and yet earn reward points for buying it – a true WIN-WIN.
- Free Travelling – Travel reward cards work similarly to a cashback credit card from your bank. With each dollar spend, you collect a maximum number of points equivalent to cash or air miles. When you have accumulated enough points, you can use them to avail of the instant free airline ticket. However, you can only use these points with the travel reward card issuing airline or their partnered services.
- Additional Privileges – In addition to earning miles and points, you can use several exclusive privileges such as travel accident insurance, cash, card emergency replacement, car rental insurance, etc.
- High Yearly Fee – Although you get all the perks, they come at a high annual fee at times. Therefore, you must find a travel reward that offers the most benefits for the lowest possible annual charge. If lucky, you may even find a travel reward card that offers great deals and discounts without any annual fee. All you need is a bit of research before buying.
- High-Interest Rates – In addition to the annual fee, you will have to pay higher interest rates. You may get a travel reward credit card that charges a variable interest rate, meaning the rate you are shopping at today may become increasingly expensive with time. Therefore, you must always shop for a travel reward credit card that offers you low introductory interest rates. However, make sure they do not have terms and conditions where the rate jumps drastically after the expiration of the introductory period.
- Limitations – Another drawback of having a travel reward is the limitations on collection and redemption of points or miles. Yes, the card may promise to offer you the most generous points or mile accrual scheme. However, there may be certain conditions, such as you can only use them when you have reached the maximum limit. Some travel reward cards allow you to use the accrued points or miles within a specific time frame. If you do not use them, the points expire, and you have to start from scratch and earn new points for future travel discounts.
You will not get an open disclosure for all of the limitations, high rates, and fees mentioned above. They are only available in the terms and conditions section. You find them out only when you try to redeem the points, and specific clauses come into effect.
Therefore, no matter how promising a travel reward card may seem, always take your time to find out about the charges, interest variable rates, hidden charges, expiration terms, conditions, etc.
Top 10 Travel Reward Cards in 2021
Now that you know everything there is to know about travel reward cards, here are ten of the most popular travel reward cards available in 2021.
1. Chase Freedom Unlimited
A travel reward card by Chase is probably one of the best available cards in 2021. There is no annual fee to use this card, and the reward rates are lucrative. You can earn up to 5% cashback on your grocery shopping per year, spending up to $12,000.
You can earn 5% on travel purchases through Chase. Additionally, you will earn 3% cashback on dining at many restaurants, shopping at drugstores, and 1% on numerous other purchases.
To earn a $200 bonus, you have to spend $500 on shopping in the first 90 days of opening your account.
You will require a credit rating between 690 – 850, and you will not get any other travel perks but cash backs only. Moreover, you have to pay an international transaction fee when shopping on your trips.
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
If you fancy getting an intro offer, check out Chase Sapphire. You will get 3 months from getting your card to spend $4,000, which will unlock your 60,000 bonus reward points. Chase charges an annual fee of $95 on this card.
You can earn 5x reward points on Lyft rides till March 2022. Moreover, you get to earn 2x points on spending up to $1,000 at a grocery store from November 1st, 2020, to April 30th, 2021. This includes eligible delivery services as well.
If that is not enough, you will get 1x reward point for each dollar you spend on any purchases anywhere in the world. Chase accepts anyone with a credit score between 690 and 850.
There are some shortcomings of this card, such as no enhanced redemption value, no transferrable points. Plus, you have to pay an international transaction fee when you buy on vacation.
3. Freedom Flex by Chase
This travel reward card by Chase technically offers cashback. However, you do get a whopping reward rate of 5% on your travel bookings. This alone makes Freedom Flex one of the most lucrative travel reward cards in 2021.
The interest rate varies between 1 and 5%, and Chase accepts a credit score between 690 – 850 to issue this card. To unlock the bonus reward of $200, you need to spend $500 in the first 3 months of getting your card. However, you have to pay an international transaction fee on foreign shopping trips.
4. Capital One Venture Travel Reward Card
Capital One is offering promising perks with their Venture travel reward card. It is a pure reward card with a reward rate of 2x points on every purchase you make in your daily life. You can also earn 100,000 bonus miles if you spend $20,000 within the first 12 months of opening your account.
If you cannot spend that much in a year, you will still earn 50,000 miles for spending $3,000 during the first 3 months of account opening. You can also transfer earned miles to other airline loyalty programs. To get this travel reward card, you need a credit rating of 690-850 and pay a $95 annual fee.
The only drawback is there are no airline or accommodation perks such as free upgrades, checked bags, etc.
5. American Express Gold
The American Express’s Gold travel reward card provides you handsome returns on airline tickets, restaurants, and grocery spending. However, all of these perks come at a hefty cost of a $250 annual fee – if that is something you would not mind paying. You need an excellent credit score between 690 and 850 to grab this card.
For all that hassle, you will get 4x membership reward points for spending up to $25,000 on dining worldwide and shopping at U.S. supermarkets. After reaching the $25,000 spending limit, you get 1x reward points. Moreover, you get 3x points on flight bookings on amextravel.com or directly with an airline.
Use your new card to spend $4,000 on specific purchases, and you will earn 60,000 membership reward points.
6. American Express’s Platinum Card
Fancy earning 10x points on all eligible purchases at U.S. supermarkets and gas stations? Get yourself a Platinum Card. All you need to do is spend $15,000 in the first 6 months of getting your card. Moreover, you can earn 5x rewards on flight bookings with Amex travel or directly with the airlines.
Spend $5,000 in the first 6 months of opening your card, and you will get a bonus of 75,000 reward points. That said, all these luxurious perks come at a whopping annual fee of $550. If you have a credit score between 690 and 850 and do not mind paying a hefty annual fee, this is a perfect card for your wallet.
7. United Explorer Card
This travel reward card by United comes with zero annual fees for the first year, then $95 from the second year onward. You can unlock the bonus reward of 60,000 miles on spending $3,000 within the first three months of getting your card. You can also earn an extra 10,000 miles if you spend $6,000 within the first 6 months.
You will be earning 2 miles for each dollar spent on United purchases, hotels, restaurants, and eligible delivery services. You can apply for this card if you have a credit rating between 690 and 850. However, it is best only if you are a frequent flyer as you only get flying miles and no cash backs.
8. Hyatt Credit Card
If you are a frequent traveler and always looking for the best hotel discounts, The World of Hyatt travel reward credit card may help. For an annual fee of $95, you will earn 9 reward points on every dollar spent at Hyatt. Moreover, you will get 4 bonus points for using this card at Hyatt’s hotels.
You will also earn 2 reward bonus points for each dollar spent buying airline tickets, dining at the restaurants, fitness clubs, gyms, and local transit system. You can unlock the bonus reward of 25,000 points by spending 3,000 on this card in the first 3 months. The credit score requirements are 690 to 850.
9. Citi Premier Card
Opt for this card only if you have an excellent credit score between 720 and 850 and do not mind paying a $95 annual fee. However, getting this card will get you a lucrative reward rate of earning 3 points for each dollar spent traveling and gas stations.
You also earn 2 points for every dollar spent at the restaurants. For any other purchase, you will earn a point per dollar spent. To unlock the bonus reward of 60,000 points, you need to spend $4,000 within the first 3 months of getting your card.
10. Travel Reward Credit Card by Bank of America
Promisingly the travel Reward Credit Card by Bank of America comes at no annual fee. Plus, you get an intro offer to unlock 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening the account.
You need a credit score between 690 and 850 to get this card. You can earn unlimited reward points at 1.5 points for each dollar you spend, and the best part is, these points have no expiration date.
The card is more suitable for frequent flyers, travelers, and spenders because these rewards are lower than what other top travel reward cards offer.
There are myriads of other options available when it comes to travel reward cards. Make sure to proceed with due diligence and pick a card that piques your interest in terms of your budgets and needs.
Cary Silverman is a consummate entrepreneur having sold multiple companies during his 20 years of business experience in the financial industry, but for him, it isn’t about the money. His success is rooted in his passion to focus on doing something better today than it was done yesterday. These days, he’s the CEO of Waldo General, Inc. that oversees the operation of King of Kash.