Best travel cards for each type of traveler

Young woman on vacation in Paris after finding the best travel card for herImage: Young woman on vacation in Paris after finding the best travel card for her

In a Nutshell

Before booking your next trip, check out these travel rewards cards and see which one is the right fit for you.
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At a glance: The best travel rewards credit cards for each type of traveler

Great for frequent travelers Platinum Card® from American Express
Great for infrequent travelers Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Great for international travelers

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Great for domestic travelers

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

We’ve dug into the fine print to find the best travel rewards credit cards for four types of travelers. See which one may be the best fit for your travel needs.


Great for frequent travelers: Platinum Card® from American Express

Who’s it for?

Regular travelers who want a card that maximizes travel points and gives them perks like access to airport lounges.

Frequent flyers will love this charge card, as they get five points for each $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 spent per calendar year (then one point per $1), a $200 airline fee credit per calendar year for baggage and other incidental fees at one qualifying airline of their choice, and access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world.

Why we like it

You can pick up points quickly with the Platinum Card® from American Express. If you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months from account opening, you get 100,000 Membership Rewards® points.

Frequent travelers can rack up points quickly with the five points earned for every $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.

You’ll also pick up five Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible hotels when you book through amextravel.com.

This card offers many travel-related perks, including a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, which means less time waiting in line at the airport.

Basic Card Members get up to $200 worth of Uber rides annually. Cardholders are also eligible for membership in premium car rental programs like Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred Club and National Emerald Club Executive, which could get you special upgrades and discounts.

With no foreign transaction fees on top of all these perks, this card adds up to a great option for a frequent traveler.

Learn how to maximize the benefits of the Platinum Card® from American Express.

Watch out for

The card has a $695 annual fee, and it’s not waived the first year.

Plus, American Express isn’t as widely accepted outside the U.S. as other card networks, so you may have issues using it internationally.

How to use it

To maximize your points, book your flights directly with airlines or through American Express Travel, and check amextravel.com for eligible hotels in your destination.

But only spend the $6,000 in purchases required to earn the welcome offer of 100,000 Membership Rewards® points if you can comfortably fit that into your budget.

When you use the Platinum Card® from American Express, the total balance is due each month. If payment is late, you could be charged a late fee up to $40.

Great for infrequent travelers: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

From our partner

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

3.9 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

See details, rates & fees

Who’s it for?

Infrequent travelers who are interested in travel rewards and want to pay a $0 annual fee while not worrying about restrictions.

Why we like it

If you’re looking for a card that gains points for regular everyday purchases and has a $0 annual fee, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card could be a good fit for you. With the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, cardholders get 1.5 points for every $1 spent, and there’s no limit to the amount of points you can earn.

You don’t have to worry about category restrictions, either. As soon as you’ve earned at least 2,500 points, you can redeem your points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases.

You can apply the travel credit to your account as a statement credit to offset eligible travel purchases you’ve already made. This means that you won’t have to deal with any airline blackout dates or hotel restrictions.

New cardholders get 25,000 online bonus points for spending at least $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.

This can be worth up to $250 in statement credits toward travel-related purchases.

Watch out for

You can find cash back cards that give you more rewards on non-travel purchases, which could be a better fit for you if you don’t care too much about the perks of a travel rewards card.

How to use it

If these benefits aren’t enough, you can get even more if you’re a Preferred Rewards member. You can earn 25% to 75% more points on every purchase — which means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 spent.

Best for international travelers: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

From our partner

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

4.6 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

Who’s it for?

International travelers who want benefits they can use beyond U.S. borders. Chase Sapphire Reserve® does that by giving three points per $1 spent on dining worldwide plus global benefits.

Why we like it

Cardholders get 60,000 bonus points when they spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Another added bonus — you get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

That means 60,000 bonus points can be worth up to $900 toward travel.

The card offers a statement credit of up to $100 every four years to reimburse for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.

You’ll also get complimentary access to more than 1,300 airport lounges after you enroll in Priority Pass Select.

With this card, there’s no foreign transaction fee. Plus, Visa is generally widely accepted abroad.

If that’s not enough, there’s a $300 annual travel credit that you can use to reimburse travel purchases made with your card.

Those perks make for a top-line card for international travelers.

Watch out for

There’s a $550 annual fee on this card, and you get hit with another $75 annual charge for every authorized user.

How to use it

The card is a travel card that gives you some flexibility. You’ll get three points per $1 on travel after earning your $300 annual travel credit, as well as for dining and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Great for domestic travelers: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

From our partner

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

4.4 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

See details, rates & fees

Who’s it for?

Domestic travelers who want a travel rewards card for an airline that flies all over the U.S. (and some international locations too). These travelers appreciate getting a bonus for loyalty.

Why we like it

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers cardholders 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 50,000 points after you spend $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card doesn’t have blackout dates or seat restrictions when you redeem your points for flights. Plus, your first and second checked bags are free, and there are no change fees — so if you need to change your flight, you’ll only have to make up any difference in fare.

Watch out for

There’s a $99 annual fee that is charged on your first bill.

There’s no priority boarding, lounges or similar perks on this card, but it also has a lower annual fee than the cards that offer those kinds of add-ons.

How to use it

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a card that provides flexibility on how to use your points, honors you for your loyalty and offers a low annual fee.


Before choosing a travel rewards card, make sure it makes sense for your lifestyle and matches your spending pattern.

Let’s say you always fly the same airline. In that case, getting a rewards credit card specific to that airline makes sense. But if you like more flexibility, then a better choice might be a travel rewards card that doesn’t limit you to one airline or hotel.

Beverly Harzog, a credit card expert, says there are so many travel rewards categories and subcategories that anyone can find the right card to maximize rewards.

“You need to spend time on this,” says Harzog. “You need to get a card that matches your lifestyle and how you spend your money.”


Bottom line

There are many different travel rewards cards, so with a little research you can choose what’s right for you.

When shopping for a travel rewards card, check if there’s a foreign transactions fee or rewards cap.

Harzog says a card may give you 5% rewards on each $1, but it may cap rewards after you reach a certain limit. So you could get quick points, but your rewards potential could max out within a few months.

There is a card out there for you whether you’re flying for fun or business. Some have hefty annual fees with incredible perks, some offer you more flexibility to gain more points from multiple sources, and others have no annual fees but limited perks.


About the author: Les Masterson has covered presidential politics, local government, personal finance, credit cards, insurance, healthcare and everything in between in his 20-plus years in journalism and content creation. He has won aw… Read more.