The Best Credit Cards For Travel Points, Miles, And Rewards Right Now


Picture yourself walking across a white sand beach in the Cook Islands. Feel your feet sinking into the pristine sugary sand. Listen to the turquoise ocean lapping against the shoreline. Pretty incredible daydream, huh? What could possibly make that pristine moment better? How could you ever top these levels of bliss?

How about making it a reality for very little or even no money? Nada. Niente. Sounds absurd, right? But that wild fantasy is possible, thanks to credits cards that target worldwide wanderers with perks like points, miles, and rewards.

To determine the best cards for anyone keen to break into the world of travel hacking (getting a lot of points in a hurry while avoiding fees and interest), we reached out to icons in the travel credit card game. People who know their stuff and have the passport stamps to prove it. Read on to discover what travel stars like Johnny Jet, Bryce Conway, Nomadic Matt, and Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights call best cards in the game. Because let’s be real: you’re probably charging things already, why not get rewarded for it?

Platinum by American Express

Though the Platinum card from Amex has a $550 annual fee, Bryce Conway, the founder of website 10X Travel and friend of Uproxx, still feels like it’s one of the best out there. If cardholders spend $5,000 in the first three months, they earn 60,000 points. Plus users earn five points on flights booked through the card or directly from an airline, five points on prepaid hotels booked through the card, and one point on every other eligible purchase.

A long-time staple in the points/miles game, this card comes with some great perks, like a $20 monthly Uber credit, an annual $200 airline incident credit, and access to a network of exclusive travel lounges. In fact, it buys you entry to 1,100 lounges in over 500 airports in 120 countries — a larger network than any other card on the market.

Capital One Venture

Travel hackers will appreciate the Capital One Venture card, according to Matt Kepnes of the website Nomadic Matt, a nationwide authority on budget travel. In the past, the card wasn’t thought of very highly, but a recent revamp has made it one of the best. Like many of the cards on the list, there is a points bonus, and it’s rather sizable. You get 50,000 points for spending $3000 on purchases in the first three months. Further, there’s a $100 credit to use toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Through January 2020, when you book a hotel through, you also get ten points per dollar.

The card does have a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year. Foreign transaction fees are also waived, meaning big savings. If all that isn’t enough, travel accident insurance is included at no extra charge when you pay for your fare with the card.

Chase Southwest

Both Johnny Jet of the website Johnny Jet and Scott Keyes, the man behind the website Scott’s Cheap Flights and former Uproxx interviewee, shouted out the Southwest Airlines card from Chase. Keyes is a fan of having both the personal and business versions of the card because “combined they allow for the single best perk in the frequent flyer miles world: the Southwest Companion Pass.” The pass is pretty incredible because it allows users to bring a companion with them for free anytime they fly on Southwest. Note: This is not a single-use pass. It’s valid on all Southwest travel for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it and the entire following year. You get a Companion Pass by accruing 110,000 Southwest points in a year and they absolutely count the sign-up bonuses, which is why Scott recommends getting both cards. The 50,000 point signup bonus for the personal card combined with the 60,000 point bonus for the business card is all you need to hit the threshold. Plus, you still have all the points to spend on free travel.

Johnny Jet gushed about the personal card as a standalone, especially if Southwest has service in your home city. First, award availability isn’t an issue — if you can buy a seat with cash, you can buy it with points. Second, you get two free checked bags, plus a carry-on and personal item regardless of what class of fare you purchase with the card. That means a lot to people who check bags. You also get two Southwest Rapid Rewards points for every dollar spent on Southwest purchases, including car rental and hotel partners. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. Lastly, each year on your cardmember anniversary you also get 6,000 bonus points. There is a $95 annual fee but it’s easy to see how it pays for itself.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card was mentioned by three of our four experts, so it definitely stands apart as the top pick. It has a reasonable $95 a year annual fee that is waived for the first year, which is why Matt Kepnes says, “If you’re new to collecting points and miles and are just going to get one card, this is the one.” Cardholders earn two Ultimate Reward Points for every dollar spent on travel and dining and one point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. These points can be redeemed through the Chase Travel Portal for $1.25 cents each or you can opt to transfer them to one of the card’s many airline and hotel partners (like United, Southwest, and Hyatt) at a 1:1 ratio.

There is also a sign-up bonus. If you meet the initial minimum spending goal ($4000 over three months), you receive over $600 in free travel credit. Perks include things like primary rental car insurance, trip interruption insurance, lost baggage insurance, and both trip delay and cancellation insurance. When travel doesn’t go as planned, these perks can really make a positive difference.

Chase Ink Business Preferred

If you’re a business owner, Bryce Conway suggests looking into the Chase Ink Business Preferred card which also offers Ultimate Rewards points but tailors its perks specifically for the business owner set. After new cardholders spend five grand on purchases in the first three months following the opening of the account, they receive 80,000 bonus points, which becomes $1,000 to use toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Users of the card also earn three points for every dollar spent (up to $150,000 each year) on travel; shipping purchases; internet, cable, and phone services; and advertising on social media sites and search engines. Everything else earns a point per dollar spent.

Citi Premier

Another Bryce Conway pick, the Citi Premier card is Citi’s answer to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. There is a $95 annual fee, which is on the low end of the scale. Users earn ThankYou Points. In fact, if users spend $4,000 in the first three months, they earn 50,000 points, which are redeemable for $625 in airfare on any airline, at any time, with no blackout dates. Three points are earned for every dollar spent on travel (including gas station purchases), while cardholders earn two points for each dollar spent on restaurants and entertainment and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Conway points out that cards like this (and others on the list) use transferable points, which can be used at a variety of airlines and hotels.

“This is the reason why airline-specific and hotel-specific cards will never come close to comparing for the average person,” he explains.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Matt Kepnes doesn’t hold back in his admiration for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. “This is the best travel credit card out there,” he told us, “and one of my absolute favorites.” It’s worth noting that the card comes with a daunting annual cost — $450. However, Kepnes is certain avid travelers will discover that the card totally pays for itself. First off, card members get a bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after they spend $4,000 in the first three months. Because Reserve holders enjoy a points value of 1.5 cents, those bonus points translate to $750 in free travel. If that’s not enough to gas you up, every year you get a $300 travel reimbursement. There are no foreign transaction fees, so you save tons of money using it overseas, and you get access to more than 1,000 airport lounges and a $100 credit toward PSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

“If you travel often (or are planning to travel more),” Kepnes says, “then I would suggest this over the Preferred.”

Chase IHG card

Many card benefits are for flights, but the Chase IHG card has your back when it comes to accommodations, and Scott Keyes considers it a favorite for a few reasons. You can earn up to 120,000 bonus points. The initial signup bonus of 80,000 points is given if you spend $2,000 in the first three months, and an additional 40,000 are available to users who spend $5,000 in the first six months. Those points can easily cover a week or more of free hotel stays. As IHG is one of the largest chains in the world, there are plenty of options to explore. The card also grants users a free fourth night on their stays as well. Then, there’s the free night you get every year on your card anniversary.

Wanderlusting cardholders get a $100 credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Citi Prestige

Both Johnny Jet and Scott Keyes recommend the Citi Prestige card for people who want a premium card with premium benefits. Keyes notes, “It gives a free membership to one of my favorite perks of any credit card: the Priority Pass.” The pass gives card members entry into over 1,200 Priority Pass airport lounges across the globe. Plus, the pass offers a $28 credit at many airport restaurants.

When it comes to points, this card is generous. Users are rewarded with five points for every dollar spent on air travel and restaurants, three points for hotels and cruise lines, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. This is another card that offers a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit. You also get a fourth night free on up to two hotel reservations per year. Johnny Jet Notes, “With all of these increased benefits comes an increased annual fee. You’ll pay $495 per year for the Citi Prestige Card, but the benefits can easily outweigh this high price.”

Citi Double Cash

The Citi Double Cash card is, according to Johnny Jet, “on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the Citi Prestige.” It isn’t a travel credit card for one thing, but you can use any cash back earned to travel. There is no annual fee, which makes it markedly different than the other entries on this list. Cardholders earn one percent back on all purchases at the time you make them and then one percent back when you pay off your balance. So it’s really two percent back, which is damn good.