In order to choose the best travel credit card, first narrow down your choices based on the cards’ approval requirements. Then, add up each card’s rewards and benefits, based on your spending habits, and subtract the annual fee. Finally, pick the travel credit card with the greatest value.
How to Choose the Best Travel Credit Card
- Narrow down the options to cards you can qualify for, based on your credit score.
- Compare the expected net value (rewards minus fees) of your remaining choices.
- Consider extra benefits.
- Decide how long you want to use the card, and where you want to use it.
Picking the best travel credit card may seem difficult at first, but once you know what to look for, it gets a lot easier. Below, you can learn the process, see key factors to consider and compare some of the best travel credit cards.
4 Steps to Choose the Best Travel Credit Card for You
Narrow down the options to cards you can qualify for, based on your credit score.
Check your credit score, then rule out cards you don’t have a realistic shot at getting approved for based on that score. Most travel credit cards require good or excellent credit for approval, but there are some options for lower scores.
Compare the expected net value (rewards minus fees) of your remaining choices.
Estimate how much you expect to spend on the card each year, then calculate how much you’d earn in rewards. After that, subtract each card’s annual fee to find out its net rewards value.
Consider extra benefits.
The best travel credit cards can have extremely valuable benefits, ranging from airport lounge access to free checked bags to annual travel credits, depending on the card. These benefits can potentially be worth hundreds of dollars per year, which could give one card the edge in net value, assuming you take advantage of the perks.
Decide how long you want to use the card, and where you want to use it.
If you’re only planning to keep your card for a year or two, things like initial bonuses should factor more into your decision. If you want a card for the long haul, ongoing rewards and benefits, as well as annual fees, are more important. Where you want to use the card – including your preferred travel providers and whether you plan to travel domestically or internationally – also should play a role in your choice.
Other Things to Consider when Choosing the Best Travel Credit Card
- Co-branded cards: You should think about whether you travel enough with a certain hotel, airline or other travel-related merchant to get a co-branded card from that company. Co-branded cards often offer travel benefits you can’t get anywhere else, such as airline companion tickets, free checked bags, free hotel nights for booking a certain number of nights in a row and more.
- International acceptance: If you travel abroad often, you’ll want a card you can use no matter where in the world you are. Mastercard and Visa are the networks with the widest acceptance worldwide, while Discover and American Express lag behind a bit.
- Foreign transaction fee: Almost every travel credit card on the market will offer a $0 foreign transaction fee, but it’s always a good idea to confirm.
- Helpful tools: WalletHub’s free CardAdvisor tool will suggest credit cards for you based on a few anonymous questions. Alternatively, you can join WalletHub for free to receive personalized credit card recommendations based on your WalletHub profile and the information in your credit report.
In summary, the best way to pick a travel credit card is to compare the value of the options you can qualify for, then pick one that offers both high value and worthwhile benefits. The best way to start your search is by checking out WalletHub’s editors’ picks for the best travel credit cards.
Best Travel Credit Cards of 2021
|Credit Card||Annual Fee||Credit Required|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||$95||Good|
|U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card||$400||Excellent|
|Citi Premier® Card||$95||Good|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||$95||Good|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||$550||Excellent|
|JetBlue Plus Card||$99||Excellent|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||$95||Excellent|
|IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card||$0 intro 1st yr, $89 after||Good|