Best Rewards Cards for Travel Purchases in 2022

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$200 hotel credit offered with The Platinum Card® from American Express applies to prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings made via Amex Travel. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.

Redeeming points and miles for travel is the goal for all award travelers. However, sometimes even the most seasoned point collectors have to cough up some hard-earned cash. Using the right card in these situations can earn you thousands of extra points per year. But even beyond points, the right card can provide valuable perks, like travel insurance and lounge access.

Determining the ‘best’ travel card is tricky because it is extremely subjective. You need to factor in your circumstances to decide which card works best for you. You need to take into account your current travel goals and upcoming holiday plans. Moreover, you need to ask questions like:

The answers to these questions will help you nail down the perfect travel card for every purchase—bringing you ever closer to reaching your travel goals.

Our Pick: The Best Credit Cards for Travel Purchases

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Annual Fee$550
Welcome Bonus Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Chase's flagship Ultimate Rewards card. You get a $300 travel credit, airport lounge access courtesy of a Priority Pass membership and industry-leading travel insurance benefits. New cardholders earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on air travel and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
  • 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022
  • 10X points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase
  • 10X points on Chase Dining (including prepaid reservations and prepaid takeout purchased through Chase)
  • 5X points on airfare purchased through Chase
  • 3X points on all other travel
  • 3X points on dining at restaurants
  • 1X points on all other purchases

Let's cut to the chase (pun intended). In terms of travel purchases, no card comes close to the comprehensive benefits package offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. For starters, it earns 3X Ultimate Rewards points on a broad range of travel purchases—including some unexpected candidates, like taxis, campgrounds, and ferries. That earning rate goes up to 5X-10X on travel booked through Chase's Ultimate Rewards portal, depending on what you're booking.

Moreover, it provides a best-in-class $300 travel credit, offers terrific lounge access, and covers your trip with industry-leading travel protection. Finally, all the points you earn can be redeemed for a whopping 1.5¢ each through the Chase travel portal or transferred to numerous airline/hotel loyalty programs.

The card comes with a $550 annual fee, so if you can't leverage maximum value from the Sapphire Reserve‘s benefits, you may be better off with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The Sapphire Preferred (review) sports many of the same travel protection benefits as the Sapphire Reserve — but with a lower annual fee and slightly fewer perks.

Related: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® Worth $550 per Year?

Other Top Picks

The travel bonus category is crowded, to say the least. While this can make picking one “best travel card” tricky, it also means we're not left wanting for options among great cards. Let's go through our favorite cards for each sector of the travel bonus category.

Best Benefit-Oriented Travel Card

The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms apply)
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Annual Fee$695
Welcome Offer Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • $300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Rates & Fees
  • Earn 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (up to $500,000 in purchases per calendar year).
  • Earn 5X points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

It's impossible to discuss travel cards without bringing up the The Platinum Card® from American Express. It's an icon in the category — and for good reason. Cardmembers earn 5X Membership Rewards points on airfare and hotel bookings, provided the purchase is made through AmexTravel.com or directly with an airline. But that's not the highlight of this card. Where this card shines is in the portfolio of perks and benefits afforded to cardholders.

Some of the top benefits include:

  • The most comprehensive airport lounge access provided by any card
  • Complimentary elite status with Marriott, Hilton, National, and Avis
  • Up to $200 in annual Uber credits
  • Up to $200 in annual airline incidental statement credits
  • Get $200 in statement credits on select prepaid hotel bookings with Amex Travel
  • $100 application fee credit for Global Entry membership
  • $100 in annual statement credits against Saks purchases
  • Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.

The Amex Platinum card is the poster child of premium travel rewards cards, and its $695 annual reflects this (Rates & Fees). The card typically comes with a big welcome offer also: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. However, targeted offers worth 125,000 to 150,000 points are known to circulate from time to time.

Related: Which is Better: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum Card® from American Express?

Best Mid-Tier Travel Cards

American Express® Green Card
American Express® Green Card
Annual Fee$150
Welcome Offer Earn 45,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.
  • 3x Membership Rewards® on travel
  • 3x Membership Rewards® at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 3x Membership Rewards® on transit including trains, buses, ferries, subway, and more
  • 1x Membership Rewards® on other purchases

Mid-tier cards are the bread and butter of the travel rewards category. These cards strike the perfect balance of point-earning potential and travel benefits while only charging a modest annual fee.

Award travel veterans might expect the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to take the top spot here, and that's undoubtedly a great choice. Its ability to earn 2X Ultimate Rewards points on all travel and dining purchases while charging a $95 annual fee makes it our favorite travel rewards card for beginners, hands down. However, American Express has turned this sector on its head with its refreshed card benefits.

When the refreshed American Express® Green Card came out, it came with a strikingly-similar earning scheme to that of the Sapphire Reserve. It earns 3X Membership Rewards points on travel purchases and dining worldwide. Sounds familiar, right? While it practically mirrors the Sapphire Reserve for bonus categories, the Green from Amex only charges a $150 annual fee.

It currently sports a welcome offer of 45,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.

Best Travel Card for Small Businesses

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Offer Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The most valuable Ultimate Rewards signup bonus on offer and our top pick for small business rewards cards. Business owners earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus, earn up to 450,000 points per year on a wide range of 3X bonus categories.
  • Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • With Fraud Protection your card transactions will be monitored for possible signs of fraudulent activity using real-time fraud monitoring
  • With Zero Liability you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information
  • Redeem points for cash back, gift cards, travel and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Purchase Protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
  • 3X points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year
  • 1X point per $1 on all other purchases

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is the flagship card of Chase's small business credit card portfolio. It easily secures the top spot here, thanks to a combination of fantastic attributes.

First, it offers powerful point-earning ability: 3X Ultimate Rewards points on up to $150K spent each year on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines. Second, it provides fantastic travel protections, including trip cancellation/interruption insurance and primary rental car insurance.

The knock-out punch, however, is its colossal sign-up bonus. New applicants can currently earn 100,000 after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. For only a $95 annual fee, this card can't be beaten.

Related : Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card – Comprehensive Review

Where is Citi?

You may have noticed the lack of Citibank card mentions thus far. That's because, in mid-2019, Citi famously ditched most of the high-value travel protections it previously provided to cardholders. Consequently, the Citi Prestige® Card and Citi Premier® Card are only worth mentioning for anyone specifically hoping to collect Citi ThankYou Points for their travel purchases. Otherwise, you're better off putting your travel purchases on a card that offers more substantial protections.

Top 13 Best Travel Credit Cards

The cards we've discussed already are the top dogs of the travel category. But that doesn't mean there aren't other cards you may want to consider. 

Credit CardPoints Earned on Travel PurchasesOther Bonus CategoriesAnnual Fee
Chase Sapphire Reserve®• 10X points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase
• 5X points on airfare purchased through Chase
• 3X points on other travel worldwide
• 10X points on Chase Dining (including prepaid reservations and takeout purchased through Ultimate Rewards)
• 3X points on all other dining
$550
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card• 3X points on travel purchases (up to $150K combined with other categories)3x points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year$95
Citi Prestige® Card• 5X points on airfare
• 3X points on cruise lines & hotels
• 5x points on dining$495
American Express® Green Card• 3X points on travel • 3X points on restaurants worldwide$150
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card• 5X points on travel purchased through Chase
• 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022
• 2X points on all other travel
• 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide
• 3X points on eligible streaming services
• 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs)
$95
Citi Premier® Card• 3X points on airfare and hotels• 3X points on gas, dining, and supermarkets$95
The Platinum Card® from American Express• 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (capped at $500,000 per calendar year)
• 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
N/A$695 - Rates & Fees
The Business Platinum Card® from American ExpressGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases. Earn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.• 1.5X points per dollar on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more, up to a cap of $2 million spent on these purchases in a calendar year.$695 - Rates & Fees
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card• 3X points on travel purchases• 3X points on mobile wallet spending
$400
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card• Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day.N/A$95
Capital One Spark Miles for Business• Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, everywhere, no limits or category restrictions, and miles won't expire for the life of the accountN/A$0 intro for first year; $95 after that

What Purchases are Included in the Travel Category?

Whenever you find yourself wondering how a transaction codes, your first step should always be to consult the AwardWallet Merchant Category Lookup Tool. It allows you to look up the name of a merchant to see how previous purchases coded. Keep in mind, however, that the tool crowdsources its data from AwardWallet users. Consequently, it's not always 100% accurate or all-inclusive.

Further complicating things is the fact that each bank has different notions of what constitutes a ‘travel' purchase. Chase, Barclays, and Wells Fargo all offer relatively similar definitions in the travel category. Amex and U.S. Bank, on the other hand, add more restrictions to qualifying purchases. They both exclude the majority of purchases not made directly with the hotel, airline, car rental agency, or (in the case of Amex) via Amex Travel.

Below are some specific examples pulled from the T&C’s of popular rewards cards. However, the inclusions differ by provider — and sometimes even by card within the same provider. This makes it important to clarify what purchases code as travel for bonus points on your particular card.

Chase

“…airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.”

Barclays

“…airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, purchase and travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines, and ferries.”

Wells Fargo

“Airline, hotel/motel, timeshares, or vehicle/auto rental, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds.”

“Gas stations and automated fuel dispensers, passenger railway, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, parking lots and garages. “

American Express

“…airfare must be for a scheduled flight on a passenger carrier and purchased directly from the airline.”

“To earn additional rewards on hotels, the purchase must be for a hotel stay and must be made directly with the hotel. You will NOT earn additional rewards if you prepay for your hotel with a third party, such as an online travel agent, or prepay the hotel as part of a vacation package.”

U.S. Bank

“…purchases made directly with airlines, hotels, car rentals, taxicabs, limousines, passenger trains and cruise line companies.”

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Sapphire Reserve still sets the standard as the best card to swipe for general travel purchases. It offers incredible perks, excellent insurance benefits, and a solid 3X points on all travel purchases.

Not to be too overshadowed, Amex also offers several exceptional travel card options itself. The benefit-loaded Amex Platinum card continues to be a staple of the category, providing the most perks per capita of any card. Moreover, the refreshed Green from Amex now serves as a competitive alternative to the Sapphire Reserve at a fraction of the cost.

Citi, on the other hand, has a lot of catching up to do with its nuked travel protections. The Prestige Card‘s ability to earn 5X on airfare and its annual $250 travel credit are both great, as is the Citi Premier‘s slew of 3X categories. Unfortunately, great points-earning potential just doesn't cut it when compared to other card issuers' more well-rounded products.

Have we missed a card on the list that you think deserves a spot among the best travel cards? Let us know in the comments below.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees), and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)

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