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Taking a road trip is more than hopping in your car and seeing where the highway takes you. You'll want to plan ahead, make a budget, and be sure you're carrying a credit card that earns rewards or scores you discounts on your travels. The best credit cards for road trips can save you money on gas, earn bonus points on expenses like groceries and dining, and even insure you against accidents if you rent a car. Here are five of the best credit cards for road trips, and when you might want to use each.
5 Partner Offers
Best for Gas: Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card
Of course, one of the major expenses of a road trip is gas, so you want to be sure you have a card you can maximize at the pump.
Cash back is king: What sets this card apart from the other best credit cards for gas is that it earns 3% cash back on up to $2,500 in combined spending in the category of your choice from a list that includes gas as well as dining, travel, drugstores, online shopping, home improvement and furnishings. Beyond that, it earns 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, so you can stock up on snacks for the trip, and 1% back on all other purchases.
Card caps: The downside is that there are so many 3% categories to choose from that gas might not be the best one for you. Plus, there's a $2,500 cap on eligible spending, which might hamstring you. That said, for a card with no annual fee, this is still a strong earner.
Best for Food: American Express® Gold Card
With bonus categories galore, this card leaves others in the dust.
Exceptional earning: Rake in 4 points per dollar on dining, including restaurants, takeout, and delivery; as well as 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year (1 point per dollar thereafter). The card also earns 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Terms apply.
Pricey proposition: This card's $250 annual fee (see rates and fees) is something to consider. But you can enjoy up to $120 in Uber Cash on Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S. each year plus up to $120 in dining credits when you use your card to pay for Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed and at other participating partners. Combine those two perks and you nearly offset the annual fee. Enrollment required for select benefits, and terms apply. Also keep in mind that unlike typical credit cards, this card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all.
You may be matched with this and other cards at Experian CreditMatch™
Best for Everything Else: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Simple to earn, simple to redeem—what more do you need?
Fantastic fixed rates: The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns a fixed 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. Each mile is then worth one cent when you redeem it for purchases made through Capital One Travel, or toward travel purchases made elsewhere with your card in the past 90 days. That's a solid 2% rate of return on everything.
Annual fee forecasting: The card's annual fee is $95, but you can offset that by spending just $4,750 on your card each year and redeeming the miles you earn for rewards.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
15.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
2x Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
- Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
- Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get our best prices on thousands of trip options
- Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
- Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
- No foreign transaction fees
What's a Road Trip Credit Card?
You might have heard of airline and hotel credit cards, and cash back cards, but there's no specific category of "road trip credit cards." That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of options you can maximize on your next extended drive, though.
The credit card or cards you tote along on your trip should include perks you can take advantage of both at home and on the road. Those might include extra rewards on gas and dining purchases, statement credits that save you money on your trip expenses, and even roadside assistance to help with a tow if you run into trouble.
What Are the Benefits of a Road Trip Credit Card?
Many rewards cards offer benefits that can come in handy on a road trip. Among the ones to look out for include the following.
Bonus Earning Opportunities
Make sure any card you pack on your road trip will earn bonus points or cash back on the things you're likely to buy.
Discounts and Statement Credits
Certain rewards cards offer statement credits toward travel purchases that can save you money on a road trip.
Auto Rental Insurance And Roadside Assistance
If you plan to rent a car for your trip, it pays to use a credit card with rental car insurance.
There are some limitations to be aware of with this card, such as the maximum rental period of 31 days, and certain types of vehicles like exotic or commercial ones might be excluded. But all in all, it's a great benefit to count on that can save you cash and headaches if you do get into a fender bender.
This card is also an excellent choice if you're driving your own vehicle since you can take advantage of roadside dispatch assistance, including paying just a flat fee for towing up to 5 miles, tire changing, jump starting, lockout service, fuel delivery of up to 5 gallons, and winching, all subject to certain conditions.
How to Choose the Best Credit Card for a Road Trip
Which credit card is best for a road trip will depend on what your plans are and your financial outlook. Here is what you need to think about as you choose a card.
Consider the Annual Fee and APR
It's not worth signing up for a credit card with a high annual fee if you're not sure whether you will be able to get more value from its benefits year after year, so keep that dollar amount in mind.
If you plan to carry a balance, or need to transfer a balance from another card, look at whether the credit cards you're considering offer attractive introductory financing, such as 0% intro APR on purchases or balance transfers for the first year to 18 months. By taking advantage of such terms, you can avoid paying interest and late fees on purchases, or make headway in paying down debt from other cards you might have. Just beware, balance transfer fees are usually around 3% to 5% of the transfer amount or $5, whichever is greater.
Check the Score Requirements
Many of the best travel rewards cards are geared toward consumers with high credit scores. So before you apply for a new card, double-check whether your credit score is within the right range for it by reviewing your Experian credit report and your FICO® Score☉ with a free Experian CreditWorksSM account.
Finally, make sure you're getting the best deal on a new card by comparing offers currently available through a service like Experian CreditMatchTM, and then apply for the card whose benefits most closely match your needs.
Although there are not road-trip-specific credit cards, many of the best rewards cards offer several perks you can maximize on road trips. Look for cards that earn bonus points on purchases like gas and dining, and at the higher end, those that include statement credits toward a variety of expenses such as parking and tolls. It also pays to use a card that extends insurance on car rentals if that's the route you intend to go. By maximizing a credit card on a road trip, you can rake in rewards and perks that you might even be able to put to use on your next journey out on the open road.