At Experian, one of our priorities is consumer credit and finance education. This post may contain links and references to one or more of our partners, but we provide an objective view to help you make the best decisions. For more information, see our Editorial Policy.
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 Car Rentals: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
This popular travel rewards card is an all-round excellent choice to take with you on your next road trip.
Bonus bonanza: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® earns 3 points per dollar on dining, including restaurants, takeout and delivery. The card's $300 travel credit reimburses you for travel purchases up to that amount each account anniversary year; after that, you'll earn 3 points per dollar on travel purchases including car rentals, hotel stays and even tolls, so you can rack up the rewards while cruising down the highway. You'll earn 1 point per dollar on most other purchases.
Travel protections: If you're renting a car for your trip, this is one of the few cards to extend primary collision and damage insurance on auto rentals so you won't have to go through your own personal car or homeowners insurance if you get dinged up.
Annual fee accounting: This card's annual fee is $550 per year. If that's too high, consider the similar Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It has an annual fee of $95, but it still includes primary auto rental insurance and earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining.Read full review
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
1X points on All Other Purchases
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 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. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 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, 60,000 points are worth $900 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 for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
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.Read full review
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
17.24% - 24.49% (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 $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Redeem on travel—including flights, vacation rentals, car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 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.
For example, the Citi Rewards+® Card from our partner earns 2 points per dollar at gas stations and supermarkets on the first $6,000 spent per year, then 1 point per dollar thereafter, and on all other purchases. Each transaction is also rounded up to the nearest 10 points, boosting your earning even more.
Discounts and Statement Credits
Certain rewards cards offer statement credits toward travel purchases that can save you money on a road trip. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® includes up to $300 in annual travel statement credits, which can be applied to a broad range of purchases such as car rentals, hotels, ferries, bridge and road tolls, parking lots and garages, campgrounds and more.
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. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card extends primary rental coverage against theft and damage both in the U.S. and abroad.
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.