In this article:
- Best Card for a Big Sign-Up Bonus: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
- Best Card for Maximizing Your Rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best Card for Luxury Travel Perks: The Platinum Card® From American Express
- Best Card for Road-Tripping: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
- Best Card With No Annual Fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
- Which Travel Card Is Best for You?
A summer vacation for a family of four costs roughly $4,000, according to a 2018 survey by Bankrate. With the right credit card, though, you may be able to save some money when you're booking and while you're on your trip.
Our top choices offer big sign-up bonuses and valuable perks that can improve your vacation experience and keep more money in your wallet.
- Best for a big sign-up bonus: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
- Best for maximizing your rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best for luxury travel perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Best for road tripping: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
- Best for no annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
Best Card for a Big Sign-Up Bonus: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
This offer is no longer available through Experian.
If you're looking for a big sign-up bonus to help cover the costs of your trip, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is a solid choice. The card offers 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in the first 90 days—that's worth $700 in travel statement credits toward a qualifying travel purchase.
You'll also earn 2 miles per dollar spent, so you'll have at least 80,000 miles by the time you reach the minimum spend required for the bonus.
When it comes to redeeming your miles, simply use the card to book your travel, then request a statement credit for a qualifying travel purchase with your rewards (minimum redemption thresholds apply). Every time you do this, you'll get 5% of your redeemed miles back to help you get started on your next trip.
And you don't need to worry about getting the card's sign-up bonus before you book your travel because you can redeem your miles for a statement credit on travel purchases up to 120 days after you made them.
The only downside to the card's flexible redemption process is that you have to redeem at least 10,000 miles, so any travel-related purchase under $100 doesn't qualify for redemption.
Beyond the rewards program, the card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees and has chip-and-PIN capability, which can come in handy if you're traveling abroad and using self-service kiosks. The card's annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $89 after that.
Best Card for Maximizing Your Rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If your goal is to squeeze the most value possible out of your credit card rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is worth considering. The card offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, plus 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
While those rewards rates may not sound too exciting, the Ultimate Rewards program is one of the most versatile programs out there. Cardholders can use their points to book travel directly through Chase and get 25% more value. For example, the 60,000-point sign-up bonus is worth $750 when you redeem your points this way.
If you want even more value, you can transfer your points to one of Chase's airline or hotel transfer partners. Depending on where you transfer your points and how you redeem them, you could get significant value.
The card also offers various trip protections, which can save you from having to purchase them separately, and doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees. The annual fee is $95.
Best Card for Luxury Travel Perks: The Platinum Card® From American Express
If your priority is improving your trip experience, and you can stomach a steep annual fee, look no further than The Platinum Card® from American Express.
New cardholders will earn 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months, plus 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and American Express Travel, as well as prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com. You'll earn 1 point per dollar spent on eligible purchases.
While the rewards are great, it's the perks that make up for the card's $550 annual fee. Here's what you'll get:
- $200 annual airline fee credit at one qualifying airline
- Up to $200 each year worth of Uber credits
- Up to $100 in statement credits each year for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue (enrollment required)
- Up to $100 credit toward TSA Precheck application every 4.5 years or Global Entry application every four years
- Free access to several airport lounge networks, including The Centurion Lounge, Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass and more
- Marriott Bonvoy gold elite status and Hilton Honors gold status
- Complimentary membership in premium car rental programs, which offer discounts and special upgrades
- Free unlimited Wi-Fi access through Boingo
- No foreign transaction fees
Depending on how often you travel, it could be easy to get just as much value or more than what you pay for the card's yearly fee.
Best Card for Road-Tripping: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
If you're planning on taking a road trip, it may not make sense to get a card that offers great rewards and benefits for air travel. Instead, consider the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, which can help you maximize the rewards you earn at the gas pump.
The card offers a whopping 5 points per dollar on gas purchases, plus 3 points per dollar on groceries and 1 point per dollar on everything else. You'll also earn a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days.
The card doesn't charge an annual fee or foreign transaction fee, so you don't have to worry about making sure you're earning enough to make up for the card's cost.
Best Card With No Annual Fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
This offer is no longer available through Experian.
If you're generally fee-averse but still want a travel credit card with great value, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card should be on your radar. The card offers impressive rewards without an annual fee or foreign transaction fees.
When you first get the card, you'll earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You'll also earn 3 points on:
- Eating out and ordering in
- Gas, rideshares and transit
- Flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
- Popular streaming services
All other purchase will net you 1 point per dollar. You can redeem your points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more. And when you're redeeming your points for air travel, you can use a combination of points and cash, giving you more flexibility if you don't have a high rewards balance.
The card also offers an introductory 0% APR promotion for 12 months on both purchases and qualifying balance transfers. After that, the APR is 15.49% to 27.49% variable, based on your creditworthiness.
With the low introductory rate on purchases, you could potentially finance your vacation and pay it off interest-free over time. Just be wise about how much you spend and your payoff plan to avoid interest charges after the promotional period ends.
Which Travel Card Is Best for You?
There's no single best travel credit card out there, so it's important to know what you're looking for in a card. As you compare these and other top credit cards, look at each one with all of its features, including rewards, benefits, interest and fees.
As you learn what's most important to you, pick the card that best fits your needs and your summer travel plans.