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Whether you've always wanted to visit Norway to see the northern lights or you've been dreaming of a beach getaway to Bali, one thing is certain: Taking a dream vacation can get expensive fast.
That's why it's a good idea to start a savings fund to help you take your trip. Another smart strategy? Finding the right credit card to help you rack up points and miles that can defray some of the costs.
Of course we aren't suggesting you go into debt to help you pay for your vacay, but using a credit card to pay for purchases you would have made anyway is a smart way to get that much closer to your getaway goal. As with all rewards cards, you'll get the best value if you pay off your purchases every month.
We've highlighted four premium cards that all have similar characteristics designed to help you take the trip of your dreams. They all offer generous sign-up bonuses, let you earn more than 1 point per $1 spent on purchases, and offer easy redemption options that don't limit you to certain airlines, hotels or dates. All four cards are tops in their class, so you just need to figure out which program suits you best, depending on your style of spending and use.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
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The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is offering one of the most generous sign-up bonuses around: 70,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases during the first 90 days of account opening. Each mile is worth 1 cent, so the bonus alone gets you $700 worth of travel rewards.
And the card does not require you to book through a special site or stick to specific airlines or hotels. You simply use your card to book travel, and then redeem your miles for travel statement credits (see terms and conditions). It gets better: You also get 5% of your miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem.
This card is also straightforward to use because every type of purchase earns a generous 2 points per $1 spent, with no limits or caps. You will pay an $89 annual fee, but it's waived the first year.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is another flat-rate rewards card that doesn't require you to think about when to use it. You earn 2 miles per $1 spent on every purchase, every day. But if you're a Hotels.com user, this card is even more valuable, because until January 2020, you earn a whopping 10 miles per $1 spent on purchases made through hotels.com/venture.
You're also eligible to earn a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. That's worth $500 in travel. To redeem miles, you simply pay for travel purchases with the card and use your miles to get statement credits against those purchases.
A few perks add more value to this card: You can get up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, you'll pay no foreign transaction fees, and you can also transfer your miles to 12 leading travel loyalty programs.
If you already spend a lot of money on dining and travel purchases, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card will help you take your next trip sooner. That's because cardholders earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases worldwide, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. That's a formula for racking up rewards points fast. And if you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, you'll earn 60,000 bonus points. The card comes with a $95 annual fee.
But here's why the Chase Sapphire Preferred® is so valuable when it comes to booking your next trip: You can redeem points for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal—where you'll get a 25% boost in value. For example, your 60,000 bonus points are worth $750 in travel dollars at Chase Ultimate Rewards. There are no blackout dates or restrictions. And it gets better—Chase also allows a 1-to-1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs. If you book smartly, those points can be worth even more. Travel partners include United Airlines, JetBlue, British Airways, Marriott, Ritz Carlton and more.
The Citi PremierSM Card is another premium travel card that offers more points for certain types of purchases. You'll earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel and at gas stations, 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
The sign-up bonus is pretty sweet, too: 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. That's enough to redeem for $625 in airfare on any airline, anytime when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center. You can also transfer points to partner airline loyalty programs, including JetBlue, Qatar, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines and more.
You will pay a $95 annual fee for the card, but it's waived the first year. And international travelers, take note: There are no foreign transaction fees on the card, so you can use it abroad without incurring extra charges.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
This article was originally published on April 25, 2019, and has been updated.