In recent years, co-branded airline credit cards have exploded in popularity. It seems like most major airlines offer a credit card that gets you certain perks, like waived baggage fees, bonus frequent flyer miles, priority boarding and more.
These cards typically come with an annual fee, and if you frequently fly the airline they're co-branded with, they can make a lot of sense. The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, for example, gives you your first checked bag for free on Delta flights. That might make the $95 annual fee worth if you fly Delta regularly, but if you're only likely to fly the airline, say, once a year, it makes less sense.
In fact, if you only fly a few times a year, mostly for leisure, and are not tied to one specific airline, you're likely to get more value from a generic travel credit card instead. That's because there are plenty of credit cards available that offer similar perks with more flexibility, including the ability to use accumulated points across a variety of airlines. And some higher-end cards even get you some of the same things a co-branded card can, like baggage fee waivers and lounge access, but with more flexibility.
Below are some of the best all-purpose travel credit cards on the market. Read on for what makes them so useful, and find the best one for your needs.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is one of the most flexible cards on the market. It allows you to transfer points on a 1-to-1 basis to several different airlines, in addition to using them to book flights on any airline through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases worldwide, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Chase is also currently offering 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which offers you 25% more value for your points. The card comes with a $95 annual fee. You can take it abroad with no problem—there are no foreign transaction fees.
You'll earn an unlimited 2 miles per $1 spent on every purchase, plus 10 miles per $1 spent on hotels booked through hotels.com/venture through January 2020. The card also offers 50,000 bonus miles (worth $500 in travel rewards) after you spend $3,000 in purchases during the first three months of opening the account. Simply pay for travel with the card and redeem your miles for travel statement credits. You also get up to $100 to cover the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year, and there are no foreign transaction fees.
If you want access to premium airport lounges around the world, this card will get you there. While you'll pay $550 each year for this card, it comes with significant perks, including access to more than 1,200 airport lounges in 130 countries and counting. That includes the American Express Centurion lounges and Delta SkyClubs. You also get Priority Pass membership, which opens up access to 1,000 lounges around the world. Other impressive card benefits include 5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, as well as on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. The $200 annual airline fee credit and $100 in annual statement credits at Saks Fifth Avenue help defray the cost of the annual fee.