Best Credit Cards for Travel Newbies

Check our picks for the top credit cards that grant excellent rewards for frequent travelers. These three travel credit cards will give you lucrative rewards that are easy to redeem for a wide range of travel purchases, such as airfare, hotels, taxis, public transportation, etc.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card

Probably one of the most popular travel credit cards. This card rewards you with 2 Ultimate Rewards® points per $1 spent on travel and dining, and 1 point on all other purchases. A variable 16.99% - 23.99% APR is applied; no intro APR is offered. The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. Also, no foreign transaction fee will be charged.

Why it’s great for travelers

Signup bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card gives you 50,000 signup bonus points after you spend $4,000 within 3 months of account opening. Moreover, you will be given an additional 5,000 bonus points if you add an authorized user who makes at least one purchase within 3 months of account opening.

Points redemption

Points obtained with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card have very flexible redemption options. You can redeem points for cash or gift cards, but these options are not the most profitable ones, as you only get 1 cent per 1 point. What is important for a traveler is that when you redeem points through Chase Travel Portal, you get 25% more per point. It means that each point redeemed for travel will be worth 1.25 cents. Point transfer rates to airline and hotel loyalty programs vary (depending on the programs and how you utilize the points after transfer), but if you transfer your points to one of the partners (hotels or airlines), you may get even more than 1.25 cents per 1 point.

Additional benefits

Moreover, travel purchases with this card are broadly defined: it’s not only airfare and hotel stays, but also public transportation and other travel-related purchases.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card works well together with the Chase Freedom® credit card. A smart combination of these cards can earn you even more Ultimate Rewards points due to the point transfers from one card to another. To learn more about this travel hacking strategy, read our “Combine Chase Cards to Maximize Travel Rewards” guide.

  • Huge signup bonus;
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards® points per $1 spent on travel;
  • Good offer for points redemption for travel: 1.25 cents per 1 point or higher;
  • No foreign transaction fee.
  • $95 annual fee (waived for the first year).

The Starwood Preferred Guest® from American Express

The Starwood Preferred Guest® for American Express has no annual fee the first year of account opening, and a $95 annual fee each year thereafter. APR on purchases and balance transfers falls within the range of 16.24% - 20.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Unfortunately, no introductory APR is offered. At the same time, there is no foreign transaction fee.

Why it’s great for travelers

Reward points

The Starwood Preferred Guest® for American Express credit card grants you 1 Starpoint® per $1 spent on all purchases, 2 Starpoints® per $1 spent at Marriott hotels, and 5 Starpoints® per $1 spent at SPG hotels. You can redeem your Starpoints® for free nights at any Starwood family hotel.

Points redemption

If you prefer to spend your points on airfare instead of hotel stays, you can transfer your Starpoints® to one of the frequent flyer partner airlines. You can do that with more than 20 airlines, including British Airways, Air Berlin, Emirates, etc. For each 20,000 Starpoints® transferred to an airline, you will get an additional 5,000 Starpoints® added to your account. In addition, you get a 25,000 Starpoints® bonus if you spend $3,000 on the Starwood Preferred Guest® credit card within 3 months of account opening.

Additional benefits

The Starwood Preferred Guest® form American Express is a co-branded credit card that has one of the most attractive bonuses and rewards rate (5 Starpoints® per $1 spent) for hotel stays among other travel credit cards. This card is a wonderful solution for travelers interested in redemption of reward points for hotel stays.

  • Juicy travel rewards eligible for hotel stays and transfer to airline partners; you get 2 Starpoints® per $1 spent at Marriott hotels, and 5 Starpoints® per $1 spent at SPG hotels;
  • Relatively low APR;
  • Good signup bonus and extra bonus of 5,000 Starpoints® if transferring to airline partners;
  • 0% foreign transaction fee.
  • Limited number of hotels eligible for points redemption; although this is fair as The Starwood Preferred Guest® from American Express is a co-branded credit card, some other travel cards have a wider range of partnering hotel brands.

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Card gives you 3 ThankYou® points for each $1 spent on travel, 2 points for spending on dining and entertainment, and 1 point on all other purchases. In addition, after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening, you get a 30,000 ThankYou® point signup bonus.

The annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. No foreign transaction fee is applied. Variable APR 15.49% - 24.49% on purchases, based on your creditworthiness.

Why it’s great for travelers

Reward points

The Citi ThankYou® Premier card gives you attractive rewards for travel purchases: 3 ThankYou points per $1 spent. It’s worthwhile noting that this card significantly expands the definition of the “travel” category. You will earn ThankYou® points not only for “regular” travel purchases, such as airfare and hotel stays, but also for Airbnb stays, gas and toll roads, bike rentals, parking, public transportation and taxis, and many other types of purchases.

Points redemption

You can transfer your ThankYou® points to several airline loyalty programs (Qatar Airways, Etihad, Virgin Atlantic, etc.) and Hilton Honors hotel program. And, of course, you can redeem your ThankYou® points for airfare and hotels stays at ThankYou® Travel Center.

Thus, the Citi ThankYou® Premier card is a great fit for travelers who spend a lot of money on travel.

  • Enjoyable rewards for travel purchases: 3 ThankYou points per $1 spent on travel;
  • Wide range of purchases falling in the “travel” category: not only airfare and hotels stays, but also public transportation, parking, etc;
  • No foreign transaction fee;
  • Great signup bonus offer.
  • $95 annual fee (waived for the first year).

The bottom line

The number of travel credit cards might seem overwhelming, but the list we provided above is a painkiller for anyone starting his journey towards lucrative travel-related benefits. Just choose the card with the rewards you are interested in. It’s impossible to go wrong with the top picks described here.

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