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How to Pick The Best Travel Rewards Card

How to Pick The Best Travel Rewards Card

Editorial Disclosure: Editorial content, including card comparisons and card reviews are not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. may be compensated through Affiliate Programs for referrals.

• Updated: September 30, 2019



Feeling jelly when you hear about people who traveled around the world - for next to nothing? Has one of your friends been gushing about how she flew to Hawaii and it didn’t cost her a cent? Are you wondering how you can, too?

Whatever your friend’s method may have been, there is a surefire way to travel for free: Welcome to the world of travel rewards credit cards.

Long gone are the days where travel rewards credit cards only yielded air miles. Now you can earn points towards flights, hotels, rental cars, baggage fees and much more! You can still find your airline-branded cards like the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card, which has a generous rewards program and sign-up bonus:

  • Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • No Annual Fee
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 17.49% - 25.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

But if you’re not really brand loyal to a specific airline or you don’t fly a lot, we recommend a broader travel card. Bank of America®Citi®, and Capital One® all offer competitive travel rewards cards.

As you begin to explore the possibilities for your future adventures, you should first ask yourself what your travel goals are. Is it your dream to take your partner on a romantic trip to Hawaii? Hoping to finally take the kids to Disney World? Would you be happy with free flights only, or are you trying to cover the cost of accommodation as well? The best card for you will depend on your answers, so take some time to consider them carefully. It’s preferable to stick with one card than divide your spending over multiple cards.

As with most rewards credit cards, the interest you pay could easily negate any perks earned, so only pull the trigger on a new travel rewards card if you know you will pay the balance in full every month. In addition, many of the travel rewards credit cards do have an annual fee; however, that fee is often waived in the first year. Calculate if the travel benefits you’re reaping are significant enough to more than cover the annual expense.

When the time comes to redeem those well-deserved rewards, many airlines can help you book your travel through a toll-free number or a travel center. You may also want to consider sites like FlyerTalk and InsideFlyer, where you can get detailed information on how to use those points to your biggest advantage - and maybe even get an upgraded flight for the same miles as coach! What are you waiting for? When you fly to Hawaii for peanuts and post your luau selfies on Instagram, your friends can be jelly of you! 

Compare our top travel rewards credit cards now.

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