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Our top pick: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Rewards rate: Unlimited two miles per dollar on every purchase.
Why we picked it: With two miles for every dollar spent, plus a 75,000 miles bonus offer (after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months), this card is an excellent way to up your travel game while keeping it simple.
My first-hand review:
The Capital One Venture Card was the anchor of my wallet for a long time, notably while I was living in Europe. The beauty of this card is in its generous rewards combined with its simplicity.
Because the rewards are a flat two miles per dollar spent, there’s no need to juggle cards and remember which card to use when. Every purchase, no matter whether at a coffee shop, electronics retailer, or music streaming service – two miles per dollar.
Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t juggle cards. I did. The two miles per dollar is a great baseline rewards rate, so I would use this as my default card, but then pull out other specific cards only for focused categories, for instance keeping my Amazon spending on my Amazon card. But in my view, you can get away with a single card if you have this one.
Rewards redemption is another way this card is extremely easy. There are a wide variety of ways you can use miles, including booking travel on the Capital One travel portal, transferring to one of Capital One’s partners, and using miles to cover travel purchases on your card statement. I did mostly the latter – it’s not the highest opportunity redemption, but it was ridiculously easy.
I will admit I didn’t make the most of the perks on this card, but there are quite a few. Traveling around Europe, the no foreign transaction fees were critical. And I always make use of card protections when available – like the rental car coverages and extended warranty on this card. And though I’m more of a “get in and out of the airport fast” kind of person, the card does provide limited lounge access for the Capital One lounges and certain partner lounges.
There’s a $95 annual fee (see rates and fees), which I never balked at because I got so much value out of the card. Right now, with a welcome offer of 75,000 miles, it’s even easier to justify that fee.
Apply for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card on Capital One’s website.
- Unlimited flat-rate rewards of 2X miles on every purchase
- 75,000-mile bonus offer
- Easy miles redemption
- Many useful travel perks, including lounge access
- $95 annual fee
- Higher rewards rate possible with tiered systems
Best no annual fee travel credit card: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Rewards rate: Unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on per $1 spent on all purchases
Why we picked it: Many of the top travel cards come with an annual fee. This card proves that you don’t need to pay an annual fee to get solid travel rewards.
What we think you need to know about the Bank of America Travel Rewards:
I haven’t used this card in particular, but I do have and use its sister card – the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card. The rewards program is different, but the core of these cards, as well as the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card, is very similar. Namely, they’re all really great rewards cards with no annual fee, and all get a significant bump in rewards if you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member (as I am).
The rewards here are simple: You get 1.5 points for every dollar spent, no matter the category. Points can be redeemed as a statement credit to pay for travel-related expenses like flights, hotels, rental cars, and restaurants. Each point credits $0.01, so every $1,000 spent on the card gets you 1,000 points, which gets you $10 in potential credits for travel spending.
The 25,000 points you can earn via the card’s welcome offer (after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days days after account opening) work the same way. So that welcome offer is worth $250 towards travel.
You generally can’t expect a huge number of extra perks on a card with no annual fee, and that’s the case here. However, there is an introductory 0% interest offer, currently at 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases and 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (after that, the go-to variable rate applies, which is currently 18.24% – 28.24% (Variable)).
I don’t always enjoy trying to manage my financial accounts via app, but the Bank of America app is one that I do use regularly. I could quibble a bit about the design, but I think the usability is great. It’s easy to navigate between multiple types of Bank of America accounts. I can see card balances, due dates, rewards earned, and easily sign up for partner deals that often feature 10% to 15% savings.
Also, Bank of America Preferred Rewards members get a 25% to 75% boost on the rewards that this card earns. That means that they’re getting between 1.87 and 2.62 points per dollar spent. That, combined with no annual fee (see rates and fees), makes this card or one of its sister cards basically a no-brainer for Preferred Rewards members.
Apply for the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card on Bank of America’s website.
- No annual fee
- Unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on every purchase
- 25,000 points bonus offer
- 0% intro APR offer for 15 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers (after which the go-to rate of 18.24% – 28.24% (Variable) applies)
- 25%-75% rewards boost for Preferred Rewards members
- Higher rewards rates available on cards with an annual fee
- Limited perks
Best premium travel credit card: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Rewards rate: Earn 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel. 2X miles on all other purchases.
Why we picked it: High rewards rates, hefty welcome bonus offer, travel credit, anniversary miles, and travel perks that you’ll actually use. For frequent travelers, the benefits of this card can easily justify the high annual fee.
What we think you should know about the Capital One Venture X Card:
The first question you should ask with a premium travel card is whether the big annual fee (see rates and fees) is justified. For frequent travelers, we think the answer is most likely yes for the $395 fee on the Capital One Venture X Card.
It’d be hard to not get more than that value back in the first year, as the card has a welcome offer of 75,000 miles (after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months). We’d say that’s conservatively worth $750 in travel, and possibly more if you redeem well.
Past the first year though, we still think the value of the card holds up well. For one, you get an annual $300 in statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel. Plus, you get a 10,000 mile anniversary bonus, worth $100. So right there, you’ve got $400 in value to weigh against the $395 annual fee. We could argue that everything else is gravy.
In any case, the rest of the features just further bump up the value of the card on an ongoing basis. That includes the high rewards rates you get booking through Capital One Travel – 10X miles for hotels and car rentals and 5X miles for flights. It also includes the solid 2X miles per dollar that you get on the rest of your purchases. And it includes premium travel perks like unlimited access to lounges for you and two guests (there aren’t many Capital One lounges, but you also have access to the 1,300+ lounges available in its partner network).
There is a longer list of perks for many of the competing premium travel cards. This dings the Capital One Venture X Card a bit, but a lot of those perks get more targeted and won’t be a fit for everyone. Plus, many competing premium travel cards have an even higher annual fee.
It’s also worth pointing out that additional cardholders can be added with no fee. That’s not always the case, especially with premium-level cards.
And of course rewards points and miles are only as good as your ability to actually use them. In this case, there are multiple options, including the extremely easy option of using miles to cover travel expenses on your statement.
Apply for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card on Capital One’s website.
- High rewards rate, including strong baseline rate
- 75,000-mile welcome offer
- Annual $300 travel credit and bonus 10,000 anniversary miles
- Premium travel perks, including worldwide lounge access
- No fee for additional cardholders
- High annual fee
- Highest rewards rates annual travel credit require using Capital One Travel portal
- Not as many perks as other premium travel cards
Runner-up: best premium travel card with flexible redemption options: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Rewards rate: 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 2X points on other travel, 3X points on dining, online grocery orders, and select streaming services, 1 point per $1 on other purchases
Why we picked it: It earns bonus rewards across a variety of categories and has a welcome offer of 60,000 bonus points. Plus, this card’s Ultimate Rewards points give you lots of high-value redemption options.
What we think you should know about the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Both Chase Sapphire cards are loaded with benefits, but there’s one in particular that makes them special — their rewards program. Chase Ultimate Rewards is The Ascent’s pick for the best credit card rewards program.
I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and I also had the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, back when you could have one of each. I got both because they each have fantastic welcome offers and rewards rates, so they’re great for earning lots of points.
With either card, you can transfer your points to many airline and hotel loyalty programs, and there are some incredible savings opportunities this way. For example, I’ve transferred Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and booked a stay at a four-star hotel in New York, paying in points for what would have been a $5,634 stay. I’ve also transferred points to book business-class airfare, once saving $4,142 in the process.