Imagine if someone asked you what the best pair of shoes is. It would be impossible to answer, as the right shoes for one person could be a disaster for another. And even if you chose your favorite shoes, they might only be useful to you for a specific purpose, and inadequate much of rest of the time.
The same is true when it comes to travel rewards credit cards, as you’ll never find one card that makes the most sense for everyone, and you might need different cards for different uses. Here are four different credit card needs, and the right card for the job:
A credit card for infrequent travelers
Most Americans will only jump on a plane once or twice a year, but these travelers can still hope to earn rewards for their spending. At the same time, infrequent travelers are unlikely to know how to navigate the complex loyalty programs attached to many travel rewards credit cards.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is the right card for these travelers, as it offers miles that can be redeemed as statement credits towards any travel purchase. New applicants receive 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 90 days after they open their account. You also earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, and miles are worth one cent each towards any airfare, hotel, rental car, cruise or tour you purchase. You even receive a 5% rebate on your miles redeemed. There’s an $89 annual fee for this card (waived the first year), and no foreign transaction fees.
A credit card for frequent travelers who aren’t brand-loyal
Although many frequent travelers focus on a single brand, there are an increasing number who have declared themselves free agents, and will simply look for the best deals, regardless of the airline or hotel. For these travelers, The Platinum Card® from American Express is an ideal choice. It offers you 5x points on all airfare purchases, and on hotels booked through Amex Travel. Points can be transferred to miles with over a dozen frequent flyer programs, allowing you to take advantage of the best deals as you find them.
But it’s the benefits of this card that really set it apart. For example, you get a credit of up to $100 towards the application fee for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, which includes PreCheck, and an annual air travel fee credit of up to $200. You also get annual credits towards Uber of up to $200 and even credits of up to $100 towards purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue stores (enrollment required). You also receive a membership in the Delta SkyClub, Priority Pass Select and American Express Centurion airport lounge programs. You even get to enjoy Gold elite status with Marriott and Hilton hotels, and elite status with Avis, Hertz and National car rentals. There’s a $550 annual fee for this card (see rates and fees).
Top cards for brand loyal frequent travelers
If you’re focusing on a single brand, and you travel often, you should really use the card that gives you the most benefits while you travel. Here are some great options:
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers you $75 in Southwest travel credits, and four upgraded boardings each year when available. You’ll also earn 7,500 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary, and receive 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi. There’s a $149 annual fee for this card.
United flyers will appreciate priority boarding included with the United℠ Explorer Card, along with a free checked bag and two United Club passes each year. You also get double miles restaurants and hotel stays, and a credit of up to $100 towards the application fee for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, which includes PreCheck. There’s a $95 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year.
The Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card is the card for Delta flyers, as it offers you 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases with your new Card in your account’s first three months. You can also earn 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 15,000 bonus miles after you reach $30,000 in eligible purchases on your card each calendar year. Benefits include priority boarding, a free checked bag and upgrade priority. You also receive a Delta SkyClub membership. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card (see rates & fees).
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®will let you enjoy all the perks when you fly American. The key benefit is an Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder and uniquely, all additional cardholders. You also earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases each calendar year. Other benefits include a checked bag, priority service and discounts on inflight food and beverages. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card.