2023 Guide to Travel Credit Cards What Are the Best Travel Credit Cards for 2023?
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2023 Guide to Travel Credit Cards

“Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.”

In case you hadn’t heard, travel is back in a big way. With demand for flights, hotels, and more going strong, it may be time to grab a new credit card that will not only reward you on the purchases of these bookings but can also bring some perks to your travel experience. What’s more, several travel-centric credit cards are now offering some of their best welcome bonuses.

On that note, let’s take a look at travel cards in three main categories: luxury, loyalty, and simplicity.

For Luxury Travelers

These days, there are a number of premium cards that offer big perks in exchange for a significant annual fee. However, when used to their full potential, these cards can return great value while also making your travels more comfortable and exciting.

American Express Platinum Card

American Express Platinum Card
  • Annual fee: $695
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Top travel perk: Access to Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClubs (when flying Delta), and other lounges via Priority Pass Select
  • Current public welcome offer: 80,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $6,000 in your first six months

The Platinum Card from American Express is one I’ve written about several times — but that’s partially because I’m a cardholder myself. Part of the reason my wife and I chose the Amex Platinum was because of its unmatched airport lounge access, which not only includes Priority Pass locations but also Delta SkyClubs (when you’re flying Delta) and American Express’s own Centurion Lounges. Additionally, cardholders can transfer their Membership Rewards to a number of travel partners.

Speaking of Membership Rewards points, the current welcome bonus for the Platinum could send you well on your way toward a great redemption. At this time, cardholders can earn 80,000 points when they spend $6,000 on the card in their first six months. 

As for other travel benefits, you’ll earn 5x points on flights booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel as well as 5x points on prepaid hotel bookings made through Amex Travel. On that note, you’ll also have access to the American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts program, unlocking exclusive perks such as guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout, $100 in unique property credits, and more. 

So, while the $695 annual fee may seem steep, the perks you receive coupled with the $200 per year in Uber credits, $200 per year in airline incidental credits, $189 in annual statement credits for CLEAR, $100 per year in Saks Fifth Avenue credits, $240 in digital entertainment credits (Peacock, Audible, The New York Times, SiriusXM), $300 in Equinox credits, $200 per year in prepaid Fine Hotel + Resort and Hotel Collection bookings, and more can certainly help make up the difference and then some.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Top travel perk: Airport lounge access via Priority Pass Select
  • Current public welcome offer: 60,000 bonus points when they spend $4,000 on purchases on the card in their first three months

One of the most popular premium travel cards is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. In fact, the card was hailed as a game changer when it first debuted and remains a beloved option. So what is it that draws people to the card?

First, the Sapphire Reserve earns 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel purchases as well as 3x points on dining at restaurants (including delivery services and takeout). What’s more, those points can be worth 50% more when used to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. 

Alternatively, Chase also maintains a variety of transfer partners, including popular airline and hotel brands. New cardholders can also earn 60,000 bonus points when they spend $4,000 on purchases on the card in their first three months.

Like with the Amex Platinum, the Chase Sapphire Reserve helps offset its $550 annual fee by providing various credits. In this case, this starts with a $300 annual travel credit that can be used for numerous travel-related expenses. With this plus other benefits — such as airport lounge access via Priority Pass Select — it’s easy to see why the Chase Sapphire Reserve has so many fans.

MasterCard Black Card

MasterCard Black Card
  • Annual fee: $495
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Top travel perk: Priority Pass Select and Luxury Card Travel benefits
  • Current public welcome offer: None

One travel card I haven’t featured before is the MasterCard Black Card from the aptly-named Luxury Card. With an annual fee of $495, it’s in the same league as the Amex Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve (although it is a bit lower in price). For that price, you’ll enjoy perks, such as airport lounge access via Priority Pass Select, exclusive Luxury Card Travel benefits, and more.

Another perk is that MasterCard Black Card offers an Annual Airline Credit of up to $100 on flight-related purchases. Additionally, points have a 2% value when redeemed for airfare. That said, the downsides are that the card only earns one point per dollar on purchases and currently has no welcome bonus. Therefore, it may behoove cardholders to closely compare their options.

For Loyal Travelers

If your travels often take you aboard a certain airline or to a specific hotel chain, you may benefit from what are known as co-branded cards. These cards may include such benefits as complimentary elite status (or a path to earning status), priority boarding, upgrades, and more. Here are just a few co-branded travel options:

Delta SkyMiles Cards

Delta SkyMiles Cards
  • Annual fee: $99-$550
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Top travel perk(s): Priority boarding and free checked bag on most cards, complimentary SkyClub access with Reserve card

Delta’s SkyMiles cards issued by American Express consist of three annual fee cards: Delta SkyMiles Gold, Delta SkyMiles Platinum, and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve. Each of these three-card cards entitles Delta flyers to such perks as priority boarding, their first checked bag free, and more. Even better, with the top-tier Reserve card, you’ll enjoy access to Delta SkyClubs when flying the airline along with American Express Centurion lounges. 

Plus, earlier this year, Delta added a new feature to their cards called TakeOff15. Now, when cardholders book Delta flights with SkyMiles, they can get a 15% discount — meaning that a flight that would normally cost 40,000 miles could be booked for only 34,000 miles.If you are considering a Delta SkyMiles card, now be may a great time to apply as the Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards are offering enhanced welcome bonuses for a limited time.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Cards

Southwest Rapid Rewards Cards
  • Annual fee: $69-$149
  • Foreign transaction fees: None on Premier and Priority cards, 3% on Plus card
  • Top travel perk(s): Up to 4 Upgraded Boardings per year with the Priority card

For those who prefer Southwest when they fly, there are three credit card options for you. These include the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier, and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority credit cards. With the latter two cards, you’ll be able to earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List status. 

Meanwhile, with the Priority card, you’ll also be able to take advantage of 4 Upgraded Boardings per year (when available) and a $75 Southwest annual travel credit. Of course, each card also earns Rapid Rewards points, redeemable to Southwest flights.

United Cards

United Cards
  • Annual fee: $0-$525
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Top travel perk(s): 25% back on United inflight purchases, free checked bag with Explorer and Infinite cards, United Club membership with Infinite card

Of the three airline co-branded line-ups we’re featuring, United’s may be the most interesting. This line-up includes the no-annual-fee United Gateway card, the $95 a year (waived for the first year) United Explorer card, and the $525 United Club Infinite card. 

In terms of what these cards have in common, they all earn United miles, offer 25% back on United inflight purchases, and more. With the Explorer and Infinite cards, travelers will also receive their first free checked bag and first two free checked bags respectively. Finally, the Infinite card includes a United Club membership while those with the Explorer card will get a taste of such luxury with 2 United Club one-time passes per year.

Hilton Honors Cards

Hilton Honors Cards
  • Annual fee: $0-$450
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Top travel perk(s): Complimentary Hilton Honors status, free weekend night reward with Aspire card

If you’re a Hilton fan, one of the easiest ways to earn Hilton Honors status is to hold one of their co-branded credit cards issued by American Express. With the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express card, you’ll earn complimentary Silver status. This increases to Gold with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card and to Diamond with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Additionally, those with the Surpass card who spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year can earn a Free Weekend Night Reward while the same reward is offered to Aspire cardholders each year. Finally, with each card offering Hilton Honors points on a variety of purchases, you’ll have plenty of options for earning your way to more free stays.

For Travelers Who Want More Options

Are premium cards too rich for your blood? And you’re not particularly loyal to any airline or hotel brand? Then a simple, straightforward travel rewards card may be a better option.

Capital One Venture Rewards

Capital One Venture Card
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Top travel perk: No blockout dates for reward redemptions
  • Current public welcome offer: 75,000 miles when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

With the Capital One Venture card, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on every purchase you make with the card. Then, these miles can be redeemed to stay at any hotel or fly any airline with no blackout dates. Because of this, it may be a good option for those who don’t want to worry about retaining loyalties or paying for luxury cards.

Currently, the Capital One Venture card is offering a 75,000-mile bonus when you spend $4,000 on the card in your first 3 months. This amounts to $750 in free travel. Of course, it should be noted that the card does carry a $95 annual fee. However, if you prefer a no-annual fee option, there’s also the Capital One VentureOne, which earns 1.25x miles on every purchase.

Capital One Venture X

  • Annual fee: $395
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Top travel perk: Lounge access (via Priority Pass)
  • Current public welcome offer: 75,000 miles when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

To be honest, this one could have gone in the Luxury Travel section as well — but, given its relation to the Venture card, I figured it could cap off our list instead. When it launched in 2021, the Venture X was one of the most talked about travel cards on the market. As it turns out, there’s good reason for that.

First, as the name implies, the card is essentially a premium version of the Venture card. In fact, while the card carries a $395 annual fee, when you take the $300 in annual statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel into account, the effective annual fee immediately resembles its little sibling’s $95 fee. Plus, each anniversary year, cardholders can earn 10,000 bonus miles when they renew their card.

As for other perks, the Capital One Venture X not only includes a Priority Pass Select but also allows cardholders to access Capital One Lounges. The first of these lounges is now open at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), but additional locations are planned for Denver (DEN) and Washington D.C. (IAD).

In terms of rewards, like the regular Venture card, Venture X earns a base of 2x miles on every purchase. However, cardholders can also earn 5x miles on flights booked via Capital One Travel as well as 10x miles on hotels and rental car bookings made using Capital One Travel.

With all of those factors in play, the Capital One Venture X offers a great mix of simplicity and luxury, making for a card that could be a great fit for a variety of travelers.

American Express Green Card

  • Annual fee: $150
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Top travel perk: Lounge access (via Priority Pass)
  • Current public welcome offer: 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 6 months — plus 20% back on travel and transit purchases in your first 6 months (up to $200 back)

Last but not least, let’s talk about the increasingly-attractive American Express Green Card. For those who aren’t quite ready for the hefty annual fee of the Amex Platinum, the Green card could be a great way to get started with the American Express ecosystem — especially right now as it’s offering its best-ever welcome bonus. 

Currently, new cardholders can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 in purchases on the card within their first 6 months. On top of that, they’ll earn 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchase during that first 6 months, up to a total of $200 back.

Beyond the welcome bonus, what’s great about the Amex Green card is the simplicity of its top categories. Rather than limiting rewards to a specific travel portal or booking type, cardholders can earn 3x points on eligible travel and transit purchases. Additionally, the card earns 3x points on dining purchases and 1x points on all other purchases.

Another great perk is the up to $189 in annual statement credits for CLEAR, which can help travelers speed up their airport security experience. Plus, the card also offers up to $100 in annual statement credits for LoungeBuddy, allowing less-frequent travelers to get a taste of the lounge experience. Notably, these two credits more than make up for the card’s $150 annual fee.

Ultimately, although the American Express Green Card may have been overlooked in recent years, it seems it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves.

With increased bonus offers abounding and plenty of perks to be enjoyed, now could be the perfect time to pick out a new travel credit card. Whether you’re one for luxury, want to make the most of your loyalty, or just want to keep things simple, there’s surely a card for you. As always, however, be sure to compare all of your options and run the numbers on any annual fees to ensure that you get as much value as possible from these travel-minded selections.

Fioney has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Fioney.com and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.” (Note: advertising relationships do not have any influence on editorial content. Advertising compensation allows Fioney.com to provide quality content for free. All editorial opinions are those of the individual author and/or Fioney staff.)


Kyle Burbank

Head Writer ~ Fioney
Kyle is the head writer for Fioney. He is a personal finance nerd, constantly looking for new apps and services to test and incorporate into his own financial game plan. In addition to his role at Fioney, he's written for other publications including Born2Invest, Lifehack, and Laughing Place, as well as his own site Money@30. He also creates personal finance and travel-related videos for Money@30's YouTube channel, which has garnered more than 2 million views. Currently, Kyle resides in Springfield, Missouri with his wife of 10 years. Together, they enjoy traveling (including visiting Disney Parks around the world), dining, and playing with their dog Rigby.

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