Chase Travel Credit Cards

The Best Travel Credit Card: Why You Should Get it First

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If you want to earn the most possible points for travel, you’ll need to start with the best travel credit card available.  There are a few factors that you should pay close attention to while shopping for a new credit card.  Obviously, you’re getting a travel credit card because you want to travel more.  With the best travel credit cards you will earn tons of travel points and receive travel benefits that you may have thought were only for the rich.  Credit cards are a great way to earn free travel for you and your family.

Since I started traveling with points and miles, I’ve earned nearly 2 million points and traveled as often as I want.  I’ve been to Hawaii (my favorite place) at least once every year for the past 7 years.  I don’t think I’ve paid more than the taxes and fees ($11.20 round trip) for any of those flights.  I figure if you have good credit, you might as well put it to work for yourself.

 

Important Factors in Finding the Best Travel Credit Card

  • Introductory Offers
  • Minimum Spending Requirement
  • Point Earning Potential
  • Travel Benefits
  • Annual Fees
  • Annual bonuses

best travel credit card for earning

Introductory Offers

The best travel credit cards all offer an introductory bonus offer.  These offers are structured so that you earn a select amount of bonus points after spending so much money on your new credit card within a certain time frame.  For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card you earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of having the card.  Obviously, this is a very important feature because it gives you extreme value right away.

Minimum Spending Requirement

Introductory offers aren’t usually automatically given to you after being approved for a credit card.  You’ll typically have to complete a minimum spending requirement within a specified time frame.   Then your points bonus will be released into your account.  Minimum spending requirement amounts vary, but typically are between $500-5000 within the first 3-4 months.

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Point Earning Potential

Some of the best travel credit cards have spending categories that will earn bonus points.  These bonus categories range from groceries, to gas stations, all the way to office supply stores and online advertising for businesses.  Typically bonus spend categories will earn 2-5x points for every dollar you spend.  Each credit card has a different set of bonus categories, which allows a lot of potential to earn points.

Travel Benefits

Another feature of travel credit cards is that many of them come with special travel benefits.  Airline cards may come with priority boarding, free checked bags, or airport lounge access.  Hotel cards often come with elite status at the hotel chain, which might allow for upgrades when you stay.  Many of the transferable point system credit cards come with free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.  A few credit cards also come with airport lounge access through Priority Pass, and even offer statement credits for travel purchases.

Annual Fees

All of these features sometimes come with an annual fee.  It’s important to review how much an annual fee is, and whether it is worth paying it for all the benefits you will receive.  Usually, the higher the annual fee is for a credit card, the more travel benefits you will receive.  Even though some annual fees can be very high, they’re often worth paying, especially if you’ll be traveling a lot.  Some travel credit cards will waive the annual fee in the first card member year.

Annual Bonuses

Some of the best travel credit cards offer a bonus on the card member anniversary.  These bonuses are automatically applied, and some are only earned if you spend a certain amount throughout the year.  Hotel credit cards often offer a free night at their hotels each year.  A few airlines give you a free companion fare each calendar year.  These annual bonuses can help offset the annual fee a credit card may have.

 

My First Travel Credit Card Ever

I was fortunate enough to start out with the best travel credit card ever: the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  My points journey all started when I had to get a root canal on my tooth.  After seeing how much the procedure was going to cost me out of pocket, I quickly started looking for a way to get some of that money back.  I had seen advertisements for credit cards that had introductory bonuses after being approved so I started my research online.  My plan wasn’t specifically to get a travel credit card until I accidentally came across a few travel blogs, while researching.

chase sapphire preferred credit card

 

I read a few posts, and quickly learned how lucrative using credit card points for travel could be.  Instead of redeeming at a value of one cent per point with cash back or purchases on the likes of Amazon, I learned that you can redeem points for travel at a value of greater than two cents per point.  Essentially getting double the value out of your points by using them for travel.  I had always wanted to travel more, but couldn’t afford it, so I jumped on the opportunity.  I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, because almost every travel blogger I came across said it was the best travel credit card of them all.

Introductory Offer Worth Two Round Trip Flights to Hawaii

With my good credit score, I was approved instantly for the best travel credit card.  Quickly, I started meeting the minimum spend to earn my bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards.  I had my root canal procedure (ugh), paid for it, and met the rest of the minimum spend with my regular purchases.  When I received my 50,000 point introductory bonus, I didn’t waste much time.  After reading about the Ultimate Rewards transfer partners, I did my research and transferred my points to British Airways to book two round trip flights to Maui for 25,000 points each.

I was on my way.  Little did I know, I would read almost every travel blog post in the industry over the next few years and become an expert myself.  It’s pretty amazing that the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still the best credit card for new points travelers after all this time.  It has withstood the test of time, and I still recommend it more often than not when someone asks me which is the best travel credit card to get first.

best travel credit card free hawaii

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred: The Best Travel Credit Card to Start With

50,000 Points after spending $4000 in the first 3 months

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
  • Introductory Offer: You’ll earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards and potentially even more if transferred to travel partners.
  • Earning Categories: You’ll earn 2 points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Travel Point Transfer Partners: 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • Extra Point Value: Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Annual Fee: $95 (waived in year 1)

This is the best travel credit card.  Learn more about this card and find out how to apply HERE.

 

What Makes This The Best Travel Credit Card

Versatility.  The number one reason the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best travel credit card is that it’s so easy to redeem points.  It’s especially good for people who are new to traveling with points because of this ease of use.  The points can be redeemed either through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal for a fixed rate of 1.25 cents per point, or by converting points to one of the transfer partners, which can net an average of over 2 cents per point.  Both options give an elevated redemption value.  If you’re willing to put in some effort in researching airline award charts, you’ll get the most out of your points by taking advantage of the transfer partners.

chase ultimate rewards transfer partner airlines

Chase Airline Transfer Partners

chase ultimate reward transfer partner hotels

Chase Hotel Transfer Partners

Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal – 1.25c/pt

At 1.25 cents per point, redeeming through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal is a good option.  Especially if you want to keep things as simple as possible.

Travel Transfer Partners – ~2c/pt

By transferring your points to one of the Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partners, you’ll have the opportunity to earn over 2 cents per point on your rewards.  There are 13 travel transfer partners.  They include 9 airlines and 4 hotel chains, all of which transfer at a 1:1 ratio.  I regularly transfer my points to Ultimate Rewards travel partners.  I transfer to both British Airways to use their travel partners for flights, and Hyatt to most often stay at Hyatt Place properties.  I’ve found that by using these two transfer partners, we often get over 2 cents of value per point.

Other Redemption Options – 1c/pt

There are also a few other redemption offers that don’t involve travel, but they won’t get you as much value.  You have the option of using your points as cash back, to spend on Amazon, to spend on exclusive experiences, or to purchase gift cards.  All of these options give a fixed value of 1 cent per point.  I wouldn’t recommend using your points in this fashion, unless you really want something and don’t have the money for it.  It just doesn’t get you as much value as travel does.

 

Combine Other Chase Cards with the Sapphire Preferred

Another reason that the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best travel credit card, is because there are a handful of other Chase cards that pair very well alongside the Sapphire Preferred.  In total there are six other cards that can be used to earn Ultimate Rewards points.  Three personal cards and three business cards.  They are all very valuable in their own ways and can be used together for the perfect storm of point earning.  If you have both personal and business expenses, you should look into which of these cards can help you earn even more free travel.  Between my wife and I, we have five of these cards and can earn category bonuses on almost every purchase we make.  This largely helps to earn enough points to travel as much as we want.

Chase credit cards to pair with chase sapphire preferred

7 Credit Cards That Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards

***Only these cards have travel portal bonus redemption rates and transfer partners.

Ultimate Rewards Can Be Transferred Between Card Accounts

The best part of pairing up multiple Chase credit cards, is that the ultimate rewards from one card account can be transferred and combined with the points in another card account.  This means that, for instance, if you earn Ultimate Rewards with the Chase Freedom (which normally doesn’t have transfer partners available), you can transfer them over to your Chase Sapphire Preferred account to redeem them (either with the 25% portal bonus or with transfer partners).

Note in the chart above, that you will need one of the three starred (***) Chase credit cards in order to get a bonus and to have the option of redeeming through transfer partners.  While four of these credit cards are technically listed as cash back cards, you will still earn Ultimate Rewards.  These “cash back” Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to your other card accounts that have the full Ultimate Rewards travel benefits, so that you can get more value out of them.

transfer chase ultimate rewards

Chase Freedom Has Tons of Earning Potential with No Annual Fee

15,000 Points after spending $500 in the first 3 months

Chase Freedom Credit Card Review
  • Introductory Offer: You’ll earn a $150 Bonus (via 15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Introductory APR: 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • Earning Categories: You’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.  The categories are things like grocery stores, gas stations, internet, cable, phone services, Walgreens, and even using Chase Pay.  You’ll earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Chase Freedom Categories 2018Free Credit Score: View your credit score, updated every week on Credit Journey.
  • Annual Fee: No annual fee

This rewards card pairs well with the best travel credit card.  Learn more about this card and find out how to apply HERE.

Chase Freedom Quarterly Spending Category Bonuses

Each quarter, you can earn up to 7,500 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards through the Chase Freedom’s category bonuses.  That means in a calendar year you could potentially have an extra 30,000 points to spend on travel.  For instance, that’s more than enough for a round-trip flight to Hawaii using transfer partners.  While you may not spend $1,500 in a quarter on gas, groceries or at Walgreens, they all happen to sell gift cards to an assortment of businesses that you may regularly make purchases at.  Those gift cards can be used for your future purchases.

While they try to make “Chase Pay” more utilized, Chase continually adds it as a bonus category almost every quarter.  That means that you can earn 5 points per dollar anywhere that accepts Chase Pay.  You can find a list of merchants who accept it on the Chase website.

Don’t Want to Worry About Category Bonuses? Freedom Unlimited Earns 1.5 Points on All Purchases

15,000 Points after spending $500 in the first 3 months

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card
  • Introductory Offer: You’ll earn a $150 Bonus (via 15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Introductory APR: 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • Earning Points: You’ll earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases.  No worrying about category bonuses.
  • Free Credit Score: View your credit score, updated every week on Credit Journey.
  • Annual Fee: No annual fee

This rewards card pairs well with the best travel credit card.  Learn more about this card and find out how to apply HERE.

 

Looking for More Luxury while Traveling?

If it’s luxurious travel that you’re looking for, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  It’s the best travel credit card for luxury.  It boasts, arguably, the best overall travel benefits of any travel credit card.  With the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card you will be living lavishly the second you step foot in the airport.

First off, you’ll go through airport security in a breeze with TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.  That means less of a line to wait in, your shoes and belt can stay on, and your laptop can stay in the bag.  You won’t want to spend much time in the security line with everyone else, because you’ll also have airport lounge access in over 1,200 locations worldwide.  Instead of sitting out in the terminal, you’ll be in a private area with comfortable seating, amenities like television and newspapers, and best of all: free food and drinks.  Once you travel in luxury like this, you’ll never want to go back… Trust me!

Best Luxury Travel Credit Cards

The Best Premier Travel Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve Gives You Airport Lounge Access

50,000 Points after spending $4000 in the first 3 months

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
  • Introductory Offer: Earn an introductory 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months.
  • Statement Credits: Receive a $300 in statement credits each year (based on your account anniversary) to cover travel expenses like airfare and hotels.
  • Receive a $100 Statement credit as reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck enrollment.
  • Earning Categories: You’ll earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining and on travel that doesn’t qualify for the $300 travel reimbursement each year and one point per $1 on everything else.
  • Travel Point Transfer Partners: 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs.
  • Extra Point Value: Receive 50 percent more value for your points when you redeem for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Airport Lounge Access: Visit more than 1000 airport lounge locations while traveling with a Priority Pass Select membership.
  • Annual Fee: $450

This rewards card pairs well with the best travel credit card.  Learn more about this card and find out how to apply HERE.

 

Have a Business or Side Hustle? Get Business Credit Cards to Earn More Rewards

If you have a business or even just a side hustle, you should be keeping your expenses separate with a business credit card.  There are some amazing introductory offers and point earning potential with business travel credit cards.  In my opinion, the Ink Business Preferred has the top introductory offer of ALL the best travel credit cards (personal or business).  Along with great introductory offers, these cards can earn a ton of points with their extremely useful category bonuses for spending.  They offer bonuses of 3-5X points on things like phone bills, internet bills, and office supply stores.  Even if you don’t have an incorporated business, it still counts.

best business travel credit cards

 

You can apply for business credit cards for your sole proprietorship, using your social security number instead of an EIN.  You may technically have a sole proprietorship and not even know it.  Do you make any money outside of your employed job?  Sell stuff on eBay? Have garage sales?  Do handy work on the side?  Sell crafts?  You have a sole proprietorship, and a reason to get a business credit card to earn more points.  Here is the best travel credit card for businesses.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Has an Introductory Bonus of 80,000 Points

80,000 Points after spending $5000 in the first 3 months

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
  • Introductory Offer: You’ll earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from your account opening.
  • Earning Categories: You’ll earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories (including social media advertising!) each account anniversary year.  You’ll earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases, with no limit to the amount you can earn.
  • Other Benefits: Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.  You can redeem points for travel, cash back, and gift cards, or transfer your points to an airline or hotel partner.  You’ll get a cell phone protection plan of up to $600 when you pay your cell phone bill with the card.  You’ll receive rental car loss and damage coverage if your reservation is paid with the card.
  • Annual Fee: $95

This business rewards card pairs well with the best travel credit card.  Learn more about this card and find out how to apply HERE.

 

Chase Ink Business Cash is the Best Kept Secret for Points Earning

50,000 Points after spending $3000 in the first 3 months

Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card
  • Introductory Offer: You’ll earn $500 bonus cash back (via 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Category Spend Bonuses: You’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent on the first $25,000 spent on purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year.  You’ll earn 2 points per $1 on the first $25,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year.  You’ll earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn.
  • Special Introductory APR: 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers.
  • Annual Fee: There is no annual fee.

This business rewards card pairs well with the best travel credit card.  Learn more about this card and find out how to apply HERE.

 

Ink Business Unlimited is Similar to the Freedom Unlimited – 1.5 Points Everywhere

50,000 Points after spending $3000 in the first 3 months

Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
  • Introductory Offer: You’ll earn $500 bonus cash back (via 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Category Spend Bonuses: You’ll earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on every purchase made for your business.
  • Special Introductory APR: 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers.
  • Annual Fee: There is no annual fee.

This business rewards card pairs well with the best travel credit card.  Learn more about this card and find out how to apply HERE.

best travel credit card rewards

Keep It Simple With One Point System: Chase Ultimate Rewards

As you can see, there are many reasons why the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best travel credit card.  It has a great introductory offer with a reasonable minimum spending requirement.  The annual fee is waived in the first year of having the card.  Most importantly, the reward points earned are very valuable when used for travel.  It’s very possible to use the introductory offer points to book flights for multiple people or for multiple vacations.

It’s also a great jumping off point to start traveling with points.  Because there are so many other Chase credit cards that also have the potential to earn Ultimate Rewards when paired together, you’ll be able to earn free travel for a long time to come.  With the travel credit cards mentioned above, there are 310,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points up for grabs!  And, that only includes the introductory offers.  You can earn even more points with their variety of category bonuses.  The bottom line is, if you want to travel more, start traveling using points instead of dollars.

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