The 5 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards of 2018

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Pack your bags! The best credit cards for travel rewards offer huge sign-up bonuses, valuable rewards, and extra travel perks.

With the right card, you can book free or discounted travel to just about anywhere.

At a glance: The best credit cards for travel rewards

Here’s a quick summary of the best credit cards with travel rewards. Read on to learn more about each card, along with its pros and cons.

Credit Card What It’s Best For
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Best for premium travel perks
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Best for general travel
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card Best for hotel rewards
UnitedSM Explorer Card Best for airline rewards
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card Best for no annual fee

Depending on how often you travel and your preferences, you’ll want to compare each of these cards to find the one that’s best for you.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for premium travel perks

It’s “go big or go home” with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. The card’s elite-level perks come with a premium annual fee of $450.

Benefits

Stellar rewards: With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’ll earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases..

You’ll also Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Valuable redemption: If you redeem your points for cash back or gift cards, you’ll get a value of one cent per point. For instance, a $25 gift card would cost you 2,500 points.

But if you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, you’ll get 50 percent more value. For example, a $200 plane ticket would cost only 13,333 points rather than 20,000.

You can also choose to transfer your points to one of Chase’s 11 airline and hotel partners at a one-to-one ratio. Partners include the following:

  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue Air France-KLM
  • Korean Air Skypass
  • Singapore Airlines Krisflyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • World of Hyatt

Premium perks: If the rewards aren’t enough, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® sweetens the pot with an annual travel credit. Simply use your card to book travel, and Chase will automatically reimburse you up to $300 per year.

You’ll also get the following:

  • Free access to more than 1,000 Priority Pass Select lounges.
  • An application fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, two programs that allow you to move through airport security or U.S. Customs more quickly.
  • Special privileges when you use the card to book a rental car with National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks

High annual fee: It can be hard for some people to justify a $450 annual fee. Even if you’re getting more value from the benefits, that’s a large expense you have to pay every year.

Requires excellent credit: Unless your credit is practically flawless, you may have a hard time qualifying for approval. The good news is that there are steps you can take to increase your credit score.

The information related to Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected by Student Loan Hero and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Best for general travel

If you don’t care for premium perks and you want straightforward rewards, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card fits the bill.

Benefits

High rewards rate: With the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, you’ll earn 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. Among credit cards with travel rewards, that’s about as good as it gets.

You’ll also earn a One-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel.

Flexible rewards redemption: As with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can use your Venture miles to book travel through Capital One’s site.

If you want even more flexibility, simply use your card to make a travel purchase anywhere, and you can then use your miles for a full or partial statement credit against the purchase. Feel free to book international travel, too – the card has no foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks

Annual fee: The card has an annual fee of $0 intro for first year; $95 after that. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t spend a lot, you might not earn enough rewards to make it worth it. You’d have to spend $4,750 every year to make up for the fee.

Poor cash-back rewards: If you want the flexibility to use your Venture miles on more than travel, you’re out of luck. Your miles would be worth only half as much as if you used them on travel.

The information related to Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has been collected by Student Loan Hero and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Best for hotel rewards

If you spend a lot of time in hotels, you probably know that some can be sketchy. The Marriott Hotels brand is fairly upscale and has an outstanding loyalty program. That alone makes the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card is worth having, but it’s not the only reason.

Benefits

Valuable rewards: With the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, you’ll get what are almost certainly the best hotel rewards in the business. While it doesn’t seem that way on the surface – Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

Rewards:

Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy Points on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels. Earn 3X Marriott Bonvoy Points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. Earn 2X Marriott Bonvoy Points on all other eligible purchases.

Extra perks: If the rewards aren’t enough, there are other benefits you’ll get from the card as well. As with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, it has no foreign transaction fees. You’ll also have exclusive access to ticket presales for Broadway shows, concerts, sporting events, and more.

Drawbacks

Annual fee: $450. If you’re not a big spender, this could be a roadblock.

Not as flexible as general travel cards: Like any hotel credit card, you’re limited in how you can redeem your rewards as compared with a general travel or cash-back card. The Starwood Amex is more flexible than other hotel cards, but may not be worth it if you want to use your rewards on other travel purchases.

Limited overseas acceptance: American Express isn’t as widely accepted internationally as Visa and Mastercard. Even in the U.S., Amex lags behind those two, as well as Discover, according to The Nilson Report. That’s not to say the card is completely useless, but it might be wise to have a Visa or Mastercard as a backup.

The information related to Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been collected by Student Loan Hero and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.

UnitedSM Explorer Card: Best for airline rewards

If you’re loyal to a specific airline, it may be best to use their credit card. But if you haven’t settled on one, the UnitedSM Explorer Card is worth considering.

Benefits

Sign-up bonus: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open

Rewards: Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

To make things even more worth your while, the card throws in two United Club passes each year that you can use in the airline’s airport lounges. You’ll also pay no foreign transaction fees.

Drawbacks

Annual fee: $0 Intro for First Year, then $95.

Limited flexibility: If you want to use your miles for anything other than flights, your options are extremely limited. On the bright side, United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance, so you can use your miles to book flights with other alliance members, including Air Canada, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines.

The information related to UnitedSM Explorer Card has been collected by Student Loan Hero and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card: Best for no annual fee

The best of the best credit cards for travel rewards have big sign-up bonuses and annual fees. But if you’re fee-averse or you don’t spend a lot, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card is a perfect fit.

Benefits

High rewards rate: Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases

Flexible redemption: Like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card lets you use your rewards on any travel purchase. Use the card to book travel – 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles, then a 16.74% - 24.74% Variable APR applies.

Drawbacks

Low sign-up bonus: 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Poor cash redemption: If you want more than travel rewards, you may want to opt for a cash-back card instead. This one gives you half as much value for cash redemptions as for travel.

The information related to Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card has been collected by Student Loan Hero and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.

Next steps

As you’re considering the best credit cards for travel rewards, it’s important to understand that there’s no one best credit card for everyone.

Know what your travel goals and spending habits are, and don’t be afraid of an annual fee. In many cases, you can still get more value out of a card with an annual fee than one without one. Be sure to weigh the fee against the benefits to make sure it works for you.

Once you choose a card, make sure you research all of its benefits. Many travel credit cards offer perks that aren’t as evident as others. These can help make your next vacation a more pleasant experience overall.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2019!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Fixed rates from 5.99% APR to 17.88% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.49% APR to 14.70% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of November 4, 2019 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.49% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.81% plus 3.08% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.
    See Consumer Licenses.
  3. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  4. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may apply for Unemployment Protection. SoFi will suspend your monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during your forbearance period. Interest will continue to accrue and will be added to your principal balance at the end of each forbearance period, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Benefits are offered in three month increments, and capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. To be eligible for this assistance you must provide proof that you have applied for and are eligible for unemployment compensation, and you must actively work with our Career Advisory Group to look for new employment. If the loan is co-signed the unemployment protection applies where both the borrower and cosigner lose their job and meet conditions.
  5. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 5.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 5.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan for an amount less than $12,000.00, and with a term equal to 24 months. Adding a co-borrower with sufficient income; using at least eighty-five percent (85%) of the loan proceeds to directly pay off qualifying existing debt; or showing proof of sufficient retirement savings, could help you also qualify for the lowest rate available.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates from 6.79% – 20.89% (6.79% – 20.89% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%- 18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
     
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

  • Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 6% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon LendingPoint’s final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. LendingPoint makes loan offers from $2,000 to $25,000, at rates ranging from a low of 15.49% APR to a high of 35.99% APR, with terms from 24 to 48 months. The loan offer(s) shown reflect a 28 day payment cycle which is being offered as a courtesy as many of our customers are paid on a biweekly schedule and thus this may better align the loan payment dates with your actual income receipt schedule.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.95% to 35.89%*. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% of the original principal balance and is deducted from your loan proceeds. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at the time of application. The average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. In Georgia, the minimum loan amount is $3,025. In Massachusetts, the minimum loan amount is $6,025 if your APR is greater than 12%. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months. Borrower must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or be in the United States on a valid long term visa and at least 18 years old. Valid bank account and Social Security number are required. Equal Housing Lender. All loans are subject to credit approval. LendingClub’s physical address is: LendingClub, 71 Stevenson Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94105.

†Per reviews collected and authenticated by Bazaarvoice in compliance with the Bazaarvoice Authentication Requirements, supported by anti-fraud technology and human analysis. All reviews can be reviewed at reviews.lendingclub.com

**Based on approximately 60% of borrowers who received offers through LendingClub’s marketing partners between January 1, 2018 to July 20,2018. The time it will take to fund your loan may vary.


7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

8 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

*If approved, the actual loan terms that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination, state law, and other factors. Minimum loan amounts vary by state.

**Example: A $5,900 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,619.75, repayable in 36 monthly installments, with an APR of 29.95% would have monthly payments of $250.30.

Based on the responses from 11,574 customers in a survey of 210,584 newly funded customers, conducted from 1 Feb 2018 – 1 Aug 2019 95.05% of customers stated that they were either extremely satisfied or satisfied with Avant. 4/5 Customers would recommend us. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.


* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Personal loans made through Upgrade feature APRs of 6.98%-35.89%. All personal loans have a 1.5% to 6% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 17.98% APR (which includes a 14.32% yearly interest rate and a 5% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,500 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $343.33. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $12,359.97. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early. Personal loans issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

5.99% – 17.88%1$5,000 - $100,000

Visit SoFi

5.69% – 35.99%$1,000 - $50,000

Visit Upstart

6.98% – 35.89%*$1,000 - $50,000

Visit Upgrade

5.99% – 24.99%2$5,000 - $35,000

Visit Payoff

5.99% – 29.99%3$7,500 - $40,000

Visit FreedomPlus

6.79% – 20.89%4$5,000 - $50,000

Visit Citizens

15.49% – 35.99%5$2,000 - $25,000

Visit LendingPoint

6.95% – 35.89%6$1,000 - $40,000

Visit LendingClub

5.99% – 17.24%7$5,000 - $75,000

Visit Earnest

9.95% – 35.99%8$2,000 - $35,000

Visit Avant

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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