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5 Travel Credit Cards to Consider in 2024

travel blog viv the wanderer

I’m obsessed with redeeming points for travel. I keep a tracker for all my travel credit cards, how many points I’ve earned from each and how much they cost me. Yes, I’m the person who meticulously plans which credit card I’ll be using before making MOST purchases.

But before you judge me, consider this: Last year, I earned about $1.5k alone in travel rewards and made another $1k from non-travel related expenses. Earning free flights and stays via credit card points is one of the most passive ways you can squeeze that extra trip or two in the year! It’s like having passive income.

Besides all the perks of credit card rewards, I’ve also enjoyed some benefits from hotel and airline reward programs.

So what are the best travel credit cards and reward programs you need to keep an eye out on this year? Here’s my top 6 — read on to see why.

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve
  2. United Explorer
  3. World of Hyatt
  4. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature
  5. Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred Mastercard

Chase Sapphire Reserve

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with some great benefits:

  • 60,000 sign-on point bonus
  • 3 points for every dollar spent on dining and travel
  • 1.5x point redemption
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • $100 credit for TSA Pre and Global Entry every X years
  • Free Priority Pass lounge access

However the benefits to come with a cost:

  • $550 annual fee

Who this card is for:

If you like having the flexibility of flying with any airline and staying at any hotel, already have other Chase cards you can transfer points from, and/or take at least 1 international trip every year (for the lounge benefits), this card is for you.

How to maximize this credit card:

The 1.5x point redemption plus 3x points per dollar spent on dining and travel translates to about 4.5 points that you can spend on travel for each dollar spent using the card. This perk alone will get you pretty far in making that $550 annual fee back.

In order to maximize the 1.5X point redemption further, transfer points from other Chase cards so you can rack up points faster. In addition to the Reserve, I also have a Chase Freedom (5x points on certain categories every quarter) and Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5x points on everything) credit card. Neither of these have annual fees so I don’t lose anything by holding onto these two cards and using them to help me earn points faster.

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United Explorer

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As far as I know, United is one of the few airlines that offers a credit card with priority boarding perks. At first, I wasn’t personally convinced that this was a perk worth getting a credit card for. But after my partner got the card and I was able to enjoy the benefits of Priority Boarding, I was a changed woman.

United Explorer Card Benefits

  • Priority Boarding (this applies to all United credit cards except the Gateway – lowest tier)
  • 60,000 bonus miles at sign-on
  • 2 one-time United Club passes per year
  • Free first checked-bag for you and a companion
  • $100 Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA Precheck credit
  • 25% off United inflight purchases

Cost

  • $95 annual fee

Who this card is for

United is one of the biggest airlines in the U.S. Even if you don’t currently fly it regularly, it won’t be hard for you to find ways to travel with United Airlines. I also found that it can be one of the cheapest flight options — the perfect airline to start earning loyalty status with if you want to take more trips while still being conscious of your budget.

How to maximize this credit card

If this is your first time signing up for the credit, definitely spend the minimum $3k required to get the bonus miles. 60,000 United miles can get you a business class round trip to the Caribbean or a trip in the Economy Saver class to Hawaii!

For more tips check out Forbes’ tips on maximizing the United credit card rewards.

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World of Hyatt

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My parents have been bragging about their World of Hyatt credit card for a while now. The biggest perk of getting this credit card is you get a FREE night at a category 1-4 Hyatt just by being a cardholder. Free money anyone??

At first I was like, how much can a hotel room cost? The credit card does have a $95 annual fee attached to it, so if a FREE night had a value less than or not much higher than $95, it wouldn’t be worth the hassle of holding onto another credit card.

After doing some research, and with a little added help from Upgradedpoint’s guide, I realized this FREE night could mean a value of around $400 at some of the nicer hotels.

For example, I could’ve stayed at the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve when I visited Puerto Rico!!

Perks of the World of Hyatt Credit Card

  • 60,000 bonus points at sign-on
  • 1 FREE night every year w/ ways to earn additional nights
  • 2x points on categories beyond travel & dining
  • Late checkout privileges

Cost

  • $95 annual fee

Who this card is for

I would recommend this card to everyone. As a general tip with travel credit card and reward programs though, make sure you’re not opening multiple credit cards at once so 1) your credit score won’t get hit badly and 2) you can actually meet the minimum spend required to get all the perks and maximize, maximize, maximize!

How to maximize

Simply sign up and spend the minimum amount to get the sign-on bonus! Then make sure you redeem your FREE night each year.

If you also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire, you can transfer points from your Hyatt card to maximize its redemption value.

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Alaska Airlines Visa Signature

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Along the same veins as the World of Hyatt Credit Card, the Alaska Airlines Credit Card also seems to just want to give you free money, with its biggest perk being the annual $99 companion pass 🙂 Each year, someone gets to fly with you for only $99 (potentially a bit more with taxes and fees). If your itinerary costs $600, that’s a $500 value!

They also offer Priority Boarding (a new addition in 2023 which I’m stoked about!)

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature perks

  • $99 Companion Fare
  • 70,000 bonus miles at sign-on
  • Priority boarding
  • 20% off in-flight purchases
  • $100 off Alaska lounge membership
  • Free checked bag

Cost

  • $95

Who this card is for

If you fly Alaska Airlines often, and do so with your significant other or family, or there’s a trip coming up where Alaska is an airline option and you’ll be spending several hundred, getting the credit card is a good option.

How to maximize

Open the credit card at least 90 days before you plan on using the Companion Fare (since that’s how long it can take for your companion fare code to show up in your account). It’s best if you can use the fare on a trip you already plan on taking or have been wanting to take, where the fare is a bit higher so you are maximizing the discount.

For me, that’s a trip during the holidays from New York to California (fares can shoot up to $600)

You can read more about Alaska’s companion fare here.

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Amtrak Guest Rewards Preferred Mastercard

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I got the Amtrak Guest Rewards travel credit card last year, and have been able to go home from New York City to Bethesda, Maryland for free. They were trips I was already going to take, so getting free rides home on the Amtrak (which is super comfy) was just the cherry on top.

The perks

  • 20,000 sign-on bonus
  • 20% rebate on food and beverage
  • Round-trip companion coupon
  • One-class upgrade
  • 3 points per $1 spent on Amtrak travel, including onboard purchases
  • 2 points per $1 spent on dining, travel, transit and rideshare
  • 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else

Cost

  • $99 annual fee

Who this card is for

This card is perfect for those already taking Amtrak regularly or plan on doing so in the future. There’s no point in getting the card if you have to go out of your way to take it.

Many people might not know this, but the Amtrak actually has a bunch of scenic routes. Some of the ones I think are worth experiencing include its Pacific Surfliner that takes you on a 351-mile road along the Pacific Coast. There’s also the Maple Leaf that goes from Toronto to New York. Imagine taking this train in the fall and all the foliage you’d be able to see!

How to maximize this credit card

20,000 points equals 2 round-trips between NY and DC (about a $500 value). Getting the sign-on bonus is one of the primary perks of getting the card (if not the primary purpose).

If you ride the Amtrak frequently, especially if it’s for work, get the card and rack up points for free rides in the future.

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How to Choose the Right Travel Credit Card

So how should you choose the travel credit card to apply for? Here are a few things to consider before pulling the trigger:

How many travel credit cards you can manage at once

Most of these credit cards require a few thousand in minimum spending the first couple months of card opening. Look at your spending patterns to make sure you can hit those minimum requirements to get the sign-on bonus.

Secondly, if you are trying to maximize too many credit cards at once, it might be difficult to keep track. Be realistic about how many you can handle at a time.

Airlines and Hotels you already use

If there are airlines or hotels you use frequently or already have status with, prioritize getting the credit card for those.

And if there aren’t consistent ones, see which airlines have the most routes out of your home city. Chances are, you’ll find yourself booking that airline often and will therefore be able to take advantage of their credit card perks the most.

You can always pick a travel credit card that will give you the flexibility to book with any airline/hotel.

Sharing perks with a partner

Do you have to get the credit card yourself, or does it make more sense for your partner to get it so you can share the benefits? If your partner flies often for work, it may make sense for them to be the primary credit card holder and book flights in your stead.

Find Your New Favorite Travel Credit Card

Having a good travel credit card can take your travels further and provide more value. If you’ve learned nothing from this post, take one thing away with you: as long as you are a financially responsible person and always pay your bills on time, getting a travel credit card is always a good idea.

Want more travel inspo for 2024? Check out some of my popular mosts people:

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