The Must-Have Travel Points Credit Cards

Travel points credit cards have always been around. However, with the explosion of travel bloggers, traveling with points has been more accessible and attainable than ever.

Unlike cash back credit cards, travel points credit cards don’t give you cash. Instead, they allow you to earn points to a particular rewards program. A credit card that partners with an airline will earn points for the airline’s reward program, and it’s the same with a card that partners with a hotel. Some cards/banks have their own rewards program that allow you to transfer to airline or hotel partners.

Here’s a short list of some high value travel points credit cards:

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has long been a “must-have” travel card. They offer a range of travel-friendly benefits like trip protection, no foreign transaction fees, primary car rental insurance, and more. This card also earns points quickly for spending categories like dining and travel.

This card currently has a great sign-up bonus of earning 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within three months of opening your account.

The Ultimate Rewards program is one of the best rewards program available, as it allows you to transfer your points to several transfer partners, including (but not limited to):

  • United Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Marriott
  • Hyatt

Pros of Chase Sapphire Preferred:

  • Can transfer points to a large number of transfer partners on a solid 1:1 ratio
  • A lot of travel benefits

Cons of Chase Sapphire Preferred:

  • $95 annual fee not usually waived the first year
  • This card actually has few cons. It’s one of the best travel points credit cards available.

Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred here.

 

American Express Platinum

The American Express Platinum is one of several premier travel points credit cards available. What makes it so good? In addition to having many travel benefits like trip protection, primary car rental insurance coverage, global entry application fee, $200 travel credit, and no foreign transaction fees, the AMEX Platinum also automatically gives you elite status for several rewards programs including:

  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Hilton HHonors
  • Emerald Club

Elite status at a hotel or car rental rewards program means you are first in line for complimentary upgrades for hotel rooms or cars. You also get other nice benefits like complimentary breakfast and lounge access at certain hotels.

This card earns points for the American Express Member Rewards program. Similar to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, the AMEX Member Rewards allows you to transfer points to other partners including (but not limited to):

  • Delta
  • British Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Hilton

The American Express Platinum also gives you and a guest complimentary access to the American Express Centurion lounges as well a host of other lounges offered by Priority Pass. Many people rightly believe airports are some of the worst parts of traveling. However, with lounges that offer complementary food and drink (and sometimes showers), airports don’t seem so bad.

Pros of American Express Platinum:

  • Can transfer points to a large number of transfer partners.
  • A LOT of travel benefits, including:
    • $200 annual travel credit
    • $100 credit for global entry application cost
    • Airport lounge access
  • Elite status for several programs

Cons of American Express Platinum:

  • STEEP annual fee of $550
  • Earning the sign-up bonus usually requires a high minimum spend of usually around $5,000 within three months.

Apply for the American Express Platinum here.

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the premier version of the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It has everything the Preferred has and more. A lot more. These added benefits include:

  • Access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass
  • Elite status with some car rental companies
  • The ability to earn points faster
  • $300 annual travel credit

Pros of Chase Sapphire Reserve:

  • Can transfer points to a large number of transfer partners.
  • A LOT of travel benefits, including:
    • $300 annual travel credit
    • $100 credit for global entry application cost
    • Airport lounge access
  • Elite status for several programs
  • 3x points earning for dining and travel

Cons of Chase Sapphire Reserve:

  • STEEP annual fee of $450

Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.

 

Starwood Preferred Guest

The Starwood Preferred Guest is a hotel card, but it offers a lot of additional perks that  go beyond hotels. After being acquired by Marriott, SPG points can also transfer to redeem for any Marriott product at a 1:3 ratio.

Pros of Starwood Preferred Guest:

  • Can transfer SPG points to several frequent flyer programs on a 1:1 ratio
  • Transferring 20,000 SPG points to a participating frequent flyer program automatically earns a bonus of 5,000 points
  • Huge portfolio of Starwood and Marriott portfolio of hotels
  • Fifth night free when booking with SPG points for a 5-night stay
  • $95 annual fee is waived for the first year

Cons of Starwood Preferred Guest:

  • There are few cons with this card, and it is one of the most recommended cards for any points traveler.

Apply for the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card here.

 

Marriott Rewards

The Marriott Rewards card probably wouldn’t have made the list if it weren’t for Marriott’s acquisition of the SPG brand. Because of this, Marriott points can transfer to SPG at a ratio of 3:1, which doesn’t look great but is actually pretty fair.

Chase offers a sign-up bonus of 80,000 Marriott points if you make $3,000 worth of purchases in the first three months.

Pros of Marriott Rewards:

  • Can transfer to SPG at a 3:1 ratio
  • Huge portfolio of Starwood and Marriott portfolio of hotels
  • Fifth night free when booking with Marriott points for a 5-night stay
  • Low annual fee of $85
  • Every anniversary of having the card earns 1 complimentary night at a category 1-5 Marriott property

Cons of Marriott Rewards:

  • It’s a relatively lackluster card but it makes the list because of the SPG-Marriott merger.
  • First year’s annual fee usually not waived

Apply for the Marriott Rewards credit card here.

 

British Airways Visa Signature

The British Airways Visa Signature card is great for travelers. Earning Avios (British Airway’s frequent flyer program) points can be a huge money saver when it comes to flight redemptions. Redeeming flights is simple and straightforward, and you can even book with BA’s partners directly from BA.

For example, British Airways doesn’t have any flights to Hawaii. However, its partner, American Airlines does. This route is visible and redeemable directly on the BA website.

Pros of British Airways Avios:

  • Cost-effective short haul award flights
  • Easy to use and redeem on the website

Cons of British Airways Avios:

  • Flying British Airways through certain airports (such as London Heathrow) can incur heavy taxes and fees
  • First year’s annual fee of $95 usually not waived

Apply for the British Airways Visa Signature credit card here.

 

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