September 21, 2021

Model Desac

It’s Time to Fly

10 Best Travel Credit Cards to Apply for Right Now

9 min read

Take advantage of fantastic sign-up bonuses, limited-time earning opportunities, and more to boost your travel strategy into overdrive.

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Given how many phenomenal travel credit card offers we’ve seen lately, our loyalty expert, Eric Rosen, is going to be posting a monthly list of the best ones currently available.

Part of any good travel rewards strategy is applying for the right credit card at the right time. The best travel credit cards allow you to earn and redeem points on airfare, hotel stays, and other travel purchases, as well as offering protections while you’re on the road. Some even include premium perks like airport lounge access and hotel elite status. However, it can be difficult to keep track of the top offers, or know when might be the ideal moment to sign up. Welcome bonuses frequently rise and fall, perks are constantly being added or changed, and limited-time promotions can boost your earning potential or save you money on purchases with statement credits. Here are the best travel rewards credit cards to apply for right now, and why you might want to consider each.

1. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

All three of Southwest Airlines’ personal credit cards currently include the airline’s Companion Pass as part of their welcome offers. This two-for-one travel voucher is one of the most valuable airline perks in the world.

Current welcome offer

Earn the Southwest Companion Pass valid through February 28, 2022, plus 30,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. Both the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card (annual fee $69) and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card (annual fee $99) are extending identical welcome bonuses. 

Reasons to apply now

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass has only rarely been offered as part of any of the carrier’s cobranded credit card bonuses. Scoring one of these certificates means you can bring along a travel buddy on either paid or reward fares (you just have to pay the taxes and fees on the second ticket). Depending how much you fly Southwest—and you might fly it more than usual this year since it has one of the most robust domestic route networks plus flights to Mexico and the Caribbean—this one advantage alone could be worth thousands of dollars.

>> Read More: Southwest Airlines Credit Cards Offer Some of Their Best Bonuses Ever

2. The Platinum Card® from American Express

One of the all-time best travel rewards credit cards just also happens to be posting one if its all-time best introductory bonuses.

Current welcome offer

Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Plus, earn 10 points per dollar on up to $15,000 in combined purchases at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets in the first six months.

Reasons to apply now

You might balk at that annual fee, but remember this card comes with a lot of statement credits including up to $200 per calendar year toward incidental fees (like for checked bags) on a U.S. airline that you designate, plus $15 in Uber cash for rides or Uber Eats orders in the United States every month (plus $20 extra in December). Even if you’re not traveling much these days, that welcome bonus is still worth considering since, if you max it out, you’re looking at a whopping 225,000 Amex Membership Rewards points, which transfer to 19 airline and 3 hotel partners, including Delta and Hilton.

>> Read More: 8 Reasons You Should Apply for An Amex Platinum Card Right Now

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Although upscale travelers might prefer the more premium Hilton Honors American Express Aspire® Card thanks to its slew of value-added perks, the more affordable Hilton Honors Surpass is probably more relevant to most travelers, and it’s extending its best-ever bonus right now.

Current welcome offer

Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you use your card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months. But there’s more: You can also get a $150 statement credit after your first purchase with the card within your first three months.

Reasons to apply now 

There are two main reasons to apply for this card at this time. First, the welcome offer is a full 20,000 points more than the one it typically has in place. And second, that $150 statement credit offsets the annual fee, and then some. Among this card’s other ongoing benefits are the fact that it comes with Hilton Honors Gold elite status, which means you can enjoy complimentary continental breakfast at most of Hilton’s higher-end hotels. If you spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, you also earn a free weekend night reward that’s redeemable at nearly any Hilton property around the world.

>> Read More: New Hilton Credit Card Offers Could Lead to Free Nights at Waldorfs and Conrads

4.  American Express® Gold Card

A high bonus and strong everyday earning set this card apart.

Current welcome offer

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first six months. That’s 25,000 points more than usual.

Reasons to apply now

For a card that’s all about travel rewards, the Amex Gold is uniquely suited to racking up rewards points at this particular moment. It earns four points per dollar at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and on up to $25,000 per calendar year in spending at U.S. supermarkets. Members also get up to $10 per month in Uber Cash toward rides or Uber Eats orders in the U.S. Like points earned with the Amex Platinum, those you accumulate with this card can be transferred to over 20 airline and hotel partners.

>> Read More: Travel Credit Card Matchup: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Amex Gold

5. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

If you didn’t get in on the 80,000-point bonus this card offered last fall, you can still reap plenty of rewards from it.

Current welcome offer 

Earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months plus up to $50 in statement credits toward grocery store purchases within your first year.

Reasons to apply now

Another easy card to maximize, this one earns two miles per dollar on dining and travel, as well as on up to $1,000 on grocery store purchases per month through April 2021. But it also comes with a $50 grocery statement credit at the moment, cutting way down on that annual fee. Chase points can be transferred to over a dozen airline and hotel partners, including JetBlue, Southwest, United, Hyatt, and Marriott, which makes them extra useful for travel. Or you can just redeem them for travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal at a fixed rate of 1.25 cents each. 

>> Read More: How to Win at Travel With Chase Ultimate Rewards

6. IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty program of brands like InterContinental, Kimpton, Hotel Indigo, and Holiday Inn, so there’s something for everyone.

Current welcome offer

Earn 140,000 IHG Rewards Club points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Reasons to apply now

The sign-up bonus is a good 60,000 points more than this card typically offers and enough for two free nights at world-class hotels like the InterContinental Paris Le Grand. More than that, though, it comes with automatic IHG Platinum status and perks like room upgrades, as well as a free night award each year worth up to 40,000 points. (This rules out most top-shelf hotels, but still provides a lot of value.) Carrying it also means you get the fourth night free on award redemptions, which can amount to huge potential savings.

The Park Hyatt Sydney: yours for points if you pick the right card

7. World of Hyatt Credit Card

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If you can hit the spending requirements for this card’s sign-up offer, you could rake in enough Hyatt points for at least two nights at some of the chain’s most luxurious properties.

Current welcome offer

Earn up to 60,000 bonus points: 30,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Plus up to another 30,000 bonus points by earning two points per dollar spent on up to $15,000 of purchases that normally only earn one point per dollar in the first six months. That’s 10,000 more points than this card usually offers.

Reasons to apply now

This card earns four bonus points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels and two points per dollar on dining, airline tickets purchased directly from airlines, local transit and commuting, and fitness and gym memberships. It earns one point per dollar on everything else. Aside from its bonus, cardholders enjoy automatic Discoverist elite status, and they are rewarded with an annual free night certificate each account year that can be redeemed for a night costing up to 15,000 points. There are plenty of other benefits that set it apart, too. 

>> Read More: Why You Should Get the New Hyatt Credit Card Bonus With up to 60,000 Points

8. Citi Premier® Card

  • Best card for: Earning transferable points on a variety of purchases
  • Annual fee: $95

Here’s another excellent earner with points that transfer to over a dozen airline frequent flier programs.

Current welcome offer

Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.

Reasons to apply now

This card’s bonus has hovered at a steady 60,000 points for a couple of years now, so you don’t have to time it just right. But you might want to apply when you’re ready because it is one of the best cards for earning points on everyday purchases. It racks up three per dollar at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, on air travel and hotels, and then one point per dollar on everything else. Those points can be transferred to 16 airline partners, including Emirates and Singapore Airlines, as well as used to book travel directly through the Citi ThankYou portal at a rate of one cent per point.

9. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card

  • Best card for: An annual companion fare worth hundreds of dollars
  • Annual fee: $75

Even if you don’t fly Alaska Airlines often, you might still want to get in on this particular offer.

Current welcome offer

Earn 50,000 bonus miles plus a Companion Fare voucher after spending $2,000 within the first 90 days.

Reasons to apply now

This introductory offer includes not just 10,000 to 20,000 more miles than usual, but also a Companion Fare ticket—basically you pay $99 plus taxes and fees of around $22 for a second ticket on a single reservation, so this could be worth a lot of money depending on where you’re flying. Plus, you get another Companion Fare voucher after every account anniversary, which easily outweighs the card’s annual fee. 

10. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Best card for: Racking up miles that are easy to use on a variety of travel expenses
  • Annual fee: $95

Although it’s no longer offering a 100,00-mile sign-up bonus, this is a solid everyday card you should consider carrying anyway.

Current welcome offer 

Earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. That’s still 10,000 miles more than usual.

Reasons to apply now

What makes this card special is just how simple it is to use the rewards you earn with it. It accrues two miles per dollar on every purchase, and each of those miles is worth a cent apiece toward travel purchases. So you can get a 2 percent rate of return without making any effort. Not only that, but it’s one of the few credit cards with an annual fee of under $100 that offers a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application statement credit once every four years.

Although this particular moment has most travelers grounded, it also happens to be one of the best times ever to apply for a new travel rewards card, so think about your specific needs, your purchase activity, and your trip goals, and pick the card or cards that can take you the furthest. 

While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

>> Next: Southwest Credit Cards Offering Rare Opportunity to Earn a Valuable Companion Pass

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