September 20, 2021

Model Desac

It’s Time to Fly

Best Cards for Road Trips

8 min read

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If you’ve got the travel itch lately, you’re not alone. In fact, 60% of respondents to a Travelocity survey from early 2021 said they were planning a trip within the next 9 months, with 26% specifying their plans for a weekend getaway.  

But if you aren’t quite ready to get on a plane yet, a road trip could be an ideal way to get out of town. 

Typical road trip expenses include gas, hotel stays, food, road snacks, and protections like rental car insurance and roadside assistance. Because those expenses can quickly add up, it’s wise to use credit cards that earn rewards on your spending or cover you in case of emergency. 

While there aren’t any cards designed specifically for road trips, here are a few that can enhance your adventures. 

Citi Premier® Card

  • 3 points per $1 spent at gas stations, on air travel, and hotels
  • 3 points per $1 spent at restaurants and supermarkets
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

The Citi Premier Card is a great option for road trips. You’ll earn 3x Citi ThankYou points at gas stations, restaurants, and supermarkets. So when you need to stop for gas, grab snacks, or visit a roadside diner, you’ll earn bonus points at each of these stops along the way. 

The card also earns 3x points on hotels and air travel. Any hotel stays you purchase on the way can add to your rewards. And when you’re ready to fly again, you’ll earn bonus points for airfare, too. 

Another useful road trip perk is this card’s $100 annual hotel savings benefit. You’ll earn $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) per calendar year when you book through the Citi ThankYou travel portal. Just keep in mind, if you’re part of a hotel brand’s loyalty program, these bookings won’t earn points or credit toward elite status, though your overall savings could still be worth it. 

Chase Sapphire Reserve® 

  • 10x points per dollar spent on hotel stays and car rentals booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 5x points on flights purchased through Chase
  • 3x points on dining and all other travel 
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • $550 annual fee

“I’ve used the Chase Sapphire Reserve on many road trips, domestically and internationally,” says Simon Zhen, chief research analyst for MyBankTracker.com, a banking comparison website. “The peace of mind lets you travel more comfortably. I use this card specifically for car rentals because it includes a collision damage waiver, which is primary. That means it kicks in before your own auto coverage and you can file claims through Chase first. If claims happen, your insurance company won’t have to pay for it and it doesn’t affect your personal insurance premiums.”

You can also take advantage of the card’s $300 annual travel credit to use toward any travel expenses that pop up during your road trip, including gas and groceries through December 31, 2021. 

“I use my Chase Ultimate Rewards points for lodging because my points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel through the Chase online booking portal,” explains Zhen. “That’s saved me a lot of money for hotels on the road.”

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 

  • 5x points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3x points on dining, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services
  • 2 points on all other travel purchases
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card just got a revamp to its bonus categories – and they’re road trip-ready. You’ll earn 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on dining, including fast food, cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants, and 5 points per dollar spent on travel booked through Chase (and 2x on all other travel). 

The card also comes with a $50 annual hotel credit for any booking made through Chase, and a 10% anniversary point bonus for all spending throughout each cardmember year. Plus, like the Sapphire Reserve, you can get a boost when you redeem your rewards — points are worth 25% more when you redeem for future travel through Ultimate Rewards.

And for added protection on your road trip, Chase Sapphire Preferred offers primary rental car insurance, which kicks in when you rent a car and decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW). This protects you against damage or theft and can save you a lot of hassle and money if you ever need to use it. Plus, you can book your rental car through Chase and double up on the perks with 5 points per dollar. 

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • 2x miles on every purchase
  • $95 annual fee

If keeping track of bonus categories doesn’t appeal to you, consider the Capital One Venture Rewards card, which earns unlimited 2x miles toward future travel on every purchase, regardless of category. 

You can use your points to book a trip or cover travel purchases including vacation rentals, hotels, rental cars, or flights within 90 days of purchase using Capital One’s Purchase Eraser. There’s no minimum redemption amount, so you can use your miles to cover nearly any travel expense. 

You’re also able to transfer your miles to Capital One’s airline and hotel partners, which adds a layer of flexibility to the card if you like to redeem your miles that way. 

Citi® Double Cash Card

  • 2% cash back on everything — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off
  • No annual fee

The Citi Double Cash Card is another simple option for earning rewards on every purchase. You’ll earn 1% cash back when you make purchases in any category and another 1% cash back when you make payments, for a total of 2% cash back. You can redeem your rewards for statement credits, cash, gift cards, or travel through Citi’s ThankYou portal. 

This card is an excellent choice for those who aren’t interested in keeping track of points and bonus categories. “If you’re looking for a card to take on a road trip, and also serve you well as your main card going forward, it’s hard to go wrong with the Citi Double Cash,” says Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree. “Many people don’t want to work to get value from their rewards, and the fact that you can get 2% cash back on everything is appealing.” 

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express 

  • 6% cash back at supermarkets (up to $6,000 in annual purchases, then 1%)
  • 6% back on select U.S. streaming services
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year

If you like cash back rewards and plan to buy snacks and meals from grocery stores, consider the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express. This is another road-trip friendly card that can help you save on your regular, everyday spending the rest of the year. It earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). That’s one of the best returns for U.S. grocery spending available. Plus you’ll earn 6% back on select U.S. streaming services, and 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit expenses, which includes parking and tolls. 

You can redeem your cash back for statement credits, which takes all of the guesswork out of your rewards.  

  • Intro bonus:
  • Annual fee:

    $95

  • Regular APR:

    15.99% – 22.99% Variable

  • Recommended credit:

    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
  • Intro bonus:
  • Annual fee:

    $95

  • Regular APR:

    15.99% – 23.99% (Variable)

  • Recommended credit:

    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
  • Intro bonus:
  • Annual fee:

    $95

  • Regular APR:

    17.24% – 24.49% (Variable)

  • Recommended credit:

    670-850 (Good to Excellent)

  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.

Getting Roadside Assistance Through Credit Cards

While you’re enjoying the open road, you can also feel more secure with a card that comes with roadside assistance in case of a breakdown or other mishap. “Before you go on a road trip, it’s a good idea to review what your credit card offers that might help you along the way,” says Schulz.  

Pro Tip

Consider a card with built-in rental car insurance and roadside assistance for added peace of mind while you drive.

All cards on the Visa network come with roadside assistance help, including standard towing up to five miles, tire changing, jumpstarting, and more, with a flat fee per service call. If you have a premium Visa card (like a Visa Signature or Visa Infinite card), your out-of-pocket cost may be less, so be sure to ask when you make a request. But each card’s insurance and travel protection benefits can vary, so make sure you check your card agreement before you hit the road. 

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card allows up to four service events per year within the U.S. or Canada and up to $50 per service including fuel delivery, towing, and battery service when the cardholder is driving their owned or leased vehicle or a vehicle furnished by the owner. 

Pair Cards to Earn Even More Rewards

Pairing cards can help you benefit from even more bonus categories over the course of your journey. 

For example, you could pair the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Freedom Unlimited® to earn bonus points on travel and dining with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and an uncapped 1.5x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on all other spending with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. 

Or you could pair the Citi Premier with Citi Double Cash for a similar benefit. You’ll earn 3x Citi ThankYou points at gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels with the Premier, then 2% back on everything else with the Citi Double Cash. 

In both of these scenarios, you can pool your points within one account, which can make them even more valuable. Even if the cards you pair aren’t from the same issuer, you can use this strategy to maximize the bonus points you earn on every purchase. 

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to get out and explore by taking a road trip, the right credit card can help you earn bonus points, get insurance benefits, or offset common travel expenses like hotel stays and gas fill-ups. 

Be sure to select the card that most closely matches your road trip style and offers ongoing rewards you’ll continue to benefit from long-term. It could be worthwhile to choose a card that pairs with one you already have. If you’re interested in benefits like primary rental car insurance or credits to use toward hotel stays, be sure to review your card’s benefits – or you might decide to apply for a brand new card to take with you on the road. 

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