Vacation More With A Credit Card That Earns You Travel Points And Rewards

Vacation More With A Credit Card That Earns You Travel Points And Rewards

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CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

A lot of Americans undoubtedly need a well-deserved vacation, and one of the easiest ways to get one for little to no cost is to have a travel credit card. That’s where CNN Underscored’s list of the best travel credit cards for 2022 can come in handy. The right credit card can earn you enough in travel rewards to make your getaway easier, or more enjoyable, or — dare we say it — even almost free.

Our comprehensive methodology compares every aspect of each travel credit card to our “benchmark credit card” — the Citi® Double Cash Card — to determine which cards can get you the most perks or rewards. So take a few minutes to check out our list of the best travel credit cards in 2022 and think about which one might get you that vacation getaway you’ve been dreaming about.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best overall travel card
American Express® Gold Card: Best “non-travel” travel card
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for travel purchases
The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best luxury travel perks
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Best airline travel card
World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best hotel travel card
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Best for easy-to-use travel rewards

Why did we select these cards as our best travel credit cards for 2022? Dive into the details of each card with us and see how they stack up.

Why it’s great in one sentence: The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns valuable Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar you spend on it, and the points can be redeemed for travel and other eligible categories at 1.25 cents per point, or transferred to the program’s airline and hotel partners for potentially even more useful travel redemptions.

This card is right for: People with larger than average travel and/or dining expenses (including food delivery) who want a low-fee card with basic transferable points.

Highlights:

Earn 3 points for every dollar spent on dining, select streaming services and select online grocery purchases. Earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel (or 5 total points if purchased through Ultimate Rewards). Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. Points can also be transferred to any of Chase’s 14 airline and hotel partners. No foreign transaction fees. $95 annual fee. Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

What we like about the Chase Sapphire Preferred: It may not seem like it, but at over 10 years old, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is practically the granddaddy of travel credit cards. With classic travel, dining, streaming services and online grocery bonus categories, 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022 and a 60,000-point sign-up bonus, it should be easy to quickly score plenty of points with the card.

Speaking of points, most food delivery services will code as “dining” on the Sapphire Preferred and earn 3 points per dollar, just like at a restaurant, so you’re covered if you’re ordering at home more often nowadays. And card holders also get a complimentary DashPass subscription for at least one year when they activate it by Mar. 31, 2022.

But the real power of the Chase Sapphire Preferred is in its redemptions. You’ll get 1.25 cents per point when redeeming points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, and can get potentially even more value when transferring points to one of Chase’s 14 travel partners. In fact, the Ultimate Rewards program still features some of the best transfer partners, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Hyatt Hotels, and all Chase partners transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio.

The issuer’s “Pay Yourself Back” tool also allows you to redeem points on purchases beyond just travel, in a set of eligible categories that change periodically. And when you redeem your points this way, you’ll get the same 1.25 cents per point as you do for booking travel.

To top it off, as international travel resumes, you’ll be able to safely use the Chase Sapphire Preferred overseas, since it has no foreign transaction fees. It even provides primary car rental insurance, so you don’t have to look to your own auto policy first if you have an accident with your rental car.

What could be better: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a classic, but in some ways it’s starting to get long in the tooth. Though last year’s enhancements added more bonus categories and a higher earning rate on dining purchases, other credit cards offer bonus points or cash back in the same travel categories, and in some cases at higher rates (though usually accompanied by higher annual fees).

Even our benchmark Citi Double Cash card earns 2% on all purchases (1% when you buy, plus 1% when you pay it off), though you can get more value when redeeming your Sapphire Preferred points than you can with simple cash back.

For many people, the Chase Sapphire Preferred isn’t as flashy as its older sibling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which comes with travel perks and a $300 annual travel credit (but also a much higher annual fee). But if you don’t need or won’t use all those extra perks, you may be better off with this significantly less expensive version.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Travel and dining bonus categories, excellent travel protections, solid airline and hotel partners and sign-up bonus.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Read CNN Underscored’s Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review.
Learn more and apply now for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Why it’s great in one sentence: The American Express Gold card earns tons of valuable Amex travel points on practically all the food-related purchases you’re making even when you’re not traveling, and the credits available on the card nearly offset its annual fee.

This card is right for: People who can utilize all of the card’s various credits and who spend significant money at restaurants, on food delivery services or at U.S. supermarkets while they’re not on the road.

Highlights:

Earn 4 points for every dollar you spend at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1x). Earn 4 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide. Earn 3 points per dollar for flights booked directly with airlines or at Amex Travel. Earn 1 point per dollar on everything else. Up to $120 in annual dining credits. Up to $120 in Uber Cash annually. $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). Terms apply. Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first six months after opening the account.

What we like about the American Express Gold: Calling it our “best ‘non-travel’ travel card” may sound odd, but the Amex Gold is a perfect choice if you want to earn as many travel points as possible even when you’re not traveling, and then have lots of ways to use those points on trips down the line.

First, with the Amex Gold, you’ll earn 4 points for every dollar you spend on restaurants worldwide, and on up to $25,000 in annual purchases at U.S. supermarkets (1 point per dollar thereafter). Most food delivery services count as “restaurants” on this card, so that means the vast majority of your food purchases will earn 4x points, regardless of how you’re eating.

You’ll also earn 3 points per dollar when you book airfare directly with an airline, so if you’re looking to jump on any sales for flights later in the year, you can pay for them with the Amex Gold and earn extra points on those as well.

The points earned with this card are American Express Membership Rewards points, which you can redeem directly for flights via Amex Travel at 1 cent each. But if you put in some extra effort and research, you can potentially get much more value from them by transferring them to any of Amex’s 21 airline and hotel partners, which include Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Marriott and many more.

Then there are the annual credits. While the Amex Gold has a substantial $250 annual fee, you can earn almost as much from the card’s credits as you pay for it.

Each year you have the Amex Gold, you earn up to $120 in dining credits, which can be used for purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required). These are doled out in portions of up to $10 each month, but the credits don’t roll over from month to month, so you must use them or lose them.

You’ll also get up to $120 in Uber Cash each year with the Amex Gold. Again, these credits come in $10 monthly installments and can be used either for Uber rides in the US or on Uber Eats orders. Combining the Uber Cash and dining credits will give you up to $240 in annual credits, which would leave you with an effective annual fee of only $10 if you can use them all.

What could be better: The one big downside of the Amex Gold is that most of the annual credits come in monthly installments rather than annual chunks, so you’ll need to make sure you can take advantage of them each month to make the card worth it.

Also, while Amex points are valuable, they’re best used for the airline and hotel transfer partners, which take some time to understand and flexibility to maximize. If you’d prefer to just book flights through a standard online travel portal, you might be better off with one of the Chase or Capital One cards, which can offer more value when redeeming rewards the easy way.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Welcome bonus, annual credits, bonus categories and solid airline and hotel partners.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Read CNN Underscored’s American Express Gold Card review.
Learn more about the American Express Gold Card.

Why it’s great in one sentence: The hugely popular Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a high price tag but also a $300 annual travel credit, airport lounge access, a massive earning rate when you use Lyft and at least 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining.

This card is right for: People who make lots of travel purchases, even in their daily lives when they’re not on the road.

Highlights:

$300 annual travel credit. Earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on dining purchases (or 10 total points if purchased through Ultimate Rewards). Earn 3 points per dollar on travel purchases (after using your $300 travel credit each year) or 10 total points on hotels and car rentals and 5 total points on air travel if purchased through Ultimate Rewards. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point. Points can also be transferred to any of Chase’s 14 airline and hotel partners. Complimentary Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership. No foreign transaction fees. $550 annual fee. Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

What we like about the Chase Sapphire Reserve: When it first launched in 2016, the Chase Sapphire Reserve was an instant hit, thanks in part to its broad travel and dining categories. It’s incredibly easy to earn bonus points with the card, since “dining” includes almost every restaurant, fast food and even food delivery services such as Seamless.

The ability to redeem points you earn with the Chase Sapphire Reserve for any flight or hotel at a rate of 1.5 cents per point via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal makes the card’s rewards easy to use, though you’ll potentially get even more value if you can dive into the more advanced airline and hotel transfer partners.

Also, like the Sapphire Preferred, Chase’s “Pay Yourself Back” feature is also available on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which allows you to redeem points on purchases beyond just travel. The eligible categories change on a regular basis, and when you redeem this way, you’ll get 1.5 cents per point.

And if you plan to fly regularly in 2022, you’ll find solid value in the card’s Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, with access for you and up to two guests to over 1,300 lounges around the world.

What could be better: While the original high cost of the Chase Sapphire Reserve was easy to justify, the annual fee increased from $450 to $550 at the start of 2020, so you really need to be able to use all of the card’s perks for the price to make sense.

The Lyft bonus category means you’ll earn an impressive 10 points for every dollar you spend on the ride-sharing service through March 2022, but it won’t be of any use to most people who aren’t currently using Lyft. The same goes for the card’s free DashPass membership, which must be activated by Mar. 31, 2022, and is only valuable to folks who order food for delivery and have DoorDash service in their area.

And while the travel and dining bonus categories were market-leading four years ago, there are now other credit cards with similar if not even better earning rates in those categories, such as the Amex Gold, which earns 4 points per dollar on restaurant purchases worldwide. Or, if the annual fee on the Sapphire Reserve is too much to stomach, consider the cheaper Chase Sapphire Preferred with fewer travel perks but only a $95 annual fee.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Easy-to-use travel credit, travel and dining bonus categories, excellent travel protections, solid airline and hotel partners, and sign-up bonus.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Read CNN Underscored’s Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review.
Learn more and apply now for the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Why it’s great in one sentence: It’s definitely not cheap, but the famous American Express Platinum card is a heavyweight when it comes to travel perks, with numerous annual credits; access to more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide, including Amex’s own Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta; elite status with Hilton, Marriott, Hertz, Avis and National Car Rental; and many other luxury travel benefits.

This card is right for: People who want top-notch luxury travel perks, refundable travel credits and transferable travel rewards.

Highlights:

Earn 5 points for every dollar you spend on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel (up to $500,000 per year, then 1x point). Earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked on Amex Travel. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for travel through Amex Travel at a rate of up to 1 cent per point. Points can also be transferred to any of Amex’s 21 airline and hotel partners. Up to $200 in statement credits annually for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline (enrollment required). Up to $15 in Uber Cash every month ($35 in December). Up to $240 in statement credits annually for select entertainment purchases (enrollment required). Up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue (enrollment required). Up to $200 annually on prepaid hotels booked at American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts. Complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, and Priority Pass airport lounges (not including Priority Pass restaurants). Complimentary Gold Elite status with Hilton and Marriott hotel chains. Complimentary Preferred Elite status with Hertz, Avis and National Car Rental chains. No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). Welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you make $6,000 in eligible purchases in your first six months.

What we like about the American Express Platinum: For an annual fee of $695 a year, you need to be able to really take advantage of the perks of this card to make it worth the cost. But if you hit the road with this card, you’ll feel like a true VIP.

The Amex Platinum has access to literally thousands of airport lounges, including Amex’s own Centurion Lounges, which are considered some of the best domestic airport lounges in the US. To many road warriors, this benefit is worth the cost of the card all by itself.

But if you can also take advantage of the card’s up-to-$200 annual incidental airline fee credit as well as the up-to-$200 annual Uber credit, plus the up-to-$100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit (which you can use to buy anything at Saks, either in-store or online), you’ll be scoring up to $500 worth of annual credits for a card that costs $695 a year.

Speaking of those credits, the Uber credit can also be used on Uber Eats purchases, which means you can still take advantage of them even if you don’t use ride-share services. Same goes for the Saks Fifth Avenue credit, which can be used on anything you buy at Saks’ online website.

The cherry on top is the 100,000-point welcome bonus on the Amex Platinum after you spend $6,000 on the card in your first six months, which at the very least you should be able to redeem for a pair of domestic airline tickets for you and a companion, or even a trip to Europe in coach for yourself.

What could be better: Surprisingly, the Amex Platinum isn’t a terrific card when it comes to earning points. It’s a great choice when you’re booking airline tickets, since you’ll earn an impressive 5 points for every dollar you spend directly with airlines. But to earn 5 points per dollar at hotels, you’ll need to book only prepaid hotels, and only through Amex Travel. For such an expensive card, those aren’t exceptional bonus categories.

The credits on the Amex Platinum can also be a challenge to maximize. Unlike travel credits on cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the up-to-$200 airline incidental fee credit is only good on the one airline you choose each year, and then only for certain fees like checked baggage or in-cabin pet fees.

The up-to-$200 annual Uber credit doesn’t come as one big credit but instead as a monthly series of $15 credits, with an extra $20 in December to earn the $200 total. Even the Saks Fifth Avenue credit is split in two, with $50 available in the first six months of the calendar year and the other $50 in the second half.

In the end, the Amex Platinum isn’t really designed for everyday use. Rather, you need to be a regular traveler with a desire to be treated better during those long days on the road for the cost of the card to make sense in the long term.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Luxury travel perks and travel credits, airline and hotel bonus categories, solid travel protections, extensive airline and hotel partners, and welcome bonus.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Read CNN Underscored’s American Express Platinum card review.
Learn more about the American Express Platinum.

Why it’s great in one sentence: If you even occasionally fly Delta, the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card is an easy win — taking advantage of its first checked bag free benefit for you and up to eight companions on just one round-trip a year easily offsets its $99 annual fee, and it even comes with a $0 introductory fee for the first year (see rates and fees).

This card is right for: People who want to avoid paying checked bag fees on Delta while also getting priority boarding and other basic Delta perks.

Highlights:

Earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets. Earn 1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases. First checked bag free for you and up to 8 companions on Delta flights. Main Cabin 1 priority boarding for you and up to 8 companions on Delta flights. 20% back on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets. Receive a $100 Delta flight credit when you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year. No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). $99 annual fee with a $0 introductory fee for the first year. Terms apply. Welcome bonus: For a limited-time now through April 13, 2022, earn up to 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases in your first three months after opening the account.

What we like about the Delta Gold Amex: Of all the airline credit cards, the Delt

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