Best Rewards Credit Cards for Travel

Rewards credit cards keep getting more and more rewarding.

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Rewards credit cards keep getting more and more rewarding. For the past several years, card issuers have been hustling to attract customers with generous sign-up bonuses and ongoing perks that have the potential to line your pockets with hundreds of dollars a year. The six largest credit card issuers are spending more than twice as much on card rewards than they did in 2010, according to a study by personal finance site MagnifyMoney.com. Chase pumps the most money into its cards, and it shows: Five cards issued by Chase grace our latest list of the best rewards credit cards. Plus, the release of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card in 2016 shook up the market for premium travel rewards cards—those with fees in the hundreds of dollars annually and perks to match—spurring competitors to beef up their offerings or introduce new cards.

As you choose the card that suits you best, take stock of your spending habits. Also keep in mind that if you don’t pay off your credit card bill in full each month, a rewards card probably isn’t for you. Interest charges will likely cancel out any earnings that you capture.

To help you evaluate the winners, we calculated a typical annual rebate for each card, drawing on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey to determine average spending in various categories and assuming a total of $22,000 spent on the card annually. Except where noted, the rebate doesn’t account for sign-up bonuses or annual fees if they are waived the first year; earnings do not have caps or expiration dates; and these travel-oriented cards do not charge foreign-transaction fees.

Lisa Gerstner
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Lisa has spent more than15 years with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and heads up the magazine’s annual rankings of the best banks, best rewards credit cards, and financial-services firms with the best customer service. She reports on a variety of other topics, too, from retirement to health care to money concerns for millennials. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.