The Best Travel Credit Cards of 2021

You have no idea how long this post has been sitting in my drafts folder. I tend to have a bad case of perfectionism when I claim “I have a list of all the best _____” because I think what if someone reads this and they know of a BETTER ONE? I’ll look like a fool!

So, this is me pushing perfectionism to the side and giving you this list of the travel credit cards (TCCs) that I believe are worth looking into in 2021.

I have some of these, and there are some that I don’t have, but the rewards seem great enough for them to show up on this list, anyway.

The one big thing I needed the cards with an annual fee to include to make it on this list was some kind of travel insurance. Whether it’s lost luggage insurance, car rental insurance, trip delay insurance, or something else, I think that’s a big one that any “top” TCCs have to offer since so many of them do.

I think this is also a good place to add that if you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say “travel credit card,” first, kudos to you for reading this far. Second, I wrote an ebook JUST FOR YOU! Travel credit cards are something I think most people should be taking advantage of (this post will help you determine whether or not they are for you). My ebook, Free Travel Formula, will give you the low down on what travel credit cards are and how they can help you earn free travel!

–>Click here for more information on Free Travel Formula<–

Because I, myself, have been able to earn so much free travel from these little plastic cards, I’ve decided to dedicate a whole heck of a lot of my time to teaching you to do the same. SO, I’m giving away the first chapter of that ebook for free. Just fill out the form below and it’ll be sent right to your inbox!

One more thing…

before we get into this full list – if you retain information easier with a spreadsheet as opposed to lists, I’ve got you covered! I put all of the cards on this list, plus a few extras into a spreadsheet/matrix/whatever you want to call it to make it 100x easier to compare cards. Just enter your email below and it’ll get sent right to your inbox.

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    Chase Sapphire Reserve

    This is a card for the frequent traveler. The annual fee of $550 is hefty, but justifiable. Here’s what it comes with:

    • 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months (worth $750)
    • $300 annual travel credit (they will reimburse you for up to $300 spent on travel each year)
    • Global Entry fee reimbursement every 4 years (worth $100)
    • 1.50x points when using them to redeem travel
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Lost luggage/trip delay reimbursement
    • Trip cancellation/rental car insurance
    • Airport lounge access
    • Free Lyft membership
    • Free Doordash subscription with $120 in statement credits
    • *NEW* $120 credit for Peloton membership

    I don’t personally have this card, but Austin does and we take full advantage of it – especially the Doordash credits while we’ve been staying home! If you think you’ll utilize all of it’s benefits, then it’s worth it. If not, check out the Reserve’s little sister below – the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

    Chase Sapphire Preferred

    This is the Chase Sapphire card that I have. Technically, once you have this card for over a year, you can transfer it to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but I just haven’t done that yet. Honestly, I probably won’t because Austin and I will eventually consolidate our cards and we’ll be getting rid of this one and sticking with the Reserve.

    BUT, this is THE CARD I recommend starting with if you’re new to travel credit cards. With an annual fee of $95, it’s a much easier sell and here are the perks:

    • 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months (worth $750)
    • 1.25x points when using them to redeem travel
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Baggage and trip delay reimbursement
    • Trip cancellation/rental car insurance
    • Free Doordash subscription
    • *NEW* $60 credit for Peloton membership

    Interested in signing up for this one? You can find more information here. This is an affiliate link and will help me to keep this free content coming right to you! Rest easy knowing I would never offer up a link that benefits me without knowing, loving, and trusting the product 110%.

    American Express Platinum Card

    Another card with a whopping annual fee of $550, but you’ll find that if you actually take advantage of everything it comes with, you’re getting a ton of value. Here’s what this one comes with:

    • *NEW* 100,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
    • $200 Uber ride or eats credits (split up with $15 each month with an extra $20 each December)
    • $100 in statement credits for Saks Fifth Avenue ($50 in each half of the year)
    • $100 credit to spend at certain hotels (not on the actual room, but on dining, the spa, upgrades, etc.)
    • Global Entry fee reimbursement every 4 years ($100 value)
    • Airport lounge access
    • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status jump
    • Hilton Honors Gold status jump
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Baggage/car rental insurance

    And the list goes on, but these are the most notable perks in my opinion. If you don’t think you’ll use all of these to make the annual fee worth it, check out the Gold Card or Blue Cash Preferred below.

    American Express Gold Card

    If the Platinum card is too much and a regular cash-back card isn’t enough, this one will be just right! With an annual fee of $250, here’s what you get:

    • 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
    • $120 credit at select restaurants and food delivery services (split up to be $10 monthly)
    • $100 credit to spend at certain hotels (not on the actual room, but on dining, the spa, upgrades, etc.)
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Lost luggage and car rental insurance

    And some more, less exciting perks, as well.

    Honorable Mentions:

    I’ll come out and say it, Chase is my all time FAVORITE bank for travel credit cards. I think they give the most flexibility when it comes to their rewards and I’m just personally most comfortable with Chase. American Express is second on my list and I start moving to those cards when I hit Chase’s 5/24 rule (i.e., they won’t approve you for a card if you’ve opened up 5 cards in the last 24 months).

    That said, my goal is to give you the most agnostic, unbiased review of travel credit cards, so I’m including a few options from other banks just to round out this list of the best travel credit cards out there.

    Capital One Venture Rewards

    Without further ado, the Capital One Venture’s $95 annual fee will get you this:

    • 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
    • Global Entry fee reimbursement every 4 years ($100 value)
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Travel accident/car rental insurance
    • *NEW* 0% intro APR for the first 12 months

    Discover it Miles Card

    Austin swears Discover has one of the best customer service departments around, so that’s why this card made the list. I also wanted to include a TCC with no annual fee, just for comparison. While you don’t get nearly as many perks as you do when you pay annually, here’s what you do get:

    • Unlimited point bonus at the end of the first year matching the points you earned that year
    • 0% intro APR for the first 14 months

    Bank of America Premium Rewards

    BoA is another popular US-based bank that I know some of you might be loyal to. Here’s what they have to offer at just $95 annually:

    • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months ($500 value)
    • $100 airline fee credit (cannot be used on flights, but can be used for checking bags, buying anything in-flight, etc.)
    • Global Entry fee reimbursement every 4 years ($100 value)
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Trip delay/cancellation/lost luggage/rental car insurance

    What about airline co-branded cards?!

    As you can probably tell by now, I didn’t add any specific airline or hotel cards to this list and that’s because those cards are in their own little world. They can give some GREAT perks, but it really depends on which airline you fly most or which hotel chain you like to stay at.

    For instance, the United Mileageplus Explorer card gives some amazing benefits, but if you mostly fly Delta, there’s no point in getting a United card.

    I plan to do individual posts for each airline and hotel to really give you an idea of what’s out there specific to your taste. Once those are done, I’ll come back here and link to them, but until then, feel free to comment below with any questions you might have and I’ll get you an answer ASAP!

    And one more time, just in case you skipped to the bottom, here is the spreadsheet you can get sent right to your inbox that compares all of these cards side by side along with several others that didn’t make the list.

    Leave a Comment

    The Comments

    • Laurel
      May 20, 2020

      This is a great list! I still don’t have anything but chase cards yet, but eventually I will have to haha! I know it’s also a totally different category to start talking about business cards, but I love my Chase Ink Business Preferred card and it has 80,000 point sign up bonus! 🤩

      • saraharnstein
        > Laurel
        May 20, 2020

        Yes! Omg that’s the card that Austin signed up for to get our France flights (RIP to that trip), so now we have 80,000 points waiting for us! BUT, I thiiink they may have changed the sign up bonus recently (like right after we got it) to 100,000 points when you spend $15,000 in the first three months which is just not where I’m at in life lol

    • Patti
      June 24, 2020

      Oh this is great! I actually have the Sapphire Reserve but I am looking to down grade it to the Sapphire Preferred. I think I would utilize the perks more and not have the hefty $550 fee.

      • saraharnstein
        > Patti
        June 24, 2020

        That’s exactly what my boyfriend was thinking about doing, but he ended up just keeping it for now. I don’t blame you though. You REALLY have to use everything it offers to make it worth it!

    • Krystianna
      June 24, 2020

      Wow, I have been wanting to get a travel credit card but have yet to do the research. I didn’t realize there were so many options! I recently studied abroad and just used the basic Student Travel Rewards credit card with Bank of America which helped, since I ended up getting about $500 back in rewards. I’ll have to look into these, thank you for sharing!

    • Tia
      June 25, 2020

      This is a really good list! I’ll give you a 10 on perfectionism!! I’ve been thinking of getting another travel credit card as I closed out my previous one. It didn’t serve me. And the ones on your list are sitting in my maybe pile so now it’s just up to me to decide! 😩 thanks for solidifying my list! This was great!

      • saraharnstein
        > Tia
        June 25, 2020

        I’m glad I could help! Let me know if you have any specific questions – I love talking about this stuff!

    • Sarah Barthet
      June 25, 2020

      American Express cards are fantastic. We have the British Airways Amex and have gotten so many free companion tickets from using it! I don’t know why we didn’t get it earlier!

      • saraharnstein
        > Sarah Barthet
        June 25, 2020

        That’s awesome! And so true. The only complaint I ever have is “why didn’t I get this sooner?!?”

    • Hannah
      June 25, 2020

      I haven’t considered getting a travel credit card because I have a lot of credit card debt and student loans, but maybe once I pay those off I can reconsider!

      • saraharnstein
        > Hannah
        June 25, 2020

        I would totally recommend checking them out once you pay them off (smart move? Too!) 😊

    • Sandy N Vyjay
      June 26, 2020

      With so many Banks and financial institutions and Airlines vying with each other for your attention with their credit cards, sometimes it is a challenge to select the best. the ones listed by you are all good, but our personal preference is American Express Platinum. One of the things that is important to us is Complimentary lounge access.

      • saraharnstein
        > Sandy N Vyjay
        June 26, 2020

        That’s the difficult thing about making a “best credit cards” list – everyone values different perks differently! I actually used to have that card, but found that I was rarely in an airport that had one of the included lounges. It might have just been where I live, though.

    • Ashley
      June 26, 2020

      I have the Venture card and have loved it! I will definitely check out these other ones though that you ranked above mine!

      • saraharnstein
        > Ashley
        June 27, 2020

        Let me know if you end up getting one! I personally love the Chase Sapphire Preferred and would recommend that one (of course depending on your situation)

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