The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023
The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Earn the Most Points for Flights with These Cards
When it comes to racking up points and miles for award flights, some credit cards offer better earnings rates than others. As an avid traveler, maximizing your points earnings on flight purchases should be a top priority. The more rewards you can accumulate, the more free flights you can redeem down the road.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the most popular cards for flight redemptions, thanks to its ability to transfer points to airline partners at a 1:1 ratio. You'll earn 5x points per dollar on flights when you book through the Chase travel portal, and 2x points on all other travel purchases. The sign-up bonus alone nets you 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. Transfer those points to United, and you could score a roundtrip flight within the continental US.
Another top contender is the Capital One Venture X Rewards card. You'll earn unlimited 2x miles per dollar on all purchases, with no foreign transaction fees. Miles transfer to Capital One's airline partners, including Air Canada and JetBlue. The current welcome offer gives you 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
For premium cabin redemptions, the American Express Platinum card could be your ticket to an international business or first class flight. You'll earn a whopping 5x points on flights purchased directly through the airline, plus various other travel perks like airport lounge access. The card does come with a steep $695 annual fee, but you can offset that with credits and statement rebates.
The Bank of America Premium Rewards card also deserves a mention, with competitive earning rates of 2x points per dollar on travel and dining. Points can be redeemed for cash back or transferred to various airline partners. There are no foreign transaction fees charged on this card.
No matter which card you choose, be sure to pay off the balance each month and avoid interest charges. This strategy will keep your points intact rather than eroding their value. Check each program's airline transfer partners and redemption rates to confirm the best option for your needs. Awards flights will always represent the highest per-point value compared to cash back or gift cards.
What else is in this post?
- The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Earn the Most Points for Flights with These Cards
- The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Maximize Hotel Rewards with These Top Picks
- The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Best for Families - Cards with Perks for the Whole Crew
- The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Cards that Waive Annual Fees for the First Year
- The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Premium Travel Protection and Insurance Benefits
- The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Lounge Access and Upgrades with Elite Cards
- The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Easily Earn Sign-Up Bonuses with Minimum Spend
- The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Cash Back Options for Maximum Flexibility
The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Maximize Hotel Rewards with These Top Picks
When it comes to hotel rewards programs, you'll want a credit card that turbo-charges your earnings and takes your elite status to the next level. The right card can help you unlock free nights faster and score upgrades like suite access or resort credits. Do your hotel stays a few times per year, or every week? You can optimize your earnings either way with these top picks.
For general hotel spending, the Chase Sapphire Preferred leads the pack. You'll earn 5x points per dollar on hotels when you book through the Chase portal, and 2x points on all other travel buys. Points transfer 1:1 to valuable programs like World of Hyatt, where you could redeem 25,000 points for a free night at a Category 4 hotel.
Marriott loyalists will love the cobranded Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card, with 6x points at participating hotels. A free anniversary night each cardmember year more than offsets the $95 annual fee, and you'll get automatic Silver elite status just for being a cardholder.
Hilton fans can take advantage of the Hilton Honors American Express Card and its 7x points on Hilton stays, plus complimentary Gold status. There's also a free weekend night reward after spending $15,000 on the card per year.
Hyatt diehards have an excellent option in the World of Hyatt Credit Card, with 9x points on Hyatt stays plus 4x on dining and flights. You'll receive a free night at any Category 1-4 hotel every cardmember anniversary. Automatic Discoverist status saves you 5% on rewards redemptions.
For road warriors who live in hotels, the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card grants Platinum elite status, with perks like room upgrades and welcome amenities. You'll earn 25x points total at IHG hotels. Free nights start at just 5,000 points on PointBreaks hotels.
The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Best for Families - Cards with Perks for the Whole Crew
When you’re traveling as a family, the costs can really add up. Not only are you paying for multiple plane tickets and hotel rooms, but there are all those extra expenses like theme park tickets, rental cars, meals out and more. Having a credit card tailored for family travel can help take some of the sting out of big vacation budgets. The right card will offer perks that benefit every member of your crew, from your rambunctious preschooler to your jet-setting teenager.
One of the best options for families is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. You’ll earn 5x points on travel booked through Chase, which you can pool together for awards to cover the whole family’s flights and hotels. The real savings comes from the annual $50 hotel credit, good towards purchases like rollaway beds, room service and parking. There are also no foreign transaction fees, so you can swipe stress-free on your European vacation.
If you’re road tripping in the minivan or cruising around in a rental car, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card has a major perk: car rental insurance. As long as you book the rental with your card and decline the agency's collision damage waiver, you'll be covered for loss and damage. That takes a huge worry off your plate as you're shuttling the kids around. Earn 1.25x miles on every purchase, and transfer those miles to Capital One's airline partners.
Don't underestimate the power of lounge access when traveling with kids. The Priority Pass membership that comes with the Platinum Card from American Express will be your oasis when you all need to recharge during a layover. Complimentary snacks, drinks, Wi-Fi and more await inside those exclusive spaces not open to regular passengers. Amex also offers statement credits towards Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, so you can breeze through security with less hassle.
One of the best hotel cards for families is the World of Hyatt Credit Card. You’ll appreciate the premium elite Discoverist status, which gets you space-available room upgrades to give everyone more breathing room. Each year on your cardmember anniversary, you’ll also receive a certificate good for a Category 1-4 free night stay. Use it for a family suite with room for the whole brood.
The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Cards that Waive Annual Fees for the First Year
One strategy to maximize the value you get from a new travel credit card is to look for offers that waive the annual fee for the first year. This gives you a chance to take full advantage of the card's benefits before that recurring fee hits your statement. You can see if the perks outweigh the cost after a year of card membership.
For road warriors who rack up hotel nights, the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card grants complimentary Platinum elite status plus an anniversary free night at any property worldwide. You’ll earn 25x total points at IHG hotels like Holiday Inn and InterContinental. New cardholders pay no annual fee for the first year, then $99 thereafter. Card expert One Mile at a Time values IHG Platinum status at a minimum value of $200. Given you also unlock points bonuses and a potentially very valuable anniversary night certificate, this card is likely still worth holding after the first year if you frequent IHG hotels.
Hilton loyalists can take advantage of a similar offer with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card , with a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 thereafter. You'll bag 12x points on Hilton stays, plus automatic Gold status in the Honors program.
If you prefer Hyatt, the World of Hyatt Credit Card also waives its $95 annual fee for the first 12 months. You’ll unlock up to 9x points on Hyatt stays, along with automatic Discoverist status and an anniversary free night at a Category 1-4 hotel. Regular Hyatt guests can easily recoup the eventual $95 fee through their accelerated points earnings and free night payoff. Hyatt points are worth around 1.7 cents each, so the 30,000 points signup bonus after spending $3k in 3 months is worth over $500.
For airline loyalty, new cardholders of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card get the $75 annual fee waived the first year. You'll earn 3 miles for every dollar spent on Alaska Airlines purchases plus complimentary checked baggage. One family of four taking three Alaska flights a year could easily save $300 on baggage fees. That covers the eventual annual fee costs with room to spare.
If you open a new American Express Platinum, you'll enjoy an intro $695 annual fee for the first year, then pay $695 thereafter. While steep, you can recoup the fee through credits like up to $200 annually on airline incidentals, up to $200 in Uber Cash annually, up to $100 per year on Saks Fifth Avenue purchases, access to Global Entry/TSA Precheck, airport lounge access, and more. One couple sharing the AmEx Platinum card detailed on TravelingForMiles how they received over $2000 in value from the benefits during their first year as cardholders.
The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Premium Travel Protection and Insurance Benefits
Having the right travel protection and insurance benefits can give you invaluable peace of mind when you’re on the road or up in the air. While no one wants to think about emergencies derailing a trip, the reality is that unforeseen circumstances can and do happen. That’s why it’s so important to have supplemental coverage that’s tailored for travelers beyond typical health insurance and car insurance policies. The premium credit cards on the market offer robust travel protections and benefits that can end up saving you thousands of dollars if a crisis strikes overseas or you need to cancel a big trip last minute.
One of the gold standards is the premium coverage you get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. This card has excellent trip delay and cancellation/interruption coverage with high limits, plus lost and damaged baggage coverage. If your trip gets interrupted for a covered reason, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. The card also includes primary rental car collision coverage worldwide, so if your rental gets damaged or stolen you won’t have to file a claim with your own car insurance company.
Another premium card renowned for its coverage is the Platinum Card from American Express. When you charge your trip on this card, you unlock travel accident insurance for flights, access to emergency medical professionals, and emergency evacuation coverage up to $100,000. Like the Sapphire Reserve, the AmEx Platinum also offers trip cancellation/interruption coverage for both travel and medical reasons. One user on Reddit shared that when their spouse got sick before a big Asian trip, Amex refunded them over $7,000 under this benefit.
The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card warrant mentioning for its suite of travel protections like lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident insurance, and an auto rental collision damage waiver. You won’t pay foreign transaction fees with this card either. One reviewer spoke of Capital One’s excellent customer service when helping them submit a trip delay claim that got approved and paid very promptly after a lengthy flight holdup.
The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Lounge Access and Upgrades with Elite Cards
One of the most coveted perks of premium travel credit cards is getting access to airport lounges and travel upgrades through elite status with hotels and airlines. These exclusive spaces and preferential treatment used to be reserved for frequent business travelers, but now everyday points and miles collectors can also unlock VIP access that makes every trip feel more luxurious.
The Platinum Card from American Express is one of the gold standards for cardholders who want lounge access. You’ll gain entry to Amex’s own Centurion Lounges, plus access to Priority Pass lounges worldwide so you can find an oasis no matter what airport you’re traveling through. Nothing makes a long layover or delayed flight more bearable than having access to complimentary premium food and beverages, comfortable seating, high-speed Wi-Fi and other amenities not available to regular passengers. One blogger at Upon Arriving says his Priority Pass access through the Amex Platinum allowed his family to shower and refresh in a lounge at Heathrow Airport during a long international transfer. This turned an exhausting travel day into a much nicer experience.
The complimentary Hilton Honors Gold and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status that comes with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessTM Credit Card can score you perks and upgrades with every stay at their respective brands. Having mid-tier elite status gets you a better shot at a preferred room or suite upgrade at check-in if there’s availability. You may also get free premium internet service, complimentary breakfast or food/beverage credit, later checkout privileges and bonus earning rates during your stay. One Points Miles and Martinis blogger commented that his Hilton Gold status earned via credit card fast track status matched him to Gold with a few other hotel chains, amplifying his upgrades and perks exponentially.
Delta flyers who hold the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express enjoy complimentary access to Delta Sky Club airport lounges when traveling with Delta. This nets them free snacks, drinks, Wi-Fi, and a quiet place to work pre-flight. As an added benefit, cardholders receive two one-time guest passes each year to bring friends or family into the lounge with them. One favorite aspect is that children under 2 are allowed in for free without needing a guest pass.
United loyalists who carry the United ClubSM Infinite Card enjoy full United Club airport lounge membership. This gets them and eligible travel companions complimentary access to 50+ locations worldwide along with VIP perks like premium drinks, free buffet snacks, Wi-Fi and family rooms to entertain kids. Cardholders also receive Premier Upgrades for space-available upgrades on award tickets. Finally, you’ll get Hertz President’s Circle elite status for fast car rentals and perks like confirmed upgrades and skip-the-counter service.
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card warrant a mention for its annual $100 Discount Airfare benefit and 50% off Alaska lounge day passes allowing you discounted access when traveling through airports like Anchorage, Seattle and Portland. One Frugal Travel Guy blogger used his $100 airfare discount to buy miles for 10-20% off and ended up scoring a First Class upgrade as a result.
The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Easily Earn Sign-Up Bonuses with Minimum Spend
One of the best ways to supercharge your credit card rewards balance quickly is to earn a lucrative sign-up bonus after meeting a minimum spending requirement within a defined period of time. Most top travel cards entice new applicants by offering huge sums of bonus points, miles or cash back when you activate your card and hit a target spending goal during the first three months or so. The spending thresholds range from the very manageable to some loftier tiers, but one strategy is to time opening a new card around a big expense you can put on the card.
Let's look at some popular examples. The Chase Sapphire Preferred nets you 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. One new cardholder on Reddit shares how he paid his rent via Plastiq to easily hit the minimum spend organically without manufactured spending. With the 60k bonus worth $750 towards travel booked via Chase or potentially more when transferred to airline and hotel partners, this sign-up bonus effectively paid him to open the account.
For hotels, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card awards you 130,000 Hilton points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. One new cardholder on the Points Guy site confirmed earning the full bonus and immediately scored a 5-night stay at a high-end Waldorf Astoria resort using those freshly earned points. This allowed them to vacation for nearly free by timing the app around an upcoming big purchase.
The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is currently offering 140,000 bonus points plus a free night certificate valid at any brand property worldwide when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Given IHG points can be redeemed for hotel nights starting at just 5,000 points, this sign-up bonus can unlock several free vacations. As shared by one blogger at Reasons to Travel who timed their app around a major home renovation expense, you'd need to spend almost $700,000 on paid hotel nights to earn 140k points outright given the standard earnings rate of ~5x.
Even a no-annual fee card like the Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card can bring huge value, currently offering 15,000 bonus SkyMiles upon approval and another 15,000 more after you spend $500 in purchases in the first 3 months. One new cardholder on Wallet Hacks confirmed receiving the full 30k bonus miles which they used to book a roundtrip Main Cabin flight within the U.S. that would've cost $350. For spending just $500 in 3 months, they effectively got $350 in free travel.
The Top Travel Credit Cards for Your Wallet in October 2023 - Cash Back Options for Maximum Flexibility
The beauty of cash back credit cards is their flexibility. While miles are tied to certain airlines and hotel points only redeemable on a given brand, cold hard cash can be used for anything your wanderlust heart desires. Flights, hotels, tours, cruises, rental cars, vacation home rentals, dining out on the road, spa treatments, shopping souvenirs, you name it – cash back gives travelers the most freedom and versatility in redemptions. You just have to spend as normal on your everyday purchases and the rewards come pouring in.
One of my favorite cash back cards for travel is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card because miles accrue quickly with a flat earning rate of 2 miles (equal to 2% cash back) on every dollar spent. As one reviewer on The Points Guy confirmed, this straightforward unlimited structure makes it easy to rack up rewards fast just on your groceries, gas, and household bills, let alone bigger travel expenses. Miles never expire either as long as your account remains open and active. While Capital One miles transfer to airline partners like Air Canada and JetBlue, you can also simply redeem them as cash towards travel purchases at a rate of 1 cent per mile. So once you've accumulated 10,000 miles that's $100 back towards any airline ticket, hotel stay, vacation rental or other travel expense charged to your card. It's like getting paid to take trips!
Another top contender that's popular with road warriors is the Wells Fargo Autograph. New cardholders can earn a welcome bonus of 20,000 points (worth $200 cash) after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You'll then continue raking in unlimited 3x points on travel, gas stations, restaurants, and select streaming services. While points expire after 39 months, that gives you plenty of time to rack up value and cash out those earnings towards whatever travel experience strikes your fancy. I've seen reviewers comment that Wells Fargo points take just a couple days to process and credit back to your account once requested. So it's nearly as good as instant cash.
I would be remiss to not mention the Bank of America® Cash Rewards card which pays a nice 3% cash back on a category of your choice from options including travel, gas, dining and online shopping. The Preferred Rewards program allows existing BofA customers to earn 25-75% more on their rewards across cards like this, turbo charging your earnings potential. One blogger at my wife's site TravelingForMiles leveraged this synergy to earn over 5% back on travel spending with the Customized Cash Rewards card. We constantly see tempting redemption offers on the BofA app too, like 10% off travel gift cards or small statement credits to erase recent travel purchases. BofA even offers a 10% points refund when redeeming for cash towards a mortgage, which is unique flexibility.