What do savvy travel bloggers, backpackers, business owners, and all other frequent flyers have in common? A high-earning travel rewards credit card. If you want to fly for free like the pros do, you need to understand that every dollar you spend that isn't earning you rewards is a dollar wasted. Plus, there are huge welcome bonuses to be had just for signing up and hitting the minimum spend with your everyday purchases – sometimes as much as $750 worth of points, like with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. That's enough for a free return flight already!

A good travel credit card will also save you money during your trip, charging no foreign transaction fees (often 2.5-3% of every purchase with a regular credit card), and offering perks like car rental insurance, airport lounge access, and premium hotel status.

Without further ado, here are our top choices for the best travel credit cards in 2020.

The Best Travel Credit Cards for 2020

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • 60,000 reward points (worth $750) after meeting the minimum spend of $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2x points when you spend on travel or dining worldwide
  • Can transfer your reward points to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Learn More

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has been our #1 credit card for awhile now – and with good reason. This card checks a lot of boxes at a low annual fee: a huge welcome bonus of 60,000 points worth up to $750 in travel, no foreign transaction fees (saving 2.5% on every overseas purchase), included insurance on rental cars, baggage delays, and trip delays, and 2x points per dollar on travel and restaurant purchases worldwide.

Points can be transferred 1:1 with a huge number of airline and hotel points programs. However, redeeming your points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal boosts their value by 25% – and you also get a lot more flexibility.

While official airline points programs have blackout dates or limited number of reward seats on each flight, the Chase portal lets you use points on any flight or hotel that would appear on other travel booking sites like Expedia and Kayak. In other words, if a flight or hotel is available, you can book it with points – period. It also means that the cheaper a flight or hotel is, the less points required to redeem it. So if you're thrifty like us and keep your eyes peeled for cheap flights and error fares, you'll usually use less points than if you were using an official airline points program.

2. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • 50,000 bonus miles (worth $500) once you spend $3,000 within 3 months from account opening
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles don't expire, no blackout dates, fly any airline, stay at any hotel
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, $95 after that
  • Learn More

The Capital One Venture Rewards card offers similar perks to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, but with a few differences. The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95 after that. However, the welcome bonus is also lower, at 50,000 miles worth up to $500 in travel when you spend $3,000 on your everyday purchases in the first 3 months. Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you get no foreign transaction fees, car rental and travel accident insurance, and you can redeem your points for any flight or hotel with no blackout dates.

One unique perk is a $100 credit towards TSA Precheck or Global Entry. These programs allow you to save time at the airport going through security or clearing immigration, and are well worth signing up for if you're a frequent traveler. Don't miss our ultimate guide on using TSA Precheck or Global Entry, saving you hours at the airport.

Overall, we think the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better choice as you get a larger welcome bonus and 2x points on restaurants and travel, which more than make up for the $95 annual fee. But if you want a second card (and second welcome bonus) or a $0 annual fee in your first year, the Capital One Venture Rewards card is still one of the best travel cards you can get.

3. The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express

  • 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on your card in the first 3 months
  • Up to $15 in free Uber rides per month and Uber VIP status
  • 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines, or on flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • Unlimited access to 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide through the American Express Global Lounge Collection (including Priority Pass Select lounges)
  • $200 airline fee credit per year (applied to checked bags, in-flight refreshments, and other incidental fees)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $550 (waived for active military personnel - read more). Terms apply.
  • Learn More

If you're serious about points travel and credit card perks, you have to bring in the big guns, and you can't get much bigger than The Platinum Card from American Express. It has some of the most impressive benefits of any travel rewards card we've seen – but it also comes with a hefty annual fee of $550. Is it worth it? Absolutely – but it requires you to be strategic in taking advantage of the benefits, and you should probably be traveling more than once a year. For the hardcore traveler, this card is our #1 choice.

The Platinum Card from American Express truly checks all the boxes. A 60,000 points welcome bonus after hitting the minimum spend (which some websites estimate is worth $1,200), 5x the points on flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel, no foreign transaction fees, baggage and car rental insurance, and the flexibility to transfer your points to 18 airline and 3 hotel points programs, or to book any flight or hotel through the American Express Travel portal.

On top of that, there are perks and credits galore. You get free access to the Global Lounge Collection, one of the largest airport lounge collections in the world. That's free food and drink, shower access, and strong wifi with every visit to the airport. You also get a $200 airline fee credit per year (which works on baggage fees, now an additional charge on most flights), Uber VIP status with $15 Uber credit per month, up to $100 credit for your Global Entry or TSA Precheck application, and $100 in credits for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Finally, you get gold status in Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, membership in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred, and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive, and access to AMEX's own Fine Hotel & Resorts program. What does all that mean? Discounts on hotels and cars, free room upgrades, late checkouts, free wi-fi, and an amenity specific to the property worth $100. American Express estimates the benefits of the Fine Hotel & Resorts program alone to be worth an average of $550.

As you can see, if you frequently travel or are strategic in using the card, you can more than make up for the $550 annual fee. Not to mention, the luxury of all these perks is pretty nice too! Learn More.

Other cards to check out

The above 3 cards are our top all-around travel cards for both before and during your trip. But if you're looking for a specific feature, there are a few other cards you can consider checking out.

The Best Business Credit Card for Travel

Chase Ink Business Preferred

Ink Business Preferred Card

  • 100,000 reward points (worth $1250) after meeting the minimum spend of $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • 3x points on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each year
  • Can transfer your reward points to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs, or redeem for any flight or hotel in Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $95
  • Learn More

Own a small business? Get the Ink Business Preferred card from Chase and earn even more points. The perks are even better than our #1 consumer choice, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, for the same annual fee. A whopping 100,000 welcome bonus (worth $1,250 in travel), no foreign transaction fees, flexible rewards with no blackout dates, and 3x the points on even more categories like travel, shipping, internet, cable, phone, and online ad purchases make this card a solid choice both at home and overseas.

The Best Credit Card with No Annual Fee

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

  • 20,000 bonus miles (worth $200) once you spend $1,000 within 3 months from account opening
  • 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles don't expire, no blackout dates, fly any airline, stay at any hotel
  • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Learn More

Although paying an annual fee can seem scary, it's always worth it, because the benefits on a card with an annual fee are far greater than on cards without, and you'll earn points at a much higher rate. Our #2 card, the Capital One Venture Rewards card, also offers a $0 annual fee for the first year, so that card is our recommendation if you're avoiding annual fees.

But if you never want an annual fee, your best choice is the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card. It's similar to the Venture Rewards card, but the welcome bonus is only 20,000 (worth $200 in travel) instead of 50,000 (worth $500 in travel). You only get 1.25 miles per dollar instead of 2, and no TSA Precheck or Global Entry credit. That's a lot less value compared to what you get with the Venture Rewards card, which has a $0 annual fee for the first year anyway, so we think it's a better card for most people.

The Best Credit Card for Travel Insurance

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 50,000 reward points (worth $750) after meeting the minimum spend of $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • 3x points when you spend on travel (after using the full travel credit) or dining worldwide
  • Free access to 1000+ airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select
  • Can transfer your reward points to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Learn More

Though most travel cards these days offer a limited amount of insurance on car rentals, lost luggage, and trip cancellations, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of just a few cards offering emergency medical and dental insurance as well. Medical insurance is essential when travelling, and can often cost up to a few hundred dollars, so having this included with your credit card is great value. Other perks on this card are similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but your points are worth 50% more in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you get access to airport lounges worldwide, and you get a credit towards a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application.

The Best Credit Card for Airport Lounge Access

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • 50,000 reward points (worth $750) after meeting the minimum spend of $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • 3x points when you spend on travel (after using the full travel credit) or dining worldwide
  • Free access to 1000+ airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select
  • Can transfer your reward points to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $550
  • Learn More

The best credit cards for airport lounge access are the previously mentioned American Express Platinum Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but both have high annual fees of $550. These cards have a huge number of benefits, and are definitely worth it if you take advantage of them, but  if the annual fee is too steep, we recommend sticking with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card has a lower annual fee of $95 and 10 airport lounge visits per year, but since your points are locked into the Hilton Honors program, we recommend foregoing the lounge access to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred for the same fee, with the flexibility to book any flight or hotel you want. Plus, there's other ways to get cheap lounge access – check out our full guide!

The Best Credit Card for TSA Precheck and Global Entry

Capital One Venture Rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • 50,000 bonus miles (worth $500) once you spend $3,000 within 3 months from account opening
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Miles don't expire, no blackout dates, fly any airline, stay at any hotel
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, $95 after that
  • Learn More

Signing up for TSA Precheck or Global Entry can save you hours at the airport over time. The Capital One Venture Rewards Card offers a credit of up to $100 on your statement when you apply for this handy perk.

The Best Credit Card for Active Military Members

The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express

  • 60,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on your card in the first 3 months
  • Up to $15 in free Uber rides per month and Uber VIP status
  • 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines, or on flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel
  • Unlimited access to 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide through the American Express Global Lounge Collection (including Priority Pass Select lounges)
  • $200 airline fee credit per year (applied to checked bags, in-flight refreshments, and other incidental fees)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee: $550 (waived for active military personnel - read more). Terms apply.
  • Learn More

If you're an active military member, it's a no-brainer. You get to have the most feature-packed credit card of 2020, the American Express Platinum Card, with no annual fee at all.


Thrifty Nomads has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Thrifty Nomads and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.