Credit Card Travel Hacks | The Best Credit Cards for Travel

Updated: Jul 23, 2019


All information up to date as of: 23.07.2019


Have you ever heard of travel hacking? It’s not as complicated as you would think. One of the easiest ways to for cheap travel is through credit card sign-on bonuses (which is a part of travel hacking). Whoa, “That’s too good to be true, what’s the catch?” Well, the best credit cards for travel normally require you to spend between 2,000-4,000 within 90 days of opening the card to get the bonus AND you need a decent credit score. Other than that, there is NO catch, you will be surprised by the amount of credit card offers there are out there.


There is no simple way of reaching the initial spend. You can’t go buy thousands of dollars’ worth of Visa gift cards and then pay that off with your credit card. That’s manufactured spending, which has been stopped, if it was that easy everyone would be doing it. The easiest way to get the bonus is to pay off your student debt, car loan, or ask a parent/someone you trust to purchase items they need with your card; ANY big item purchase can bring you to the initial spend amount so that you can get the bonus.


I rate credit cards based on many factors, but the best travel cards are normally chosen based on their sign on bonus. Unfortunately, rewards credit cards are starting to change, and rewards are being cut, so don’t hesitate on signing up!


Keep it in mind, the credit cards I am listing do not have foreign transactions fees, blackout dates and the miles don’t expire if your account is open. My favorite cards offer more than just the usual benefits.


Disclaimer: Before we take a look at the cards I would like to disclose; many people are concerned about their ‘credit’ when they sign up for more credit cards. From my experience and research, if you treat your credit card as a debit card (only spend what you can afford), you will be in good shape! Don’t get into the habit of spending money just because you have a high credit limit. Also, while there are credit cards for poor credit out there, there’s no guarantee they will offer rewards and bonuses.



My Top Best Credit Cards for Travel with a High Sign-on Bonus

Note: Credit card bonuses and other benefits continually change, these cards are correct as of July 2019. This list includes cards with a high sign on bonus and additional travel benefits. Most of these cards offer additional benefits that aren’t listed like baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, purchase protection, and extended warranty protection.

1 - Capital One | VentureOne


Sign on bonus: 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 within 90 days of opening a card (close to $200 free).


Annual Fee: $0.


Points: 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase. Redeemed for travel - each point is worth $.0125. This means 100 points equals $1.25.


Extra Perks: 10 miles per dollar when you spend through Hotels.com/venture.


Booking Travel: Easiest card to book with – purchase anything travel related and just ‘erase’ it from your statement.


Great for: Simplicity and booking hotels through Hotels.com


Apply Here!


2 - Capital One | Venture

*Note this card is different from the VentureOne


Sign on bonus: 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 within 90 days of opening a card (that’s close to $700 free).


Annual Fee: $0 for the first year. $95 thereafter.


Points: 2 miles per dollar on every purchase. Redeemed for travel - each point is worth > $.02. This means 100 points equals about $2.


Extra Perks: 10 miles per dollar when you spend through Hotels.com/venture. Global Entry and TSA reimbursement.


Booking Travel: Easiest card to book with – purchase anything travel related and just ‘erase’ it from your statement.


Great for: Simplicity and booking hotels through Hotels.com


Apply Here!

3 - United | The Explorer Card, Mileage Plus


Sign on bonus: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 within the first 90 days.


Annual Fee: $0 for the first year. $95 thereafter (but you can always cancel before the year is up. It’s possible the company will extend your $0 intro offer, no guarantees though. If you cancel and decide you’ve made a wrong decision, call back and they will reopen it without it taking a hit on your credit score.

Points: 2x miles on hotels, restaurants and United purchases.


Extra Perks: Global Entry and TSA reimbursement, free checked bag, 2 United Club Passes, upgrades, premium rental car insurance.

Booking Travel: Booking through the United site is easiest; this card is advantageous for booking United Airline tickets (most airline credit cards give you good travel perks towards that airline in particular).


Great for: Booking rental cars and United Airline flights.

Apply Here!

4 - Chase | Sapphire Preferred


Sign on bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within 90 days of opening a card (that’s more than $1,200 off your travel booking based on TPG’s valuations!). PLUS get about $50 once you add an authorized user (Tip: add your dad, then tell him to shred the card).


Annual Fee: $95

Points: 2 points on travel/dining and 1 point on everything else. Redeemed for cash - each point is worth $.01. This means 100 points equals $1. Redeemed for travel – each point is worth $.0125. This means 100 points equals $1.25.

Extra Perks: Primary car rental insurance. Booking Travel: You must book through the Chase website and they limit to what airlines you can use.


Great for: Travel Beginners.


Apply Here!


5 - Chase | Sapphire Reserve


Sign on bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 within 90 days of opening a card (that’s more than $750 off your travel booking!). PLUS get about $50 once you add an authorized user. *You will not be able to get this bonus if you’re currently a Sapphire Preferred card holder and vice-versa.


Annual Fee: $450

Points: 3 points on travel/dining and 1 point on everything else. Redeemed for cash - each point is worth $.01. This means 100 points equals $1. Redeemed for travel – each point is worth $.0150. This means 100 points equals $1.50.

Extra Perks: $300 annual travel credit as a reimbursement for travel purchases charged to the card. Global Entry/TSA Pre check reimbursement. Primary car rental insurance.

Booking Travel: You must book through the Chase website and they limit to what airlines you can use.


Great for: Travel Purchases.


Apply Here!

6 - Citi | Premier Card


Sign on bonus: 50,000-60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 (from my experience that more than $750, according to TPG its worth $1,020).


Annual Fee: $0 for the first year, $95 after that.

Points: 3x points on traveling and gas stations, 2x points on dining out and entertainment, 1x point on all other purchases. Each travel point is worth $.0125 (that’s $1.25 for every 100).

Extra Perks: If you do not book travel through the site, the sign on bonus can be used to buy gift cards through their site (get yourself an Amazon gift card, then with that buy some Airbnb/Hotels.com gift cards). Many of the perks will be discontinued as of September 2019, as of now you will get a $10 discount on every 5 Lyft rides you take. You can register and monitor your purchases, if the price drops, this card will reimburse the difference of the prices. Booking Travel: I did not book travel, but I did buy travel related gift cards through website ($600 worth). To book travel you will need to go through Citi’s ThankYou portal.


Great for: Travel and Gas purchases.


Apply Here!

7 - American Express | Gold Card


Sign on bonus: 50,000 points (sometimes 25,000-35,000 points) after spending $2,000. This can be between $600-$1,000 – American Express alters this sign on bonus frequently. Get it while it’s high.

Annual Fee: $250.

Points: 4x points at US restaurants, 4x points at US supermarkets, 3x points for flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. One point is generally worth $.005 - $.01. This means 100 points equals $0.50 - $1.


Extra Perks: $120 in dining credits, return protection, refer a friend get $100. $100 airline fee credit. Booking Travel: I did not book travel, but I did buy travel-related gift cards. My 50,000 points converted to $500 for Hotels.com and Airbnb gift cards. Booking travel will need to be through the home page for American Express Travel. You will be limited to what they have available.


Great for: Dining.

Apply Here!


8 - American Express | Platinum Card


Sign on bonus: 75,000 points after spending $5,000 (that’s over $1,200 worth).

Annual Fee: $550.


Points: 5x points for each dollar spent on eligible air and hotel purchases. 5x points for each dollar spent on eligible travel purchases made through amextravel.com.

Extra Perks: $15 in Uber Cash each month, plus $20 in December. $200 Airline Fee Credit. $100 Saks Fifth Avenue Credit. $50 Centurion and Sky Club lounge access. Global Entry/TSA Precheck reimbursement.

Booking Travel: Booking travel will need to be through the home page for American Express Travel. You will be limited to what they have available, but you will get great offerings and deals on Delta airline flights.


Great for: Frequent Travels.


Apply Here!


9 - American Airlines | AAdvantage Platinum Select


Sign on bonus: 50,000 points after spending $2,500, which is enough for a one-way international ticket. Note, you will not be eligible for this bonus if you are already have/had any Citi/AAdvantage cobranded card. Annual Fee: $99 waived the first year.

Points: 2x miles for each dollar spent at restaurants and gas stations. 2x miles for each dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. 1x mile for all other purchases.

Extra Perks: Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases. First checked bag is free on domestic flights. Preferred boarding.


Booking Travel: Booking travel will need to be through American Airlines.


Great for: Frequent American Airlines Traveler's.


Apply Here!


10 – Hilton Honors American Express | Surpass Card


Sign on bonus: 130,000 points after spending $4,000 plus a free weekend night reward. Annual Fee: $95.

Points: 12x points for each dollar spent at Hilton hotel/resorts. 6x points for each dollar spent on U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. 3x points on all other purchases. The value of Hilton points is > $0.06 per point. That’s at least $6 for every 100 points. Extra Perks: Complimentary Gold Status. One free weekend night each year after spending $15,000 on the card.

Booking Travel: Booking travels will need to be through the Hilton website.


Great for: Hilton portfolio customers.


Apply Here!


11 – Frontier Airlines World Mastercard


Sign on bonus: 40,000 points after spending $500.


Annual Fee: $75.

Points: 5x miles for each dollar spent through flyfrontier.com. 3x miles on restaurant purchases. 1x mile on all other purchases.

Extra Perks: $100 flight voucher after every account anniversary. Priority boarding.


Booking Travel: Booking travels will need to be through the Frontier website.


Great for: Budget flyers, who desire to travel to domestically. *There are a few international destinations.


Apply Here!


12 – Hawaiian Airlines


Sign on bonus: 60,000 points after spending $2,000. This is worth over $500.


Annual Fee: $0 intro fee then $99 thereafter.

Points: 3x miles for each dollar spent through Hawaiian Airlines. 2x miles on gas purchases. 1x mile on all other purchases.

Extra Perks: First checked bag free. One-time 50% off companion discount for roundtrip travel between Hawaii and North America. $100 companion discount annually. Discounted flights.


Booking Travel: Booking travels will need to be through Hawaiian Airlines website.


Great for: People who want to travel to Hawaii.


Apply Here!


13 – JetBlue Card


Sign on bonus: 15,000 points after spending $1,000.


Annual Fee: $0. Points: 3x points for each dollar spent through JetBlue. 2x points on restaurant and grocery stores.

Extra Perks: 50% inflight savings. Free first checked bag. $100 statement credit. 5,000 anniversary bonus points.


Booking Travel: Booking travels will need to be through the JetBlue website.


Great for: Budget flyers, who desire to travel to North, Central and South America.


Apply Here!


14 - Uber Visa Card


Sign on bonus: Earn $100 after spending $500.


Annual Fee: $0.

Points: 4% back on dining. 3% back on hotel and airfare. 2% back for online purchases. 1% back on all other purchases.

Extra Perks: $50 statement credit for online subscription services.


Booking Travel: Booking travels will need to be through the Uber app.


Great for: Uber customers.


Open Your Uber App to Apply.

My Personal Recommendations


The one card I absolutely recommend which is one of my top credit cards is the Capital One Venture One. “Why?”

It has a $0 annual fee and it’s a great credit card to continuously use and establish a long-term credit history. It also comes with decent travel bonuses.


As of now, my runner up is the United Mileage Plus card. The benefit that really stands out for me is the Global Entry reimbursement it gives you! If you are accepted for Global Entry, you are automatically accepted for TSA Pre check. Also, the premium car rental insurance is a hit. It’s one of the few credit cards that offer it. If you rent a car, you don’t have to worry about small scratches that may occur. The rental car company will charge you, then this credit card will just reimburse you. Primary CDW coverage provides coverage without needing to file a claim. It’s a HUGE peace of mind when traveling the world and renting cars. Just make sure to reserve and pay for the rental car with your United Card and decline the rental car company’s coverage.

We are continuously looking at new bonuses the major credit card companies are offering for travel and will release more updates in the future.

If you have any additions to this or other questions, we would love to hear from you.


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Nikki D.

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