7 Travel Credit Cards With the Best Sign-Up Bonuses and Perks

One way to avoid paying full price for that dream vacation? Sign up for a credit card with travel rewards. We say, if you're going to spend the money anyway, you might as well reap some rewards, whether that means redeeming points or miles for hotel stays, flights, baggage fees, or just plain travel expenses. However, these days, it seems like every bank has a travel reward credit card -- and the dizzying array of options are most definitely not created equal. To help you narrow things down, we've rounded up some of our favorite travel credit cards that have the best signing bonuses and perks, from free hotel nights and lounge access to six-figure points and credits for TSA PreCheck.

CafeCredit.com via Flickr

CafeCredit.com via Flickr

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

In January 2019, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest combined into the new Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. Of the available cards, we like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless from Chase the best. Points pack the most punch when redeemed for hotel stays at over 6,700 Marriott properties, but you can also use them for vacation packages, flights, gift cards, and even exclusive experiences like concerts or meet-and-greets. Cardholders earn six points for every dollar spent on or at a Marriott hotel, and two points per dollar for all other purchases. Built-in annual perks include a free night’s stay every year (up to 35,000 points) and 15 elite credits deposited into your rewards account. Regular Bonvoy members get free Wi-Fi, instant redemption, no blackout dates, and the ability to redeem a combo of cash and points. This card also bumps you up a notch with automatic Silver Elite status, giving you extra perks like a dedicated reservations line, priority late checkout, and instant redemption toward anything you can charge to your room, like room service or spa treatments. You’ll even reimbursed for lost luggage, insurance for trip delays, and coverage for baggage delays.

Sign-Up Bonus: 100,000 points. At the time of publishing, hotel stays start at 7,500 points, though off-peak redemption rates will soon be available for just 5,000 points for a Category 1 hotel. Marriott will also be adding a peak redemption rate, pushing the current Category 8 hotels up to 100,000 points per night. These changes mean that, depending where and when you stay, you could be getting up to 20 free nights. 

Minimum Spend Required to Receive Bonus: You’ll have to spend a hefty $5,000 in the first three months of opening the account. 

Annual Fee: $95

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

A favorite among travelers, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is the perfect option for folks looking to get their feet wet in the deep sea of travel reward credits cards. Redeeming points for travel is easy, and cardholders will get an additional 25 percent bump in point value when redeeming through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Another huge selling point is its 1:1 transfer value to participating hotel and airline partners. In addition to no foreign transaction fees and built-in trip insurance, this card offers the hard-to-find perk of primary auto-collision damage coverage within the United States and in most countries abroad. This is especially valuable for anyone who does not have regular car insurance — and it means you can skip the expensive extra insurance coverage fees when renting a car. 

Sign-Up Bonus: 60,000 points. These points have a cash value of $600, and up to $750 for travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. They can be redeemed for hotel stays, flights, cruises, and car rentals. 

Minimum Spend Required to Receive Bonus: You need to spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account. 

Annual Fee: $95

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card wouldn’t normally be on our list of top hotel reward cards, due to its lower redemption values and hefty annual fee, but it’s currently offering one of the largest sign-up bonuses we’ve ever seen, earning it a spot on this list. You’ve got serious earning potential here, with 14 points per dollar spent at or on Hilton properties, seven points per dollar spent on dining in U.S. restaurants and booking flights and car rentals through approved providers, and three points per dollar spent on every other purchase. The card also comes with attractive perks like Priority Pass, which gives you and up to two guests access to over 1,000 airport lounges, plus there are no foreign transaction fees. You’ll also get a $250 statement credit for extras associated with flying (think change fees, baggage fees, and in-flight beverages) and a $250 statement credit for qualifying on-property purchases at Hilton Resorts, as well as a certificate for a free weekend night each year. You’ll even snag automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status, giving you a free night on stays that are at least five nights long, free room upgrades, free breakfasts at Hilton hotels, executive lounge access, and more. 

Sign-Up Bonus: 150,000 points. Hotel stays in places like Turkey, Brazil, and Egypt start at just 5,000 points, and can climb up to 95,000 points per night in places like the Maldives. 

Minimum Spend Required to Receive Bonus: You have to spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening the account. If you spend $60,000 in one year, you’ll get an additional free night. 

Annual Fee: $450. This is hefty, but if you plan on using all of the benefits listed above, it will eventually pay for itself. 

Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

The Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card may not have the biggest bonus out there, but it’s a fantastic card for folks who don’t want to spend a ton in order to get travel rewards (students, can you hear us in the back?) or for people who don’t travel often and want to stockpile points for a big vacation. This card starts off strong with zero-balance perks, like no annual fee, zero interest for the first 12 months, and no foreign transaction fees. You’ll earn one-and-a-half points per dollar spent (with no maximum point limits), and they’ll never expire. Points are redeemed via a statement credit, giving cardholders the flexibility and power to comp any part of their vacation, from baggage fees to cruises to full-on vacation packages.  

Sign-Up Bonus: 25,000 points. This equates to $250 in statement credit, giving these points a pretty high valuation over other card rewards. 

Minimum Spend Required to Receive Bonus: You must spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account. Finally, a card that doesn’t require you to break the bank to see some rewards. 

Annual Fee: $0 

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards credit card is a big competitor to the Chase Sapphire Preferred because of its flexible redemption, unlimited point accrual, and good valuation. All purchases on the card get you two miles per dollar spent, and through January 2020, you’ll earn ten times the dollar amount spent at or on thousands of participating hotels. Some noteworthy travel perks include a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees, and no foreign transaction fees. You’ll also get travel assistance and accident insurance. Reward miles can also be transferred to participating travel loyalty programs, though transfer ratios vary. 

Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 miles. This equals about $500 in travel rewards, which can be redeemed on any airline or hotel with no blackout dates. 

Minimum Spend Required to Receive Bonus: You’ll need to have at least $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account. 

Annual Fee: Free for the first year, then $95 every year after that.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Cardholders have flexibility and freedom to choose when to cash out their rewards, since miles are redeemed directly into statement credits. There are no extra earning benefits for travel-related purchases, but you’ll get two miles for every dollar spent, and as long as your account is open and in good standing, they’ll never expire. As an extra redemption perk, you’ll get five percent of your miles back to use toward future reward redemptions. For example, if you cash in 10,000 miles, you’ll automatically get back 500 miles to use later. Those who travel abroad frequently will benefit from the card’s built-in international chip and PIN technology, which allows cardholders to easily use self-service chip terminals around the world. Other travel perks include no foreign transaction fees and no blackout or booking restrictions.

Sign-Up Bonus: 70,000 miles — and that’s enough to redeem for a $700 travel statement credit toward a qualifying travel purchase. Additionally, miles can be redeemed directly for travel, gift cards, and merchandise, though the value will be less.

Minimum Spend Required to Receive Bonus: You’ll need to spend at least $5,000 within the first three months of opening the account. 

Annual Fee: Free for the first year, then $89 every year after that. Don’t want to pay an annual fee? No problem. This card lets you redeem miles to cover the annual fee. 

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

If you’re lucky enough to travel frequently — and you don’t already have this popular card — the Chase Sapphire Reserve may be the perfect pick for you. In addition to the great perks of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, this card offers a 50 percent bump in point value when you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You’ll also earn three points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, and one point per dollar spent on everything else. If you’re questioning the card because of the high annual fee, consider the $300 statement credit and Priority Pass access, which gets you into over 1,000 airport lounges around the world. You’ll also get a $100 statement credit for application fees for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. These extra perks add up and offer excellent value against the annual fee.

Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 points. These points have a cash value of $500, and up to $750 for travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. They can be redeemed for hotel stays, flights, cruises, and car rentals. 

Minimum Spend Required to Receive Bonus: You need to spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account. 

Annual Fee: $450, plus and additional $75 for each additional card holder. 

A Few Important Things to Consider

Bonuses, perks, and fees related to travel credit cards change often, so double check all offers and fine print before applying. Also, many offers require you to meet a minimum spend amount in order to receive bonus points, so make sure it’s within your budget. Additionally, not all offers are available to everyone who applies, as some require a certain level of credit. When choosing a card, remember to consider your regular spending budget (there’s no use in getting a card to save money on travel if it makes you spend more than you normally would), how you travel, how often you travel, and how valuable the card perks are outside of the sign-up bonus.

You’ll Also Like: