Best Travel Credit Cards for December 2023 – CNET

There are a number of different card features you’ll need to consider when deciding which travel card is right for you, including the fees, rewards, redemption methods and additional card perks.

Foreign transaction fees: If you plan to travel out of the US, you’ll want to be sure the card you’re eyeing doesn’t require foreign transaction fees. Many credit cards tack these fees on while you’re abroad. They’re 3% of your transaction. Most travel credit cards don’t have foreign transaction fees.

Annual fees: You’ll want to make sure that the card’s rewards and benefits provide enough value through your normal spending to cover its annual fee. That means your spending generates enough rewards to cover the fee and you travel enough to use all of the card benefits. A travel card without an annual fee is better for travelers who don’t travel too often throughout the year, but it won’t provide as lucrative card perks like annual statement credits.

Rewards: A travel credit card’s rewards are one of the most important things to consider. They should match how you usually spend while traveling and have a competitive value when it’s time to redeem. Choose a credit card that matches your travel budget and spending habits to avoid overspending.

Rewards redemption: Generally, you’ll have a better chance to maximize your rewards if you have more options available. Avoid redeeming for statement credits, and instead, use your points for airfare or hotels. If you’re looking to get the most from your points, consider a credit card that offers point transfers to the credit card issuer’s partners.

Travel perks: And lastly, consider the card’s additional perks. Does it offer annual statement credits? How about amenities like airport lounge access or an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck? Many premium travel cards will offer ways to offset their annual fees through their benefits, but you’ll need to make sure you can make full use of them to do so.

How experts suggest choosing the right travel credit card


Gerri Detweiler

Expert Reviewer


Julia Menez

Expert Reviewer


Daniel Braun

Expert Reviewer

There are dozens of travel credit cards, so finding the right fit can be daunting. 

“The most important factor you need to look at when choosing a travel credit card is whether you value a specific brand,” said credit expert Gerri Detweiler.

If you always fly with one airline or stay at a particular hotel, you may want the benefits that come with a co-branded card that earns rewards specifically for that brand, Detweiller said. Perks could include jumping up to a higher airline membership tier for airline cards or annual free night stay certificates with hotel cards. But if you’re not loyal to one brand, Detweiler instead suggests a general travel credit card for avid travelers.

You also want to consider the type of rewards the card earns, said credit card expert Julia Menez.

“For those looking to travel with points and miles, the best way to pick the right travel credit card is to work backward,” Menez said. Once you choose your destination, Menez said it’s important to check which type of points will most effectively cover the cost.

“Once you know which type and how many points you’ll need to earn,  select a travel credit card that earns those types of points,” she said.

Since many of the best travel cards charge an annual fee, figure out if you can justify it with the rewards and card perks you’ll earn. “If you’re going to pay a high annual fee, then you really need to look at whether you’ll earn enough in benefits to offset most or hopefully all of that fee,” Detweiler said. 

If you won’t earn enough to make up for an annual fee, consider a lower-annual-fee credit card or even a cash-back card that might better suit your spending and budget, Detweiller added.

Lastly, consider how you can redeem a card’s points, the value of its rewards and whether you plan to transfer points to travel partners.

“Flexible points currencies like Chase, American Express, Capital One, Citi and Bilt are some of the most valuable because they can be used with many different airlines and hotel chains,” Menez said.

Once you’ve chosen the right travel card for you, the next step is to make sure you can get value from it. According to credit expert Daniel Braun, the best way to do that is to redeem your rewards correctly.

“To get the best value from travel credit card rewards, people should be looking to redeem points and miles for travel and not cash back or gift cards,” he said. “Many times I’ll see people earn flexible points currencies from banks and then just cash them out at lower values, but if they can be patient and learn a few ways to redeem for flights and hotels by transferring those points to transfer partners, then the value of their points could double, triple, or multiply by even more!”

What are travel points and miles worth?

The value of points and miles will vary depending on the card and how you redeem them. Travel credit cards usually have two main forms of redemption: Using rewards for past travel expenses and transferring them to hotel and airline partners.

Point transfers could provide a higher per-point value than standard forms of redemption, but again, it depends on what card you’re using and which brands you’re transferring them to. Generally, travel cards encourage you to redeem for travel, which could mean booking airfare, hotels or rental cars.

When redeeming for airfare or hotels, factors including the time of year you’re booking your travel will also impact the value of your points or miles. But generally speaking, points and miles will always be worth the most when used for travel as opposed to statement credits or other forms of redemption.

How to maximize your travel card

To maximize your cards’ value, use it strategically for purchases that provide the most rewards, and then redeem those rewards in the most lucrative way — that usually means for airfare or hotel stays, but you could find the best per-point value by utilizing point transfers. Choosing your travel date ahead of time could also give you the opportunity to shop around for the most lucrative transfer deals.

Remember to take advantage of any annual statement credits that may apply to you to offset your card’s annual fee. Using airport amenities like airport lounges, priority boarding or having checked bag fees waived are other ways to ensure you’re getting the most from your card.

How to apply

Follow these steps to apply for a travel rewards card:

  1. Find the card that best fits your travel habits.
  2. Follow the links above to a secure application on the credit card issuer’s website.
  3. Fill out all the required financial and personal information.
  4. Use your card responsibly and pay on time.

Make sure to redeem your travel rewards in the way that provides the greatest value, and to use its perks whenever possible.


While most don’t, you’ll need to read the terms that come with your credit card to be certain.

No, the IRS categorizes credit card reward redemption as non-taxable.

It varies from airline to airline. For travel rewards or frequent flyer miles, you can check on the respective airline’s website when booking a flight by choosing the option that lets you pay for a flight with credit card rewards.

Other credit cards we researched

Our methodology

CNET reviews credit cards by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each major category, including cash-back, welcome bonus, travel rewards and balance transfer. We take into consideration the typical spending behavior of a range of consumer profiles — with the understanding that everyone’s financial situation is different — and the designated function of a card. 

For rates and fees of the American Express Gold Card, click here

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card, click here

*All information about the Capital One Spark Miles for Business, Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, World of Hyatt Credit Card, and Discover it Miles has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

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