5 Best High-Rewards Travel Credit Cards for 2017

When it comes to applying for a travel rewards credit card, we all want the best one. 

But with so many to choose from, finding the right card to fit your personal needs isn’t always an easy task.

You’ll have to ask yourself things like: How’s my credit score? Am I okay with paying an annual fee as long as the card is worth it? What makes the card “worth” it? What types of rewards would I like to earn?

Once you do decide on a card though, traveling will never be the same ever again.

This was certainly the case for me. The first time I was able to book an entire trip for free using rewards I’d earned with my credit card (minus taxes and fees), I knew I was onto something big. It wasn’t a fancy beach vacation or anything – in fact, I visited a friend in the midwest in the middle of winter – but I was hooked.

Not only did it change the way I travel, it also completely changed how I view credit cards.

Up to that point, I knew credit cards were A) useful for building credit, and B) helpful for buying stuff – as long as you paid it off.

Skipping ahead to now, I’ve been lucky enough to maximize credit card rewards to book more trips and help others do the same. And, it’s not just me – so many others are maximizing travel rewards to plan incredible trips for free or nearly free!

Cammille was able to use credit card points to fly her and her fiance to Cuba for six jam-packed days of fun. Their accommodations? Also booked with credit card points. In fact, their only expense for getting to Cuba were the tourist visas which were $50 each. Hey, you can’t win them all, ya know?

Mona was able to take her family of four all the way to Hawaii for $377 total, thanks to credit card points. Considering this was her first time using travel rewards and the trip should have cost over $7,000, I’d say her trip was a huge success!

The best part? These are real people. Not pros or experts, just regular people like you and I who have learned how to use optimize travel rewards.

The truth is, traveling in comfort and style doesn’t have to cost a fortune; just a little planning and strategizing can go a long way towards booking a premium travel experience.

Just imagine – going through airport security in a flash by using Global Entry or TSA Pre-check where there’s usually no line, relaxing and catching a quick snack before your flight in airline lounges, arriving at your hotel and knowing a premium room is waiting for you, free internet that doesn’t use up your data plan...need I say more?

How to Choose Your Card

As with most things in life, no credit card is perfect for everyone. Each has their own unique combination of benefits and drawbacks.

Luckily, with so many options to choose from, you’re bound to find one that suits your needs.

Going by firsthand experience and countless hours of research, our team has handpicked the best offers using these three elements:

Value – how much each point is worth is real dollars and cents

Flexibility – how easy rewards are to redeem and your options for redeeming them

Fees – fees associated with the card and if the rewards and perks justify it

The Best Credit Cards for Points and Miles

Based on the elements above, here's a shortlist of the best rewards cards for 2017.

1. BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card from Bank of America

2. Chase Sapphire Preferred®

3. Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

4.  Capital One® Venture® Rewards

5. Platinum Card® from American Express

Now, let's get into the details of each card.

1. BankAmericard Travel Rewards®

  • Sign-up offer: 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in first 90 days ($200 value)
  • Credit needed: Good, Excellent
  • Annual fee: $0

If you’re looking for a solid rewards card with no annual fee, The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card from Bank of America is it.

It’s straightforward, has one of the highest rewards rates available, and offers impressive flexibility. Your rewards can be redeemed for travel statement credits, gift cards, and even cash back – although the highest redemption value is using rewards for travel credits.

You’ll earn 1.5x points on every dollar you spend, plus an additional 10% in bonus points if you’re a Bank of America customer with a checking or savings account with the bank, bringing your rewards rate for earning points up to 1.65x points per dollar spent. That’s incredibly high for a card as flexible as this one.

Additionally, you’ll earn 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of opening your account – that’s a huge signup bonus valued up to $200!

Learn more and apply for the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card today!

2. Chase Sapphire Preferred®

  • Sign-up offer: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in first 3 months ($625 value)
  • Credit needed: Good, Excellent
  • Annual fee: $0 first year, then $95

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® is one of the best-rated rewards cards out there and for good reason – it offers a high rewards rate, has an unbelievable sign-up bonus, and comes with a slew of benefits that could help with travel.

Besides earning 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (valued at $625) for signing up and spending $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, you’ll also earn 2x points per dollar on dining and travel expenses and 1x point per dollar on everything else.

Plus, if you decide to travel out of the country, you won’t accrue any foreign transaction fees with your Sapphire Preferred®.

It does have a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year, but the rewards structure, sign-up promotion, and secondary travel benefits could easily justify keeping this card in your wallet.

Learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card today!

3. Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

  • Sign-up offer: 40,000 point after spending $3,000 in first 90 days ($400 value)
  • Credit needed: Good, Excellent
  • Annual fee: $0 first year, then $89

Travel enthusiasts love the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® for its high, no-fuss rewards rate – you’ll earn 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases. No bonus categories to keep track of, and no tiered earning.

Another great benefit is that rewards never expire and there’s no limit to how many miles you can earn, so long as your account remains active.

Rewards can be redeemed for travel statement credits, gift cards, cash back, even merchandise (although we recommend redeeming for travel credits to stretch rewards as far as they’ll go).

Plus, you’ll earn 40,000 points after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. That’s up to $400 in value!

It does have a $89 annual fee that’s waived the first year, but the high rewards rate and the fact that you get 5% back from each rewards redemption, easily outweigh the annual fee.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite MasterCard® today!

4. Capital One® Venture® Rewards

  • Sign-up offer: 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in first 3 months ($400 value)
  • Credit needed: Good, Excellent
  • Annual fee: $0 first year, then $59

Known for its high rewards rate, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card makes both earning and redeeming rewards a breeze.

Reward redemptions are incredibly flexible and you can apply your rewards to nearly any travel purchase made using your card. This is especially helpful if you prefer deal hunting on travel websites, booking Airbnb stays and boutique hotels over the larger hotel chains, or working with a travel agent.

Besides earning 40,000 bonus miles (valued at $400) for signing up and spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, you'll also earn 2x miles on every dollar you spend. Since the industry standard is typically 1x miles, this is an awesome flat rewards rate!

Plus, this card comes with some outstanding Visa Signature® benefits that will help you feel like royalty when you travel. Perks such as complimentary room upgrades, exclusive access to special dining and wine experiences, 24/7 concierge service, and more.

It does have a $59 annual fee that's waived the first year, but the combination of high rewards, generous sign-up bonus, and Visa Signature® benefits easily justifies its low annual fee.

Learn more and apply for the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Card today!

5. Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Sign-up offer: 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in first 3 months
  • Credit needed: Good, Excellent
  • Annual fee: $550

The Platinum Card® from American Express is perfect for optimizing if you’re a true traveler. If you spend time at an airport on a regular basis, chances are this card could be a great fit for you.

You’ll earn 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, and earn an impressive amount of points when you use your card to purchase...well, anything.

You’ll also earn 5x points per dollar when using your card to book flights directly through the airline or with American Express Travel, 2x points per dollar when booked through American Express’s portal, and 1x point per dollar on everything else.

Essentially, you’ll be able to earn points on nearly every plane ticket you book using your Platinum Card®.

Cardholders can also access some of the finest airport lounges (including the exclusive Centurion), have access to free Boingo wi-fi, and a slew of other first-class benefits.

With perks like that, it’s easy to see why this card would be so highly-rated, but it does come with a hefty annual fee of $550. Going back to the three elements of choosing a rewards card, our team still thinks this card has more than enough perks to justify the annual fee for an avid traveler.

Learn more and apply for the Platinum Card® from American Express today!

Disclaimer: This content and the opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and have not been provided, commissioned, or endorsed by the credit card issuer. All information was accurate at the time of this post but card terms and conditions may change at any time.

Where would you book your first trip using credit card points?

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