Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards 2023

*Disclosure: Zero To Travel has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Zero To Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. We appreciate your support.

Here’s the thing about travel rewards credit cards. There are so many – how do you find the best one for your situation?

One thing I’ve noticed over the last couple of years is that credit card companies follow basically the same formula. A customer signs up, they spend $2k, $3k, $5k and in return get a hefty chunk of rewards points.

Typically, you’ll receive enough for a cheap roundtrip ticket to go somewhere not too close, but not too far away.

With that model, why not just choose the one that looks the coolest or the one that offers the extra 10,000 points over the rest of the pack?

When looking at the best travel rewards credit cards, it’s important to really identify what you need out of a credit card.

The first step to determining this is figuring out these factors:

  • Can I spend enough to reach the bonus minimum without completely screwing myself financially?

If it’s going to take a year to pay off the $5,000 you racked up on that new card in order to get an initial 100,000 bonus miles, that card may not be the best option for you.

We’re not going to get too deep into money management here (there’s a great blog called Mr. Money Mustache for that), but in order to really capitalize on travel rewards credit cards, it’s important to not get in over your head.

  • Do I have good enough credit to get approved?

Most cards dedicate a chunk of their fine print to covering odds of approval. If your credit and debt-to-income ratio is good, you should be good to go. Bad credit and high debt on other credit cards? Your options are limited, particularly when it comes to optimizing rewards.

  • Am I planning to keep this card long term?

Let’s look at two sample scenarios many digital nomads may find themselves in:

Scenario 1: The Nomad-In-Residence

Mark has been living in Chiang Mai for six months. He plans to head back to the US for the holidays but first wants to spend a couple of months in Bali to check out the nomad scene there.

Mark applies for one of the many travel rewards credit cards that provide a big points bonus at a set rate – let’s say 50,000 bonus miles after he spends $3,000 in the first three months.

Mark gets approved, and immediately buys a one-way ticket to Denpasar, two months of lodging, coworking membership, scooter rental, and an Indonesian SIM card for his phone.

He also buys some new travel gear, enough that he hits the minimum dollar amount ($3,000).

He gets his rewards miles and uses them to pay for his flight back home to the states, saving a cool $500. This is enough to offset the cost of his travel gear, scooter rental, and SIM card.

Mark’s lodging and coworking membership were bills that he pays each month anyway no matter where he’s at, therefore he’s not really spending more money than normal (aside from the flight to Denpasar, running about $200)– it’s just all front-loaded at one time.

Because of this, Mark is able to pay off the $3,000 in only a couple of months. He incurs a very minimal amount of interest and cancels the card long before that pesky $250 annual fee hits his balance.

Scenario 2: The Nomad-On-The-Move

Rachel is the type of person who can’t stay in one place for too long. Lately, she’s been country hopping every couple of months. She consistently pays the bills for herself and her dropshipping store on travel rewards credit cards and earns pretty hefty miles as a result.

She uses those miles not only to purchase airline tickets to each destination but to upgrade to business class whenever possible.

The cards which allow her to optimize her rewards are cards offering 2 and 3 points per dollar spent, instead of the traditional 1 or 1.5. Like Mark, she tries to pay her balance each month and rarely accumulates noticeable interest.

Rachel plans to keep her three travel rewards credit cards for an extended period of time. Because she’s racking up so many miles, she doesn’t mind paying the annual fee.

She’s still coming out thousands of dollars ahead each year.

There are innumerable variations on these stories as well as other situations. But part of applying for the best travel rewards credit cards is understanding what you want to get out of them, and how you plan to use them. Learn more in our Beginner’s Guide To Travel Hacking.

Now, without further ado, here are the best travel rewards credit cards for 2023.

Top 7 best travel rewards credit cards

Chase Sapphire Reserve

This card is consistently on the shortlist of the best travel rewards credit cards. Users earn 3X points on travel and dining purchases along with a $300 annual travel credit reimbursement – just for having the card.
The sign-up bonus can vary but the standard offer is 50,000 miles when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
Additionally, Chase offers credit when users apply for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. They also ensure a smooth transfer to hotel and airline rewards programs, car rental benefits, and no foreign transaction fees.
There is a $550 annual fee – but remember this card includes a $300 annual travel credit meaning when you spend $300 (or more) on travel-related products and services you’ll be credited $300 back essentially knocking your annual fee down to $250/year. The rest of the annual fee can be offset by utilizing some of the other amazing perks.
Click Here to Learn More!

U.S. Bank Altitude Connect VISA Signature Card

Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in the first 120 days. That’s a $500 value redeemable toward merchandise, gift cards, cash back, travel, and more. And your points never expire. $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95/year thereafter.
Click here to learn more!

American Express Business Platinum

Business Platinum Card from American Express

The rewards are structured a bit differently here, but as far as business travel rewards credit cards go this is one of the best. 85,000 bonus miles after $15,000, $595 annual fee.
Click Here to Learn More!.

Chase Ink Business Preferred

Ink Business Preferred Card from Chase

Simply put, Chase has the travel rewards credit card game down to a science. This business credit card offers 100,000 bonus points after the cardholder spends $15,000 in the first three months. That’s enough for an international round-trip ticket to a number of desirable destinations.
Unless you’re spending over $150,000 per year on the card, you’ll also enjoy 3X points per dollar spent on travel, shipping, and online advertising, as well as the internet, cable, and phone services.

Travel reimbursements for cancellations and changes are available, as are free cards for team members. The best part? The annual fee is only $95. Click Here to Learn More!

Best hotel rewards credit card

Marriot Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Most major hotel and resort chains have a rewards credit card. What makes this one better than others is that Marriot offers 6x Bonvoy points for every $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriot Bonvoy Hotels and if approved, you can earn 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Plus you get an additional Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) & automatic Silver Elite status every year after the account anniversary and 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
Click Here to Learn More!

Best airline rewards credit card

United Explorer Card

This is among the best travel rewards credit cards because United offers a strong purse of perks.

Cardholders are allowed a free checked bag on each trip, which can be a big deal these days with any US-based airline. Priority boarding is also included, so you’re guaranteed prime overhead storage bin space.

One point per dollar spent, 2 points in some cases. Currently, you can earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Holders also receive two United Club passes each year, which will help you directly offset that $95 annual fee that is charged after the first year (especially if you like to enjoy a drink before a flight or take advantage of free food).

Let’s just hope United can up their customer service to be in line with their rewards program.
Click Here to Learn More!

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

This is the card to get if you are looking to travel to one of the many Southwest destinations (Domestic in the US or to the Caribbean).

You can currently get the highly sought-after companion pass plus 30,000 miles after meeting the $5,000 minimum spend in the first 3 months. Plus you get 4 upgraded boardings per year when they are available!

Holders also get a $75 Southwest travel credit each year plus 7,500 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary which helps offset the $149 annual fee. Click Here To Learn More!

Making your selection

When choosing from the best travel rewards credit cards, remember that the right one is right for YOUR situation – not necessarily that of someone else you know. Consider your upcoming travel plans, budget, and long-term plan for the card.

Once that’s decided, the perks are right around the corner!

*Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included in the post. Zero To Travel has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Zero To Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

*Disclosure: Zero To Travel has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Zero To Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. We appreciate your support.

You're almost there!

Drop your email below so we can send your FREE course!

Powered by ConvertKit

Want to Travel More?

You need a plan. Sign up to access this mini-course The 3 Best Ways To Save Money For Travel, get exclusive content and join our amazing community of travelers. It’s all FREE!

You're signed up! Check your email to access the mini-course!