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  • Writer's pictureJenna

Best Travel Credit Cards (With an Annual Fee)

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

There are so many great travel credit cards out there, but finding the best for your travel style can be hard. I have laid out the best credit card for flights, hotels, redemption benefits, and best overall card.

Hey everyone! This week is finally slower at work, so I was able to dive into a topic I have been wanting to write about for awhile, but needed to take the time to do some research! This week, I set out to find the best travel credit cards that have a fee*. I plan on doing another blog post in a few weeks about the best travel cards without an annual fee as well. I have laid out the best card for flight benefits, hotel benefits, point redemption benefits, and overall best benefits card. The Accountant in me is loving this :D

Best Credit Card for Flights - Delta Skymiles Platinum Card ($250 annual fee)

A lot of airlines offer their own credit card, but the Delta Skymiles Platinum Card was the best card I could find for flight benefits. My boyfriend has had this card for a few years and absolutely loves it. This card is perfect for the traveler that does a lot of flying. Delta was rated best airline in the U.S. for the 3rd year in a row, so this makes the card even more valuable. I have listed a few of the best benefits of this card:

  • Annual Companion Certificate - Each year as a Platinum card owner you receive a domestic flight pass for a guest - This could save a lot of money, especially if flying during peak season! We flew to Seattle last year and using the pass it saved us a ticket costing $526!!

  • TSA Pre-Check 5-Year Pass - $85 value every four years. Getting TSA pre-check allows you to skip the lines at the airport - It also allows you to keep your liquids and electronics in your bag as well as keeping your shoes on! A much smoother and less stressful process :)

  • Discount on Delta Sky Lounges - $59/person if you do not have the card and $39/Person if you do. We have been in the Delta Sky Lounge a couple times now and they are really great, especially if you have a long layover! I will write about my experience in a future post!

  • Sign Up Bonus - 60,000 points after spending 3,000 in first 3 months ($660 dollar value)

  • Other benefits - First checked bag free (up to $50 value), 1x miles for every dollar spent, 2x points on restaurants, and 3x miles for Delta purchases and hotels

Final Words - Overall if you are flying a lot and enjoy Delta, this card is the best option if you are strictly looking for a flight card. You can earn the $250 dollar fee back quickly with the companion certificate and $660 from the sign up bonus. In my opinion the miles you earn from purchases isn’t the best. And I think Delta knew this, because they upped Delta purchases from 2x to 3x points and added 3x points for hotels and 2x points for restaurants.

Best Credit Card for Hotels - Hilton Aspire Card ($450 annual fee)

Alright people, I was in utter shock when I was looking into the Hilton Aspire Card... It has a lot of amazing things to offer, and I honestly think it could be a great overall credit card, but it is definitely the best card for hotel benefits. If you are someone that travels a lot and stay in hotels frequently, this card is perfect for you. Here are some of the fun benefits the card offers:

  • Free weekend night - This card offers a free night stay at any of their locations every year. Take a look at some your options here, there are some super cool places!!

  • Priority Pass - This gives you access to 1,200 lounges (full list here) for you and one other person (Over $500 value)

  • Sign Up Bonus - Earn 150,000 points if spend $4,000 in first three months of card (worth $900)

  • Hilton Status and Resort Credit - Receive automatic diamond status for Hilton (includes various benefits including access to exclusive lounges). Each year you also receive $250 in credits for eligible purchases at Hilton Resorts.

  • Other Benefits - $200 Airline fee credit (For check luggage fees, lounges, or cancellation fees), 14x points on Hilton hotels, 7x points for restaurants/airlines/car rentals, and 3x points on everything else

Final Words - This card has a lot of amazing things to offer. I have never really stayed in Hilton Hotels, so that is one thing holding me back about rating this card higher. I will have to stay in a few Hilton Hotels to see if their quality is good enough for this card. However, there are so many great benefits and I would love to have access to a variety of Sky Lounges for no additional cost!

Best Credit Card for Redemption Benefits - Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($95 annual fee)

About a year ago, I knew I was going to be traveling a lot for work, so I did some research to find a good credit card for me and I went with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The reason I decided this one was a good fit for me was the low annual fee, and the sign up bonus was better than any others I was seeing. This card doesn’t have a lot of travel benefits, but it really is the best for the redemption point value. What I mean by this is that your points that you redeem, will be worth the most dollars compared to other cards. Here are the benefits of this card:

  • Redeeming Benefits - 25% boost when redeeming travel through chase - extra $25 dollars for ever $100 redeemed - So, if you were to use $100 in travel through Chase, you would only get $75 if it were real money. Its a great stratgey for them to use, and also benefits the consumer.

  • Travel protection (one of the best cards for travel protection) - Coverage for trip cancelation/delay due to sickness or weather, if luggage is delayed can get up to $100 a day, and if your flight is delayed more than 12 hours you can get up to $500 back per ticket

  • Sign Up Bonus - Earn 80,000 points if spend $4,000 in first three month of card (worth $1,000) - that is a good chuck of money for the low annual fee!

  • Other Benefits - 2x points per dollar for travel and dining, 1x points on everything else, can easily transfer points to airline/hotel partners, DoorDash pass ($9.99/month value). I didn’t know about the DoorDash pass benefit until researching all of this, so make sure you are taking full advantage of your card! :)

Final Words - This credit card has an amazing sign up bonus, and I was able to take advantage of this by getting to the $4,000 quickly with work expenses. Having a”free“ $1,000 to use for future travel is really awesome. The travel protection of the card is also a nice benefit, but I don’t know how often those benefits really get used. Lastly, like the Delta Card, this card doesn’t have the best return of points for money spent. After you use the sign up bonus, the points will flow in a lot more slowly.

Best Overall Credit Card for Travel - American Express Platinum Card ($550 annual fee)

After looking at so many different cards, the American Express Platinum gives you the best of all worlds. As you can see, the fee is the largest, and that is for great reason. It gives you many of the same benefits the Delta and Hilton cards give you above, but offers even a little bit more. Here is a list of some of the best benefits of the card:

  • Lounge Access - This card has the best sky lounge access options. You are able to go to any of the lounges offered on the Delta card, the Hilton card, and even a few of their own. If you have ever seen a picture of a Centurion Lounge, they sure do look high end. Having this card gives you free access to any of the lounges listed above of you and two other guests!! This offer is so unique!

  • TSA Pre-Check 5-Year Pass ($85 value every 4 years) - As described above in the Delta Platinum card, you get a 5-year pass to skip the long airport lines.

  • Elite Status Programs - Allows you to have elite status with Marriott, Hilton, and various participating car rentals. You are also part of American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts Program that could possibly save money on every trip.

  • Sign Up Bonus - 100,000 points when you spend 5,000 in the first 3 months (worth $2,000!) Wow, that is a lot of money! Plus, the best offer I saw anywhere if you are able to spend that much money in 3 months.

  • Other Benefits - 5x points for flights/hotel purchases, $15/month for Uber rides/food ($35 dollars in December), and $200 airline credits which can be used for baggage fees, seat selection, lounges, etc.

Final Words: This card has a hefty annual fee and for a lot of people this is probably not worth it. If you travel a lot, and live in an place that the airport has a Centurion Lounge, you will likely earn this money back quickly with how high end the lounges are. Also, with the elite status programs, you could earn back your fee quickly. Lastly, the sign up bonus is something special with this card. If you are able to take advantage of this, you can save a lot of money on travel.

Overall, there are so many great cards that offer amazing travel benefits. There is a card for almost everything, and not all of them offer everything you probably want in a card :) I hope that this gives you a little bit more of an idea of what cards offer out there! I don’t want you to be missing some of the great deals out there if you are traveling a lot! :) I am always happy to talk about any questions you have too! Like I said, the Accountant in me loves this stuff :)

*I wanted to warn that I rated these credit cards based on the best travel benefits, not with any relation to the interest rates. Also always look into the small print before signing up for any credit card :)*

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