Top American Travel Reward Credit Cards for 2019

I’m a big proponent of using reward-based credit cards that give you points for purchases you already make. The secret to make them work for you and not against you, is to pay off the balance in full every month, otherwise, any benefit is overridden by the high interest rates.

After researching every travel credit card on the market here are the top American travel credit cards whether you travel solo, with a family, or looking for a no-fee card that is guaranteed to earn you the most points for your day to day purchases. It’s time to kick some credit card ass.

Recommended for Solo Travelers

Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa

Quick Overview

  • 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining
  • 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
  • Up to 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening (worth a minimum of $625 toward travel)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1 to 1 point transfer to airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • No blackout or travel restrictions
  • $0 for the first year, then $95 per year

Insurance

  • Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption: Up to $10,000 per covered trip and a maximum of $20,000 per occurrence and a maximum benefit per 12-month period of $40,000.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Covered up to the actual cash value of the rental car when renting a car within the U.S. and abroad.
  • Baggage Delay: Up to $100 a day for 5 days for the cardholder and immediate family members for essential items like toiletries and clothing.
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement: Up to $500 for each purchased ticket if travel is delayed by more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay.
  • Roadside Dispatch: Provides access to a variety of roadside assistance services when traveling in the U.S. and Canada including towing, tire changing, jump-starting, lockout service, fuel delivery and winching.
  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement: Up to $3,000 per insured person per covered trip to repair or replace checked and/or carry-on baggage damaged or lost (including theft) that happens during a covered trip.
  • Travel and Emergency Assistance: Provides referrals and assistance for emergency services while away from home, available 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Travel Accident: Up to $500,000 for dismemberment and/or a combined loss of speech, sight, and hearing.
  • Extended Warranty Protection: Extends the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by one additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • Purchase Protection: Up to $500 per claim and up to $50,000 per account for repairs, replacement or reimbursement in the event of theft or damage within 120 days from the date of purchase.

Why I Like It

  • Generous 2x Travel and Dining Categories. The real appeal with this card is how wide the definition for travel and dining spans. Uber, street parking, trains, and rental cars all count.
  • The Redemption Options. You can book your trips directly through the Chase travel portal where your points are worth 1.25 cents, or you can transfer your points to one of Chase’s 13 travel partners including United, Hyatt, and Marriott.
  • No Foreign Exchange Fees. This saves you 2.7% to 3% on every purchase you make when traveling abroad.
  • 1 to 1 Point Transfer: Your points can transfer instantly at a 1:1 transfer ratio from Ultimate Rewards to the following airline or hotel program keeping your point redemptions flexible:
    • Aer Lingus
    • British Airways
    • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
    • Hyatt
    • Iberia
    • IHG
    • JetBlue
    • Marriott
    • Ritz-Carlton
    • Singapore Airlines
    • Southwest
    • United
    • Virgin Atlantic

Things to Consider

  • Chase’s 5/24 rule. It’s hard to apply for this card if you have applied to more than 5 credit card applications in the last 24 months.
  • Only for U.S. residents. If you live outside of the U.S. you are out of luck.

Recommended for Couples or Families

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Visa

Quick Overview

  • 2 points for every $1 spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards car and hotel purchases
  • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months ($600 in travel value)
  • 7,500 bonus Rapid Reward points awarded each account anniversary ($112.50 in travel value)
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies
  • Four upgraded boardings in the A1-A15 position each year (worth up to $50 each)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program
  • Companion Pass program
  • $149 annual fee

Insurance

  • Auto Rental Collision Damage: Provides reimbursement for damage due to collision or theft up to the actual cash value of most rental vehicles in the U.S. or abroad.
  • Travel Accident: Covered up to $500,000 for accidental death or dismemberment while on your trip.
  • Travel and Emergency Assistance Services: If you run into a problem away from home, call the Benefit Administrator for legal and medical referrals or other travel and emergency assistance.
  • Baggage Delay: Up to $100 per day for 3 days if your bags are delayed by more than 6 hours.
  • Lost Luggage: Up to $3,000 for you and immediate family members for lost or damaged checked and carry-on bags.
  • Roadside Dispatch: Provides access to anything from towing to a jump start, tire change, lockout service, winching or gas delivery. Roadside service fees are provided when you call and billed to your card.
  • Extended Warranty Protection: Eligible for an additional year of warranty coverage, up to $10,000 and a maximum of $50,000 per account.
  • Purchase Protection: Your purchases are covered from theft or damage for up to 120 days at no more than $500 per claim and up to $50,000 per account.

Why I Like It

  • Most perks of all the Southwest credit cards. Enjoy a $75 annual travel credit, 7,500 point anniversary bonus, four upgraded boardings per year, and 20% discounts on in-flight Wi-Fi, drinks, messaging and movies that the other Southwest cards do not provide. These benefits add up to huge cost savings if you’re traveling with a family.
  • Enjoy the Companion Pass sooner. If you earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points or take 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights in a calendar year, you are able to have one person fly for free with you (other than paying taxes) for the remainder of the year. With the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Visa, you already get 40,000 Rapid Reward points when signing up when you spend $1,000 during your first 3 months.
  • Southwest Benefits. Flying with Southwest Airlines gives you the following:
    • Two free checked bags
    • Family-friendly seating policy
    • No change fees
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. The 2.7% to 3% savings on every purchase you make when traveling abroad adds up.

Things to Consider

  • Upgraded Boarding is only available the day of travel. This means you are not guaranteed an upgraded boarding but the option is nice to have.
  • Application restrictions. You cannot get approved for a new Southwest personal credit card if you currently hold one/or received a new card member bonus for one in the last two years.
  • Chase’s 5/24 rule. It’s hard to apply for this card if you have applied to more than 5 credit card applications in the last 24 months.
  • Limited international flight destinations. If you fly mostly domestically then this shouldn’t be much of an issue.
  • Earning rates are a little low. 1 point earned for every dollar spent on purchases and 2 points for every dollar spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards car and hotel purchases are nice, but other cards offer higher returns. In my opinion, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Visa’s other benefits more than makeup for the lower earning rate.
  • No trip cancellation insurance. While the other benefits more than makeup for a lack of trip cancellation insurance, this is something to keep in mind.

Recommended No-Fee Credit Card

Wells Fargo Propel American Express

Quick Overview

  • 3x points for eating out and ordering in
  • 3x points for gas stations, rideshares and transit including popular streaming services
  • 3x points for travel including flights, hotels, taxis, homestays, and car rentals
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (worth $300)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

Insurance

  • Travel Accident: Up to $150,000 in insurance in case of accidental death or dismemberment on a trip.
  • Roadside Assistance: Free roadside assistance in case your car breaks down on the road (costs of repairs or towing extra).
  • Emergency Assistance: Includes medical, legal, and travel assistance.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage: Up to $50,000 in rental car insurance to repair or replace a vehicle rented with the Wells Fargo Propel card.
  • Lost Luggage Insurance: Up to $1,000 in coverage per trip for lost luggage.
  • Return Protection: If you try to return an item within 90 days of purchase and the retailer won’t accept it, you are covered for up to $300 per item, up to $1,000 per year.
  • Retail Protection: In case an item you purchase with the Propel card is damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase, the card covers up to $1,000 per loss, up to $50,000 in claims per year.
  • Extended Warranty: Doubles the manufacturer’s warranty for up to 12 months on most items you purchase with the Propel card.
  • Cell Phone Protection: Up to $600, minus a $25 deductible, for damage to or theft of your phone when you use your card to pay your cell phone bill.
  • Travel and Entertainment Benefits: Eligible for travel and entertainment benefits from American Express, such as ticket presales, discounts, and perks at certain hotels, a 25% discount on car rentals and more.

Why I Like It

  • Highest point return on any no annual fee card. The triple point bonus on certain purchases is huge.
  • Cell phone protection. Many cards with annual fees do not offer this benefit so this is an amazing benefit on a no annual fee card.
  • No foreign transaction fees. The 2.7% to 3% savings on every purchase you make when traveling abroad adds up.
  • No annual fee. The benefits you receive is comparable and a lot of times better than some cards with annual fees.

Things to Consider

  • Wells Fargo welcome bonus limitations. You can only earn one Wells Fargo welcome bonus every 15 months across all products, and can only get one Wells Fargo card every six months.
  • AMEX is not as widely accepted. American Express is not as widely accepted as other credit cards like Visa or Mastercard.
  • Requires good/excellent credit. Recommended credit score to apply is between 690 and 850. Even then, there are circumstances where some people have been turned down, but still worth applying to find out.

Legal Disclaimer: The views expressed by Mr. Dumont on Money Sensei are solely his and not intended as investment advice nor a guarantee of any financial return. Mr. Dumont is not an investment or tax professional, so the information contained on the blog is not a substitute for professional advice. The contents of this blog are accurate to the best of his knowledge at the time of posting, but rules and laws are ever-changing. Please do your research to confirm that you have the current information.

Required fields are marked.

Comment rules:

  1. We are all here to learn so please be respectful. This means no insults or your comment will be deleted.
  2. To prevent spam please use a real name or initials.
  3. Have fun and thanks for contributing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Join The Money Sensei School