NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you're traveling domestically or abroad this summer, it's a good idea to have one of these five cards in your wallet.
1. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The stats: APR 12.9% to 22.9%, no annual fee for the first year but $59 after that, double miles for all purchases, no foreign transaction fees
The Capital One Venture Rewards card is "attractive right from the start" because of its one-time bonus of 40,000 miles after you spend at least $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of owning the card, says Steven Richmond, editor-in-chief of BadCredit.org and CardRates.com.
"Even better, these miles don't expire and have no maximum, meaning you can redeem them for any qualified travel purchase, such as airline tickets or a hotel stay," he says.
The card also offers complimentary upgrades and special savings at select hotels and resorts and special access and preferred seating at sporting events and concerts. If you're not a frequent flier, your miles can also be redeemed for gift cards or other items through Capital One.
Since the card earns two miles for every dollar spent, it's a good choice for "travelers seeking simplicity," says Lindsay Konsko, credit card expert at NerdWallet.com.
"There's no need to juggle cards to maximize rewards. You're getting a good value with this one every time you swipe," she says.
2. Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard
The stats: APR 14.99 to 18.99%, no annual fee for the first year but $89 after that, double miles for all purchases, no foreign transaction fees
Like the Capital One Venture card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers a 40,0000-mile bonus for spending at least $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. In addition, when you redeem your miles for travel-related purchases, you'll get 10% of your miles back.
"Even if you're not an avid traveler, you could use this card as a debt reduction and consolidation tool," Richmond says. "If you make a balance transfer within the first 45 days, you can enjoy a zero-percent introductory balance transfer APR for the first 12 billing cycles."
The card also comes EMV chip-enabled with PIN capability, which makes it "ideal" for traveling to Europe, Konsko says.
3. Discover It Miles
The stats: APR zero-percent intro for the first 12 months, 10.99% to 22.99% after, no annual fee, one and-a-half miles for all purchases. Discover also doubles total collected miles at the end of first year and has no foreign transaction fees
"Discover truly incentivizes its cardholders to spend, spend, spend with the card by offering to double the cardholder's points on the account's one-year anniversary," Richmond says. "You have the potential to earn more points than Capital One and Barclaycard's introductory travel bonuses, but it all depends on how avidly you use your card in those first 12 months."
Another perk for travelers is the card's in-flight Wi-Fi credit — at $30 per year it isn't much, it's still something.
"This is a good card for infrequent travelers, because it charges no annual fee,"Konsko says. "Another good thing about this card is that you can redeem miles in any amount, which is pretty rare. Usually you have to have the equivalent of $20 or $25 in rewards in order to redeem."
4. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card
The stats: APR 15.24% to 19.24%, no annual fee for the first year but $65 after that, up to five Starpoints for each dollar of eligible purchases, 2.7% foreign transaction fee
"Travel hackers have been using Starwood cards for years, and for good reason," Richmond says. "The best one now is the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, which can provide you incredibly discounted stays at hotels and resorts around the world. The 25,000 bonus mile introductory offer is a nice perk as well."
Something to consider with hotel cards is how easy it will be to redeem rewards, because some hotel chains don't have a lot of properties, Konsko details.
"The SPG portfolio is pretty large at 1,100 hotels and counting, so that's another reason this is a good card," she says.
5. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The stats: APR 15.99%, no annual fee the first year but $95 after that, one to two points earned per dollar spent on purchases, no foreign transaction fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders have the opportunity to earn 40,000 bonus points if they spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. Chase also offers a 20% discount on travel purchases booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
"Thanks to that, those 40,000 points are worth $500 in travel credits," Richmond says.
Also, since the card earns two points per dollar spent on travel and dining out, frequent travelers have an opportunity to earn extra rewards in categories they're likely doing a lot of spending in, Konsko says.
When using/applying for any travel rewards card, Richmond advises the following:
- Try not to overspend just so you get the awards. You'll be better off missing out on these deals if it means not missing payments and letting your credit score plummet.
- You typically won't earn points on balance transfers, cash withdrawals or other cash equivalents, such as traveler's checks and prepaid cards. "You could work around this by asking for cash back at grocery stores and simply depositing the money back into your bank account," he says. "The credit card issuer won't know the difference, since the cash back will be included in a grocery-related charge."
- Most of these cards advertise the travel rewards as "miles," he says. But when looking at these cards, people should realize that one "mile" doesn't literally mean 5,280 feet worth of travel. "It's an arbitrary word, much like 'points,'" he says. "Most of the time, one mile is equal to one cent, so when you're getting 40,000 bonus miles, chances are that translates to around $400 worth of travel credits."
- Although most of these cards have an annual fee, many offer an introductory bonus that instantly earns anywhere from $100 to $400 in travel credits if you meet a spending benchmark within the first three months of owning the card. But not everyone will qualify for card membership, as most of these cards require good or excellent credit. "Your application will have the best chance of getting the green light if your FICO score is 700 or higher," Richmond says.
— Written by Kathryn Tuggle for MainStreet. Follow Kathryn on Twitter @KathrynTuggle