The five best travel credit cards for 2024

Sorting through the cards in your wallet should be an annual chore. You want to double down on the most rewarding perks-which can change from year to year — while omitting other cards that have drifted into mediocrity. It’s a tedious process that can significantly boost your points and miles balances and pave the way for free and upgraded travel.

Let us do the heavy lifting for you. Changes to major credit cards’ offerings that happen in the year-end cycle are now inked in place, and we’ve been busy sifting the fine print so you don’t have to.

There are a few caveats: Signup bonuses come and go, and it is always wise to scour the internet for the best offer. Don’t assume that you need to go with the most prominent, highest-fee cards for hefty rewards. These days, some options with lower annual fees pack a solid punch, too.

Here are the best travel credit cards on the market right now, plus more affordable alternatives well worth considering.

Best Overall

The Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $695

The quick sell: Even with patchy acceptance of Amex cards abroad, the Platinum card continues to reign supreme for its excellent airport lounge access and instant VIP status at hotels. You can milk its pricey fee for some $1,800 in value before you redeem a single point.

New fine print for 2024: Effective February 2025, cardholders can access Delta Sky Clubs only 10 times a year; previously, there were no such limits. Meanwhile, a new partnership offers cardholders free access to, a clever tool that makes it easy to compare points-redemption options across a wide variety of airline and hotel programs.

The perks: Access to 40+ Centurion airport lounges is always a draw, though now you’ll have to pay $50 to bring a guest unless you spend more than $75,000 on your card annually. Cardholders also benefit from partnerships with other lounge networks, including Priority Pass (which offers no-cost access to its 1,300+ locations), Plaza Premium, Escape, Lufthansa and Delta Sky Club (when flying Delta). For now, Sky Club use is unlimited; in 2025, it will be restricted to 10 visits per year.

The card comes with a slew of valuable credits. These include $200 for such incidental airline fees as seat assignments and bag surcharges, $200 toward hotel reservations made via Fine Hotels + Resorts program, and monthly credits for Uber and media subscriptions (including Disney+, SiriusXM and the New York Times). You can also score a $155 Walmart+ credit and $100 for Saks Fifth Avenue — not to mention instant gold status with both Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors loyalty programs.

Points (1 point equals 1 cent) can be redeemed like cash via the Membership Rewards portal or transferred to such airline and hotel loyalty programs as Air France/KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic. You get five times the points when booking travel via American Express or its Fine Hotels + Resorts program, which confers free breakfasts, room upgrades and late checkout at such hotels as the Hotel Plaza Athénée Paris or the Four Seasons Bali at Jimbaran Bay.

Cheaper alternatives: The Blue Business Plus Card from American Express offers unrivaled points-earning potential among no-annual-fee cards — two points per dollar. If you value airport lounge access, the $395-annual fee Capital One Venture X card is a better deal that offers similar earnings, plus access to Priority Pass, Plaza Premium and a growing number of Capital One lounges.

Best Return on Points

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual Fee: $550

The quick sell: This card provides the most value when it comes to redeeming points for free travel. Its built-in credits are great, too.

New fine print for 2024: Here, it’s business as usual.

The perks: Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed like cash or transferred to airline and hotel partners. You’ll get 10 of those per dollar spent on hotels, rental cars and dining booked through Chase, and 5 points per dollar on flights. You also get 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides and 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining purchases made outside Chase’s ecosystem. All other purchases earn 1 point per $1.

These points come with mega value: One point is akin to 1.5 cents, making a $1,400 flight in premium economy from New York to Paris and back roughly 90,000 points.

As with Amex, you can quickly earn back the annual fee. A $300 annual credit wipes away travel charges, and you get $100 toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry applications, plus free Priority Pass membership. Book via Chase’s own Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection program, and you’ll get perks like free breakfast and room upgrades, too. Then come such smaller benefits as a $5 monthly credit to DoorDash (plus free DashPass membership) and the free bike rentals, discounts and priority pickups that come with Lyft Pink All Access membership.

Cheaper alternative: The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers excellent points earning and solid redemption values — 1 point for 1.25 cents — but nixes Priority Pass and some other perks in exchange for a lower $95 annual fee.

Best for Star Alliance Travelers

United Club Infinite Card

Annual Fee: $525

The quick sell: Why pay the $650 annual fee to join the United Club as a member when you can get access — for $125 via this card — along with greater access to United MileagePlus award-redemption availability just for holding the card?

New fine print for 2024: You can now earn 10,000 status-qualifying points by swiping this card — up from 8,000 last year. That’s enough to earn Premier Gold status all on its own.

The perks: United’s miles may have lost value over the years, particularly since the airline ditched award charts and raised prices on partners, but it’s the most transparent of the three biggest U.S. carriers. (For one thing, it still shows award availability for most partners on its website and app.) With this card, MileagePlus earnings pile up fast, thanks to 4 miles per dollar on United purchases, 2 miles on dining and other travel and 1 mile on everything else. The path to elite status — measured via Premier Qualifying Points or PQPs — accelerates, thanks to 25 PQPs awarded per $500 spent (up to 10,000 PQPs a year), making most loyalty tiers (including Platinum) relatively attainable, even for non-business travelers.

This is not just about earning potential. You’ll get upgraded on eligible domestic and Caribbean award tickets just for holding the card, and if you redeem miles for a saver economy ticket, you’ll get 10% off in rebate form. Hotel benefits come via a partnership with IHG Hotels & Resorts: Cardholders get a $75 credit to apply toward on-site expenses whenever they stay at these properties, plus automatic Platinum Elite status with IHG One Rewards. (The latter gets guaranteed late checkouts, bonus points and free room upgrades.) When it comes to lounges, unlimited access is included, not just to United Clubs but to those of many Star Alliance partners as well.

Other benefits include a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit, two complimentary checked bags per flight, 25% discounts on in-flight purchases and standard travel insurance.

Cheaper alternative: The $95 annual fee for the United Explorer Card nets many of the most important perks, such as upgrades on United award tickets; two miles per dollar spent on United flights, dining and hotels; and two United Club passes.

Best for Delta Loyalists

Delta SkyMiles Reserve Credit Card

Annual Fee: $650

The quick sell: SkyMiles has seen Zimbabwe-like currency devaluation entailing inflated redemption prices and scant partner availability. That makes this card — which isn’t a great option by most conventional measures — especially valuable to Delta loyalists. It offers an unparalleled three miles per dollar on Delta purchases (or one mile for every other purchase), and holding it bumps you up the upgrade list if you also have Medallion status.

New fine print for 2024: Pay attention to that annual fee; it costs $100 more than it did last year. But new travel credits offset that price hike, and your annual companion certificate can now be used on international flights to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

The perks: In a bid to convert users toward booking hotels on Delta Stays, its own nascent platform, the airline is extending a $200 annual accommodations credit to cardholders. That’s in addition to $20 monthly Resy credits, $10 monthly ride-sharing credits and top Hertz elite status. But lounge access will soon be cut back. Starting on Feb. 1, 2025, cardholders will be limited to 15 day passes per year, rather than four free passes per trip on an otherwise unlimited basis. Additional visits will cost $50 unless you spend $75,000 per calendar year to unlock unlimited access.

Also noteworthy, a free status-qualifying “boost” for cardholders nets you $2,500 Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD) at the beginning of the year-getting you halfway to silver under the airline’s new qualification scheme. (You’ll also get 1 MQD for each $10 spent on the card; you’d earn Diamond status with some $280,000 in annual spending at that rate.)

That’s not to mention the more standard travel benefits: free checked bags, a 20% discount on in-flight purchases, a 15% mileage discount on award flights, priority boarding, travel insurance coverage and a credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

Cheaper alternative: If lounge access is not important, the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card offers a happy medium with a lower $350 fee yet fewer benefits. These include a $150 Delta Stays credit, $10 per month for both Resy and ride-sharing services, mid-tier Hertz status, and the same expanded companion certificate perks. In addition to the $2,500 MQD bonus each year, the card earns 1 MQD per $20 spent, plus further basic travel benefits.

Best for American Airlines Flyers

Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard

Annual fee: $595

The quick sell: While American now lets you buy status with credit card spending on everyday purchases with any of its co-branded credit cards, only this one adds complimentary Admirals Club lounge membership. This ordinarily costs $850 — more than this card’s annual fee.

New fine print for 2024: The accrual period for AAdvantage points now stretches from March through February rather than from January through December.

The perks: Airport lounge access is where you extract value from this card; you’ll maximize it by adding up to three authorized users to your account. Setting this up comes with a $175 fee, but it extends your Admirals Club access to those users — and gives them the ability to bring two guests into the lounge as well. It’s great for family members you trust and travel with; lounge membership for four individuals could otherwise cost $3,400.

Moreover, handy credits include $10 per month to use with Lyft and Grubhub, $120 toward Avis or Budget car rentals annually, and 20,000 bonus points when you spend some $90,000 on eligible purchases.

Cheaper alternative: While the unique ability to exchange points for AAdvantage miles with the no-annual-fee Bilt Mastercard will end on June 30, 2024, a new partnership with Alaska Mileage Plan makes this option appealing to Oneworld flyers at large. Bilt has quickly shaken up the industry by offering one point on everything, including rent and mortgage payments (typically not payable with other credit cards). This can help college-age consumers and young adults build credit while earning points. Monthly promotions can help you earn and spend those points more efficiently, and the card has points-transfer partnerships with more than a dozen loyalty programs, including World of Hyatt and Air France-KLM Flying Blue.

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