Top 20 Most Valuable Travel and Rewards Credit Cards 2018

This table lists the best travel and rewards credit cards based on value received through ordinary use of the card for purchases. The value that you receive from any card may differ, based on your particular usage patterns and whether you redeem points you earn for the most valuable rewards. Use BestCashCow's Credit Card Profile Maximizer to see the cards that may be most valuable for you based on your spending patterns.

Also see our list of the 10 best credit cards based on the value of the sign-up bonus!

Card Sign-Up Bonus / How To Accrue Points Redemptions for Maximum Point Value A Great Card for People Who

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card®

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card® Up to 2.625%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
N/A


Points:
Provides 1.5 points for every dollar spent, plus a 75% bonus for those holding more than $100,000 in a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch account.  Points are redeemable only for travel statement credits.
N/A
Those holding over $100,000 in assets either at Merrill or BoA who seek maximum flexibility in travel redemptions, in return for giving up opportunities that may be available through a hotel or airline program.

Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard®

Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard® Up to 2%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
N/A. $150 annual fee.


Points:
2x per every dollar spent on the card.  Points have a 1 cent value when used in amounts over 10,000 points ($100) to redeem for direct statement credits against travel charges to the card.  Miles can also now be transferred to certain non-US airline carriers. 
If you spend over $15,000 on the card each year, you will receive an additional 15,000 points, and if you spend another $10,000, you will receive an additional 10,000 points. 
High spenders can receive up to 3 cents per dollar spent up to $25,000 annually.   

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card®

Chase Ink Business Preferred Card® Up to 2.4%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
Get 80,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. $95 annual fee.


Points:
Receive 3x points on travel, shipping, online advertising (Google, Facebook) and internet/cable/phone expenditures to a total of $150,000 per year.  No foreign transaction fees. Also, if you use the card to purchase your cell phone, it provides $600 in damage protection.  (This is a business card, but you do not need to have a business to apply for the card.  It is a sister product to the Sapphire Cards and can be used interchangably with them although it will not provide the same car rental protection and purchase protection).
Transfer points to:
  • Hyatt - 8,000 points gets a night at the Hyatt Regency Greenville, SC.
  • British Airways - 15,000 points gets a round trip ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on AA)
  • United - 140,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from JFK to Narita
  • Singapore - 60,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from the mainland US to Hawaii (on United)
Small businesses or individuals seeking to separate business spend from personal spend. Those seeking flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points. Apply today even if you don't have a business.  Just enter your social security number when prompted to enter an EIN.

World of Hyatt Card® by Chase®

World of Hyatt Card® by Chase® Up to 2.4%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
60,000 Hyatt points.  40,000 after a $3,000 spend within 3 months, and an additional 20,000 after total spend of $6,000 within the first 6 months.  $95 annual fee.


Points:
4x at Hyatt, 2x at restaurants, gym membership, ride sharing services, and air travel purchased directly from an airline, 1x everywhere else. No foreign transaction fees. After payment of your annual fee upon renewal, you will receive 1 night in a Hyatt category 1-4 hotel.
 
Redeem 8,000 points for a night at Park Hyatt Mendoza or Hyatt Regency Montreal, or 30,000 points for a night at the Park Hyatt New York or Park Hyatt Paris.
Those seeking to redeem value for their credit card spend at Hyatt, which is one of the most valuable hotel programs even after recent program devaluations.

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express (Use in Conjunction with Amex Gold or Platinum)

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express (Use in Conjunction with Amex Gold or Platinum) Up to 4.5%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:
20,000 bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $3,000 in your first 3 months of cardmembership.  Link your Business Blue account to your Membership Rewards account with a Gold or Platinum card and all sign-on and earned points will be directly transferred into one common account.


Points:
2x points for every dollar you spend up to $50,000 each year.  We value Amex points as being worth as much as 2.25 cents per point when redeemed on Singapore airlines.
The most valuable Amex redemptions are ordinarily achieved by transferring points to Singapore Airlines, as described in this article.  Other redemptions may be significantly less valuable.
A great card for those seeking to segregate business expenses and earn double points.  Apply today even if you don't have a business.  Just enter your social security number when prompted to enter an EIN.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card®

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card® Up to 2.4%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
Get 50,000 points after spending $4,000 within three months.  $450 annual fee.


Points:
Earn 3x at restaurants and on travel.  Use in conjunction with the Chase Freedom to earn 5x at quarterly rotating categories, including groceries, restaurants, Costco and Amazon.  Also use in conjunction with the Chase Ink Cash card to earn 5x at office supply stores and on telecommunications spend (detailed here).  
Transfer points to:
  • Hyatt - 8,000 points gets a night at the Hyatt Regency Greenville, SC.
  • British Airways - 15,000 points gets a round trip ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on AA)
  • United - 140,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from JFK to Narita
  • Singapore - 60,000 points gets a RT business class ticket from the mainland US to Hawaii (on United)
Those seeking flexibility in the way they can redeem travel rewards points.

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card

Citi ThankYou® Premier Card Up to 2.25%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within three months of opening the card. $95 fee, waived the first year.


Points:
3x on travel, including gas, 2x at restaurants, 1x everywhere else. No foreign transaction fees. Ordinary offer is 50,000 points for signing up and spending $3,000 within the first three months.  (A separate card, the Citi Prestige Card, also carries a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 within the first three months,  but also carries a $450 fee. The Prestige card previously offered certain benefits that the Premier card did not have - described in this article - but Citi stripped out the most valuable of those benefits in 2017).
Points may be transferred to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (which the points can have significant value as described here), Hilton, Cathay, Qantas, Malaysia (not recommended) or one of several other lesser known travel partners. May alternatively be redeemed directly for travel at 1.25 cents per point.
Those who charge a lot on travel and restaurants, and who can take advantage of one of the Singapore Airlines redemptions outlined in this article (other rewards, including the direct credit on American Airlines, provide less than the value ascribed here.).

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express Up to 2.25%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:
100,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months. (Targeted offers for the business version are often as high as 150,000 points). Morgan Stanley accountholders with over $1,000,000 in their accounts can get a free version of this card with only a 50,000 points sign up bonus and all of the same benefits.


Points:
Ordinarily 1 point per $1 spent on the card, this card now offers 5 points per $1 spend directly on airlines. $550 annual fee. $200 annual airline credit can be used in twice in the first payment year for airline incidental fees (once in each of two successive calendar years).
Transfer points to:
  • British Airways at 1 Amex to 1 Avios.
  • Singapore Airlines where they have significant value if used as described in this article.
  • Delta Airlines where they are worth nothing.
Those who spend a lot on airline travel booked directly with the airline.

British Airways® Visa Signature Card®

British Airways® Visa Signature Card® Up to 2.1%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:
50,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months.  Earn an additional 25,000 points if you spend $10,000 within the first year, and 25,000 more for an additional $10,000 within the first year.  Spend $30,000 in a year and get a free companion ticket. $95 annual fee.


Points:
3 Points per Dollar Spent on British Airways.   1 Point per dollar spent everywhere else.
15,000 points gets a round trip ticket between Chicago and the East Coast (on American), or a round trip between Seattle and LA (on American), or a round trip trip between London and Madrid (on Iberia).  Note that redemptions directly on British Airways are often subject to excessive fees.
Those seeking great value for their credit card spend by redeeming on short haul flights through British Airways' partners

Citi American Airlines® Advantage Platinum Select World Mastercard® (or Business Mastercard for Businesses®)

Citi American Airlines® Advantage Platinum Select World Mastercard® (or Business Mastercard for Businesses®) Up to 1.9%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:
60,000 points after spending $3,000 within 3 months.


Points:
2x points on American, 1x everywhere else. $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
40,000 miles gets a round trip ticket between the US and Europe during low season.
Those who fly American Airlines or who seek to redeem points on American.

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card®, also available for Business

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card®, also available for Business Up to 1.8%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
Current signup offer is 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 in 3 months, provided you have never had this product before.  Fee waived the first year, $95 thereafter.


Points:
While you still only earn 1 point per $1 spend and there are no bonus categories, the points are now convertible to Marriott points at a fixed rate of 1 to 3.   However, in late 2018, this card will reportedly be converted to earning 2 Marriott points per dollar spend which will drop the returned on spend by 1/3 of its current level.  We value each Marriott point as high as 0.90 cents per dollar only when redeemed for Hotel + Air Packages.
Maximum value is achieved through Marriott Rewards' 7 night Hotel + Air packages where 540,000 Marriott points (180,000 Starwood points) will yield 7 nights in a Ritz Carlton plus 130,000 United miles.   Alternatively, 48,000 Starwood points for 5 nights at a category 5 Starwood property, such as the Sheraton Kauai Resort, The Westin Palace Madrid or the Westin Michigan Ave Chicago, are also strong redemptions.
Those who plan to stay at Starwood or Marriott hotels for long stays and can take advantage of Starwood 5th night free awards or the Marriott 7 night travel packages. 

American Express OPEN® Business Gold Rewards Card

American Express OPEN® Business Gold Rewards Card Up to 2.25%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:
30,000 points after spending $5,000 within 3 months (Targeted offers are often as high as 75,000 points after spending $5,000 in three months).


Points:
Ordinarily 1 point per $1 spent on the card, although there are certain categories for faster accumulation. $175 annual fee, waived the first year.
Transfer points to:
  • British Airways at 1 Amex: 1 BA
  • BA Singapore Airlines at 1:1 where they have the value described above.
  • Delta Airlines at 1:1 where they are worth very little.
Those seeking to segregate business expenses and earn flexible points that can be redeemed on several solid partner airlines, including British Airways and Singapore Airlines.

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card®

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card® Up to 1.8%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
50,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in 3 months.


Points:
Earn 2x on United, 1x everywhere else. $95 annual fee, waived the first year.  No foreign transaction fees.
Redeem 140,000 points for a business class ticket from JFK to Narita, or redeem 30,000 points for an intra-Europe coach class ticket on a Star Alliance® partner.
Those who fly United Airlines, or who seek to redeem rewards on United.

Amex Hilton Honors® Ascend Card®

Amex Hilton Honors® Ascend Card® Up to 1.7%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
Earn 75,000 Hilton points after spending $2,000 in first three months, and another 25,000 points after spending another $1,000 before the end of month 6. $95 annual fee.


Points:
Earn 12 points per $1 spend at Hilton, 6 points per dollar spend at restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, 3 points everywhere else. 
Most Conrads are 95,000 points per night. Two free nights can be used at any Conrad including the Conrad New York.
Those who plan to stay at Hilton hotels.

Radisson Rewards Visa Signature Card® by US Bank

Radisson Rewards Visa Signature Card® by US Bank Up to 1.25%
per dollar of ordinary spend

Bonus:
50,000 Gold points when you sign up and 35,000 when you spend $2,500 in 3 months. 40,000 each year you renew.  $75 annual fee.


Points:
Earn 5 points per dollar spent. We value these points in the maximum scenario as being worth 0.25 cents each. 
Redeem 70,000 points for 1 night at the MayFair in London.
Due to a recent program devaluation, this card only has value for those redeeming at the May Fair in London on certain Radisson Blu hotels in Europe, as this article explains.

DiscoverIT Miles Card (First Year Only)

DiscoverIT Miles Card (First Year Only) Up to 3%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:
No sign up bonus.


Points:
Earn 1.5x miles for each dollar spent.   Your miles earned are doubled at the end of your first year of card membership.
Miles are redeemed for travel credits against charges to your card at 1 cent per mile.

Venture® from Capital One®

Venture® from Capital One® Up to 2%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:
Get 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 within 3 months of account opening.


Points:
Earn 2x miles for every dollar spent.   Earn 10x miles at hotels.com.   
Redeem miles against a statement credit at 1 mile per penny against travel charges to your card.
Ideal for people who like flexibility and want to redeem their rewards without worry about airline redemption blackout dates.

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card

Marriott Rewards® Premier Plus Credit Card Up to 1.8%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:
100,000 Marriott points (33,333 Starwood) after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of receiving the card. (We value each Marriott point as high as 0.90 cents per dollar only when redeemed for 7 Night Hotel + Air packages.  Other redemption values will ordinarily be lower).  $95 annual fee.


Points:
Card earns 2 points per $1 of spend, but 6 points at Starwood or Marriott properties.
Some commentators have suggested that there will be a temporary opportunity to find valuable rewards at the high end Starwood properties in late 2018 as these properties will temporarily fall in category.  Otherwise, the best redemption values are achieved through 7 night Hotel + Air packages.   We like the ones in Hawaii.

 

A great card for people who stay at Starwood or Marriott, and who can take advantage of the more valuable redemptions.

Chase Freedom Unlimited (when used in Conjunction with Ink or Sapphire)

Chase Freedom Unlimited (when used in Conjunction with Ink or Sapphire) Up to 0%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:
15,000 points. No annual fee.


Points:
Earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent.
Points only have the value ascribed when they are transferred to a Chase Sapphire or a Chase Ink card as explained in this article.
Only people who have a Chase Sapphire or a Chase Ink card.

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card Up to 1%
per dollar of ordinary spend
Bonus:

Earn a whopping 30,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months.  The offer is sometimes raised to 40,000 or 50,000 miles.  Get a $50 statement credit on your first Delta flight purchase made (if made during these three months).  $0 annual fee for first year, $95 thereafter.



Points:
Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on the card and 1 extra mile for Delta purchases.
It just gets tougher and tougher to find valuable redemptions on Delta.   The most valuable redemptions we find are in Business Class seats for long haul flights from New York to Latin America.
People who live in Atlanta, Salt Lake City or want to redeem for international travel from JFK.

Getting Started with Rewards Credit Cards

Many credit cards today offer some type of reward for using them in the form of points. Points can be redeemed for cash back, free gifts, and travel rewards (hotels, airfare). After having analyzed this space extensively, BestCashCow believes that travel reward programs offer the best sign­‐up rewards, with some worth well over $1,000 if you meet promotional spend requirements; and the best return, with some programs easily offering up to 3% of the regular spend. For certain categories that offer 2, 3 or even 5x, for every dollar spent on a credit card, as much as fifteen cents of a certain part of your spend can come back in the form of a reward, that's up to 15% of your spend.

But to get this level of reward takes some knowledge of how these credit cards work and also the various deals offered by the cards. Earning valuable travel rewards points is easy with the right credit card and a little bit of research and planning. It can also be exciting, even exhilarating. Most importantly, it can enable you to travel the world in a class of service that you might not otherwise be able to afford, or to see places that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive to get to.

It is important to note that rewards cards do not make sense for those who plan to carry a balance. For those looking to finance purchases on their card, a low interest credit card is the better choice. But, if you pay off your balances monthly, flexible rewards points or travel rewards in the form of hotel points and air miles will provide you with the most value for your credit card spend.

Card names, trademarked images and copyrights appearing on this page are the property of the issuer, not BestCashCow. Calculations and editorial information appearing on this page have been determined by our editorial team and by site users without any input or endorsement of the issuer.