Business travelers are at an advantage these days when it comes to travel-branded credit card choices and promotions that boost points and privileges. This comes at a time when travel demand is up and many pandemic-extended policies are ending. While sign-up bonuses may not be as generous as they were last year, the best travel credit cards still dole out worthy benefits.
Airfares alone are up 43 percent over 2021 prices (and 9 percent over 2019), according to Consumer Price Index data released in November 2022. So, booking travel with points is ever more important for consumers riding out the economic effects of the pandemic and inflation. Credit card points and rewards can provide a buffer against those headwinds while working in some cost leveraging power, insurance perks and lounge access.
Business Traveler looked at some of the top travel-focused credit cards to determine the best cards to hold for points and privileges today.
American Express Platinum Card
At the top of the list is the American Express Platinum Card. Membership costs $695 a year with no introductory fee waive, but the card provides a host of enticing benefits. For starters, cardholders get an 80,000-point bonus at signup (after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months). They also receive purchase protection, travel insurance, concierge services, and 5X points for every dollar spent on travel booked through American Express. Cardholders get hotel credits, airline fee credits, gym club credits, and access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, which includes Priority Pass membership and Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access. Members even get Uber credits and digital entertainment rebates. Credits also extend to TSA, Global Entry and CLEAR sign-ups. Frequent travelers will enjoy the complimentary Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy Gold and Gold Elite status elevations that come with this card. In all, it adds up to some $3,500 in value, with points worth two cents apiece by some estimates.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee, but it offers 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, and the chance to earn 14 points per dollar at participating Hilton hotels. Members earn seven points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel, car rentals booked directly from select car rentals, and at U.S. restaurants. They also earn three points per dollar on all other eligible purchases, and cardholders get automatic Hilton Honors Diamond status. Renewals bring in up to $250 in statement credits each year, plus a $250 rebate for chosen airline baggage costs and fees.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
In the same tier as the American Express Platinum Card—but not quite as pricey—is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Membership costs $550 per year with a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months). The card also provides some insurance benefits, Lyft credits, and 10x point multiples. Members also receive TSA, Global Entry and CLEAR sign-on credits, and a complimentary Priority Pass membership. Users get 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards, and a $300 annual travel purchases credit. Cash to point valuation is pegged at 1 to 1, but that becomes 1 to 5 when redeeming through Chase Ultimate rewards, which more than pay for the card.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
A less expensive Chase Sapphire option is the Preferred Card, which only costs $95 per year but comes with 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months. Rewards include $50 in annual Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel credits and 5X points for travel purchased through that platform. Members also earn 3X points on designated dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases.
Capital One Venture X Rewards
The new darling of the travel credit card membership club is the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. Members pay $395 annually, with a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points. The card tallies 10X miles on hotels and rental cars and 5X miles on flights when booked via Capital One Travel, unlimited 2X miles on all other eligible purchases, a credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years, and complimentary access to Priority Pass and Plaza Premium lounges as well as the few the Capital One lounges in operation. The card also offers some travel insurance protections.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless
Marriott Bonvoy offers generous sign-on offers and inclusions for those who spend much of their travel time in hotels. For instance, the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card costs $95 and offers three Free Night Awards (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after a minimum spend requirement. Guests can rack up to 17 Bonvoy points per dollar (six points per dollar with the card, up to ten points per dollar as a Marriott Bonvoy member, and an additional point from the Silver Elite status that comes with the card), plus they can earn up to three points per dollar on eligible purchases. Renewals receive a Free Night Award on each anniversary, and free premium in-room Wi-Fi.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express
The hotel company also offers this Amex option for $650. The card comes with 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after spending $5,000 within the first three months, and six points per dollar at Marriott Bonvoy properties, three points per dollar at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with the airline, and two points per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
World of Hyatt Credit Card
Another hotel-focused card option is the World of Hyatt Credit Card, which costs $95 and offers with 60,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. Members earn four points per dollar at Hyatt properties; two points per dollar on ride-hailing services, restaurants and airline tickets; and one point per dollar on other purchases. The card comes with automatic Discoverist status and five qualifying night credits toward next level status each year. Renewals earn a free night at qualifying properties and more nights when meeting designated spend levels.
Are travel credit cards worth it?
While most of the cards available come with a cost, what matters is how you travel. If you spend a lot of time in airports, a lounge-inclusive card will be important. If you spend a ton of time in hotels, the overnight guest perks and upgrades matter most. If you want to convert points to dollars or pair them with other loyalty programs, the per point valuation will be the priority. No matter what, points are not meant to be banked. With constant inflation spikes and points/privilege resets, an 80,000-point windfall now may come at just the right time—and for the right price.