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Thanks in part to the expanded Covid-19 vaccine rollout, Americans everywhere are beginning to make travel plans for the first time in more than a year.
Credit card issuers, in response, have been releasing limited-time promotions ahead of this summer season to help consumers offset their travel purchases and earn more on their everyday spending.
American Express, Capital One, Chase and TD Bank are all offering new cardholders competitive welcome bonuses worth up to $1,000, depending on the card.
Below, Select compares the sign-up offers on the best travel credit cards. Plus, we’ve round-up some of the impressive welcome bonuses being offered by top airline and hotel credit cards so you can decide the best choice for your next adventure.
Here are Select’s top-ranked travel credit cards:
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Capital One Venture
The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture cards both offer the most generous welcome bonuses worth approximately $1,000 in travel value. However, the minimum spending requirements are on the higher end — $4,000 over the first three months from account opening for CSP, and $20,000 over 12 months from account opening for the Venture card.
When comparing the Sapphire Preferred and Venture bonuses, the Sapphire is easier to earn since you only have to spend less than a quarter of what Venture requires. Plus, Sapphire Preferred cardholders earn up to $50 in statement credits toward grocery store purchases within their first year. Both cards have a $95 annual fee.
Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex Gold
While the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Gold have lower welcome bonus values, both are premium travel credit cards that come with many luxury perks. For example, the Reserve card comes with a $300 annual travel credit, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck® fee credit of up to $100 every four years and Priority Pass™ Select lounge access at 1,000+ VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide.
The Amex Gold offers travel discounts and amenities for those who enroll with The Travel Collection by Travel Leaders Group at no extra cost, plus up to a $120 annual dining credit ($10 a month) for purchases made with eligible restaurants (after a one-time enrollment) and a $100 hotel credit to spend on qualifying purchases through The Hotel Collection.
When comparing the Sapphire Reserve and Amex Gold bonuses, the Sapphire is a better choice (even though the Amex Gold gives you three extra months to reach the spending threshold) since the welcome bonus can be worth up to $300 more when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The Sapphire Reserve charges a $550 annual fee and the Amex Gold has a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).
Co-branded credit cards that are in partnership with an airline or hotel chain offer some of the best welcome bonuses of at least 70,000 bonus points or miles from Delta, Hilton, IHG, Marriott and United. If you favor a particular airline or hotel group, this might be a good option for you.
- Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card within your first three months your account is open with the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card (offer ends April 28, 2021)
- Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within your first three months your account is open with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card (offer ends April 28, 2021)
- Earn 80,000 bonus miles, plus 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), after you spend $5,000 in purchases within your first three months your account is open with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (offer ends April 28, 2021)
For business travelers:
- Earn 70,000 bonus miles, plus a $50 statement credit, after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card within your first three months your account is open with the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card (offer ends April 28, 2021)
- Earn 90,000 bonus miles, plus a $100 statement credit, after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within your first three months your account is open with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card (offer ends April 28, 2021)
- Earn 80,000 bonus miles, plus 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and a $200 statement credit, after you spend $5,000 within your first three months your account is open with the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (offer ends April 28, 2021)
Read more about these Delta welcome bonus offers.
Read more about these Hilton welcome bonus offers.
Read more about this IHG welcome bonus offer.
- Earn 100,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points, plus up to $150 in statement credits, after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card (offer ends May 12, 2021)
- Earn 125,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points, plus up to $200 in statement credits, after you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first three months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (offer ends May 12, 2021)
Read more about these Marriott welcome bonus offers.
- Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening with the United Club℠ Infinite Card and after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening with the United Club℠ Business Card
- Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles with the New United Quest℠ Card: 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases within three months from account opening; plus, an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend an additional $5,000 on purchases within six months from account opening (offer ends June 2, 2021)
Read more about this United offer here, and here for the New United Quest Card.
For those hoping to travel abroad
To determine which cards will put the most money back in your pocket, Select evaluated 35 popular travel credit cards offered by major banks, financial companies and credit unions that allow anyone to join. We compared each card on a range of features, including travel rewards (points and miles), annual fee, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, one-time perks, annual perks, redemption rates, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.
Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company’s data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.
Esri’s data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.
We then estimated how much the average consumer would redeem over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee and assume that you are paying your credit card balance on time and in full each month so as not to incur interest charges.
It’s important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)
Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it’s generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.
While the five-year estimates we’ve included are derived from a budget similar to the average American’s spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your travel habits.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.