Two women traveling enter hotel room

Which Travel Rewards Credit Card is Best for You?

Last Updated: December 3, 2023
4 min read

Key points about: reward credit cards for travel

  1. Travel rewards credit cards may offer cash back, miles, or other benefits.

  2. Some travel credit cards charge fees that may cost more than the rewards you’ll earn.

  3. If you travel internationally, check whether your travel credit card charges foreign transaction fees.

If you like to travel, you know that travel expenses can add up quickly. However, there are simple ways you can maximize your travel budget. One option is to have a travel rewards credit card that lets you earn rewards on both travel and non-travel purchases.

Finding the best rewards credit card for travel depends on many factors, like your purchase habits and how much you spend. This guide will help you determine the best travel rewards credit card to maximize your travel rewards potential.

How do travel credit cards work?

Some credit cards offer cash back, miles, or other rewards that can be used toward travel expenses. For example, if you have the Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card, you earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on travel purchases and all your everyday purchases – from airfare and hotels to groceries and online shopping.

Earning rewards no matter where you shop may be ideal for some, but what about claiming the rewards you’ve earned? Some travel credit cards give you airline miles that you can redeem for a flight, but these usually have restrictions on the dates and destinations you can use them for. With the Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card, you can turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.1

Paying for a travel expense with a credit card can help protect you. If a company fails to deliver the goods or services you paid for, you can dispute the charge through your credit card. The Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card offers $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee. You’re never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover Card.2

Types of travel credit cards

Typically, you’ll find two different kinds of travel credit cards. Whether one is better for you will depend on how you travel and what you’re looking for.

Co-branded travel rewards cards

Co-branded travel credit cards are cards that are affiliated with a particular hotel chain, airline, or other travel brand. The way you earn rewards and can redeem them is usually focused on you spending with the brand. For example, you might earn more points paying for your hotel reservation when you use the hotel’s co-branded credit card than you would when you use the co-branded card for everyday purchases. When you redeem your credit card points, you might be limited to hotel-specific options, like room upgrades or other perks. If you stay at a particular hotel chain or use a specific airline whenever you travel, and are a loyal customer with these vendors, it might make the most sense to use a credit card offered by them.

Flexible travel rewards cards

The other type of travel credit card is one that lets you earn miles or points on everyday purchases no matter where you shop that you can redeem for travel or cash. These cards are more flexible because they allow you to redeem your rewards for cash to spend with the airline or hotel of your choosing, or on any other expense.

Choosing the travel rewards credit card that’s best for you

Many people look for key things from their travel rewards cards:

  • Value: The overall value of a travel rewards credit card may depend largely on the rewards earned for each dollar spent, plus any fees you might have to pay, such as annual fees. Discover has no annual fee on any of our cards.
  • Flexibility: When comparing travel credit cards, customers may benefit most from cards that offer flexible opportunities for redemptions and won’t limit you to redeeming rewards with only one travel provider. Also, some cards have blackout dates for redeeming miles, which means you might not be able to redeem your rewards for the travel times you prefer.
  • Cost and fees: Travel cards may vary in their interest rates and fees. If you’re carrying a balance each month, it’s important to check your travel card’s APR (annual percentage rate) and to calculate whether the rewards you might earn would be worth more to you than any fees you might pay. For international travel, you may also want to check if the rewards card has a foreign transaction fee, which could cost you extra every time you use it abroad.
  • Bonuses: Travel cards may also have bonuses to entice applicants. You may want to compare any bonuses to see how they match with your spending habits.

Did you know?

The Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card is unique by providing Discover Match®, in which you get an unlimited Mile-for-Mile match of all the Miles you earn at the end of your first year, automatically. There is no limit to how much we’ll match.3 For example, you could turn 35,000 Miles to 70,000 Miles. This means that a new Discover it® Miles Cardmember has control over the amount of their match because it will be based on your Miles earned for the first year.

If you’re unsatisfied with the travel benefits on your current credit card, consider looking for a travel rewards credit card that’s better for your needs. Each travel rewards credit card may have pros and cons so shape your decision to match your personal travel and spending habits.

Next steps

You may also be interested in

Share article

Was this article helpful?

Glad you found this useful. Could you let us know what you found helpful?
Sorry this article didn't help you. Can you give us feedback why?

Was this article helpful?

Thank you for your feedback

  1. Redeem Miles: Starting at 1 Mile, you can redeem your Miles as a credit to your account to pay for all or part of your bill, for cash as an electronic deposit to your bank account, or for a credit for Travel Purchases made on your statement within the last 180 days. Travel Purchases include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites, commuter transportation, restaurants and gas stations. Restaurant purchases include those made at merchants classified as full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, fast-food locations, and restaurant delivery services. Gas Station purchases include those made at merchants classified as places that sell automotive gasoline that can be bought at the pump or inside the station. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets, supercenters, and wholesale clubs may not be eligible. Even if a travel purchase on your statement appears to fit in a Travel Purchase category, the merchant may not have a merchant category code (MCC) in a Travel Purchase category. Merchants and payment processors are assigned an MCC based on their typical products and services. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Certain third-party payment accounts and digital wallet transactions may not be eligible for credit redemption if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details or a qualifying MCC. See Terms and Conditions for more information.
  2. $0 Fraud Liability: An “unauthorized purchase” is a purchase where you have not given access to your card information to another person or a merchant for one-time or repeated charges. Please use reasonable care to protect your card and do not share it with employees, relatives, or friends. Learn more at
  3. Discover Match®: We'll match all the Miles rewards you've earned on your credit card from the day your new account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days, whichever is longer, and add it to your rewards account within two billing periods. You've earned Miles rewards only when they're processed, which may be after the transaction date. We will not match: rewards that are processed after your match period ends; statement credits; rewards transfers from Discover checking or other deposit accounts; or rewards for accounts that are closed. This promotional offer may not be available in the future and is exclusively for new cardmembers. No purchase minimums.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.