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The best credit cards for travel in 2019: most points for flights and hotels

best credit cards for travel
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Credit cards offering travel points are the perfect marriage for the person who spends a lot of money on their tech gadgets, and also loves to travel to all corners of the world. If that sounds like you, then arriving on this best credit cards for travel guide is the first great destination you could have landed in.

On this page, you'll discover the credit cards that give you travel points, hotel booking, airport lounge entry and more. From the likes of American Express and Chase to Mastercard and Capital One, there are lots of options out there that are tailored specifically for the intrepid traveller. Airline cards and hotel cards are also variants that may offer your specific needs better bonuses.

We've rounded up all the best credit cards for travel and addressed some prime questions that you might have in our FAQ below. It's time to find the best credit card for you now - it's high time you started getting some perks when buying all that pricey stuff you see on our tech deals pages.

TechRadar has partnered with The Points Guy Affiliate Network for our coverage of credit products. TechRadar and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers. Please note: the offers mentioned below are subject to change at any time and some may no longer be available.

Best credit cards for travel

The Platinum Card® from American Express
$1,200 bonus value* | $550 annual fee
Bonus offer includes 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months (terms apply). Perks include up to $200 airline fee credit to cover incidental fees, up to $200 annual Uber credits, up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit, $250 lounge access (terms apply).

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
$1,200 bonus value* | $95 annual fee
Bonus offer includes 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express
$900 bonus value* | $450 annual fee
Bonus offer includes 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. Perks include up to $250 in statement credits for Hilton purchases each card member year, up to $250 in airline incidental fee credits per calendar year (terms apply).

Chase Sapphire Reserve
$1,000 bonus value* | $450 annual fee
Bonus offer includes 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. Perks include $300 annual travel credit.

Capital One® Venture Rewards Credit Card
$700 bonus value* | $95 annual fee (waived for the first 12 months)
Bonus offer includes 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months.

*  Note that bonus value is based on valuations from The Points Guy 

Travel credit card FAQ

Do I really need a credit card?

Good question, and definitely the first one you should ask before you get carried away applying for credit cards. The right answer for you may not be for the next person who reads this.

If you're eyeing up a big, expensive bit of tech - 4K TV deals perhaps, or one of the world's best laptops - then thinking ahead and getting a bountiful credit card first will mean that you can make your next holiday that bit more affordable. Assuming you'll be paying of the credit card balance immediately, then you've lost nothing. In fact, you've only gained and you may even get a boost to your credit rating.

But if you're getting a credit card as a way of buying something you really can't afford, then we'd sincerely advise you to leave this page now. If you don't intend to clear your debit straight away, then you'll start getting hit with interest payments and your situation will only get worse and worse.

Ask yourself: "do I really need that new gadget?". If the answer's no and your bank balance hasn't got enough in it for extravagant treats, then we wouldn't recommend grabbing a credit card.

Is a travel credit card right for me?

If you travel a lot and don't yet have a travel specific credit card then it would make a lot of sense for you to get one, and soon. You're travelling anyway, why not make money as you do it? For those that travel with business a lot this is ideal, like a little bonus made on your trip.

For those on vacation and staying in one place all-inclusive, not all cards apply, more those that focus on the booking side of things.

If you're travelling outside the US then these travel credit cards are ideal for exchange rates as well as air miles on long distance flights. 

What kind of rewards are on offer with the best credit cards for travel?

The one that people always think of with travel credit cards is airmiles, which is still a great way to claim on your travel. You can also enjoy points for dining out and hotel bookings which can be transferred to travel partners.

But there are more perks that you perhaps don’t know about. For example, you can enjoy no transaction fees when abroad. Some even pay you in Uber credits or shopping vouchers for certain stores (like Saks Fifth Avenue on the Platinum Card® from American Express). Airport lounge access and priority passes are also benefits that some credit cards offer. Some even offer trip cancellation coverage and primary car rental services as standard.

What can travel credit cards give me for flights?

Airline cards earn you miles with the usual being one mile per dollar spent. These can be spent to get you free checked bags, priority boarding, in-flight discounts and freebies, airport lounge access, companion fares and a speedier elite status achievement.

What can travel credit cards give me for hotels?

By using hotel credit cards you earn points with each booking. These get you free nights, upgrades, freebies, early check-in and late check-out, plus faster elite status.

A hotel specific card like the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express is filled with hotel related treats. Spend $4,000 in the first three months and get 150,000 Hilton Honors points, Hilton Diamond status, up to $250 Hilton credit, up to $250 airline credits for incidentals and up to $100 on-property credit at Hilton hotels. 

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Credit cards for travel: what else should I consider?

One of the most major factors you'll need to take into consideration is the annual fee on your potential credit card. Since most of the best travel cards have an annual fee, they're worth looking at with ranges from $90 to $100 as standard but with premium cards that offer more perks, pushing that fee up to $450. There are no fee options but you'll earn fewer points and have a smaller selection of offers.

The reward rate is another consideration. These break down into earn rate and burn rate. The earn rate is as it sounds, the amount of miles of points you get per dollar spent. These are either flat rates or have special rates for certain purchases like hotel stays on a hotel credit card. Burn rate is the value you get for these points or miles when redeemed. The average is around 1 cent per point or mile. Hotel cards usually have a lower value than airline cards but then you earn more so it can even out.

A sign-up bonus is worth looking out for as that can mean spending more to hit the threshold that gets you the big benefits – if you're not going to hit that level then another type of credit card could be better for you.

Foreign transaction fees are typically charged at around the 3 percent mark. So if you find a travel credit card that has wiped this out, and you go abroad a lot, this could be ideal for you. But if you never leave the US then this isn't a bonus you need so may be a wasted offering. International acceptance in general can be an issue. While Visa and Mastercard are worldwide, AmEx and Discover may not be - so bear that in mind.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.