Which Travel Credit Cards Should Be in Your Wallet?

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Find out your recommended travel credit card based on your personality type.

After wading into the basics of playing the Points & Miles game, it’s time to figure out which card or cards are the right fit for you.

First off, pick a card that has its own unique transferable points to give the most flexibility with your preferred travel partners.  The table below shows the most widely used cards and their most popular travel partners:

Membership Rewards
Capital One Miles Chase Ultimate Reward Citi ThankYou Points
Delta Turkish Airlines Southwest Cathay Pacific
Air Canada Air Canada Air Canada Avianca LifeMiles
Air France Air France Air France Air France
British Airways British Airways British Airways Singapore Airlines
Emirates Emirates Emirates Emirates
Virgin Atlantic TAP Air Portugal Virgin Atlantic Virgin Atlantic
Jet Blue Jet Blue


Marriott Wyndham Marriott Wyndham
Choice Choice IHG Choice
Hilton Accor Hyatt

The next step is purely personal—how much do you want to think about which card to use? Most people fall into three categories: Simple Sam (one card for everything); Efficient Emily (a couple of cards to enhance the amount of points earned); and The Full Monty (maximizing points and signup bonuses despite the complexity). Here are some recommendations for each personality type:

Once Sam decides which card family matches best to his preferred travel providers, he just needs to determine if he wants the premium or less expensive basic card.

The premium cards offer a lot of additional perks for that premium price—we suggest only selecting those cards if you can at least offset the annual fee with credits. If you can’t, pick the more basic card with the lower annual fee.

Here are the primary choices for each of the major credit card families, with the premium card listed first:

Membership Rewards
Capital One Miles Chase Ultimate Rewards Citi ThankYou Points
The Platinum Card Venture X Sapphire Reserve Not currently offered
The Gold Card Venture Sapphire Preferred Premier

If you’re like Sam, pick one and start charging. If you’re ambivalent about which card family matches best with your preferred travel providers, pick the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It’s the least expensive ($95 annual fee), offers a wide range of travel partners, point multiples for several spending categories, and has a great direct exchange rate (1.25 cents per point) on its travel website.

Emily has another decision to make: Does she want to earn points for two different sets of travel providers, or does one card family check all of those boxes?

For example, if she flies mostly on Delta, but prefers the great hotel values available at Hyatt, she may want to pick one Amex card and one Chase card. If the Amex travel partners match up well for her, she may want to get both the Platinum and the Gold cards in order to earn two great signup bonuses and to maximize her point earnings. If this is her choice, Emily could use the Gold card at restaurants and supermarkets, where she would earn 4X points for every dollar spent, and the Platinum card for travel booked through the Amex website at 5X and either card at 1X everywhere else.

As of August 2022, she would also receive at least 100,000 points as a signup bonus for the Platinum card and at least another 60,000 points for the Gold card.

Our friend Monty, who’s looking to amass a million points or more, still needs to pay attention to which travel partners make the most sense for him, and will also want to make sure that the benefits he receives for each card are at least equal to the annual fee. He also needs to apply for any Chase cards first, because once he receives five personal cards in a 24 month timeframe, Chase won’t give him any more. Beyond that, he may also want to get a loyalty card for any airlines or hotels he prefers so he can maximize his points earnings while on the road. And he might just want the Capital One Venture X card, which would give him 2X on all of his spend and use that card when none of the others give him a multiple for a specific category. Lastly, he’ll need a bigger wallet for all those cards and a cheat sheet to help him decide which one to use.

Finally, if you’re applying for a new card, please consider doing so via a link on a travel website or from a friend. When you go that route, your friend (or friendly travel website) will earn a referral bonus of their own. That goes a long way toward helping the travel blogging community earn a return on the wealth of advice they share.

Phil Ridolfi

Phil Ridolfi, aka The Exceptional Traveler, blogs about travel and how to use credit cards, points and miles to see the world for low or no cost at his website The Exceptional Traveler. You can also find him on both Instagram and Facebook.

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