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  • Writer's picturePoints By J

Best Travel Credit Cards for Beginners

Updated: Feb 14

When I realized how much free travel I was missing out on with credit card points, I was excited to apply for a great travel credit card to get started. However, I then got analysis paralysis. There are so many interesting options out there. It can be hard to figure out your best first credit card for travel.


I wrote this post with my former self in mind. If I was choosing amongst the best travel credit cards for beginners, my top tip? Start by getting a card that allows you to redeem points with more than one hotel or airline. That way, your points will have flexibility and you'll have more opportunities to redeem them for amazing free travel deals.


Best Travel Credit Cards for Beginners

Best Travel Credit Cards for Beginners
One of my first big points redemptions with my Chase Sapphire Preferred? A trip to Italy with an unforgettable stopover in Iceland (where this was taken!)

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Top Overall Best Credit Card for Beginners

This card is my #1 recommended card for friends and family who are looking for their first travel credit card for earning and redeeming credit card points. It has all the essentials of a great first card: reasonable annual fee, strong points earning potential, and awesome travel insurance. In fact, it was my first travel credit card in my early twenties.

The top reasons it's my most-recommended card for those new to credit card points include:

  • Generous sign-up bonus and points earning categories:

    • Sign-up bonus: Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months to earn 60,000 points

    • 3x points on every $1 spent on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x points on every $1 spent on travel

  • Ability to transfer points to great airline and hotel loyalty programs: My personal favorite way to use my Chase points? Transferring my points out to Hyatt for luxury hotel stays

  • Comprehensive travel insurance coverage: An unsung hero in the travel space! This has saved me thousands of dollars over the years because I didn't have to pay extra for travel insurance

  • No foreign transaction fees: A game-changer for international travel

Click here to learn more about the Sapphire Preferred. There is a $95 annual fee.


Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One really nailed it with this travel card that doesn't just have a great sign-on bonus- it also makes it easy to keep earning throughout the year. You'll get 2x miles for every $1 you spend! With no bonus categories to keep track of, this card is particularly user-friendly. If you're looking for a reasonable annual fee, great sign-on bonus, and points earning simplicity? Look no further.

  • Generous sign-up bonus and points earning categories:

    • Sign-up bonus: Spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months to earn 75,000 miles

    • Earn 2x miles on every $1 spent

    • Earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel

  • 2 complimentary airport lounge visits each year: Enjoy an airport lounge twice a year, with options including Capital One Lounges or 100+ locations via their Partner Lounge Network. Lounge access benefit-ending Jan. 1, 2025.

  • Ability to transfer miles to great airline and hotel loyalty programs: Their airline partners are particularly fantastic

  • Status with Hertz: You'll automatically have Hertz Five Star status- this lets you pick from a wider selection of cars and skip the rental counter.

  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® Credit: Up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®

  • No foreign transaction fees: A must-have for international travel

Click here to learn more about the Capital One Venture. There is a $95 annual fee.


American Express® Gold Card: Great for Foodies

If most of your money goes toward food, it's hard to beat the Amex Gold. Each benefit requires enrollment via their website, terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

  • Food bonus points earning: 4x points for every $1 spent at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases then 1x point

  • Triple points on flights: 3x points for every dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or AmexTravel

  • Up to $120 Uber Cash: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get up to $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S.

  • Up to $120 Dining Credit: Up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations

  • Up to $100 hotel experience credit: When you book a 2-night The Hotel Collection stay through American Express Travel

  • No foreign transaction fees: (see rates and fees) Standard, but valuable!

Click here to learn more about the Amex Gold Card. There is a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).


Citi Premier® Card: Great Bonus Point Category Diversity

This card has very generous bonus categories, making it a great card to accelerate your points earning for more free travel! Some of my favorite things about it:

  • Amazing bonus point earning categories: 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, and hotels.

  • Hotel savings perk: Enjoy an annual $100 hotel savings

  • Solid purchase protections: If an item is damaged or stolen within 90 days after you buy it with your card, Citi may repair or reimburse you up to the amount paid.

  • No foreign transaction fees: This is a benefit across most mid-to-higher tier credit cards

Click here to learn more about the Citi Premier card. There is a $95 annual fee.


*Each Benefit requires enrollment via their website, terms apply to American Express Benefits and offers. visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired.

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