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What’s the Best Premium Travel Credit Card for 2021?

The best premium travel credit cards can help you get to desired destinations faster and make trips more pleasant. But the right card depends on your travel needs.

By Samuel Greengard | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor

4 Min Read | October 1, 2021 in Cards

 

At-A-Glance

Despite the higher annual fee, a premium travel card can deliver huge benefits. The right card can save you thousands of dollars per year.

The best travel credit cards provide perks that can make your trips smoother and more enjoyable.

Review your options so you can decide on the premium travel rewards card that best fits your travel needs.

As 2021 progresses, many people are looking to pack their bags and venture off to all corners of the world. If you’re a frequent jet-setter, the best premium travel rewards card for your needs can take your globe-trotting to a higher level by helping you earn free trips faster. You can also enjoy numerous perks along the way – especially since many premium travel cards currently come with sign-up bonuses ranging between 75,000 and 200,000 miles or points.


Of course, sorting through all the options to choose the best premium travel credit card for you can seem daunting. There are general purpose travel cards, co-branded airline cards, and co-branded hotel cards, to name a few. What’s more, annual fees vary, and the way cards accrue points and deliver rewards can be remarkably different. A starting point for navigating premium travel credit cards is to understand what they offer so you can determine whether they fit your needs.

 

What Is a Premium Travel Credit Card and What Do They Offer?

Premium credit cards differentiate themselves from other cards through the exclusive perks they offer. They accumulate miles that can be used for airline tickets, deliver free and discounted services, and provide benefits – such as lounge access and cabin upgrades – that make trips more comfortable.


In addition to points and miles you can use for travel, shopping, and other things, these perks can be significant. For example, many premium travel cards waive foreign transaction fees, include free travel or rental car insurance, and offer credits that can be used on in-flight expenses, at eligible hotels, or with ride-sharing services. Some cards even offer reimbursement credits for Global Entry, TSA Pre✓®, and CLEAR®, all of which provide different degrees of expedited security checks at airports.

 
But these premium benefits come at a premium price. For top-shelf travel cards, annual fees typically land in the neighborhood of $450 to nearly $700, so they aren’t for everyone. And to qualify, you’ll generally need an excellent credit score, about 750 or higher. For the light traveler, basic travel cards with little or no fees offer benefits like the ability to earn travel rewards or maybe a free checked bag. But if you travel more than a few times a year – and particularly on international excursions – a premium travel rewards card may be just the ticket. 

 

Which Category of Premium Travel Credit Card Should You Choose?

The primary factor in selecting a premium travel credit card revolves around your travel habits, patterns, and preferences. If you regularly fly the same airline or alliance, your best premium travel card option might be a co-branded travel card with a specific airline carrier. Some premium travel cards offer benefits, such as:

But airline cards aren’t the only premium travel rewards credit card to consider. Travel cards that focus on hotel benefits may make sense – and save you dollars – if you often spend nights in hotels and tend to stay with a particular chain on a regular basis. In addition to offering travel points multipliers in certain spending categories, these cards typically offer benefits like:

  • Deeply discounted or free nights.
  • Room upgrades.
  • Other amenities, including complimentary breakfasts and premium internet access.
  • Statement credits for annual stays at their properties.

But what if you’re a globe-trotter who relies on a mix of airlines and hotel chains? The best card might be a general purpose premium travel card. These cards allow you to accrue points across various airlines and book in a more flexible way. For example, you may be able to redeem points for airline tickets or hotel stays through any carrier or hotel chain, often without blackout dates and other restrictions. What’s more, cards might offer as much as 5X multipliers on qualified travel purchases, among other common travel card benefits, like Global Entry fee credits and more.

 

Which Is the Best Travel Credit Card for You?

Whether you’re a frequent flyer, hotel loyalist, business traveler, or an all-around world traveler, there’s a premium travel credit card that best suits your needs. Before making a selection, it’s wise to consider the following key factors:

  • Does the annual fee make sense for my budget?
  • Is there a current welcome  offer that can boost my travel rewards?
  • Do the ways to earn points or miles match my spending preferences?
  • Can I redeem points or miles in the way that matches my travel needs?
  • Does the card offer travel credits that will help me save on travel?
  • Will I benefit from perks like free airport lounge access, seat upgrades, or room upgrades?
  • Do I want a card with additional services like complimentary travel insurance and rental car insurance?

While it’s tempting to think about premium travel credit cards as something for only the most affluent travelers, the reality is that with the right card, it’s possible to extend and enhance your travel dollars – as long as it fits your monthly budget.

 

The Takeaway

Premium travel credit cards are a wise choice for those looking to elevate their travel purchases. These cards can save you thousands of dollars per year and deliver perks that make a trip far more enjoyable. Take some time to review your options and select a card that fits your lifestyle and budget. You may find yourself seeing more of the world with more dollars in your pocket.

Samuel Greengard

Samuel Greengard has traveled to 63 countries and all 50 U.S. states while writing about business, technology and finance for numerous magazines and websites. He is the author of The Internet of Things (MIT Press, August 2021).

 

All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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