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The Best Travel Credit Cards and How to Apply for Them6 min read

best travel credit cards

Today, traveling for work and pleasure is both common and desired. However, the cost of travel can be a devastating blow to finances, especially for frequent flyers. One way (arguably the best way) to make the challenge of travel more doable is applying for a credit card that accumulates travel miles. This can be a difficult process, especially when considering credit score as a factor.

The average credit score for the United States has slowly decreased since the Silent Generation (1925), and in recent years has fluctuated only slightly. However, in 2017 FICO reported reaching an average high of 700, an increase from past years. Most travel rewards cards require a credit score higher than this, however, some can be obtained for lower. Research across numerous sources has consistently named several cards in the top ten list for travel. These are Chase Sapphire Preferred, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, British Airways Visa Signature Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards.

Best Travel Credit Cards


Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred is widely accepted as one of the best travel credit cards, maybe because its miles can be redeemed for most airline flights making it extremely flexible. It has great benefits like 50,000 bonus points (which can be redeemed as $625.00 dollars towards airfare and hotels) after spending $4,000.00 in the first three months, two points per $1 on travel purchases and one point for regular purchases, a zero dollar introductory fee for the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.

This travel card sounds amazing but it can be difficult to get. The credit score needed is somewhere in the range of 720-750 plus, with a few outliers being accepted at a lower score. If this is a scary number, not to worry, the bank also considers other factors when reviewing an application for approval. These factors are credit utilization, recent hard inquiries, total credit limit, and your total open cards.

Recommended Credit Score: 736+

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

Barclaycard Arrival Plus is in most websites top ten lists, although its exact position fluctuates. Its perks include a 40,000 miles bonus after spending $3000.00 in the first three months, two times the miles received on all purchases, a zero dollar sign up fee for the first year ($89.00 for years following), and has a five percent miles back redemption bonus each time miles are redeemed.

This card requires an excellent score for approval, 720 or above, but also considers other factors in accepting or denying. In addition to the above reasons to sign up, Barclaycard can provide access to complimentary concierge service, upgrades and discounts on airlines, and access to exclusive services through hotels and resorts. It is widely considered one of the best rewards deals for people wanting to earn miles quickly and travel often.

Recommended Credit Score: 736+

British Airways Visa Signature Card

British Airways Visa Signature Card offers a great rewards system for people who want to travel internationally. One of its great selling points is three points per dollar earned on British Airways purchases and one point per dollar for all other purchases. Another great benefit is you will earn 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000.00 within the first three months of opening the account. If you spend $10,000 within the first year of opening the account, you will receive 25,000 more points. Another advantage the card offers is receiving a travel together ticket (good for two years) when $30,000 is spent annually. This card, like the others, has no foreign transaction fee but does have a $95.00 annual fee that is not waived.

British Airways Visa Signature Card requires a high credit score for approval and may be difficult to obtain. Since 3 points are earned with each dollar spent on British Airways purchases, traveling more often is a real possibility.

Recommended Credit Score: 747+

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Southwest is regarded as one of the flagship airlines in the United States for their friendly staff and great benefits like two free checked bags. For people wanting to travel nationally, it is difficult to beat the earnings this card has to offer.

Two points are earned for every Southwest (and other affiliates) purchase made, and one point is earned for every dollar spent with no purchasing limit. Also, 40,000 bonus points can be earned by making $1000 in purchases within the first three months and 3,000 points are earned after the cardholder anniversary. Some airline specific perks are: no foreign transaction fees, free checked bags, auto rental collision damage waiver, no change fees, no blackout dates, and points don’t expire.

Although a good credit score is needed for approval for most credit cards, this has one of the lower scores needed for approval. A score of at least 670 is recommended, although a higher score would increase the applicant’s chances. The card does not waive the annual fee the first year, however, it is priced at $69.00, considerably cheaper than other options.

Recommended Credit Score: 670+

There are an overwhelming array of options when trying to choose the correct credit card for the perks that will be the most beneficial to you, especially when considering credit score and other factors. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus requires the lowest credit score, and British Airways Visa Signature requires the highest but depending on benefits included, your choice could be any of these four—or dozens of others.

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