First up are the cards that can get you the most value if you're willing to put in the work: rewards credit cards that earn Amex, Chase, and other bank points. You can transfer these points to various airline and hotel partners, as well as use them to book travel directly through your credit card issuer.
Chase Sapphire Preferred — The rewards card that started it all. For a $95 annual fee, you get 2x points on travel and dining, not to mention valuable protections like primary car rental insurance and baggage delay insurance. Read the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review.
Chase Sapphire Reserve — The premium sibling to the Sapphire Preferred has a $550 annual fee, but offers more perks like a $300 annual travel credit and 3x points on travel and dining. Read the Chase Sapphire Reserve review.
American Express® Gold Card — If dining is one of your top spending categories, the Amex Gold is a great card for you. It earns 4x points at restaurants (and 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 each year, then 1x) and each month you get up to $10 in statement credits when you use the card at GrubHub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shacks. There's a $250 annual fee. Read the Amex Gold Card review.
The Platinum Card® from American Express — It's one of the most premium personal credit cards out there, with a $550 annual fee and a long list of benefits. You get annual statement credits for airline incidental fees, Saks purchases, and Uber rides, and can access a variety of airport lounges including Amex's own Centurion Lounges. Read the Amex Platinum review.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card — Like the Sapphire Preferred, the Venture Rewards Card packs in a lot of benefits for a sub-$100-annual-fee card, and in this case the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. You'll earn 2x miles on all purchases, and 10x miles on hotel bookings made with the card via hotels.com/venture. You can redeem miles to cover travel purchases on your statement, or transfer them to a selection of airline programs. Read the Capital One Venture Rewards card review.
American Express® Green Card — Amex recently revamped its Green card from the ground up, and the result is a great rewards card with a moderate annual fee of $150. That fee is especially easy to justify if you can use the card's annual statement credits: up to $100 toward CLEAR membership each year, and up to $100 toward airport lounge access through LoungeBuddy each year. Read the Amex Green card review.
If you're loyal to a specific airline — or even if you just travel with the same airline multiple times a year — it could be worth holding a co-branded credit card to get a free checked bag, priority boarding, and other perks. Airline credit cards run the gamut from entry-level to premium options, and the best choice for you will depend on how frequently you travel.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card — Alaska miles are very valuable, and also hard to come by. Alaska's co-branded card (with a $75 annual fee) is a great way to earn them, and you also get a companion fare each year. Read the Alaska Airlines Visa review.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express — If you fly Delta a handful of times each year, this card is a good option. It has a $95 annual fee that's waived the first year, and offers the basic airline perks like a free checked bag, priority boarding, and 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases. Read the Gold Delta SkyMiles Amex review.
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express — For more frequent Delta flyers, the Platinum Delta Amex could make sense thanks to additional benefits like an annual companion certificate and the ability to earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward Delta Medallion elite Status. The card has a higher $195 annual fee, but if those perks are useful to you, it can be worth it. Read the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Amex review.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card — This card has a $99 annual fee, and earns 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases. One of the top reasons to consider it — or any other Southwest credit card — is that the sign-up bonus you earn from meeting the minimum spending requirement counts toward the Southwest Companion Pass. The Companion Pass lets you designate one person to travel with you on Southwest for free (minus taxes and fees) when you have a flight booked. Read the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card review.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card — Southwest's most premium personal credit card has a $149 annual fee and comes with some valuable benefits for the frequent Southwest flyer. You get up to $75 in Southwest travel credit each year, plus four upgraded boardings per year (where available). The points you earn with this card count toward the Companion Pass as well. Read the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card review.
United Explorer Card — United's co-branded credit card with a $95 annual fee stands out for offering bonus miles on categories other than just United purchases, and an application fee credit for up to $100 for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. As a cardholder, you also get access to additional low-level award space, which makes it easier to stretch the miles you earn. Read the United Explorer card review.
United Explorer Business Card — The business version of the Explorer card also has a $95 annual fee, and it offers bonus miles at gas stations, office supply stores, and restaurants, in addition to on United purchases. Read the United Explorer Business card review.
Read more: The best airline credit cards
If you run your own company or even if you just have a side gig like freelancing or selling items online, a business credit card is a great way to separate your work expenses and earn rewards targeted to business spenders. Many business credit cards offer bonus points on categories like office supplies, and if you opt for a high-end card you can enjoy luxury travel benefits like airport lounge access.
Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business — The Spark Miles for Business earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases with no cap on what you can earn, and you can either redeem your miles to cover travel expenses or transfer them to airline partners like Air Canada and Singapore Airlines. There's a $95 annual fee, but it's waived the first year. Read the Spark Miles for Business review.
Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business — This card is similar to the Spark Miles for Business, except it has no annual fee and earns cash back instead of miles. You'll earn 2% back on all your purchases, with no cap on how much you can earn. Read the Spark Cash for Business review.
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card — This Chase Business card has one of the best sign-up bonuses around, and it offers great points-earning potential on categories like travel and online advertising for a reasonable $95 annual fee. Read the Ink Business Preferred card review.
Ink Business Cash Credit Card — This no-annual-fee business card from Chase earns bonus cash back on categories like office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services. If you pair it with a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, you can redeem the Ink Card's cash back as travel rewards with partners like British Airways and Hyatt. Read the Ink Business Cash card review.
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express — The business version of the Amex Platinum Card comes with several unique benefits, including up to $200 in statement credits for Dell purchases each year, and a 35% points rebate when you book eligible air travel through Amex. There's a $595 annual fee, but it could be worth it for frequent business travelers. Read the Amex Business Platinum card review.
Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express — This is a great option for anyone who's looking to earn Amex points and can qualify for a business credit card. The Blue Business Plus has no annual fee, and it earns 2x points on the first $50,000 spent each year (then 1x point). Read the Blue Business Plus card review.
American Express® Business Gold Card — If your business spends a lot on categories like US advertising and airfare purchased directly from airlines, the Business Gold is a great choice. It earns you 4x points on your top two spending categories each month (from a list of six categories), on up to $150,000 in combined purchases each year (then 1x). The card has a $295 annual fee. Read the Amex Business Gold card review.
Ink Business Unlimited Card — This card has no annual fee, and earns a flat 1.5% back on every purchase. If you want a simple card that doesn't require keeping track of any bonus categories, this could be a good choice. Read the Ink Business Unlimited review.
Brex Corporate Card for Startups and the Brex Corporate Card for Ecommerce — Brex's corporate credit card comes in two versions with slightly different benefits tailored for startups and ecommerce companies. Both flavors have no annual fee, and if you make the Brex card your exclusive corporate credit card, you can earn up to 7 points per dollar on spending, and transfer points to airlines like JetBlue. Read the Brex corporate card review.
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Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.