Best Credit Cards for Travel After The Pandemic

Best Credit Cards for Travel After The Pandemic
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We’ve detailed what travel is going to look like after the pandemic as well as what it might cost. When it comes time to pay for your post-pandemic escape, wouldn’t you want to save even more? Here’s how.

When traveling, you’ll want to put the bulk of your expenses on a credit card because it will give you the best return for your spending. Plus several credit card options offer travel cancellation coverage, which is a much-needed perk during this transition travel time. While there are dozens of cards currently on the market, a few of them can help frequent travelers save on their travel purchases in a big way and provide cancellation protection. Here are our picks for the best credit cards for travel in 2021.

The Best Credit Cards for Travel in 2021

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve Card: Best Overall Return on Spend
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best for Mid-Level Spenders
  3. Chase Freedom Flex Card: Best for Gas Purchases
  4. Platinum Card by American Express: Best for High-Spend Travel

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best Overall Return on Spend

sapphire-reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives its cardmembers the greatest overall return on travel spending: triple points on all travel and dining spending! That’s 6% return on spending based on our valuation of Ultimate Rewards points at two cents per point.

You’ll also earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in your first three months of card membership. There is a large ($550) annual fee, but with that comes a $300 travel credit every calendar year that automatically kicks in on your statement. Plus you’ll get perks like Priority Pass lounge access, which has over 800 lounges abroad to choose from, and your Global Entry membership fee will be waived.

The card also comes with trip cancellation coverage up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for your prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses. Finally, for all of your Lyft rides on your journey, you’ll earn 10x per dollar spent on the card through March 2022.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Features

  • Triple points on travel and dining purchases equaling 6% return on overall travel spending
  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards Points with $4,000 spend in the first three months
  • $300 travel credit each calendar year
  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • Trip cancellation coverage up to $10,000 per person or $20,000 per trip

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for Mid-Level Spenders

sapphire-preferred
We know the $550 annual fee for the Sapphire Reserve card is steep. If you can’t swing it, consider applying instead for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which gives mid-level spenders a nice spending bonus as well (currently 100,000 points).

You’ll earn two Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on dining and travel purchases (which is 4.4% back based on our valuation). There are no foreign transaction fees, and the $95 annual fee is much easier to stomach.

The card also comes with trip cancellation coverage up $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for your prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses. Finally, for all of your Lyft rides on your journey, you’ll earn 3x per dollar spent on the card through March 2022.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Features

  • Double points on travel and dining purchases equaling 4.4% return on overall travel spending
  • 100,000 Ultimate Rewards Points with $4,000 spend in the first three months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 delivery fees and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for one year with DashPass (DoorDash)
  • Trip cancellation coverage up to $10,000 per person or $20,000 per trip

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card: Best for Gas Purchases

the freedom flex MasterCard

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card is a good pick for a gas credit card because it has no annual fee, and for one quarter every year (usually Q1), it offers 5% cash back on the first $1,500 in combined purchases on gas and local commuter transportation. While it’s not a year-round discount, you’ll also get 5% back on travel booked directly with Chase. You’ll also received $200 back on $500 spend in your first three months.

One way to receive even more than 5% return on your gas purchases with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card is by pairing it with any card that earns Ultimate Rewards points. While the Freedom Flex℠ card alone is strictly a cash back card, if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can transfer your cash back rewards at $0.01 per point into your Ultimate Rewards account. From there, you can expand the value way beyond one cent per point in value when you redeem for free travel. If you’re interested in learning more about the Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve cards, check out our post on the Top Airline Credit Cards.

Keep in mind, Chase does have another Freedom card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited℠ Card, which offers a strict 1.5% cash back on every purchase (no rotating categories). While the bonus might not be as high during the gas bonus quarter, there’s no cap to the cash back that you receive with the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card (and it offers the same sign-up bonus with no annual fee). These rewards can also be transferred to your Ultimate Rewards account for maximizing your bonus. For some, this hassle-free card may be a better pick.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card Features

  • 5% cash back at a rotating list of categories each quarter, up to $1,500
    • Gas is usually in Q1, but you also get 5% back on travel booked directly with Chase
  • $200 cash back with $500 spend in the first three months
  • No annual fee

Platinum Card by American Express: Best for High-Spend Travel

American Expres Platinum Card

The American Express Platinum Card is a great choice to have in your wallet for post-pandemic travel. It’s my favorite card in my wallet for traveling in style. Not only do I get lounge access to over 1,200 lounges worldwide, like Amex’s own fantastic Centurion Lounges, but the card also offers many other perks for when I fly. They recently added trip protections, which was sorely needed, as well as a $15/month Uber credit ($35 in December).

In addition, you have a yearly $200 Airline Fee Credit for an airline of your choice to waive fees, including seat selection, bag fees, and change fees.

If you don’t already have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you can use the card’s fee credit to waive the $100 sign-up fee.

The card also comes with trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage as well as cell phone protection, which may help you if you drop your phone during your travels. Full terms are here.

American Express Platinum Card Features

  • Lounge access at over 1,2000 lounges, including Amex Centurion Lounge
    • Best used for fees like TSA PreCheck, seat selection, carry-on bags, or flight change fees
  • An Uber credit of up to $15 per month
  • Trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage as well as cell phone protection

What are your favorite travel credit cards? Let us know in the comments!