Posted: 7/28/2023 | July 28th, 2023
When it comes to choosing a travel credit card, most people balk at paying an annual fee, especially for the premium cards where the fees are $500 or more per year.
I get that. When you first start out travel hacking, there’s cheaper options to choose from.
But frequent travelers can easily get more value out of these cards than the cost of the annual fee thanks to the host of benefits that premium cards offer.
Most premium cards come with unlimited airport lounge access, free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®, travel insurance, high welcome bonuses, higher points-earning capabilities than lower fee cards, and other perks, such as statement credits for travel, dining, or delivery — all of which help offset the annual cost of the card.
That means that having a premium card in your wallet makes your travel experience easier and more comfortable, which can make a big difference since flight delays and cancellations are more common than ever.
To help you decide what card is best for you and your travel goals, here is my list of the best premium travel credit cards out there:
MY TOP PICK: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
This is my favorite premium rewards card. It’s the upgraded version of one of the most popular travel credit cards out there (the Chase Sapphire Preferred) and includes a lot of fantastic perks for avid travelers. While the $550 fee is steep on paper, the $300 annual travel credit is very easy to get, effectively reducing the annual fee to a more reasonable $250. The Reserve also offers lounge access, great travel insurance, and an array of statement credits that, when used right, can give you benefits worth even more than $250.
I like this card better than the AMEX Platinum because it comes with better points earning bonus categories and more practical, everyday perks like DoorDash, Instacart, and Lyft perks.
With this card, you get:
- 60,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months)
- 3x points on travel
- 3x points on dining
- 5x points on flights when booked through Chase
- 10x points on hotels and rental cars when booked through Chase
- 10x points on Lyft + 2-year Lyft Pink membership
- $300 annual travel credit
- Priority Pass Membership for lounge access
- $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check
- Travel insurance including trip delay coverage, primary car rental insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and trip cancellation insurance
- 1 year of complimentary Instacart+ membership (includes up to $15 in statement credits each month through July 2024)
- Complimentary DashPass membership (includes $5 in DoorDash credits each month)
You can also combine points earned with this card with no-fee Chase cards (like the Chase Freedom and Chase Unlimited) to increase your points-earning power too!
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Notorious as the premium travel credit card with the highest annual fee ($695), the Platinum is one of the best premium cards out there — if you take advantage of its luxury benefits. This card unlocks a ton of lounge access, elite status benefits, travel perks, special hotel discounts, and luxury goods and service credits. (If you’re a business owner, there’s a business version of the Platinum, with many similar perks as well as statement credits more geared towards business owners.)
The Platinum is best for people who value luxury travel, lifestyle perks, and statement credits over everyday points earning capabilities.
With this card, you get:
- Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases in your first six months
- Earn 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on the first $500,000 spent per calendar year)
- Earn 5x Membership Rewards® points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
- Earn 1x on all other purchases
- Access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection® (includes The Centurion® Network, Delta Sky Club® when flying Delta, and Priority Pass Select lounges)
- Travel insurance coverage including secondary car rental insurance, trip interruption and cancellation, lost luggage reimbursement
- $200 in airline credit (on one qualifying airline, must choose airline in advance, on incidentals only, not airfare)
- $200 in hotel credit on select prepaid hotel bookings when booked through amextravel.com
- $189 annual CLEAR® Plus statement credit (covers an annual membership)
- $100 Global Entry or TSA pre-check credit every 5 years
- $15 in monthly Uber Cash (plus a bonus $20 in December)
- $50 biannual Saks Fifth Avenue credit
- $300 annual Equinox credits
- Up to $20 monthly in digital entertainment credits (includes Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times)
- Monthly Walmart+ membership
Capital One Venture X Rewards
This card got an overhaul a few years ago. It has all the perks you’d expect of a top-notch credit card, including a generous welcome bonus, lounge access, travel credits, and a solid points-earning structure. At $395, it’s the cheapest premium travel credit card out there, and the 2x points you can earn on every purchase as well as no fee for up to four authorized users are both unique in this class of card.
The Venture X is best for people that want a straight-forward card with a higher-than-normal earning rate on all purchases and that are happy to book through the Capital One travel portal in order to receive the bonus spend rates.
When you sign up for this card, you get:
- 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
- 10x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
- 5x miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
- 2x miles on all other purchases
- $300 travel credit when booking through the Capital One portal
- $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
- Unlimited complimentary access to Capital One, Priority Pass, and Plaza Premium lounges
- 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
- Travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance, trip interruption and cancellation, luggage reimbursement
Best Premium Airline Cards
If flying with a certain airline (or airline alliance) is a priority, here’s a quick look at some of my favorite premium airline credit cards:
card_name – This is Delta’s top tier card. With the Reserve you’ll earn 85,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases in the first six months, 3x miles on purchases made directly with Delta, 15% off when booking award travel on Delta flights, priority boarding, and complimentary access to Delta Sky Clubs. $550 annual fee. Terms apply. Rates and fees.
card_name – United’s premium card, the Infinite card currently has a welcome offer of 80,000 bonus miles and 2,000 PQP. You’ll get 4x miles on United purchases, 2x miles on dining, two free checked bags, and up to $100 Global Entry® or TSA PreCheck® fee credit. $525 annual fee. Terms apply.
card_name – For American Airlines frequent fliers, this is your premium card. Earn 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of account opening, 2x miles on eligible American airlines purchases, one free checked bag (for yourself as well as up to eight travel companions on the same reservation), and up to $100 Global Entry® or TSA PreCheck® fee credit. $450 annual fee. Terms apply.
Best Premium Hotel Cards
If staying in hotels is a priority, here’s a quick look at some of my favorite premium hotel credit cards:
card_name – Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points after making $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months, plus earn 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy® bonus points after you stay 6 eligible paid nights at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy through 1/31/24 (offer ends 8/9/23). Earn 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy, 3x points on restaurants, 3x on flights booked directly with airlines, 2x points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases, and up to $100 Global Entry® or TSA PreCheck® fee credit. $650 annual fee. Terms apply. Rates and fees.
card_name – Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, 14x Hilton Honors points on eligible purchases at participating Hilton properties, 7x points on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, 7x points at U.S. restaurants, 3x points on all other purchases, $250 Hilton resort credit, Priority Pass Select membership, and free night certificate. Terms apply. Rates and fees.
The premium travel credit card space has more options than ever. Whether you’re looking for premium lifestyle benefits, just need an easy-to-use card, or want to elevate your airline or hotel experiences, there’s a premium card out there for you. If you’re smart and take advantage of all that these cards have to offer, you can easily come out on top, traveling for free and making your entire experience that much more enjoyable.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is one thing you WILL want to buy. It’s there if you get sick, robbed, delayed, or a trip cancelled. I never go on a trip without it because you never know what could happen. Don’t skip it. I’ve seen too many travelers regret doing so. My favorite companies are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card to get started. For US residents, here’s how you can get points on rent too.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.
Advertiser Disclosure: “Nomadic Matt has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Some or all of the card offers on this page are from advertisers and compensation may impact how and where card products appear on the site. Nomadic Matt and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.”
Editorial Disclosure: “Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities. This page does not include all card companies or all available card offers.”