CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. Sometimes we receive a commission through The Points Guy affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

It’s the perfect time to start thinking about a vacation. Maybe it’s a romantic getaway with someone special, or maybe it’s a beach trip to escape the icy cold weather at home. If the winter blues are hitting you right about now, CNN Underscored‘s list of the best travel credit cards for 2020 should come in handy. Because the right credit card can earn you enough in travel rewards to make your getaway easier, or more enjoyable, or — dare we say it — even almost free.

Our comprehensive methodology compares every aspect of each travel credit card to our “benchmark credit card” — the Citi® Double Cash Card — to determine which cards can potentially bring you maximum value. And even if you already have a credit card to use for travel purchases and perks, unless you got it relatively recently, it’s highly likely it’s outdated and no longer the best choice to serve your current needs or spending habits.

So check out our list of the best travel credit cards in 2020 to decide which one might get you to that exciting spot you’ve been dreaming about.

The best travel credit cards of 2020

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card: Best for easy-to-use travel rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Best low-fee travel rewards card
The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best luxury travel perks
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for travel purchases
American Express® Green Card: Best for occasional lounge access
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card: Best travel protections for no annual fee
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card: Best no-annual-fee travel card
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Best airline travel card
World of Hyatt Credit Card: Best hotel travel card

Why did we select these cards as our best travel credit cards for 2020? Dive into the details of each card with us, and see how they stack up.

Best for easy-to-use travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards

Why it’s great in one sentence: You’ll earn 2 Capital One miles per dollar on every purchase with the Capital One Venture Credit Card, and you can redeem those miles for any travel purchase you make at 1 cent per mile, or transfer them to Capital One’s airline partners for potentially even more valuable redemptions.

This card is right for: People who want to travel for free, using easily redeemable miles, but with the option to learn how to master transferable miles down the line for even greater value.

Highlights:

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases with no limit.
  • Redeem miles for any travel purchase at a rate of 1 cent per mile.
  • Miles can also be transferred to any of Capital One’s 17 airline partners.
  • Up to $100 credit when applying for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee for the first year, then $95 per year.

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account.

What we like about the Capital One Venture: Some people want easy-to-redeem travel rewards. Others don’t mind more complicated redemptions that can increase the value of their miles. The Capital One Venture card gives you the best of both worlds. For folks who don’t want to deal with complex charts or award availability, you can use the Venture’s “Purchase Eraser” feature. It uses miles you’ve accumulated to pay off any travel purchases that you make with the card at a rate of 1 cent per mile, making the 50,000-mile sign-up bonus worth at least $500 in travel.

For others who want to put in the time and research to find first- or business-class flight redemptions, Capital One’s 17 airline transfer partners provide another option. You can transfer miles to most of those partners at a 2-to-1.5 ratio (meaning for every 2 Venture miles you transfer, you’ll get 1.5 airline miles on the other end), while Emirates, Singapore Air and Accor Hotels transfer at a 2-to-1 ratio.

You’ll also get up to a $100 fee credit when applying for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, no foreign transaction fees, and a year with no annual fee to try out the card.

Use the Capital One Venture to take your family on a beach vacation.

What could be better: There’s only one bonus category on the Capital One Venture — you’ll earn 5 miles per dollar on hotels or car rentals, but only when you book them through Capital One Travel. Unfortunately, you likely won’t get elite credit or have your elite benefits honored when booking a hotel through a travel portal instead of directly with the hotel. It also doesn’t have trip cancellation or interruption coverage, which is somewhat unusual for a travel credit card.

If you’re only planning to redeem your miles using the “Purchase Eraser,” you could be better off with our benchmark Citi Double Cash card, which earns 2% cash back on everything — 1% when you make a purchase, 1% when you pay it off — since you’ll be effectively earning 2 cents in rewards for every dollar you spend either way, but the Venture card has a $95 annual fee after the first year.

Capital One’s transfer partners also include only one US airline option (JetBlue), though advanced cardholders will be able to leverage international airline alliances to score domestic redemptions. But if you think you’ll mix in some airline transfers, even down the line, the Venture card serves as a great beginner gateway to the world of transferable points.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Sign-up bonus, purchase protections, travel protections.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee and an introductory rate on balance transfers.

Read our complete Capital One Venture credit card review.
Learn more about the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card.

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Best low-fee travel rewards card: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Why it’s great in one sentence: The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining purchases, plus 1 point per dollar on all other purchases; points can be redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards at 1.25 cents per point, or transferred to the program’s airline and hotel partners for potentially even more valuable redemptions.

This card is right for: People with larger than average travel and/or dining expenses who want a low-fee card with basic transferable points.

Highlights:

  • Earn 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases.
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Points can be redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.25 cents per point.
  • Points can also be transferred to any of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $95 annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

What we like about the Chase Sapphire Preferred: It may not seem like it, but at over 10 years old, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is practically the granddaddy of travel credit cards. WIth classic travel and dining bonus categories, a recently added bonus category that earns 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides, and a 60,000-point sign-up bonus, it should be easy to quickly score plenty of points, especially since Chase defines “travel” very broadly to include purchases like mass transit, tolls, parking and even ride-shares.

But the real power of the CSP is in its redemptions. You’ll get 1.25 cents per point when redeeming points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, and can get potentially even more value when transferring points to one of Chase’s 13 travel partners. In fact, the Ultimate Rewards program still features some of the best transfer partners, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Hyatt Hotels, and all Chase partners transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio.

To top it off, you can safely use the Sapphire Preferred overseas, since it has no foreign transaction fees on international purchases. It even provides primary car rental insurance, so you don’t have to look to your own auto policy first if you have an accident with your rental car.

You’ll get primary car rental insurance with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

What could be better: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a classic, but in some ways it’s starting to get long in the tooth. Other credit cards now offer bonus points or cash back in those same travel and dining categories, and in some cases at higher rates (though usually accompanied by higher annual fees).

Even our benchmark Citi Double Cash card earns 2% on all purchases (1% when you buy, plus 1% when you pay it off) and not just on travel and dining, though you can get more value when redeeming your Sapphire Preferred points than you can with simple cash back. You also no longer get the first year’s $95 annual fee waived with the CSP, so you’re paying for the card right out of the gate.

For many people, the Sapphire Preferred isn’t as flashy as its big brother, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which comes with travel perks, higher bonus rates and a $300 annual travel credit (but also a $550 annual fee). But if you don’t need or won’t use all those extra perks, you may be better off with this significantly less expensive version.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Travel and dining bonus categories, excellent travel protections, solid airline and hotel partners, sign-up bonus.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Read our complete Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

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Best luxury travel perks: The Platinum Card from American Express

Why it’s great in one sentence: It’s definitely not cheap, but the famous American Express Platinum card is a heavyweight when it comes to travel perks, with up to $200 in annual airline fee credit, up to $200 in annual Uber credit, access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide, including Amex’s own Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, elite status with Hilton, Marriott, Hertz, Avis and National Car Rental, and many other luxury travel benefits.

This card is right for: People who want top-notch luxury travel perks, refundable travel credits and transferable travel rewards.

Highlights:

  • Earn 5 points for every dollar you spend on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • Earn 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked on Amex Travel.
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Points can be redeemed for travel through Amex Travel at a rate of up to 1 cent per point.
  • Points can also be transferred to any of Amex’s 21 airline and hotel partners.
  • Up to $200 in statement credits annually for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue.
  • Up to $15 in statement credits every month ($35 in December) when you pay for your Uber rides with the card.
  • Complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta, and Priority Pass airport lounges (not including Priority Pass restaurants).
  • Complimentary Gold Elite status with Hilton and Marriott hotel chains.
  • Complimentary Preferred Elite status with Hertz, Avis and National Car Rental chains.
  • Complimentary Shoprunner membership.
  • Access to American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms apply.

Welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus points after you make $5,000 in eligible purchases in your first three months.

What we like about the American Express Platinum: If you want to feel like a true VIP when you’re traveling, take the plunge and get an Amex Platinum. For some road warriors, access to so many airport lounges — and especially to Amex’s own Centurion Lounges, which are considered some of the best domestic airport lounges in the US — is worth the cost of the card all by itself.

But if you can also take advantage of the card’s up-to-$200 annual incidental airline fee credit as well as the up-to-$200 annual Uber credit, plus the up-to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit (which you can use to buy anything at Saks, either in-store or online), you’ll be scoring up to $500 worth of annual credits for a card that costs $550 a year, leaving a net cost of only $50.

The cherry on top is the 60,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $5,000 on the card in your first three months, which at the very least you should be able to redeem for a pair of domestic airline tickets for you and a companion, or even a trip to Europe in coach for yourself.

Use your Amex Platinum bonus to score a pair of domestic airline tickets.

What could be better: For an annual fee of $550 a year, you need to be able to really take advantage of the perks of this card to make it worth the cost. And surprisingly, the American Express Platinum isn’t a terrific card when it comes to earning points. It’s strong when you’re booking airline tickets, since you’ll earn an impressive 5 points for every dollar you spend directly with airlines. But to earn 5 points per dollar at hotels, you’ll need to book only prepaid hotels, and only through Amex Travel. For such an expensive card, those aren’t exceptional bonus categories.

The credits on the Amex Platinum can also be a challenge to maximize. Unlike travel credits on cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the up-to-$200 airline incidental fee credit is only good on the one airline you choose each year, and then only for certain fees like checked baggage or in-cabin pet fees. The up-to-$200 Uber credit doesn’t come as one big credit, but instead as a monthly series of $15 credits, with an extra $20 in December to get to the $200 total. Even the Saks Fifth Avenue credit is split in two, with $50 available in the first six months of the calendar year and the other $50 in the second half.

In the end, the Amex Platinum isn’t really designed for everyday use — rather, you need to be a regular traveler with a desire to be treated better during those long days on the road for the cost of the card to make sense.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Luxury travel perks and travel credits, airline and hotel bonus categories, solid travel protections, extensive airline and hotel partners, welcome bonus.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Read our complete American Express Platinum card review.
Learn more about the American Express Platinum Card.

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Best for travel purchases: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Why it’s great in one sentence: The hugely popular Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a high price tag, but also a $300 annual travel credit that’s easy to use, airport lounge access, a new $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 and 2021, a massively increased earning rate when you use Lyft, and 3 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining.

This card is right for: People who make lots of travel purchases, both in their daily lives and while on the road.

Highlights:

  • $300 annual travel credit.
  • Earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on dining purchases.
  • Earn 3 points per dollar on travel purchases (after using your $300 travel credit each year).
  • Earn 10 points per dollar on Lyft purchases through March 2022.
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Points can be redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.
  • Points can also be transferred to any of Chase’s 13 airline and hotel partners.
  • $60 annual DoorDash credit in both 2020 and 2021.
  • Up to two years of free DashPass membership.
  • One free year of Lyft Pink membership.
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $550 annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

What we like about the Chase Sapphire Reserve: When it first launched in 2016, the Chase Sapphire Reserve was an instant hit, thanks in part to its broad travel and dining categories. It’s incredibly easy to earn bonus points with the card, since “dining” includes almost every restaurant, fast food and even food delivery services such as Seamless, and “travel” encompasses not just the usual airlines and hotels, but taxis, transit, tolls, ride-shares and even parking. That also makes the $300 annual travel credit easy to use up, since all the same travel purchases count toward it every year.

A brand new $60 annual DoorDash credit further adds to the card’s value — if you can utilize it along with the travel credit, you’re left with an effective annual fee of just $190. The ability to redeem points you earn with the card for any flight or hotel at a rate of 1.5 cents per point via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal makes the card’s rewards easy to use, though you’ll potentially get even more value if you can dive into the more advanced airline and hotel transfer partners.

And if you fly regularly, especially overseas, you’ll find solid value in the card’s Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, with access for you and up to two guests to over 1,200 lounges around the world.

Visit the Plaza Premium Lounge at London Heathrow, part of the Priority Pass Select network.

What could be better: While the high cost of the Chase Sapphire Reserve was easy to justify for the last several years, it recently increased its annual fee from $450 to $550, which means you’ll really need to be able to use all the card’s perks for the price to make sense.

The new Lyft bonus category means you’ll earn an impressive 10 points for every dollar you spend on the ride-sharing service, but it won’t be of any use to people who don’t use Lyft on a regular basis. The same goes for the added DoorDash annual credit and free DashPass membership, which are only valuable to folks who order food for delivery and have DoorDash service in their area.

And while the travel and dining bonus categories were market-leading four years ago, there are now other credit cards with similar if not even better earning rates in those categories, such as the American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4 points per dollar on restaurant purchases worldwide. Or, if the annual fee increase on the Sapphire Reserve is too much to stomach, consider the cheaper Chase Sapphire Preferred with fewer travel perks but only a $95 annual fee.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Easy-to-use travel credit, travel and dining bonus categories, excellent travel protections, solid airline and hotel partners, sign-up bonus.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Explore whether the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth the increased annual fee.
Learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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Best for occasional lounge access: American Express Green Card

Why it’s great in one sentence: The much-improved American Express Green card features bonus categories of 3 points per dollar on eligible travel and dining purchases, along with an annual credit of up to $100 on CLEAR membership, up to $100 a year on LoungeBuddy purchases, an impressive set of airline and hotel transfer partners and an annual fee of just $150.

This card is right for: People who travel occasionally and only need airport lounge access a few times a year for a significantly lower cost than high-end premium travel credit cards.

Highlights:

  • Earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on eligible travel and transit.
  • Earn 3 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide.
  • Points can be redeemed for travel through Amex Travel at a rate of up to 1 cent per point.
  • Points can also be transferred to any of Amex’s 21 airline and hotel partners.
  • Up to $100 per year in statement credits for your CLEAR membership.
  • Up to $100 per year in statement credits for LoungeBuddy purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $150 annual fee.
  • Terms apply.

Welcome bonus: 30,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months.

What we like about the American Express Green: This iconic card was recently revamped, and the new Amex Green is a major step up over the old version. You’ll earn 3 miles per dollar on travel and dining purchases, and the travel category is about as broad as Chase’s, covering everything from airfare, hotels and cruises, to taxis, ride-shares, tours, ferries, tolls, parking, buses and subways.

American Express Membership Rewards points are easy to transfer to 21 airline and hotel programs, and while you’ll need to do your homework to maximize point transfers, you can get massive value for these points with some effort.

The Amex Green is also the first major credit card to feature an annual credit when you purchase a CLEAR membership, which speeds your way through TSA security at eligible domestic airports by eliminating the need to produce an ID card, as well as providing expedited access to selected stadiums and concert events. And the up-to-$100 in LoungeBuddy annual statement credits are a perfect way for occasional travelers to get the benefits of airport lounge access without having to pay a large annual fee for it.

Get up to $100 annually off a CLEAR membership with your Amex Green credit card.

What could be better: You won’t get great value for your Amex points if you try to redeem them directly for travel using Amex Travel, as the best redemption rate via that route is flights at 1 cent per point — better to earn cash back on everything with the Citi Double Cash card if you’re going to go that route. The best redemption option for Amex points is transferring them to the program’s airline and hotel partners, which requires some research, but it’s the easiest way to fly internationally in first or business class using travel rewards.

While Amex recently added trip cancellation and interruption coverage to a number of its credit cards, the Amex Green wasn’t one of them, though it did get trip delay coverage, which reimburses you for up to $300 in expenses if your trip is delayed more than 12 hours due to a covered reason.

Finally, the Amex Green annual fee is a bit more than the usual $95 that many cards charge, but as long as you can take advantage of both of the annual credits, you’ll more than offset that fee.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Travel and dining bonus categories, travel perks, travel protections, airline and hotel transfer partners, sign-up bonus.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Learn more about the American Express Green Card.

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Best travel protections for no annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express

Why it’s great in one sentence: The Wells Fargo Propel Amex features a unique combination of strong bonus categories, easy-to-redeem points, an introductory interest rate on purchases and balance transfers, solid travel protections, no foreign transaction fees, and even cell phone protection coverage, all for no annual fee.

This card is right for: People who spend significant money on dining, travel (including gas) and certain streaming services, and want to earn travel rewards for no annual fee.

Highlights:

  • Earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on dining and travel.
  • Earn 3 points per dollar on gas stations, ride-shares and transit.
  • Earn 3 points per dollar on popular streaming services.
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Cell phone protection coverage.
  • 0% interest on all purchases for the first 12 months (15.49%-27.49% variable afterward).
  • 0% interest for 12 months on balance transfers made in the first 120 days after you open the card (15.49%-27.49% variable afterward).
  • Balance transfer fee of 3% of each transaction (minimum $5).
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months.

What we like about the Wells Fargo Propel: While we’ve included it on our best travel credit cards list, the Wells Fargo Propel Amex is similar to a cash back card, since its points can be redeemed at 1 cent per point whether it’s for travel, gift cards, as a statement credit or even for cash at a Wells Fargo ATM. But the card has a great mix of features, including a slew of useful 3x bonus categories that cover many everyday purchases.

You’ll also find a 0% introductory interest rate on both purchases and balance transfers, though be sure to clear your debt within 12 months, because after that the rate jumps to a variable 15.49%-27.49%, depending on your creditworthiness. You won’t be charged a foreign transaction fee for overseas purchases with the Wells Fargo Propel, and you get many enhanced travel protections, such as travel accident insurance, car rental damage coverage, and lost luggage insurance.

You’ll even be covered for up to $600 in the event your cell phone is stolen or damaged (subject to a $25 deductible), so long as you pay your cell phone bill with the Propel Amex. It’s a surprisingly robust set of benefits and perks on a card that has no annual fee.

You’re covered with the Wells Fargo Propel Amex if your cell phone is stolen or damaged.

What could be better: The major feature missing from the Wells Fargo Propel is the ability to transfer points to airline or hotel programs — instead, you can only redeem the points for travel using the issuer’s Go Far Rewards travel portal. (However, there’s one way to increase the value of your points: If you also have the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Card, you can transfer your points between the cards and redeem them for airfare at 1.5 cents per point through the Visa Signature.)

You’ll also want to be sure the bonus categories make sense for you based on your spending habits versus a flat-rate everyday card. The Propel Amex is also missing a few high-end travel protections like trip delay and trip interruption coverage, but frankly, for a no-annual-fee card, these are minor omissions.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Bonus points for travel, dining and streaming services, travel protections, cell phone protection, an introductory rate on purchases, sign-up bonus.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has a longer introductory period on balance transfers (18 months) and the option to convert its cash back to transferable ThankYou points if you also have the Citi Premier℠ Card or Citi Prestige®.

Learn more about the Wells Fargo Propel American Express.

The information for the Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by CNN Underscored. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Best no-annual-fee travel card: Capital One VentureOne Rewards

Why it’s great in one sentence: One of the few no-annual-fee credit cards with both transfer partners and easy-to-redeem direct redemptions, the Capital One VentureOne features a lower earning rate than its more expensive brother but offers the same solid redemption options.

This card is right for: People who like the features of the Capital One Venture, but are willing to exchange a lower everyday earning rate for no annual fee.

Highlights:

  • Earn 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases with no limit.
  • Redeem miles for any travel purchase at a rate of 1 cent per mile.
  • Miles can also be transferred to any of Capital One’s 15 airline partners.
  • 0% interest on all purchases for the first 12 months (13.49%-23.49% variable afterward).
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account.

What we like about the Capital One VentureOne: Usually when there are two versions of the same credit card — one with an annual fee and another without — you can expect the one with no cost to be a fairly stripped-down offering. But that’s not necessarily the case with the Capital One VentureOne.

Most of the features of the more expensive Capital One Venture remain intact on the VentureOne, including the same 1 cent per mile redemption value when using the card’s “Purchase Eraser” to wipe out any travel charge, access to the same airline and hotel transfer partners at the same transfer ratios, the same travel and purchase protections, and even the same no foreign transaction fees.

The main two downsides of the VentureOne are a reduced 1.25 miles earned for every dollar you spend (instead of the 2 miles you get on the Venture) and only a 20,000-mile sign-up bonus, albeit with a lower minimum spending requirement of just $1,000 in purchases in the first three months you have the account. Depending on how much value you can get from these two features, you could consider the VentureOne with no annual fee and most of the best perks.

Miles earned with the Capital One VentureOne can be redeemed for any travel purchase.

What could be better: Unless you’re going to take advantage of Capital One’s transfer partners, you’d be better off with our benchmark Citi Double Cash card over the VentureOne. That’s because you’re only earning 1.25 miles per dollar with the Capital One VentureOne, and you only get 1 cent per mile when redeeming them using the “Purchase Eraser,” meaning you’re effectively getting a return of 1.25 cents per dollar spent, while the Citi Double Cash earns 2 cents per dollar spent.

That equation changes if you can utilize the transfer partners, since you can score a higher redemption rate than just 1 cent per mile if you do your homework; but if you’re ready for that more advanced step, you’re probably better off starting with the more powerful Capital One Venture card anyway, especially since the $95 annual fee on that card is waived for the first year and it comes with a bigger sign-up bonus.

In the worst-case scenario, you can always try the Venture card for a year without an annual fee, then convert it to a no-annual-fee VentureOne after the first year if you aren’t using all its features (though keep in mind you won’t get a second sign-up bonus for converting).

Where it beats our benchmark card: Sign-up bonus, purchase protections, travel protections.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has an introductory rate on balance transfers.

Learn more about the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card.

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Best airline travel card: Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card

Why it’s great in one sentence: If you even occasionally fly Delta, the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card is an easy win — taking advantage of its first checked bag free benefit for you and a companion on just one round-trip a year easily offsets its $99 annual fee (which itself is even waived for the first year).

This card is right for: People who want to avoid paying checked bag fees on Delta while also getting priority boarding and other basic Delta perks.

Highlights:

  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
  • First checked bag free for you and up to 8 companions on Delta flights.
  • Main Cabin 1 priority boarding for you and up to 8 companions on Delta flights.
  • 20% back on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • Receive a $100 Delta flight credit when you spend $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $99 annual fee (waived for the first year).

Welcome bonus: For a limited-time now through April 1, 2020, earn up to 70,000 bonus miles — 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases in your first 3 months, plus an additional 10,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of cardmembership.

What we like about the Delta Gold Amex: Of all the airline credit cards, the Delta Gold Amex makes it onto our best travel credit cards list, thanks primarily to its very generous free checked bag perk. Not only will you get a free checked bag on all Delta flights with this card (which normally costs $30 in each direction), but so will up to 8 companions on the same reservation. A family of four could save as much as $240 on a single round-trip if everyone has a bag to check, more than double the $99 annual fee on this card (which is even waived for the first year).

Everyone in your reservation also gets priority boarding, meaning you’ll be in the first Main Cabin group to get on the plane, giving you a better shot at finding overhead space for your carry-ons, and using the Delta Gold Amex on in-flight purchases gets you 20% back on staples like food, beverages and headsets (though not Wi-Fi). Also, if you manage to put $10,000 in purchases on this card in a calendar year, you’ll receive a $100 Delta flight credit that you can redeem for any Delta flight, which is a nice added perk.

Finally, if you’re going to get the Delta Gold Amex, now’s a good time since the current elevated welcome offer of 70,000 bonus points is only available now through April 1, 2020.

Your first checked bag is free on Delta flights with the Delta Gold Amex credit card.

What could be better: While Delta flyers can get decent value from the perks on the Delta Gold Amex, you probably won’t want to use it as your everyday spending card. CNN Underscored’s partner The Points Guy values Delta SkyMiles at just 1.2 cents each, which means you’re earning a fairly mediocre 2.4% return on the card’s bonus categories, and only a 1.2% return on everything else.

You’d be better off putting your daily purchases on our benchmark Citi Double Cash card and getting 2% cash back on everything — 1% when you buy it, and another 1% when you pay it off — and utilizing other credit cards with stronger bonus categories or more flexible travel rewards when you can.

Also, if you’re a heavy Delta flyer with elite status, you already have the perks that come with this card, so you’d be better off with a higher-level Delta card such as the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, both of which come with higher annual fees, but also additional benefits that can make your Delta trip easier and help you earn elite status faster.

Where it beats our benchmark card: Welcome bonus, travel perks on Delta and purchase protections.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Read our complete guide to “The best credit cards for Delta flyers in 2020.”
Learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card.

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Best hotel travel card: World of Hyatt Credit Card

Why it’s great in one sentence: The World of Hyatt Credit Card features a solid set of bonus categories and earns points in the most valuable hotel loyalty program around, while at the same time offering complimentary Hyatt Discoverist elite status and the ability to earn even higher levels of elite status.

This card is right for: People who routinely stay at Hyatt hotels, especially those chasing Hyatt elite status.

Highlights:

  • Earn 4 points for every dollar you spend at Hyatt hotels.
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on dining and on airlines tickets purchased directly from the airlines.
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting, and on fitness club and gym memberships.
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
  • Complimentary World of Hyatt Discoverist elite status and 5 qualifying night credits every year.
  • Receive an additional 2 qualifying night credits every time you spend $5,000 on your card.
  • Receive 1 free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt each year after your first cardholder anniversary.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $95 annual fee.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points — 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, plus an additional 25,000 points after you spend $6,000 total within 6 months of account opening.

What we like about the World of Hyatt Credit Card: Hyatt’s loyalty program remains by far the best of all the major hotel chains, which makes the World of Hyatt Credit Card our pick for the one hotel credit card to include on our best travel credit cards list.

You can earn boatloads of Hyatt points with this card and still get great value when redeeming Hyatt rewards, including stays at top-notch properties like the Park Hyatt New York or at the Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara all-inclusive resorts. You’ll also get automatic Hyatt Discoverist elite status just from having the card, which is the lowest-level elite status but still gets you perks such as 10% bonus points on your Hyatt stays, elite check-in, premium internet and a late 2pm checkout where available.

Plus, the Hyatt card can put you on the way to earning higher-level Explorist or Globalist elite status, since you’ll get 5 elite night credits each year and can earn 2 additional elite night credits for every $5,000 you spend on the card. But the icing on the cake starts one year from when you first open the card — you’ll receive a free night at any Category 1-4 Hyatt property every year at your card anniversary when you pay the new year’s annual fee.

Stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney using points earned with the World of Hyatt credit card.

What could be better: While the bonus categories on the World of Hyatt Credit Card are useful, it’s important to remember that Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program includes Hyatt as a transfer partner, meaning that points you earn with cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve can be turned into Hyatt points as well as other airline or hotel points, making them more flexible than just regular Hyatt points. So if you have a card like the Sapphire Reserve, you’ll do better using it on some purchases instead of the Hyatt card — for instance, you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on dining with the CSR versus just 2 points with the Hyatt card (and you’ll have more options when it comes to redeeming Chase points).

The one major downside to Hyatt is that it’s a much smaller chain than the big players such as Hilton and Marriott, which can make it difficult to find a convenient Hyatt hotel in some smaller cities, though the chain has made promising attempts to improve this situation in recent years by partnering with other hotel groups such as Small Luxury Hotels of the World, allowing you to use Hyatt points at a greater variety of properties.

Hyatt is also adding peak and off-peak redemption rates to its award chart on March 22, meaning properties will become more expensive to redeem points for during high-demand times (though they’ll also be cheaper in low-demand periods).

Where it beats our benchmark card: Sign-up bonus, decent bonus categories, travel perks at Hyatt.

Where our benchmark card is better: The Citi Double Cash has no annual fee, an introductory rate on balance transfers and easy cash back.

Click here to learn more about the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

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Looking for a new credit card but not interested in travel? Check out CNN Underscored’s list of “The best credit cards of 2020.”

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.