Best Credit Cards for Road Trips

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Planning a road trip and want to maximize your travel rewards? What are the best credit cards for road trips? That’s what the Nerdy Millennial wants to know.

She commented on my post on how to use points for car rentals asking,

This is great information because I am entering a time in my life where I will be making monthly road trips to see my kids while I go to graduate school. I need something that will earn me points on hotels and possibly gas. Do you have any suggestions for my specific needs?

Lately, I’ve been taking a lot of staycations and road trips to places like Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. I’m enjoying exploring California and visiting cities I would normally just drive through.

The freedom to decide when and where to go versus maintaining a strict time schedule is exhilarating.

It’s gotten me so excited that I’m planning road trips to other states for later in the year.

If you’re a miles and points junkie like me you’ll want to make sure to bring the right credit cards to hit the road.

So you don’t leave any miles (pun intended), points, or cash back behind, here are the best credit cards to use for a road trip.

Best Credit Cards for Road Trips

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred

One of the best cards for a road trip is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You earn 2 points for every dollar you spend on dining and travel: airline tickets, hotels, and rental cars. If you use this card you’ll earn lots of points on a road trip.

Points are transferrable to 13 airline and hotel partners like Southwest and Marriott. So you can use the points for free nights on the road.

This is a great card if you’re getting started earning travel rewards. The annual fee of $95 is reasonable. The only downside, you won’t earn points for gas purchases.

Pro-tip: Here’s how to earn points for gas purchases with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Prepay your fuel on your rental car for your road trip and you’ll earn points for gas. You may end up paying more for gas but you’ll earn 2 points per $1 spent instead of only one.

2. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (learn more)

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (learn how to apply) is one of the best credit cards for road trips.

Because you earn 2 miles on all purchases and you earn 10 miles per $1 spent on hotels.

As a bonus you get the $95 annual fee waived your first year. But you can only use miles for travel.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS CARD.

3. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (learn more)

 

You can earn cash back during your road trip with the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (learn more). Some people prefer cash back to points. Because you can use cash for everything. 🙂

You get 3% cash back at US gas stations, 6% cash back at US supermarkets, and 1% cash back on everything else. You can stock up on snacks for the road and earn cash back.

With this card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the annual fee is a reasonable $95. You won’t earn cash back on hotels but there’s a workaround.

Pro-tip: You can buy Visa, Mastercard, and Hotels.com gift cards at many US grocery stores. If you pay with your Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express you’ll earn 6% cash back.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS CARD.

4. Chase Freedom

 

You earn 1% cash back on all purchases with the Chase Freedom card. But what makes this card one of the best credit cards for road trips is the rotating bonus categories.

Every quarter you earn 5% on certain categories like gas. So you could earn 5% cash back when gas is a rotating category.

A 5% return is pretty impressive for a no annual fee card.

With the Chase Freedom card you can choose cash back or points. If you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve you can transfer points to participating hotels to pay for your hotel room.

Pro-tip: Stock up on gas station gift cards at grocery stores during the 5% bonus. Then use those cards to pay for fuel on your road trip.

5. Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card (learn more)

The rarely talked about no annual fee Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card is among the top credit cards for a road trip.

You earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases making it a versatile card for all types of travel.

Mobile wallet purchases earn 1.8% cash back during your first 12 months of having the card. With so many gas stations accepting mobile wallet payments, you can earn 1.8% cash back on fuel and snacks bought at gas stations.

One of the best features of this card is up to $600 cell phone protection. So if you drop, run over, or someone steals your phone during your road trip, you’re covered.

Pro-tip: The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card offers 0% APR for 12 months on balance transfers.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS CARD.

6. Chase Freedom Unlimited

 

Another top credit card for a road trip is the Chase Freedom Unlimited because it’s so handy.

You earn 1.5% cash back when you fuel up, when you sleep (at hotels), when you eat, and everywhere you use the card.

Because there’s no annual fee this Chase Freedom Unlimited should have a permanent spot in your wallet.

Pro-tip: You can transfer points to participating airlines and hotels if you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve.

7. Chase Sapphire Reserve

 

One of the best credit cards for road trips is the Chase Sapphire Reserve. You earn 3 points on travel which includes hotels, car rentals, and flights.

You also earn 3 points at restaurants including fast food. Which any road tripper knows is practically a road trip staple!

Not only do you earn lots of points but you get perks that come in handy on a road trip. You get elite status, upgrades, and discounts on car rentals. Plus you get free room upgrades, meals, and other discounts when you book hotels through the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection and Relais & Chateaux.

You can offset the $550 annual fee because you get a yearly $300 travel credit. The credit is automatically applied to all travel purchases including Airbnb rentals.

Pro-tip: The Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t earn bonus points for gas but you can use the same trick as you would with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Prepay your fuel on rental cars.

Conclusion

These best credit cards for road trips can help you cover your travel expenses.

Whether you’re on the road for work, planning the epic family vacation road trip a la National Lampoon, or relocating across the country with the right card you can earn lots of points and/or cash back.

You can earn free hotel nights with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Capital One Venture Rewards (learn more), and Chase Sapphire Reserve

Cards like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (learn more), Chase Freedom, Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa (learn more), and Chase Freedom Unlimited earn cash back on all purchases. You’ll earn 6% cash back on gas with the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (learn more).

With a few of these cards in your wallet, your next road trip just got cheaper.

Which is your favorite credit card for road trips?

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Traveling Well For Less has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Traveling Well For Less and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.


Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for beginning travel hackers. It is the first card you should get to start traveling for free because the welcome offer is 60,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
 
My favorite perks about this card are earning 2X points on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees, and transferring points to 13 airline and hotel partners like Hyatt, United, and Southwest.
 

Debra Schroeder

Debra is a former 12-year travel industry executive and has traveled the world using airline miles and credit card points since 1994. She'll teach you the secrets of traveling well for less.

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20 Comments

  • The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
  • Danik March 31, 2019 at 2:25 am

    I am not a big fan of Credit Cards but they are very useful for hiring out rental cards. Looks like there are some good deals here but this is more focused on the American market (I am British based in london, Uk). However by the looks of it, credit cards in the USA offer more incientives than those here which is a plus.

    • Debra Schroeder April 2, 2019 at 5:52 am

      Hi Danik,

      We do have more rewarding rewards cards in the US. There are some good ones for UK residents.

  • Tom Bourlet April 1, 2019 at 3:33 am

    I’ll be honest, I still have never used a credit card!! It seems bizarre and also not the best as a travel blogger, as I recommend others book their flights on them, but ah well. They do have so many benefits when abroad, I will have to review this and finally get one before my next trip.

  • Stevo Joslin April 1, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    My wife and I have been traveling for years now and I know our credit card miles game could use some work. Thanks for this handy guide! I’ve heard people mention the Sapphire Reserve but didn’t know many details, you had me at three points for fast food. All these extra points will make travel so much easier and cheaper in the long run. Thanks for sharing!

    • Tami April 1, 2019 at 9:17 pm

      For rebates on gas purchases, we really like our Costco card. It’s cheapest when we buy gas from Costco gas stations, and on top of the lower price we get another 4% back in rebates. But we also get 4% back for gas purchased at any gas stations in the United States. So that’s our go-to card for all gas purchases. Then we use our Sapphire card for everything else!

      • Debra Schroeder April 2, 2019 at 5:47 am

        Hi Tami,

        Costco’s 4% rebate is a good deal. The only bummer is that there’s aren’t Costcos everywhere.

    • Debra Schroeder April 2, 2019 at 5:49 am

      Hi Steve,

      So glad you liked the post! Let me know if you need any extra tips.

  • Linda (LD Holland) April 1, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    It is always interesting to read posts that talk about the variety of credit cards available in U.S. I get all excited and then find they are not available in Canada or to Canadians. But finding a card that has higher points for gas purchases is a great tip for doing a road trip. I have a credit card that lets me switch which purchases get extra points. Good to remember to switch it to gas for my next road trip!

    • Debra Schroeder April 2, 2019 at 5:48 am

      Hi Linda,

      Glad you liked the post. There are some good rewards cards for Canadians, although I’m not as familiar with those.

  • Christina April 2, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    It looks like there’s quite a range of credit cards and a useful post if you’re looking for a new card! I’ll pass this on to my friend who is in the market for one right now!

    • Debra Schroeder April 6, 2019 at 7:13 am

      Hi Christina,

      There sure are. Glad you enjoyed the post and are passing it along.

  • Nicole April 2, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    I really need to get into travel hacking as I have an address in the US just no US credit cards. I’m going to study this and find the best one for me – which I think is sapphire. Such good rewards

  • Medha Verma April 2, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Wow, you’ve done your research in credit cards. Chase Sapphire sounds great for earning points on almost everything related to travel! We don’t really have these many options here where I live, unfortunately (Dubai) and the one I use doesn’t have a lot of benefits related to travel. But your post has inspired me to look into all the options available.

    • Debra Schroeder April 6, 2019 at 7:14 am

      Hi Medha,

      Best of luck to you. I’m not familiar with any travel rewards card for Dubai but if I come across any, I’ll be sure to let you know.

  • Jitaditya April 5, 2019 at 6:32 am

    Thanks for such a well-researched piece. I have never applied much though on such things but I think smart decisions based on research like this can make travel much easier.

  • Trisha April 5, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    Badly need this now that Im back to long term traveling in the Americas!! I thinl the best cards are the ones that offer insurance as well! Beaides having handy points.

    • Debra Schroeder April 6, 2019 at 7:16 am

      Hi Trisha,

      Yes, definitely use this post as a reference. Let me know if you need any help.

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