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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 and visiting National Parks like White Sands, Zion, Moab. Plus going to Las Vegas every month.

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.

1. US Bank Altitude Connect

The US Bank Altitude Connect is one of the best credit cards for road trips. You earn 4X points at gas stations and on travel.

You also earn 2X points at grocery stores, dining, grocery delivery, and streaming. Perfect for stocking up on road trips snacks and treats, eating out while on the road, and having groceries delivered to your hotel, motel, or vacation rental.

If you’re traveling with the kids, they can stay occupied on those long drives by watching their favorite movies and shows or listening to music. While you enjoy a blissfully quiet car trip and earn bonus points!

You can use your points for flights, hotels, rental cars, cash back, and more!

The annual fee of $95 is waived the first year. And there’s even a signup bonus!

LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS CARD

2. 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.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS CARD.

3. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the best credit cards for road trips.

Because you earn unlimited 2 miles on all purchases.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS CARD.

4. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

You can earn cash back during your road trip with the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. 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. (see rates and fees) 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.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS CARD.

5. Chase Freedom Flex

You earn 1% cash back on all purchases with the Chase Freedom Flex 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 Flex 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.

LEARN 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.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS CARD

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.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS CARD

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, and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Cards like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, Chase Freedom, 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.

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 100,000 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.
 


Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of my favorite cards for earning cash back card and travel rewards. It offers a welcome offer of $200 after spending $500 in the first three months.
 
My favorite perks about this card are earning 5% cash back at grocery stores the first 12 months (up to $12k), unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and no annual fee. When paired with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can use your points to travel for free.
 
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Trisha

Friday 5th of April 2019

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

Saturday 6th of April 2019

Hi Trisha,

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

Jitaditya

Friday 5th of April 2019

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.

Debra Schroeder

Saturday 6th of April 2019

Hi Jitaditya,

Thanks :)

Medha Verma

Tuesday 2nd of April 2019

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

Saturday 6th of April 2019

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.

Nicole

Tuesday 2nd of April 2019

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

Debra Schroeder

Saturday 6th of April 2019

Hi Nicole,

Let me know if you need any help.

Christina

Tuesday 2nd of April 2019

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

Saturday 6th of April 2019

Hi Christina,

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

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