What Is the Best Card for Travel Hacking?

Woman lies on the beach with yellow hat and blue towel

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Free flights and free hotel rooms are possible when you travel hack. What is the best card for travel hacking? That’s what Megan wants to know.

Megan emailed me asking,

“We want to get started travel hacking but don’t want to get a lot of credit cards. Is there a best card for travel hacking? We want a card that gives us free flights and hotel rooms. Which would you recommend?

Using a travel rewards credit card is an easy way to get free travel.

I’ve been using miles and points since 1994 and our family has taken amazing vacations. We’ve traveled for free to places like Hawaii and Australia several times thanks to travel hacking credit cards.

But is there one best card travel card? Yep.

What Is the Best Card for Travel Hacking

Woman lies on the beach with yellow hat and blue towel

Most travel hackers have several travel rewards cards. When you start travel hacking, getting a lot of cards might not be the best solution. At least until you’ve gotten the hang of travel hacking and have a system to organize your cards & miles and points.

It’s easier to begin with one card that offers flexible reward points. Points that you can use for free airfare and hotels. That can be transferred to several different airlines and hotels so you aren’t locked into one hotel or one airline.

Several travel rewards cards earn flexible transferrable currency. Of those, there’s one that is the best travel rewards card.

With so many travel rewards cards is there one best card for travel hacking?

Is there a best credit card for travel miles and travel points?

Yes.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for beginning travel hackers and the first card you should get. Here’s why.

Pro-tip: If you already have this card, here are our picks for the best travel rewards credit cards and the top travel rewards cards that earn points and cash with a welcome bonus.

Big Signup Bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a big signup bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account. This is worth $750 of travel when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Here are a few creative ways to meet the minimum spending requirements.

Pro-tip: If you have another Sapphire card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can’t get the Chase Sapphire Preferred. 

Transfer Points to 13 Partners

You can transfer points to 13 airline and hotel partners like Hyatt and United.

Transferring points gives you more options for free travel. And can provide tremendous value.

The welcome offer of 60,000 points can get several thousands of dollars of free travel.

You get the best value when you use the points for flights and hotel rooms with partners.

With 60,000 points you spend two nights at the Park Hyatt New York over New Year’s Eve or 12 nights at the Hyatt Place Phuket in Thailand.

Or you could use the signup bonus to book three one-way tickets to the Caribbean.

Pro-tip: Points transfer instantly on a 1:1 basis. Transferred points are nonrefundable. Meaning once you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to an airline or hotel, you can’t transfer them back.

2X Points on Travel and Dining

breakfast entrees at restaurant
Photo courtesy Matheus Frade via Unsplash

You earn 2X points on travel and dining when you pay with your Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Whether you eat at nice restaurants, get coffee at Starbucks, grab fast food, rent a car, or pay for a hotel room, you’ll get 2X points for every dollar spent.

Pro-tip: Places that use Square might not earn 2X points. Because it has to do with the non-traditional credit card processing systems 

1X Point on All Purchases

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred you earn 1X point on all purchases.

When you use your card everywhere travel rewards points add up quick.

Pro-tip: You can scale and earn unlimited miles and points without spending a lot of money.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

sunrise at Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Photo courtesy of Chris Karidis via Unsplash

You can use your Chase Sapphire Preferred when traveling internationally because there are no foreign transaction fees.

Pro-tip: When using your card overseas, avoid dynamic currency conversion by paying in that country’s currency.

Travel and Purchase Protection

Another perk of the Chase Sapphire Preferred is travel and purchase protection.

You get free trip cancellation/interruption insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver protection, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, and emergency assistance.

Pro-tip: Purchases are covered up to 120 days against damage or theft and you get a three year extended warranty.

Conclusion

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for travel hacking. If you’re new to earning miles and points you should get this card first.

Because you get a large signup bonus, earn 2X points on travel and dining and 1X point on everything else, and there are no foreign transaction fees.

Other travel rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve offer more benefits like Global Entry and TSA PreCheck credit but have a higher annual fee. The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is only $95 a year.

Why do you think the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best travel credit card?

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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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19 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.
  • Andi June 29, 2019 at 10:34 am

    I’ve never really paid attention to travel hacking, but now that I am not making as much money as I used to I think I need to start paying more attention! Thanks for the tips!

  • Holly June 30, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    I have never used credit cards to travel hack. This is great tips. I am going to share this because I had a friend who was curious about getting a card for things like this.

  • Kamree July 1, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Travel rewards credit cards are the best! They make a huge impact and help you save for travel! I absolutely love mine! xo – Kam!

  • Claudia July 1, 2019 at 9:25 am

    I so wish the Chase Sapphire Preferred card would be available to us in Canada! I’ve heard so much about the great sign up points bonus and other benefits. Do you know of great Canadian travel rewards cards with similar benefits?

    • Debra Schroeder July 9, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      Hi Claudia,

      American Express has a lot of great cards for Canadians like the Amex Gold. I’ll come up with a list for you.

  • Adonis Villanueva July 1, 2019 at 10:40 am

    I’ve done a lot of travel hacking with Credit cards. My favorite hack is getting a high reward card where it will give you $1,000 back after a $10,000 spend in 3 months. Seems impossible but I did it. Luckily, my apart rental and utilities can be paid using the credit card and in Seattle, that’s around 2k a month. I used the card for food, camera purchase, airline ticket purchases and met the requirement within 3 months! That’s 1k for a roundtrip ticket to Europe 🙂

    • Debra Schroeder July 9, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      Hi Adonis,

      Great job! You can earn a lot of miles and points when you use your cards to pay for every day (or month) expenses.

  • Linda (LD Holland) July 1, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    I am always sorry that as a Canadian I can’t get one of the great U.S. travel cards. The Canadian options are always fewer and with worse benefits. I agree that it is great to be able to transfer points to different partners. Getting no foreign transaction fees is definitely a big plus. Wish I could get the Chase card.

    • Debra Schroeder July 9, 2019 at 7:19 pm

      Hi Linda,

      Claudia also asked about Canadian cards, I’ll see what I can find for you.

  • Ami Bhat July 2, 2019 at 1:29 am

    I think this card offers quite a few benefits for the travelers. No one would mind a no transaction fee feature in addition to all the points that you can use. I wish I could opt for it. Wonder if it has an Indian equivalent.

    • Debra Schroeder July 9, 2019 at 7:21 pm

      Hi Ami,

      Good question, I’ll have to check into that for you.

  • Kathleen July 2, 2019 at 7:28 am

    Having a way to get travel credit is such a great way to travel. We have two cards that do this. One of the most important things to remember is to pay off the cards each month, or you won’t be saving any money. The perks of no foreign transaction fees and trip insurance are really great perks though.

    • Debra Schroeder July 9, 2019 at 7:23 pm

      Hi Kathleen,

      Agreed. You have to pay off your balance in full every month because the miles earned aren’t worth it if you don’t.

  • Nicole July 2, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    I really need to get into travel hacking. Some great tips here. I just need the time to do it

  • Hannah July 3, 2019 at 1:02 am

    I wish we had these amazing cards over in the UK – you just don’t get the same awards here. No foreign transaction fees and free insurance are what I look out for in a card for sure!

  • ania July 5, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    I never use any of cards which gives you bonuses – they arent popular in Europe. But I should – looking at the benefits it brings. Pinning it for later

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