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What Is the Best Card for Travel Hacking?


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, Las Vegas, 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 start 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?


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. These are the best balance transfer credit cards with 0% Intro APR.

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. Or $600 cash back!

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 Regency West Hanoi in Vietnam.

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.

5X Points on Travel

You earn 5X points on travel booked through the Chase travel portal and paid for with your Chase Sapphire Preferred. For travel booked directly with the airline, hotel, car rental company, etc. you’ll earn 2X points.

Pro-tip: Each year you get a $50 hotel credit on rooms booked on the Chase portal.

3X Points on Dining

You earn 3X points on dining when paying with your card.

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.

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

Pro-tip: Be sure to register your card so you can also earn miles at restaurants.

If you don’t want to go out but don’t feel like cooking, you’ll pay no delivery fees on orders over $12 during your first year with DashPass. You have to activate this offer by December 31, 2021.

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.


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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Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card

TSouthwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card's newest signup bonus can get you up to 2 years of free flights! The welcome offer is 100,000 points: 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months; another 50,000 points after spending a total of $12,000 in the first 12 months.
My favorite perks about this card are earning 3X points on Southwest purchases, 2X points on internet, cable, phone, streaming, ride share, and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, $75 yearly travel credit, 4 upgraded boardings each year, and no foreign transaction fees.

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 5X points on travel when booked through the Chase portal (2X if direct purchase), 3X points on dining , $50 yearly credit on hotels booked through the Chase portal, 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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Friday 5th of July 2019

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


Wednesday 3rd of July 2019

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!


Tuesday 2nd of July 2019

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


Tuesday 2nd of July 2019

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

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

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.

Ami Bhat

Tuesday 2nd of July 2019

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

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

Hi Ami,

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

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