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Best Travel Credit Cards to Apply for in July 2021

By Eric Rosen

Jul 8, 2021

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It’s a great time to pick up a new credit card—including one that earns points toward booking a stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Maldives.

Courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy.

It’s a great time to pick up a new credit card—including one that earns points toward booking a stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Maldives.

Take advantage of fantastic sign-up bonuses, limited-time earning opportunities, and more to boost your travel strategy into overdrive.

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It’s official, travel is back. More passengers passed through U.S. airports over part of the July 4th weekend this year than did so even before the pandemic. If you’re one of the many travelers who are taking to the roads and skies this summer, it might be time to consider a new travel rewards credit card so you can earn points or miles for your trip. Or if you’ve already used some of your travel rewards, a new credit card could be the quickest way to top up some of your accounts. 

Luckily, many of the best travel credit cards are offering some of their highest-ever bonuses. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for instance, is giving new applicants the chance to earn 100,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. That’s more points than this card has ever posted before. If you don’t already have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, now is the time to apply since the offer might not be available for long. That said, there are a lot of other excellent options this month. Here are the ones you should consider.

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Best card for: Versatile travel rewards
  • Annual fee: $95

One of the most popular travel rewards credit cards is posting the highest welcome bonus in its decade-plus history. 

Current welcome offer 

Earn 100,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. That’s 40,000 points more than usual, and 20,000 better than this card’s previous best-ever bonus. 

Reasons to apply now

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has never come with this many bonus points before, and we don’t know how long this offer will stick around, so don’t wait too long to apply.

Chase points can be transferred to 10 airlines and three hotel partners, including JetBlue, Southwest, United, Hyatt, and Marriott, which makes them extra useful for travel. You can also redeem them for travel booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal at a fixed rate of 1.25 cents each—so the sign-up bonus is worth a whopping $1,250. The card earns two points per dollar on dining and travel, and one per dollar on everything else. It also offers some of the best travel and purchase protections of any credit card, which makes it an excellent choice to take on trips.

>> Read more: How to Win at Travel With Chase Ultimate Rewards

2. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Best card for: Easy earning and redeeming
  • Annual fee: $95

This card is still offering its own highest-ever welcome bonus of 100,000 miles, so apply now if you missed out last time, because it won’t be around forever.

Current welcome offer 

Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

Reasons to apply now

The Capital One Venture normally offers just 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Right now, though, you can earn twice that number–100,000 miles worth $1,000 in travel—if you can meet the spending requirement of this limited-time offer. 

The card earns a solid two miles per dollar on all purchases. In addition to redeeming Capital One miles for travel bookings at a rate of one cent apiece through Capital One Travel, cardholders can transfer miles to over a dozen airline and hotel partners, including JetBlue TrueBlue, Air Canada Aeroplan, and Wyndham Rewards, among others, which makes them especially versatile. The Venture is also one of the only credit cards with an annual fee of under $100 that offers a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application statement credit once every four years.

>> Read More: Capital One Venture Card Raises Its Sign-Up Bonus to 100,000 Miles

3. United Quest℠ Card

  • Best card for: United fliers looking to restock their mileage account
  • Annual fee: $250

This relatively new United credit card offers the easiest way to rack up MileagePlus miles quickly.

Current welcome offer

Earn up to 100,000 bonus miles–80,000 after spending $5,000 in the first three months, and an additional 20,000 miles after spending a total of $10,000 in the first six months.

Reasons to apply now

It’s still rare for an airline credit card to offer up to 100,000 bonus miles as part of its welcome offer, but it’s even rarer that we see the launch of a new airline credit card altogether. 

If you already carry one of United’s other cards, like the United℠ Explorer Card or the more premium United Club℠ Infinite Card, applying for the new United Quest might be an excellent way to continue adding to your MileagePlus balance. The card accrues:

  • Three miles per dollar spent on United purchases
  • Two miles per dollar spent on all other travel, including tickets purchased on other airlines, hotels, car rentals, and more
  • Two miles per dollar on dining
  • Two miles per dollar on select streaming services like Netflix and Hulu
  • One mile per dollar on all other purchases

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Cardholders receive up to $125 in United purchases statement credits per year—effectively offsetting half the card’s annual fee—and up to $100 toward a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application once every four years, as well as valuable day-of-travel perks like two free checked bags on United flights and 25 percent back on United in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and Wi-Fi paid for with the card.

>> Read more: United Just Launched a New Credit Card With up to 100,000 Bonus Miles

4. Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

  • Best card for: Hilton habitués who want lots of extra perks
  • Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95 (see rates and fees), offer valid through August 25, 2021.

This card is the best for Hilton loyalists who book frequent stays but don’t want to pay a huge annual fee for benefits like elite status.

Current welcome offer

Up to 130,000 Hilton Honors points after you use your card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months (terms apply).

Reasons to apply now 

The welcome offer is a full 50,000 points more than the one it typically has in place and the highest ever extended by this card. Cardholders enjoy automatic Hilton Honors Gold elite status, with advantages like food and beverage credits, and earn 80 percent bonus points (so 18 per dollar instead of 10) on stays. Spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year, and you earn a free weekend night reward that’s redeemable at nearly any Hilton property around the world.

>> Read more: New Hilton Credit Card Offers Could Lead to Free Nights at Waldorfs and Conrads

5.  Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

  • Best card for: Delta die-hards who want a mileage boost
  • Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Rake in tons of bonus miles on everyday spending.

Current welcome offer

Earn a spectacular 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward elite status after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in your first three months.

Reasons to apply now

This card combines great earning rates with value-added travel benefits that almost anyone can take advantage of. It earns three miles per dollar on Delta purchases and those made directly with hotels; two miles per dollar at U.S. supermarkets and at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery; and one mile per dollar on everything else. 

Cardholders are eligible for a statement credit of up to $100 toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications once every four years (4.5 for PreCheck), and enjoy free checked bags and priority boarding for themselves and up to eight companions on the same reservation on Delta flights. Most valuable of all, this card also comes with an annual companion certificate that can be used to book a second ticket (you just pay taxes and fees) on a domestic round-trip itinerary in Main Cabin that can be worth hundreds of dollars depending on how you redeem it (terms apply).

6. American Express® Gold Card

  • Best card for: Earning on groceries and takeout
  • Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

A high bonus and strong everyday earning are this card’s two biggest strengths.

Current welcome offer

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months. That’s 25,000 points more than usual.

Reasons to apply now

The Amex Gold is uniquely positioned to help cardholders accumulate rewards points for travel at a time when people are taking far fewer trips than usual. It earns four points per dollar at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and on up to $25,000 per calendar year in spending at U.S. supermarkets (then one point per dollar after that). Members can link their card to their Uber account to receive up to $10 per month in Uber Cash toward rides or Uber Eats orders in the U.S. As with points earned with the Amex Platinum, those you accumulate with this card can be transferred to over 20 airline and hotel partners. Enrollment is required for select benefits and terms apply.

>> Read more: How to Earn and Redeem American Express Membership Rewards Points for Travel

7. Chase Sapphire Reserve® 

  • Best card for: Travelers who want a lot of ways to redeem their points plus premium perks
  • Annual fee: $550

Plenty of statement credits and benefits like lounge access set this travel card apart from the pack.

Current welcome offer 

For a limited time, you can earn up to 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. That is 10,000 points more than this card usually offers. Its annual fee is $550.

Reasons to apply now

The Chase Sapphire Preferred might be a better option for some since it’s offering 40,000 more bonus points than the Chase Sapphire Reserve right now. However, points earned with the Reserve are worth 1.5 cents apiece when redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, compared to just 1.25 cents with the Preferred. So the introductory bonus is worth $900 instead of the $1,250 you would net with the Preferred. 

The Chase Sapphire Reserve also earns three points per dollar on travel (after earning the $300 in statement credits the card offers toward travel purchases annually) and dining, and comes with other benefits like up to $100 for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application once every four years, and the ability to enroll in Priority Pass Select for lounge access. So it might be the more well-rounded selection for premium travelers.

>> Read more: Which Credit Card Is Better: Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve?

8. Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

  • Best card for: Lots of award nights for a manageable annual fee
  • Annual fee: $95

You can leverage this hotel card to earn tons of bonus points without much of an effort.

Current welcome offer

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is offering new applicants three free nights’ worth of points (up to 50,000 points each) after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Plus, new cardholders can earn up to 10 points per dollar on up to $2,500 in combined purchases at gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores within the first six months from account opening.

Reasons to apply now

If you can leverage this card’s welcome bonus to its full potential, it could be worth up to 150,000 points total–three free nights worth 50,000 points apiece. But this card has other ongoing benefits that make it worthwhile. Cardholders receive 15 elite night credits per calendar year, which is enough for Silver status or for a healthy boost toward a higher echelon (you can also earn Gold status by spending $35,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year). Perhaps its best benefit, however, is an annual free night award worth up to 35,000 points. That can be worth hundreds of dollars each year, depending on where you redeem it, more than making up for the card’s annual fee.

>> Read more: Why the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Is Worth the Annual Fee

9. Citi Premier® Card

  • Best card for: Earning transferable points on a variety of purchases
  • Annual fee: $95

Another excellent earner with points that transfer to over a dozen airline frequent flier programs.

Current welcome offer

Earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.

Reasons to apply now

This card’s bonus has hovered at a steady 60,000 points for a couple years now, so this offer represents a substantial step up, worth another $200 toward travel. On an ongoing basis, the card racks up three points per dollar at restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations and on air travel and hotels, and then one point per dollar on everything else. 

Citi ThankYou Rewards transfer to 16 airline partners, including Emirates and Singapore Airlines, and can be used to book travel directly through the Citi ThankYou portal at a rate of one cent per point.

10. The Platinum Card® from American Express

Another all-round excellent travel rewards card is posting its own all-time best introductory bonus.

Current welcome offer

Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 in the first six months of card membership. Plus, earn 10 points per dollar on up to $25,000 in combined purchases in the first six months at restaurants globally and when you Shop Small in the United States at businesses that participate in this Amex program. (Terms apply.)

Reasons to apply now

You might be hesitant to take on that recently raised annual fee, but this card comes with a lot of statement credits, including up to $200 per calendar year toward incidental fees like for checked bags on a U.S. airline that you designate, plus $15 in Uber cash for rides or Uber Eats orders in the United States every month, plus $20 extra in December. 

The card recently added a slew of new perks; they include up to another $200 in statement credits each year on prepaid bookings made through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts and the Hotel Collection through Amex Travel, up to $300 (split into $25 per month) in annual statement credits toward select Equinox gym memberships and subscriptions to the Equinox+ app, and $240 per year in statement credits (split into $20 per month) toward digital entertainment subscriptions, including SiriusXM and the New York Times. While many folks won’t be able to justify the higher annual fee, those who can leverage these new perks can save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars per year. (Enrollment is required for select benefits and terms apply.)

Plus, that welcome bonus is still worth considering since, if you max it out, you’re looking at a whopping 350,000 Amex Membership Rewards points, which transfer to 19 airlines and three hotel partners, among them Delta and Hilton. 

>> Read more: 8 Reasons You Should Apply for An Amex Platinum Card Right Now

Travel is rebounding, which makes right now the perfect time to apply for a new rewards credit card, whether you’re already booking trips or planning to do so in the near future. Some of the best travel credit cards are offering unprecedented welcome bonuses, and there’s no telling how long some of these deals will stick around. Before you apply for a new card, though, plot out your specific travel goals, analyze your typical spending habits, and consider the perks you value. Then pick the card or cards that can take you the furthest. 

While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

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