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Our picks for March’s top six travel credit cards include several with best-ever welcome bonuses. On the heels of launching a new TakeOff 15 benefit—a 15 percent mileage discount on Delta award flights for cardholders—the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card has upped its introductory offer to a best-ever 70,000 miles. Moreover, Air Canada’s Aeroplan Credit Card has increased its welcome bonus to a record-breaking 100,000 points as it announces a new Pay Yourself Back option, in which points can be redeemed as statement credits toward any travel purchases at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. (Yep, that’s $1,250 in credits toward travel!)
Meanwhile, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card continues to court new cardholders with a 75,000-mile welcome bonus. The card, which grants double miles on every purchase, is going all-in on travel with branded airport lounges and a new hotel collection program, providing benefits competitive with premium Chase and American Express cards.
Here, the six best travel credit cards to consider applying for now and why.
1. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Best for: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is best for those who want a solid travel credit card that pays for itself through credits, benefits, lounge access, and a rewarding earnings structure while also offering flexibility in redeeming points.
Why now? Capital One is rolling out its own collection of airport lounges for cardholders and has launched its new Premier Collection, offering special perks at hundreds of hotels globally.
Welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
Annual fee: $395
Earn points: Earn 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and five miles per dollar spent on flights booked through Capital One Travel. All other purchases earn two miles per dollar spent.
Credits: When booking through Capital One Travel, receive up to $300 in statement credits. Get a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Credit once every four years (up to $100). Receive an annual 10,000 bonus miles after your account anniversary.
Key perks: Access Capital One Lounges and Priority Pass lounges at airports. The card is also smart for those who plan to add cardholders to their accounts. Up to four can be added at no cost, and Priority Pass lounge membership and access to Capital One airport lounges extend to each of these additional cardholders at no extra cost. As far as redemptions go, miles transfer to 16 airline and hotel partners.
Best for: The X1 is best for those who want a credit line based on income, not credit score, and seek a high-design, reward-heavy card without an annual fee.
Why now? This no-fee card is a smart way to get your finances in order early in the year and to begin earning points and bonuses that will add up throughout the year. (After you spend over $1,000 in a calendar month, you’ll start earning three points on every dollar spent for the rest of that month.)
Welcome offer: There is no welcome offer.
Annual fee: $0
Earn points: The earnings structure for the X1 is smart, simple, and frankly unheard of for a card with no annual fee. You’ll earn a minimum of two points per dollar spent on the card. After you spend over $1,000 in a calendar month, you’ll start earning three points on every dollar spent for the rest of that month until reaching $7,500. Weekly “boosts” allow you to earn bonus points with select merchants and in certain spend categories.
Credits: No credits
Key perks: No-fee cards usually come with fewer benefits than their high-fee counterparts. However, X1 offers the full portfolio of Visa Signature travel and shopping protections more commonly associated with annual-fee cards. These include cell phone protection, trip interruption and cancellation insurance, purchase security, auto rental collision damage waiver, extended warranty protection, and return protection. Redeem points at the rate of one cent per point on several U.S. airlines and hotel partners.
3. Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Best for: The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is best for casual Delta fliers looking for free checked bags and a big boost to their SkyMiles balance.
Why now? The card recently launched a new TakeOff 15 benefit in which cardholders get 15 percent off award travel on Delta using Delta SkyMiles. To celebrate the new perk, the card has upped its introductory offer to the best in the card’s history (an amount nearly double the usual offer). This limited-time offer ends March 29, 2023. And there’s no annual fee for the first year. Woo-hoo!
Welcome offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on new purchases within the first six months.
Annual fee: No introductory annual fee the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees)
Earn points: Earn two miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases as well as at restaurants worldwide, including on eligible delivery services in the United States, and at U.S. supermarkets. Earn one mile per dollar on everything else.
Credits: Get 15 percent off Delta SkyMiles redemptions with the new TakeOff 15 benefit.
Key perks: Cardholders and up to eight companions can check a bag for free when flying Delta and enjoy priority boarding. Get 20 percent back on in-flight purchases of food and drinks.
4. IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card
Best for: The IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card is best for IHG loyalists (or even those who occasionally stay at properties within the IHG portfolio) who can take advantage of the card’s great perks and earnings potential.
Welcome offer: Earn 175,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months. (The standard offer ranges between 125,000 and 140,000 points.)
Annual fee: $99
Earn points: Earn 26 points per dollar (yes, you read that correctly) on purchases made at IHG hotels and resorts and five points per dollar on all non-IHG travel, dining, and gas. Earn three points per dollar on everything else. Put in perspective, the previous version of the card only allotted one point per dollar spent on non-IHG travel and everyday purchases and two points per dollar on dining and gas.
Credits: Get a credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck or Nexus application fee (worth up to $100) once every four years. Thanks to a partnership with United Airlines, get up to $50 United TravelBank Cash each calendar year when you link your United Mileage Plus and IHG Rewards accounts. Receive your fourth night free, when booking four consecutive nights with points.
Key perks: You’ll automatically gain Platinum Elite status, which usually requires either 40 nights each year or earning 60,000 qualifying points at IHG properties. Top perks of Platinum Elite status include late checkout, complimentary room upgrades (space available), complimentary Wi-Fi, and 60 percent bonus points on hotel purchases. Also earn an Anniversary Free Night certificate every year of card membership, valued at 40,000 points. (For hotels costing more than 40,000 points per night, cardholders can top off the certificate by pulling from their existing points balance.)
5. Aeroplan® Credit Card
Best for: The Aeroplan Credit Card is best for those looking to bank valuable Air Canada Aeroplan miles quickly and want the freedom to redeem miles on any and all travel purchases.
Why now? Thanks to a new Pay Yourself Back option, the current, best-ever 100,000-point welcome bonus on Air Canada’s Aeroplan Credit card can be redeemed for $1,250 in statement credits toward travel. In addition, the Aeroplan frequent flier program has more award partners than any other loyalty program in the world—now 45 and counting—serving more than 1,300 global destinations. The card’s current offer makes it easy to accumulate points quickly and get on board one of these many airlines on an award ticket.
Welcome offer: New cardholders can earn up to 100,000 points within the first 12 months of card membership. You’ll earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, plus 40,000 points after you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months. Receive Aeroplan 25K Elite Status for the first two calendar years of card membership and opportunities to elevate this status through card spending.
Annual fee: $95
Earn points: Earn three points per dollar spent on Air Canada, at grocery stores, and on dining. Earn one point per dollar spent on everything else.
Credits: Get a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck/Nexus credit (worth up to $100) once every four years.
Key perk: With Pay Yourself Back, it’s possible to redeem points for statement credits on recent purchases. Specifically, Aeroplan cardmembers can redeem Aeroplan points as statement credits toward any travel purchases made on the card within 90 days, at a rate of 1.25 cents per point. Travel purchases can range from airfare (operated by any airline) to rideshares, to hotels, resort charges, trains, and more. On Air Canada flights, expect one free checked bag for the cardholder plus up to eight travel companions on the same itinerary.
6. The Platinum Card® from American Express
Best for: The Platinum Card from American Express is best for those who value luxury benefits on land and in the air, including the best in airport lounge access, and understand such benefits (plus a program that includes copious statement credits) far outweigh a hefty annual fee. The card is also best for those who plan to add cardholders to their accounts. Select benefits—specifically a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit and that unbeatable lounge access—extend to every cardholder (which is not the case with most other cards).
Why now? A good introductory welcome offer, travel benefits aplenty, and excellent benefits for additional cardholders.
Welcome offer: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 in the first six months of card membership. (Terms apply.)
Annual fee: $695 (See rates and fees.)
Earn points: Earn five points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 per calendar year and on prepaid hotel bookings made through American Express Travel. Earn one point per dollar on everything else.
Credits: Statement credits include up to $200 per calendar year on airline incidentals, $200 per calendar year on Fine Hotels + Resorts or the Hotel Collection bookings (minimum two-night stay) with American Express Travel, up to $200 annually for Uber/UberEats (given in Uber Cash), up to $100 annually at Saks Fifth Avenue, up to $240 annually on digital entertainment (applicable toward charges on Hulu, Disney+, SiriusXM, and the New York Times), up to $300 annually toward select Equinox gym memberships, a $155 Walmart+ Credit (to cover the monthly membership cost of Walmart+), and a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit (worth up to $100) once every four years (for every cardholder). Enrollment required for select benefits; terms apply.
Key perks: The best in airport lounge access (including Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, and more) plus Gold elite status in Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy, which extends to both primary and additional cardholders; in terms of points spending, Amex Membership Rewards points transfer to 19 airlines and three hotel partners, including Delta, Hilton, and Air Canada Aeroplan.
This article was updated on March 13, 2023, to reflect the end date of the Southwest Airlines credit card bonus offers. 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.