The Best Travel Credit Card for Beginners

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This is a question that we receive all of the time, and for good reason. When it comes to starting out with travel hacking, or just wanting to accrue enough miles for one big trip a year, one can be really overwhelmed by the options. Some cards offer crazy high sign up bonuses temporarily, and some are pretty steady year-round. Some cards are just for one airline, while others are bankcards that transfer to hotels, airlines, and even cash back. There are even cards that rather than give you miles, they use your points as a statement credit for purchases on travel. So, what really is the best travel credit card for beginners?

Funny enough, we wondered the exact same thing a year ago. And now that we’ve earned a combined total of over 700,000 airline miles in just one year, we feel like its time we shared where we both began.

What’s My Go To Card?

While I can’t tell you the perfect card for you, I can tell your about our absolute favorite card: Chase Sapphire Preferred. It is the easiest card to get started travel hacking with because it has a low annual fee of $95 that is waived the first year, a fairly consistent sign up bonus of 50,000 points once you hit the minimum spend of $4,000 in 3 months, and aside from earning miles back for each purchase, you earn double miles on travel and dining purchases!

Other things I love about this card are zero foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad, primary auto insurance on rental cars, trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, and baggage delay insurance. Basically, this card is great for your travels! Also, you are able to earn the sign-up bonus again if you close the card and reopen after two years. That card already makes it superior to American Express cards that only give you bonuses once.

What’s another thing to love about Chase Sapphire Preferred? Those points you earn can be transferred to multiple airlines: British Airways, Air France/KLM, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, Iberia Air, and Aer Lingus. They can also be transferred to hotels: Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Ritz-Carlton. There is also an option to book online through Chase’s website as well, opening you up to finding more deals. You can also go the cash back route and get gift cards and such instead. Either way, there are so many great options to use your points once you’ve earned them with Chase.

wallet with cash and credit cards

Whether you’re looking to travel hack for a long time or just one flight, this is a great card!

Chase partners with multiple airlines and hotels, making it easy to redeem your points!

Chase Sapphire Preferred also opens you up to the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform. It is where you can connect multiple Chase cards, like Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Ink, and Chase Sapphire Reserve and combine points! You can also transfer points over to household members with no cost to you. We did this when Chris was short a few miles to book our flights for our honeymoon. I simply logged in to Chase, transferred him some miles, and we booked that night!

Chase also allows you to earn more points via their online shopping portal. You simply search for a store, and if it’s on their portal, you click to shop there, make your purchases online like normal, and next thing you know, you’ll earn several extra miles that you wouldn’t have had you just gone directly to the store’s site. I did this during Christmas and earned a staggering 10 miles per dollar at Macy’s!

While I love Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase also makes a more premium card: Chase Sapphire Reserve. I’ve had my eye on upgrading to this card for a while, as it allows you to earn three miles per dollar on travel and dining, gives you $300 annually in travel credits, you receive access to Priority Pass Lounges, and $100 on Global Entry/TSA Precheck. It also offers the same travel benefits as the Preferred with no foreign transaction fees, primary rental car insurance, etc. While this card seems too good to be true, the hefty annual fee of $450 can deter many people. I highly recommend this card for frequent travelers who would use the $300 travel credits and TSA Precheck, but for those who only fly once or twice a year, this card isn’t worth it.

Is Chase the best bank?

You can’t really beat the rewards system that Chase has in place. All of their products are high quality. One warning is that if you’ve opened five or more credit cards within the last two years, you will not get approved for this card. While this probably isn’t a big deal for most people who rarely open cards, for travel hackers, it’s a rule to be aware of. This is another reason to start with Chase Sapphire Preferred.

So when it comes to the best travel credit card for beginners, hands down, this is my pick. There are great airline branded cards out there with great bonus offers, like the AA Aviator Red card where you pay the annual fee of $95 and make one purchase and earn 50,000 miles, but when it comes to what gives you the most options for using those miles, Chase is best.

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