If debating airline vs. hotel credit cards overwhelms you, read on for the best practices for choosing the right card for your wallet.
Airline vs. hotel credit cards: Here’s how to decide
Comparing the best travel credit cards can be a dizzying experience, mostly because you have hundreds of options to choose from across the major brands. You’ll find general travel credit cards that have their own card issuer programs, as well as credit cards from airlines and loyalty cards associated with hotel brands. Each comes with pros and cons, and the right one for you can depend on your travel style, your goals, and the perks and features you want the most.
So, how do you pick an airline card vs. a travel credit card, or an airline card vs. one of the best hotel credit cards? For most people, the best way to choose requires you to decide on the type of rewards you want and which travel perks you will use.
If you keep comparing travel credit cards and wind up feeling overwhelmed, read on to learn how these travel credit cards compare, each type of card’s basic pros and cons, and best practices for choosing a card for your wallet.
General travel cards vs. airline and hotel cards
With all travel credit cards, you should know a few details right off the bat. For starters, most all travel credit cards have high APRs, so they’re a poor option if you may need to carry a balance from time to time. Also note that travel credit cards with the most perks tend to have annual fees, and these fees can eat away at the value you receive from the card itself.
Despite that, the pros and cons of individual credit cards vary, and some may apply more to your situation than others. Here’s an overview of how each type of travel credit card works plus some pros and cons to consider before you apply.
General travel cards
Major credit card issuers such as American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi offer general travel credit cards. These credit cards earn points in their own rewards programs, which you can redeem for flexible options such as cash back, travel through a card issuer’s travel portal, or point transfers to airlines and hotels.
As an example, you can earn points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program and redeem them for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, and travel booked through Chase. You can even make 1:1 transfers to Chase travel partners such as British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy®, Southwest Rapid Rewards®, and World of Hyatt.
Pros of general travel cards
Cons of general travel cards
Our favorite general travel cards
|Best general travel credit cards 2022||Welcome offer||Earning rate||Annual fee|
|The Chase Sapphire Preferred®||Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening||5X points on travel booked through Chase
3X points on dining, eligible online grocery services, and select streaming services
2X points on other travel
1X points on other purchases
|Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card||Earn 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening||10X miles on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel
5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
2X miles on other purchases
Airline credit cards
Besides general travel credit cards, you’ll also find co-branded airline credit cards from loyalty programs such as Delta SkyMiles, Southwest Rapid Rewards, and United MileagePlus. Credit cards that are co-branded with frequent flyer programs let you earn points in that specific program, which you can use for award flights and other redemptions.
Pros of airline travel cards
Cons of airline travel cards
Our favorite airline travel cards
|Best airline credit card 2022||Welcome offer||Earning rate||Annual fee|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®||Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 on purchases within three months of account opening||2X miles on American Airlines purchases
2X miles at restaurants and gas stations
1X miles on other purchases
|$99 (waived the first year)|
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases within three months of account opening||2X miles on Delta Air Lines purchases
2X miles at U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets
1X miles on other purchases
|$99 (waived the first year)|
Hotel travel cards
Similar to airline credit cards, you can find travel credit cards that affiliate with specific hotel loyalty programs. Hotel credit cards let you earn hotel loyalty points you can use for free hotel stays, room upgrades, and more.
Pros of hotel travel cards
Cons of hotel travel cards
Our favorite hotel travel cards
|Best hotel credit card 2022||Welcome offer||Earning rate||Annual fee|
|Hilton Honors Card||Earn 80,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases within three months of opening your account||7X points on hotels and resorts in the Hilton portfolio
5X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. supermarkets
3X points on other purchases
|World of Hyatt Credit Card||Earn up to 60,000 points — 30,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of opening your account and 30,000 more bonus points by earning 2 points per $1 spent in the first six months from account opening on up to $15,000 in purchases that normally earn 1 point per dollar||4X points on World of Hyatt hotels
2X points on dining out, flights, gym memberships, and local transit and commuting
1X points on other purchases (after bonus offer expires)
Which should I add to my wallet: Hotel, airline, or general travel cards?
Whether you’re looking for the airline credit card with the most perks, or you’re considering a hotel credit card that can help you achieve elite status, you should also consider general travel credit cards. After all, general travel credit cards from issuers such as Chase and American Express let you earn generous welcome offers and ongoing rewards for each dollar you spend. However, you’ll have a lot more flexibility when it comes time to redeem your points, especially if you have the option to transfer them to frequent flyer programs or hotel programs later on.
Here are some signs you should get each type of travel credit card on the market today.
Focus on flexible travel credit cards if:
- You want to earn rewards now and decide how to redeem them later on.
- You don’t travel enough to worry about earning elite status.
- Frequent flyer perks aren’t that important to you.
- Earning a huge sign-up bonus is one of your priorities.
Get the best air travel credit card if:
- You’re loyal to a single airline, and you fly with them frequently.
- Earning elite status with an airline is one of your goals.
- Scoring benefits such as free checked bags or priority boarding is important to you.
- You prefer to earn airline miles over other types of rewards.
Pick up a hotel credit card if:
- Securing benefits such as room upgrades or free breakfast is your priority.
- You are loyal to one hotel brand and stay with them frequently.
- Earning points for free hotel stays is most important to you.
- You want automatic elite status with a hotel brand, as well as a leg up in climbing to the next level of status.
Solving your travel card conundrum
If you are reading this and wondering how you’ll ever settle on a single travel card, understand that many consumers pair up several cards for the best results. In fact, the right combination of cards can help you maximize rewards on spending without having to sacrifice various cardholder benefits you can actually use.
Just make sure you have a plan in place before you sign up for multiple credit cards, and only charge purchases you can afford to pay off. While travel rewards are fun to earn and redeem, paying off high interest credit card debt is far less exciting.