Travel credit cards will either be co-branded or non-branded. A co-branded card is essentially a partnership between a credit card issuer and an airline or a hotel chain. These types of cards tend to give higher rewards rates and special perks with a specific airline and hotel brand. Non-branded travel cards, on the other hand, don’t favor any particular brand but provide transferable rewards on travel purchases in general.
Most travel credit cards will fall into one of these 5 main categories:
Airline credit cards are co-branded with an airline and offer miles in the loyalty program of that particular airline carrier. So if you’re a frequent flyer with a particular airline, this could be a great option for you, as it will allow you to earn a favorable amount of rewards points fairly quickly. You can often redeem those miles for plane tickets, seat upgrades, priority boarding, discounts on in-flight food, free checked bags, and more.
Hotel credit cards are co-branded with a hotel chain. You’ll earn points with the hotel’s loyalty program, which you can redeem for things like free hotel stays, room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, and late checkouts. You’ll often earn more points when you use the card to book rooms at the hotel and participating hotel properties.
General travel credit cards are those that are non-branded and offer greater flexibility in how you can earn your rewards. With these travel cards, you earn points for everyday purchases, plus bonus points for spending in specific categories, like dining and travel. Your points are redeemable for flights, vacation packages, hotel stays, rental cars, and more. Some of these cards even allow you to transfer your points to partner airline and hotel loyalty programs.
Fixed-rate travel credit cards allow you to earn a set number of points or miles for every dollar you spend. Cardholders can then redeem these points at a fixed rate—usually 1 cent apiece—toward travel purchases. Unlike general travel credit cards, there are no spending categories to keep track of, and it’s less confusing to earn rewards.
Some travel credit cards are considered premium or “elite” because they offer more luxury benefits to cardholders. Designed for frequent flyers, these cards typically have a higher annual fee but they also come with more perks. Travel credits, elite status benefits, travel insurance, luxury hotel perks, and airport lounge access are just some of the rewards offered.