Are you looking to do some traveling in 2023 and beyond?
Adding a travel rewards credit card to your wallet could be a way to earn bonus rewards on your spending, receive some discounts or even enjoy free perks while on your journey.
But not all travel rewards programs are created equal.
Money expert Clark Howard is a self-described travel nut who is always looking for the best way to save more and spend less. As such, people often will ask Clark for recommendations on a good travel rewards credit card.
During a recent episode of The Clark Howard Podcast, Clark gave a listener some fresh advice for picking a travel rewards card in 2023. Let’s look at the cards he likes and why they’re at the top of his list.
Clark Says 2 Travel Rewards Cards Stand Out Above the Rest
When it comes to picking a travel rewards card, Clark says that he wants travelers to avoid the temptation of signing up for a brand-specific credit card.
You may find a good card offer from an airline or hotel, but marrying yourself to that credit card as your lone travel rewards card could keep you from consistently landing the best travel deal.
“I’m really into the travel reward cards that are independent, not tied into a particular airline,” Clark says. “And the two that keep fighting back and forth [as the best options] are a Capital One card and a Chase card.”
Clark says the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® are two of his favorite choices because they allow you to be a “free agent” when shopping for travel and still receive really great rewards in the process.
At $395 and $550, respectively, both of these travel rewards cards have what most would consider expensive annual fees.
You may be tempted to consider the lower annual fee cards in these credit card families. The similarly named Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred® each offer modified rewards programs for these credit cards for a more manageable $95 annual fee.
But Clark says frequent travelers should do their homework on the rewards programs and consider paying the extra fees to get the superior perks.
“After you net out the benefits of each of them, if you travel even just several times a year, the net cost of having the annual fee ends up being below zero in both cases,” Clark says.
Let’s take a closer look at each card to see if the math works out that way for your spending habits.
Annual Fee: $395 (See Rates & Fees)
Foreign Transaction Fee: None
Auto Rental Insurance Coverage: Yes
Bonus Offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles
Bonus Offer Disclaimer: when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Rewards Program Details: 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. 10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. 5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
Top Card Perks:
Clark carries this card in his wallet, and it’s one of the cards he’s been most excited about in recent months.
As you’ll see in the card perks listed above, there’s a $300 annual travel credit available that could easily trim the effective annual fee of this card down to $95 per year. Starting on your first anniversary, you’ll receive a miles bonus worth $100 in travel that could effectively cover the final $95 of that annual fee.
That frees you up to enjoy the complimentary Capital One Lounge access and Global Entry/TSA PreCheck membership.
You’ll have a chance to score big with the welcome bonus, and you’ll earn at least 2x miles on every purchase you make with the card. That could make it a viable everyday spender, not just a travel card.
Here’s what Clark told a listener of his podcast when recommending it:
“I think it’s absolutely great,” Clark says. “How could I say that you should spend $395 per year on a card? They give you $300 of it back as travel credits for travel you purchase through their travel portal. So the net annual fee is $95. And on top of some travel benefits, you get free airport lounge access … Plus, you get 2x miles on all of your purchases, just like a 2% cash back card.”
Annual Fee: $550
Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
Auto Rental Insurance Coverage: Yes
Bonus Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points
Bonus Offer Disclaimer: after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Rewards Program Details: Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Top Card Perks:
This card also offers $300 in annual statement credits for spending on travel, which helps you take a bite out of the high annual fee.
And the Priority Pass Select membership unlocks free access to quite a few airport lounges for frequent travelers.
But if you’re willing to commit to booking travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards ecosystem, the value of this card becomes increasingly clear for frequent travelers.
Not only do you receive 5x and 10x points for spending on select travel via Ultimate Rewards, but your points that you earn on all purchases receive a significant valuation boost when you redeem your points on the platform.
Your points are worth 50% more when you redeem them for travel through Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel on Ultimate Rewards.
Travel credit cards aren’t for everyone. You need to travel at least a few times per year to consider paying for these credit cards.
But if you are a travel nut like Clark, it’s becoming easier to justify annual fees on travel cards thanks to some great perks and rewards programs.
Both cards offer a $300 annual credit on travel, cover the cost of time-saving line jumps via Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, and provide you with access to airport lounges.
Clark loves the Venture X, while his podcast cohort Christa prefers the Sapphire Reserve.
Both have valid reasons for keeping them in their wallets. Which one do you like best?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on these travel cards in the Clark.com community!