[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
Vacations can require a lot of upfront planning. That includes coming up with the funds to pay for your trip. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and we can fall short of our savings goals.
If you’ve got a trip coming up in a few months and you won’t have the funds to cover it, you may want to look into a travel credit card with a strong signup bonus. Signup bonuses can help you get to your destination by contributing to many types of travel expenses.
Here are five cards with strong travel signup bonuses that can help get you there. And if you’re looking for ideas where to travel, you may want to consider these 12 places you could visit for free this summer (with the right credit card).
Rewards: Two points per dollar spent on dining and travel, one point per dollar spent on everything else
Signup Bonus: 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, $95 after
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Why We Picked It: The signup bonus can be redeemed for extra value through Chase Ultimate Rewards, Chase’s travel booking platform.
For Your Upcoming Trip: With two points per dollar spent on dining and travel, one point per dollar spent on other purchases and 50,000 bonus points, this card has strong potential in the first few months. Points can be redeemed for flights, hotels, car rentals and other travel costs, and are worth an extra 25% when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards, which makes the signup bonus good for up to $625 in travel credits.
Drawbacks: If you don’t frequently dine out or travel, this card won’t deliver as strong a value.
2. Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
Rewards: Five points per dollar spent at Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest properties, two points per dollar spent at restaurants, car rental agencies and on airfare, one point per dollar spent on everything else
Signup Bonus: 80,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $85
APR: Variable 16.74% to 23.74%
Why We Picked It: Marriott customers can cut the cost of their hotel stays.
For Your Upcoming Trip: You’ll earn points for Marriott stays no matter how you spend, with extra incentives for Marriott and travel spending. The 80,000 bonus points can help put a dent in your hotel costs. Points required for redemption vary between hotel properties.
Drawbacks: If you aren’t a loyal Marriott guest, you’ll have little use for this card.
Rewards: 12 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases with a participating Hilton hotel, six points per dollar spent at restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations, three points per dollar spent on everything else
Welcome Offer: 125,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95
APR: 17.49%-26.49% Variable
Why We Picked It: The signup bonus can knock down the cost of your upcoming Hilton stay, and you can earn 12 points per dollar while you’re there.
For Your Upcoming Trip: You can put the 125,000 bonus points to good use on any upcoming stays at Hilton properties. Plus, with multiple ways to earn 12, six and three points on the dollar, you can rack up points quickly.
Drawbacks: If your trips don’t often include Hilton properties, this card won’t get you as far.
4. Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
Rewards: Two miles per dollar spent on all purchases
Signup Bonus: 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, $89 after
APR: Variable 16.74%, 20.74% or 23.74%
Why We Picked It: Miles can be redeemed for any eligible travel purchase, and a strong signup bonus can save hundreds on your trip.
For Your Upcoming Trip: Every purchase you make on this card earns you a flat two miles that can be redeemed toward your upcoming trip. Plus, 50,000 bonus miles is worth up to $500 in travel statement credits. And you’ll get 5% miles back every time you redeem.
Drawbacks: You can earn miles or points at a greater rate with other cards.
Rewards: 1.25X miles per dollar spent on all purchases
Signup Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: None
APR: 0% intro on purchases for 12 months, then 13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
Why We Picked It: The signup bonus is a bit smaller than other options, but you’ll pay no annual fee.
For Your Upcoming Trip: At $1,000, the spending requirement for this card’s signup bonus is relatively low, and it’s worth $200 in travel money. You can redeem your miles through any website or app.
Drawbacks: Compared to other cards, the signup bonus is small.
How to Choose a Card to Help Cover Your Trip
When choosing a credit card to help fund your upcoming trip, remember: Most signup bonuses require you to meet spending minimums within the first three months of having the card. If your trip occurs within that time frame, you may not be able to earn the signup bonus in time. If the spending minimum is outside what you’d normally spend, you may want to hunt for a card with lower requirements.
Beyond that, you should look for cards that reward the way you tend to travel. For example, a hotel-branded credit card will only benefit loyal customers of that brand. If you tend to spread your travel purchases around many airlines, hotel chains and other providers, you may want a general travel card.
You also may want to look beyond your upcoming trip. Many of these cards charge annual fees and have a range of other features. If you plan on using your card for routine spending, you’ll want one that’s worth the cost and has features that benefit your everyday life.
What You Need to Get a Card With a Travel Signup Bonus
Credit cards with travel rewards and large signup bonuses usually require excellent credit. If you fall below that threshold, you may want to consider cards with looser qualification requirements. Either way, if you don’t know where your credit stands, you should find out before you apply. You can check two of your credit scores for free through Credit.com.
At publishing time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Hilton Honors Surpass, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, Capital One VentureOne Rewards credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.