Traveling this summer? Here are the best cards for making your trip more comfortable
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
Summer is just around the corner — and it’s shaping up to be a bumper travel season with big crowds, flight delays, and high temperatures (and tempers!)
You’ve probably booked your flights and hotels by now (if not, you should do that right away). However, one part of your trip may be lacking: tips on how to make your trip more comfortable.
This could include anything from zipping through the airport to avoiding crowds, taking advantage of more comfortable seats on your flight and getting freebies or upgrades along the way.
Today, let’s look at the best credit cards for making your next trip more enjoyable.
Premium credit cards that improve your travel experience
Having a premium credit card can offer a lot of perks. You can breeze through airport security, skip the line at rental car facilities and wait comfortably at an airport lounge simply by having a premium credit card in your wallet.
Here’s how these cards can make your travel experience better:
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express provides access to numerous travel benefits to make your next trip more comfortable.
First, you can access numerous lounges while waiting for your flight at the airport. These include American Express Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Club lounges (when flying Delta that day), Priority Pass Select lounges, Escape Lounges — The Centurion Studio Partner, Airspace lounges, Plaza Premium lounges, Lufthansa lounges and other Global Lounge Collection partner lounges (search for locations here). Enrollment is required in advance for some benefits.
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To move quickly through security checkpoints, you can receive reimbursement from your Amex Platinum Card when paying for your membership fees to Global Entry, TSA PreCheck and Clear. These programs provide dedicated security lanes, which often mean shorter waiting times. Enrollment is required in advance for these benefits.
You also can make your flights more comfortable thanks to up to $200 in statement credits per year for airline incidentals. You must select a preferred airline in advance, and then you can be reimbursed for expenses like checked bags, preferred seats or even inflight Wi-Fi purchases. Enrollment is required.
Related: How to use the Amex Platinum $200 airline fee credit
Amex Platinum cardmembers also have access to Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts and The Hotel Collection and can enjoy up to a $200 annual hotel credit in the form of a statement credit on prepaid Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings with Amex Travel. Note that there is a two-night minimum stay for The Hotel Collection bookings. These programs provide access to high-quality hotels and benefits like room upgrades, free breakfast or late checkout.
Other hotel benefits come in the form of room upgrades and earning points at higher rates, thanks to elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. Amex Platinum cardmembers can enroll for complimentary Gold status in both programs.
To elevate your rental car experience, enroll for elite status in rental car programs, including Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, Avis Preferred and National Car Rental Emerald Club Executive. This will provide benefits like car upgrades, a free second driver and the ability to skip the line when picking up your car — meaning you can head straight to your car and get on the road.
Related: Is the Amex Platinum worth the annual fee?
Plus, if you need a ride to an airport or hotel during your trip, you can take advantage of up to $200 in Uber Cash per year. You can use this for rides or Uber Eats orders in the U.S. by adding your Amex Platinum card as a payment method in your Uber account. Enrollment is required.
The Amex Platinum Card’s benefits come with an annual fee of $695 (see rates and fees).
Official application link: The Platinum Card® from American Express
The American Express® Green Card
The American Express Green Card offers 3 points per dollar on broader travel, restaurants and transit, as well as annual statement credits for Clear (up to$189) and LoungeBuddy ($100) that more than cover its $150 annual fee (see rates and fees), making it a compelling offer for any occasional traveler.
The card also offers extended warranty protection, purchase protection and return protection when you purchase eligible items with your card, as well as baggage insurance and secondary car rental loss and damage insurance, with the option to upgrade to primary coverage through Amex’s Premium Car Rental Protection.
Right now, Amex is offering new cardmembers 60,000 Membership Rewards points after they spend $3,000 on purchases in their first six months of card membership. Based on TPG’s valuation of Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each, the welcome offer points are worth at least $1,200.
You’ll also get 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases in your first six months to earn up to $200 back, making the total welcome offer worth up to $1,400.
In all, the card’s a great option for the modern traveler.
Official application link: The American Express® Green Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has a slightly lower annual fee ($550) than the Amex Platinum and also comes with numerous perks to make your next trip more comfortable.
Like Platinum cardmembers, Sapphire Reserve cardholders also have access to over 1,300 Priority Pass lounges worldwide. They also have access to Chase Sapphire Lounges, coming to nine airports. These will include popular airports like New York-LaGuardia, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Washington-Dulles. The first lounges are already open in Boston and Hong Kong.
The Sapphire Reserve card also reimburses your application fee for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or quicker access between the U.S. and Canada through Nexus.
If you need help securing difficult reservations or booking activities during your trip, Sapphire Reserve cardholders have access to a concierge service to assist.
And those looking for boutique hotel experiences can access the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. These bookings provide benefits like daily breakfast for two people, a $100 on-property credit and room upgrades (when available).
Related: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review
While the Sapphire Reserve card doesn’t provide credits strictly allocated to airline incidental credits, ride-hailing apps or even elite status, it does have something that can offset these expenses. Cardholders have up to $300 in annual travel credits that apply automatically to the first $300 they spend in broad travel categories each year — such as rides to the airport, airport parking, seat upgrades or even the beachside cabana that requires a paid reservation at a resort.
When renting a car, you’ll enjoy complimentary National Emerald Club Executive membership plus benefits with Avis and Silvercar.
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
With an annual fee of just $395, the Venture X card may seem like a bargain compared to the Amex Platinum Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve. However, it still comes packed with benefits to make your next trip more comfortable.
Along with access to Priority Pass lounges, cardholders also have unlimited visits to Capital One lounges and Plaza Premium lounges. Lounge benefits also extend to your authorized users, who can also bring two guests of their own — meaning your whole family could access a lounge for free during your next trip.
Related: Big family? No problem! Get unlimited lounge guests with this credit card
Venture X cardholders can also enjoy reimbursement for their Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee to help move through security quickly.
For rental cars, Venture X cardholders (and Venture X authorized users) enjoy top-tier Hertz President’s Circle status.* After registering for this benefit, you can enjoy skip-the-line privileges, guaranteed upgrades, the widest range of selection and a free additional driver. Moreover, once you have rental car status with one company, you can use this to match your status to other rental car programs.
*Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through December 31, 2024. Please note, enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at Hertz.com) will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program, and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.
Related: Is the Capital One Venture X worth the $395 annual fee?
For other comforts during your trip, you can take advantage of 10,000 bonus miles on every account anniversary and up to $300 in annual statement credits for travel booked through the Capital One Travel portal. Great uses of these credits would be booking a boutique hotel or even stacking benefits with your Hertz car rentals.
Official application link: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Airline cards that make your flight more comfortable
Breezing through security without the need to take off your shoes or wait in a long line is great. So is waiting comfortably in an airport lounge. However, your trip doesn’t end there.
Here’s how cobranded airline credit cards can make your next flight more comfortable:
A free checked bag is a key feature of nearly every airline credit card. This can save you money and improve your airport experience since you won’t carry as many things through security or onto the plane.
You can enjoy a free first checked bag on your flight across various credit cards and annual fees. This includes the United Explorer Card ($0 introductory annual fee, then $95), the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card ($95 annual fee), Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® ($450 annual fee) and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card ($550 annual fee; see rates and fees).
Many credit cards also extend the checked bag benefits to other people on your same reservation. However, the number of people this perk covers depends on the card and can vary widely. And while this benefit generally extends to any trip associated with your frequent flyer account number, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines credit cards are an exception. To get free checked bags, you must pay for the ticket with your United Airlines or Alaska Airlines credit card, respectively.
For more details, see the following:
Beyond offering free checked bags, you can enjoy other comfort-adding perks from airline credit cards. Examples include priority boarding and access to preferred seats or seat upgrades.
However, those holding credit cards with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines or United Airlines will enjoy some level of preferred boarding when flying on those airlines. Generally, this means boarding before economy passengers but after business- and first-class passengers. By boarding early, you can access overhead storage bins before they’re full.
Airline credit cards can also offer the chance to upgrade to better seats. Aside from using airline or travel credits on the premium credit cards discussed above, United and Delta flyers can access preferred seats in other ways.
Those who hold the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex can request complimentary upgrades before their flight, potentially moving up to Comfort+ seats. These cardholders receive upgrades ahead of those with the same status and seating cabin who don’t hold the Reserve card. Those with the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card can also receive upgrade priority after meeting the Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) waiver requirement of spending $25,000 on the card in a calendar year.
With United Airlines, those with elite status normally don’t receive upgrades on award flights — just on paid flights. However, those who hold a United Airlines credit card with an annual fee can receive complimentary upgrades according to their elite status level even when flying on award tickets. Thus, you could get a roomier seat if you have status with United Airlines — and you can even get that roomier seat on an award flight if you also hold a card like the United Quest Card.
Related: 4 reasons someone in your family needs a United credit card
Hotel cards that improve your stay
When you think about adding comfort to your hotel stays, your first thought probably includes upgraded rooms. However, free (or faster) Wi-Fi, breakfast and parking, and expedited check-in lines can also elevate your stay.
Having the right credit card in your wallet could offer you automatic entry-level status, netting you a few extra points and a free bottle of water. But it also might offer top-tier elite status that qualifies you for upgrades to suites and luxury treatment during your stay.
Hilton Honors credit cards
If you want top-tier Diamond status with Hilton — which includes perks like suite upgrades based on availability at check-in, lounge access at hotels that have these, bonus points, free breakfast and more — you can get this without the effort of counting your hotel nights every year.
Simply holding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card confers Diamond status automatically for as long as your account is open. The card’s annual fee is $450 (see rates and fees), but this may be less than what you would spend on the necessary hotel stays to qualify for Diamond status annually.
The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Another option for Hilton status is carrying the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, which confers automatic Hilton Gold (mid-tier) status. There’s an annual fee of $95 (see rates and fees). For this fee, your Gold status will confer benefits like bonus points on paid stays, room upgrades (but not suites) based on availability at check-in and either food and beverage credits or free breakfast, depending on the hotel.
Related: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you
IHG One Rewards credit cards
If you’re looking for elite status with IHG One Rewards, you can receive complimentary Platinum Elite status (the third-highest of the four tiers) pretty easily. Cardholders of the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card receive Platinum Elite status automatically; the card has a $99 annual fee. Platinum Elite status offers benefits like bonus points on paid stays, upgraded rooms (including suites at some properties), welcome gifts of points or snacks and discounts on reward nights.
Related: IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card review
Marriott Bonvoy credit cards
For those aiming for elite status with Marriott Bonvoy, you can unlock Platinum Elite status simply by having the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. This status offers benefits like bonus points on paid stays, welcome gifts (which can range from points to a complimentary breakfast), lounge access at hotels that have these and upgrades to suites, based on availability at check-in. These benefits come with an annual fee of $650 (see rates and fees) on this card.
The next status tier below Platinum is Marriott Bonvoy’s Gold Elite status. You can get this status automatically with the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful credit card. Both cards carry an annual fee of $250 (see rates and fees of the Bonvoy Bevy card). Gold status provides benefits like enhanced internet speeds in your hotel room, upgrades to preferred rooms when available at check-in, late checkout and a welcome gift of bonus points.
The information for the Marriott Bonvoy Bountiful card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: Which Marriott credit card is right for you?
World of Hyatt credit cards
It’s also possible to gain elite status with World of Hyatt by holding a credit card. However, you’ll only gain Discoverist status by holding the World of Hyatt Credit Card, which has an annual fee of $95. This status offers benefits like space-available upgrades to preferred rooms — such as a preferred location within the hotel or a nicer view — complimentary bottled water each day during your stay, premium internet access and late checkout.
Hyatt elites also can match their status to MGM Rewards and enjoy benefits from Hyatt’s partnership with American Airlines. This will include earning Hyatt points for spending money on AA flights.
Related: ‘One of the most valuable hotel cards’: A review of the World of Hyatt Credit Card
Wyndham Rewards credit cards
You can gain automatic status with Wyndham Rewards through credit cards, as well. The Wyndham Rewards Earner® Plus Card offers automatic Platinum status (the third-highest of four tiers), providing benefits like rollover nights, free Wi-Fi, preferred rooms, late checkout, early check-in and a status match to Caesars Rewards. The card has a $75 annual fee.
The no-annual-fee Wyndham Rewards Earner® Card offers automatic Gold status, providing benefits like free Wi-Fi, preferred rooms and rollover nights.
The information for the Wyndham Earner and Wyndham Earner Plus cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: Which Wyndham Rewards credit card is right for you?
Multiple credit cards can make your next trip more comfortable. From better seats on your flight to better rooms at your hotel and better experiences at airport security, what you hold in your wallet could elevate your next trip and remove stress points.
Premium credit cards can offer a range of perks and help you skip the lines at multiple points in your journey. Airline credit cards can offer perks like free checked bags, better seats and priority boarding. And hotel cards can get you free breakfast, room upgrades and late checkout.
Summer travel is hectic. These cards can remove some hassle from your trip, leaving your travel companions as one of the only potential stressors during your vacation.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Delta Reserve card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Aspire card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Surpass card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Amex card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy Amex card, click here.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Summer Hull and Stella Shon.