You and your credit card have been through a lot together. You used it to buy your new laptop and your vacation to France, to pay the electricity bill and support your weekly Whole Foods habit. There have been good times, of course, like when your card provided insurance for your rental car. But ask yourself, what has it really done for you lately? Hiked its Annual Percentage Rate, added mysterious fees, punished you for 'foreign transactions' on your trip to Mexico? It's time to put your spending power into a credit card program that values—and rewards—your wanderlust.
Best for: domestic travelers who often fly to the same destination
So you visit your grandmother twice a year in Cincinnati and fly home to Santa Barbara on all major holidays? This Visa card features a 'Reduced Mileage Awards' program that allows cardholders to fly to select AA destinations for 7,500 fewer miles on a round-trip ticket. If you spend just $750 on the card in the first four months, American Airlines will award you 25,000 bonus miles, enough for a domestic round-trip flight. You'll earn one AAdvantage mile for every dollar spent, and there are no blackout dates for travel on American Airlines or their American Eagle and American Connection domestic carriers. Annual fee after first year - $50.
Best for: globetrotters
Let's say it together now: no foreign transaction fees. That means you won't be charged extra for using your card anywhere overseas, a crucial benefit for international travelers. The Chase Sapphire Preferred also lets you turn your points into miles with a 1:1 exchange into United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Korean Air, and British Airways, or other travel programs like Amtrak Guest Rewards, Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards, Priority Club Rewards, and Ritz-Carlton Rewards. The introductory offer is tempting: spend $3,000 in the first three months and you'll earn 40,000 miles, roughly $500 towards travel rewards. Annual fee after first year - $95
Best for: hotel connoisseurs and travelers to Latin America
Always wanted to stay at the W Barcelona or the St. Regis New York? Starpoints earned on this card can be redeemed at over 1,000 hotels in nearly 100 countries. The first time you use your card, you'll earn 10,000 Starpoints, enough for a free night at a 4-star property. You can also transfer your Starpoints on a 1:1 basis into more than 30 frequent flier programs. Travelers to Central and South America win especially big with this card—Starpoints are instantly doubled if you transfer them into LAN's frequent flier program. Annual fee after first year - $65
Best for: big spenders
Do you put more than $2,000 a month on your credit card? This program will triple your points when you buy a plane ticket and double your points when you spend on gas and groceries. Because the annual fee is on the steep side, this card is a much better deal if you rack up a lot of charges on your card each month. Your earned points never expire; use them on any airline, anytime, by reserving a flight through American Express Travel, or transfer them into your preferred frequent flyer program—points can also be redeemed for retail and dining gift cards. Annual fee after first year - $175
Best for: United frequent flyers
In addition to giving you two miles per dollar spent on United Airlines tickets, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card offers cardholders a free checked bag on any flight in the system (United charges $25 for the first checked bag, saving you up to $100 on baggage fees for a round-trip flight since this benefit is also extended to one companion on the same reservation), and a 30,000-mile bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Miles will never expire as long as your account remains active, and cardholders can book award travel on any United Airlines flight at any time. You'll also get two free United Club passes per year (a $100 value) and enjoy priority boarding on all flights operated by United. Annual fee after first year - $95