Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

3 Great Starter Travel Credit Cards

There are tons of credit card options out there, and most provide good value. However, there are a select few that make for a great starter card. If you are brand new to the travel hacking game and are not sure where to begin, I suggest you start with one of these three great starter travel credit cards:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred – This is still the bread-and-butter travel credit card for many people. This Chase card earns flexible points that can be used for travel purchase, redeemed for cash back, or transferred to several different hotel and airline loyalty programs. The standard offer for the card is 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card does have annual fee of $95 (waived the first year). The value of this card is found in Chase’s quality transfer partners, plus it earns 2x points on travel and dining.
  2. American Express Everyday Card – While the bonus of this card isn’t especially high (typically 10,000-15,000 Membership rewards points), this card is good starter card. It is one of the few cards that earns transferable points that does not have an annual fee. Membership Rewards can be transferred to several airline loyalty programs and a few hotel programs. While I don’t find the transfer partners as lucrative as Chase’s partners, there are still a few that offer great value. The EveryDay card earns a place here since it is a great way to ease into the world of transferable points, plus it can earn up to 2.4x at grocery stores.
  3. CapitalOne Venture – CapitalOne doesn’t get a lot of love from the travel hacking world since most of their products generally aren’t all that great. However, their Venture card is actually a decent product. While you can get a card with equal earning potential that comes without an annual fee (hint – Citi DoubleCash), the Venture card comes with a sign-up bonus worth $400, and the annual fee is waived the first year (then $59). Plus, the rewards can be used for any purchase that codes as travel, so there is a lot of flexibility. This is a great starter card, but not one that I would keep in my wallet for more than a year or two.

Which is the best?

Of these, my pick for the “best card” is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. If are willing to take some time to learn the the basics of a few hotel and airline loyalty programs, it will provide the best value of the three. The card also offers additional perks such as trip cancellation insurance, primary car rental insurance, and no foreign transaction fees (i.e. no extra fees when you use your card outside the U.S. in another country’s local currency).

If your interested in a first card to start earning rewards, consider one of these three great starter travel credit cards. If either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Amex Everyday look like the one for you, leave a comment and I’ll send you a referral email!


  1. Great article. I would only add the Barclay Arrival+ as an alternative to the Capital One Venture (higher AF, but more valuable points) and possibly the Jetblue card (no AF/no FTF). But yes, those are probably the top 3 cards out there to get started.

    • pointsmileslife

      February 20, 2017 at 3:54 PM

      Thanks!! I waffled between the BarclayCard Arrival+ and the CapOne Venture. The knocks for me against the Arrival+ are the $100 minimum on redemptions (for new accounts….many like mine are grandfathered in) and the higher AF. The benefits are the 5% back on redeemed points and the integration with the Travel Community for extra points. For people starting out, I figured the CapOne was just a hair better since it is a bit simpler to use with a lower AF.

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