Inside Ellen Pompeo’s House and Multi-Million Dollar Real Estate Portfolio

Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo is one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood — and her real estate portfolio reflects that. 

According to Forbes, Pompeo is the eighth highest paid actress, ranking just behind the likes of Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie.

Clocking in at $550,000 per episode of Grey’s, the mother-of-three, 52, also receives $6 million per year from her share of syndication profits, earning her a total of $19 million per year.

But acting isn’t her only talent.

In real life, she’s no stranger to the real estate market and has a self-proclaimed hobby of buying and designing homes. Continue reading all about Pompeo’s passion for real estate and home design.

Where does Ellen Pompeo live now?

Although she’s sold three different homes in recent years, the SAG Award-winning actress currently owns two homes in California. Let’s take a look at these houses located in the Los Angeles area.

The actress’ Los Feliz home

First up, here’s a look at Pompeo’s Mediterranean mansion in the gated and celeb-filled community of Laughlin Park in Los Feliz. 

The Grey’s Anatomy star and husband Chris Ivery are raising their three children — daughters Stella, 12, and Sienna, 7, and 5-year-old son Eli — in the 16,000 square-foot mansion. 

actress Ellen Pompeo's house in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Chris Ivery and their three children.
Actress Ellen Pompeo’s house in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Chris Ivery and their three children. Photo credit: Everett Fenton Gidley / Sotheby’s International Realty

“I love a project,” Pompeo told Architectural Digest of the top-to-bottom renovations they did to the Mediterranean-style mansion. 

Originally crafted by architect Paul Revere Williams in 1930 for Antonio Moreno, a famous actor from the silent film era who married oil heiress Daisy Canfield Moreno, the property was known throughout the decades as The Antonio Moreno estate.

The Pompeo-Iverys completely transformed the nearly century-old house.

After purchasing the property in 2009 for $3.475 million, Pompeo hired decorator Martyn Lawrence Bullard to help with the task of “giving the house the attention it desperately needed,” Pompeo shared.

And the results are stunning. 

With luxurious features from reclaimed terra-cotta tiles, to planks of textured French oak, to antiqued moldings, to six-and-a-half-foot-tall wood-framed French doors, to a swimming pool and cabana, to the outdoor kitchen and pizza oven, this stunning estate has it all.

If you’d like to take a closer look at Ellen Pompeo’s house – and primary residence – check out this video tour she gave to Architectural Digest in 2014, when her home was featured in the November issue of the magazine:

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Ellen Pompeo’s house in Malibu

In 2014, the People’s Choice Award-winning actress purchased a plush property in Malibu for $6.365 million, Dirt reports.

The waterfront home is located on a low bluff in the semi-remote, far western end of Malibu. 

Pompeo bought the Buff and Hensman-designed house from Friends co-creator/ writer/ producer Marta Kauffman.

Featuring jaw-dropping ocean views and an infinity pool, Pompeo and her family-of-five enjoy the privacy on the western-most tip of Malibu.

exterior and oceanfront view of Ellen Pompeo's house in Malibu
Ellen Pompeo’s house in Malibu, which she bought in 2014 for $6.365 million. Photo credit:

According to Variety, the Malibu beach house boasts 2,130 square feet, three bedrooms and three bathrooms. 

3 other homes Ellen Pompeo has recently sold (including one she designed herself)

“This is my hobby and I absolutely love it,” Pompeo told Architectural Digest of buying and designing homes. 

Although she’s best known for her starring role in the ABC popular medical drama, the Grey’s Anatomy star also loves to dabble in real estate.

And did we mention she even made her design debut in the Hamptons? Here’s the full scoop on the three homes she’s sold in recent years.

East Hampton:

In 2019, the actress sold her East Coast modern farmhouse for $2.995, Los Angeles Times reports.

Located in the Hamptons, Pompeo designed this home herself. Spanning 2,400 square feet on eight acres in Sag Harbor (a small village in Suffolk County, New York), the house features five bedrooms and four bathrooms.

A pool/backyard view of the Sag Harbor house Ellen Pompeo designed, then sold at a profit back in 2019.
A pool/backyard view of the Sag Harbor house Ellen Pompeo designed, then sold at a profit back in 2019. Photo credit: Chris Foster / Douglas Elliman

Some of the luxurious features include a master suite with a private lounge and office, and an outdoor wood deck that descends to a gunite pool surrounded by landscaped lawns.

Hollywood Hills:

In 2017, the actress sold her mid century mansion in LA’s Hollywood Hills for $2.075 million, Los Angeles Times reports.

Designed in 1957 by architect Harry Greene, the house spans 1,889 square feet, features a stainless steel kitchen, media room, stunning glass walls and concrete floors, and an outdoor courtyard with a fire pit, pool and spa, Architectural Digest reports.

Hollywood Hills:

exterior of the Grey's Anatomy star's former home in Hollywood Hills
The Grey’s Anatomy star’s former home in Hollywood Hills. Photo credit: Hilton & Hyland

Also in 2017, Pompeo sold a second Hidden Hills home, according to the Los Angeles Times. Cashing in at $2.765 million, the 2,456-square foot home in the historic Whitley Heights neighborhood features two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The Pompeo-Iverys heavily updated the 1920s Spanish villa before putting it on the market.

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Where in the World Do George Clooney & Amal Clooney Live?


The Complete History of The Manor, Now Back on the Market Asking $165 Million


  • The opulent 123-room Holmby Hills estate known simply as The Manor has resurfaced on the market, this time with an even more ambitious price tag: $165 million
  • When it last sold in 2019, the property broke LA County sales records, trading hands for $120 million
  • The Manor was built by legendary TV producer Aaron Spelling at the height of his fame and fortune
  • Often dubbed ‘the world’s first McMansion’, the Spelling Manor spawned a great deal of controversy in the ’80s and ’90s
  • With its sheer size and ostentatious architecture, the estate is truly one of a kind, and comes with every amenity imaginable (and some you wouldn’t even think of)
  • After Spelling’s death, The Manor was bought by F1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, who made significant upgrades to the property before selling it for a record amount

After shattering LA County records in 2019 with its $120 million sale, the Holmby Hills behemoth estate — known as The Manor — is back on the market.

And this time, it’s seeking a mind-boggling $165 million (Jeff Hyland and Drew Fenton of Hilton & Hyland hold the listing).

Ironically (or maybe very much on purpose), the $165 million listing price is the exact amount Jeff Bezos paid for his Beverly Hills mansion in 2020, a purchase that dethroned The Manor as the most expensive Los Angeles sale.

Competitiveness aside, there aren’t many homes in the world that can compete with the one once known as ‘Spelling Manor’.

One of the grandest private homes ever built

Built at the height of his fame (and fortune) by legendary Hollywood producer Aaron Spelling, The Manor is the largest home in all of Los Angeles.

A sprawling estate that sits on 5 acres of land and has a whopping 123 rooms (including 27 bathrooms and 14 bedrooms), the chateau-like property was a hot topic among locals for years after it was built in 1988.

The eccentric TV producer — who died in the mansion in 2006, at the age of 83 — didn’t pull any stops when it came to building his dream home.

In fact, on top of its sheer size and luxurious features, Spelling made sure to include unique features like a bowling alley, an ice rink and an entire wing devoted to his wife’s wardrobe.

But before we go into the uproar caused by what was likely the world’s first McMansion, let’s look at its most recent history — record-setting in itself.

Setting records: The Manor last sold for $120 million

The opulent mansion was owned until recently by F1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, who bought the property after Spelling’s death.

Ecclestone made some major upgrades to the estate, investing close to $20 million in improvements, then sold it for a fortune 8 years later, in 2019.

And despite its final selling price falling short of the ambitious initial asking of $200 million, that doesn’t make it any less staggering. An unnamed buyer reportedly paid $119.75 million for the well-known Los Angeles property (now dubbed simply as The Manor).

The sprawling Spelling mansion, which is now known as The Manor.
The sprawling Spelling mansion, which is now known as The Manor. Image credit: Jim Bartsch/Coldwell Banker

That was the highest home price in Los Angeles County history at the time (dethroned by Jeff Bezos’ $165 million purchase of the Geffen estate in 2020) and only the fourth sale to surpass the $100 million mark in L.A. history, the LA Times reports.

The national record is held by a New York penthouse towering over Central Park that sold in January for a record $238 million.

Now, what’s the story of the 56,500-square-foot chateau in Holmby Hills that has the power to command a $120 million sale? And the audacity to ask for even more the second time around?

For those of us that didn’t grow up in L.A. in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the massive estate may not bring back memories. But for the people of Los Angeles, The Manor has been a topic of discussion for years.

The story (and controversy) of Aaron Spelling’s ostentatious manor

When I was a little kid, I remember thinking pf Aaron Spelling as TV royalty.

The man had his name on pretty much everything I would watch on TV, his name leading credits for everything from the Love Boat to Dynasty, Sunset Beach, and Beverly Hills 90210, amassing an incredible fortune in the process.

Aaron Spelling with the cast of Beverly Hills 90210. Image credit:

When news first broke about a Dynasty-worthy mansion he was building for himself, nothing felt off place.

In the spirit of the shows that made him his vast fortune, it even figured that he donned his own name to the palatial abode he built on what is arguably L.A.’s most prestigious street.

A colossal structure spanning 56,000 square feet of living space, the Spelling Manor took shape as one of the most massive and outrageously lavish properties in the country.

But building the most ostentatious mansion in the country doesn’t necessarily get you the type of recognition Spelling was likely going after.

Since the moment Spelling started building his estate, the project spawned a great deal of controversy over its massive size and ostentatious architecture. In April 1988, the Los Angeles Times asked:

What’s bigger than a football field, smaller than Hearst Castle, has a bowling alley and an entire floor of closets, and is making some people very annoyed?

Aaron and Candy Spelling’s 56,500-square-foot (5,250 m2) mansion in Holmby Hills. The French chateau, under construction now for two years, has turned the corner of Mapleton and Club View drives into a gawker’s paradise. Sprawled across 6 acres (2.4 ha) on what once was the Bing Crosby estate, the house dwarfs the sizable mansions on the block and looms large over tranquil Holmby Park near Wilshire Boulevard.

The LA Times, April 1988

After the manor took its current shape, Los Angeles Times architecture critic Sam Hall Kaplan panned the structure as one of the region’s worst projects built in the course of the ’80s:

Aaron Spelling residence, which at 56,500 square feet (5,250 m2), should be considered a congregate living facility and not a single-family home, and therefore in violation of Holmby Hills zoning. What Spelling’s folly is, of course, is a sad commentary on the distorted values that have taken the architectural form of monster mansions at a time when tens of thousands of persons are homeless.

But the outrage didn’t stop here. In fact, Aaron and Candy Spelling’s manor quickly seeped into popular culture, with a never-ending stream of references and jokes being made at the expense of the Spellings.

Performer John Perry composed a calypso/rap novelty song about the house called “The Ballad of Aaron and Candy (An Ode to Spelling’s Dwelling)” that ran like this:

See Candy’s jewels, see Aaron’s money,
Aaron doesn’t think being picked on is funny.
See Candy’s clothes, see Aaron’s pad
See Aaron and Candy’s castle make the neighbors mad.
But they’re livin’ in splendor high above the crowds
60,000 square feet of heaven.
That’s Spelling’s dwelling, I said
Spelling’s Dwelling…

John Perry

Candy Spelling inside the Manor.
Candy Spelling at the Manor. Credit: Official Facebook page

Aaron and Candy Spelling brushed off the ridicule and lived many years in the massive estate.

Aaron Spelling died in the mansion on June 23, 2006, at age 83. Three years later, the property was listed for sale at an asking price of $150 million, making it the most expensive listing in America at the time.

The last known owner of The Manor, F1 heiress Petra Ecclestone, heavily renovated the former Spelling mansion

It wasn’t until summer 2011 that a new owner emerged for the eccentric estate.

Petra Ecclestone, daughter of Formula One racing baron Bernie Ecclestone, paid an astounding $85 million in cash to buy the property from Candy Spelling.

She then hired designer Gavin Brodin to update the rather matronly interiors in a massive renovation project that was to be completed in less than three months.

The project was so grand some outlets report that there were up to 500 workers on the property at a time, and that the total costs amounted to more than $20 million.

The European-influenced contemporary result got a wide spread in a W Magazine article titled “Lady of the Manor”.

Inside The Manor, one of Los Angeles’ most luxurious homes. Image credit: Jim Bartsch/Coldwell Banker
Inside The Manor, one of Los Angeles’ most luxurious homes. Image credit: Jim Bartsch/
Inside The Manor, one of Los Angeles’ most luxurious homes. Image credit: Jim Bartsch/
Inside The Manor, one of Los Angeles’ most luxurious homes. Image credit: Jim Bartsch/

But running an estate that’s bigger than the White House proved to be quite the task for Ecclestone.

According to Sam Palmer, Petra’s fiancé at the time, who shared the home with the heiress, running an estate as massive as The Manor takes a lot of resources.

Palmer said he was surprised at the expense and difficulty of running the roughly 5-acre property, which requires 35 to 50 full-time staff members.

And Ecclestone likely started feeling the burden of that, as she didn’t hold on to the former Spelling mansion for more than a few years.

After trying to sell the property off-market for $150 million, she listed it for sale in 2016 for a whopping $200 million. And while there have been rumors that even Jay-Z and Beyonce toured it at one point, no serious buyer had emerged until news of the record sale broke out in 2019.

As previously mentioned, we know that the new buyer paid a mind-boggling $119.75 million for what was once the Spelling mansion.

But even though a few years have passed since the purchase, nobody really found out who bought the lavish estate. Maybe the hype around the re-listing of The Manor will shed some light on who the owner is — or give us a buyer whose fame and fortune can match those of its illustrious past residents.

More palatial estates

The Playboy Mansion: Hugh Hefner’s Party Home is Now Part of Modern HistoryVilla Sophia is a Hollywood Darling with Old World Tuscan Charm
Greystone Mansion: the Most Familiar House You’ve Never VisitedThe Thrilling History of The Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ Iconic Summer Estate in Newport


New Investment App Users Are Flocking to Crypto, Survey Finds

This graphic shows that 51% of survey respondents believe crypto is high risk, high reward.

Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Investment apps are giving people more ways than ever before to buy and sell cryptocurrency.

Traders in the past were limited to crypto exchanges, like Gemini and BiNance, which feature complex registration and transaction processes that can be intimidating to newcomers.

Apps such as Robinhood, SoFi, Webull, Public and others have simplified the process for retail consumers. These apps act as crypto brokers, placing digital coin orders directly with exchanges on the user’s behalf.

Now, investors can dabble in crypto in the same app they use to buy more traditional assets like stocks and ETFs.

Investment App Users Eye Crypto’s Big Paydays

Volatility is a trademark of cryptocurrency. Yet a majority of investment app users accept those roller-coaster price fluctuations in exchange for high potential payoffs.

The Penny Hoarder polled nearly 2,000 investment app users in December 2021, and over half of respondents (51%) view cryptocurrency as a high risk, high reward investment. On the flip side, nearly 30% of survey respondents considered cryptocurrency a low-risk investment.

Those perceptions — coupled with investors’ real money — have been on a wild ride.

Bitcoin — the long-time crypto heavyweight — increased 63% in 2021 alone, driving the entire crypto market to a combined $2 trillion in value.

Ethereum also experienced eye-popping growth in 2021, rising in value by more than 400%.

While Etherum nearly doubled in price from February 2021 to February 2022, the currency experienced massive booms and busts along the way:

  • February 2, 2021: $1,513
  • May 14, 2021: $4,080
  • July 20, 2021: $1,786
  • Nov. 8, 2021: $4,811
  • Feb.1, 2022: $2,789

In early 2022, the global crypto market plummeted, erasing more than $1 trillion in wealth. The volatility of cryptocurrency continues to raise concerns about the inherent risk of investing in this speculative and unregulated market.

Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin Are the Most Popular Coins Among Investment App Users

Bitcoin reigned No. 1 with investment app users — 52% of respondents say they’ve bought the digital coin.

Etherum ran a distant second with 35% of respondents buying in.

Dogecoin — a headline-grabbing memecoin hyped by billionaire Elon Musk in 2021 — was the third most popular cryptocurrency among survey respondents, at 34%.

Celebrities Hold Sway With Crypto Buyers

Celebrities and influencers are also throwing their weight behind cryptocurrency, promoting digital assets to their legions of followers.

More than four in 10 respondents (45%) said a celebrity influenced their decision to buy cryptocurrency, according to survey data.

High-profile figures to publicly back crypto coins and exchanges include Matt Damon, Paris Hilton, Jamie Foxx, Tom Brady, Ashton Kutcher and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Interestingly, respondents aged 35-44 were the group most likely to say a celeb persuaded them to buy crypto, at 53%.

In contrast, respondents aged 54 and older were the least likely to buy crypto based on a celebrity endorsement, at 32%.

Celebrities aren’t financial experts, and their growing influence over young investors is raising concern — and prompting legal action.

Lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit against Kim Kardashian, former NBA star Paul Pierce and boxer Floyd Mayweather in January 2022, accusing the celebrities of hyping a little-known coin called EthereumMax.

The suit claims EthereumMax operated a “pump and dump” scheme, where misleading marketing is used to inflate the price of an asset, “causing investors to purchase these losing investments at inflated prices,” according to court documents.

The lawsuit is the latest example of crypto’s mainstream popularity — and speculative nature.

Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.

About the Survey

The Penny Hoarder conducted the random national survey in partnership with Pollfish from December 15-18, 2021. Pollfish screened respondents by asking if they had used at least one investment app regularly within the past year: 3,581 people responded to the screening question, with 2,000 people who used at least one investment app regularly advancing to the survey’s 20 questions. The Penny Hoarder analyzed the data and removed 82 responses that were not valid, bringing the response count to 1,918. Responses were weighted for age and gender so that each response is representative of the U.S. population. The overall survey’s margin of error is +-2 percentage points at a 95% confidence interval.




[YMMV] Upgrade you American Express Hilton Honors to the Ascend or Aspire and Get 150,000 Bonus Points

Update 1/23/22: Deal is back, people have been sent an e-mail. Subject line is ‘You’re invited to upgrade. Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points.’ There is a unique 14 RSVP code on each e-mail so link can’t be shared.

The Offer

No direct link. Shows up in amex offers

  • Some American Express Hilton cardholders are being offered to upgrade to the Hilton Ascend or Aspire card and receive a bonus of 150,000 points after $4,000 in spend within the first three months

Our Verdict

Nice deal if targeted. The nice thing about upgrade offers is that it’s possible to get the upgrade bonus even if you’ve received the sign up bonus on that card previously. For more information on upgrade offers in general, you’ll find this linked post highly helpful.

Hat tip to FIPhile


Increased Signup Bonuses on American Express Hilton Cards of up to 130,000 Points + Free Night Certificate (Referrals Available)

The Offer

Consumer Cards | Business version

  • American Express is offering increased sign up bonuses on three of the Hilton credit cards. The offers are as follows:
    • Hilton Honors no fee card: Get 70,000 Hilton Honors points plus a free night award after $1,000 spend in 3 months.
    • Hilton Honors Surpass with $95 annual fee: Get 130,000 Hilton Honors points plus a free night award after $2,000 spend in 3 months.
    • Hilton Honors Business with $95 annual fee: Get 130,000 Hilton Honors points plus a free night award after $2,000 spend in 3 months.

Our Verdict

These deals are also showing up via referrals (please do not share your referrals in the comments). Previously the best deals have been 150k points on the no fee card, 200k for the surpass and 180k for the business card or similar deals but with a cash component. It’s important to note that the free night certificates can be used any day of the weekend, they aren’t restricted weekend night certificates. How useful these deals are will depend on what type of properties you like to stay at but for most people this will be better than we have seen before. We will add these to our best credit card bonuses.

As always I don’t recommend signing up for these cards unless you have a use of the points/free night certificates in the short to medium term as bonuses are always trending up (as the value of points trends down with devaluations).


12 Best Hotel Booking Apps of 2021 – Get Cheap Deals on Rooms

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Additional Resources

My family and I recently stayed in a two-bedroom apartment for the same cost as cramming into a dull corporate hotel room. I don’t have an in with the owner or know someone who knows someone. I just used a booking app. 

A hotel booking app can help save you time, hassle, and money when planning your next trip. And these hotel booking apps could help you find a deal just as good as the one they found me.

Best Independent Hotel Booking Apps

Independent apps aren’t affiliated with a specific hotel brand. They aggregate options across a range of hotel chains and independent lodging to provide you with an abundance of choices and travel deals. To get the best deals, download the heavy hitters and check them all before you book.


Arguably the most popular website for reserving accommodations, has a robust, easy-to-use app that deserves a spot on your smartphone. One of the best things about this app is the sheer number of options it offers, including accommodations in off-the-beaten-path locations around the world.

If you’re traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language, the app makes it easy to view the address of your hotel in the local language. If you need to show a taxi or rideshare driver where you’re headed, you can simply pull it up in the app and point.

Finally, the interface makes it easy to see all past, current, and future trips, and it highlights any loyalty discounts you’re eligible for at properties across the globe.

But you can book more than just hotel stays. The app searches for private vacation rentals like those listed on Airbnb and Vrbo. It also displays the hotel’s or host’s cancellation policy, noting the date range for free cancellation. 


Another major search engine in the online booking space, includes hundreds of thousands of properties in more than 200 countries and territories.’s best perk is the free night you get for every 10 nights you book through it. But you have to use the app to book your reward night at no charge. If you use the website, it costs $5. 

The app also lets you view or modify current reservations and view your reward progress toward free nights.

3. Priceline

Priceline rose to fame for its name-your-own-price feature. While it phased out that feature starting in 2016, Priceline replaced it with two new features called Pricebreakers and Express Deals. 

Pricebreakers show you a price quote and the names of three hotels in your destination city, and you book without knowing which hotel you’ll land. You get a deal in exchange for flexibility. 

Express Deals also involves a bit of dice-rolling. They quote you a price, the approximate location, the hotel star rating, and the hotel amenities and bed size. You also see three possible hotels on a map, one of which is the real one. 

With a bit of online detective work, you can often sleuth out which hotel they’ve quoted you. But even if you can’t, the deal you get may still be worth it.

The only drawback is that there’s no free cancellation when you book through these programs.

Or you can use Priceline’s more common features, such as booking hotels, flights, rental cars, and even cruises at retail pricing. It includes exclusive deals and promotions on hotels you can’t get on the website. 

Priceline also now offers a loyalty program called Priceline VIP. Once you complete two trips with Priceline, you start seeing discounts up to 50% on over 15,000 properties on their platform. 

After five completed trips, you reach VIP Gold and start seeing discounts on over 30,000 properties. And at 25 completed trips, the number of discounted properties rises to 45,000. 

4. Expedia

If you enjoy playing the travel rewards game and want to see just how steeply discounted a rate you can find, Expedia is the app for you. It often features exclusive app-only deals. Plus, you get double rewards points on everything you book through the app. 

Like other hotel booking apps, Expedia hosts a wealth of hotel reviews from real guests to help you find the best stay.

You can also use the app to book other Expedia services, like flights, car rentals, tickets, and tours. Expedia offers mobile-only discounts of up to 30% on hotels and says you can save an additional estimated 43% when bundling a hotel with your flight.

Plus, the app alerts you about important travel information like flight updates, delays, and gate changes before it causes a problem.   

Expedia also offers a convenient buy-now, pay-later service for hotel deals so you can pay at the hotel rather than upfront. 

5. HotelsCombined

HotelsCombined sets itself apart from the rest in a few ways. It offers tons of pictures of potential hotels, which appeals to people who want to know exactly what they’re getting into when booking a room. 

It also has a price alert feature that lets you sign up for an email notification when a room you’re interested in drops in price by 10% or more. If you can plan ahead to get the specific hotel you want, this feature can help you score a great deal.

HotelsCombined also offers a best-price guarantee. If you find a better deal elsewhere within 24 hours of booking, HotelsCombined matches it and refunds you the difference. 

The app also says it can unlock “secret deals” exclusive to users. Try it to see how much it can actually save you. You can always invoke their best-price guarantee if you spot a better deal later. 

6. Travelocity

The Travelocity app does everything you’d expect. You can book flights, hotels, and rental cars and bundle them for discounts. You can also browse and search activities to fill out your trip. 

Beyond hotels, the app also includes private vacation rentals like you’d find on Airbnb. That helps you find the best accommodation at the lowest price regardless of the property type.

Travelocity offers free cancellation on most hotel bookings. You can even filter search results to list only hotels that let you reserve now and pay later. 

Travelocity offers its own price guarantee. It not only matches the better offer but gives you a $50 coupon toward your next booking. But the window only lasts 24 hours after booking. 

In addition to their price guarantee, Travelocity guarantees excellent and timely customer service. That includes 24-hour customer service through email, phone, chat, and social media channels. 

Best Hotel Booking Apps for Last-Minute Deals

Most hotels have loads of unused rooms that go unused on a given night. And some apps take advantage of that by offering these vacant rooms for far less than their list price. 

If you enjoy the thrill of a last-minute hotel search or need a place to stay in a strange city on the fly, these apps have you covered.

7. HotelTonight

Perhaps your Airbnb host cancels your reservation the day of your arrival or you miss your flight and the first available connection isn’t until the next day. With HotelTonight on your phone, you can book a hotel reservation for the same evening or up to seven days in advance.

HotelTonight aggregates a city’s empty hotel rooms in one place, and you can book one for up to 50% off the full price. The app’s express deals go live at noon each day, and in some cities, you could have thousands of hotel rooms to choose from across multiple price points. 

The app is user-friendly and has a tiered loyalty program called HT Perks, which can net you even better rates the more loyalty credits you accrue. Even better, those loyalty points never expire.

8. One Night

If flying by the seat of your pants when you travel sounds appealing, One Night is the app for you. You can only book a reservation after noon for the same night in a select number of cities, usually at an enticing discount to sweeten the deal. 

Once you book a night, you can extend your accommodations for up to seven days.

The thing that sets One Night apart from other last-minute booking apps is that when you select your hotel, the app gives you hour-by-hour suggestions for fun things to do in your destination city. If you like to travel like a local, this is the app for you.

Best Hotel Chain Apps

If you take advantage of travel loyalty programs, it’s smart to have the app of your preferred hotel on your smartphone. With these iOS and Android apps, you can skip the line, choose your room, and unlock other member perks with ease.

9. Marriott

Marriott boasts more than 6,700 hotels in 130 countries. That means Marriott group owns 1 in 15 hotel rooms in the world. So you definitely won’t be starved for choices if you book accommodations on the Marriott app.

Once you book, you can request upgrades and late checkouts right from your phone. You can also request extras for your room, like a hair dryer or extra towels. 

If you frequently stay at any of Marriott’s 30 brands of hotel properties, join Marriott’s Bonvoy rewards program and keep this app on your phone. The app’s Eat Around Town feature lets you link a credit card and pay for meals directly, earning up to six Marriott points per dollar spent. 

Marriott Bonvoy also keeps you posted about hotel promotions all over the world, helping you save money wherever you visit.

10. Hilton Honors

If you’re a Hilton Honors devotee, you’ll love the app feature that everyone raves about: getting to choose your exact room ahead of time. 

At many hotels, you can see a map of the property and pick the room you want via the app. That’s especially popular with travelers who have a particular preference, such as a high floor with a view or distance from the elevator, or those who want to be near a specific amenity like the pool or fitness center.

The app also has a digital key feature that lets you use your smartphone to unlock the door to your room at select properties. Finally, being able to check out of your room at the end of your stay via the app means you won’t be stuck in line at the front desk during checkout.

The Hilton Honors app particularly helps you manage and optimize your Hilton rewards, finding exclusive promotions and stretching your reward points further.

11. Hyatt

Hyatt’s mobile app is called World of Hyatt after their rewards program. 

Through the app, you can stream personal entertainment content through the TV in your room with Chromecast, unlock your door with your phone, and contact the hotel directly in real time through a chat function both before and during your stay. Best of all, you can skip the front desk check-in entirely.

You can also view your progress toward rewards, tap into exclusive promotions, and see any points you’ve earned with previous stays at a Hyatt property.

12. IHG

Shorthand for InterContinental Hotels Group, IHG has almost 6,000 hotels worldwide. 

Its app encourages customers to book travel directly with the chain instead of using a third-party site. It does so by offering a member-exclusive rate with savings of 3% on average if you book directly.

The app also features special rewards offers and discounts and lets you view your points balance toward a free or discounted stay. 

In addition to a user-friendly interface, the app has a travel tools section with neighborhood guides and maps. Finally, it offers a white noise feature in case you don’t sleep well in hotels.

Final Word

If you enjoy hunting for the best hotel deal to save money on vacation or racking up loyalty points you can trade for free nights and other perks, it pays to download the best travel apps to your smartphone. 

From skipping the line at check-in to finding the lowest hotel prices to simply being able to view the property beforehand, using hotel booking apps is an easy, free way to be a savvy traveler.

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G. Brian Davis is a real estate investor, personal finance writer, and travel addict mildly obsessed with FIRE. He spends nine months of the year in Abu Dhabi, and splits the rest of the year between his hometown of Baltimore and traveling the world.


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11 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards – Reviews & Comparison

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Dig Deeper

Additional Resources

Travel rewards credit cards are not one-size-fits-all. They fall into several broad categories.

These categories include airline rewards credit cards designed to reward spending with specific airlines or airline partnerships, hotel credit cards that focus their rewards firepower on hotel stays and related expenses, and even cash back credit cards that offer accelerated cash back earnings on travel-related purchase categories like gasoline, airfare, and restaurant purchases.

If you’re a frequent traveler, you likely stand to benefit from all of these card types. And if you own your own business, you can count on many consumer travel credit cards having small business credit card counterparts, often with additional features and benefits for small business owners.

Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Here’s a look at today’s best travel rewards credit cards.

Pay close attention to these cards’ annual fees, redemption options and point or mile values for each, travel credits, and potentially valuable fringe benefits, such as complimentary airport lounge memberships or hotel credits.

Best Overall: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card delivers the best value of any travel rewards credit card on the market. 

The $50 annual credit against hotel purchases made through Chase Travel offsets about half the $95 annual fee. It’s backed up by an excellent rewards program:

  • 5x Points on Chase Travel Purchases: 5x total points on eligible travel purchases made through Chase Travel after the $50 annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit is exhausted. Through March 2022, 5x points on qualifying Lyft rides and eligible Peloton equipment and accessory purchases (up to 25,000 total bonus points earned on Peloton purchases).
  • Unlimited 3x Categories: 3x points on eligible restaurant dining purchases, select streaming service purchases, and online grocery purchases.
  • Unlimited 2x Categories: 2x points on other eligible travel purchases. 
  • Base Rewards: Unlimited 1x point on most other eligible purchases.

Sapphire Preferred has some additional features worth noting:

  • Sign-up Bonus: Spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening to earn 50,000 bonus points.
  • Key Fees: $95 annual fee after the first year; no foreign transaction fee.

Learn more about this card and find out how to apply here.

Best Sign-up Bonus: IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Ihg Rewards Club Premier 9 30

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The IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card has the best offer for new cardmembers right now:

  • Earn 125,000 bonus points when you spend at least $3,000 on eligible purchases during the first 3 months your account is open. 
  • This bonus is worth more than 12 full award nights at lower-priced IHG properties. IHG operates nearly 6,000 hotels and resorts in about 100 countries.

Additional features:

  • Up to 25x Total Points on IHG Purchases: Up to 25x IHG points on all eligible purchases at IHG properties: 10x bonus points per $1 spent with your card and 15x base points per $1 spent as an IHG Rewards Club member.
  • Unlimited 2x Categories: 2x points on eligible purchases at restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores.
  • Base Rewards: Unlimited 1x point on most other eligible purchases.
  • Key Fees: $89 annual fee; no foreign transaction fee.
  • Enjoy Platinum Elite status as long as your account remains in good standing.
  • Claim 1 complimentary award night each year at select IHG hotels.

Find out how to apply for this card here.

Best Annual Travel Credit: Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

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The Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card has a $300 annual travel credit that applies to eligible travel purchases: hotels, airfare, car rentals, and more. When fully utilized, it effectively reduces Sapphire Reserve’s $550 annual fee down to $250.

Additional features:

  • Sign-up Bonus: Spend at least $4,000 in qualifying purchases within 3 months to earn 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards points, worth $750 in eligible Chase Travel redemptions.
  • 10x Categories: 10x total points on eligible hotel and car rental purchases made through Chase Travel.
  • 5x Category: 5x total points on eligible airfare purchases through Chase Travel.
  • Unlimited 3x Categories: 3x total points on eligible dining purchases and most travel purchases (after exhausting the $300 travel credit).
  • Base Rewards: Unlimited 1x point on all other eligible purchases.
  • Key Fees: $550 annual fee; $75 annual authorized user fee per user, per card; no foreign transaction fee.
  • Transfer Ultimate Rewards points 1-for-1 to 10+ travel loyalty partners.
  • Get complimentary access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select.
  • Get a free year’s subscription to Lyft Pink ($199 value).
  • Earn a $100 statement credit against your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee

Find out how to apply for this card here.

Best Bonus Categories: Citi Premier® Card

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The Citi Premier® Card is one of the few travel rewards credit cards that includes gas and gas station purchases in its travel tier, which earns 3x points per $1 spent. That makes it an ideal choice for travelers driving to or around their destinations.

Citi Premier also adds two broad nontravel categories to its 3x points category: restaurants and supermarkets. That’s a great value-add for anyone who eats.

Additional features:

  • Sign-up Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou points after you make $4,000 in purchases with your card in the first 3 months.
  • Base Rewards: Unlimited 1x point on all other eligible purchases.
  • Key Fees: $95 annual fee; no foreign transaction fee.
  • Earn a $100 hotel credit once per year on eligible hotel stays where you spend $500 or more.
  • Transfer ThankYou points to 10+ travel loyalty partners, mostly 1-for-1.

Learn more about this card and find out how to apply here.

Best for Frequent Flyers: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

Delta Skymiles Reserve American Express

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The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers a slew of valuable benefits for Delta loyalists — a better mix than any other airline credit card. They include:

  • Complimentary Delta Sky Club membership (free airport lounge access).
  • A complimentary companion certificate (free airfare, less taxes and fees, for a companion with your paid fare) once per year.
  • Accelerated progress toward Delta Medallion status with possible benefits like complimentary first class and Comfort+ upgrades, complimentary upgrades for ticketed companions, discounted CLEAR® membership (terms apply and enrollment is required for all these benefits).
  • General frequent flyer benefits like priority wait list, baggage fee waivers, and priority check-in and boarding.

Additional features:

  • 3x SkyMiles Category: Earn 3x SkyMiles on eligible Delta purchases.
  • Base Rewards: 1x SkyMiles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Status Boost: Get 15,000 bonus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost after you spend $30,000 on your card, up to 4 times per year. Terms apply.
  • Key Fees: $550 annual fee; no foreign transaction fee.

Learn more about this card and find out how to apply here.

Best for Elite Status: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

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The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card promises automatic Gold Elite Status in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program as long as your account remains in good standing. That’s enough to make it our top credit card pick for complimentary elite status at hotels.

Gold Elite Status benefits include:

  • 25% bonus on base point earnings at participating Marriott properties
  • Complimentary room upgrades where available, including select suites
  • Flexible late checkout (up to 2pm)

Spend $75,000 on your card in a cardmember anniversary year to unlock an upgrade to Platinum Elite Status. Platinum Elite benefits include a 50% bonus on base point earnings, complimentary hotel lounge access where available, and super-flexible late checkout (4pm).

Additional features:

  • Welcome Offer: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first 6 months of card membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply.
  • 6x Rewards Category: 6x points at participating Marriott hotels.
  • 3x Rewards Categories: 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines.
  • Base Rewards: 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Key Fees: $450 annual fee; no foreign transaction fee (see rates and fees).
  • $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit each year for eligible purchases at participating hotels.
  • 1 free night award per year at participating Bonvoy properties.
  • Complimentary airport lounge access at more than 1,000 locations worldwide (enrollment required).
  • $100 annual Marriott Bonvoy property credit at participating properties.

Learn more about this card and find out how you can apply here.

Best for Luxury Perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

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The Platinum Card® from American Express has the most generous travel perks lineup of any card on this list. Highlights include:

  • A $200 airline fee credit each year with the airline of your choice (enrollment required)
  • Credits worth up to $200 per year on Uber rides (enrollment required).
  • Complimentary Gold Status with Hilton Honors and Gold Elite Status with Marriott Bonvoy (enrollment required).
  • Complimentary access to 1,300+ airport lounges in the American Express Global Lounge Collection (enrollment required).
  • Up to $550 (on average) in exclusive benefits like room upgrades and complimentary breakfast at Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection properties.
  • Up to $100 off your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee (enrollment required).

Additional features:

  • Welcome Offer: 100,000 bonus Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $6,000 within 6 months of opening your account. Plus, earn 10 points per $1 spent on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S. during the first 6 months your account is open (up to $25,000 in combined purchases).
  • 5x Rewards Categories: 5x Membership Rewards points on eligible travel purchases, including flights booked directly with airlines, flights booked through American Express Travel, and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. Airfare earnings capped at 500,000 points per year.
  • Key Fees: $695 annual fee; no authorized user fee or foreign transaction fee; late and returned payments cost up to $40 (see rates and fees).

Find out how you can apply for this card here.

Best for Business Travelers: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

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The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is a lot like its consumer cousin, the Platinum Card® from American Express. It’s built specially for business travelers seeking the optimal combination of luxury and convenience, with benefits like:

  • A 35% bonus when you use Membership Rewards® points to book travel with your selected qualifying airline (up to 500,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points each calendar year)
  • A $200 annual statement credit against purchases made with an airline of your choice (enrollment required)
  • Complimentary access to more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide (enrollment required)
  • Reimbursement for TSA Precheck and Global Entry application fees (up to $100)

Additional features:

  • Welcome Offer: 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend at least $15,000 in eligible purchases within 3 months of opening your account.
  • 5x Rewards Categories: 5x Membership Rewards points on eligible travel purchases, including flights booked directly with airlines, flights booked through American Express Travel, and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel. 
  • 1.5x Rewards Categories: 1.5x points on purchases in key business spending categories and all other purchases greater than $5,000 (cap applies).
  • Introductory APR: 0% introductory APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases eligible for Pay Over Time. After that, your APR will be 14.24% to 22.24% APR, depending on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at time of account opening. Terms apply.
  • Key Fees: $595 annual fee ($695 if your application is received on or after Jan. 13, 2022); no foreign transaction fee.
  • Up to $400 in annual purchase credits for U.S. purchases with Dell (terms apply; enrollment required)

See our American Express Business Platinum Card Review for more information. Find out how to apply for this card here.

Best Flat-Rate Card: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card’s rewards program couldn’t be simpler. With the exception of hotel and car rental purchases made through Capital One Travel, all eligible purchases earn unlimited 2 miles per $1 spent. That’s an effective 2% rate of return on all spending.

  • Early Spend Bonus: 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more during the first 3 months. That’s worth $600 at redemption.
  • 5x Bonus Category: 5x miles on hotel and car rental purchases made through Capital One Travel.
  • Unlimited 2x Rewards: Unlimited 2x miles on all other eligible purchases. 
  • Transfer points to participating travel loyalty partners at favorable rates.
  • Get a $100 credit against your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee.

Find out how you can apply for this card here.

Best for Driving Vacations: U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card

U.s. Bank Altitude Connect Card Art 9 8 21

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The U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card is a cash back credit card that earns 4x points on eligible gas station and car rental purchases. That’s enough to make it the best travel card for road trips. (See rates & fees.)

Additional features:

  • 4x Travel Categories: 4x points on eligible travel purchases, including airfare, hotels, and car rentals.
  • 2x Rewards Categories: 2x points on streaming, restaurant dining, and grocery store and grocery delivery purchases.
  • Base Rewards: 1x point on all other eligible purchases.
  • Sign-up Bonus: Spend $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening to earn 50,000 bonus points.
  • Key Fees: $95 annual fee; no foreign transaction fee.
  • Up to $600 in cell phone protection coverage per incident (less $25 deductible).
  • Up to $30 in annual statement credits for eligible streaming services, including Netflix and Spotify®.
  • Up to $100 to offset your TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry® application fee.

Terms and conditions apply; see rates & fees.

Best for Hotel Stays: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card from Chase

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

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The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card from Chase offers tremendous value for Marriott loyalists. Benefits include:

  • Up to 17x Bonvoy points per $1 spent on all eligible purchases at participating Marriott properties.
  • 1 free night’s stay at participating properties with redemption thresholds up to 35,000 points per night.
  • Automatic Silver Elite Status with benefits including 10% points bonus on eligible Marriott spend.
  • Upgrade to Gold Elite Status with $35,000 annual card spend (benefits include a 25% points bonus on eligible Marriott spend).

Additional features:

  • Sign-up Bonus: Earn 3 bonus free night awards (each valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases. Plus, earn 10x points total on eligible purchases in select categories.
  • Base Rewards: Unlimited 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Key Fees: $95 annual fee; no foreign transaction fee.

Find out how to apply for this card here.

Methodology: How We Select the Best Travel Credit Cards

We evaluate travel credit cards using 10 key metrics that matter to frequent travelers. 

Some relate to the structure of the card itself, like whether it has a welcome offer for new cardholders (and if so, how generous it is) and the type of rewards it earns (cash back, points, miles). 

Others tie back to the card’s intended user: road trippers, frequent flyers, people who prefer a particular hotel brand, and so on. 

Here’s why they’re important.

Sign-up Bonuses

Depending on the issuer, you might see these advertised as “welcome offers,” “early spend bonuses,” or “new cardmember offers/bonuses”.

But no matter what we call them, we can agree on one thing: The travel credit card category is famous for extending ridiculously generous offers to new cardholders able to meet often-hefty spend requirements. With our top travel sign-up bonus pick, the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, you can fund well over a week of free accommodations at select InterContinental Hotel Group properties.

Travel Credit

When is an annual fee not really an annual fee?

When it’s reduced dollar-for-dollar by an annual travel credit. As long as you spend enough on eligible travel purchases to earn the full credit value each cardmember anniversary year, you’ll lower your effective annual fee by a corresponding amount.

A $200 travel credit turns a $500 annual fee into a $300 annual fee, a $300 travel credit turns a $550 annual fee into a $250 annual fee, and so on.

Nontravel Bonus Categories

Many travel credit cards reward nontravel spending over and above the baseline rewards rate. Some cards do this better than others, however. Our top pick, the Citi Premier® Card, pays 3x points on purchases in five categories:

  • Air travel
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Supermarkets
  • Gas stations

Of these, two are very clearly not travel-related (restaurants and supermarkets) and one straddles the line between travel and nontravel (gas stations). All three nontravel or travel-adjacent categories are broad and popular.

Rewards and Benefits for Frequent Flyers

Few frequent travelers get around exclusively on the ground. It takes too long and it’s more dangerous than flying besides. 

Accordingly, we give deference to cards that offer frequent flyer benefits like elite status with co-branded airlines, in-flight and pre-flight perks (like priority boarding), and value-adds like complimentary airport lounge access. 

Rewards and Benefits for Frequent Hotel Guests

Unless you’re truly committed to the short-term rental game or have an extensive network of family and friends in every city you visit, you’re going to want a travel credit card that rewards you for staying in hotels.

On this measure, the top travel credit cards offer some or all of the following:

  • Automatic elite status or accelerated progress toward elite status
  • Bonus points on eligible purchases at participating hotels
  • One or more award nights (free night’s stay) after your cardmember anniversary and/or meeting qualifying annual spend
  • An automatic award night tacked onto the end of a minimum-length stay, often four or five consecutive nights at the same property

Rewards and Benefits for Road Warriors

Whether your travel driving consists entirely of tooling a rental car around your destination or you prefer road tripping from start to finish, you’ll want a travel card that delivers solid value on gas spending and offers driver-friendly benefits like complimentary rental car insurance coverage and 24/7 roadside assistance.

Elite Status 

Because its potential value is so great for frequent travelers loyal to specific brands, elite status is worth calling out in its own category. The best travel cards for elite status are generally super-premium cards with annual fees north of $400, but that expense can easily pay for itself if you’re on the road as often as you’re home.

Luxury Perks and Benefits

Even travel cards that defy easy categorization as “airline cards” or “hotel cards” can distinguish themselves with grab-bags of high-value perks and benefits for frequent flyers and hotel guests. When evaluating these cards, pay attention to “below the fold” benefits that can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually when fully exploited.

Rewards and Benefits for Business Travelers

Some of the best cards for business travelers have close cousins on the consumer side. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, our top pick in this category and near-twin to The Platinum Card® from American Express, comes to mind. 

Type of Rewards

Many travel credit cards earn points or miles best redeemed for travel purchases. Their rewards programs revolve around specific spending categories or tiers — often travel-related — in which cardholders earn at accelerated rates.

Some travel cards break this mold though. They might be cash back credit cards that favor travel purchases, earning honorary distinction as travel cards, or more traditional travel rewards cards that apply one flat rewards rate to all spending. Both types of alternative cards appeal to casual travelers and so deserve a place on this list.

Become a Travel Credit Card Expert: Your Travel Rewards Questions Answered

You have questions about travel credit cards and travel rewards. We’ve got answers.

What Are the Different Types of Travel Credit Cards?

There are two main types of travel credit cards: general-purpose travel cards and co-branded travel cards.

General-purpose travel cards earn points or miles that can be redeemed through the issuer’s loyalty program. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card both earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can redeem Ultimate Rewards points in the Chase Travel portal for airfare, hotel stays, and other travel services from a variety of travel merchants, or transfer your points to participating travel loyalty programs and redeem directly with them.

Co-branded travel cards earn loyalty points or miles issued by a particular travel merchant, such as Delta or Marriott. The best way to redeem this type of loyalty currency is for free or discounted travel services (award travel) from the issuing merchant. Co-branded cards often but not always offer better redemption value than general-purpose cards.

A general-purpose travel card is a better fit for you if you’re not loyal to one particular travel brand. A co-branded card makes more sense if you are loyal to a particular brand and want to maximize your rewards’ value within their loyalty program.

Can You Get a Travel Credit Card With Bad Credit?

With difficulty, maybe. Credit card companies prefer to market travel rewards cards to applicants with good to excellent credit and ample spending power. There’s not much of a market for subprime travel credit cards.

If you have impaired credit or limited credit and hope to get your hands on a travel card in the near future, do the following:

  • Apply for a general-purpose secured credit card or credit-builder credit card right now
  • Use it responsibly, keeping your credit utilization rate low and making timely payments
  • Make sure the card issuer reports your payment behavior and card utilization to the three major credit reporting bureaus
  • Closely monitor your credit score

With responsible use and no black marks elsewhere, your credit score should increase over time. Eventually, you’ll have a credit profile strong enough to qualify for one of the cards on this list.

Is the Annual Fee Worth It for Travel Credit Cards?

It depends on the card, but the answer is often “yes.” The best travel rewards credit cards justify sometimes-hefty annual fees with perks and value-adds like:

  • Annual Travel Credits. If you spend enough on travel each year, your card’s travel credit acts as a one-for-one offset for the annual fee. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card’s $300 annual travel credit reduces its $550 annual fee down to $250 on net.
  • Elite Status. Permanent elite status can be extremely valuable for travelers loyal to specific hotel or airline brands.
  • Airport Lounge Access. Airport lounges typically charge $60 per person at the door. If your long-haul travels involve layovers long enough to get comfortable at a lounge (and enjoy what’s often an all-you-can-eat-and-drink refreshments table), you’ll quickly earn back your annual fee and then some.
  • Discounts and Privileges With Participating Travel Partners. Really high-end travel cards often partner with similarly high-end hotels and resorts (often boutique properties) to offer discounts and perks worth hundreds of dollars per stay. These vary from card to card and property to property, and you sometimes have to work to claim them, but they’re totally worth it if you can.

Should You Get More Than One Travel Card?

It depends on a number of factors, including:

  • How often you travel
  • How much you spend on travel
  • How you typically travel — for example, do you prefer to stay in nice hotels, crash on a friend’s couch, or nest in a short-term rental?
  • Whether you’re loyal to specific travel merchants or simply seek the most affordable, convenient options

If you’re an occasional traveler who doesn’t spend much when you leave home, a single general-purpose travel credit card is adequate. Ideally, this card would have no annual fee, or you’d be able to extract enough value from it to offset the hopefully modest charge.

If you’re a frequent traveler who enjoys the finer things and/or spends a good amount of money on the road, you’ll want at least two cards. 

One should be a high-end general-purpose card that affords maximum flexibility when you travel and ensures you’re maximizing your travel spend. Another should be a co-branded card backed by the travel brand with which you spend the most money year in and year out. And if you have more than one preferred travel merchant, perhaps one favorite airline and one favorite hotel, you’ll want a co-branded card for each.

Fun Facts About Travel Credit Cards

  • The first recognizable travel rewards card was the Air Travel Card. Starting in the 1930s, upscale travelers used the Air Travel Card to purchase discounted airfare from participating airlines on a promise to pay later.
  • Bank of America was the first major card issuer to allow travelers (and others) to carry a balance from month to month using its BankAmericard account.
  • The Continental TravelBank Gold MasterCard debuted in 1986 as the first co-branded airline credit card. It was a partnership between Continental Airlines (now part of United Airlines) and Marine Midland Bank (now part of HSBC).
  • American Express rolled out the first transferable general-purpose travel loyalty currency, Membership Miles, in 1991. The currency lives on today as Amex’s Membership Rewards points.

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this rates and fees page.

For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this rates and fees page.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please visit this rates and fees page.

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