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There has never been a better time to get a credit card than right now. Competition in the credit card industry is fierce right now, and when businesses have to compete aggressively, consumers win. Specifically, there are credit card introductory offers and reward rates that would have been unheard of just a few years ago. Here are three excellent choices if you're planning on doing some traveling this holiday season.
For general travel expenses
My favorite credit card for general travel is the Capital One Venture card, and in full disclosure, this is my go-to everyday credit card in my own wallet. The card offers an industry-leading reward rate of two miles per dollar on all purchases and offers a 40,000-mile bonus after $3,000 in spending. And Capital One's travel redemption process is quite painless. You can use your miles to make purchases on any travel website or app you choose and simply receive a statement credit toward the cost.
To be fair, the Venture card doesn't have any of the travel perks that some other cards on this list do, such as free checked bags, lounge access, or reimbursement for incidental expenses. However, it also has the lowest annual fee -- just $59, which is waived for the first year.
Three levels of benefits
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If you don't mind doing your traveling on a specific airline, the Delta Air Lines co-branded American Express cards are worth a look. Despite having some excellent benefits, the main reason I suggest these specific cards is that they come in three distinct levels, making them appropriate for everyone from the occasional traveler to the million-mile-per-year business flyer.
The American Express Delta Sky Miles Gold card has a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year and comes with benefits such as priority (group one) boarding, a free checked bag on every Delta flight, two miles per dollar on Delta purchases, and 20% off in-flight purchases. The standard introductory offer for the card is 30,000 bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after $1,000 in spending in three months, but there is a current temporary offer of 50,000 miles after $2,000 in spend available. (Note: All temporary offers mentioned are good through Nov. 6, 2016, but offers like these have occurred regularly in the past.)
The next level is the Platinum version of the card, which charges a higher $195 annual fee (not waived the first year) but adds a companion certificate each year, which is essentially a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for a coach-class domestic ticket. In addition, the Platinum gives you the ability to earn Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) for high spending, which can help you achieve elite status with the airline. The current Platinum card offer is 70,000 miles, 10,000 MQMs, and a $100 statement credit after $3,000 in spend in the first three months, and the standard offer is 35,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs.
Finally, the Reserve card has a significantly higher $450 annual fee but adds two valuable perks. The first is Delta Sky Club access, which is worth $50 every time you use it and can be extremely valuable for frequent flyers. The second is the ability to redeem the annual companion certificate for a first-class flight, not just coach. This benefit alone can be worth the annual fee. Granted, the introductory bonus of 10,000 miles and 10,000 MQMs isn't the best, but keep in mind that this card is designed for frequent travelers who will earn plenty of rewards over time.
Buying a lot of gifts? Your travel could be free
A relatively new credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, has taken the concept of a high-end travel credit card to another level. For starters, the card is currently offering an industry-leading introductory bonus of 100,000 points after $4,000 in spending during the first three months, as well as a 50% bonus when redeeming points for travel. In other words, the introductory bonus alone is worth $1,500 in travel.
In addition, you'll get a $300 annual travel credit, airport lounge access, and a $100 credit for the cost of TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry. The card earns points at the rate of three points per dollar of travel expenses and dining, which is effectively a 4.5% rate if you plan on using rewards for travel, and one point per dollar on other purchases.
The card does have a rather hefty $450 annual fee, but if you use your card often or travel frequently, you may find it well worth the cost.
Which fits your life?
OK, so technically this list featured five credit cards, not three, but there are indeed three distinct categories of people who will benefit from these. If you aren't necessarily a big spender or frequent traveler who wants to maximize your reward potential, the Capital One Venture Rewards Card could be best for you. If you don't mind being locked in to one airline, one of the Delta Amex cards could make your traveling smoother and more rewarding. And if you're a heavy spender or frequent traveler, the Chase Sapphire Reserve can give you some great travel benefits while allowing you to choose your favorite airline.
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Matthew Frankel owns shares of American Express. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.