Summer is almost here and with summer comes road trips. Road trips are nice for many people because they can travel without paying (or using points) for airfare. This post highlights the best cards for road trips with an emphasis on gas, dining, and hotel expenses. There is a secondary emphasis on entertainment, concerts, and other tourist attractions.

 

Transferrable Points

Citi Premier

Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points for $4,000 spend in 3 months.

Earning: 3x TY points on General Travel (including Gas); 2x TY points on Entertainment and Dining; one point on all other purchases

Perks: Car Rental Insurance, Citi Private Pass, and Citi Concierge

Annual Fee: $95 (NOT waived the first year)

This card tops the list because it checks all the boxes between its earning structure and perks. The Citi Premier earns 3x Thank You (TY) points on general travel and 2x points on entertainment and dining. Citi includes gas stations, airfare, hotels, travel agencies, tolls, railways, and public transportation in their general travel category.

The Premier also has a slew of perks that are great for road trips. These include Citi Concierge, Citi Private Pass, and car rental insurance.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points for $4,000 spend in 3 months.

Earning: 3x UR points on Travel and Dining; one point on all other purchases

Perks: $300 Annual General Travel credit, Primary Car Rental Insurance, Trip Cancellation / Interruption Insurance, Priority Pass Airport Lounges, Pre-TSA / Global Entry Fee Waiver

Annual Fee: $450 (NOT waived the first year)

Chase’s premium card is a great alternative to the Citi Premier for road trips. It earns 3x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on general travel and dining. But unlike the Citi Premier, the Chase Sapphire Reserve does not include gas purchases in its general travel category. The category does include hotels, toll road fees, local commuter transit, and car rentals. Furthermore, the Reserve earns UR points, which can be transferred to one of three hotel partners Hyatt, IHG, or Marriott.

Also, the Reserve offers a $300 general travel credit that can be used for hotel purchases, local commuter transit, and tolls. And recently, Chase partnered with SBE to offer additional benefits to Reserve cardholders. Those who love SBE hotels will be able to justify the Reserve’s annual fee by staying just one or two nights.

The Reserve also offers primary car rental insurance for those who want to rent a car. This is nice because you don’t have to accept the car rental agency’s insurance plan when you use your Reserve to pay.

American Express Blue Business Plus

Sign-Up Bonus: None

Earning: 2x Membership Rewards (MR) points on the first $50,000 in purchases per year; one point thereafter

Perks: Standard American Express

Annual Fee: $0

American Express does not check the category boxes very well with just one card. However, the Blue Business Plus offers 2x points on everything up to the $50,000 annual limit. This can include road trip related purchases.

MR-point lovers can compensate by using a wallet full of Amex cards for different categories and perks. But that’s a subject for another post.

 

Co-Branded

American Express Hilton Surpass

Sign-Up Bonus: 125,000 Hilton Honors (HH) points for $2,000 spend in 3 months

Earning: 12x points on Hilton Purchases; 6x points on Dining, Gas, and Groceries; 3x points on Everything Else

Perks: Hilton Gold Status, Free Night (after spending $15,000 on the card), Secondary Car Rental Insurance, the chance to earn Hilton Diamond Status (after spending $40,000 on the card)

Annual Fee: $95 (NOT waived the first year)

This card offers some excellent perks for a modest annual fee, most notably Hilton Gold Status. The value of Hilton Gold lies in an 80% points bonus for Hilton purchases, complimentary breakfast, and complimentary room upgrades (up to an Executive level room). The additional value of a room upgrade for even one night is oftentimes more than $95. This makes the Hilton Surpass a potential “long-term keeper” card for some people.

The Surpass is also a great earner for road trip expenses. It has bonus categories in gas, dining, and (Hilton) hotels. These categories (as well as Gold Status) can be nice for staying at a Hilton branded hotel to rest for a night or several.

Chase World of Hyatt Card

Sign-Up Bonus: 25,000 Hyatt points $3,000 spend in 3 months and another 25,000 points after $6,000 total spend within the first 6 months

Earning: 4x points on Hyatt Purchases; 2x points on Dining, Airline Tickets (purchased directly from the airline), Local Transit and Commuting, and Gym Memberships

Perks: Hyatt Discoverist Status, Free Night, Complimentary Room Upgrades (to best regular room available)

Annual Fee: $95 (NOT waived the first year)

The World of Hyatt Card is one of my favorite hotel cards because it offers so much value for an affordable annual fee. It could be considered a “long-term keeper card” for many travelers because of the free night and Hyatt Discoverist Status.

The free night is nice because most Hyatt hotel rooms cost more than $95 per night. That means you can receive significant value if you use the night wisely. Furthermore, Discoverist Status offers a 10% bonus on Hyatt purchases, late checkout, and premium wi-fi. And that’s not to mention the room upgrades that really give Discoverist Status its value.

This card is a nice earner for road trips as it has bonus categories in dining, local commuter transit, and (Hyatt) hotels. You can also use Discoverist Status and your free night to save a few hundred dollars.

 

Final Draw

The five cards mentioned in this post have bonus categories and perks that are great for taking a road trip. Three of them are transferrable points earners and two of them are hotel cards. The former three are nice because you can earn points for a future trip on your next trip.

 

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