Top Travel Brand Credit Cards for Your Travel Agency

January 31, 2018

 This is the 3rd of 4 articles in our Best Travel Agency Credit Card Series. Read the rest here: 

  1. 5 Best Business Credit Cards
  2. 7 Best Personal Credit Cards
  3. Find the Best Credit Card Rewards

Since you're in the travel industry, it only makes sense that to look at the top travel brand cards. The tricky thing is, we can't fairly rate these since it really depends on your brand preferences. It's waaaay too subjective. 

How to Compare Travel Brand Credit Cards

  1. Perks: One of the biggest edge travel brand credit cards have over business and personal credit cards(even travel-specific ones) are the perks they offer. Many airline brand cards give you free checked luggage; hotel brand credit cards will offer upgrades or free nights. The higher the card tier, the better the perks.
  2. Status: If you're serious about earning status with a brand or raising your existing status, travel brand cards are the way to go! Not only can you earn instant status just by having the card (again, the higher the card tier, the higher the status level) but you're double dipping in a way. You'll earn the points on your credit card toward that particular brand with general spending and you'll also earn points the regular ol' way by booking that brand. 
  3. Do you book a high enough volume of the brand to make it worthwhile? To make travel brand cards really worthwhile, you need to actually use them for that brand. That's when you'll see the highest reward rates. So if you only fly a specific airline a couple times a year or stay at a hotel brand infrequently, you'd likely be better off with a business credit cards or personal credit cards, where you stand to earn more rewards that you can put towards that stay or flight.
  4. Is the annual fee worth it? Most of the travel brand credit cards have multiple tiers which allows you to inch your way toward higher brand status. Maybe you're not ready for a Platinum Delta Card but you want to start getting those benefits and earning status with a Gold Delta Card. Not surprisingly, the higher the tier for a card, the higher the annual fee is. You'll want to check if the perks and rewards of the card you're interested in are worth that fee for you.
  5. Rewards and Multipliers: With travel brand specific cards, you'll make the highest reward amounts when you book said brand (and likely, their sister companies). If you're not already familiar with your desired travel brand's reward structure, I'd recommend checking it out. Are the points always worth the same or do the values fluctuate based on the location, date of travel, or at the whim of the company?You'll also want to check on those reward multipliers. For instance, Starwood's Preferred Guest Card gives you 5x points at participating Starwood Hotels and 2x at participating Marriott Hotels. We delve more into specifics in our Find the Best Credit Card Rewards article if you're wanting to learn a bit more about how multipliers work.

Now that you have a better idea on if a travel brand credit card fits your style, let's take a look at some of the top travel brand credit cards out there!

I want to emphasize that this list is NOT all-inclusive. We added the top travel brand credit cards from your feedback on Facebook and from our research. Please let us know if there's a card you'd like to see on this list in the comments below — we promise we didn't mean to slight anyone!

Airline Brand Credit Cards

AirlineCredit Card CompanyCard NameCard Tiers
American AirlinesCiti MastercardCiti AAdvantageExecutive, Platinum, Business Platinum
British Airlines Chase VisaBritish Airways Visa Signature
Delta AirlinesAmerican ExpressAmerican Express Delta Skymiles CardGold, Platinum
Southwest AirlinesChase VisaSouthwest Rapid Rewards Premier, Plus, Business
United AirlinesChase VisaMileagePlusExplorer, Club
Alaska AirlinesBank of America VisaAlaska Airlines Visa Signature

Telling you the best best airline brand credit card is pretty easy — the airline you fly on most! Did we miss your favorite airline brand credit card? Let us know in the comments below so we can add it!

Hotel Brand Credit Cards

Hotel BrandCredit Card CompanyCard NameCard Tiers
HiltonAmerican ExpressHilton Honors CardAscend, Aspire, Business
HyattVisaHyatt Credit Card
IHGMasterCardIHG Rewards Club Select
MarriottChase VisaMarriott Rewards Card
StarwoodAmerican ExpressStarwood Preferred Guest Credit Card

Again, the best card is going to be the hotel brand you stay at the most. But, if you're looking for straight up value, the Hilton Aspire is tops on my list. It has a steep annual fee ($495) but if you travel even a few times a year to Hilton properties, here's the perks that will help you earn your money back in no time:

  1. Automatic Diamond Status at Hilton (Includes: Room upgrades (including suites), 100% bonus points on stays, Complimentary access to the Executive Floor Lounge for you and a guest (free breakfast, multiple food/beverage offerings each day),
  2. One free weekend night stay at any Hilton property a year.
  3. A $250 Hilton Resort statement credit each year.
  4. Free Priority Pass Select membership to airport lounges worldwide (value $429/yr). Membership includes you and up to two guests complimentary. Find your lounge and see what perks you get as a Priority Pass member. The MSP airport lounge gives a $15 food/beverage credit or golf experience *per person*.
  5. Fifth night free on Award Stays.
  6. 14x Hilton Honors Bonus Points.
  7. $250 Airline Fee credit each year for the airline of your choice.
  8. Welcome amenity at check-in.

Not seeing your favorite hotel brand card? Tell us about it in the comments and we'll be sure to add it 😉

Cruise Line Brand Credit Cards

I just wanted to put a note to say I didn’t forget about cruise line credit cards! I just didn’t find them as lucrative. Many of the big cruise lines have a co-branded credit card, but from my research, they aren’t actually linked to your rewards account. This means that you’re not earning status from those points you’re racking up—and if the cruise cuts ties with a credit card company, you’ll lose your points!

Their earning and redemption rates aren’t that great either. For example, using a Carnival card, you earn 2x points on CCL purchases. This comes out to 2% back (which is what you'd earn on all purchases with some cashback cards) and 1x on everything else. The best way to redeem your cruise line co-branded credit cards points? Use it for purchases aboard that line.

All that being said, if you’re a serious cruiser with a specific brand, definitely check out their co-branded card to see if there are perks that interest you!

This is Just the Tip of the Iceberg!

If you want to check out all the credit cards in our 3 part series, make sure you check out our other articles:

  1. 5 Best Business Credit Cards
  2. 7 Best Personal Credit Cards
  3. Find the Best Credit Card Rewards

What Travel Brand Credit Cards Do You Fancy?

Tell us about the travel brand credit cards you use at your travel agency (or personally) in the comments below! How do you use it? What do you love about it?

About the Author
Bridget Lee - Host Agency Reviews

Bridget Lee

Hey there, I’m Bridget!

Having grown up in the travel industry I can attest, it’s hard to get travel out of your blood once the travel bug bites you! I’ve been working in the travel industry (or traveling) as long as I can remember. My favorite thing? Working with entrepreneurs and digging deep into the data to help others get a clearer picture of our industry.

If you have any questions or are itching to connect, I’m happy to help. 🙂