Travel Rewards CreditUpdated: Sept. 21, 2017

While travel rewards credit cards are great for those who want to earn rewards they can redeem for future travel, it can be hard to know which card is actually worth its salt, especially since every card earns different rewards (miles, points, etc.) and has its own redemption options. To help you out, each year we provide an in-depth analysis of travel rewards credit cards, where we redeem rewards for each of the travel cards we review for flights or hotel stays, then determine a value of the redeemed points. Once we have the numbers for all the cards, we compare the results and plug them into our 2017 Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis. Keep reading to find out which cards took the top spots in this year’s analysis and learn more about how we determine the value of each card’s points/miles.

Which travel rewards credit cards have the most value?

Although a number of the 19 credit cards’ rewards we analyzed hold impressive value, there could only be one winner in each category. Here are the top cards with the best value.

Best average hotel/flight value and best hotel value: Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Travel Rewards CreditThe Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard proves to hold the most value overall and the most value for hotel redemptions, as its miles are worth $2.10 per $100 spent in both categories. This card earns you 2X miles on all purchases. Rewards can be redeemed for travel statement credit, gift cards and merchandise, but note that the value of the miles may vary when they’re redeemed for gift cards or merchandise, as our analysis only determines the value of miles used for travel. Every time you redeem your miles, you’ll get 5% bonus miles to use toward your next redemption — this 5% bonus is something we took into account when we evaluated the rewards’ value. On top of that, you’ll get 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days, which is equal to $420 when you factor in the 5% bonus. Rounding out the winner of our 2017 Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis are a 12-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening (with a 3% balance transfer fee), no foreign transaction fees and an annual fee that’s waived for the first year (after that, it’s $89/year).

Best flight value: JetBlue Plus Card

Travel Rewards CreditClimbing to the front of the pack for the best flight value is the JetBlue Plus Card, which holds a flight redemption value of $2.18 per $100 spent. Cardholders earn 6 points per $1 spent on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Next, when cardholders spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days, they’ll get 30,000 bonus points — worth $441, according to our analysis. Rewards can be redeemed for JetBlue or Hawaiian Airlines flights — note that you can’t redeem points for hotels, which is why it has a $0.00 hotel redemption value in our Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis. Similar to the previously-mentioned card, JetBlue Plus Card holders will get 10% of their points back to use toward their next redemption every time they redeem, which is something we included in our calculations. Other perks of the card include the ability to earn and share points together with Family Pooling as well as a 50% savings on eligible in-flight purchases like cocktails and food and the primary card member’s first checked bag is free on JetBlue-operated flights. What’s more, cardholders will earn 5,000 bonus points every year after their account anniversary, they’ll enjoy a $100 statement credit after purchasing a JetBlue Vacations package of $100 or more with their JetBlue Plus Card, they’ll earn TrueBlue Mosaic benefits for one year after spending $50,000 or more on purchases each calendar year with their card and they’ll pay no foreign transaction fees. Even though the JetBlue Plus Card has a $99 annual fee, it may be worth it if you’re loyal to the airline.

Best intro bonus value: Hyatt Credit Card from Chase

Travel Rewards CreditTaking the title for the best intro bonus value with an intro bonus worth $1,038 is the Hyatt Credit Card from Chase. Cardholders can earn this bonus, which translates to 2 free nights at Hyatt properties worldwide, after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. In terms of ongoing rewards, the Hyatt Credit Card from Chase earns 3 points for every $1 spent at Hyatt locations, 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets and at car rental agencies and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for Hyatt hotel stays, Hyatt room upgrades, Hyatt dining and spa treatments or car rentals with participating companies. Cardholders can’t redeem points for flights, but they can exchange their points for miles with a partner airline, then wait up to 30 days to use to miles. Along with no foreign transaction fees, this card has a $0 intro annual fee (it’s $75 after that) and cardholders can earn 1 free night stay in category 1-4 properties each year on their anniversary as a member.

How did we calculate the totals?

Since each rewards program has its own redemption options, we had to make sure all of the points/miles were broken down into an apples-to-apples comparison. For the sake of the study, we used the term “points” to refer to all rewards. Note that, depending on the card, you may earn miles or points. Here’s how we determined the points’ values:

Booking hotels

We compared the prices of each program’s hotel options in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. at different times of the year and noted the number of points required to book a free night’s stay. The locations and booking dates stayed the same for each program, and the dates landed in both the summer, which is a frequently traveled season, as well as the fall, a less popular time to travel. If possible, we tried to book stays in the same hotel for each card.

Reserving flights

Similar to the hotel booking process, we used a real-world type of test that helped us determine the point value for every free flight we booked. Flights were booked through each rewards program’s website, then we compared the points required to book an economy flight with the actual dollar value of the flight, which was obtained by matching up the exact same flight with the cost on the actual airline’s website. All flights were round-trip from San Francisco to Washington D.C. and Los Angeles to New York, booked for the same dates in the summer and the fall.

Analyzing the points

We used a basic formula to calculate the actual rewards card value: we took the dollar value of the reward and divided it by the number of points required to purchase the flight or hotel.

Point Value = Reward Price / Number of Points Required to Purchase

After that, we assumed a spend of $100, with a $5 (5%) spend on high-point rewards like hotel stays and flight, while the remaining $95 (95%) was allocated to standard point earning spends.

Value of Points per $100 Spent = (High Point Earn x $5 x Point Value) + (Standard Point Earn x $95 x Point Value)

Once we have the point value for each card, we were able to multiply that by the number of intro bonus points offered to determine the value of each card’s intro bonus.

Intro Bonus Value = Point Value x Number of Intro Bonus Points Offered

Crowning the winners

After we had all of the numbers, we were able to crown the winners. For the best hotel and flight category, we took the average of both the flight and hotel values for card. For example, the JetBlue Plus Card, which is detailed above, has a flight redemption value of $2.18 and a hotel redemption value of $0.00, so we added these together to get $2.18, then divided by 2 to get an average value of $1.09. Only flight point values were used to determine the winner of the best flight category, and only hotel point values were used to crown the winner of the best hotel category. Finally, only the intro bonus point value for each card was used to determine the intro bonus value winner.

Want to see where your travel rewards card ranked? Visit out our 2017 Travel Rewards Credit Card Analysis to see all the results.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.