Travel Credit Card Reward Spending Guide By Bonus Categories

By owning Help Me Travel Cheap, I sometimes get to cheat.  I get to do things that I’d like to do anyways and turn it into a blog post.

If you’re going to turn credit card rewards into nearly free travel, you’ll need to know which is the best card to use for different situations.  In this post, we’ll evaluate and present certain cards that should be used at certain locations.

Note: One’s ability to take full advantage of each spending category depends on their spending threshold.  For example, smaller spenders will benefit by having less cards.  High spenders may be able to justify paying the annual fee for each card in order to take advantage of each spending category.

Of course, it also depends on how you value each of these programs as to which will be the most valuable card by category.

Travel Credit Card Reward Spending Bonus Categories

General Travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred – 2 points per dollar spent (plus 7% annual dividend).  Capital One Venture Rewards 2% travel credit.  Personally, I’d much rather have the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The travel category includes the following types of expenses: lodging, taxis, airlines, car rentals, travel agent, railways, tolls, parking, and buses.

Even better would be to go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall when booking your travel.

  • Avis – 5x Bold, 3x plus 7 % dividend Chase Sapphire Preferred, 3x Freedom.
  • InterContinental hotel group – 4x
  • – 4x
  • Travelocity – 2x
  • Expedia – 1x


American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card  3x on airfare.  You could earn even more by going through American Express Rewards when booking.

Pen Fed American Express – 5X airfare

Another option for airfare is to use the airline branded card if you have one.  This usually will add up to 2 points per dollar spent.  Typically, I’d prefer to use my Chase Sapphire Preferred, unless the credit card has a free baggage benefit.

Travelocity: If you book through Travelocity, it’s hard to beat the Travelocity credit card that gives you 10% back.


If there is a way to get gift cards through a store and get the bonus with the Ink Bold, then that 5x bonus is best.

Chase Sapphire Preferred gives the 2x.

For specific brands, you may want to use their branded credit card based on the awards.  However, when traveling overseas, don’t forget to factor in the foreign currency exchange on a card like the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express as that will add an extra 2.7% to your cost.

Rental Car:

With Hertz, 10% savings with any American Express Open business credit card.


Pentagon Federal Credit Union Visa – 5x gas

Ink Bold and American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card - 2x

Office Supplies:

Ink Bold – 5x.  Even better when you shop through Ultimate Rewards.  At the time of this writing, Office Depot is 10x bonus with the Ink Bold.

Office Max – 10% savings with any American Express Open business credit card.

Groceries: American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card 2x

Hilton Surpass – 6x Hilton h Honors points (depends on how you value them)

Dining Out:

Chase Sapphire Preferred – 2x

Citi Forward – 5x (ThankYou Rewards)

Phone, Internet, Landlines

Ink Bold 5%

Foreign Transactions:

Capital One Venture – 2%

Chase Sapphire Preferred – 1% (unless travel related then 2x)


Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express – especially electronics because of the one year extended warantee

Capital One Venture Rewards – 2%

Fidelity Visa or AMEX – 2% that can be transferred to Aeroplan

Chase Freedom – anything in the current 5x bonus for the quarter – Citi Foward 5x

The post has several affiliate links – too many to take the time to list.  If you’d like to know about a specific card just email me at htcheap at gmail dot com.

Do you have any additions of cards that you use that would be good to add to a category above?

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