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What counts as a reward card trip?

Travel is by far one of the most common categories of credit card rewards.

Some of the most famous cards from major banks, including Chase, Citi and American Express, offer tier bonuses for travel expenses. Other card companies, including Capital One and Bank of America, allow you to use points or miles to pay for travel-related purchases.

But when it comes to travel credit cards and other reward cards, what exactly constitutes an “eligible travel purchase” or redemption? Read on to find out.

What is considered a journey?

One smart way to accumulate Reward Points quickly is to have multiple Reward Cards in different categories and then allocate your spending to those cards according to those categories. If you remember to use the correct card when paying, your rewards can increase quickly.

Of course, every time a card offers a category bonus, there is always the question of what expenses fall under that category. The answer is not always unambiguous, and individual issuers define procurement categories differently. In addition, eligible purchases or redemptions may vary for different cards of the same issuer.

Here is a quick overview of how different card issuers define the travel category on one or more of their cards:

How Chase defines travel

Chase premium credit cards for travel. Chase Sapphire Reserve® as well as Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, both offer bonuses for a variety of travel expenses. Chase’s travel category includes the following:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels/motels
  • timeshares
  • Car rental agencies
  • cruise lines
  • Travel agencies
  • Discount Travel Sites
  • Camping
  • Passenger trains
  • buses
  • Taxi, limousine or car sharing services
  • Ferries
  • Toll bridges and highways
  • Car parks and garages

It also lists some exceptions, such as tourist attractions, goods and services on board, and shops located in hotels and airports.

How Citi defines travel

For bonus points Citi Visa® Costco Anywhere Cardthe travel category includes “air tickets, hotels, car rentals, travel agencies, cruise lines, and shopping at CostcoTravel.com.” For cards that earn Citi ThankYou points, the list is longer.

For example, with the deluxe Citi Prestige® Card* (which is no longer accepting applications), you can receive a statement of up to $250 per calendar year for the following expenses: airfare, hotel accommodation, subway travel, travel companions , garages, etc. car rental agencies, travel agencies/travel aggregators/tour operators, suburban transportation, ferries, commuter railroads, taxis/limousines/car services, passenger railroads, cruise lines, bridge and road tolls, car parks/garages and bus routes.

How American Express defines travel

Platinum Card® by American Express offers 5 Amex Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines and on prepaid flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel. You can earn up to 5x more points worth up to $500,000 on these calendar year airfare purchases. Business Platinum Card® from American Express also offers 5 points per dollar on prepaid flights and hotels booked through the Amex travel portal, but not on direct bookings.

Meanwhile, the American Express® Green Card* offers a broader list of permitted travel and travel purchases, including:

  • airfare
  • Hotels
  • Cruises
  • Car rental
  • Camping
  • Trains
  • Taxi
  • Travel Sharing Services
  • Excursions
  • Ferries
  • Payment for travel
  • Parking
  • buses
  • Underground
  • Third Party Travel Websites (i.e. Orbtiz, Expedia and Priceline)
  • Travel booked through Amex Travel

How Bank of America defines travel

Bank of America Luxury Premium Card, Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Cardgives a fairly broad definition of travel, offering a comprehensive list of options for redeeming these purchases, including the following:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels/motels
  • Car rental agencies
  • timeshares
  • cruise lines
  • trailer parks
  • Travel agencies
  • Taxi
  • Passenger trains
  • Buses and other suburban transport
  • Ferries
  • Trailer parks, motorhomes and RV rentals
  • Camping
  • Boat rental
  • Payment for travel
  • Car parks/garages
  • Tourist attractions such as zoos, galleries and amusement parks

How Barclays defines travel

Barclays’ signature travel rewards card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®*, is no longer accepting new applications. But existing card holders can still earn rewards on every purchase and use them for travel.

According to the archived version of the card’s terms, the fares apply to “airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campsites, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines, and ferries.”

While this is an impressive list, not all vendors that provide transportation and travel services are included. For example, real estate agents, websites, or owners who rent property (such as Airbnb), on-board goods and services, and airport vendors do not count as trips.

How Capital One defines travel

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card as well as Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card both allow cardholders to use miles to pay for travel expenses, including the following:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels
  • Railway lines
  • Car rental agencies
  • Limousine service
  • Bus lines
  • cruise lines
  • Taxi
  • Travel agencies
  • timeshares

How Discover defines travel

The Discover it® Miles Card allows you to earn 1.5 miles on every purchase, no matter what you buy. According to its website, you can redeem miles (at the same rate) for a credit statement to pay for your trips, which include “hotel rooms, car rentals, rides, gas stations, restaurants, and more.” You can also opt for cashback at the same rate.

bottom line

There are some differences between how these card issuers describe travel, but one constant is that airline flights almost always count. Hotel bookings and car rentals are also extremely common, along with cruise lines and taxis. Even campsites appear on most maps. Before choosing which card you will pay with, be sure to check if the purchase is eligible for a bonus reward, and if your rewards do not display properly, feel free to contact your issuer.

* American Express Green Card, Citi Prestige Card, and Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard information has been independently collected by CreditCards.com and has not been verified by issuers.

Editorial disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective judgment of our contributors and is not based on advertising. It was not provided or ordered by credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to our partners’ products.

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