The Best Rewards Cards for Road Warriors

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The best rewards cards for road warriors are my sweet spot. I’ve flown over 100,000 miles a year for as long as I can remember. I’ve scaled things back a bit since becoming a new dad, but in 2016 I spent nearly half of my nights on the road. My biggest credit card expenses are airfare, hotel stays, and dining out. That’s fairly typical for a road warrior, and fortunately I don’t have to use a company credit card giving someone else the rewards.

Here are the best rewards cards for road warriors:

  • Platinum Card® from American Express remains a great tool because it offers the most extensive airport lounge access of any credit card. You get access to American Express’ own Centurion lounges; Delta lounges (when flying Delta same day); Plaza Premium, Aspire, and Escape lounges; and a Priority Pass which gets you into airport lounges and Minutes Suites.

    You get Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold. It’s also lucrative earning 5 points per dollar on airfare.

    best rewards cards for road warriors
    Delta Sky Club Austin

  • Citi Prestige Card is in some ways a shell of its former self, no longer offering American Airlines lounge access, premium values redeeming points for paid travel, or a golf benefit and the fourth night free hotel benefit has been gutted.

    However the card earns 5 points per dollar on airfare, 5x also at restaurants, and 3x at hotels — all sweet spot road warrior earning categories. It comes with a Priority Pass (which includes participating airport restaurant access) as well.

    Bobby Van’s, New York JFK Terminal 8

  • American Express® Gold Card has been redesigned with road warrior earning in mind, offering 4 points per dollar at restaurants and at US supermarkets and 3 points per dollar on airfare.

    the best rewards cards for road warriors
    My Rose Gold American Express Gold Card

  • American Express® Green Card offers 3 Membership Rewards points per dollar on travel and at restaurants worldwide.

    There are two key statement credits offered: up to $100 per year when you use the card to pay for your CLEAR® membership and up to $100 in statement credits per year on your LoungeBuddy purchases for lounge access. I love the CLEAR credit, since Global Entry/TSA credits are everywhere and this is unique.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers 3x travel and dining and a Priority Pass (which includes participating airport restaurant access) as well.

    what are the best rewards cards for road warriors

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Citi Premier℠ Card [offer expired] both have the best initial bonus offers (60,000 points after $4000 spend within 3 months) and a lower price point than the other cards ($95 annual fee) while still bonusing travel-related categories and offering points that transfer to airline miles.

    Sapphire Preferred earns double points on travel and dining, while Citi Premier earns triple points on travel (including gas stations) and double points on restaurants and entertainment.

Of these the best rewards cards for road warriors that I carry are the Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card and together they have me covered for airline tickets and restaurant spend. (I put my Hyatt stays on The World Of Hyatt Credit Card earning 4 Hyatt points per dollar doing so.)

Together I’m earning American Express Membership Rewards points quickly, one of my favorite currencies that can be transferred to:

  • Star Alliance: Aeroplan, ANA, Singapore, Avianca
  • oneworld: AsiaMiles, British Airways, Iberia, Qantas
  • SkyTeam: Aeromexico, Alitalia, Air France KLM, Delta
  • Non-alliance: Etihad, Emirates, El Al, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic
  • Hotels: Choice, Hilton, Marriott

However with seven figure balances to work with both in my Chase and American Express accounts, I’m in need of diversification with Citi ThankYou points. I cancelled my Prestige card over two years ago and am considering whether it may make sense again to spread my balances more.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. @Jason I have an Amex green that I do not get any MR points for. They were supposed to change this when our company restructured but it did not happen.

  2. Except for Priority Pass and the Amex Centurion lounges are there any credit cards that provide lounge access and does NOT require a boarding pass for that airline?

    To use Delta lounges with Amex Plat you need a Delta board pass.
    To use AA lounges with the Citi AA Exec card you now need a same day AA board pass

    Anything I’m missing (regarding domestic USA lounges)?

  3. @Gary: A suggested future guideline when writing this, or any article, that compares different card issuers: Don’t give the reward in points (or miles), give it in cents. Then different issuers are comparable.

  4. @Gary I believe Amex added trip delay coverage on their premium cards starting January 1st of this year, didn’t they?

  5. Gary, you left me hanging as to which credit card you use for hotels in general. Surely you often have to stay in hotels that are not Hyatt.

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