Best Travel Credit Cards for your 2023 European Vacation (How to Save Thousands!)

Best travel credit cards for your 2023 european vacation to save money on your travel budget by aplins in the alps

We’re about to show you how you can save thousands of dollars on your next trip to Europe. You don’t want to miss this!

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If we haven’t met, we’re Jana and Brett—dual Italian-American citizens and lovers of all things Swiss. We’ve harnessed the power of travel credit cards to:

In fact, we think that we have saved more than $30,000 on travel over the last seven years simply by using travel credit cards. Now, that’s our travel money saving story, and we want to help you pen a similar one, too.

There’s lots of info out there about the best travel credit cards. But today, we’re going to walk you through the four biggest expenses threatening to break the budget on your next trip to Europe, and show you the best travel credit card in each category to put cash back into your pockets.

But be sure to read this entire post because we’re not just telling you which cards we recommend — we’re going to show you exactly how much money you could save with each one or with the combination of these cards.

So if you’re ready to save some money while traveling Europe, let’s go!

Browse all offers available through our partners:

A quick note…

Now before we dig in, it’s important we mention a few quick disclaimers:

  • First, the cards and offers we’ll mention are likely only available to you if you’re a U.S. resident. If that excludes you, we are so, so sorry that we can’t help you with these exact money saving strategies. But the opportunities are so good that we wanted to share them anyway, even if all of you can’t take advantage.
  • Second, we are not financial advisors, so none of this information is a personal recommendation of what you should do. We’re just a normal couple who’s had some incredible travel experiences thanks to Points & Miles, and we wanted to share what we’ve learned with you.
  • Third, if you sign up through our links and get approved, we may earn a small commission. Now, this comes at no cost to you, but we are genuinely grateful for the commissions because they support us to continually create helpful travel content. So any time you go to sign up for a credit card, if you do so here on our website, we would be so, so grateful.

But okay, enough disclaimers. Let’s get to the good stuff.

Best Travel Credit Card for Flights to Europe

When you’re planning your European vacation, one of the biggest costs—and one of the first things you’ll want to book—will be flights.

A standard roundtrip flight between the U.S. and Europe in economy can often be had for 60,000 points, depending on the airline. So is it possible to find one card that can completely cover that cost? Well, yes. Yes, it is!

Our pick for the best travel credit card for flights to Europe is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Best Card for Flights to Europe

CURRENT OFFER: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.


With the current offer, you’ll have at least 64,000 points after meeting a minimum spending requirement on the card (60,000 from the sign-up bonus plus 4,000+ from spending). And when transferred to a United Airlines frequent flier account, those 64,000 points could be just enough to get you to Europe and back.

Now, there is a $95 annual fee, which is true of most of the cards on this list. But if you keep focused on what’s most important—which is earning points to pay for your flights to Europe—then you will absolutely get a ton of value out of this card!

Best Travel Credit Card for Lodging

Let’s say you’ve already booked your flights and you’re getting ready to reserve lodging like hotels or Airbnbs. Once again, a travel credit card could be totally clutch.

Our pick for the best travel credit card for lodging is the Citi Premier® Card. (Check to see if it’s available on this page).

Best Card for Lodging (Airbnbs)

CURRENT OFFER: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.


With the current offer, you have at least 64,000 of what’s called Citi ThankYou® Points after meeting the minimum spending requirement (60,000 from the sign-up bonus plus 4,000+ from spending).

One of the things we love about ThankYou Points is that you can exchange them for Airbnb gift cards at a better value than most other points programs. And those 64,000 points would get you—well, hang on. We’ll do the math at the end.

Best Travel Credit Card for Transportation

Flights and lodging represent a huge chunk of the cost of any trip to Europe. But once you land in Europe, you’re still going to need to get around. Whether you’re renting a car, traveling by train, or sticking to the cities and riding the metro, you’ll be paying for transportation during your trip.

And our pick for the best travel credit card for transportation is actually two cards: the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.

Best Card for Transportation

CURRENT OFFER: New Venture cardholders can earn 75,000 miles once they spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.


I’ll tell you a little about the differences in each card here in a moment, but here’s the scoop: with the current offers, you’ll have at least 83,000 of what’s called Capital One Venture Miles on either card after meeting the minimum spending requirement (75,000 from the sign-up bonus plus 8,000+ from spending).

What we love about Venture Miles is how easy and flexible they are to use. You simply use your card to pay for your car rental, your Swiss train pass, train tickets, or another travel expense, and then you have up to 90 days to reimburse yourself with the miles in your account.

If you have enough points, you’ll literally wipe the charge off your account!

Travel expenses like train passes and train tickets are often hard to pay for using Points and Miles. But both of these cards make that easy. So what’s the deal with the Venture X?

Best Card for Transportation & Premium Perks

CURRENT OFFER: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.


Well, for starters, it comes with a much higher annual fee of $395. But before you roll your eyes and click away, if you’re the right kind of traveler, this card could easily pay for itself because of all the perks that come with it:

  • $300 annual credit for travel purchases booked through the Capital One Travel portal
  • Complimentary Priority Pass™️ membership, giving you and up to two guests unlimited access to their network of 1200+ airport lounges
  • a statement credit of up to $100 on the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®, which makes travel days way smoother
  • and so much more!

If you think you can make use of the $300 travel credit, then all the other perks just sweeten the pot and you’ll find that it’s a well worth splurging for the Venture X—currently my favorite travel credit card.

Best Travel Credit Card for Food & Incidentals

One final category that often gets overlooked when discussing Points & Miles is food, but we easily could have just called this “Everything Else.”

Our pick for the best travel credit card for food and incidentals is the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card.

Best Card for Food & Incidentals

CURRENT OFFER: Receive 50,000 online bonus points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening


With the current offer, you’ll have at least 54,500 Bank of America Points after meeting the minimum spending requirement (50,000 from the sign-up bonus plus 4,500+ from spending). And we love that these points are so beginner friendly.

Like with Capital One Venture Miles, you simply pay using the card when you eat at a restaurant or shop at the grocery store, and then use your points to reimburse yourself for those charges.

But the best part is you can do this for any expense of any kind, so you don’t have to limit it to just food. Want to buy a local SIM card? Check. See a neat souvenir you want to buy? Check. It’s that easy!

On top of the points you earn, you can also get your TSA PreCheck or global entry application fee reimbursed, and reimburse up to $100 in airline incidental charges every year.

How much can you save on your European Vacation with Travel Credit Cards?

Ready to talk specific money saving strategies for each card? If you’re a math nerd, you’re probably going to love this part. But if numbers overwhelm you, we’re going to keep it simple enough that I think you’ll still be wowed by these savings!


If you open the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to help with your flights, then it’s highly likely you’ll earn enough points to pay for your roundtrip flight from the U.S. to Europe.

With flights averaging $1300+ during the summer tourist season, the points you earn from this card would yield $1200 in value, even after deducting the annual fee. You’ll have to pay some airline fees, which are often as low as $5.60 each way. But even if they’re quite a bit higher, you won’t have any trouble saving at least $1,000 with this card.


If you open the Citi Premier Card and use your points for Airbnb gift cards, you’ll have at least $640 to work with, depending on when you apply for the card. But we recently saw an offer that would have given you enough points for $840 in Airbnb gift cards.

Subtracting the annual fee, that’s $545 to $745, you could save on an Airbnb. And looking at Airbnbs near Interlaken, Switzerland for example, you’ll find that there are plenty available for between $1100-1400 a week, meaning you could cut your costs by half!


For the Capital One Venture, let’s use an example of what transportation costs might look like.

Let’s say you’re visiting the Swiss Alps—one of our favorite areas—and using our Ultimate Swiss Train Pass Guide, you decided to buy the Swiss Half Fare Card plus the 6-day Berner Oberland Regional Pass for your one week trip.

That’ll cost you about $370 at the current exchange rate, plus your train tickets to and from the airport will cost another $80 for a total of $450.

If you open the Capital One Venture (or Venture X), you could fully cover this cost and have $285 leftover after subtracting the annual fee.


And finally, with the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card, you’d have a net value of $450 after subtracting the annual fee, which you could put 100% to groceries or restaurant bills during your trip.

Combining the Best Travel Credit Cards for the Ultimate European Vacation Savings

So you can see how any one of these travel credit cards can have a major positive impact on your travel budget. But the real power comes from combining them.

Let’s say you take a year or so to open each of these cards, meet the minimum spending requirements, and build up your Points & Miles balances. Well, here’s what that could mean for your next trip to Europe:

  • Your flights could be fully booked by your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, except for as little as $11.20 in fees, which you could cover with your Capital One Venture Miles if you’d like
  • Your train passes and train tickets could be completely paid for using those Venture Miles
  • You could save up to $1,025 on an Airbnb using a combination of Airbnb gift cards purchased with your Citi ThankYou points and those leftover Venture Miles
  • Plus, you could save $450 off of your food budget

Altogether, that’s a possible $3,125 you could save on your next trip to Europe—after deducting annual fees—just by leveraging the power of these four travel credit cards!

But speaking of budgets, what do you need to know about planning your budget for a trip to the Swiss Alps? Well, we made this post to help with that. We dig into actual costs using a real trip itinerary, and we share loads of tips that we’ve learned along the way to help make your next trip to Switzerland a little more budget friendly.

So check that out next, and we’ll see you in Switzerland—or Italy—or somewhere else in Europe!

Opinions expressed here are ours (Aplins in the Alps) alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Brett is the numbers-crunching, analytical, spontaneous half of the duo Aplins in the Alps. Beyond working with his wife to help people travel Switzerland with confidence, Brett is the CFO and co-owner of a gymnastics business in Middle Tennessee. If his dreams came true, he'd spend everyday in the Swiss Alps with his closest family and friends. When he's not working or traveling, Brett enjoys playing board games, sharing a fine meal with friends, or appreciating the beauty of nature over a refreshing drink. Brett lives in Switzerland with his wife, Jana.

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