The First National Bank TravElite American Express® Card is a lesser-known credit card with a surprisingly generous rewards program and a decent (but not spectacular) lineup of value-added travel perks. Its attributes are more than enough to earn this card perennial consideration for inclusion on our list of the best travel rewards credit cards. If you’re a regular traveler who doesn’t like paying for pricey extras, TravElite American Express is worth a closer look.
There’s just one catch: it’s invitation only. Amex and FNB periodically send out mailers inviting prospective cardholders to apply online using unique reservation codes. If you’re on the in-list, you’ll know.
The TravElite Amex card earns unlimited 3 points per $1 spent on travel purchases and 1.5 points per $1 spent on everything else. That equates to 3% and 1.5% rates of return on said purchases, respectively. Once earned, points never expire. You can redeem for pretty much anything, including statement credits against prior purchases and travel purchases made through FNB’s internal travel portal.
If you meet the introductory spending threshold, you’ll get a great sign-up bonus (worth $250) too. And you can look forward to $100 per year in travel credits – more than what’s available from competing annual fee travel cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
When you spend at least $2,500 within 3 months of opening your account, you get 25,000 bonus points. That’s good for a $250 statement credit. This offer is subject to change and is only available with a unique reservation code received by mail.
Earning and Redeeming Rewards Points
First National Bank TraveElite American Express earns unlimited 3 points per $1 spent on travel purchases, with no caps or restrictions on how many points you can earn. According to FNB, “travel purchases” include airline, hotel, rail, ferry, commuter, and local transportation (such as taxis and rideshare) purchases. All other purchases earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent. Once earned, points never expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing.
The most straightforward way to redeem your accumulated points is for statement credits against purchases previously posted to your account (or your general account balance). You must have at least 2,500 points (worth $25) to redeem for statement credits, and you must redeem in $25 increments. You can also redeem for gift cards, travel purchases made through FNB’s travel portal, general merchandise, and special experiences.
Points are always worth $0.01 apiece when redeemed for statement credits, but their value may vary when redeemed for other items. Redemption minimums vary on other redemption options as well, but generally start at 1,000 points.
FNB’s travel portal offers a price guarantee, which states that “we will credit you the difference between the price for your hotel, flight, or car rental booked through us and the price for a hotel, flight, or car rental that is at least $20 lower and available through another travel site within 72 hours of your booking with us.” In other words, if you find a significantly better deal on a comparable travel purchase within 72 hours, FNB matches its price.
This card comes with some useful travel benefits, including:
- Global Entry Application Fee Credit: When you pay for your Global Entry application fee with your First National Bank TravElite American Express Card, you’re entitled to a full refund – a $100 value, available every five years.
- Travel Discretionary Fund: Every year, you can draw on a $100 travel discretionary fund to offset the cost of “baggage, fees, airport lounge access, onboard food and beverage and more” via statement credits to your account.
- Complimentary Rental Car Coverage: When you pay for your rental car in full with your First National Bank TravElite American Express Card, you enjoy complimentary loss and damage coverage for the duration of your rental term.
- Travel Accident Insurance: When you pay your common carrier fare in full with your TravElite card, you’re entitled to complimentary death and dismemberment coverage for the duration of your journey. Note that this isn’t a full travel insurance policy.
This card’s shopping benefits include:
- Amex Connect: You enjoy complimentary access to hundreds of exclusive deals from participating merchants – including “shopping, dining, presale ticket access to popular entertainment, sporting events and more” – through the complimentary Amex Connect portal.
- Extended Warranties: When you purchase certain items with existing warranties, you receive a complimentary 1-year extended warranty with all the same benefits and protections.
- Purchase Protection: If you lose, damage, or report an item stolen within 90 days of purchase, this card’s Purchase Protection framework may entitle you to a full refund, subject to certain per-occurrence and per-year limits.
Free Monthly FICO Score
Every month, you receive a complimentary, updated FICO score in your online account. Over time, you can track how your score changes and take steps to mitigate the drawbacks of a bad credit score.
First National Bank TravElite American Express Credit Card has no annual fee or fee for additional authorized user cards. There is also no foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%. Late payments cost up to $37, while returned payments cost up to $35.
The First National Bank TravElite American Express Card requires good to excellent credit.
- No Annual Fee. The First National Bank TravElite American Express Card has no annual fee. This is great news for frugal travelers who don’t spend heavily enough to offset recurring charges, and even more impressive considering the card’s recurring travel discretionary fund (which is enough to offset many premium travel credit cards’ sub-$100 annual fees).
- Excellent Earning Rate on Travel Purchases. This card earns 3 points per $1 spent on travel purchases. With points worth $0.01 apiece when redeemed for statement credits, that’s an effective 3% return on travel spending. Many competing cards can’t match that impressive rate.
- Solid Baseline Earning Rate. This card earns 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases. That’s a 1.5% return on spending – a comparable baseline to some of the best cash back credit cards on the market, including Chase Freedom Unlimited.
- Very Good Sign-Up Bonus. The TravElite American Express Card’s sign-up bonus is worth $250 when redeemed for a statement credit against prior purchases. It requires $2,500 in spending within 3 months – an effective 10% rate of return on that outlay. Keep in mind that this bonus is only available with a unique reservation code received in the mail .
- $100 Annual Travel Discretionary Fund. TravElite is one of the few no-annual-fee travel rewards cards that routinely offsets incidental travel purchases, such as baggage fees and in-flight refreshments. Even if you don’t use this as your primary credit card, it’s worth pulling out when you’re ready to buy space for your carry-on bags.
- Global Entry Application Fee Credit ($100 Value). This card eliminates the cost of skipping the line at airport security in the U.S. and customs in dozens of countries. That’s thanks to its Global Entry application fee credit – a $100 value.
- Price Match Guarantee on FNB Travel Purchases. If you use this card to purchase travel (including airfare and hotels) through FNB’s travel portal, you’re protected by the company’s generous price match guarantee. If you find another travel site with a better rate on a comparable travel purchase within 72 hours of the transaction, you’re entitled to a refund of the difference, as long as there’s at least $20 of daylight between the two vendors.
- Wide Range of Redemption Options. You can redeem the points you earn with your TravElite American Express Card on pretty much anything. The easiest option is cash (statement credits), but you can also go for travel purchases, gift cards, general merchandise, and more. No matter how you want to reward yourself for your travel and everyday spending, you can do it with this card. Minimum redemptions generally start at 1,000 points.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. TravElite American Express Card has no foreign transaction fee. That’s great news for regular overseas travelers, for whom a 2% to 3% foreign transaction fee is enough to greatly reduce or entirely negate this card’s return on spending.
- No Penalty APR. The TravElite American Express Card has no penalty APR. If you occasionally miss statement due dates because you’re strapped for cash or faced with unexpected expenses, this provides critical breathing room that can greatly reduce your credit costs.
- No Introductory 0% APR Promotion. TravElite doesn’t offer an introductory 0% APR promotion on balance transfers or purchases. If you’re dealing with high-interest balances on an existing credit card or seeking to finance a large purchase (perhaps a long-awaited vacation) without paying in full right away or accumulating massive interest charges, look to competitors like Chase Freedom Credit Card or Discover it Card, both of which offer long 0% APR promotions.
- No Points Transfer Allowance. This card doesn’t allow you to transfer points to other travel loyalty programs. If you’re a frequent, price-sensitive traveler who’s constantly on the lookout for the best deals, this is a major drawback that can significantly reduce the versatility and purchasing power of your earned points. Competing cards, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred and Citi ThankYou Premier Card, let you transfer points (sometimes at an extremely generous 1-to-1 ratio) to popular airline and hotel loyalty programs administered by global brands: American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta, Starwood, Hilton, IHG, Marriott, and much more.
- $25 Redemption Minimum for Cash Back Statement Credits. Before you can redeem for statement credits, you need to accumulate at least 2,500 points (worth $25). If you’re a very light spender or don’t use this as your primary credit card, this is a potentially inconvenient hurdle that could delay your first redemption by months.
- Limited Travel Benefits. Beyond the $100 travel discretionary fund, the Global Entry fee credit, and some vanilla benefits (such as travel accident insurance and rental car insurance), this card doesn’t have many value-added travel benefits. If you’re looking for complimentary airport lounge access or free room upgrades at participating hotels, look to a branded airline or hotel card, such as Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card or Hilton HHonors Surpass Credit Card – both Amex products.
The First National Bank TravElite American Express® Card is a little-known travel rewards card that holds its own against better-known competitors, many of which charge annual fees approaching $100.
If you’re in the market for a straightforward rewards credit card that pays you back for your travel spending without shortchanging your everyday spending or forcing you to remain loyal to a specific vendor, this card is worth a closer look – and it’s Exhibit A for the notion that you can sometimes find great deals in unexpected places.