Travel credit cards have become a highly competitive product with card issuers jockeying for your business. These cards operate on a point system, sometimes referred to as miles, where the card holder accrues points redeemable towards travel as they use the card. Some credit card companies partner with airlines while others offer their own travel cards.
Big Bonus Points at Sign Up
Look for a travel credit card with a large amount of bonus points at sign up. Offers vary from season to season, with cards delivering up to 50,000 points to sign up. Often the bonus points are contingent on spending a particular amount in the first few months of card membership such as $3,000.00. Some cards give you the bonus points without requiring a specific amount of spending.
Points for Ongoing Spending
Travel reward credit cards offer points for ongoing spending, for example one or two points for each dollar charged on the card. Some travel cards offer points for spending money with particular vendors they partner with, such as rental car companies.
Card Membership Perks
Cards tied to a specific airline feature perks such as access to airport lounges with complimentary food and beverages, free checked bags and priority boarding. Others offer discounts on particular travel related services such as hotels, rental cars and travel insurance. For example the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers two points per dollar spent on restaurants and dining.
Watch Out for Fees
It's not unusual to get the annual card membership waived for the first year on a travel credit card, but look at fees for subsequent years. Will the value of the card rewards out-weigh the fee after that first year? Before signing up for a card, carefully review interest rates, late fees, cash advance fees and balance transfer fees. If you plan to travel abroad, check for the foreign transaction fee. Many cards charge up to 3% on foreign transactions. Some travel credit cards have a no foreign fee policysuch as the Capital One Venture Rewards card and the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard.
Maintain Good Credit
A slight dip in credit score is normal when applying for credit. If you aggressively open and close multiple credit card accounts in a short time window to maximize travel benefits, your credit score can take a hit. Leave some time between applications and your credit score will not suffer over the long term. Pay the balance on your card in full each month. Think of your card purchases as cash purchases, not as items you will finance over time. Paying interest on debt on a travel credit card can negate the value of the benefits your realize from the card.
Ready, Set, Travel
Determine the card with the best signing bonus, ongoing rewards program, fee structure and affiliations for your travel plans, and have fun racking up points while planning your travel. In the meantime, explore the card website and become familiar with the interface for redeeming your points. Include the moneysavingpro review of the best travel rewards cards in your research. Bon voyage!