Choosing a Credit Card for Travel

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Your travel opportunities can be much higher than you could ever think if you pay attention to how to earn miles and redeem them.

Credit cards are one of the easiest ways to earn points, cash back, and miles. With so many credit cards on the market, however, it’s important to find the card that fits you and your travel needs best.

The following tips may help you resolve your which-credit-card-to-choose dilemma:

Airline Branded Credit Cards

If you are devoted to one particular airline, consider getting that airline’s credit card. Such cards typically give great sign-up bonus, which is often enough for a free flight, and travel perks such as a free checked bag and priority boarding. Some airlines even offer companion tickets each year of cardmembership. Additional perks of sticking with one airline may be priority check-in, free in-flight Wi-Fi, and airport lounge passes.

General Travel Credit Card

Some travel credit cards offer sign-up bonus if you make qualified purchases in a certain period of time. They let you earn points with every purchase to pay for flights on many airlines and for other travel services (e.g. rental cars). Or you can choose a cash-back travel card.

Hotel Branded credit Cards

They work like the airline branded credit cards and generally offer sign up bonuses. With a hotel credit card you earn points for purchases, usually 1 point per $1 spent for any purchase and up to 5 points per $1 spent for purchases at the property. Other bonuses you can receive are easy check-in and check-out, room upgrades, and free breakfast.

Mind the APR

Check the annual percentage rate (APR) before signing up for a credit card with travel rewards. The APRs for travel credit cards are typically little bit higher than for other credit cards and may go up to 25 percent. If you tend to carry a balance from month to month, you may end up paying more in interest than you’ll earn in travel rewards.

Check the Annual Fee

Many credit cards with travel rewards have annual fees. Make sure the card’s benefits offset the fee. For example if your card offer a free night’s stay at a respectable hotel, or if your take at least two trips a year and get a free luggage check each way, you will surely cover the annual fee.

Don’t Forget About Foreign Transaction Fee

If you often travel outside the United States, find out if your credit card company charges a foreign transaction fee. This fee can add up to 3 percent of what you spend abroad.

Impact on Credit Score

Keep in mind that if you apply for an every enticing credit card offer that comes your way, your credit score will be affected.

Free Travel Insurance

Some travel credit cards offer free travel insurance, covering trip cancellation, luggage loss, and sometimes car rental insurance.

Easy Points

Charge all of your monthly expenses you can, like gasoline and groceries, to a credit card and then pay it off each month. Use the card for purchases you would make anyway and get free hotels and flights.

Earn Points Online

Many credit card issuers give access to shopping portals or to travel merchants. Access such merchants through your online credit account, or an airline or hotel’s shopping mall and make your purchases. You can receive bonus points, bonus miles or cash back.

If you know the rules of a squeeze-benefits-out-of-the-credit-card game, you can outsmart the credit card companies and get from them more than they were going to give.

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