We might be staying at home now but, with a little luck, in a few months’ time we will be able to take the adventure vacation we have been anticipating. The security measures we follow in the future when we board an airplane or check into a hotel will be stricter. But we will still be interested in saving on travel expenses once we are back in the air and on the path to new, exciting destinations.
Using a debit card is one payment option if you have the cash on hand to finance your vacation. If not, in addition to finding the lowest airfare and hotel rates, choosing the best travel credit card to pay for travel expenses should be a top-of-mind financial consideration for you.
So how do you determine which credit card is the most advantageous for you? Here is a quick guide to what to look for when you compare offers.
Make sure the rewards you get are the rewards you want.
Travel credit cards offer a dizzying array of rewards. The complicated point systems and reward structures offered by many companies may be difficult to understand. And that may prevent you getting everything you have coming to you under your card agreement. Your first step when comparing travel credit cards should be to understand what you get rewarded for. Some cards reward you exclusively for air travel and hotel expenses—and sometimes restrict you to a single airline or hotel chain. Those cards amount to glorified frequent flyer programs. If you travel a great deal, you may have more miles already than you know what to do with. A better option is to find a card that rewards you for every dollar you spend and lets you take those rewards as cash back, not just as services.
Get a bonus from the get-go.
Travel credit cards want to earn your business and compete with one another by offering some compelling introductory offers. Look for the card that offers you the best sign-on bonus. But read the fine print. Sometimes those bonuses are only awarded when you meet steep minimum purchase amounts over a short period of time. Unless you are sure you will meet those minimums, don’t let a bright and shiny bonus offer blind you in your decision-making.
Annual fees can cut both ways.
With many all-purpose credit cards advertising low- or no-annual-fee offers, why would you consider a card that comes with an annual fee of a few hundred dollars? Because sometimes the card’s benefits make its high annual fee worthwhile. Some cards offer immediate credits toward travel while others give you an allowance to spend towards gaining Global Entry or TSA pre-check status. Others reimburse you $100 or more for airline add-on purchases like luggage fees and in-flight services. Before dismissing a card due to its high annual fee, consider what you might gain down the road by paying a little more upfront.
Sometimes it’s the perks.
If you travel frequently—particularly for business—the time you spend in airports can be lengthy, uncomfortable, and unproductive. Miles and discounts may not excite you, but a quiet place to have a cocktail or a short snooze might be just the ticket for you. Some travel credit cards offer membership privileges in private airport clubs and hotel upgrades, for example. All other things being equal, find a card that offers the kind of perks that make every trip you take more pleasurable.
Also, many credit card providers offer additional purchase protections such as travel insurance, car rental insurance, and for defective or stolen goods.
A travel rewards credit card brings your next trip a little closer every time you use it. Each purchase earns points or miles that you can redeem for travel expenses. If you are loyal to a specific airline or hotel chain, consider that company’s branded credit cards. Otherwise, check out the general-purpose travel cards on this page, which give you flexible rewards that you can use without the restrictions and blackout dates of branded cards.