Best Travel Credit Cards 2017
- June 28, 2016
- Posted by: Andrew Rombach
- Category: Credit Cards
Plenty of credit card companies have realized that their products can appeal to habitual travelers. If credit cards can offer benefits of any sort, why not offer deals that are specifically geared towards traveling?
That is exactly what credit card issuers do. There is an entire subset of credit cards that offer travel benefits as part of a reward package. These cards are fairly hard to qualify for because they can be extremely valuable to travelers, especially the ones who spend a good amount of their time doing so. Owners of these cards can take advantage of reward packages for free hotel stays or airfare. These extensive benefits usually come at a price as these cards generally come with annual fees.
Many of these credit cards are offered through a credit card issuer partnership with an associated airline or hotel. These partnerships are made obvious in order to inspire business, so some are exclusively helpful at partnership locations.
Overall, these cards bode well for those who travel for business or pleasure. Traveling more increases the benefits for many of these cards, so if one can afford to travel, these cards are an absolute must-have.
Here is a list of several cards that offer extensive travel benefits. Not only are their benefits observed, but all of their associated costs are listed here as well.
*All APRs listed below are current as of the date of this posting and are subject to change at any time depending on the card issuer and market fluctuation.
The Top 10 Travel Credit Cards for 2017
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express
APR: 15.49% - 19.49%
Rewards: 5pts (cents) /$1 spent at Starwood locations, 1pt/$1 spent elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 25,000pts ($250) if $3,000 spent in first 90 days
Fees: $95 annual, $37 late, $5 or 3% on balance transfer and cash advance
Kicking off the list in the number one spot is the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. This card comes with an absurd amount of benefits, and it is very hard to get approved for. Cardholders can find opportunities at any Starwood location, and there are over 1,200 locations nationwide. This is one of the many products offered by American Express that are specifically meant for travel rewards.
There is hefty bonus deal for spending at least $3,000 during the first ninety days of obtaining the Starwood Card. After reaching this limit, the cardholder earns 25,000 bonus Starpoints. These points are redeemable for travel benefits and free hotel stays at Starwood locations. When making purchases at Starwood locations, five Starpoints are given for every dollar spent. On top of this, one Starpoint is awarded for every dollar spent on other purchases, so cardholders can start building up rewards immediately.
Multiple tier statuses are available to devoted cardholders who start out as basic cardmembers. There are three tiers above basic membership: Elite Status, Platinum Status, and Gold Status. Cardholders can move up this tier system by staying in hotels or reaching a spending minimum each year. 25 nights at participating hotels earns an upgrade to Elite Status; 50 nights earns an upgrade to Platinum Status.
When cardholders spend at least $30,000 in one year, they are eligible for a Gold Status Upgrade. These membership statuses basically guarantee the cardholder certain luxuries and upgrades at hotels; additionally, these members get an extra Starpoint per dollar spent at Starwood locations.
In light of the various potential benefits, Starwood cardholders have multiple fees to look after. These members start out with a $0 annual fee that precedes a regular $95 annual fee. There are balance transfer and cash advance fees that both cost either $5 or 3%. There is no foreign transaction fee. Penalty fees for late and returned payments can cost up to $37 each. As far as APR goes, this card is relatively tame. Regular purchases and balance transfers have a rate of 15.49% to 19.49% which is a relatively tight range. Cash advance APR is 25.49% while the penalty APR is 29.49%.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express offers plenty of benefits for the habitual hotel visitor, and it can offer some exclusive deals for upper tier members. The annual fee is minimal compared to plenty of top tier cards, which makes this a solid product for anyone with excellent credit.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
APR: 16.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 2pts/$1 for travel and restaurant purchases, 1pt/$1 elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 50,000pts ($500) if $4,000 spent in first 3 months, 5,000pts ($50) for first purchase and adding an authorized user
Fees: $95 annual, $15-$37 late, $5 or 5% balance transfer, $10 or 5% cash advance
Cruising in at second place is the Sapphire Preferred Card offered by Chase bank. This card comes with some serious travel benefits that make it worthy of one of the top positions on this list. These rewards are redeemable at multiple different partner businesses including plenty of airlines.
This credit card takes the cake when it comes to introductory bonus deals. It offers 50,000 bonus points for spending at least $4,000 within the first three months. On top of this, an extra 5,000 points are awarded for simply making the first transaction and adding an authorized user during that three month period. Overall, that is 55,000 bonus points, which is worth over $600 towards travel.
There are a couple of point rates on purchases with the Sapphire Preferred Card. Two points per dollar are awarded while spending in the travel or restaurant niche, and one point is given per dollar spent on all other purchases. These points are valued higher by Chase than other competitors; basically, the end result is a 20% discount on travel redemptions.
Since this is an upper tier travel rewards credit card, there is an annual fee of $95 for holding onto the card; however, the first year is free of charge. There are a couple of transaction fees for balance transfers (either $5 or 5%) and cash advances (either $10 or 5%). There is no foreign transaction fee, which is typical of a travel rewards card. Fees for late payments range between $15, $27, and $37 depending on how large the balance is. Returned payments bring about a $37 fee. There are no introductory periods involved with annual percentage rates. Regular purchase and balance transfer APRs range between 16.24% and 23.24%, while both cash advance and penalty APRs are set at 25.24%.
This Chase travel rewards credit card has some enticing benefits. They rank as some of the best on the market given the accompanying credit card costs. This card is somewhat difficult to obtain, but it rewards spending with ample travel benefits.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
APR: 13.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 2pts/$1 redeemable on flights
Bonus Reward: 40,000pts ($400) if $3,000 spent in first 90 days
Fees: $59 annual, $35 late, $10 or 3% cash advance, NO balance transfer
The Venture Rewards Credit Card is Capital One's answer to the top competitors in the travel rewards card market. It offers the usual slew of travel benefits to its cardholders in the form of free airfare and other perks. It falls short in some respects, but it makes up for these shortcomings with its pricing and terms.
The Venture Rewards card starts out with an introductory bonus deal numbering 40,000 points. These are earned by spending at least $3,000 during the first 90 days with the credit card. On top of this bonus deal, the rate of return is 2 points per dollar on all purchases. These points constitute the travel rewards program; they are redeemable for flights and are worth approximately one cent a piece. These points do not expire.
One of the best selling points of this card is the annual fee. After waiving the first year of membership fees, cardholders are only required to pay $59 annually in order to hold onto the card. There are only a few extra fees to consider. There is a cash advance fee of either $10 or 3%, and late payments are charged a maximum of $35. This means there is no foreign transaction fee or balance transfer fee. Interest rates are always relevant; for instance, regular purchases are subject to either a 13.24%, 18.24%, or 23.24% APR. Cash advances see an APR of 23.24%. These rates are all variable.
This Capital One credit card is great if one is looking for travel rewards. The combination of low fees and good rewards makes for a competitive product overall. While this card is placed at number three on the list, the package is one of the best deals to consider. It offers comparable rewards at lower costs to the holder.
Virgin America Visa Signature Card
APR: 16.23%, 20.24%, or 25.24%
Rewards: 5pts/$1 spent on Virgin America airfare and 3pts/$1 on all other Virgin America purchases, 1pt/$1 elsewhere
Bonus Reward: $150/year toward companion ticket, 20% off in-flight purchases, free first bag check
Fees: $49 annual, $10 or 3% balance transfer, $10 or 5% cash advance, $37 late fee
Virgin America offers its own travel package in the form of the Visa Signature Card. It offers unique benefits that are specifically geared towards traveling via airlines. This card follows the low cost and moderate benefit path in order to appeal to the middle ground of potential customers. There are two different types of cards: the Premium Card and the basic Visa Signature Card.
For members who were approved for the Premium Card, they are eligible for a bonus reward of 15,000 Elevate points. Those who do not have the Premium Card can get 10,000 Elevate points to their account. This bonus gift is awarded if the cardholder can spend at least $1,000 within the first three months with the credit card. Elevate points are the base units for the Elevate Program where cardholders can build up redeemable rewards towards their travel expenses.
There are a couple of travel reward rates for making purchases. When purchasing airfare from Virgin America, Elevate members receive five points per dollar spent. When spending at Virgin America for other reasons besides airfare, cardholders get three points per dollar spent. All other purchases garner one point per dollar. These points are redeemable towards gifts and discounts at Virgin America.
There are several other perks with the Virgin America travel card. Cardholders get a $150 credit towards a companion ticket, which is renewable every year. The first bag check fee is waived when using a Virgin America Visa Signature Card. All in-flight purchases can be made at a 20% discount. The Premium Card comes with more perks than its Visa Signature counterpart.
There are multiple different fees and rates for this card depending on card type. The Premium Visa Card requires $150 per year while the standard Virgin America Visa Card requires only $49 annually. Common transaction fees are also present with this card. Balance transfers cost an additional $10 or 3%. Cash advances and convenience checks can cost up to $10 or 5% per transaction. Even though this is a travel card, there is a foreign transaction fee of 3%; however, the Premium Card does not come with a foreign transaction fee. Late and returned payments may cost anywhere up to $37.
The annual percentage rates do not differ between the Premium Card and Visa Signature Card. Standard purchases are subject to rates of either 16.23%, 20.24%, or 25.24%. There is no differentiation between cards for cash advances either; for instance, the cash advance APR is 27.24% for both cards. There is both potential for an excellent rate and a poor rate, but this all depends on credit history.
The Virgin America credit cards, both Premium and Visa Signature, offer decent deals when it comes to travel. The benefits of the Premium Card may not outweigh the additional cost, so the ideal product choice may very well be the standard Visa Signature Card.
Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
APR: 16.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 5pts/$1 spent at Marriott, 2pts/$1 spent on travel, 1pt/$1 elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 80,000pts ($800) if $3,000 spent in first 3 months & 7,500pts ($75) if one additional person added to account (redeemable at Marriott)
Fees: NO annual, 3% on balance transfers, $10 or 5% on cash advances, $37 late
This credit card offers a ton of great benefits as Chase's prime credit card offering for hotel rewards. The Marriot Rewards Premier Credit Card competes well with its counterparts such as the Hilton Honors and Starwood Guest Preferred Card. It is one of the top credit cards in the hotel benefits marketplace.
A headlining bonus deal sets the tone for this credit card. Chase and its partner, Marriott, offer an introductory reward of 80,000 points for spending $3,000 during the first three months of opening an account. In addition to this huge deal, cardholders can earn an extra 7,500 points to their rewards account. In order to qualify, they must make a single purchase with their credit card and sign up one extra authorized user to their account. These points are redeemable towards free hotel nights and stays at Marriott and participating locations.
On top of the sweet bonus deal, there are multiple different rates at which bonus points can be earned. For every dollar spent at a Marriot location, five points are awarded. There are certain niche purchases that gain two points per dollar; these niches include car rentals, airline tickets, or restaurants. All other purchases typically receive one point per dollar. These points do not expire so long as the account is left open and active.
There are a few extra perks that come with this card. Every year, cardholders receive a free hotel night from Chase. On top of this, there is a chance to receive 15 credits toward Elite Status. Cardholders must make it through a year in good standing credit-wise and with Chase. There are more rewards available as well; for instance, every $3,000 in purchases earns another Elite Status credit.
In light of all these deals, there are several rates and fees to cover. There is an annual fee of $85, which is slightly below average for cards of this caliber. Balance transfers cost the cardholder a minimum of $5 or a maximum of 5%. Cash advances cost a little more at a max rate of 5% or a minimum fee of $10. Foreign transaction fees are luckily not applicable for this card. The usual Chase late fee guidelines are in place. $15 is charged on balances less than $100, $27 is charged on balances between $100 and $250, and $37 is charged on balances over $250. Returned payments lack the flexibility since they simply will charge anywhere up to $37. Regular purchase and balance transfer APRs range between 16.24% and 23.24% depending on creditworthiness. Cash advance and overdraft APRs are at 25.24%, which are variable.
This card appears to be a great deal, and it really is. It offers minimal fees for awesome rewards, which is exactly what everyone wants. The only issue is getting approved because it requires good credit history, which is barrier number one to a majority of people.
Hilton HHonors Card by American Express
APR: 15.49% - 19.49%
Reward: 3pts/$1 on all purchases, 2 additional at supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants, 7 additional from Hilton affiliates
Bonus Reward: 50,000pts ($500) if $750 spent in first 3 months: redeemable at Hilton locations
Fees: NO annual, 3% or $5 balance transfer and cash advance, $37 max late
American Express holds true to its reputation as a top competitor in the consumer traveler industry; in this case, this is their second product that focuses on hotel rewards. With the Starwood locations covered, it was only natural to move on to the Hilton locations. The Hilton HHonors Card from American Express offers good rewards and rates for the Hilton client base.
Cardholders can get a head start on saving bonus points with this card by reaching the $750 spending minimum within three months of getting the card. The bonus offer is 50,000 Hilton HHonors points, which are redeemable at any Hilton location. On top of this bonus offer, there are several above average rates at which points can be earned. To start, three Hilton HHonors points are awarded for regular purchases. Members get an additional two points when making purchases at supermarkets, restaurants, or gas stations (so a total of five points per dollar). Finally, cardholders get seven points on the dollar for purchasing directly with a Hilton affiliate. These are impressive rewards point rates.
In addition to a sweet point system, there is a tier system associated with the Hilton HHonors Credit Card. The starting tier is known as Hilton HHonors Silver Status; it is given as a compliment for qualifying for the credit card. Silver members receive several free hotel nights per year, and they get %15 on reward points earned through transactions. The next tier is Gold Status. This is awarded for spending at least $20,000 annually with the credit card. There is a 25% bonus on HHonors points, and they receive more free hotel nights per year compared to Silver status. Both statuses receive complimentary upgrades when applicable, but preference always goes to Gold status.
With this many perks, the Hilton HHonors Card must be expensive, but that is not the case. There is no annual fee for this credit card, which is unprecedented given the number of perks and reward programs. Charges of $5 or 3% are applied to balance transfers and cash advances. There happens to be a foreign transaction fee of 2.7%, and late or returned payments are charged a max penalty of $37. The regular and balance transfer APRs are set between 15.49% and 19.49%. Cash advance APR is 25.49% while penalty APR is 29.49%.
The overall package of the Hilton HHonors Credit Card from American Express is excellent. This segment did not even cover the standard perks of an American Express product; this card becomes even more valuable when factoring those in. This is one of the best products on this list when considering the expense to reward ratio.
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card by American Express
APR: 15.49% to 19.49%
Rewards: 2 miles (cents)/$1 spent at Delta Airlines, 1 mile/$1 spent elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 50,000 miles ($500) for spending $2,000 in first 3 months, $50 for making first purchase
Fees: $95 annual (first year free), $5 or 3% on balance transfers and cash advances, $37 late
In partnership with Delta Airlines, American Express offers yet another competitive travel credit card for consumers. It offers great deals and special Delta Airlines perks, and it is a relatively low cost card.
The SkyMiles card starts out with a typical bonus deal, 50,000 miles for spending $2,000 within three months of getting the card. Miles are redeemable towards travel discounts; since this is worth $500, the intro deal is effectively a 25% return. In addition to this deal, cardholders earn another $50 credit for simply making a purchase at Delta. This makes the introductory deal worth an overall $550, which is a considerable return on investment.
There are several standard rates of return for making purchases. Two miles are awarded to a member account for every dollar spent at Delta Airlines. For any other purchase, one mile per dollar is the standard rate. These are the standard rates that account for most of the points built up in a rewards account.
There are various other perks to consider. A Gold Delta SkyMiles cardholder can get their first bag check fee waived, and they enjoy expedited seating at Delta Airlines. Members can also get guaranteed lowest pricing on hotel destinations. On top of that, they can join the Delta Sky Club at a reduced price.
As for the pricing details, there is an annual fee of $95 with the Gold Delta SkyMiles Card, but the first year with the card is free of charge. While there is no foreign transaction fee, there is a charge of either $5 or 3% for cash advances and balance transfers. Penalties for late or returned payments are $37. The balance transfer and regular purchase annual percentage rates are set between 15.49% and 19.49%. Cash advance APR is 25.49%, while the penalty APR is 29.49%.
This product is a good travel rewards credit card. It's benefits are solely centered around Delta Airlines, which makes it worthwhile for anyone who is a frequent customer. The overall rewards package is worth the card expenses to say the least.
Bank Americard Travel Rewards
APR: 15.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 1.5pts/$1 on all purchases, 2x points at Travel Center, extra 10% for those with Bank of America checking or savings account
Bonus Reward: 20,000pts ($200) for spending $1,000 in first 3 months
Fees: NO annual, $10 or 3% on balance transfers, $10-$12 or 3%-5% on cash advance, $37 late
A standard deal for those looking to get a good travel rewards card can be found at Bank of America. The Bank Americard Travel Rewards Credit Card is their product that competes in the consumer travel rewards market. It has a decent set of benefits and pricing terms.
The main offer of this travel rewards card is fairly basic, so there are no multiple different tiers or special statuses to worry about. New cardholders can look forward to a bonus offer of 20,000 points when reaching $1,000 in expenses after the first three months. There are multiple rates where points can be earned on transactions. A rate of 1.5 points per dollar is awarded on all types of purchases; this rate is doubled when making purchases at the Travel Center, a feature of this card and Bank of America. 10% extra points are awarded to cardholders who have a checking or savings account with Bank of America. These points are part of a reward system where redemptions are available for gift cards and travel discounts.
While there are several travel points and bonus deals to consider, there are also multiple fees to keep track of. Luckily, there are no annual fees associated with the Bank Americard Travel Rewards Card. Wire transfers are charged either $10 or 5%, while balance transfers are charged either $10 or 3%. Cash advances are charged either $10, $12, 3%, or 5%, depending on the type of transaction. There are no foreign transaction fees applicable for this card. Late payments and returned payments both stack up to the maximum $37 charge.
There are a couple of introductory annual percentage rates which have not been seen so far. Regular purchase APR runs between 15.24% and 23.24% after a twelve month introductory rate of 0%. The same range, 15.24% to 23.24%, is utilized for balance transfers as well. An increased range of 18.24% to 25.24% is used for transactions that involve a direct deposit or check cash advance. The rate of 25.24% is used for bank cash advances. When necessary, a penalty APR of 29.99% is used.
This credit card is a decent card in terms of rewards and benefits. It does not have ridiculously awesome bonus deals, but is an average card for someone with average credit.
Discover it® Miles Card
APR: 11.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 1.5 miles (cents) / $1 spent
Bonus Reward: Double cash back during first year
Fees: NO annual, 3% balance transfer, $10 or 5% cash advances, $37 late
Discover offers a travel rewards product that is not as prominent as some of the top performers, but it is a decent card with some benefits. It is not going to turn any heads with any bonus deals, but it is an obtainable product to say the least.
While there is no bonus deal for reaching some transaction amount in the first few months, there is an effective twelve month introductory rate of return on all transactions. The Miles Card from Discover has a rate of return of 1.5%; in other words, this means that cardholders earn 1.5 miles per dollar spent. These miles are basically points, so they are redeemable towards travel discounts. Back to that twelve month introductory offer, at the end of the first year with the card, Discover matches the number of miles that have been accrued on an account. This is essentially a double cash back rate for the first twelve months with the Discover it Miles Card.
What the Miles Card lacks in rewards, it makes up for in pricing details. There is no annual fee for having the Discover Miles Card; additionally, there is no foreign transaction fee, which makes sense for a travel credit card. 3% is charged on all balance transfers, and either $10 or 5% is charged on cash advances. While the first late payment fee is waived, these fees normally cost up to $37 (so do returned payments).
Multiple APRs are offered, both introductory and standard. Regular purchases start out at 0% APR for twelve months, but this converts to a range between 11.24% and 23.24%. Balance transfer rates start at 10.99% for a year, but this rate settles within a range of 11.24% and 23.24% afterwards. The cash advance APR is 25.24%. All of these rates are variable.
At first glance, the Discover it Miles Card does not seem to compare with some of the other competitors on this list. It is much more obtainable than the others because only a moderately good credit history is needed. For those having trouble finding a card with any sort of benefits, this card is an ideal candidate.
U.S. Bank LANPASS Visa Signature Card
APR: 13.24% - 23.24%
Rewards: 2pts/$1 spent on LAN ticket purchases, 1pt/$1 elsewhere
Bonus Reward: 20,000 miles ($200) for making first purchase, 4,000 miles ($40) per year for being a member, 20% discount up to $1,000 on single purchase per year, 25% bonus miles each year
Fees: $45 annual (besides first year), 3% or $5 balance transfer, 4% or $5 cash advances, $37 late
The United States Bank provides its own version of a travel rewards credit card, the LANPASS Visa Signature Card. Overall, this card surpasses many others in the case of sheer volume of bonus offers. There is a secondary card for those who do not qualify for the signature card, which has less to offer.
U.S. Bank skips the introductory bonus stipulations. New cardholders receive 20,000 LANPASS miles for simply making their first purchase with the Signature Card. There is an annual bonus of 4,000 miles given out each year for simply maintaining a membership. These miles are redeemable at partner airlines with no cap limit on miles.
There are several mile rates when making purchases with the Visa Signature Card. Two miles per dollar spent are awarded for LAN ticket purchases. The standard base rate is one mile per dollar spent on any other type of transaction.
Plenty of discounts and gifts are available to LANPASS Visa Signature cardholders. There is an annual, one-time discount of 20% on LAN purchases that is good for up to $1,000 on a single purchase. There are three flight upgrade coupons that are renewed each year. When purchasing tickets, there is a 25% bonus on miles each year.
For those who do not qualify for the Visa Signature Card, travel rewards are offered at a reduced rate with fewer discounts on the LANPASS Visa Card. While the rewards differ, the annual percentage rates are fairly similar with some fee variations.
The annual fee for the Visa Signature Card is $75 following an introductory annual fee of $0; those who qualify for the lesser card only owe $45 a year after an initially waived annual fee. There are also various transaction fees. Balance transfers and check cash advances are charged either 3% or $5. ATM and over-counter cash advances are charged either 4% or $5. There are two foreign transaction rates: 2% for U.S. currency or 3% for foreign currency. The late payment fee is $37, and the returned payment fee is $35. The regular purchase and balance transfer APR is set between a range of 13.24% and 23.24%. Cash advance APR is 24.24%, but keep in mind that all of these rates are variable.
The LANPASS Visa Signature Card has an absurd amount of benefits, while the LANPASS Visa Card is fairly limited. The latter is most likely not worth the trouble, but the former is definitely a good deal.
More on Travel Credit Cards
Can You Use a Travel Credit Card Internationally?
If you love to travel, using a credit card that gives you the ability to earn miles or points toward trips is a no-brainer. You can work your way towards the vacation of your dreams just for buying things you already do, like groceries, clothes or restaurant meals.
Once you are on your trip, you may be wondering if you can continue to use your rewards credit card to accumulate points — especially if you are traveling overseas. Will there be additional fees? Can you earn rewards in the same way that you do stateside? Read on to learn some of the tips and tricks for using your travel credit card internationally.
Pros and Cons of International Card Use
First, the good news: yes, you can use your travel credit card internationally. The majority of credit cards can be used anywhere in the world, provided that the country you are in has the ability to process payments and is not a cash-only culture. In many ways, using a credit card is a good choice when traveling abroad. Typically, you are able to take advantage of better exchange rates than exchanging cash at a foreign bank or currency exchange outlet.
And now the bad news: most cards charge a transaction fee when you use them overseas. This fee is typically 3%, which may negate the benefit of the rewards you can obtain. If you use your credit card for all of your purchases while on a trip, the transaction fees can add up quickly. For example, if you spend $1,000 on your card, then you pay $30 in fees; the more you spend, the higher the fees will be. There are some credit cards that do not charge a foreign transaction fee. These are the cards to look for, especially the low-fee travel cards that do not limit their rewards.
For many travelers, using a travel rewards credit card internationally still makes sense. The fee is often offset by the favorable exchange rate and the possibility of earning miles or points on each of your purchases. Many travel rewards credit cards offer higher points or miles for using their cards for vacation purchases, which can help you quickly build up your rewards balance (getting you closer to your next trip!). This is particularly true for credit cards that are associated with a particular hotel or airline such as the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card. With a generous sign-up bonus, a free night for every two consecutive nights at a participating hotel, and the possibility to earn rewards at hotels all around the world, the 2.7% foreign transaction fee may be outweighed by the extensive credit card benefits package.
In addition, using a credit card internationally is often more secure than using cash or traveler’s checks. If you lose cash or a check, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to recoup your loss. But if your credit card is stolen, the company will protect you from unauthorized charges and may be able to get a new card to you quickly. You won’t have to cut your trip short! Using a credit card to book a hotel room can also give you additional protection, such as coverage for stolen property.
How to Decide If Using Your Card Internationally Is a Good Choice
If you want to use your travel rewards credit card internationally, the first thing you should do is make sure the destination country accepts credit cards. Next, read the fine print. Take a close look at the fees associated with using the travel credit card abroad, particularly the foreign transaction fees. Then determine if your credit card rewards are applicable for overseas travel, and make sure that you are booking flights or hotels that earn you travel reward points. Look at other credit card features such as trip insurance and security options that will protect you throughout the vacation. Then do the math. Are the foreign transaction fees outweighed by the benefits of using the card? If so, then it makes sense to use your travel rewards credit card while on an international vacation. If not, then you may want to consider a different rewards credit card for the trip.
There are many advantages and benefits to using a travel credit card while abroad, but these benefits must be carefully weighed against the fees associated with foreign transactions. If you do your homework before leaving, then you can rest easy knowing that you are getting a great deal by earning rewards on your travel credit card.
Travel Points vs. Travel Miles?
For many travel aficionados, credit cards that offer travel rewards are a fantastic idea. Earning miles, points, or even cashback on the purchases you make can be an easy way to fund your next trip. But knowing which travel credit card and rewards program is the right fit for you can sometimes be a hard call.
If you are in the market for a travel credit card or considering switching your current card, then the first thing you should consider is whether you want a card that offers points or miles. Understanding the difference between these two types of rewards can be the key to maximizing the potential of your travel credit card.
What Is the Difference Between Points and Miles?
When it comes to credit card rewards, there are typically three options: points, miles, or cashback. Because this article is devoted to travel rewards, we will focus on credit card points and miles.
Both travel points and travel miles work in a similar way. Whenever you make a purchase using your credit card, you will earn rewards that can be later used for different services such as a flight or hotel. Depending on the credit card, you may earn additional rewards for certain transactions such as double points for meals at a restaurant or triple points for booking a hotel or flight with your credit card.
The biggest difference between travel points and miles is how they can be used. As a general rule, miles are less flexible than points because they tend to be tied to a particular airline or group of airlines. They can typically only be used for purchasing airline tickets (not for other items such as hotel rooms, rental cars, or gear that you may need for travel). Credit card travel mile programs often give great travel perks such as discounts and higher rewards for travel purchases. However, your ability to redeem these miles may be limited to a brand or a specific type of reward.
Points tend to offer more flexibility since they can be used for anything within the program from hotels, to airline tickets, to consumer goods like suitcases or clothes. In some cases, points can be converted into travel miles for flights, or they can be converted to credit on websites like Amazon. Just be careful when converting points to miles. Points may be worth less after being converted to miles.
Of course, each credit card rewards program is different. It is important to read the terms and conditions of each travel credit card before signing up. You may find that some deals are actually a bit of a lemon after a second glance.
What Cards Offer Points and Miles?
There is a plethora of options for travel credit cards. If you are considering a card that offers travel points or travel miles, then you can choose from a wide range of credit cards from travel companies (such as an airline or hotel chain) or credit cards with general purpose rewards. Major credit card companies such as Chase, Citi Bank, and Visa all have credit cards specifically geared towards travelers such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Citi ThankYou Premier Card, and the Platinum Card from American Express.
Before you start applying for travel credit cards, think about the type of travel that you do. Is there an airline that you like more than others or that offers the most flights to your top destinations? Do you tend to stay in big hotel chains or in small, local places? Use this information to help narrow down the field of possible travel credit cards that fit your needs.
Which Reward Should You Choose?
When it comes to choosing travel points or travel miles, the decision should be based on a number of factors, including how much flexibility you desire. If you travel via methods other than planes, then a points program may make more sense since it allows you to pay for hotel rooms, travel gear, and other items. If you fly often, then it might be better to choose a travel miles program, especially if you tend to use one specific airline. You can often earn flights more quickly with a travel miles program compared to points, and you may find fewer travel booking restrictions when using miles instead of points.
Financing travel through a credit card rewards program has never been easier. Armed with information about the advantages and disadvantages of travel points and miles rewards programs, you can choose a credit card that helps you get to where you want to travel.
Is an Annual Fee Common on a Travel Credit Card?
For many Americans, having a travel rewards credit card makes a lot of sense, but many people may be turned away from travel credit cards by a common feature: annual fees
While annual fees are not universal for all travel credit cards, they are a typical feature. As a general rule, the better a rewards program is, the higher the annual fee. A card with a $500 annual fee may make it easier to rack up free flights and hotel stays while a card with a $99 annual fee may not have the same generous terms. There are a number of travel credit cards that offer premium rewards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card ($450 annual fee), the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card ($99 annual fee) and the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express ($95 annual fee after the first year).
However, there are alternatives out there for anyone who does not want to pay an annual fee. These cards don’t have massive introductory bonuses or significant point or mile accumulations such as triple rewards for certain purchases, but they will allow you to build up rewards throughout the year without incurring additional costs or fees. If you are in the market for a travel credit card with no annual fee, the Amex Everyday Credit Card, Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard, and Capital One VentureOne may all be great choices.
If you are new to the world of travel credit cards, you may want to choose a rewards program without an annual fee while you learn the ropes of using points and miles for travel. But if you want to unlock greater rewards or have a dream vacation planned, then a card with an annual fee and greater potential rewards may be the best choice.
Do Travel Credit Card Rewards Expire?
Using a credit card to accumulate miles and points can be a fantastic way to take vacations without breaking the bank. But if you aren’t careful, your hard-earned rewards could be lost.
Unfortunately for consumers, rewards earned through travel credit cards can expire, depending on the terms and conditions of the program. This can be particularly problematic for anyone “saving up” points or miles for a big trip, only to find that their accumulated points are significantly reduced or entirely gone when it comes time to book a flight or a hotel. There is no single industry standard for the expiration of travel points and miles; while one program may have no expiration date, another may require you to take steps to keep your points or miles active. You can avoid having this happen by learning as much as you can about your credit card rewards program — and making sure that you take whatever steps are necessary to prevent expiration.
Generally, most travel rewards programs will keep your points and miles active as long as you are actively using the program. In other words, if you keep using your card or taking other steps associated with the card, then you can prevent your rewards from expiring. The credit card companies call this "qualifying activity" and it can take a number of forms.
One way to keep your rewards in good standing is by continuing to use your card. Regular use of your credit card will typically keep your points or miles active, even if it is just to pay the annual fee or to make a small purchase.
If you can’t use your miles or points before they expire, you can find ways to utilize them even if it isn’t for personal use. For example, you can donate or transfer your miles or points to a charity or another person. Transferring the rewards to a friend or a family member essentially resets the clock on the expiration date. A fee usually applies for transferring points or miles to another person. Donating your points or miles to a charitable organization is another great way to use up your miles before they expire, with the added bonus of some credit card companies donating cash on top of your rewards donation.
Credit card companies may also deny you access to your rewards or take away points if you miss payments or become delinquent on your account. Stay current on your credit card bills to avoid this — and never put more on your credit card than you can afford to pay.
Be sure to pay attention to the expiration dates for your rewards card. Knowing the rules that apply to your points or miles will help make sure that you can take advantage of the full value of these rewards.
Do Travel Credit Card Rewards Have Blackout Dates?
If you use a travel credit card to earn points or miles towards vacations, chances are good that you don’t want your use of these rewards to be limited. However, many credit card rewards programs have restrictions on when and how you can redeem your travel points or miles — making it even harder to book the trip of your dreams. Blackout dates are a common limitation that can be a thorn in the side of any traveler.
A blackout date is any period of time where airline tickets or hotel stays booked with rewards programs are not available. Typically, these blackout dates apply during popular travel times, such as on holidays or during spring break. In some cases, travel or rooms may be booked for these dates, but at a much higher rate. This gives rewards program participants an incentive to travel on less busy times, when flights and hotels are less likely to be full.
Blackout dates are a fairly common feature of credit card rewards programs. After all, the airlines and hotels are not getting paid for your travel when you use the points or miles, so they want to maintain availability for people who are paying full price. If your credit card program has blackout dates, carefully review the terms and conditions to see if there are ways around these restrictions. This could include using additional points or miles to book a flight or room on a “premium” date, or using your rewards for a discounted rate instead of a free ticket or hotel room.
However, if you prioritize flexibility, there are a number of travel credit cards that do not have blackout dates. One such card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. If you use their rewards program, you can book travel directly through its online portal to avoid blackout dates. However, not all airlines participate in the portal, which may limit your ability to book the travel you want. If you want to be able to book a flight through any airline, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card may be a better choice. This card operates in a unique way; instead of using miles or points to book a flight, you purchase whatever flight you want using the card. After the travel has been purchased, you can then use your rewards to essentially remove the charge from your account. That option gives you a high degree of flexibility to travel when and where you want without worrying about blackout dates or limited availability.
If you are using a travel credit card, blackout dates can be a tricky issue to navigate. But, with a little research, you can get around these dates by signing up for a card with no restrictions on when you travel, or by finding alternate ways to book the travel you want on the dates you want.
Is It Worth Applying for a Travel Credit Card If You Have Bad Credit?
Travel credit cards can be a great deal for anyone who wants to take vacations on a budget. By building travel points or miles through using a credit card, you can more easily pay for flights, hotels and other travel necessities. But for people with a checkered history when it comes to credit or credit cards, is applying for a travel credit card a good idea?
When it comes to approving people for credit cards, companies want to know that they’re taking good risk. After all, it doesn’t make much sense for them to agree to lend people money with no guarantee that they will be paid back. Credit card companies decide whether or not someone is a “good risk” for credit by examining a number of factors, including one key factor: the credit score.
A credit score is essentially a rating of how trustworthy you are as a borrower. It may also be called a FICO score. The higher this number is, the more creditworthy you are. Your credit score is based on several items, such as your history of making on-time payments on bills, the amount of outstanding debt you have, and your debt-to-credit ratio (i.e., how much debt you have in comparison to how much you can still borrow). If your credit score is below a certain number — usually 549 or lower — then you will likely be considered to have bad credit.
If you have a poor credit score, then you probably will not be approved for a travel rewards credit card. A credit card company will see you as a bad risk, and will not want to allow you to have certain benefits (like getting free airline tickets through miles) if you may not be able to pay your bills. This is particularly true for any card with a large sign-up bonus. It makes little sense for a credit card company to give a person with bad credit 100,000 miles (for example) to put towards a free airline ticket if that person will ultimately default on their debt.
Of course, having bad credit does not necessarily mean that you won’t pay your bills. A low credit score can be caused by any number of things, and you may be working hard to try to rebuild your credit. If that is the case, you should avoid applying for a travel credit card. The likelihood of being approved is low, and when the company checks your credit, it will actually hurt your overall score. The better bet is to take your time to repair your credit, and only apply once you have raised your score and know that you can handle a travel credit card responsibly.
How Does Travel Credit Card Insurance Work?
Across the country, Americans are taking advantage of travel credit cards as a simple way to pay for their vacations. From airline miles to points that can be redeemed for hotel stays and more, these rewards programs can be incredibly beneficial to anyone who wants to travel for a fraction of the cost. Yet, what many cardholders do not realize is that travel credit cards offer advantages beyond points and miles. For example, most travel credit cards offer insurance that can be incredibly important as you traverse the country and the globe.
Travel insurance through credit cards can be very valuable, as it protects users from a number of potentially bad situations. This includes trip interruption or delay, trip cancellation, lost baggage, accidents that happen while you travel, rental car insurance, and even stolen property while you are on your trip. The way it works is relatively simple: if you book your trip with a travel credit card, you will likely have some form of protection if these events occur. Read on to learn more about how you can gain access to these protections just by using your travel credit card.
Trip Interruption or Delay Insurance
If you fly on a regular or even semi-regular basis, chances are good that you have experienced some form of delay in your travel plans. In most cases, airlines offer little restitution for the delay or interruption. But, if your credit card company offers this type of travel insurance, then you may be compensated. The catch is that the delay or interruption has to be due to a covered reason, such as weather, equipment failure, injury, labor strikes or illness.
Rental Car Collision Insurance
When you rent a car, you will likely be asked if you want to purchase additional insurance through the rental company (on top of what your personal car insurance will cover). This insurance can be expensive, often costing $30 per day or more. What many travelers may not realize is that your travel credit card company may provide collision insurance for rentals paid for with the card. Keep in mind that this type of coverage is usually limited to collisions only, which means that if you hit someone else or cause injuries, your own insurance will have to foot the bill.
Lost Baggage Insurance
With approximately 87,000 flights in the U.S. every day, it should not be surprising that a high number of checked bags are lost or stolen. The good news is that if you booked your flight with a travel credit card, it may cover the cost of replacing these items up to a certain limit, such as $3,000. Just be sure to read the fine print, as certain items are not covered under these policies. And if your luggage is merely delayed — not lost or stolen — then the insurance may not cover the cost of buying new clothes or toiletries while you wait for your bag to arrive.
Stolen Property Insurance
Whether you’re in the U.S. or traveling abroad, there is always a risk that your personal items will be stolen from your hotel room. If you booked your hotel using a travel credit card, then you may be entitled to replace these items. Your credit card will cover the cost of purchasing new goods, subject to various exclusions. This type of protection can prevent a crime from ruining your vacation entirely.
Trip Cancellation Insurance
In life, we should generally expect the unexpected — especially when traveling. We cannot predict illness or injury, but if you bought a nonrefundable airplane ticket flight with your travel credit card, it may reimburse the cost of the flight if you cannot go on the trip or if you have to return from the trip unexpectedly. As with other types of travel credit card insurance, this coverage only applies to certain situations, like if you have an accident or are struck with an illness before the flight or while you’re on vacation. It generally will not cover things like pre-existing conditions or weather.
Travel Accident Insurance
Anything can happen when we travel, including a serious accident that results in death or dismemberment. If this happens, your travel credit card may provide compensation to you or your survivors if you booked your travel using the card. This type of insurance is usually fairly limited, offering payment only if you lose a limb or die while on a trip. If you are concerned about becoming ill or suffering an accident that results in a less grave injury, consider purchasing separate travel insurance. It will typically cover other types of accidents and injuries, including evacuating you if necessary to get medical treatment.
Using your travel credit card to pay for a flight, hotel or rental car is a smart way to buy yourself a little extra protection — without paying a dime. While this type of insurance is in no way comprehensive, it can help mitigate the effects of something bad happening either before you leave for the trip or while you are traveling. Check out the terms and conditions of your travel credit card to learn more about the type of coverage you have for these situations.
Unique Benefits Offered on Travel Credit Cards
Using a travel credit card to accumulate points or miles is a no-brainer for many people. If you are already spending the money to buy something, it just makes sense that you earn something back while you’re doing it. In the case of travel credit cards, getting rewards for your regular purchases may mean that you can take vacations you otherwise could not afford. What many people may not know is that beyond the miles and points, travel credit cards offer some perks that can help make your life — and your vacation — even better. Read on to learn more about the unique benefits offered by travel credit cards.
If you are new to the world of travel credit cards, you may not realize that you can rack up points or miles quickly by taking advantage of bonus programs. These range from large sign-up bonuses to getting rewards just for spending a certain amount of money within a specific time frame. For example, you could earn 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first three months with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — which is the equivalent of $625 toward travel. If $4,000 seems like a lot of money, consider what you spend on everyday necessities like groceries and household goods, or what you spend during the holidays.
If you like to travel, chances are good you don’t necessarily want to go alone. That’s why travel credit cards with companion fare benefits are so popular. Depending on the card, you could get a free or heavily discounted plane ticket for a friend or loved one. These rewards are offered by credit cards that are affiliated with a specific airline, and each travel credit card has a different way to get the companion fare. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card gives unlimited free companion flights once cardmembers reach 110,00 points. This can be used for both paid and award fares. Other credit cards, such as the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, give cardholders annual companion coach fares for $121, to be used for any paid flight. Be sure to shop around to find a travel credit card that offers the best companion fares for the airline that you use the most!
Many consumers do not realize that if they use their travel rewards credit card to book a flight or a hotel, the credit card company provides some insurance for their trip. This can include anything from trip cancellation insurance to rental car collision insurance to protection for your property being stolen from your hotel room. As with all credit card benefits, be sure to read the terms and conditions of your card to learn more about the coverage available. There are typically strict limitations and exclusions on this insurance, and you generally will have to file a claim in order to take advantage of it.
Free Checked Bags
If you have a travel credit card, particularly one linked to an airline, you may be able to check your bags for free on that airline. While this benefit may not seem very valuable, remember the small fees for things like checked bags can add up over time. Having the ability to check bags without a fee can also ease travel stress, as you won’t have to worry about fitting everything into a carry-on bag.
Free Nights at a Hotel
If you like to stay at name-brand hotels when you travel, then this benefit may be particularly appealing to you. Many travel credit cards that are linked to a hotel may offer a free night stay at their properties. Each card structures these perks differently; some give cardholders a certain number of free stays per year, while others offer a free night when you book a certain number of nights. For example, the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card gives users one free night stay every year, while the Club Carlson Rewards Visa Signature Card awards one free night for every two or more consecutive nights booked using points at one of their hotels.
Great Exchange Rates
When you travel internationally, you may be subject to the whims of the currency exchange market. You might end up getting less foreign currency for the dollar if you go to a bank or a kiosk at the airport, which is where travel credit cards are important. When you use your credit card internationally, one of the benefits is that it guarantees a good exchange rate. Using your card when you are abroad can get you a better deal when it comes to the exchange rate — but make sure that the foreign transaction fee (often 3%) does not eat up the cost savings.
There are many unique benefits to using a travel credit card that go beyond just earning points or miles to use for travel. If you already have a travel rewards credit card, do your homework to make sure you are taking full advantage of all the perks. If you don’t have one, make sure to research the available options to find one that fits your travel needs, from earning free tickets to getting trip insurance.