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The credit card industry is booming, and there are many different types of cards to choose from. However, one of the most common and lucrative types of cards are travel credit cards. If you redeem points from a travel rewards credit card, and you could end up with free flights, hotel stays, upgrades, or cheaper car rentals. The best travel cards even come with added perks, like travel concierge service and invitations to exclusive events.
Because there are so many choices, it can be difficult to decide which card is right for you. To help you compare your options, we analyzed the best travel credit cards according to weighted averages in 8 data categories. These are our 7 top picks.
LendEDU’s 7 Best Travel Credit Cards of 2020
- Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard
- British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card
- JetBlue Plus Card
- Miles & More World Elite Mastercard
- Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard
- AeroMexico Visa Card
- PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card
$90 annual fee • 30,000-mile sign-up bonus
- 3x miles on purchases made directly with Virgin Atlantic
- 1.5x miles per $1 on all other purchases
- 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within 90 days of account opening
- 15,000 bonus miles every anniversary, plus 5,000 miles for additional cardholders
- Companion ticket or premium upgrades after $25,000 in qualifying purchases
on Bank of America's secure website
17.24 – 25.24% Variable APR
The Virgin Atlantic Credit Card is one of the best credit cards for travel, especially if you know you’ll be flying overseas. This credit card features a sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening. Plus, you’ll earn 3 miles per dollar on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5 miles on everything else.
Virgin Atlantic also offers up to 15,000 bonus miles for each anniversary, rewards you for adding authorized users, and gives you a chance to earn a companion ticket if you spend $25,000 in a year and redeem Flying Club bonus miles for a Virgin Atlantic ticket.
APR & Fees
- Your APR depends on your credit situation, but it’s a variable rate of between 17.24% and 25.24%.
- You’ll pay an annual fee of $90.
- There is a balance transfer fee of 3% or $10, whichever is higher.
- There are no foreign transaction fees, so this can be a decent card if you travel abroad.
$95 annual fee • 120,000-point sign-up bonus
- 4x Avios points per $1 spent on all purchases within your first year, up to $30,000 (120,000 Avios)
- 3x Avios per $1 spent on British Airways after you’ve spent $30,000
- 1x Avios on all other purchases
- Earn a Travel Together companion ticket every year you spend $30,000
on Chase's secure website
18.24% – 25.24% Variable APR
If you’re hoping to earn rewards quickly, the British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card can be a solid choice, especially for the first year. As an introductory offer, you receive 4 Avios for every dollar you spend, up to $30,000. You also get 3 Avios for each dollar on British Airways purchases, as well as 1 Avios for other purchases.
You can earn a Travel Together ticket when you spend $30,000 each year, but that can be a hard hurdle to overcome. Additionally, you need to earn enough to cover the $95 annual fee in order to make this card worth it.
Additionally, this card comes with travel perks that include enrollment in the Executive Club, no foreign transaction fees, and travel insurance coverage.
APR & Fees
- The annual fee is fairly standard, at $95, but it isn’t waived for the first year as it is with some other cards.
- Depending on your credit situation, you’ll see an APR of 18.24% to 25.24%, variable.
- There is no intro APR offer.
- There are no foreign transaction fees.
$99 annual fee • 40,000-point sign-up bonus
- Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
- 6x points on JetBlue purchases
- 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores
- 1x points on all other purchases
- First bag checked for free
0% on balance transfers for 12 months
18.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24% Variable APR
One of the best credit cards for travel is the JetBlue Plus Card, especially if you do a lot of travel around the Americas and the Caribbean. Even though there’s an annual fee, it can be worth it for all the perks you’ll get with the card. The tiered rewards include 6 points for each dollar spent on JetBlue purchases, 2 points for each dollar at U.S. restaurants and grocery stores, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
In addition to the regular rewards points, there is a 40,000-point sign-up bonus when spend $1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening. Plus, there’s a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for 12 months, as long as you initiate the transfer within the first 45 days. You will get 5,000 bonus points on your account anniversary each year and 10% of your points back when you use them for a JetBlue award flight. Also, you’ll get a $100 statement credit after you purchase a JetBlue Vacations package with your card.
APR & Fees
- The variable APR is fairly high at 18.24% to 27.24%.
- However, there is a 12-month introductory APR of 0% on balance transfers made within the first 45 days of card membership.
- There is also a $99 annual fee, which isn’t waived in the first year.
- There are no foreign transaction fees.
$89 annual fee • 50,000-mile sign-up bonus
- Earn 50,000 award miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days
- 2x miles per $1 on Lufthansa and Miles & More airline partners
- 1x miles per $1 on all other purchases
- 2 complimentary Lufthansa Business Lounge vouchers every year
0% on balance transfers for 15 months
18.24% or 27.24% Variable APR
As with many of the best airline credit cards, the Miles & More World Elite Mastercard is most effective when used with a specific airline—in this case Lufthansa. There is an introductory offer of 20,000 award miles after you pay your initial annual fee and make your first purchase. Then, after spending $5,000 within the first 90 days of opening your account, you’ll receive an additional 30,000 miles.
You can earn double miles on ticket purchases from Lufthansa and its airline partners and, Lufthansa also has a program that allows you to convert your purchase miles into status miles helping you boost your ability to earn rewards and perks.
You also get two complimentary business lounge vouchers annually and discounts on hotel bookings and rental cars.
APR & Fees
- Depending on your credit, you will pay an APR of between 18.24% and 27.24%.
- There is a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 billing cycles.
- However, there is a balance transfer fee of 3%.
- The annual fee of $89 is not waived in the first year.
- There are no foreign transaction fees.
$99 annual fee ($0 first year) • 60,000-mile sign-up bonus
- Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within 90 days
- 3x miles on Hawaiian Airlines purchases
- 2x miles on gas, dining, and grocery store purchases
- 1x miles on everything else
- Free first checked bag and annual $100 companion discount
18.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24% Variable APR
$99 (waived first year)
As one of the best credit cards for travel, the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard Credit Card offers 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. You can also earn 3 miles per $1 on Hawaiian Airlines purchases and 2 miles on gas, dining, and grocery store purchases. On top of that, and the 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases, this card allows for miles sharing between friends and family.
Other perks of this travel credit card include a free checked bag, an annual $100 companion discount, and a one-time 50% companion discount.
APR & Fees
- The variable APR for this travel card is 18.24%, 22.24%, or 27.24%.
- There is no intro APR for purchases or balance transfers.
- $99 annual fee is waived for the first year.
- There are no foreign transaction fees.
$45 annual fee • 10,000-point sign-up bonus
- Earn 10,000 First Use miles (worth 16,000 Premier Points) after your first purchase and payment of the annual fee.
- 2x miles on Aeromexico ticket purchases and at gas stations and grocery stores (1x miles on everything else)
- Complimentary free checked bag and companion certificate
- 2,000 annual bonus miles and a $99 companion certificate after renewal
- One-day Salon Premier lounge access
on U.S. Bank's secure website
15.24% – 25.24% Variable APR
This travel rewards credit card focuses on AeroMexico customers, and it offers some solid perks for their loyalty. You can earn up to 10,000 bonus miles plus a companion certificate as a signing bonus. Additionally, you’ll get double miles on AeroMexico purchases, as well as gas and grocery store spending, plus 1 mile per $1 for each additional purchase.
You also get complimentary free checked bags with this card (as long as they’re under 50 lbs.), as well as one day of Salon Premier Lounge Access. Every year that you renew your card, you’ll also get a 2,000-mile bonus and a $99 companion certificate, paying you back more than twofold for the card’s annual fee.
This is our top-rated AeroMexico card. However, if you frequently fly with the airline, you should check out our next-highest rated card, the AeroMexico Visa Signature card. Although the card comes with a higher annual fee of $80, it also comes with additional perks, including regular free tickets and companion certificates.
APR & Fees
- The AeroMexico Visa Card comes with a variable APR between 15.24% and 25.24%, depending on your credit.
- There is a low annual fee of $45.
- There is a foreign transaction fee of 2% or 3%, depending on the currency.
$0 annual fee • 25,000-point sign-up bonus
- Earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $2,500 within 90 days of account opening
- 3x points on all travel purchases (or 4x points for PenFed Honors Advantage Members)
- 1.5x points for all other purchases
- $100 annual air travel credit
- $100 credit for Global Entry or $85 for TSA Precheck
on PenFed's secure website
0% on balance transfers for 12 months
12.99% – 17.99% Variable APR
The PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card features 4 points per $1 spent on travel for members of the PenFed Honors Advantage program (or 3 points for nonmembers). Cardmembers will also earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on purchases not related to travel.
Cardholders who use their card to pay for air travel will also receive a $100 annual air travel credit, which can be used to cover the cost of baggage fees, onboard food and drinks, and lounge access. Also, they’ll receive an application fee credit if they apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry with their PenFed card.
There is a one-time sign-up bonus of 25,000 points for people who spend $2,500 within three months of opening an account, and the 0% APR on balance transfers is also a nice touch.
APR & Fees
- There is a 0% APR promotional balance transfer rate for the first 12 months.
- All unpaid purchases and any balane transfers remaining after the promotional period are subject to a variable 12.99% to 17.99% APR, based on creditworthiness and market rate.
- Balance transfers are subject to a 3% fee, and cash advances have a 5% or $5 fee.
- There is no annual fee.
Best Travel Credit Cards Comparison
|Card||Bonus Offer||Annual Fee|
|Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard||30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within 90 days||$90|
|British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card||4x Avios points per $1 spent on all purchases within your first year, up to $30,000 (120,000 Avios)||$95|
|JetBlue Plus Card||Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days||$99|
|Miles & More World Elite Mastercard||Earn 50,000 award miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days||$89|
|Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard||Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within 90 days||$99|
|AeroMexico Visa Card||Earn 10,000 First Use miles after your first purchase and payment of the annual fee||$45|
|PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express Card||Earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $2,500 within 90 days of account opening||$0|
How We Chose the Best Travel Credit Cards
To find the best travel credit cards, our Editorial Team analyzed each card by regular APR (10%), purchase APR (2.5%), balance transfer APR (2.5%), annual fee (10%), late fees (2.5%), foreign transaction fee (2.5%), introductory bonus (15%), travel rewards (35%), and other rewards (15%).
Learn more about our ratings and methodology here.
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 by 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 travel credit card to accumulate points—especially if you are traveling overseas. Will there be additional fees? Can you earn points 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 Travel 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 foreign transaction fee 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 low-fee travel cards that do not limit their rewards.
For many travelers, using a travel 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 of the best travel rewards credit cards offer higher points or miles for using their cards for vacation purchases, which can help you quickly build up your points 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 points 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 Travel Card Internationally is a Good Choice
If you want to use your travel 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 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 credit card while on an international vacation. If not, then you may want to consider one of the best rewards credit cards, where you may be able to earn more on 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.
Compare Travel Credit Cards
For many travel aficionados, credit cards that offer travel rewards can be a good idea when used responsibly. Earning miles, points, or even cash back on the purchases you make can be an easy way to fund your next trip. But knowing which travel credit card is the right fit for you can sometimes be a hard call.
If you are in the market for a travel credit card, then the first thing you should consider is whether you want a card that offers points or miles. Understanding the difference can be the key to maximizing the potential of your travel credit card.
What is the Difference Between Travel Points and Travel Miles?
When it comes to credit card rewards, there are typically three options: points, miles, or cash back. 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 later be used for services such as a flight or hotel. Depending on the credit card, you may earn more 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 and airline tickets to consumer goods like suitcases or clothes. In some cases, points can be converted into travel miles for flights, you can even use credit card points on Amazon for some cards. Just be careful when converting points to miles. Points may be less valuable after being converted to miles.
Of course, each credit card 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 Travel Cards Offer Points and Miles?
The travel rewards credit cards on this list offer many options between earning points and miles. Major credit card companies such as Chase, Citi, 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 some of the best travel 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 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 credit card makes a lot of sense, but many people may be turned away from travel credit cards because of a common feature: annual fees. You can view our best no annual fee credit cards if you don't want to pay a fee each year.
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, but a card with a $99 annual fee may not have the same generous terms.
>> Read More: Are annual fee credit cards worth it?
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 earn points or miles 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 may be the best choice.
Do Travel Credit Card Earnings 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, points and miles 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 this by learning as much as you can about your credit card rewards program—and making sure that you take the necessary steps to prevent the points from expiring.
>> Read More: Do delta credit card SkyMiles expire?
Generally, most travel 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 stay 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 them to a friend or family member essentially resets the clock on the expiration date.
>> Read More: Do Unite Airlines credit card miles expire?
A fee usually applies for transferring points or miles to another person. Donating 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 donation.
Credit card companies may also deny you access 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 date for your travel card. Knowing the rules that apply to your points or miles will help make sure that you can take advantage of the full value.
Do Travel Credit Card Points and Miles 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 to be limited. However, many credit card 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 credit card 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 participants an incentive to travel at less busy times, when flights and hotels are less likely to be full.
Blackout dates are a fairly common feature of credit card 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 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 the company’s 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 earnings 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.
Travel Credit Cards and 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 easily pay for flights, hotels, and other travel necessities. But for people with a checkered history when it comes to credit, 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 a 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 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.
If you have bad credit you can look at the best secured credit cards to get yourself closer to getting approved for one of the cards on this list.
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.
>> Read More: Best credit cards for bad credit
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 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.
>> Read More: Credit cards that offer rental car insurance
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 your 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 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.
>> Read More: Credit cards with trip cancellation insurance
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 points and miles 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 miles 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 credit cards that offer companion ticket 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 benefits 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.
For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card gives free companion flights with no limit once cardmembers reach 110,000 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 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 that small fees for things like checked bags can add up over time. Having a credit card that offers free checked 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.
>> Read More: Best credit cards for free hotel nights
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 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 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.
For some travelers, lounge access might be a make-or-break factor when choosing a credit card. Most U.S. airlines have a co-branded credit card featuring airport lounge access. Then, some credit cards offer airport lounge access. Most of the cards offering the best lounge access options have high annual fees.
The Platinum Card from American Express is excellent for lounge lovers, but the annual fee is $550, as was touched on above. Cardholders get a Priority Pass Select Membership, so they can go to any of the lounges that are part of the American Express Global Lounge Collection. This includes the Delta Sky Club and the American Express-branded Centurion Lounges.
Without certain credit cards, travelers either can’t access lounges at all, or they have to pay high fees.
Concierge services can be a perk for cardholders that allow them to have personalized help when it comes to everything from booking travel plans to dealing with emergency situations that might occur when traveling. If you want tickets to a certain event, bookings at a popular restaurant, or you just have a question, many of the best travel credit cards have concierge services.
Concierge services can also provide recommendations, such as where to stay in a city you’re going to be traveling to. Companies like American Express are the gold standard for concierge services, although other companies have started focusing more on operating like a personal assistant to cardholders.
Annual Travel Credits
Annual travel credits are a perk that is increasingly common on many of the top travel credit cards, and they’re one of the best ways to offset a high annual fee, which is also common with the best travel cards. Annual travel credits mean cardholders are reimbursed for certain travel expenses. Reimbursements are provided as statement credits.
If you have a travel credit for airline tickets, you can receive a reimbursement up to the amount that’s advertised with the card’s policy. Every card has its own set of requirements for travel credits, and some are pretty specific as to which expenses are reimbursed in the form of travel expenses, while others have more broad spending requirements.
Upgraded Statuses at Airlines and Hotels
Another reason people are often willing to pay the higher fees attached to travel credit cards is the opportunity for upgraded status. This can include airlines and hotels. Some elite status airline programs that are among the most popular with travelers include American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles, and United Mileage Plus.
In terms of hotels, programs that are the most valuable include the Hilton Honors Program, World of Hyatt, and the Starwood Preferred Guest Program. These programs can provide for complimentary upgrades in seating on flights and room upgrades or added guest perks.
Access to Travel Programs
For frequent travelers, programs like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and Clear can take a lot of hassle out of the whole experience. Many travel reward cards will provide the cardholder with the opportunity to save money on the application fees for these programs. Some cards may even make it so that enrolling in these programs is free for cardholders.
What Happens to Your Points and Miles If You Close a Travel Credit Card?
If you cancel a travel credit card, it’s possible you’re going to lose all the points or miles you’ve accumulated. Generally, if you cancel a card that has allowed you to earned points or miles for a specific brand of hotel or airline, then you will be able to keep those even if you cancel a card.
This is because these points are usually deposited into your traveler account with the company, and it would be difficult for a card company to take those back. However, if you cancel a card and the card issuer controls your points, then they can take those back.
If you’re worried about this, before you close an account, you can redeem your points. In some cases, you might be able to transfer points out of your account before you cancel your card.
Should You Apply for Multiple Travel Cards at the Same Time?
In general, not just regarding travel cards but with all cards, it’s not necessarily a good idea to apply for multiple cards all at once. When you apply for a credit card, travel or otherwise, your credit report is dinged with a hard inquiry, which can cause your credit score to go down. A hard inquiry will stay on a credit report for two years.
>> Read More: How long should I wait to apply for another credit card?
With certain types of credit, such as mortgages and car loans, if you’re applying for several all at once, they’re all grouped together. That means these will only show up as a single inquiry, because the consumer is just comparing rates and they’re only going to end up going with one option.
Credit cards are different, and the best credit cards can often-times be tempting to own, but each will lead to a hard inquiry. The better option is to research all of the cards you’re considering and choose the one that really is the right option for you, as well as the one you’re most likely to be approved for.