Your guide to the best suited travel credit cards
The right credit card can be a traveler’s best friend. It can help you manage your money more efficiently or provide perks that help take your vacation up a notch. Keep in mind, though, the best card for you may not be the best card for someone else. Do you want to earn more miles? Get cashback? Fund a splurge? Before choosing your travel credit card, consider exactly what you want to do with it and then shop around to compare what each of your options can do for you. Below is a list of things you may want to think about as you make your choice.
Interest rates, minimum payments, and other fees
One of the things that travelers look for in a card is the interest rate. If you’re not aware of what you’re paying than the interest rate could make a sizeable hit to your wallet and your travel will wind up costing you a lot more than you would have expected. Be sure you know exactly how much your credit card loans will cost you and what you can expect to pay for in terms of fees and payments so that you can factor it into your budget.
Another thing to consider is if you plan to pay off the balance in full each month and enjoy the perks of placing your regular, everyday purchases on your card. If you can do that, the impacts from interest rates and late fees are less of a concern and it may be one of the best ways to receive all of the perks of the card at little or no cost to you.
Earning reward miles
One of the most well-known benefits of travel credit cards is the chance to earn reward miles. Reward balances are earned with regular card use and can grow large enough to be redeemed for free international and domestic flights, flight upgrades to a more comfortable section or first class, meals, and luxury amenities during your trip. When you’re looking at cards that will earn you reward miles, consider ones that offer you a higher concentration of rewards for things that you know you’re going to do anyway such as eating out or going to the grocery store.
Many travelers opt for cash back instead of designated rewards. If you’re looking to go this route, make sure that you understand the details of what your card will offer. While this approach can be more flexible and can help directly offset costs accrued through travel, there are downsides. In many cases, the amounts that are earned in a cashback structured reward program won’t offset the cost of an airline ticket or other benefits as much as a non-cash back rewards.
It is also possible to find a card that could offer users a choice between redeeming rewards for cash and redeeming them for a specific item. In this case, you can pick whichever approach works best given your circumstances at any given time. You can also more easily understand the differences between what you’ll receive for cash verses an item-based benefit. If you’d like help doing this calculation or have questions, your card’s customer service desk should be able to walk you through the differences.
Is there a specific destination or brand you love?
Some co-branded credit cards are based on a partnership with a specific company and offer rewards that are targeted to that brand or service. Major airlines have their own co-branded travel reward cards and so do resorts and cruise lines. These cards often offer benefits for services from a specific brand that are higher than what you’d receive through a broader reward program. If you are a high user of that service, it may be in your best interest to use their co-branded card. If you’d like more flexibility, this approach may not be for you.
Can you earn a signup bonus?
Some credit card companies will offer a signup bonus if you open an account from them and then use a certain amount of credit or rewards points within a predetermined period of time. If you receive this kind of offer it is something to consider. It can dramatically boost the impact of taking out credit and allow you to be eligible for flights and other perks in a relatively short period of time.
Do you have excellent credit?
If you have sterling credit, you’re going to have a lot more options when it comes to selecting a credit card. In addition, the cards that will be available to you will have better benefits. Take a minute to understand all the options that are based on your credit score so you can make the most informed choice. Before you settle on a card, do a quick review of your credit score and clean up any errors that you find. It will benefit your pocketbook if you have the best score possible, and you may find that you’re now eligible for an offer with a higher level of benefits.
What kind of credit cards can be available to you? Here’s one example, but a quick online search can turn up plenty of other options. Each of them can go a long way to boosting your travel experience or stretching your budget. As with more average cards, be sure that the benefits they offer align with your goals and travel plans.