10 Perks to Look for in a Travel Credit Card

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10 Perks to Look for in a Travel Credit Card


Could you imagine traveling across the globe for unbelievably low prices, or potentially free? This is possible if you choose the right travel credit card.

Travel credit cards come with a variety of perks, and all of them are supposed to maximize your travel and save you money in one way or another. Of course, you won’t be able to enjoy entirely free travel all the time just by using your travel credit card, but you will enjoy very attractive benefits that will highly decrease the amount of money you spend on travel.

Travel enthusiasts, as well as those who are just starting to explore traveling, should look for a credit card that allows them to travel more while spending less. That’s the dream, right? Here’s what you need to search for in your next credit card which will unlock the whole world to you!

1. Points or miles on your purchases

Rewards on a travel credit card are an essential perk, and quite frankly, should be sort of a given. Once you accumulate enough rewards, you can use them to fully fund or offset the cost of your travel. Because of this, it is logical that you need to be looking for this particular perk on your travel credit card.

Points and miles can be redeemed for airfare or hotel stays, but also for other travel expenses, depending on the credit card. You need to look for extra rewards on travel purchases - usually, travel credit card issuers will reward you with minimum points on all purchases, but some do award more points or miles on travel purchases.

Rewards earned through different credit cards are labeled differently - miles, points, or avios, but most function on the same principle. Miles and points earned through a travel credit card can be redeemed for a variety of things: merchandise, gift cards, hotel stays, and most can be transferred. It’s advisable to use airline points for flights, as it’s the most valuable option.

If you’re someone who spends more on airfare and stays in hostels or uses Airbnb instead of luxurious hotels, then an airline-branded credit card is the right choice for you. However, if you fly low-cost airlines, and are loyal to a particular hotel brand (or just value a luxury hotel room), then select a hotel-branded credit card.

Thankfully, regardless of your decision, you can always transfer your earned points and miles, but do keep in mind that hotel points tend to be worth less, unless you can strike a good deal. Especially if you travel abroad, your flight will probably be very expensive, while you’ll be able to find affordable lodging, so why waste, say, 50,000 hotel points on a luxury hotel, when some of that can go toward your airfare instead?

2. Generous sign-up bonus

The best travel credit card on the market offer sign-up bonuses, and highly appealing ones too. A good sign-up bonus can easily offset other fees related to your credit card, such as annual fees or late fees.

Many travel credit cards pay tens of thousands of points and miles as a sign-up bonus if you charge a certain amount of money on your credit card within the first few months of opening it. Some bonuses are large enough to automatically qualify you for a free plane ticket or hotel stay, but keep in mind - they’re only available to new credit card users. Some credit card issuers offer additional points if you add an authorized user on your account.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a 50,000 point sign-up bonus for customers who spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of opening their account, and 5,000 additional points for adding the first authorized user and making a purchase in the first 3 months of account opening. When you book travel with Chase Ultimate Rewards, points are redeemable for 1.5 cents. That means that, if you meet both of these requirements, you’re looking at a redeemed value of $687.5! Even if you don’t end up adding an authorized user, you’ll still be able to earn a $625-worth flight ticket, which could easily be an international flight.

3. Affiliation with an airline alliance that works best for you

There are 3 major international airline alliances: Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and Oneworld. The general rule is that all earned miles and points are transferable and usable for these partners, in addition to other partners airlines happen to have.

Some alliances fly more frequently, and to more destinations. This doesn’t mean that the biggest alliance is the one your travel credit card should be partnered with. It’s important to take into account the geographical coverage of partners in the areas you fly, as well as award availability and fare class earning between partners.

Airline programs can change at any time, devaluing rewards and requiring more miles for the same flight. Additionally, it’s a big plus if the credit card you pick lets you transfer your points to another loyalty program, without losing any in the process.

4. Trip insurance and protection

In case an accident happens, you lose your baggage, you have to cancel your trip or cut it short, you’d want to have some secure plan to fall back on and recoup at least some of the money you’ve spent.

Thankfully, some travel cards offer trip insurance and protection as a credit card perk, the only catch being that the trip be purchased with your credit card in order to receive the benefit. When it comes to cancellations, there might be some exclusions, so do check the terms of your program to find out whether your trip cancellation is covered, and what you need to do to get it reimbursed. If your travel credit card includes these benefits, you do not need to buy additional insurance.

5. Free checked bag

Free checked bags are a thing of the past, unless you score a credit card which offers free checked bags as a perk. No one likes paying to check bags, especially if you’re moving or traveling for longer periods of time - you could end up paying a lot just to take your bags with you.

Sure, a few airline carriers don’t charge the first (and sometimes even the second!) checked bag, while other charge as little as $25 for the first bag. These are good scenarios, because the reality is that you’ll be paying much more. A couple of hundred of dollars can easily be spent on checked bags if you go on a vacation with a family of four.

Therefore, naturally, a credit card which waives or reimburses at least the first checked bag is a huge perk. If the benefit extends to your travel companion - you’ve hit the jackpot. Your travel companions do need to be on the same reservation and paid for with the same credit card in order to enjoy the benefit.

6. Free night certificates

Similarly to large point/mile sign-up bonuses, many hotel credit cards offer free night certificates if you spend a certain amount of money in the first 3 months of account opening. Generally, these certificates are redeemable at any hotel or resort in the hotel’s portfolio.

Some hotel credit cards offer free nights for your account anniversary, if you charge your account a set amount of money, while others even offer annual free night certificates simply for paying your annual fee every year.

7. Priority boarding

Every frequent flyer knows that checking in, getting through the security line at the airport, and boarding a plane takes a long time. With the right credit card, you can bypass at least one of these lines.

If your credit card offers priority boarding, you can avoid long lines and zone calling at the gate, and simply board the plane before general boarding. Regardless of when you booked your ticket, you could be among the first to get on the plane, no matter how late you checked in, or where you’re seated. The perk comes especially in handy on full flights, particularly when you need to store carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment, or when you’re seated in Zone 2 or higher.

8. No foreign transaction fees

Many credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee on purchases made in other currencies, which can make it expensive to use your credit card internationally. This, however, means missing out on all the perks and benefits of your credit card, especially because you’re likely to use it much more when you’re traveling overseas. After all, the point of using a travel credit card is to minimize the cost of travel.

Luckily, a large number of credit cards out there don’t charge a foreign transaction fee. If you’re someone who travels a lot internationally, this is a feature that you really need. Keep this in mind when you decide on your new travel credit card - being able to use your card anywhere it’s accepted, without incurring additional currency conversion costs is highly important if you’re an overseas traveler!

9. Annual fee waived in the first year

Finding a credit card which offers all the perks above at no cost is quite tough. An annual fee is to be expected - after all, you are getting valuable perks which can offset the cost of your credit card in no time.

Nonetheless, many travel rewards credit cards waive the annual fee in the first year, giving you 12 months to enjoy all the travel perks at absolutely no cost! That is, as long as you pay your balance off in full each month and don’t accrue interest.

As long as you use your card to accumulate rewards, actually use your rewards, and take advantage of the credit card’s other perks, you’ll be able to offset the annual fee. However, if you find that the card is costing you more than it’s benefitting you, you shouldn’t hesitate to switch to another credit card.

10. Low APR

Here on Cardsbull we always advise to pay your balances off in full, and completely avoid paying credit card interest. This, however, is not always possible, and that’s fine. It’s important to look for a travel credit card which offers 0% intro APR, and low APR in general. This way, if you don’t manage to pay off your debt, you can avoid interest altogether, or at least not pay as much.

Many travel credit cards offer 0% intro APR for a period of time - usually a year; some even longer. If you anticipate that you won’t be able to make your payments regularly after you acquire your new credit card, do look for one which offers this benefit.

Bottom line

The number of travel credit cards on the market currently is quite high, and the job of picking the right one is surely not made easy as each credit card comes with different perks. Compare the cost, rewards, and travel perks of the credit cards you’re considering, and choose the one that fits your needs.

You don’t have to limit yourself to just one credit card - if the travel perks you’re looking for are offered by 2 different credit card issuers, don’t shy away for signing up for both. However, stay responsible, don’t overspend, and be tactical.

Could you imagine traveling across the globe for unbelievably low prices, or potentially free? This is possible if you choose the right travel credit card.

Travel credit cards come with a variety of perks, and all of them are supposed to maximize your travel and save you money in one way or another. Of course, you won’t be able to enjoy entirely free travel all the time just by using your travel credit card, but you will enjoy very attractive benefits that will highly decrease the amount of money you spend on travel." data-share-imageurl="https://www.cardsbull.com/sites/default/files/pexels-photo-219014.jpeg">