Travel Credit Cards: Get Perks When You Travel

by The Smarter Wallet on Deals and Offers

Credit card companies do a lot of wooing when it comes to getting the business of people who:

A) Have really good credit AND
B) Want to use their credit cards

And wooing travelers is no exception.

If you’re going to travel, why not put what you’re spending to good use? Traveling can cost quite a bit of money and you want to take all the help you can get to make those expenses easier to swallow. The good news is that with careful planning and use of the right kinds of credit cards, you can take a chunk out of your traveling expenses.

Fans of rewards credit cards may know that one of the most beneficial cards to carry if you are a worldwide traveler, is a credit card that offers you air miles for each dollar you spend on airline tickets. What you’ll find below is a discussion on the different travel credit cards that are available today.

Air Miles Credit Cards

Many companies offer credit card products aimed at rewarding you for using the cards to book airline tickets. The good news is that in most cases, you have to use a credit card to buy the ticket anyway, so why not cash in and earn those miles while you’re at it? Most card companies offer cardholders 2 miles for every $1 spent on the card. Some will exclude purchases that aren’t travel related like grocery shopping and cash advances, but that’s okay. They will more than make up for it in how quickly your air miles begin to add up. Here are some top travel credit cards for your consideration:

Credit Card
Rewards Type
Details
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Travel Rewards No Annual Fee on first year, then $85 annual fee
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards Card Travel Rewards Become a credit union member when you apply
Blue Sky From American Express Travel Rewards No limits, no expiration dates, no annual fee
Miles By Discover Travel Rewards 12,000 bonus miles, No annual fee
Escape By Discover Card Travel Rewards Unlimited double miles, $60 annual fee
Platinum Delta SkyMiles Airline Rewards 20,000 bonus miles, $150 annual fee
Delta Reserve Credit Card Airline Rewards Bonus miles, $450 annual fee
Citi Gold / AAdvantage World MasterCard Airline Rewards 30,000 American Airlines bonus miles, $50 annual fee

My uncle works in Washington D.C as a contractor for the Department of Defense. He lives in Alabama. As a contractor, he’s responsible for booking and fronting his travel expenses as well as lodging, food, etc. Of course, he gets reimbursed every month by the government for his trouble, receives a hefty paycheck (I really should have studied information technology in school) AND gets to keep all the mileage he’s earned by using his rewards credit card. This guy has so many air miles that no one in the family has to ever worry about buying an airline ticket for as long as we live.

Hotel Points Credit Cards

So, let’s say that flying just really isn’t your thing. No worries — you don’t have to worry about being left out in the dark when it comes to credit card rewards. Instead of putting your hands on an air miles card, get a hotel credit card that offers points and perks instead. These cards work in much the same fashion as air miles credit cards, except that the cardholder gets points toward free hotel stays instead of air mileage. And yes, before you ask, my uncle has one of these, too. Here are a few notable cards in this category:

Credit Card
Rewards Type
Details
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card Best Hotel Rewards Up to 6 free nights, No annual fee for first year, $45 thereafter
Blue Sky From American Express Travel Rewards No limits, no expiration dates, no annual fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Travel Rewards No Annual Fee on first year, then $85 annual fee
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards Card Travel Rewards Become a credit union member when you apply

Fuel Cards

The old adage is true that you should never put daily living expenses on credit cards, but fuel in relation to work or travel is not a daily expense. Plus, most gas credit cards (also known as fuel cards) offer rewards now such as cents off per gallon. Using a fuel card will not only help you keep your travel expenses under control (and help with reimbursement in case you lose your receipts), it will also help you reap rewards the next time you are at a gas pump; here, you can receive savings of as much as $1 off per gallon, thanks to Kroger Fuel and BP Visa! There are also gas credit cards that give you rewards when you simply spend on fuel. Here are some top cards in this group:

Credit Card
Rewards Type
Details
Discover Open Road Gas Rewards No Annual Fee
Chase Freedom Visa – $100 Bonus General Rewards No Annual Fee
Chase Freedom Mastercard General Rewards No Annual Fee
American Express True Earnings Card General Rewards No Annual Fee

My uncle is a pretty savvy consumer when it comes to booking his travel. Not only does he use sites like Travelocity, Hotwire, and Expedia to find the best rates, he also books his air travel with his airline credit card and his hotel stays with his hotel rewards card and buys his fuel with his gas card. While it sounds a bit confusing when it comes to keeping track of which card to use for what, the benefits over time will add up to several thousands of dollars of free travel. Vacation, here I come!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 regular joe September 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Personally, I feel all these rewards cards are too limiting. I would need to accumulate enough points to qualify for a free ticket… and it could take years and years.

For each dollar put on a card, I might get one or two “miles”. But these miles are not convertible into direct flying miles. The credit card reward miles are ONE PERCENT of a flying mile. Namely, to fly a 500 mile flight I would need to get 50,000 points. At one or two “miles” per dollar, I would need to spend (depending one the card) $25,000 to $50,000 all on that one card on things that that card says are covered. And then there is no guarantee they won’t change the program before I am ready to redeem the points.

So for me… I use a cash rewards card. Cash is best. I get a check in the mail every time my use of the card hits the specified amount. No calling customer service to ask for a check. And I can always use the money for airline tickets.

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