Tips and Tricks: Use Travel Credit Cards Wisely

Let me start off by saying that you should always use credit responsibly.

Now that we have gotten that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the meat and potatoes.

Choose the credit card you book the trip on wisely. Credit cards, especially ones with travel perks, can be the best thing going for scoring future travel towards a dream trip. In fact, many of them have perks that can help save you money out of pocket. For example, depending on where you plan to travel, you may want to look into travel insurance. While it may be an additional cost upfront, it could end up saving you tens of thousands if someone gets sick or something doesn’t go according to plan. However, before you do that, check with your credit card, as many of them offer some level of travel insurance that may be sufficient for your needs. And this insurance is not limited to strictly travel insurance; this could even be car rental insurance for a car overseas.

Additionally, if you frequent a particular airline regularly, it may behoove you to look into a credit card that gives miles or points with that airlines because the sign up bonuses are usually pretty healthy. For example, some promotions that are going on now are:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select Card: Get 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months, and the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. This card also comes with one free checked bag, Group 1 flight boarding, and 2 miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines and US Airways purchases.
  • Chase Sapphire Card: After spending $4,000 in purhcases in the first three months, you get $500 towards airfare or hotels redeemable through Chase Ultimate Rewards. There are no foreign transaction fees, 1:1 transfer on dollars to points, and you earn 2X the points on travel and dining purchases.
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card: Get 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days (which is enough for a $400 travel statement credit). Also get 2X the miles on all purchases, and the $89 annual fee is waived for the first year.
  • Virgin America Card: Spend only $1,000 in the first three months and get between 10,000 and 15,000 Elevate points on Virgin. Premium cardholders get change fees waived, and all cardholders get one free checked bag in addition to a $150 companion ticket discount code each year.

These are by no means the only cards available (pretty much every airline has a card), nor do I make any representations about any of the cards, but the savings can be quite substantial if you leverage cards right.You also want to look at airline alliances for additional possibilities on redeeming points for trips. For example, I knew I had a big purchase to make, so I opened a new card in time for the big purchase, charged it to the card, and immediately paid it off. It got me more than enough miles for an international flight. And remember, even if you want to pay for a ticket cash, put it on the card and then immediately pay it off, because just having the card isn’t enough…You have to use it to book the travel in order to get the perks.

Conversely, it pays to know your credit card and its potential limitations. For example, if you plan to travel internationally, you want to try to use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees if at all possible. These fees are usually 3%, which can add up quite handily if you plan to use your card on everything overseas. And also remember, this sometimes applies to make debit cards if you withdraw money at an ATM overseas for local currency! Do your research as to which travel-based credit cards waive foreign transaction fees, and, as a side note, make sure your credit card has the new international chip for easy (and in some EU countries, necessary) purchases overseas.

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I am a lawyer. I am a journalist. I am a writer. I am a photographer. And I love to travel.

24 comments on “Tips and Tricks: Use Travel Credit Cards Wisely”

  1. We don’t have credit cards. We paid them off about two years ago and canceled our cards afterwards. We pay cash usually when we travel.

  2. I’m glad I don’t have credit cards and when I travel I try to only carry a certain amount of cash on me or use multiple prepaid cards with low amounts on each one. Makes buying things a bit harder but if I only carry 1 $25 prepaid card and it gets stolen that’s better than my bank card stolen or a $500 prepaid card.

  3. Thanks for sharing. My family travels quite a bit so airline points come in handy. We pay our cards off every month so using a credit card with these benefits won’t cost us anything extra!

  4. I’ve heard some great things about some of those credit cards you’ve listed! We personally use the Delta Skymiles AMEX card just because we always (if possible) travel with Delta, but these others have awesome perks, as well!!

  5. My husband and I have the Amercian Airlines Platinum Select card so we can earn miles. We always pay it off every month. A great credit card is good to have, but like you say, you have to be responsible.

  6. I really do not travel much and am currently trying to pay down all my debt! My niece has been traveling frequently as does my cousin-I will make sure to forward this very good and sound advice to them.

  7. I don’t use travel credit cards because I’m paying off my cards and don’t need any more. If and when the time comes when I am going to travel a lot (and that is something I’m working towards), I’ll be sure to check out the travel credit cards.

  8. I didn’t know that some credit cards charge 3% for international fees. That is definitely something to watch out for if you travel a lot!

  9. I am really big into earning points and miles via travel credit cards. I used to be really big into churning for points and miles, and now that I have gone through about 90% of the cards available, I am switching them to no-fee cards to stay away from annual fees 😀

    1. Angie, I am the same way. If I make a big purchase, I pay for it and then immediately (the same day) pay it off. Gives the best of the both words. Because I am not about paying an extra $25 to check a bag unnecessarily!

  10. We just got back from a trip and it is super easy for us to over spend if not careful so we try not to use credit but I didn’t think about using it for the perks.

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