Travel cards are a great way to earn free points that can be redeemed for airfares, hotels, rental cars, or even cash. When I first started looking at travel credit cards I wasn’t sure where to start. I assumed they would all be similar, but the truth is they are not. There are travel cards for each airline, hotel, and credit card company
Before you begin looking for a travel card, ask yourself the questions below. It might be helpful to write down your answers so it is easier to refer to when you compare cards.
1.Why Do You Want a Travel Credit Card?
Do you want it to get points for a specific airline? Hotel? Do you want to be able to use it on any airline? On blackout dates? This will help you significantly narrow down which card is best for you.
2. Are You Willing to Pay an Annual Fee?
Many of the top travel cards have an annual fee. The annual fee is usually waived the first year. If you are not willing to pay an annual fee that is okay there are still great options but it does eliminate some of them. For example, mine has a $59 annual fee but to me it is worth it because I get so many travel rewards points. I save more money on travel than I spend on fees.
3. What Extra Perks Are You Looking For?
Do you want free checked baggage, no foreign transaction fees, total coverage for international fraudulent charges or priority boarding? These are just a few of the many perks that are offered. Make a list of your top 3. This will help you when you start looking at the cards.
4. What is Your Credit Score?
It is important to know your credit score before you look at your options. Some travel cards have a minimum credit score and you do not want your application to be denied. You can check your credit score for free through Credit Karma (creditkarma.com). You are also entitled to one free copy of your credit report every year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
Once you answer those questions, you can begin looking for the best travel card for your needs.
My favorite website for comparing credit cards is NerdWallet. It breaks down their top picks so you can easily see the pros and cons without searching each individually on google. It will tell you if there is an annual fee, the recommended credit score, why they like it, benefits, drawbacks, and the bonus offer. The site is super easy to use and you can even apply for the card from the site. It also has consumer reviews for each card so you can read what others say about it.
Extra Things to Consider
Each card will have a bonus offer to try to get you to pick that one. Although the bonus offer is important, do not pick a card with a great bonus offer if it does not have everything else you are looking for. If you are deciding between two cards that have everything you are looking for, then you can use the bonus offer as a deciding factor. An example of a bonus offer is: “Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of approval, equal to $400 in travel”.
American Express While Abroad
If you are going to travel abroad a lot you might want to avoid a travel card with American Express (Delta SkyMiles Travel Card). American Express is great for the customer but charges extra to the business so many places don’t accept it or charge a fee. For example, in Australia businesses charge an extra 1.5% for using American Express. This might not seem like a big deal but there are plenty of great cards that will have no fee abroad. Other countries might even charge more.
APR (Annual Percentage Rate)
If you ever carry a balance on your credit card from month to month (you should always try to pay off your balance in full), then you will need to look at the APR for each card. Sometimes there are introductory offers, for example 0% APR for one year, then the APR drastically increases. Make sure to look at this in case you miss a payment.
My Travel Card: Capital One Venture Card
I personally use the Capital One Venture Card. Like I stated earlier there is a $59 annual fee but that doesn’t bother me since currently I have $850 to use on any type of travel (flight, hotel, car). I love this card because it has no foreign transaction fees, it is a visa, and there are no blackout dates. Since it is not tied to a specific airline I can use my points for any hotel or airline. The earning structure is simple, you earn 2 miles per $1 spent on everything. You book your own travel and then pay for it with your rewards.
What travel credit card do you like best? Let me know in the comments!
Alli is a personal finance and lifestyle blogger at financiALLIfocused.com. She is a Customs and Trade Manager and is currently pursuing her MBA in Finance. She resides in Greenville, SC.