I have a few credit cards, however, only use the one I have that’s specifically for travel. Not sponsored by Chase or getting any type of perk in exchange for this post. Just happen to be an actual consumer actively using one of their cards, and wanna share the love on how using a travel credit card strategically (and responsibly!) can up your travel game 🙂
I’m not super loyal when it comes to traveling (airlines, hotel chains, etc.) and go by whatever is the best deal, which is a combination of the cheapest and most convenient. This approach is somewhat necessary to truly maximize redemption of credit card travel points, since they’re not usually not loyal to specific airlines (unless you get an airline sponsored credit card, like Delta or Jet Blue). Know there may be “better” travel credit cards than the one I currently use, and may switch, however, for the moment, this is working for me and personal travel needs quite well.
If you travel frequently, business or personal, travel specific credit cards are worth considering. Read on for my whys and how I make it work for me and my travel life. Don’t have to get the same card but try applying similar methodology and look for same/similar benefits to fully maximize rewards and benefits.
- Rack up points on travel/everyday purchases to redeem for travel like flights, hotels, car rentals, usual point exchange ranges from 2-4 points for every $1 spent depending on category of purchase. If you travel for business, even better, more points to rack up since you’re getting reimbursed for expenses (consider using your personal card for this reason even if you have a corporate card, I did and don’t regret the decision).
- Points are redeemable at a higher rate when redeemed for travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) as opposed to gift cards or statements credits – for example, my card, provides an exchange rate of 1.5 per point when redeemed for travel, so instead of applying $200 worth of points as a statement credit, can redeem for $200+ worth of travel. Especially handy if, as mentioned, you’re not particular/set on specific airlines.
- Get reimbursed for Global Entry application/renewal fee (every 5 years, $100 value, may provide reimbursement for other programs like TSA pre-check and Clear).
- Receive an annual statement credit for X amount for travel expenses and purchases (my card gives back $300 annually, and automatically so I don’t have to manually call/request the annual reimbursement).
- Get automatic travel insurance protection and car rental insurance when you book with/on the card. Mine provides coverage for anyone that I’m traveling with, regardless of whether or not their travel was booked with my card (as long as they’re traveling with me).
Annual Credit Card Membership Fees
You will likely be subject to an annual fee. I hate annual fees and am a firm believer that you shouldn’t pay for credit cards. Having said that, travel credit cards are providing a specific benefit that does translate into monetary (and cost saving) benefits for the cardholder. So in this case, I am OK with the annual fee under certain conditions. Be strategic and weigh out the costs of the fee.
For example, the Chase Sapphire card (the one I have and use) has a $425 annual fee. I also receive an automatic annual $300 statement credit for any travel related expenses, thus, bringing my annual fee down to $125 a year. The Chase Sapphire also comes with a complimentary membership to airport lounges around the world! So long as you are an active cardholder, you will always have lounge access (via Priority Pass).
Given the number of times I travel each year, the remaining $125 of the annual membership fee pays for itself when I use the lounge pass. I get fast free wi-fi, access to power plugs, comfy seating options (plush leather chairs with ottomans, couches, semi-private work pods, some even have showers!), sanitary restrooms, and free beverages (coffee, espressos, soda, water, juices), snacks, and, sometimes, solid meals instead of just snacks (pasta, pizza, breakfast/lunch/dinner buffets – depends on the lounge). Lounge passes are $25-50+ each time for each person. Priority Pass membership allows you and a guest into any and all participating airport lounges. Even with just 3-4 lounge visits/trips, the remaining $125 fee pays for itself with not having to pay for the lounge fee or expenditures on beverages, snacks, etc. Have used the lounge pass more than 3xs in the past 6 months, 3 of those occasions with a guest. Annual fee paid off already 🙂
This is just an example of how one card works for me, my lifestyle, and travel habits. Do some research and find one that’ll work for you. I’ll say it again, do your RESEARCH and make sure you’re not committing to a credit card for the sake of getting a travel card. Ton of other perks that I’m not mentioning, but did mention the majors that do it for me.
Know I’m not the only one! Anyone else do this too? What card do you use and why? From the points I’ve racked up, have gone to Las Vegas, San Jose, Costa Rica, Rome, and Singapore 🙂