How a Travel Credit Card Can Help This Summer
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If you’re planning on getting away from it all this summer, you’ve probably seen the prices of almost everything travel-related go up. From plane tickets and hotel rooms to the gasoline you’ll need on a road trip and jet fuel, every part of the experience is getting more and more expensive, forcing some Americans to stay home.
At the same time, Americans are eager to get out and travel again more than two years into the ongoing pandemic, so what’s the solution?
With a little planning, travel rewards credit cards can help you save a ton of money on your long-awaited adventures. Between the points and miles you’ll earn and the travel insurance and protection benefits that come with most cards, these types of credit cards can help make your next trip much more affordable. Many also offer cardholder benefits such as transferable points, which you can redeem for free (or nearly free) flights and hotel stays with your card’s travel partners, some may offer a set number of free nights that you can take advantage of once you meet the minimum spend requirement. .
Below, select details on how you can use a travel rewards credit card — or more — to help you save money on this year’s summer vacation.
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Earn a welcome bonus as a new cardholder
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening – that’s $750 worth of travel when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card: Earn five free nights, instead of the usual three, with each night redeemable for up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, after spending $5,000 within the first three months of opening your account.
- Three of Hilton’s co-branded credit cards — the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Cardthe Hilton Honors American Express Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card — offer increased welcome bonuses: 130,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership, 100,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card membership and 130,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership, respectively.
The welcome bonuses are meant to entice people to get back on the road after more than two years of silence in the skies and falling hotel occupancy rates. Additional welcome bonuses are also expected to arrive throughout the summer.
However, travel rewards cards aren’t all about flashy bonuses. If you want to go on vacation this summer, here are a few other things to consider.
Combine airline and hotel credit cards
This is perhaps an obvious statement since almost everything has become more expensive due to inflation, but travel has been particularly hard hit. Select reported last month that airline prices have risen 25% over the past year. Add that to the list of other associated costs – such as hotels, food and travel-related activities – and the idea of traveling becomes big financial business.
If, however, you had travel rewards credit cards in your wallet, you could make them work for less. For example, you can use the combination of a credit card with airline rewards (such as the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card) and a hotel rewards credit card (such as the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card) to eliminate or significantly reduce these two major costs.
Once you meet the minimum spending requirements necessary to receive each card’s welcome bonus – as long as you spend responsibly and pay your bills on time and in full each month – you can quickly lower the overall cost of your trip. with the amount of points and miles you have just earned.
Over Memorial Day weekend this year, the number of people screened at the airport by the TSA nearly matched pre-pandemic rates – from May 26 to May 30, more than 11 million people were processed by the TSA, while in 2019 it was closer to 12 million.
There is still a significant lack of resources at most airports across the country, largely due to the pandemic and the TSA and most major airlines continue to be understaffed. As a result, those who fly end up with less than pleasant experiences, including long security lines and the looming possibility of flight cancellations.
Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve flown about 20 times and had several flights with long delays or cancellations, mostly due to these staffing issues.
To help combat these lingering inconveniences, travel rewards cards offer the following benefits:
Many cards offer enrollment credits for TSA PreCheck®, Global Entry or CLEAR. Although each program is slightly different, they all offer one key benefit: the ability to save time and energy when going through airport security.
Even if you only travel a few times a year, it’s definitely worth having a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card, which each offer a statement credit of up to $100 every four years when you apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
If you are interested in CLEAR, the American Express® Green Card offers cardholders a $100 credit to help offset the cost of the $189 annual membership, while the The Platinum Card® from American Express gives cardholders a credit of $189 per year when they use their card to purchase CLEAR.
Access to the airport lounge
The next time you visit an airport, you may find yourself with fewer dining options, whether they are completely closed or simply cannot open due to lack of staff. In this case, access to the airport lounge could prove very useful.
Not only can you save money by having access to free food and drink, but you’ll also have a quiet place to sit down and relax before your next flight. In some cases, the lounge you’re in may also have showers and other perks, such as staff available to help with travel issues.
Throughout my travels, and with access via my travel rewards cards, I’ve saved myself many hours (and headaches) of using Global Entry to expedite security checks, while the Lounge access provided me with a private place to hang out before my plane trip.
If you want access to the lounge the next time you travel, consider signing up for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. A number of other luxury and premium credit cards also offer this benefit.
Airlines are canceling flights en masse and it’s just a sign of the times – Delta, for example, recently reduced flight times due to a lack of staff.
According to Bureau of Transport Statistics, 63,734 flights have been canceled so far this year. In 2014, the number was 64,419. With nearly 4% of flights canceled this year, travel insurance is essential.
If you have the right travel rewards card, you won’t even need to purchase a separate policy. By simply placing all your travel expenses on one card that offers travel insurance coverage – including trip cancellation and interruption insurance, reimbursement for travel delays and lost baggage, baggage delay insurance, among others protections – your next vacation could be fully covered.
In December my flight from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale was canceled and I had to rebook it for the next day. Since I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to book my flight, I was able to get a refund for the flight I had paid for, as well as my hotel room and food.
At the end of the line
Traveling has become outrageously expensive lately, and for the average family under the pressure of inflation, it can be hard to justify unnecessary spending. But as travel prices overall have skyrocketed — making any setbacks even more costly — we can see the real value of a travel rewards credit card.
If you want to escape this summer, consider signing up for a travel rewards credit card or two. As long as you’re able to spend enough to meet the welcome bonus threshold responsibly, you could be on your way to taking a significantly reduced trip this season.
Check your credit score before applying for a new credit card so you know where you stand and be sure to review your budget before any trip.
Editorial note: Any opinions, analyses, criticisms or recommendations expressed in this article are those of Select’s editorial staff only and have not been reviewed, endorsed or otherwise endorsed by any third party.