Travel credit cards are one of the best ways to save money on travel, but they can also be daunting. There are so many choices. Benefits run the gamut and reward options are nearly limitless. While you’ll have to do some prioritizing to find the right travel credit card for your individual desires, once you do, you’ll be able to travel more cheaply in 2023.
Here’s how travel credit cards can help you travel at a lower cost.
Travel Cards May Include Credits Toward Travel
Premium travel cards might make it extremely easy to subtract costs from your bottom line. Many of them offer statement credits to essentially rebate travel purchases made with your card. Use them before they expire to save hundreds of dollars.
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Some travel credits are exceptionally easy to use. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® provides up to $300 in statement credits toward travel each cardmember year. To receive your statement credits, all you need to do is make a qualifying purchase—which includes nearly all flights, hotels, car rentals and a wide assortment of other travel purchases—and pay with your card.
Other cards may require more specific purchases to receive a statement credit. The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card also provides up to $300 in statement credits toward travel annually, but only when booking your reservations through the Capital One travel portal. The Platinum Card® from American Express is even more specific: it includes $200 each calendar year toward prepaid hotel bookings specifically made through Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts or The Hotel Collection and paid for with your Platinum card, among other credits. (Terms apply, see rates & fees)
Despite the hoops required, these travel credits can help you travel more cheaply in 2023.
Card Benefits Provide Free Perks You May Otherwise Pay For
Nearly all premium travel cards come with some sort of built-in benefits, many of which provide free services while traveling that would normally cost extra. Travel insurance is extremely common on all types of travel cards, though specific coverage types, amounts and restrictions vary by card.
Airline credit cards make it easy to see the value of included benefits. Free checked bags and free priority boarding are regularly advertised perks. With some cards, airline lounge access may also be included. Any of these might be services you’d otherwise pay for. Some airline cards may also offer an opportunity to earn companion certificates for discounts on the second passenger traveling with you.
Similarly, hotel credit cards pack in extras. Automatic elite status is a popular perk and can provide guests with late check-out access, room upgrades or complimentary breakfast during your stay. Free night certificates are also fairly common card benefits and can save you hundreds toward a future hotel stay.
While the exact dollar amount of any of these benefits will depend on how often you travel and which incidental services you’d normally purchase separately, these card benefits have the potential to help you save money on your travels.
Redeeming Travel Rewards for More Value
Travel credit cards come in several options, the most common being airline cards, hotel cards or general travel cards that earn rewards valid toward multiple types of travel. What they all have in common is the ability to earn rewards on purchases made with your card and redeem them toward free or discounted trips in the future.
The “best” type of rewards is highly personal. Cards earning points redeemable toward travel at a flat-rate are easy to use. There’s no learning curve to speak of and you don’t need to worry about blackout dates, limited award inventory or other restrictions. On the other hand, frequent flyer miles and hotel points have the potential to yield higher values—but only if you carefully select your redemptions and look for the best deals.
Regardless of what you choose, the welcome bonus alone on a single travel card can easily be worth hundreds of dollars. Earnings on purchases charged to the card, especially on cards with elevated earning rates in some categories, can help you achieve even more free travel beyond an initial bonus. Though the welcome bonus may catch your attention, standard earning rates will have more impact on your potential for cheap travel going forward.
Numerous strategies can help you save money on travel, but travel credit cards are one of the most advantageous approaches. With the right card for your lifestyle and travel goals, you can enjoy statement credits to lower your total cost, save on expenses by utilizing included travel benefits and redeem rewards total future trips.