If you have good credit, you probably receive dozens of credit card offers in the mail every month.
But if you’re not versed in what constitutes as a good credit card (hint, it’s not the cashback offers) you may be at a loss as where to start. And you may not realize the value certain credit cards can add to your life.
With travel credit cards, it’s all about the points.
You see, most people automatically equate a “good” credit card with one that gives customers cashback rewards for spending.
But in the travel world, travel points are more valuable than cashback rewards.
In fact, points are the supreme currency in the travel world, and if you know how to get em (and use em) you can do a lot of cool stuff.
Some people have devoted their life to playing the point game and have even quit their job to travel around the world on points alone.
Well, we’re not saying you need to take it that far – that lifestyle is typically reserved for the bachelor (or bachelorette) who’s taking a career break to travel…
…or the college kid who never had a job to begin with.
However if you’re just a regular traveler who wants to score some great benefits for the travel you already do on a regular basis, check out our recommended travel credit cards.
**A word of caution before we begin**
If your spending habits are out of control – this game is not for you.
You can have all the travel points in the world – but if you’re sacked with massive debt and can’t afford to travel, even your points can’t save you.
“But I earned a free room,” you might say. Well a “free room” isn’t worth racking up $10k in debt.
Not really free then, is it?
And if you’re going to play the point game – you must be organized. As in start an excel spreadsheet and meticulously track your points and approval dates.
But if you think you’ve got what it takes to conquer the inner workings of the point world, check out our recommended 4 best travel cards for every budget.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
This was my first travel card, and I still use it all the time. If you’re new to the travel card/point world, this is a good card to start with.
The annual fee isn’t too high, and you get killer benefits if you get approved.
- 60,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 within the first 90 days upon opening the card.
The points can then be redeemed for gift cards, cash, or travel (which I recommend).
Generally speaking, 1 point is worth about 1 cent. So 60,000 points earns you $600 – but if you redeem the points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal… your points increase and you get a higher value! In this case, 60,000 points would be worth $750 if you use them for travel.
You might be wondering how you can spend $4,000 in 3 months, but if you put all your bills (cell phone, cable, car insurance, internet, charity donations, groceries, gas, dining, birthday presents, car repairs, etc.) all on the card – you’ll be surprised how much it adds up.
- You get the standard 1 point per dollar on all purchases, but this card gives you 2x the points when you spend it on dining and travel.
- Stellar travel purchase and coverage – if you have a canceled trip, you can be reimbursed for up to $10k for prepaid non-refundable travel expenses (includes hotel and flight)!
- Flight delayed? If your delay is over 12 hours or you need an overnight stay, you are covered up to $500 per flight ticket for meals and lodging.
- They’ll also reimburse you if the airline loses your luggage for all baggage delays over 6 hours and up to 5 days at $100 a day! This is helpful BUT, as Proud American Traveler has mentioned before, you shouldn’t check a bag anyway!
- No foreign transaction fees – this is helpful especially if you are an international traveler.
- $95 annual fee. I am not a fan of annual fees, and this card is only worth it if you end up getting the bonus points. But if you think you can track ’em and spend the $4,000 in the first 3 months, this card is worth it – especially if you are a regular traveler!
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
- 70,000 bonus points for signing up and spending $5,000 in the first three months. A word of caution – this requires spending a little over $1,600 a month, so if you are going to take the plunge, plan this one around a major purchase you have such as during the holidays or if you have a major expense.
- International chip and pin – this comes in handy with some places overseas which require a pin.
- No foreign transaction fees (I hope you are seeing a theme here).
- $89 annual fee (although this is waived the first year).
Chase Sapphire Reserve
When this card first came out, I admit it, I took the bait.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a killer card with incredible benefits, arguably the best travel card out there.
There’s a reason Money Magazine named the Chase Sapphire Reserve the “Best Premium Travel Credit Card” for 2018.
While I did get approved and got the card, I ended up rolling it over into a different card, as I couldn’t justify the $495 a year annual fee.
Maybe you can.
If you are a hardcore traveler whether for work or play – you might want to check it out.
- Automatic $300 annual travel credit each year – you get this credit just for using your card for travel. For example, if you drop $500 on a flight, they will give you an annual credit of $300, essentially making your flight $200.
- 50,000 bonus points for signing up and spending $4,000 in the first three months. (Use our tips above on how to master this.)
- $100 credit every 4 years to sign up for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry– this makes flying a bit more tolerable as you get to keep your shoes on and your laptop in your bag when you go through security. But lately, the lines for TSA PreCheck have become just as long as the standard… and it’s kind of like extortion paying just to keep your shoes on through security and have a somewhat more comfortable experience, but I digress.
- 3 points per dollar on travel and dining – this is huge if you know how to use points to travel.
- No foreign transaction fees – again this is helpful for all of us international travelers!
- World class travel benefits including up to $10k reimbursement for trip cancelation/interruption, trip delay reimbursement up to $500, and a whole host of other benefits.
- If you’re traveling to risky places (like I often do) – when paying for your flight with this card, you become eligible to receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage up to $1,000,000 (good to know loved ones will have some money) and emergency evacuation and transportation up to $100,000. Note – there are exclusions with this, so it is important to read the fine print as not all circumstances are covered. But still a decent bonus insurance.
- $495 annual fee. Ouch. But if you add up the benefits, the card pays for itself. Especially if you travel a lot.
Bank Of America Travel Rewards Card
This card is pretty basic and not too “flashy,” but it does give you some decent benefits. If you’re absolutely 100 percent opposed to any annual fee under any circumstance, this might be the card for you.
- $0 annual fee.
- 5 points per $1 spent on anything (this is actually pretty good considering the annual fee is $0).
- 25,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- If you are a Bank of America customer and have a checking or savings account you can get even more customer bonus points.
- The 25,000 point spending bonus is small considering what other cards are offering, but if this is more in your spending limit and comfort zone, and if you want to gauge your point prowess, you can start with this.
Is Your Head Spinning Yet?
I get it, this stuff is a lot and ain’t for the faint of heart.
But if you are a serious traveler and you’re already spending dough on plane tickets, Uber rides, hotels, dining, etc. – it might be worth looking into.
Remember, organization is key to this game.
If you sign up to get your 60,000 bonus points and you don’t track when your 3 months of spending is up and forget to cash-in on your bonus points, it’s not worth it.
And again… if you have a history of credit card debt and a spending problem, this is not for you.
But if you do this right, you can truly make the most out of traveling by getting something back for the money you’re already spending anyways.
Do you own any of these travel credit cards? If so, how have you used points to up your travel game?
Tell us in the comments below and be sure to share this article with your friends and family!