Why a Travel Credit Card Is a Must for Frequent Travelers

Whether you’re going to the beach or hitting the slopes, a travel credit card can give you airline miles, free hotel stays, and luxury perks. If you don’t have a rewards card designed specifically for travel, here’s why you need one.

Discounts on Hotels

A good hotel makes for a great vacation. If you’re getting a discount, that’s even better. Co-branded credit cards are a perfect place to start if you have a favorite chain. Most major hospitality companies operate several sub-brands with different star ratings, so there’s something for every budget. The exact benefits depend on the card, but most companies use one or more of the following discount strategies:

  • A fourth night free with every three-night stay
  • Discounts when you book a room through your card issuer
  • Bonus points for every dollar spent at qualifying hotels
  • A free night on your signup anniversary
  • Lower rates on weekends and holidays
  • Early check-in and late check-out
  • Complimentary room upgrades

Concierge Services

Think of the concierge as your virtual assistant. It’s someone who you can call whenever you need help solving travel conundrums like contacting a translator or locating a dry cleaner. The concierge team assists with recommendations and reservations for hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and attractions, even for sold-out events. They also prepare gift ideas and assist with travel planning.

CreditCards.com found that the concierge is most valuable when you can’t find the answer or when you don’t have time to search for the information yourself. The best part is that these services are free, so you have nothing to lose.

Complimentary Insurance Coverage

Another thing that’s free is trip insurance. When you’re traveling, anything can happen. In fact, a disaster could disrupt your vacation before it begins.

U.S. News & World Report has ranked card issuers that offer the following insurance coverage on travel purchases:

  • Many credit card companies provide free rental car insurance in the United States and internationally. Policies typically cover accidents, damage, and theft.
  • Trip interruption and cancellation protection lets you recover your expenses if your trip is postponed due to illness, severe weather, or unforeseeable circumstances.
  • Travel accident insurance pays you or your loved ones a generous sum in case you’re seriously injured while traveling.
  • During emergencies, your credit card company will help you find legal or medical assistance. Your card issuer may even reimburse you for lost baggage.

Airport Lounges

Travel credit cards give you access to the secret world behind the frosted glass where you’ll enjoy an infinitely more pleasant preflight experience. Financial services companies often have relationships with specific lounges, such as Delta Sky Clubs, United Clubs, and Star Alliance. Some companies offer cardholders free or discounted guest passes. If you’ve never been on the other side of the doors, here’s what to expect:

  • Complimentary food and beverages
  • Comfortable seating for work or relaxation
  • Travel assistance desks if your plans change
  • Soundproof play areas for children
  • Wi-Fi access and phones
  • Spa treatment services

Foreign Transaction Fees

Between restaurants, ground transportation, shopping, and sightseeing, three percent foreign transaction fees can really add to the cost of your business trip or family vacation. Any credit card that’s worth the annual fee won’t add a surcharge to overseas purchases.

If you’re traveling abroad, including Canada or Mexico, look for a credit card that waives all foreign transaction fees. Many companies offer this benefit, and it pays to find one. Check Credit Karma to find top-rated cards with this benefit.

Elite Status

Whether you’re applying for an airline or hotel credit card, simply opening an account and making a qualifying purchase may bump your loyalty card or frequent flyer account up to the next tier. This means that you’ll earn rewards faster and qualify for additional perks.

With airline partners, cardholders generally receive priority boarding, free checked bags, lounge passes, and access to elite member-only services. With a Delta co-branded credit card, you can earn regular SkyMiles plus Medallion Qualification Miles. For hotels, elite status will get you room upgrades and bonus points with each stay.

Rewards for Traveling

Some credit cards practically pay you to travel. Start with the signup bonuses. You can earn a cache of rewards points or airline miles when you satisfy minimum purchase requirements. Incentives for new account holders often equal several hundred dollars in airline credits or hotel stays. Plus, many companies offer bonus miles or free nights after your card is open for one year.

With most cards, you’ll earn one or two percent in rewards on each purchase. The Capital One Venture card offers up to 10 miles per dollar spent with designated hotel partners. You may also find airline credit cards that provide free or discounted companion tickets. These perks are well worth the annual fee.

Finding the Best Travel Rewards Card

Depending on your preferences, you might do better with an all-purpose travel credit card that offers maximum redemption flexibility with a range of partner companies. If you’re loyal to a particular airline or hotel chain, a co-branded product could give you the best value. With the right credit card, you can satisfy your wanderlust and save money. Just like your passport and suitcase, a rewards credit card is a travel essential.

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Best Travel Credit Cards of 2018

We don't want you to give up hundreds of dollars in rewards each year, so we did the research to identify the best rewards credit cards available today. If you have decent to excellent credit, consider applying for at least one of these cards before you start planning your next trip.

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