Now, I’m no pro, but I think I can confidently say I’ve mastered the basics of travel credit cards, and they have certainly helped me make my way around the globe! In this series of blog posts, I’ll be sharing all that I’ve learned about travel credit cards so that you can travel for free too!
“Travel” credit cards aka credit cards that essentially allow you to accumulate points/miles through your travel purchases and your simple everyday purchases. These points can then be redeemed for free flights, hotels, and more! Essentially, you’d be traveling for free off of those reward points!
Not convinced yet? Well, keep reading…..
Travel credit cards have gotten me countless “free” flights. In fact, in the past 3 years, I’ve only paid out of pocket for 2 round-trip flights. In addition to free flights, I’ve also used my credit card points for free train tickets, free Airbnb stays & experiences, hotels, and to get free Global Entry (international and US TSA pre-check).
Free flights I’ve scored include:
- 2 Round Trip tickets BOS to Rome
- 2 Round Trip tickets BOS to LAX
- 1 Round Trip ticket BOS to JAX
- 1 Way ticket Boston to London
- 1 Way ticket Paris to Boston
- 1 Way ticket London to Dubrovnik
Travel credit cards come with a variety of perks that you often wouldn’t know about until you begin researching or owning the card. Below are some of the ones that I’ve been able to take advantage of:
- Free Global Entry / TSA pre-check: Your credit card literally pays for you to skip the TSA lines at airports!
- No foreign transaction fees: This is extremely crucial if you’re abroad. If your credit card has foreign transaction fees, you’ll be paying an extra 2-5% on every.single.purchase
- Free auto coverage on rental cars booked with your credit card: This is an amazing benefit that I’ve actually had to utilize in the past. It allows you to stop paying for that expensive rental car insurance because you’ll be covered without it
- DoorDash/Uber Eats premium subscriptions
- Lost luggage coverage
- Hertz Rental Car Membership Status
- Exclusive travel agency & travel agents
- Annual hotel credits of $50+
- Trip cancellation/Trip interruption insurance
- Priority Pass airport lounge access
Not only are these perks great, but they save you time, money, or simply free upgrades of some sort with no extra cost to you.
Accumulating Points to use Towards Free Flights Isn’t as Hard as it Seems:
Many, if not all travel credit cards have introductory points bonuses which will allow you to accumulate a substantial amount of points in a short window of time. Typically they are something like “Get ____ amount of points if you spend $___ within this time period”. For example, with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, it was 100,000 points if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months. In dollars, that’s $1,000-$1,250+ worth of free travel depending on your card.
Referring friends or family members to the card also scores you pretty large bonuses, sometimes 20,000 points (enough for a round trip domestic flight) or more for simply sending them a link.
These incentive bonuses allow you to rapidly accrue points through your everyday purchases. I’ll dive deeper into strategies of how to score the best incentive bonuses and how to meet the bonus timeline in my next blog post!
Travel Credit Card vs. Cash Back Credit Cards
Now, the biggest argument I hear against travel credit cards is that people would rather get a credit card that gives them cash back. However, I find that the value you’re getting from cash-back credit cards is far less than what you’d get from a travel credit card. Many of these cash-back cards are capped at 1-2% and have a dollar limit on the amount of cash back you can receive (anywhere from $200-$1000 per year), whereas you can accumulate an endless amount of points. As someone with both, I can tell you the cash back I have accumulated has never even come close to the value of points I’ve accumulated. I’ve also found that I’ve never taken the cash back bonuses and spent them on something I’d like (ex: travel, new clothes, etc), I’ve only ever used it to cover my boring, everyday purchases.
If you’re someone who is on a tighter budget and would never normally be able to treat yourself to a vacation, being able to accumulate points will change that. It’s a mindless way to essentially start saving towards a vacation through your everyday card usage. If you’re looking to pay for free flights or even an entirely free trip (flights + hotels), then a travel credit card is the way to go.
In my next post, I’ll dive into some of my personal favorite credit cards, what perks you should make sure your card has, the in’s and out’s of incentive bonuses, and how to actually reach them!