Guest post by Brittany Lyons
Frequent travel, whether for business or pleasure, is getting expensive, and it can be hard to get the most out of your money. But having and using a travel credit card can take away some of that stress by offering you rewards for shopping with it, and making it easy to access your money abroad. With so many travel rewards cards available, however, deciding on one may feel like trying to earn a PhD. There are plenty of things you can do to make the process easier, especially if you’re not familiar with travel credit cards. Here are some helpful Do’s and Don’ts to help you with your search.
DO know where you like to stay. If you stay at a certain hotel chain often, then getting a card with benefits specific to that chain can be very rewarding. For those who travel on business and later get reimbursed, this is a great way to earn rewards points and, of course, the rewards that come with them. Some hotel-specific cards are the Marriott Rewards Visa and the Best Western Rewards MasterCard.
DO look for the best frequent flier deal. Many credit cards offer frequent flier benefits, but cards designed specifically for frequent fliers offer better ones. The Capital One Venture Rewards Visa, for example, earns you double miles no matter where you use it (that’s 2 miles per dollar), and you earn 10,000 bonus miles if you spend over $1,000 in the first three months you have the card. Most rewards cards offer a bonus of some kind for starting up, so it’s best to go with one of them—otherwise, it will take you a long time to get enough points to pay for a flight. If you fly on a specific airline often, look into cards that offer added benefits for that airline. These kinds of rewards can range from double miles to bonus miles after a certain number of purchases.
DON’T forget the fees. Some credit cards will charge you heavily for use outside your home country. These fees may not look like much on paper, but be sure to consider how often you travel internationally, because the fees accrued can account for as much as 3% of your annual fee. One of the best travel cards without a foreign transaction fee is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which also offers savings of 20% when you use your points for travel.
DON’T forget to plan for emergencies. If you’re abroad and need to access your bank back home for whatever reason, you may be out of luck. Fees for conversion and withdrawal can be huge, and in some countries you might not be able to get to your money at all. Be sure to find out which (if any) international banks your bank is partnered with, and consider opening a new account at a bank with more international partners. Having a good international card on hand like a Capital One Venture will also help you avoid situations where you can’t access the money you need.
No matter which card you end up choosing, be sure to stay on top of your payments every month, as rewards cards tend to have higher annual fees and interest rates than other cards. And always inform your credit card company before you go abroad to avoid any misunderstandings or card freezings. Choosing the right card can make or break a trip, so do your research beforehand and pick a card that fits your personal travel habits and will give you the most rewards.
Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.