Credit Cards for Travel – What’s So Special?

Even if you are the kind of person who does not travel a great deal on a regular basis but does like to take at least one nice vacation a year (which is, let’s face it, a goal that most of us have) you can often enhance that vacation by using a travel credit card throughout the rest of the year. And if you travel a great deal you may be able to reap even bigger benefits from choosing a travel credit card over certain other credit card types.

Travel Credit Card Basics

If you are the kind of consumer that generally pays their credit card balances off in full every month and has a good credit rating then there is no reason why you should still be hanging onto credit cards that don’t offer rewards in return for your spending and good fiscal habits. There are now a lot of rewards credit cards out there and they offer everything from cash back to points that can be spent on books, electronics, housewares etc. and more. And then there are travel credit cards, cards that offer great rewards on travel related purchases of all kinds, not just airfare. Most of these cards offer miles or points on all purchases that are made on the card, not just travel related spending so your everyday expenses can help you get the kind of vacation you really want.

What to Look for in a Travel Credit Card

If you have decided that a travel credit card is option worth investigating further you will quickly realize that there is a lot of them out there to choose from. So what should you be looking for in a really good travel credit card? Here are some tips:

Universal Acceptance

That your travel credit card is accepted in as many places as possible is often going to be very important to a traveler, especially if you will be heading out on a trip abroad. For example there are some really great travel credit cards offered by Discover but although the acceptance of the Discover card is increasing across the US that is not the case in many other countries where Visa and MasterCard really do still rule.

Extra Fees

Like many other kinds of rewards card travel credit cards often have an annual fee attached to them. That fee can range from as low as about $50 to as high as $200 so before you opt for a certain travel credit card take the time to do a little basic math to ensure that any savings and rewards you might gain from using your travel credit card will not be nullified by that annual fee.

The other thing you need to watch for if you are planning to travel outside the US are foreign transaction fees. Almost all credit card issuers – with the notable exceptions of Capital One and some Discover cards – charge foreign transaction fees on any charges made outside of the borders of the card holders home country and those fees can really add up. In many cases you do not even have had to have left home yet to be charged these fees either as some credit cards issuers will add a foreign transaction fee to an on-line booking make for a hotel abroad. Therefore reading the fine print before you apply for a certain travel credit card as it relates to all fees is essential.

Sign Up Bonuses

Most of the travel credit cards offered today come with some kind of sign up bonus attached to them as well, so that is one more factor to take into consideration when comparing various travel credit card offerings. Many of these bonuses are more generous than they were just a few years ago but they still differ significantly from travel credit card to travel credit card. A credit card that offers enough miles or points to get a flight right away (although it is usually a coach class domestic flight only) can often be the best bet if you want to start reaping the rewards of using a travel credit card as soon as possible. You should also check any terms and conditions attached to redemption of these bonuses too though as sometimes there are little catches that are not made too obvious when you are applying for the card.

Ease of Rewards Redemption

For many travelers it is of little use to them that they have managed to rack up thousands of travel rewards points or miles only to find that they cannot redeem them when they want to. Redemption rules are easing across the board when it comes to travel rewards credit cards but there are still some credit card offerings that only allow cardholders to use their rewards at certain times.

Another thing to check out before you apply for a certain travel credit card is just where you can redeem those hard earned travel points. There are some specially branded travel credit cards that offer rewards tied to specific airlines, hotel chains and even resorts. For some people (those dreaming of a great trip to a Disney Resort for example, or someone who only stays at Marriott hotels) these travel credit cards can be a great choice but most people benefit the most from choosing a travel credit card that does not restrict where and how they can redeem their rewards too tightly.

Research Is the Key

Whenever you are applying for credit cards it pays do your homework before you decide which one to apply for and in the case of travel rewards credit cards it really is the key to getting the one that is just right for you. If you cannot find the information you are looking for on-line or within the application pick up the phone and call customer service before you apply to ensure that you have all the facts you need to make the right choice.