How to make the most of travel credit cards


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The Financial Podcast Show.


How to make the most of travel credit cards

When used wisely, travel credit cards can open a world of possibilities for those with a case of wanderlust. But earning and redeeming points and miles can be complicated, and getting the most value from your card isn’t always obvious. If you’re not an expert, don’t worry; we’ve got your back. Here’s how to maximize your travel credit card rewards.

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Make Sure You Have the Right Cards

First things first: Make sure the cards in your wallet fit your spending habits and travel preferences. If you have to drastically overhaul how you shop and travel just to earn rewards, you’re not using travel cards strategically. Use what works for you. If you’re loyal to a specific airline or hotel chain, a branded travel card may be valuable. For example, a Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard card can help you earn lots of miles on American Airlines flights, and then you can redeem those for more American flights later.

Use Travel Cards for Everyday Expenses 

If you’re only using travel cards to pay for travel expenses, you’re probably missing out on many reward earning opportunities. Besides travel, many cards award extra points or miles on groceries, dining out, gas, or other spending categories. Rack up travel rewards faster by taking advantage of these benefits. 

Look for Bonus Earning Opportunities 

Many travel cards offer bonus miles or points for spending a minimum amount when you first get the card. But even after that, there are often special incentives to earn extra points or get discounts on select purchases.

Redeem Rewards for Travel 

The Balance team carefully analyzed the value of hotel points and airline miles and one thing became glaringly obvious: it often doesn’t pay to redeem your travel rewards for non-travel purchases, like gift cards or goods from Amazon. Our research found that using travel rewards this way can cut their value in half, if not more.

Don’t Pay for Benefits You Don’t Use

Travel cards with annual fees typically offer more high-value benefits, like free airport lounge access or a waiver on your checked bag fees. Make an effort to actually use these card benefits, or the cost savings are lost when you pay the annual fee.