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5 Travel Credit Cards for Special Rewards (Good or Not)

Has it ever happened that you found a great campsite after reaching your destination but realized it was beyond the budget you had for the trip?

You came across a must have gear, but you hadn’t kept aside the money for it?

You found a spot worth seeing but didn’t factor in the cost of visiting it when you were making the plan.

Sometimes you feel like just going for a trip, but the finances are tight. Your heart needs it, but your mind resists.

For all the above scenarios, there are travel credit cards. Traveling is no more a luxury in today’s world but a necessity.

It’s food for the soul. Yes, be a responsible traveler, but sometimes you need at an impromptu unplanned trip to get back on your feet.

And even though your bank account might not approve of it at that time, travel credit cards are a great way to make it happen.

 

The 5 Best Travel Credit Cards

Different credit cards have different features. Some have good introductory offers. Some are good for earning flier miles. Some offer really good travel insurance. Below we’ve handpicked a few credit cards for you that serve different purposes but are the best in their respective segment.

 

1. Best Annual Travel Credits

The Platinum Card from American Express is a clear winner when it comes to annual travel credits. $200 airline fee credit, $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Precheck credit every four years, up to $200 Uber credit, $75-$100 hotel credit, and up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit.

The average yearly rewards value of $797 makes the annual fee of $550 look reasonable. On top of you get Hilton Honors gold status, platinum concierge service, car rental insurance, car rental perks and discounts, luxury hotel perks and discounts, exclusive events and services, travel protection, and purchase protections. The points don’t expire, and there are no blackout dates. Points are transferable between 17 partner airlines.

 

2. Best Travel Credit Card with no annual fee

Not everyone wants a travel credit card that has a fixed annual fee. Especially those who don’t travel very frequently. It becomes an unnecessary fixed cost when you’re not able to spend the amount needed to earn the awards.

Discover it Miles credit card is the best card out there that doesn’t have an annual fee. You earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases. And the bonus is unlimited. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending, or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match. You can turn the miles into cash anytime you want. And the Miles don’t ever expire. There are no blackout dates either. The only issue with this credit card is that you can’t transfer the miles to the airline’s frequent-flier program.

 

3. Best Travel Credit Card for Travel Insurance

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card comes along with a $250000 travel accident insurance, unmatched by most other cards in its price segment. The annual fee is $95 which is quite reasonable. You 2 miles for every dollar you spend, and there are no limits on the number of miles you can accumulate.

You can redeem any hotel or airline purchase for a statement credit. Miles are transferable to 10+ airline partners, but none of them are prominent airlines from the US. The sign-up bonus is a whopping 100000 miles, but that requires you to spend $20000 in the first twelve months. You can also earn 50000 miles by spending $3000 in the first three months. There is no foreign transaction fee.

 

4. Best introductory card for new travelers

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card that’s powered by Citi, is the best card for travelers who’re looking for an introduction to AAdvantage miles. It’s one of the few cards that let you earn miles on Grocery Store purchases.

The rewards rate is 2 miles per dollar for American Airlines purchases, 1 mile per dollar for other purchases. The sign-up bonus is 10000 miles and a $50 statement credit if you spend $500 in the first three months. There is no fixed annual feel. The miles don’t expire if you use the card to spend or redeem once in 18 months.

There is no limit on the number of miles you can earn. No fuel surcharges on most flights. You redeem rewards online for free without paying any extra charge. You also get a 25% discount on in-flight purchases.

You can change award tickets for free as long as the origin and destination are the same. There are blackout dates for a few awards. In a nutshell, this is the best card for rookie travelers.

 

5. Best Credit Card for Airline Rewards

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is the best card for the fans of the airline and also for those who use the casual rewards offered by the card. The sign-up bonus of 40000 points is available just by spending $1000 in the first three months.

The rewards is 2:1 for Southwest purchases, and 1:1 for others. The 2:1 ratio is also valid to the hotel and car partners of Southwest Airlines. You get 3000 bonus points on every anniversary annually. You sign-up fee of $69 is fair when looked at vis a vis the rewards.

The points don’t expire and there are no blackout dates. The cardholder gets two free checked bags everytime they travel. After 125000 points you get a companion pass, wherein one person can fly for just the taxes and fees.

Other perks are car rental insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, roadside dispatch, travel accident insurance, travel and emergency assistance services, extended warranty protection and purchase protection.

There are no stopovers permitted for reward tickets, and the options for international travel are quite limited. Also, you can only book of reward flights on Southwest and it doesn’t have any other travel partners.

 

6. The Best Overall CC

Time to pick the best card overall. That is Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. You get bonus miles, first checked bag is free, 2 times the miles for every dollar spent on Amercian Airlines purchases, 2 times miles for every purchase made at restaurants and gas stations and 1 mile per dollar for rest of the purchases.

The annual fee $99 but it’s waived off for the first 12 months. This card is the perfect pick if you’re looking for a card that offers a mix of miles and travel rewards.

Compare fees, rewards, and rates in the chart below:

Card Annual Fee Cash Back APR – min rate
Credit One Bank Visa $99 1% 18%
Citi Double Cash 0 2% 14%
Capital One QuicksilverOne 0 1.5% 27%
Disconver it 0 1%
American Express Cash Magnet 0 1.5% 14%
Blue Cash Preferred Amex $95 1%
Chase Sapphire Preferred $95 Points
Citi Diamond Preferred 0 0 15%
American Express Gold $250 Points
Capital One Quicksilver 0 1.5% 15%
U.S. Bank Visa Platinum 0 0 14%
Amex Blue 0 1%
Ink Business Cash 0 1%
CoreFirst Bank and Trust Visa Platinum 0 Points 9%
Jasper Mastercard 0 1% 15%
Wells Fargo Platinum 0 0 16%
Mastercard Black Card $495 15%
TD Cash Card 0 0 13%
Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex $99 Points 16%
United Business Card $99 Points 16%
American Express Gold $250 Points
HSBC Gold Credit Card 0 0 14%
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card 0 Ponts 15%
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business $199 Points 16%
SunTrust Prime Rewards 0 1% 11%
Mastercard Titanium Card $195 1% 15%
Chase Sapphire Reserve $550 Points
Platinum American Express $550 Points
Citi Premier Card $95 Points
Amalgamated Bank Chicago 0 Points 9%
Chase Freedom Unlimited 0 1.5%
Chase Freedom Flex 0 1%

 

9 reasons you should have at least one travel credit card.

Rewards

By using a credit card, you keep accumulating rewards and points which can be redeemed later. Some of those rewards are quite substantial, and points are as good as money. If you’re a business owner or an employee who travels frequently, you can have the company cards issued in your name wherein the company takes care of the expenses but, you get the rewards points.

 

Airline Miles

All Travel Credit Cards have a frequent flier miles rewards system in partnership with a ticketing portal or airline. Every time the card gets swiped, the cardholder gets rewarded with some frequent flier miles. Spending above a benchmark in one year also results in the cardholder earning frequent flier miles. Taking a free trip with OPM is amazing.

 

Offers

Ticketing portals also give offers to specific cardholders. These offers are instant and have got nothing to do with the spending history of the cardholder. Check the offers available on your card when you decide to go for it. More instant offers mean more savings without keeping track of the points accumulated. In a single trip, you can make save a chunk of money by using the accumulated reward points and the instant offer together.

 

First-time benefits

When you get a new card, it comes with a plethora of welcome benefits. That’s another aspect you should consider before getting a travel credit card. Most travel credit cards will offer you some miles and offers from the first transaction itself. They’ll also have vouchers that are redeemable at hotels and restaurants while traveling.

 

Convenience

With a travel credit card, you don’t need to carry much cash while traveling or stand in line at currency exchanges. It also helps to segregate your traveling expenses from your usual expenses. Also, a lot of cards come with a contactless feature. You can just swipe and go.

 

International travel benefits

You’ll accumulate extra reward points during international travel. Most credit card companies have an amplified rewarding system for international spending.

 

Automated Billing

Setting this up will make sure you pay on time. This affects your credit score as 1 missed payment can drop you 70 points and may make your rates go up.

 

Auto Rental Insurance

You get collision coverage for vehicle if paid in full with cc. Most premium cards offer this and will be stated in terms and conditions.

 

High-end Travel Experience

Travel Credit Cards take your travel experience to a new level. You’ll have more options for inflight upgrades, access to lounges, complimentary airport transfers, etc. Quite a few global premium brands run worldwide offers for cardholders of different companies.

 

How to make the most out of your travel credit card

 

Avoidable transactions

Two transactions that you should avoid are balance transfers and cash advances, as they involve paying a fee. Also, they don’t result in any awards, but you end up using your card limit.

 

Cumulate points between different programs

After accumulating points in different programs, you can consolidate them into a single program and redeem them for a considerable discount for a trip. Before you make the transfer, read up properly on the terms and conditions as to whether you’ll lose any points while transferring them from one program to another. You wouldn’t want to lose any of your hard-earned points.

 

Pay on time

Always pay your dues on time as failure to do the same might lead to the credit card company revoking your rewards. Most of the time, late payments will make you lose all the points you’ve accumulated. No one wants that. Setup reminders, plan your finances well, and clear your dues on time. You’ll be able to hold on to your rewards. Also, your credit score will remain intact.

 

Keep an eye out for newsletters

Reward programs keep getting updated all the time. Most of the communication from the credit card companies happens via newsletters sent through email. Make it a point to keep yourself updated. At times, they’ll come as inserts with your credit card statements. You’ll need to change your spending habits to earn maximum rewards in case the reward scheme has changed.

 

Be quick in redeeming your rewards

Quite a few rewards are time-critical. Also, there’s a chance of losing them over late payment. While you can redeem your rewards by spending the money on travel, in case you’re not able to do that, you can opt for a statement credit. The monetary value of rewards will get adjusted against the due amount.

 

Hotel and Airline loyalty program is a must

Credit Card discounts on their own aren’t much. But when clubbed with the airlines and hotel loyalty programs, the number becomes significant. Therefore, while using your credit card to buy flight tickets and hotel bookings, make sure that you stick to a single brand of hotel and airlines. Enrolling in their loyalty program is usually free but beneficial. That way, you’ll have rewards coming from two ends, your credit card, and the airline and hotel loyalty program.

 

Make sure you avail the sign-up bonus

Travel Credit Cards offer attractive sign-up bonuses. Check out what those are before finalizing a travel credit card. That should be one of the parameters before picking a travel credit card.

In most cards, to earn the sign-up bonus, you’ll have to spend a specific amount in the first 90 days. The timeframe begins from the moment you open your account, not from the moment you acquire the card.

There is also an additional bonus if you add another authorized user to your card. The best strategy is to pick a credit card that doesn’t ask you to spend much to earn the sign-up bonus. The amount should be so much that you can pay in full each month.

 

Don’t have many travel cards

The cardinal sin that most millennials commit, having way too many credit cards. The rewards depend on the frequency and amount of transactions. If your spending is spread across credit cards, you might not reach the reward benchmark for quite a few of them. Have fewer credit cards, but make the most out of them. Also, to handle spending across multiple credit cards, one needs an insane amount of self-control and financial discipline.

 

Pay your balance in full

Don’t do it just for the credit score, but also to make sure that the finance charges levied upon carried forward balance don’t negate your rewards. Even though the finance charges might seem minimal, never allow yourself to pay them. It’s a bad spending habit.

 

A question that lingers in the mind of people who’re looking to get a travel credit card is, “Are the rewards worth the effort?”. And that’s a valid question. The rewards come after quite some amount of effort. So is it worth going through the grind for them? Is it worth all the financial and budget planning? Let’s talk about some of the limitations of travel credit cards and how to analyze whether it’s worth it for you to get one.

 

Frequency of travel

You have to be a frequent traveler to own a travel credit card. If you don’t travel frequently, you won’t charge it enough to earn enough points to justify the annual fees.

 

Are you able to pay off your card every month?

If you’re unable to pay off the dues every month, you’ll lose the value of the rewards in the late fee and interest that keeps getting accrued. You might end up spending more to maintain the credit card than you earn through the rewards. You can limit your spending to one credit card and pay it off as a monthly bill too.

 

Limitations of Travel Rewards

At times when you spend the year racking up reward points for one big vacation, there is a possibility that airlines and hotels might limit the number of people who can avail of the rewards, especially during peak season. This is a common problem and a common complaint amongst a lot of travel credit cardholders.

If you’re someone who only travels during the peak season, the travel credit cards might be worth as much to you as it might be to people who take off-season vacations. You make the most out of your rewards on slow travel days, not the peak season. This is a common feature across most travel credit cards.

 

Rewards are not free

Even though the credit card company will sound like that the reward is free, it isn’t. You have to spend to earn the awards. For availing of the sign-up benefits, they’ll require you to spend a certain amount.

While picking the credit card, you’ll have to analyze whether you really need to spend that amount of spending that amount is really worth it. Also, the cards that come with smaller spending amounts to earn the bonuses generally have other hidden charges. It’s important to analyze all the features and numbers cumulatively to decide whether the card is worth it.

Credit Card Security Chip Technology

You’ve probably received tons of messages from your bank about the switch to chip technology.

The upgraded cards still have the traditional magnetic stripes, just like the cards they replaced, to be used at shops that are not aware of the new technology or don’t support chip cards. However, credit card networks and banks that facilitate hundreds of thousands of credit card transactions every day consider chip cards to be the future of electronic payments technology.

The rate of credit card breaches is overwhelming too. The United States is perhaps the global epicenter of the credit card breach epidemic, reporting nearly 50% of global credit card breaches every year. The frequency of credit card frauds across the United States has increased lately, as issuers in other regions replaced the traditional cards with more secure chip cards.

Although the chip technology won’t eliminate credit card information thefts or large-scale breaches, it is likely to reduce the incidences of violations and other related cyberattacks. Companies and individuals have many crucial reasons to adopt chip technology, from global acceptance to more security and greater flexibility.

The future of card payments has been evolving constantly. Banks, financial institutions, credit card networks, merchants, and others incessantly work to develop new technologies and best customs to create safer electronic payments to protect companies and their customers.

Here’s everything that you need to know about the chip card technology, including its history, functionality, and benefits.

History of Chip Card Technology

EMV — also known as chip card technology — stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, the three organizations that initially developed the chip card specification. The technology was created in 1996 to reduce financial losses related to credit card thefts. The technology has proven to be successful in reducing credit card thefts and related attacks in every country.

The U.S. was among the last major global economies across the world to shift to this technology, banks were slow because of the costs. That shift entered a significant phase on October 1, 2015, when a change in liability occurred. Before the transition, liability for forgery generally fell to financial institutions that issued credit cards. Later, liability fell to whatever party hadn’t adopted EMV technology. Furthermore, the transition helped businesses to adopt and certify machines that accept EMV-compliant credit cards.

EMV Technology

Traditional magnetic stripe credit cards are embedded with static payment information. When a credit card gets stolen, it can be used to make unauthorized transactions and be discarded with low detection risk. The same thing happens during a breach that reveals troves of credit card numbers. Skimmers can use the information themselves or sell it in bulk to other cybercriminals.

Chip cards contain an embedded chip that works as a miniature transmitter or processor. The data encoded on the chip is dynamic. There is a unique transaction code for every new transaction, also known as a token, that complies with cryptography principles. No two tokens are ever repeated, so each token becomes useless after a transaction is completed. If an ingenious thief were to steal a specific token from a particular point of sale, the token would be worthless. The credit card data can be stored in smartphone wallets, including Google Pay and Apple Pay, and used to make contactless transactions.

One of the significant differences between traditional magnetic stripe cards and chip cards is the authorization process’s timing and nature. Traditional cards require a live telephone or internet connectivity at the point of sale as a part of the authorization process. In case of an EMV card authorization, the card essentially tells the reader if the transaction is authentic after being inserted into a chip reader. The transaction is carried out without any exchange of data.

The transaction data is stored until the end of the day, after which the merchant connects to the web and authorizes the transactions. Merchants operating in remote locations or low-connectivity environments value the flexibility offered by EMV cards.

Benefits of EMV Technology

Given the scale of the shift from traditional magnetic stripe cards to EMV, it’s worth looking at the advantages of using EMV credit cards.

No Internet Connection Required

EMV credit card transactions don’t require a phone or an internet connection. Although a consistent network is required to process the payment, credit cards can be authorized at the point of sale and processed at the end of the day or whenever possible. This was designed to cut down telecommunication costs. However, it is now useful in remote environments with low connectivity. On the other hand, consumers won’t have to wait for transactions to get processed because of slow internet connectivity.

EMV Technology is Not Necessarily Exclusive

New chip card readers are backwardly compatible, which means they can read chips and traditional credit cards with equal ease. This will probably be the scenario for the near future, so consumers who adopt EMV don’t have to worry about their cards becoming useless.

EMV Technology is More Secure

Unexpectedly, the United States was once considered the world’s most secure credit card market. Over the years, as other countries started adopting EMV technology, the scenario changed. Now the U.S. has become a global laggard in credit card security. The widespread adoption of EMV technology is undoubtedly going to reduce credit card counterfeit frauds in the coming years.

EMV Credit Cards are Accepted Throughout the World

Previously, very few merchants and consumers were aware of EMV credit cards. They only made contact with chip cards when they went overseas. Many overseas merchants only accepted magnetic stripe card transactions, restricting consumers’ ability to pay with credit cards. They would have to carry more cash, increasing the risk of credit card theft.

Now, most overseas merchants accept EMV credit cards. A study by CreditCards.com reported that around 97% of U.S. Visa card transactions made overseas were acceptable. In case you’re carrying an upgraded card while abroad, especially in developed markets such as Europe or Australia, you’re most likely to experience smooth transactions.

EMV Improves Customer Experience

Equipped with a better understanding of the significance of secure transactions, people are now shifting to EMV technology. According to a 2018 customer survey by Worldpay and Socratic Technologies, approximately 73% of consumers in the U.S. reported a “very good” or “excellent” experience with EMV debit and credit cards.

The Bottom Line

Credit card security is essential. Fortunately, cardholders are not answerable for fraudulent charges. The payments industry loses billions every year because of credit card fraud. In 2017, credit card fraud incidences were heightened, with approximately USD 17 billion stolen because of identity theft and related attacks.

Chip cards are easy to use, and they make card transactions more secure and flexible. Additionally, they make it difficult to copy information. Despite not being an entirely secure technology, they’re a major upgrade from the traditional magnetic stripe cards.

In the future, we know that credit card transactions are going to be contactless and will be the default payment option for in-person transactions. It is important to note that chip cards only help protect against in-person theft. You should check credit card statements regularly and monitor their credit reports at regular intervals to prevent unauthorized activity.

 

 

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