To that end, we’ve rounded up a few lesser-known credit card travel rewards you’ll want to start taking advantage of now if you’re not already.
First off, to reap the most rewards, pick a travel-focused credit card
Before we get into the credit card travel rewards, below, it’s worth noting what to look for in a travel credit card in the first place. “There are a variety of travel-focused credit cards that earn points that can be redeemed when booking travel,” says Phil Dengler, travel expert and co-owner of The Vacationer, which is a helpful resource for all things travel-focused. Two in particular worth looking into are are the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card and the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card since they don’t have an annual fee.
But you shouldn’t dismiss a travel card purely because of its yearly service charge. “Some of the best travel credit cards come with annual fees, but many cards, like the United Explorer Card, waive your cost for the first year,” says John Li, co-founder and CTO of the lending company Fig Loans. “You can often talk the companies into waiving your subsequent annual fees, if it means they’ll lose you as a customer, otherwise.”
And in fact, paying a small annual fee for a credit card can often lead to greater rewards. For example, both the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee) and the American Express Platinum Card ($695 annual fee) offer new cardmembers some serious perks. “Both of those cards earn welcome bonuses in the form of points when meeting certain spending requirements, and those points can be transferred to a variety of partner airlines and hotels where you can save a lot of money on the normal cash rate,” says Dengler.
In addition to offering welcome bonuses, those cards also earn points at a higher rate for select bonus category purchases, too. “For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns two points per dollar spent on travel as opposed to the standard rate of one point per dollar spent,” Dengler adds.
5 credit card travel rewards worth keeping in mind
1. Some waive foreign transaction fees
“If you're looking for one, I'd recommend checking out the Capital One Venture Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, where you can save 1 to 3 percent on every transaction you do abroad,” says Abhishek V.R., travel expert and founder of PassiveBook.com.
2. You may get free airport lounge access
“This allows cardholders to relax in a comfortable setting, enjoy complimentary food and drinks, and use Wi-Fi,” says V.R.
3. Free travel insurance
Many cards from Chase, American Express, and Capital One tend to offer excellent complimentary travel benefits. “Insurance when traveling can cover things like airplane ticket insurance and hotel canceling insurance, and these added up can make quite the impact on your travel budget, so this is where credit cards make a huge impact on saving money for your travels,” says Kami Shoemaker, travel writer for the Travel Explorator. Inquire with your credit card provider to see if they offer this perk and to understand what it covers if they do.
4. As well as rental car insurance
Rental car insurance is one kind of travel insurance benefit that may be free with regular credit card use. “A credit card automatically saves you from needlessly spending money on buying car rental insurance,” says Shoemaker. Again, confirm with your particular card about whether this is offered as a travel reward.
5. TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee reimbursement
TSA PreCheck is a program that allows you to fast track your way through airport security by going through a pre-screening process and becoming a “known traveler” to the TSA. Meanwhile, Global Entry is a program that provides expedited security and U.S. customs processing, which can be useful if you travel internationally often. “Numerous credit cards offer free reimbursement for the application fees—up to $100 for Global Entry and $85 for TSA PreCheck,” says Dengler. Two examples are the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
“To activate the benefit, use your credit card when applying for either Global Entry or PreCheck and depending on your card, you will be eligible for a reimbursement credit every 4 to 4.5 years,” Dengler adds.
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