How to Find the Best Travel Credit Cards

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I have a confession to make – I love to travel. I always have. After going to Europe when I was nine years old, I was instantly hooked. Thankfully, I married someone who shares my fondness for travel. There’s a slight problem, though, traveling with a family of five can get quite expensive.

According to American Express, the average cost for a summer vacation is just under $1,200 per person. You do the math; it can get expensive awfully quickly. This is where travel credit cards come into the picture. Thanks to some of the best travel credit cards we have been able to travel for free, or pennies on the dollar, as a family. If this sounds too good to be true, read below to see how I find the travel credit cards we use in our day-to-day lives.

What Kind of Travel Do You Want?

The key to finding a good travel credit card is knowing what kind of travel you want. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Do you want to travel somewhere specific?
  • Do you simply want extra money to apply towards travel?
  • How many people generally travel with you?

There are other questions you may want to consider though these alone will help refine your search. As you can imagine, there are cards that qualify to help you in all of these instances, though they don’t necessarily cross over to meet other needs you have. Once you have an idea of what kind of travel you want, you can look at some of the top options on bank sites as well as carefully going over direct mail pieces you receive.

Read the Fine Print

Travel credit cards are popular among travel hackers as they use them to redeem rewards for free travel. Do your due diligence when you look for travel credit cards as they often have fine print to consider. Below are some of the common things to look out for:

  • Black out dates
  • Limits on number of seats/hotel rooms available for rewards redemption
  • Expiration of rewards
  • Annual fees

This being said some of the best travel credit cards offer big sign-on bonuses for meeting certain requirements. In many instances, those bonuses can equate to several free plane tickets or several free nights in a specific hotel chain. These can be very lucrative if you have a specific destination you want to see.

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Don’t Hoard Points

In one sense, it seems reasonable to rack up as many points as possible from travel credit cards. More is good, right? This is a double-edged sword. It’s one thing if you want to go on a specific trip, but just hoarding points to have more opens you up to one big risk – point devaluation.

You usually have some notice to devaluations, though the points you do have will, at some point in time, be worth less. It’s a fine line to walk, but resisting the urge to hoard points is always the best option.

Final Note

Rewards credit cards can be a great tool to fund travel, just keep in mind that no free trip is worth going into debt. Having been on many free, or near free, trips myself thanks to travel credit cards, I’d give them all up if it meant going into debt.

If you’re disciplined in your spending, travel credit cards provide a nice way to save on travel. However, if they tempt you to spend more, then it’s just not worth it. Assuming that’s not the case, the best way to use travel credit cards is to have a plan for where you want to go leverage your normal spending on the necessary cards to make that possible.

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