Credit Cards – An Essential Travel Companion
It’s not often we think of credit cards as essential, but when travelling, they just make too much sense to leave at home. They help us fly and stay free, lower our currency exchange fees, carry money around worry free and protect us with valuable insurance coverage. The best part is, for those of us with good credit, many of those benefits are just about free!
First of all, we all know the benefits of travel rewards credit cards. The more points we earn, the more likely we’re able to redeem those points for free travel. We can travel free by redeeming for free flights, or even for free nights at any number of hotels. But many people look for the wrong things when selecting the best travel rewards credit card.
Don’t just look at the value of a point. Look at how many points you can get when signing-up for a new card. That’s where the value is. The trick is, that each travel credit card will offer more attractive welcome bonus points at different times of the year. So keep trying by comparing credit card offers periodically. The difference can be between 15,000 to 25,000 points on the same card! Moreover, sometimes issuers will even waive the first year annual fee and boost the bonus points, so keep an eye out.
Travel rewards cards have another benefit when travelling. You don’t have to carry as much cash. Cash is convenient in some respects, but when travelling, you face the risk of losing your money or having it stolen. Either way, if your credit card is stolen, your bank is on the hook for any unauthorized transactions, not you. Lose your cash, and it’s gone forever. Lose your credit card and you’ll be sent a new one within 24hours.
Another big advantage of credit cards are the insurance protections provided. While many people pay extra for travel medical insurance, trip cancellation insurance, accidental death and car rental insurance, most travel credit cards offer all of those coverages as inclusive benefits i.e. free. That’s a potential huge savings that can add up to over $500 per year. Never fall for that hard upsell for collision damage waiver insurance at the car rental agency again!
When travelling out of country, one of the big potential costs is converting your money to the currency of the country you’re visiting. Doing so at the airport, hotel or foreign exchange office can cost upwards of 5% to 10%, after you include all of the fees. If you use a normal travel credit card, you’ll likely only be charged a fee of 2.5%. However, many issuers are now offering credit cards that don’t charge ANY foreign transaction fees. That means you’ll be getting the same foreign exchange rate that Visa or MasterCard receive!
Lastly, take advantage of the many free perks travel credit cards offer. Read through your welcome package when you receive your credit card and get familiar with your cards benefits. For example, many cards offer one free checked bag, free lounge access, a free complimentary ticket once a year, priority check-in, etc… These are valuable perks that if bought separately would cost hundreds of dollars.