How to Choose the Best Credit Card for Travel

In the words of your favorite magician: “Pick a card, any card.”

Yes, it’s confusing.  There’s no shortage of information online about how to choose the best credit card for travel, or the best credit card for airmiles.  In fact, there’s so much information it can add to the confusion.  Some websites virtually drown you in information!  So, I’m gonna do something different here, and greatly simplify the process to cut to the chase.

Of course, as we’re talking about financial information, borrowing money etc, this is not financial advice, I’m simply sharing my own experience.  Be wise with your finances!

If you tend to travel a lot with a particular airline, consider signing up for the airline’s preferred credit card.  Usually, there are some unique benefits that make it worthwhile.

For example, Delta Airlines has partnered with American Express to offer a range of 3 credit cards (Gold, Platinum, Reserve) that include perks like a free companion ticket once a year, first bag checked free, Delta Sky Club lounge access, priority boarding, one free companion flight each year, bonus miles on purchases, and a faster path to gaining higher tier status with Delta, via their loyalty points system called MQM.  These cards have an annual fee of between $95 to $450.

If you tend to stay in a particular brand of hotel (the big ones are SPG, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Wyndham, and IHG), consider signing up for the hotel group’s preferred credit card.  Again, there are often unique perks that are valuable to a regular guest.

For example, the Marriott Rewards program has partnered with Chase to offer a credit card that gives you bonus points when you use the card within the first 3 months of ownership.  In addition, you get automatic silver Elite status each year, late checkout, and the ability to earn bonus points on each stay.  There’s an annual fee of $85.

Look for a travel credit that allows you to earn and redeem points with many travel providers (airlines, hotels, car rental agencies).  When a card isn’t linked to a particular airline, you have more choices about how to use your points, which is a good thing!

Currently, the card many travel hackers are salivating over is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.  They key benefit is that it allows you to both collect and redeem a generous supply of points on a wide variety of travel industry related transactions.  Also, you get a big signup bonus of points, a$300 annual credit on travel purchases, free Priority Pass lounge access, no foreign transaction fees, a $100 reimbursement for a TSA Pre or Global Entry Application, car rental protection, and some nifty upgrade benefits with the National, Avis, and Silvercar car rental companies.

There is an annual fee of $95 for this card, but it’s waived during your first year.


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