You can afford to travel with the help of a rewards-earning credit card. I know, because it’s how I travel as much as I do. We all make purchases. Whether we’re buying groceries, gas, cell phone service, or really almost anything, we could be earning rewards that cash in for free travel. If I can do it, you can too.
How do credit cards make travel affordable?
Over the years, I’ve used many different airline-sponsored credit cards that earned free rewards: United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest — to name a few. They are a good way to go, especially if you are loyal to one airline. Most offer a $0 annual fee for the first year and often add special perks each year on your “anniversary” – like airport lounge passes or a reduced companion fare. Like I said, it’s what our family used for many years. We took a family of six to Hawaii, Spain, and France nearly free (we only had to pay airport taxes!). As a couple, my husband and I have also traveled to Boston, Washington DC, New York, New Orleans, Orlando, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, England, Costa Rica, and Toronto. We never paid full price for these tickets.
Typically the largest cost of travel is the transportation to get there, especially travel abroad. You’ll have far more flexibility choosing lodging in your price range, and you can plan low-cost activities wherever you go. But there’s not much you can do to get discounts in airfare — unless you earn travel rewards and cash them in for free airfare.
But which is the best credit card for travel?
I learned a few years ago that there was a “best” credit card for travel rewards. Based on the recommendation of a career world traveller, I looked into the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. Not only does this credit card earn rewards you can use to purchase airfare, but also lodging, car rentals, and even your luggage! And anytime you redeem rewards for travel, it buys you 25% more. For example, if you have 1000 reward points, you can use them to purchase 1250 points worth of travel benefits.
Perhaps the other reason the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is the best card for travel is its flexibility. You can use the award points to purchase tickets on ANY airline. That allows you to book your flights with whichever airline is offering the best price or best itinerary for your trip. You can also trade your rewards for Amazon credit to buy the clothing, luggage, or other items you need for travel.
You don’t only earn award points when you make purchases. You actually get a hefty bonus when you apply for and first start using your Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. If you use this link to apply, you’ll receive 60,000 points when you spend $4000 in the first three months of use. That’s $750.00 worth of travel benefits!
Perks that make it easier to earn rewards
I told you this is the best credit card for earning travel rewards. It’s also the best credit card for additional travel perks, making it that much easier to afford to travel.
- $50 annual hotel credit
- Receive 5X points on all travel purchases
- Earn 3X points on all dining
- Earn 3X points on online grocery purchases and streaming services
- Each year, receive a 10% anniversary point boost
- 24/7 customer assistance
- No black-out dates or travel restrictions
- Pay no foreign transaction fee when you use your card outside of the U.S.
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Proof that this card is all about travel benefits
By now I hope you already believe this is the best credit card for travel, but if you need any more convincing, this should do it. These are the specific included travel benefits that may help you the most while traveling:
- Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, up to $10K per person and $20K per trip
- Auto rental collision/damage waiver
- Travel and emergency assistance services (free assistance, but you will pay for any services obtained)
- Trip delay reimbursement
- Baggage delay insurance
- Lost luggage reimbursement
- Purchase protection/extended warranty protection
And while you can book your travel online at the Chase Travel Rewards website, you can also call and talk to a Customer Service representative who will assist you with your travel needs, free of charge. (Because sometimes it’s just so much easier that way!)
For the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, there is a $95.00 annual fee. When you look at all the benefits this card earns you, including the $750 bonus in points, it is more than worth it to pay the annual fee.
If you apply for and receive a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card using one of the links in this post, I will also receive some bonus rewards. (However, I’m sharing this information with you today because I want you to be able to afford to travel, also.)
I have learned there is one exception to the rule that your Chase Sapphire Preferred rewards points can be used for any or all flights. Southwest Airlines limits the number of flights that Chase has access to for booking. Generally this is not an issue, but occasionally there will be a flight that Southwest offers to the general public that you won’t be able to book with your Chase rewards.
Tips for making the best of your earning power
1. Always, ALWAYS, pay off your credit card balance in full each month. I am not a proponent of going into debt for travel, and I am definitely opposed to paying credit card interest! You can set up your Chase account to be paid in full automatically each month on your due date, so you don’t forget to make a payment.
2. Use your credit card as much as possible to make purchases. I have found that I can use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to buy groceries, online purchases, household products, utilities, cell phone and internet bills, gasoline, repairs, memberships, and even charitable contributions.
3. Like always, shop for the best prices for flights so your travel rewards can be stretched further. Or splurge on a first-class ticket if you like. It’s your choice!
Don’t just take my word for it
If you google “top credit cards for travel”, you’ll find lots of evidence that the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is the top choice among travellers, so it’s not just me. In fact, just yesterday I was telling my daughter about this credit card and I learned she already has it. (Smart woman!) Do yourself a favor and switch to this credit card for your main credit card. Unless you don’t care to travel!
Three cheers for the Sapphire Card! It has definitely done the trick for me.
We just got this card, too! Excited to start racking up points for our next international trip! 🙂
I heard a lot about Chase Sapphire Preferred card from other travel blogger as well. Seems like they give us great benefits even though there is an annual fee. I must check this out and study it more. Thanks for the information!
This is a great card for people to get out and travel again. The benefits are good and the points rewards make it worth the purchase. I’ll see if I can get one too!
I am always quite envious when I read about some of the great credit cards in the U.S. that are great ways to get travel rewards. So many of the cards never make it to Canada. A card with flexible options for travel is great to have and certainly a big winner when we first looked for a travel card.
I am envious that the US have amazing travel incentive cards compared to other countries. I am in the market for a new travel perks credit card and only wish I could take advantage of this one.
I have the Chase card and didn’t know I get a yearly $50 hotel credit! I love that it pays for my TSA pre/Global entry. I will never go without it again
Very useful information on travel credit cards.Good to know it comes with trip cancellation insurance too.
There’s no question that travel is a great way to see the world and experience life. But at times, it can be expensive, too. I love that credit card companies encourage frugality and practicality (in the long run) with travel rewards for purchases.
This sounds like a credit card with a really good reward program. And good that it works well for you. I have milage cards from several airlines, but almost never manage to redeem the miles.
Reward programs of credit cards are one of the exciting parts of using one. Therefore with so many options available, one needs to compare well. Great information. I have personally used credit cards intelligently and have received many free flights every year, and airport lounge benefits.