Do you need a travel card to travel?

While it may not be strictly necessary to carry a credit card when you travel, you may want to do so for a number of reasons. Many rewards cards don't charge fees for overseas transactions and offer better exchange rates for purchases you make abroad. Travel credit cards are convenient for booking trips, and the best ones save you money and offer travel benefits. Usually, these cards allow you to earn miles or points for every dollar you charge on trips or, in some cases, for daily expenses.

Rewards can be redeemed for free or discounted hotel stays, airfare, seat upgrades, online shopping and more. Choosing the best credit card for travel can be a difficult decision. There are many options available for different budgets, travel objectives and needs. The right travel credit card can help you earn points for free travel and improve your travel experience.

Many major travel credit cards come with valuable benefits, such as annual free nights, travel insurance, waiver of checked baggage fees, access to airport lounges, and more. While the five-year estimates we include are derived from a budget similar to the average spending of Americans, you may see a higher or lower return depending on your travel habits. With certain travel credit cards, you can also get benefits to use while traveling, from access to airport lounges and elite hotel category to free airline certificates and discounts or credits on your travel purchases. Card has 0% introductory APR for 21 months on balance transfers from the date of first transfer, plus 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening (then variable APR from 15.49% to 25.49%; balance transfers must be completed within four months after the account was opened).

You'll also receive a 35% airline bonus when you use Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with the selected qualifying airline (up to 1 million points per calendar year) when you book on Amex Travel. If you don't have a credit history, rather than a negative one, you may need to spend some time building your credit score with “beginner” cards before applying for a travel credit card. Given how drastically the coronavirus has impacted travel, budget for at least that time and these days, you may want to give yourself even more, up to six months. We then calculated how much the average consumer would redeem over the course of a year, two and five years, assuming they would try to maximize their reward potential by earning all the welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all corresponding purchases.

You can't beat the potential redemptions, travel benefits and registration vouchers offered by major travel credit cards. Otherwise, travelers who don't need the benefits will pay an annual fee for no good reason, wasting money. Because travel isn't exactly the most popular industry right now, and some credit card companies are desperate to do business, many welcome offers are very generous. If you're disappointed with the card you select, you can always request a product change or request a new one.

The rewards program offers 5x more points on trips purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points at restaurants and 2x more points on all other travel purchases. Although some travel programs offer a fixed value for each point you earn, that's not always the case. Cardholders who only plan to travel once in a while can get more value from a cashback card that they can use to offset the cost of other expenses.

Kayode Alhassan
Kayode Alhassan

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