Are you planning a big summer trip? You may be able to save some cash by using your credit card for some of your travel-related purchases.
There are both limited-time offers from card issuers and permanent cardholder perks that may apply to a credit card you already have in your wallet — and you may not even know it!
These benefits can range from discounts on flights to insurance coverage for your rental car.
Before you book your travel, let’s look at a list of things you should check for on the credit cards in your wallet.
1. Look for Discounts from Your Credit Card Issuer
Did you know that you may have a menu of limited-time discounts (travel or otherwise) that are at your disposal just for being a credit cardholder?
Many card issuers, including American Express, Chase and Citi, have a portal for claiming these offers at no charge to their credit card customers.
These deals are usually for a limited time period, have some sort of spending cap, require that you “opt in” on your issuer’s app or website and then you must complete the transaction with that credit card.
It’s worth noting that the offers you see will vary based on the particular credit card you have. Not all Amex cardholders, for example, will receive the same offers. If you have a card with a higher annual fee, you could find that your offers are better.
An example of an airline offer worth traveling on this summer would be this from JetBlue through Amex Offers, which was spotted by Doctor of Credit:
Some other discounts that have been spotted include 10% off purchases through Alaska Airlines or Marriott.
Remember, we can’t promise that you’ll be eligible for any specific deal with your credit card, but you’ll want to check your card’s offers to see if there may be something you could use.
Oh, and don’t forget to check for potential deal offers on gas and food. Those can help save money on your trip as well!
2. Use the Complimentary Auto Rental Insurance From Select Credit Card Issuers
If your upcoming trip involves renting a car, many of you may be able to decline the sometimes exorbitantly priced policies offered in a high-pressure manner at the rental counter.
Some credit cards will give you insurance on your rental for no extra fee!
In order to be eligible for this perk, you must use the credit card extending the offer to make the rental purchase, and most card issuers require that you decline the insurance offered by the rental agency.
Team Clark has compiled a list of credit cards that offer this benefit, but you may want to check with your card issuer to see if your card is eligible even if it’s not on our list. In our article, you can also read more about primary versus secondary auto rental insurance there.
This could save you at least $25 per day over accepting the insurance companies offer you at the rental counter, which Team Clark recommends you decline whether you have a credit card to give you insurance coverage or not. (You could have coverage through your auto insurance policy, or you could contact your insurance provider to get coverage.)
Note that offers for coverage from your credit card issuer may not apply to vehicle rentals outside the United States.
3. Cover the Cost of Time-Saving Airport Security Check Passes
If you’re the type of traveler who hits the airport often, you’re well aware that the TSA security line can be a time consumer.
You could skip these long lines with a subscription to either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. And many popular travel credit cards offer to cover your subscription costs for one of these services. All you have to do is pay for it with the card that is offering the perk.
Money expert Clark Howard uses his Capital One Venture X card to cover the cost of his Global Entry subscription renewal. Note that Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck (but not the other way around).
4. Lock In Trip Protection By Using Your Credit Card To Purchase Travel
Some credit cards will offer varying levels of trip cancellation insurance at no extra charge, provided that you use the credit card to purchase your travel.
This type of insurance is intended to cover the cost of pre-paid, non-refundable fares if your trip is canceled or cut short by things like severe weather or sickness.
There have been many examples of circumstances in recent years, whether they be pandemics or natural disasters, that have presented scenarios where travelers could have benefitted from this type of coverage.
Check to see if one of your credit cards offers this benefit and then read through the fine print to see if it applies to the type of travel you’re planning.
I have one of the Chase credit cards that offer this protection, and I pulled a sample of that fine print:
5. Consider Booking Travel Through Your Credit Card Company With Rewards Points
One easy way to save money on a trip is to not use actual money at all.
If you have a stockpile of rewards points from spending with a credit card over the years, you may want to check your redemption options to see if you can get a free flight or hotel stay for your trip.
Many of the major card issuers offer the ability to book travel directly through their websites using your rewards points. And some will give you bonus redemption value for using the points in this manner.
Programs like Citi’s ThankYou Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards have partnerships with many of the most popular airlines and hotel brands, so you shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality on your trip if you go this route.
6. Use the Card That Gives You the Most Rewards for Trip-Related Spending
If you’re carrying multiple rewards credit cards in your wallet, you’ll want to make sure that you map out which card you plan to use for each purchase on your trip.
If you have a travel credit card, it may make the most sense to use it for things like purchasing flights and booking hotel rooms.
But is that all you’ll be doing on this trip?
Think about which card you’ll use to make dining purchases or to fill up the gas tank on a road trip.
Picking the card that offers you the most cash back or top rewards tier for each purchase is a simple way to get your credit cards to “pay you” for the summer travel purchases you were planning to make anyway.
Of course, this only makes sense if you’re disciplined and pay all these bills in full when they come due.
If you’re going to have to carry a balance as a result of this trip, you may want to consider whether it is something you should postpone until you can budget for it. And if you must use a card and carry a balance, you’re going to be better off skipping rewards and doing so with a card that has the lowest APR possible.
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