I don’t recommend credit cards lightly, because I know a lot of people are hesitant to acquire more debt, and rightfully so. However, when used responsibly, a travel credit card can be an absolute game changer.
Credit cards of course offer a little breathing room to anyone on a budget, be it for an expensive appliance, or that getaway you’ve been planning on for a long time. The wisest thing is always to save up your money, and spend within your means. However, we’re all human, some of us haven’t been on vacations in a long time, and if your credit holds up, why not splurge a bit?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points towards hotels, flights, and more. Many even have no foreign transaction fees, and/or carry rental car insurance. If you’re going to be traveling anyway, why not gain useful points while you see the world?
I personally have two travel credit cards. I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, and the Delta SkyMiles American Express. If you had to get just one, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred allows you to earn double points on all travel-related expenses, and can be used towards both flights and hotels. It is a great all-rounder in the world of travel points.
One of the most important things to look for is the sign-up bonus. This will usually sound like something to the effect of “Spend $4,000 in the first three months and get 60,000 Points!” Different cards will have different sign-on bonuses, and I’ve seen them as low as 20,000 points and as high as 70,000 points. You definitely want something that’s worth your while, so go as high as you can, while still keeping an eye on things like APR and annual fees.
The fact of the matter is that just earning points by purchases can take a while, and a lot of spending credit. However, if you’re using it for daily purchases that you would be paying in cash anyway, it shouldn’t be difficult to get the sign-on bonus, and that will help you immensely. With my American Express card I was able to get two almost completely free round-trip tickets from Austin to Mexico City off of the sign-up bonus alone. Those flights were actually on AeroMexico, but since AeroMexico is a sister airline of Delta, the points worked perfectly fine.
However, with the Amex, there were still some taxes that had to be paid, although the lion’s share was covered. I do prefer the Chase Sapphire, because those points really do cover everything. I’ve gotten domestic and international flights completely paid for using that card.
Another advantage of the Chase Sapphire is that it is a Visa card, and so is accepted in far more countries than the Amex. Yet another reason I recommend going for that one. You do have to have fairly good credit, but it’s not unattainable; mine certainly wasn’t perfect when I got it.
For those with very good credit, and who don’t mind higher annual fees, there is a step up called the Chase Sapphire Reserved. That one gets you triple points on travel-related expenses, among other perks.
As with anything, do your research before getting a travel credit card. To help you, I’d like to point you in the direction of The Points Guy. The Points Guy runs a website where he does nothing but compare the pros and cons of all different types of credit cards. He literally does this for a living! He even breaks down the monetary value of the individual points. It was actually his analysis and his recommendation that made me get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.
Just to reiterate, the important thing is to stay on top of your credit and not spend way outside your means. Having said that, a little splurging never hurt anyone. A travel credit card could help you plan out your next trip!