How to Travel Like a Rock Star on the Cheap
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What do you do when you love to travel but your budget struggles to keep pace with your desire to roam?
You could stay home and ignore the travel itch. Or, you could use a credit card to make your trips more wallet-friendly. Here’s how.
Travel Well on the Cheap
Know thy credit card
The best way to make the most of your travel rewards card to save money on travel is to know how it works. For example, some cards restrict when you can book travel. Others, like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ ® World Elite MasterCard have no blackout dates.
With this card, you can earn 2X miles on purchases, then redeem them for travel statement credit.
This way, you can book travel according to when and where you find the best deal, not when your card dictates you can use your rewards.
Get more mileage from redemptions
Using travel rewards to pay for flights or hotels means less money you pay out of pocket for trips. But, your credit card could yield even more savings if you’re able to earn a percentage of your rewards back when you redeem.
If you have a card that allows for points or miles to be transferred to airline or hotel travel programs, read the fine print so you know how much your rewards are worth.
Some cards let you transfer points on a 1:1 basis but not all do and when saving is the goal, you don’t want to lose any rewards value if you can avoid it.
Pick your bonus carefully
Many travel cards offer an introductory bonus to entice travelers. Typically, you’re expected to meet a minimum spending requirement to qualify for the bonus. But if you can do that, the bonus could translate to several hundred dollars in travel value.
The key is to pick a card whose bonus matches your spending style and offers the most rewards possible.
If you’ve got to charge $5,000 in the first 90 days, for example, but you’re used to charging $500 a month to your card, it probably doesn’t make sense to chase after a bigger bonus, especially if you can’t pay it off in full. The interest charges can eat away at any savings from the bonus in the long run.
Pay attention to the fees
Earning travel rewards can save you money but not if your card is costing you big in fees.
If you routinely travel outside the U.S., look for a card that has no foreign transaction fee, since that can make the things you buy more expensive.
And if a travel credit card has an annual fee, remember to weigh that carefully against the value of the rewards you can earn or the other perks the card offers to make sure it’s worth it.
Thoughts on Using Credit Cards for Travel
How many of you have used credit cards to offset some travel costs?
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All good suggestions. My best travel hack is to accumulate miles through expenses and travel on the job and use them privately. Obviously, this only works if you often travel with your work!
That can be a boost for rewards! With credit cards, if you can have a system to track and pay them off on time, they can offset some big travel costs. I’ve had several friends use their rewards for family trips this year.