We're sorry but your browser doesn't support some of the newer web features we take advantage of. In order to use this site please consider installing the latest version of one of the following browsers:

Credit Card Travel Rewards 101

By Kimberly Fidler 12/30/2013
 
Airfare is perceived as one of the more expensive aspects of travel - but it doesn't have to be!  Getting a credit card with points is a great way to pay for your air travel. There are so many different types of credit cards that you can use and perks and drawbacks for each one. I've had a few different cards and have researched them all!

One thing that is important to keep in mind when looking for a card is choosing the card for an airline that offers the most itineraries from your city. For example, someone in Utah would benefit from a Delta Skymiles Card, where someone in Denver would benefit more from a United Points Credit Card. Here is an overview of some of the different credit cards available broken down by airline, or as I like to say, Credit Card Travel Rewards 101:


Image Credit: Matt Serberg via Flickr

Delta Airlines: Skymiles American Express

Pros: There are many different levels (gold, platinum, business, etc.) and each comes with bonus miles when you open an account. There are normally minimum amounts that you must purchase before rewards are given, but you can almost always get enough miles for one free roundtrip flight. You earn double miles on Delta purchases, plus you also get one free checked back for each person (up to 9!) in your party on Delta flights. Since SLC is a Delta hub, this is a popular credit card for Utah residents.

Cons: After the first year there is an annual fee. Not all vendors take American Express, so it may be harder to earn rewards.

JetBlue:
TrueBlue American Express

Pros: With each new card offer you can get enough points to earn one free roundtrip ticket on JetBlue. You earn double points for all JetBlue purchases and get extra savings on in-flight purchases, free rental car insurance and other perks. Plus, if you're going to Disneyland, Jet Blue flies into Long Beach, my favorite Southern California airport!

Cons: JetBlue although a fantastic airline, does not have as many routes as some of the other airlines. Make sure your desired itinerary is available before signing up for a card. There is a minimal annual fee after the first year and American Express is not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard.

Southwest Rapids Rewards Visa by Chase:

Pros: As an intro offer, you can get up to two roundtrip tickets for signing up! There are a few different card options, but you earn double miles on any Southwest purchase on all of their cards. Southwest already allows two checked bags free per passenger, so although not a credit card perk, it's still a nice bonus offered by the airline.

Cons: There is an annual fee that is not waived for the first year - however, you get bonus miles upon your annual renewal and it's still a fraction of the cost of a plane ticket!

United MileagePlus Visa by Chase:

Pros: There are many different levels (explorer, club, business, etc.) and each comes with bonus miles when you open an account. There are minimum amounts that you must purchase before rewards are given, but you can almost always get enough miles for one free roundtrip flight. You earn double miles on United purchases, plus you also get one free checked back for you and a companion on United flights.

Cons: After the first year there is an annual fee.

American Airlines AAdvantage World MasterCard by CitiBank:


Pros: There are many different levels (executive, platinum select, business, etc.) and each comes with bonus miles when you open an account. There are minimum amounts that you must purchase before rewards are given, but you can almost always get enough miles for one free roundtrip flight. You earn double miles on American Airline purchases, plus you also get one free checked back for you and up to four companions on American Airline flights. You also earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back and get one $100 discount on American Airline purchases each year.

Cons: After the first year there is an annual fee - but still less than the cost of a plane ticket.

Thank You Preferred Citibank Mastercard:


Pros: Out of all of the travel rewards cards I have had, this has been my favorite. There is no annual fee and I can use my points that I earn on my card as cash towards any airline. In fact, the Citibank Mastercard is so flexible, you can use your rewards for almost anything - even gift cards. This year I used my points for two roundtrip tickets to Hawaii and had enough left over to pay for most of our rental car. Also, since you're not technically using rewards points to pay for your travel, you EARN miles on the "free" flights that you take! I've heard the Capital One Venture Card is incredibly similar, I just have loved my Mastercard so much, I've never had the Venture Card.

Cons: The APR is pretty high on this card, but if you pay off your balance each month (which is the whole point in saving money for travel), that won't matter one bit.

I hope this helped you narrow down which card will work best for your travel plans! No matter which card you choose, these rules apply to all of them in order to get the most out of your credit card:

  • Apply for your card well in advance of your travel plans to allow enough time to get your card and reach any purchase minimums.
  • Put everything you can on your card (groceries, utilities,fuel, etc.) and let points accumulate in one place.
  • Add a companion card to your account so that you and your spouse are both earning points on all purchases.
  • If you are getting enough bonus points for a trip when applying, you and your spouse can each apply for a separate card. Once the minimum purchase amount to receive the bonus is reached on one card, start using only one of the accounts. It's easier to use miles from one account to purchase a full ticket for someone else than it is to transfer partial points. Basically, it's better to have one account with many points than two accounts with fewer points.

Happy vacation planning! Remember, when you book your vacation with Get Away Today, we find the very best deals so you don't have to. Book your next vacation online, or call our vacation experts at 855-GET-AWAY.

Check out these other great articles:

Daily Money Saving Ideas - So You Can Save for Vacation

How to Eat on the Cheap for Your Disneyland Vacation

7 Ways to Save Money FOR Vacation

Kimberly Fidler