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Many people have the mistaken belief that traveling around the world is out of their reach. Unless there is some debilitating physical issue that prohibits travel, this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth for many people. Just about every major hotel chain and airline has a loyalty program that can allow people to see the world for nearly nothing if not altogether free.

It’s possible to earn loyalty points from staying or flying, and this has traditionally been the way that frequent travelers built up a bank of points or miles. This tended to benefit business travelers who spent many nights on the road each year. In recent years, however, co-branded credit cards have allowed everyday folks to leverage their good credit to earn enough points to score free trips around the US and the broader world.

There are three basic types of credit cards that can allow users to earn points toward travel. Here are the different options:

Co-Branded Cards

These cards have a particular company’s loyalty program embossed on the card itself. Purchases usually earn a point or two toward the hotel or airline program for each dollar spent, and they will usually offer a bonus point or two for each dollar that goes toward purchases via the particular hotel or airline that offers the co-branded card. Users usually have to spend these points at the hotel or airline that provides them, so they are not the most flexible.

Transferable Points Cards

Some cards offered by the major banks offer a type of bank currency. Like the co-branded cards, these rewards programs tend to earn a point or two for most normal purchases with bonuses for spending money in certain categories that can range from travel expenses to office expenses. These points can then be spent through the issuing bank’s travel portal, or users can transfer them to one of a range of hotel or airline partners.

Travel Points Cards

These cards tend to earn a fixed number of points per dollar spent regardless of where the purchase is made. However, they also provide even more flexibility because users can get a credit on any travel purchase that they make.

All of the above will frequently offer signup bonuses for new users who make a minimum spend over a certain period of time, generally three months. These signup bonuses can be quite generous and allow for free nights or flights immediately after earning them. Users would do well to buy travel insurance but keep in mind that you typically can only insure the portion of your trip costs paid in dollars and not the portion paid by rewards points (although some providers do cover points reinstatement fees). This trip protection can take care of dollar losses that are incurred should a frequent traveler need to cancel their trip for a covered reason along with medical, baggage and other coverage offered under the policy.

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