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Traveling can be one of the most fun and rewarding activities in life. Whether you want to see the Northern Lights, try authentic cultural cuisine, or unwind on a distant beach, there are options for everyone.
Most travelers want to get the most bang for their buck to ensure they don’t miss any opportunities while they’re away. Thankfully, travelers can implement many tips and tricks to simultaneously save money and have the best vacation possible.
Today we will discuss how travel and credit card rewards programs can provide discounted fares, luxury perks, and more.
You may be familiar with travel horror stories from people who have lost baggage, experienced multiple delays, or were charged a litany of hidden fees and foreign transaction costs.
Although there are simple and accessible ways to mitigate and remove these pain points entirely, understanding what can happen is critical for planning trips, so you know what to look out for and set accurate expectations.
Many elements of travel can include numerous hidden incidental fees that can quickly add up and become very expensive, especially for a big trip. Some examples of hidden and incidental fees include checked baggage fees, foreign transaction fees (which are often 3% or more of any transaction incurred abroad) and more.
These fees can be sneaky because they are hard to detect on receipts or credit card statements. However, if you look closely for foreign transaction fees, you will notice a big difference between your original receipt and the charge on your credit card. Since foreign transactions are often in their local currency, it may not be intuitive to convert the amount to U.S. dollars. But once you convert the total, you will probably see that you paid more in U.S. dollars than you should have. This is because many banks charge their cardholders conversion fees, which are required to change dollars to a foreign currency.
Although budgeting for unexpected expenses might seem like a waste of time, paying for clothes, additional supplies, and mobile phone data fees can all add up very quickly.
For example, if you don’t tell your cellular provider that you will be traveling, you may incur expensive roaming, international data, call, and text surcharges. In addition, emergency expenses such as medical bills and replacing lost luggage during your trip can easily reach hundreds or thousands of dollars.
As you can see, there are certain expenses and fees associated with traveling that can be very expensive and detrimental to the overall experience. Thankfully, simple solutions can either eliminate these fees and expenses altogether or mitigate them.
Savvy travelers rely on a multitude of rewards programs and travel credit cards and memberships to save money and get the most out of their traveling budget. Learning how to travel with rewards and points can open many doors for you when you travel.
For example, shopping for groceries with a travel rewards card over time can generate enough points for a round trip all-expense-paid vacation, or it can pay for a luxury hotel and access to exclusive airport lounges while you wait for your flight.
Points are the most common form of travel currency because they are flexible, easy to earn, and generally do not expire.
Each major airline and hotel chain tend to have their own relationships and exclusive credit cards that enable customers to rack up points for different shopping categories.
The benefits of rewards program membership typically include free and discounted airfare, hotel stays, and upgrades. If you are interested in earning points and savings money on your next trip, take some time to research reward programs that match your preferences and travel habits.
For example, suppose you generally stay at Hilton branded hotels. In that case, you should sign up for a Hilton rewards account and find a credit card that you can use to earn Hilton points directly, or one that gives you the ability to transfer points to Hilton’s rewards program. Likewise, if you usually fly with Delta Airlines, you should find a credit card that provides the opportunity to earn SkyMiles with Delta.
Many co-branded credit cards offer enticing introductory spending bonuses which can turbocharge your rewards. Depending on which credit card you choose, you can receive thousands of points or miles, which can be worth thousands of dollars when booking a trip.
In addition to points, many travel programs and credit cards offer a host of perks that enhance the overall travel experience and save you money.
Have you ever paid for a meal at a restaurant in an airport? If you have, you probably remember the sting of an overpriced burger or beverage. Fortunately, many premium credit cards and rewards programs will grant access to airport lounges where you can often eat and drink for free.
While these premium cards typically carry an annual fee, regular travelers can often make their money back and more when optimizing their credit card spending.
Other perks include priority treatment when airlines upgrade passengers to business class and first-class along with restaurant credits and more.
One of the biggest benefits for international travelers is the absence of foreign transaction fees. There are entry-level, mid-tier, and premium travel cards that cover foreign transaction fees, so you do not have to pay an extra 3% on every transaction you make abroad.
Leverage Your Spending
Instead of saving for your next trip in your checking account, let your personal spending pay for your trip with points and rewards. Since most people have established spending habits, a simple review of your bank statement or credit card bill should provide all the information you need to build a rewards strategy.
Look at your bank statement and identify where you spend the most money. If most of your shopping consists of groceries or restaurants, then get a credit card that generates the most rewards for those categories of spending.
If you spend an average of $4,000 per year on groceries and earn 2-4 points per dollar with your rewards card, you could quickly have enough points for a flight or hotel room.
Couple your grocery spending with your other purchases throughout the year, and you will have a respectable number of rewards miles or points that can put a big dent in your overall travel expenses.
Match Your Credit Cards with Your Habits
When you choose a rewards credit card, it’s vital that it matches your lifestyle and spending habits so you can maximize your earnings.
For example, if you spend a lot at online stores and rarely go to restaurants, do not get a dining rewards card. Instead, get a credit card that offers bonus earnings for shopping online.
Tying Everything Together
As you can see, there are plenty of tools and tricks to save money on travel while enjoying an elevated experience. When the travel bug hits, take the time to outline a plan and budget for your trip. Factor in unexpected costs and plan for worst-case scenarios, so you aren’t caught off guard.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Before you travel, research your travel insurance options online to compare and save. There are many unforeseen situations where travel insurance can help minimize your losses, such as emergency medical events, baggage loss and delay, trip cancellations, trip interruptions and emergency evacuations.
All in all, traveling is still one of the most rewarding and exciting hobbies to partake in. Thanks to many reward and travel memberships and credit cards, you can see the world for a discount while enjoying extra benefits, including lounge access, free hotel stays, and much more!
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