According to AAA, more than one-third of Americans planned to hit the road and travel at some point during last year’s holiday season. At least 102 million of those consumers planned to pack up their cars for a road trip, and pretty much everyone else planned to head to the airport or take a bus or train to get to their final destination.
No matter how you plan to get where you’re going, it’s highly possible a travel credit card could make your plans cheaper or let you book a nicer trip than you would be able to otherwise. Of course, this is all predicated on the idea that you would pay your balance in full each month and never pay interest on your purchases.
Best Credit Cards for Holiday Travel in 2019
If you’re eager to save on airfare or hotels or want to rack up rewards to cover gas or a rental car this year, pretty much any travel credit card could help. Here are some of the top options to consider for 2019:
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
||Earn 60,000 points worth $750 in travel when you spend $4,000 within three months
||Earn 2x points on dining and travel and 1x points on other purchases
||Get 25% more travel for free when you redeem points through the Chase portal, or transfer 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
||Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
||Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
||Redeem on travel—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
||Earn 40,000 points when you spend $1,000 within three months
||Earn 2 points per $1 on Southwest purchases and 1 point per $1 on everything else
||Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events, and more.
|Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
||Earn 50,000 miles when you spend $4,500 within the first three months
||Earn 2 miles per $1 on all purchases
||$0 the first year; $95 after that
||Redeem for any travel at a rate of one cent per point; transfer to a handful of airline transfer partners
These are some of the best travel credit card offers available right now, but there are plenty of others to consider. Make sure to compare cards and their earning structures and signup bonuses before you decide.
Once you have a travel credit card, here are some of the best ways to use your rewards this holiday season.
Use Flexible Rewards to Book Hotels
Credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card let you cash in points for holiday hotel stays whether you fly to your destination or take a road trip. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lets you book any hotel available on Expedia.com, which partners with the Chase Portal. You can pay with your points directly or you can pay with a combination of points and cash.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, on the other hand, lets you use your credit card to pay for any hotel you want then redeem your points to cover the purchase later. Miles racked up with this card are worth one cent each, meaning a $200 hotel stay would set you back 20,000 miles.
Transfer Points to Airlines for Holiday Flights
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and other Chase travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offer some of the best transferable rewards in the business. With Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can transfer points 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners like Southwest Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus, JetBlue, British Airways, Marriott Bonvoy Business®, and World of Hyatt, among others.
Transferring points to airlines usually lets you get more bang for your buck for your rewards, which is why most experts value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at at least 2 cents each.
If you’re angling for a flight within the U.S. to see family this holiday season, definitely check out the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program. Not only does Southwest offer fare-based redemptions, but you get two checked bags for free — even if you pay for your flight with points.
Use Points to Book Rental Cars
You can also use Chase Ultimate Rewards points or flexible points from the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card or Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business card to pay for rental cars. This can be a big boon if you want to take a holiday road trip but don’t quite trust your own car to make the journey. A rental car can also come in handy when you’re flying to your destination but need transportation once you get there.
Also note that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with primary auto rental coverage, meaning you don’t have to pay for the extra car insurance coverage at the rental counter. All you have to do to qualify is pay the full rental amount with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.
The Bottom Line
Travel credit cards can definitely make holiday travel more affordable, but they can also make it more comfortable as well. Having some points to spend could help you stay in a nicer hotel than you would otherwise, and you can even rack up enough points or miles to fly business class instead of economy.
If you don’t have travel credit card quite yet, the holiday season is a good time to pick one up. You could use your holiday shopping list to meet the minimum spending requirement to earn a big signup bonus. This may not help you pay for this year’s holiday travels, but it can help you start saving points for next year.
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