Vacations and summer. They go together like sunscreen and coconut scent, hot dogs and mustard, and tropical drinks and decorative umbrellas.
Is it any wonder that people begin to plan trips to warmer climates during the dead of winter? They spend weeks — and even months — obsessing about location, quibbling over price, and delving into web research. A massive amount of planning goes into an annual summer vacation, but people sometimes neglect a key concern: How to make funding your trip simple, convenient, and simultaneously rewarding?
The answer is simple: Partner with the right credit card company
Credit cards are a traveler’s dream. Those little plastic rectangles are generally waterproof — a bonus if you forget to empty your pockets before hitting the surf — they’re accepted at even the smallest of boardwalk snow cone dealers, and they provide a great alternative to packing your pockets with bulky bills and clanging coins. Plus, they protect you in case of theft.
Need another reason to choose plastic over paper? Don’t forget the bevy of perks that will leave you smiling wider than a sun-drenched kid after a day of beach side fun.
Credit Cards: Practical, Prolific Perks
The credit card industry can be slightly cutthroat. Companies compete on every front, jockeying to make the best offer to potential borrowers. That competitive nature means consumers are in prime position to capitalize on myriad benefits by doing a little digging.
Rewards vary from the mundane to the magnificent. You can opt for a straightforward credit card that offers cash back or rewards points for every purchase you make. Some cards even offer larger perks depending on spending categories, rotating out rewards on a monthly or quarterly basis to encourage spending in certain sectors. While a 1 percent cash back offer translates to $1 back for every $100 you spend, some people can get bigger returns from other rewards.
Vacationers who travel by airplane should consider credit cards that offer bonus points and mileage for every purchase. While some cards include blackout dates and other time periods when points cannot be used, that doesn’t negate their value for people who routinely travel for business or pleasure. It’s important to note that some cards are tied to specific airlines, so be certain any card you use correlates with your preferred airline.
This leads us to one of the best credit card perks: the sign-on bonus. To boost credit card applications, some companies provide a heaping helping of bonus points or miles at acceptance. If you plan to use credit cards to snag free tickets or upgrade to first-class seats, figure out which cards give you the best sign-on bonus. Be sure to incorporate any annual fees into your calculations, as this yearly expense could offset thousands of transferable miles.
Finally, you might be interested in cards that have low introductory interest rates. This is particularly crucial if you plan to charge all your vacation expenses to a card before paying off the balance over a few months. Some cards allow you to carry a balance without a penalty for a set period. As a general rule of thumb, a longer period of zero percent interest corresponds with fewer credit card points, miles, and bonuses. Depending on your financial situation, you’ll want to weigh the costs and benefits of each approach.
Our Favorite Credit Cards for Summer Travel
You could spend your valuable time sifting through the mountain of available credit card choices, though the options are fairly overwhelming. Luckily for you, we’re here to help. We’ve scoured the planet to find three credit cards that offer the best bang for your buck, depending on your individual travel tendencies.
Your bucket list is filled with the names of foreign cities, and you’re determined to visit as many places as possible in your lifetime. A financial tool like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can help you avoid nasty foreign transaction fees while checking off destinations.
Hate restrictions? You’ll appreciate that Chase lets you redeem travel points for miles whenever you want to fly. As if that wasn’t enough, Chase also offers a sign-on bonus of 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1250 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
2. Best Card for Free-Spirited Wanderers: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
You buck the system and don’t make plans on paper, allowing the wind to direct your every move. Your free spirit is as comfortable sightseeing in sunny San Diego as hiking through the Norwegian fjords. Thankfully, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers the sort of flexibility you demand.
Every dollar you charge to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card gives you two unrestricted miles. This means you don’t need to stick to one airline or hotel chain — you can go wherever you want, however you want. It comes with a low annual fee, also earning 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 and provides you with plenty of reasons to say “yes” to the card.
3. Best Credit Card for Thrifty Travelers: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Do you budget everything and carefully evaluate your spending and saving figures, even when you’re on vacation? You’ll appreciate how simple it is to stockpile rewards through the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®.
Cardholders who charge $5,000 to this card within 90 days of signing up (and paying the annual fee) get 70,000 bonus miles. Beyond that initial perk, every dollar you charge to this card nets you two airline miles.
Stress is for the birds, not the beach. Cut loose during your next vacation, and leave the worries behind knowing you’re safe and secure with a seriously stellar credit card. In addition to giving you financial peace of mind while you’re kicking back, travel cards can help you build up rewards to bring your next vacation within reach.
Still not sure which credit card is right for your vacation needs? See a rundown of a few of our favorite travel cards, or use our Credit Card Finder service to connect you with personalized offers.
Editorial Disclaimer: Information in these articles is brought to you by CreditSoup. Banks, issuers, and credit card companies mentioned in the articles do not endorse or guarantee, and are not responsible for, the contents of the articles. The information is accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted; however, all credit card information is presented without warranty. Please check the issuer’s website for the most current information.