If you travel a lot, or wish you traveled a lot, or even just wished you traveled at all, you need a travel credit card.
I own two travel credit cards: Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard (note: this card is no longer offered... womp, womp), Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard, and my newest, Chase Sapphire Preferred. They are the reason for the season, as in they are the reason I was able to go to London for 10 days last June and the reason I will be returning to that beautiful English perfection of a city this upcoming April. I qui’e li’erally (said in Cockney accent) could not afford these trips without ‘em, so consider this my ode to the travel credit card and the reasons you should consider owning one.
Disclaimer: I’m not going to explain how you should be using your credit card (there’s a post for that), but please, for the sake of all that is financially good, use your credit card wisely. Do not go into debt over a trip. That is just straight-up goobish.
No International Fees.
If you travel internationally, you should own a card that doesn’t charge you money every time you swipe it abroad. Those 3% fees add up ‘n up ‘n up (sung to the tune of Coldplay’s “Up&Up”), so this is where a travel credit card’s no international fees benefit can save you moolah that you probably don’t have much of to begin with (unless you don’t live in an follow-your-art-fueled city, in which case you probably have a decent corporate job that pays you a decent salary, to which I say haha wut you only have one job???). Be smart. Don’t spend extra money on a dumb fee for no reason. Save that money for another Stella Artois cidre at a cozy London pub.
My American Airlines Citicard offers me a few li’l things like a free checked bag (yes, please) and group 1 boarding (also, yes please). These are the simple things that make traveling for me a little less hectic (aka not having to ask the unsuspecting stranger in the seat below the overhead bin to please assist me with hurdling my carry-on up there).
There are also other perks like complimentary travel insurance to cover costs should you be unable to go on your trip after all due to illness or other tragedy. Most travel cards should offer this. Read up before you sign up.
Miles/Points Redeemable for Free Things.
FREE THINGS, you guys. FREE THINGS. The real reason to own a travel credit card. Am I the only one whose emotions can best be summed up as exclamation points (!!!) when I encounter the opportunity to travel (!!!!) for like, no money (!!!!!!)?
How I’ve used my miles—
- A $200+ car rental for a trip to Arizona last December
- A roundtrip flight from Nashville to London last summer (only paid a $120 booking fee)
- A roundtrip flight from Nashville to New York this April (I only pay a small booking fee)
- An 8-night Airbnb in London this April
I qui’e li’erally don’t have the money for any of those things, but thankfully my handy dandy travel credit cards offer me miles for every purchase I make on them; I then use those miles to pay for things I otherwise wouldn’t have the money for.
How it works—
- You buy something on your credit card (that you can afford to pay off when the bill comes because you are a financially wise individual who knows that going into debt is STUPID AND NOT WORTH IT).
- You earn 1 or 2 miles for each purchase. This varies based on your card. For example, my Barclaycard gives me 1 point for every regular purchase and 2 points for every dining and travel purchase.
- These miles add up over time.
- You then redeem these miles fo’ free things.
What miles can be redeemed for varies for each card. My Barclaycard’s miles can be redeemed for any travel-related purchase, so flights, hotels, and car rentals are all fair game. My American Airlines Citicard can only be redeemed for—you guessed it!—award flights on American Airlines.
Some credit cards offer sign-up bonuses. My Barclaycard’s offer: spend $1,000 in the first free months and receive 20,000 bonus miles, which equals a $200 travel voucher. My American Airlines Citicard offer was similar, awarding me 30,000 miles for that initial $1,000 spend, which coupled with my existing miles allowed for that free (save the booking fee) aforementioned flight from Nashville to London last summer. Look for a card that offers a dope bonus like this. Reaching that initial spend limit can be as easy as putting rent or other recurring bills on the card for a month (instead of balling out on Target home goods purchases you don't need).
Do you travel American Airlines frequently? The current sign-up bonus offers 50,000 miles after a $3,000 initial spend, which is way more than my offer a year ago (but also the initial spend is higher).
Some credit cards have an annual fee. Some don’t. My Barclaycard has no fee and my American Airlines Citicard has a yearly $95 fee (waived the first year).
This list provides an extensive list of travel credit card options, as well as tips to choosing the best card for you.
So my fellow traveling brethren (and sisthren?), it's time to find your travel credit card soulmate so you can avoid that international fee, bask in travel perks, and—most importantly!—get free stuff.
- Traveling on a budget? I wrote about that once or twice. Check out How to Travel on a Post-Grad Budget, Part 1 and How to Travel on a Post-Grad Budget, Part 2.
- These 4 tools are you new besties for saving you money on flights.
- Earn more miles (and get closer to that free flight!) with these 7 ways to earn airline miles.
"8 (circle)" // Bon Iver
In February, The 1975 released an album titled I like it when you sleep because you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it. I kid you not! Bon Iver, not to be outdone in this game of title absurdity, named songs on the newest album, 22, A Million, endearing titles like "10dEAThbREasT" with two weird square symbols after it. What is this, Justin, early 2000s AIM away messages? Regardless, I do enjoy the album, though not necessarily more than the prior two (because Bon Iver, Bon Iver is a MASTERPIECE).
The song "8 (circle)" is my favorite from the album. Somehow, Bon Iver always gets a play or two while I'm flying, and this song continues to be perfect for the flight setting. Its mellow slow build puts me in a pensive mood, but what better place for brooding than looking down upon the world from 35,000 feet up in a metal tube shooting through the sky at 500+ mph? COUNT ME IN.