Credit Cards Can Discount the Price of Traveling

Let's face it, traveling isn't always cheap. Money is probably the biggest hold up for many to actually buy a flight somewhere or to pack up the car and go travel the world. There are ways to help lessen  the sting and keep more money in your pocket after taking a dream trip. Today, we're going to look at how credit cards can help - specifically with sign up bonuses and 0% interest promo periods.

Both of these have helped me in the past make trips that someone on a college budget with a part time job normally can't make. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about cards that offer reward points or miles for money spent - those are nice too, but generally take longer to accrue any rewards big enough to truly make a difference.

I should also add that I am not being paid by any credit card to post this info, so you can trust that I'm not being swayed in anyway and these ideas are legit.  A second disclaimer, credit cards are awesome if - and only if - you know how to use your money. Going into debt is never a good idea if you don't have a plan or the means to get out. With that said, if you're a good steward of your money, the right credit card can make a dream trip a reality. Let's look a little deeper.

Signup Bonuses
There are a number of cards that offer a bonus reward if you spend a certain amount of money in the first couple months of opening the card. Sometimes the bonus is pretty significant too. The best I've ever had was about 600 bucks from a Chase Sapphire card. All we had to do was spend about $3,000 in 3 months - an easy task when you're planning a wedding - and then bingo! Points galore. It was enough to purchase one of our round trip tickets to Iceland. Even if you're not planning on a wedding, it's easy to meet these thresholds if you use the card for all of your spending and bills in a given period. Also, if you time it properly you can get the card when you know a big purchase is on the horizon (think boring stuff like appliances, home improvements etc...) and you'll have your bonus mark hit in no time.

One of the best offers now is the American Express Gold Rewards card. We just picked it up and will use it to take about $500 off one of our airfares to Thailand. Which means one of the tickets for my wife and I will only be a setback of about $130 bucks. Dirt cheap for a flight to the other side of the planet. There are others out there, obviously, and I don't have the time or space to critique all of the credit card offers available at this moment!

What if your normal expenses won't reach the bonus threshold for a given card in time for you to book your trip? You can typically use the credit card for booking all of your flights and accommodations and then use the reward points as a statement credit when you get back. They don't always give you the best transfer rate if you use them as a statement credit, but it's free money and can help a lot!

One side note, some of these cards with the best signup bonuses do charge an annual fee but most of them waive it for the first year. You can take full advantage of the signup bonus and then cancel it 12 months later before your renewal charge. 

Zero Interest Promos
This is another tactic that can be slightly more risky, but still effective for giving you extra spending power for traveling. Credit card companies offer a number of no interest promos to get you to sign up for their card. These range from 6 months to as many as 24 - meaning that whatever you purchase during that intro period does not need to be paid off in full until the end of the promo period. You've gotta have a plan here and at least know that you'll be able to make payments for the coming months or it's not worth getting into.  You'll only have to make minimum payments each month to keep the interest from accruing. Minimum payments are usually just 25-40 bucks, but I always pay more if I can. This type of promo helps a lot if you want to go on a trip, but can't completely empty your bank account. Think of it like a smallish loan that won't gain any interest if you pay it back on time.

Buy your flight and pay it off slowly for a half of a year or two - whatever your promo period is. I've done this a number of times, especially right out of college, when I couldn't afford to spend a month and a half in Europe. Heck, I could hardly afford two weeks there without going broke. I charged my flights and most of the lodging on my card, letting me use my savings/checking accounts for smaller purchases like food and entry fees.

I've never paid a cent of interest on any trip I've taken, so I consider these no interest cards a huge benefit for those with wanderlust but who do not necessarily possess the financial means to travel.  

Credit cards are a blessing and a curse. If you know how to manage money, using a card for traveling can be a huge benefit. It has also helped me to build pretty solid credit by making all of my monthly payments.

Credit cards offer other little benefits to travelers as well. Things like rental car insurance can be nice to have. This means that if you use that card to pay for a rental abroad, it will most likely give you at least some level of insurance as long as you decline whatever the rental company offers. Definitely look at your specific card to see what is covered though, because they all do different things. There are a number of other benefits that certain cards offer, including access to VIP lounges in airports and even reimbursement of some fees charged by airlines (eg. for extra baggage or early boarding). 

If you need some more help or guidance in choosing a card that works, I'd be happy to assist. Just leave a comment here and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. 

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