[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below]
If you’re looking to drive down the costs of a vacation, it may be time to whip out your credit card or, perhaps, even apply for a new one.
A great travel rewards card provides several ways to save, none of which necessitate carrying a balance. Here are some spending strategies you should be putting to use this summer.
Put points toward airfare or hotel accommodations.
If you’ve been squirreling away your points all winter, now is the time to cash them in. Charge airfare, hotel accommodations or other travel expenses to your favorite credit card, than arrange to have points, miles or cash back applied as a statement credit before it comes time to pay the bill.
You can also get extra points or miles to use on future travel purchases, such as a Labor Day mini-break, by booking a June trip through your credit card bonus mall. Many issuers have partnerships with several popular travel engines that offer big earning enhancers on these purchases. For instance, Discover is currently offering an additional 5% cash back on Travelocity and Expedia bookings made through ShopDiscover. These malls also often feature exclusive cardholder perks or discounts. For instance, Citi ThankYou points are worth 33% more when a customer books through the bank’s ThankYou Travel Center.
Look for a particularly lucrative sign-on bonus.
Big sign-on bonuses can net enough points to cover a night’s stay at a hotel or, in some cases, a domestic plane ticket. So, if your credit is in good shape, you may want to apply for a new travel card. Just remember to opt for a bonus that you can readily qualify for since you don’t want to spend all summer trying to reach a high spending threshold.
Charge purchases abroad with a card that doesn’t feature foreign transaction fees.
If you are going abroad, take along a credit card that doesn’t charge fees on foreign transactions, which can cost consumers up to 3% of each purchase. Capital One, for instance, scrapped these charges on its products, including its popular Venture Rewards card, which also offers two travel miles back on every dollar spent.
[Credit Cards: Research and compare airline miles credit cards at Credit.com]
Rent a car with your credit card.
If you’re taking a road trip or need a car to get around your destination of choice, a good credit card can also be useful. Rental car companies also offer big discounts and extra cash back in the aforementioned bonus malls. Bank of America, for example, is currently offering cardholders earn two extra points per dollar spent at Avis and Budget Rent-a-Car through its WorldPoints Mall. Some issuers, including American Express and Visa, offer secondary collision coverage on rental cars also.
Image: pasotraspaso, via Flickr