5 Ways to Maximize Credit Card Rewards on Summer Travel

rewards credit cards

As the summer travel season approaches, savvy credit card-holders may be looking for ways to earn more rewards or cash in on the rewards they’ve accumulated. Here’s a look at strategies to maximize your credit card rewards this summer and beyond.

1. Choose the right card.

Most people have multiple credit cards, and swiping the right piece of plastic can help you maximize the rewards you earn. Many credit cards have rotating bonus categories, so if one of your rewards card is offering extra points on car rentals or airfare this summer, consider using that card. Of course, you should also factor in the extra perks afforded by your credit cards. If one offers travel insurance or charges no foreign transaction fees, you might favor that card over one that offers better rewards but lacks travel perks. If you’re opening a new credit card, look for one with a signup bonus or one that offers rewards on things you buy regularly.

2. Compare costs in points and dollars.

Rewards redemption rates can vary depending on the time of year and the desirability of your destination. Before you book a rewards flight or cash in hotel points, check how much the flight or hotel stay would cost you in dollars. It may make sense to pay out of pocket now and save your miles for an off-peak trip that will cost less. Of course, airline mileage programs are always subject to change so you may feel more comfortable booking now rather than having a future change potentially devalue your miles.

3. Join travel loyalty programs.

In addition to earning credit cards rewards, you can also earn miles or points by joining the loyalty programs of the airlines or hotel chains you use. Many airlines also have shopping portals where you can earn bonus miles by shopping through that portal. Even using a tool like the OpenTable website or mobile app to make restaurant reservations on the road could help you earn money towards a future meal.

4. Be the designated travel booker.

If you’re traveling with a group (and you trust everyone in the group to pay you back in full), you could put the cost of a cabin rental or flights on your credit card and get reimbursed. You’ll get the credit card rewards without actually spending the money yourself. Tools like Kittysplit and Splitwise are designed to help groups share expenses. Only do this for people you know well and trust, as asking friends to pay you back can make things awkward.

5. Pay off your balance in full.

Paying interest could cancel out the benefits of earning credit card rewards, so don’t charge so much that you can’t pay it off right away. Rewards credit cards also tend to have a higher interest rate than regular credit cards, so they’re only recommended for people who don’t carry balances.

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Image: Wirawat Lian-udom

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Published May 19, 2014
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