The right card could make your trip affordable

How Credit Cards Can Reduce the Cost of Traveling

by Jason Bushey


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If you're a 20-something lucky enough to do some traveling this summer, odds are you've already mapped out a budget and, unfortunately, come to terms with the fact it's seriously expensive to travel.

Whether you're traveling by land, air or even sea, the cost of a summer vacation is increasingly difficult to manage. There's a reason "Staycations" have become such a popular alternative in the last few years; getting to your destination often costs an arm, a leg, and a first born.

Sure, we're being a little dramatic, but as a 20-something myself, I can say that I think long and hard about the trips I want to make each summer. For every five trips I'm invited on, I probably say "yes" to only one simply because the travel costs are so high.

Taking all that into consideration, any money saved on travel expenses is worth considering as we look to finalize our summer vacation plans. One outlet you may not have considered when it comes to saving money is the plastic you're carrying in your wallet. Yes, I mean credit cards.

Travel rewards credit cards can save you a decent amount of dough on your upcoming trip, or at the very least give you a head start on some heavy discounts on the following trip (let's face it, probably the holiday plane ride home). Depending on what kind of excursion you had in mind this summer, there's a credit card available that can help you save, assuming your credit score is in the good-to-excellent range.

If you're making a last-ditch effort to save some cash on your upcoming vacation, here are three ways (and cards) that can put some much-needed cash back in your wallet when used smartly and responsibly.

1. Planning a road trip? Get a card that rewards extra for gas purchases.

Some credit cards reward the purchases you make at the pump more than others. Anyone who has stopped into the local 76 to fill 'er up recently knows that driving is hardly the cheap alternative to flying that it used to be. Since any relief at the pump is worth considering, especially on a road trip, then it's certainly worth considering a credit card that rewards bonus cash back for gas purchases.

For instance, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express offers two percent cash back at U.S. stand-alone gas stations. Two cents for every dollar spent on gas roughly equates to six to eight cents a gallon; if you had the choice between two gas stations side-by-side and one gas station was offering gas for eight cents a gallon less, it's pretty obvious which option you would choose.

Another card with a similar offer is the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card, only they up the ante to a full three percent on gas purchases for up to $1,500 per quarter. And while this spending cap is combined with two percent cash back on groceries, we'd be hard-pressed to find a 20-something dropping $1,500 into their gas tank over three months.

No matter what credit card you decide is right for you, the lesson is that there are in fact some savings to be had when gassing up, so long as you have a credit card willing to reward you for these purchases.

2. Book your flight with a $100 cash back card.

Wouldn't it be cool if your summer airfare cost $100 less? Well, it can be if you apply for, receive, and purchase it with the right kind of card.

A number of excellent credit cash back options today offer a $100 bonus when you spend $500 within the first three months of your account opening. (The Capital One Cash Rewards Card and the Chase Freedom Card are two examples, among a handful.) If you're booking a cross-country flight or traveling abroad, odds are your airfare costs will put you close to or above that $500 threshold, meaning you could theoretically save up to $100 with one swipe of your credit card.

These cards are reserved for the aforementioned good-to-excellent credit consumers, but they can go a long way towards saving you some spending cash on your upcoming summer travels.

3. Consider a card designed precisely for travel.

Finally, there are numerous credit cards out there that reward consumers 2-to-3 times over for travel purchases. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for example, offers double points or miles for travel-related purchases, including dining out, airfare, etc. Further, they'll offer members up to 20 percent in discounts when they redeem through their vaunted Ultimate Rewards program, which includes airfare, car rentals, cruise tickets, and other summer travel-related items.

It's probably not the last time you'll be looking to save on an upcoming trip. Why not partner up with a card that can help you save now and later?

Now that you know how credit cards can save you this summer, we highly recommend researching and applying for the right credit card for you. After all, it takes a week or two to receive your card in the mail, and summer is right around the corner. Happy travels!


Jason Bushey writes about credit cards and personal finance-related topics on Creditnet.com

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