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How to Choose a Great Travel Credit Card

[Tuesday, May 12th, 2015]

One of the best things about credit cards is how great they are for travelers. Hotel rewards cards, frequent flyer cards, and general travel rewards cards let people earn points toward free hotel stays, flights, train trips, cruises, and more.

But among the bevy of travel credit cards out there, how do you know which one to choose? Here are a few guidelines for picking the perfect travel credit card for you.

  • Does the card have foreign transaction fees? If you’ll be traveling out of the country frequently, you’ll want to choose a credit card that doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees. This is a fee that is charged when you use your credit card in another country. It usually adds up to between 2 and 3% of each transaction. The good news is, many credit cards do not charge this fee at all. Be sure to find one that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee if you’ll be using it in another country.
  • Is the card EMV chip compatible? Again, this is an important one if you’ll be traveling outside the country. Europe, Asia, and many other places have adopted EMV, or chip, technology must faster than the United States. If you have a magnetic stripe card and try to use it on a bus in Europe, for example, you’ll be out of luck. Credit cards that cater to travelers usually are EMV chip-enabled. This will make your travels smoother sailing, so take this advice and get an EMV credit card.
  • What kind of rewards does the card offer? Here’s where the fun part is: choosing rewards. Would you like free hotel stays? Free flights? Free cruises? Or maybe you just want to get reward credit for your travel and redeem it at restaurants and bars between trips. The sky is, literally, the limit. Look around at the many travel credit cards and don’t settle for the first one you see. Remember that you can also have more than one card. So if you want a frequent flyer miles reward card and a hotel rewards card, go for it.
  • Is there a sign on bonus? Again, this is a big perk of travel credit cards. Often, the sign on bonus can be redeemed for a free flight. That’s a reward potentially worth hundreds of dollars.
  • Other things to look for include benefits like travel insurance and roadside assistance, car rental insurance, concierge service if you’d like to have access to 24/7 assistance with making reservations, finding your way around town, and more.

    And one other piece of advice: don’t discount a card just because it has an annual fee. Very often, the rewards offered by a card are greater than the fee. A free round-trip flight is worth a $65 annual fee, for example.

    With the right travel credit card – or cards – your jet-setting lifestyle can take you more places than ever.

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