Now that winter is finally over, many Americans are looking forward to the summer travel season with an eye toward using their credit card rewards. But in most cases, award travel is not as easy as it sounds. So this spring, consider these four ways to get the most from your points and miles.
1. Decide what you want to do with your rewards now.
Just as you want to select the right tools for a job, you will also need to use the right credit card rewards for the trip you want to take. So first, plan out where you want to go and which parts of the trip you’d like to cover using rewards. For example, if you want to use credit card rewards for a flight, you will want to make sure that the airline offers good service to your destination, and find out how many miles it will likely take to book that award. When it comes to hotels, you can look at specific properties and learn how many points are needed.
2. Consider sign-up bonuses.
While it might be too late for most people to earn enough reward points through spending for travel this summer, there is plenty of time to quickly earn a sign-up bonus or two. Thankfully, some new credit cards can offer enough points or miles for two free domestic round-trip tickets, or several hotel award nights. For example, the Citi American Airlines Platinum Select MasterCard offers 50,000 miles, good for two domestic tickets, after new applicants use the card to spend $3,000 within three months of account opening. there is a $95 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year. Also, the Hyatt card from Chase offers new applicants two free nights at any property after spending just $1,000 within three months. There is a $75 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year. And finally, the Capital One Venture Rewards card is offering 40,000 miles, worth $400 in statement credits toward any travel expense, after new cardholders spend $3,000 within three months of account opening. There is a $59 annual fee for this card that is waived the first year.
3. Triple- or quadruple-dip for rewards.
When you can’t pay for your entire trip with reward points, you will still want to earn the most possible rewards when you pay in dollars. Fortunately, there are opportunities to earn rewards from several different sources at the same time (here’s a great guide to triple-dipping). For example, you could use your credit card’s rewards portal, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or Discover Deals, to receive points on your purchase from an online travel agent such as Orbitz or Expedia. Then, the online travel agency itself might offer you rewards for your purchase, as well as your credit card. Finally, you can still use your frequent flier number to receive airline miles, although most hotels won’t credit you for reservations booked through a third party.
4. Use the right credit card for your travels.
Which credit card you use to pay for your travels will make a big difference in the rewards you earn. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee that is waived the first year) offers double points on all travel purchases, while the American Express Premier Rewards Gold ($175 annual fee, waived the first year) offers triple points for all flights booked directly with the airlines. (The latter is actually a charge card, which must be paid in full each month.)
Another factor to consider is foreign transaction fees, which are 3% on most credit cards. There are now many cards offered that do not charge this fee. For example, Chase has eliminated this fee on most of its cards that offer travel rewards and both Capital One and Discover never impose this fee.
Finally, travelers might consider the travel insurance benefits offered by their cards. Many cards now come with lost and delayed baggage insurance, trip delay and trip cancellation coverage, and travel accident insurance.
As with any credit card offer, it’s important to know where your credit stands, since the interest rates you’ll receive and your approval for the card are dependent on it. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com every month.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.