3 Things I'm Looking for in a New Travel Rewards Card

by Maurie Backman | Published on Sept. 30, 2021

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A happy couple on vacation pay for their meal with their travel rewards credit card.

Image source: Getty Images

Here's what I'm hoping to get out of the next travel credit card I apply for.

Last year, I made the decision to close a travel rewards credit card I opened in 2019. The reason? The card came with an annual fee, and since I'm not doing much air travel these days, I decided it wasn't worth paying.

But I'm hoping that in the coming year, things will improve on the pandemic front and that I'll feel more comfortable taking trips that are a plane ride away. (Since the outbreak, I've only crossed state lines by car.) And at that point, I know I'll want to book those trips with a great travel rewards card. Here are a few specific things I'll be looking for in the next travel card I open.

1. No annual fee

A lot of travel rewards cards come with an annual fee. But since I plan to ease back into traveling, it doesn't make sense for me to pay one just yet. As such, I'll be seeking out cards that won't charge a fee off the bat (or at least ones that don't charge too expensive a fee).

2. A decent amount of travel insurance

Even in the best of times, things can go wrong when you travel. Flights can be delayed, reservations can get canceled, and luggage can get lost. That's why I want a travel card that offers a decent level of protection from these scenarios -- especially since we are still grappling with a pandemic.

Now to be clear, I don't think a travel rewards card will fully take the place of trip insurance. This especially holds true if I'll be traveling overseas. When you travel abroad, it's important to have outside coverage in case you encounter a medical emergency and your insurance policy doesn't kick in because you've left U.S. soil.

Also, many travel insurance policies allow you to cancel your plans at the last minute for any reason and get the bulk of your money back. During a pandemic, that's an important option to have. And generally, even a good travel rewards credit card won't offer that level of flexibility.

3. Free bags on flights

Gone are the days when airlines routinely let you check baggage for free. These days, many airlines impose costly fees just to take your luggage on board. That's why I want a travel card that will let me check bags for free. The last few times I booked air travel, I forgot about that extra fee and it threw off my trip budget, so I'd like to avoid repeating that scenario.

Researching and comparing credit cards can be a time-consuming process, but I'd rather make the effort to find the right travel card than choose the wrong one and regret it afterward. I'm hoping I can find a new card that meets these criteria, and while I am willing to be flexible, I also intend to put in the legwork and compare several offers before moving forward.

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