Published in: Credit Cards | Aug. 18, 2019

8 Things Jetsetters Should Look for in a Travel Card

Do you travel often? Here are some of the key features you should be on the lookout for with a travel card.

Person walking through an airport pulling their suitcase

Image source: Getty Images

Are you a frequent traveler? If so, finding the right travel card could help you score some cool perks that make travel cheaper, easier, or more fun. 

There are lots of different travel credit cards out there, each with their own unique features and cardmember benefits. Choosing just one can be hard, but figuring out what perks you want can help. If you’re not sure what to look for when choosing a travel card, here are eight great card features you may want to put on your watchlist. 

1. Bonus rewards for travel purchases

Good travel cards have rewards programs that allow you to earn points, miles, or cash back for purchases. Great travel cards offer extra points and miles when you purchase flights or hotels or make other travel-related purchases. If you can get double points, triple points, or more, every time you book travel, you’ll earn rewards a whole lot quicker when you spend most of your cash on traveling the world. 

2. The option to redeem rewards for flights or hotels

Ideally, you’ll not only be able earn lots of points for travel-related purchases but you’ll also be able to redeem those points for travel. If your travel card can help you score free flights or free nights in a hotel, your next trip will be a lot cheaper and easier to pay for. 

3. Airline lounge access

No one likes sitting at the airport waiting for their flight, but that’s a part of life for those with wanderlust. You can actually make waiting at an airport pleasant though -- provided you have access to airline lounges. Lounges are typically operated by airlines or credit card companies and have amenities including plush seating and free Wi-Fi. Most also offer free food and drink, and some get fancy with beds and showers for customer use.  

If you want to access these airline lounges without paying for a business or first class ticket, look for a travel card that provides lounge access. Some cards offer a few passes you can use to access lounges each year while others provide unlimited lounge access. Just be sure to check where the lounges are that your card allows you to visit so you can ensure they’re in airports you frequent regularly. 

4. Free checked bags

Checking a bag has become expensive, but when you have certain travel cards, you can bring on a bag for free. In fact, some cards even allow one or more free bags for you and your traveling companions. Unless you always travel light with carry-ons only, this can be a valuable perk. 

5. Free companion tickets

If you tend to fly with a friend, it’s worth looking for a travel card that offers free companion tickets. Rules vary for how these tickets can be earned. Sometimes you’re entitled to a companion ticket each year just for being a cardholder, while other times you need to meet minimum spending requirements to earn one. Either way, the chance for a friend to fly free is a big perk. 

6. Insurance that helps when abroad

Things can go wrong when you go on a trip. Many travel credit cards provide protection in case of calamities. You could potentially get trip cancellation or interruption insurance that reimburses you if you can’t go on your trip at all or if your vacation has to be cut short. Lost luggage reimbursement is another common type of insurance coverage that can repay you for lost bags, while delayed baggage insurance gives you cash to buy essentials if your luggage arrives well after you do. These insurance protections can give you peace of mind and save you a fortune if problems occur. 

7. No foreign transaction fees 

When traveling abroad, the last thing you need is to make every purchase more expensive. But that’s exactly what would happen if you paid a foreign transaction fee. Some cards charge 3% or more if you make purchases outside the country or not in U.S. dollars, so look for a travel card that doesn’t impose these added costs.  

8. TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credits

Finally, one last great perk that could make your trips more pleasant is a statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. TSA PreCheck makes going through security faster and easier, while Global Entry allows you to go through an expedited process when clearing customs. There’s a cost to join either program, but many travel cards give you a statement credit of up to $100 when you charge the fee to your card. 

Find the right travel card for you

You won’t necessarily get access to each one of these perks on every travel card. And some of the cards offering the most generous benefits come with fairly hefty annual fees you’ll need to decide if you’re willing to pay. Still, by learning about the different cardholder benefits, you can prioritize what’s most important to you and find a card best suited to your needs. Once you do, your next trip will hopefully be cheaper, easier, or more fun thanks to the extras your card entitles you to.

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