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How to get the most out of your travel credit card

The cost of travel is going up in all areas: airfare, lodging and even rental cars. To help save money, you need to take advantage of all the tools that are available. One of the most effortless ways to do that is to use the right travel credit card. You want one that not only gives you the most rewards but fits comfortably into your lifestyle.

What is a travel credit card?

When you use a travel credit card to make purchases, you receive rewards that you can redeem on travel-related items. While the most common rewards are points or miles, some cards offer free hotel stays.

Since each card tracks, tallies and delivers rewards in a slightly different way, you must read the fine print to learn what is best for you. For instance, do you prefer a free card with gradually accumulating points, or would you be willing to pay a fee to get luxury treatment? Paying an annual fee might seem like a bad idea, but we’ve found it is actually the best way to unlock the biggest benefits — the ones that will truly impact your bottom line.

For example, BestReviews recently completed its annual evaluation of credit cards for travel, and we chose the Chase Sapphire Preferred card as the most rewarding option. For $95 a year, you get triple the points on dining and double the points on travel. If you spend $4,000 in the first three months, you also get a bonus of 60,000 points.

How can a credit card save travelers money?

As long as you aren’t purchasing more than you need and you are paying your balance off in full before the monthly due date, you are getting rewarded for things you already do. And you aren’t spending any extra money.

As your miles or points accumulate, you will see the rewards increase. You may get a discounted or free flight, a discounted or free hotel stay or a number of other benefits. Some credit cards even give you cash back so you can put an actual dollar figure on your savings.

Using travel credit cards may also help protect you from the unexpected

Besides saving you money on travel expenses, some credit cards can protect you when your plans change or there is a problem at the airport. Again, each card is different, so you have to read through the fine print, but the right credit card could protect you from losing money for a trip delay or cancellation. It could also reward you if the airport loses your luggage. You might even be able to make last-minute flight changes with no fees and change or cancel your hotel plans.

Best credit cards for travel

Best Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Right from the start, if you spend $4,000 in the first three months, you get $750 when you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Additional benefits include lost luggage insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance and more.

Sold by Chase

Best Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

With the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card, you get double the rewards on every purchase, every day. Your miles will not expire as long as you keep your account, and you can earn five times the miles on hotels and rental cars when you book through Capital One Travel.

Sold by Capital One

Best Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

While it’s a little steep, if you have a large expense coming up and spend $15,000 in the first three months, this card gives you $1,000 cash back. For protection, you get around-the-clock monitoring for unusual purchases and zero liability for charges you did not authorize.

Sold by Ink

Best Discover It Miles

Discover It Miles

With this Discover card, there is no signing up, no minimum spending and no maximum rewards. You get credit for every single dollar of every purchase with no annual fee. If you prefer cash, simply turn your miles into cash in any amount at any time you desire.

Sold by Discover

Best Citi Premier Card

Citi Premier Card

You get a 60,000-point thank you when spending $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of signing up for this card. Restaurants, gas stations, air travel, hotels and supermarkets get you three points per $1 spent. There is no expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn.

Sold by Citi Premier

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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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