Are travel credit cards worth it?

Travel cards are a type of credit card that rewards cardholders for using them. In addition to earning miles, cardholders might receive exclusive travel benefits like airport lounge access.

If you have travel plans on the horizon, you may be wondering whether a travel credit card is right for you. The answer depends on how its benefits match your lifestyle, as well as other considerations like interest rates and fees.

Key takeaways

  • Travel credit cards let cardholders earn rewards, such as travel miles, on purchases.
  • With travel cards, travel-related purchases and bookings may earn more rewards than everyday purchases.
  • Travel rewards card holders may be able to redeem miles for flights, hotels, rental cars and more. They may also be able to get a statement credit or transfer miles to a travel partner.
  • When choosing a travel credit card, it can help to consider things like fees, APR, credit score requirements, rewards and bonuses.

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Benefits of a travel rewards credit card

Thinking about adding a travel card to your wallet? Here are a few common benefits of having one:

Rewards miles

Travel credit cards can turn everyday purchases into travel rewards that you can use to fly home for the holidays, book an overnight stay for your kid’s soccer tournament or take the vacation of your dreams.

Typically, you earn rewards by using the card. They may come in the form of miles or points. But there’s no single answer to how miles work. Ways to earn or redeem them vary by issuer and the type of travel card. 

  • Hotel credit cards: These cards are often associated with a particular hotel chain. Rewards may accrue faster when you use the card at partner hotels, and they can typically be redeemed for things like hotel stays and room upgrades.
  • Airline credit cards: Airline cards are similar to hotel cards but are aligned with specific airlines. Rewards might include free or discounted flights, seat upgrades or free checked bags. 
  • General credit cards: General travel cards reward everyday spending more flexibly and may offer broader rewards. For instance, Capital One’s travel rewards cards let cardholders earn miles every time they spend. And when booking trips through Capital One Travel, the rewards are multiplied. Cardholders can redeem miles for things like flights, hotels, rental cars, gift cards or statement credits or transfer miles to a partner loyalty program.

New cardholder offers

New travel card holders can sometimes kick-start their rewards by spending a certain amount within an initial time frame to earn an early spend bonus. By earning bonus miles from the get-go, your next weekend away might already be covered.

It’s worth checking your budget for how much you might expect to spend in the first several months of having a travel credit card and whether you could take advantage of a new cardholder deal.

Travel perks

Travel rewards card holders might also have complimentary access to airport lounges. For example, eligible Venture X cardholders get complimentary access to Capital One Lounges with amenities like high-speed Wi-Fi, locally sourced all-inclusive refreshments, luggage lockers and cycling and yoga rooms.1

Many travel credit cards come with access to travel booking sites that offer trip booking options and amplified rewards. Eligible Capital One cardholders can use Capital One Travel to earn and redeem miles on thousands of trip options.

Travel cards are less likely to charge foreign transaction fees, saving you money when making purchases outside the United States. Capital One’s U.S.-issued credit cards and debit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees. View important rates and disclosures.

And you may be able to skip the line for airport security with a credit card that pays for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®.2

Security and protection

Travel credit cards can come with features that can bring travelers peace of mind. With a Capital One travel card and benefits from networks like Visa® or Mastercard®, cardholders have access to things like:3

Travel card considerations

It’s exciting to think about where a travel rewards card might take you. But before applying for a credit card, here are some things to consider.

Credit score requirements

Credit cards typically have credit requirements that impact things like whether an applicant is approved and the card’s interest rate. If your credit isn’t quite where you want it, it’s possible to improve your credit scores by doing things like paying other credit card bills on time every month and keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30%.

Annual fees

Some travel cards charge an annual fee. The fee may mean the card offers greater rewards potential and benefits, like travel credits and other perks. It’s worth considering whether you’ll earn enough rewards to offset the fee.

Miles vs. other rewards

A travel rewards card may be best for people who travel. A cash back or dining and entertainment card are other ways to earn rewards without having to take a trip. It just comes down to the way you plan to use the card.

Should I get a travel credit card?

If you’re trying to decide whether a travel card is right for you, asking yourself the following questions might help:

  • Do I travel often? Frequent travelers who book flights, hotels and car rentals often, for work or pleasure, can earn miles every time they spend. But anyone who’s got things to buy and places to go can make the card work for them. Plus, Capital One Travel makes it easy to book with miles and earn extra rewards. It also offers features like price prediction and price matching.
  • Are the extra perks important to me? If flying through airport security and accessing lounges sound good to you, a travel rewards card might be a good fit.
  • How does the APR compare to other cards? Some travel cards can have a high annual percentage rate (APR). But it’s possible to avoid interest fees by paying off the balance every month.
  • Will the rewards justify the annual fee? Some travel cards don’t have an annual fee, and some do. You can use a budget to estimate whether your monthly expenses will earn you enough rewards to offset the fee.

How to maximize your travel credit card rewards

These tips could help you get the most out of your travel credit card:

  • Understand all your card’s benefits. If you’re just using a travel rewards card for the miles, you could be missing out on other valuable perks. For example, some Capital One travel rewards cardholders can get up to a $100 statement credit on their application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® when they use their card.
  • Make the most of bonuses. You can check whether your card comes with an early spend bonus. That means if you spend a certain amount in a specific time frame, you could earn extra rewards on top of the card’s standard rewards. 
  • Check for ways to earn higher rewards. Some cards give you the chance to earn a higher rate of rewards on some purchases under certain circumstances. For example, when booking travel through Capital One Travel, Venture cardholders earn 5X miles per dollar. And Venture X cardholders earn 10X miles on rental cars and hotels, including luxury hotels and resorts available through the Premier Collection, and 5X miles on flights when booking through Capital One Travel.
  • Pay your bills on time. The value of the miles you’ve earned could be offset or outweighed if you revolve a balance and accrue interest. Paying off your balance in full each month and before you’re charged interest is a good way to make sure you get the most value from your rewards.

Whether travel credit cards are worth it in a nutshell

Travel credit cards can be a great choice for people who travel regularly for work or play. Explore how you could get rewarded for travel with a Capital One travel rewards card like Venture X.

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