Top credit cards for summer travel
Summer is here. It’s time to book your flight, select a rental car and reserve a hotel room.
Which credit card should you use to get your vacation planning started? Which should you use during your travels?
Credit card companies are pitching new travel deals and perks just in time for summer vacation, so here’s our review of the products best suited for your traveling needs.
For road trips
If you’re going to be filling up the gas tank a lot this summer, our favorite gasoline rewards program card is Pentagon Federal’s Visa Platinum Cashback Rewards Card.
It gives you 5% cash back on gas purchases and 1% on everything else.
This card has no spending caps, minimums or annual fee, and you start earning rewards right away. It also carries a reasonable interest rate – a variable 13.99% APR (prime plus 10.74%).
In order to apply, you first must become a member of Pentagon Federal Credit Union (www.penfed.org).
But it's pretty easy to join.
Most military veterans and government employees qualify to join PenFed for free by placing $5 in a share account.
Most everyone else can become a member through a one-time $15 donation to Voices for America’s Troops or a one-time $20 donation to the National Military Family Association. The nonprofit group provides assistance to military families.
For eating, drinking and shopping
If you plan to eat out a lot on those road trips, the TrueEarnings Card from Costco and American Express gives you 3% cash back at restaurants, 3% on gas purchases (up to $3,000 annually; it pays 1% thereafter), 2% on travel bookings and 1% on everything else.
You’ll earn rewards shopping anywhere, not just at Costco stores.
You must be a Costco member to apply, but this card can double as both your Costco membership card and your American Express card (www.americanexpress.com).
Outside of the Costco membership, there is no annual fee.
This card includes 0% introductory APR on all purchases for six months. After that, you'll pay a variable 15.24% APR (prime plus 11.99%).
For airline miles
Looking to score a free flight?
Capital One Venture Rewards (www.capitaloneventure.com ) gives you 2 miles for every dollar you spend, with no cap limit.
Charge $1,000 in the first three months, and you’ll get a 10,000-mile bonus.
You can redeem miles -- which never expire -- on any airline (this works for hotels and rental cars, too), and there are no blackout dates.
Just add two zeros to the cost of the plane ticket, and trade in that number of miles to pay for it. (Spend $10,000 and you'll earn 20,000 miles, good for a $200 trip).
If you’re traveling overseas, you don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees, as there are none. (None of the Capital One cards charge a foreign transaction fee.)
Based on your credit, you'll pay a variable 11.9% to 19.9% APR (prime plus 8.65% to 16.65%).
The drawback is the $59 annual fee, which is waived the first year.
For free hotel rooms
With the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express, you receive one “Starpoint” for every dollar charged.
Then redeem your points for a free stay -- no blackout dates -- at 1,000 Starwood hotels and resorts, which include business-friendly standards like the Sheraton and Westin, the trendy W hotels, and posh places like Le Meridien resorts and the St. Regis in New York City.
You’ll need 2,000 points for a free weekend night in a standard room in one of Starwood’s least expensive hotels, to 35,000 points for a suite or villa at a top-of-the-line property.
You can also exchange your points for miles on many airlines, and you get a 5,000-point bonus when you trade in 20,000 points for miles.
Your first card purchase will earn you 10,000 free points.
You'll pay a variable 15.24% APR (prime plus 11.99%) for this card.
There is a $65 annual fee, which is waived the first year.
For good trip insurance
If you want to breathe easier on your trip, consider the Escape by Discover Card (www.discovercard.com/escape).
Most credit cards offer a secondary collision damage waiver insurance, which requires you to first file a claim under your personal car insurance policy.
But the Escape card offers $50,000 in primary collision damage waiver coverage, which means you don't need to file claims on your policy.
The card -- with a $60 annual fee -- also includes roadside assistance, lost or damaged luggage insurance if the airline loses your bags, and trip cancellation insurance.
You get unlimited double miles for every $1 you spend, and 2 additional miles for every $1 you spend at Discover’s online shopping mall.
You can redeem your miles for a travel credit ($100 for every 10,000 miles), gift cards or cash.
Make a purchase every month for your first 25 months, and you’ll earn a 25,000-mile bonus, which can be used on any airline.
This card includes 0% introductory APR for six months on all purchases and balance transfers. After that, you'll pay a variable 10.9% to 15.9% APR (prime plus 7.65% to 12.65%).
Compare these cards with all of the top credit card offers in our database.
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