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How do travel credit cards work?|

Travel credit cards allow you to earn rewards in the form of points, miles or cash back. Sometimes these rewards will be specific to an airline or hotel chain. Many travel cards also offer unique benefits, including annual statement credits and travel insurance that make them worthwhile for frequent travelers.

~What credit score do you need for a travel credit card?|

You generally need a good to excellent credit score to qualify for a travel credit card (FICO® Score 670 and above). However, there are travel credit cards for people with low credit scores.

~Are travel credit cards worth it?|

While the perks that travel credit cards can offer are attractive, it's also important to note that most of them charge annual fees, which typically range anywhere from just under $100 to more than $500. As a result, it's important to review the card's rewards and benefits to see how their value compares to its annual fee. In many cases, a travel credit card's benefits can easily make up for its annual fee, but only if you use them.

Think about how often you travel each year. If you don't fly frequently or don't think you'd take advantage of an airline credit card's free checked bag benefits, a hotel credit card's anniversary night certificate or a premium credit card's airport lounge access, it might not be worth applying for one. Fortunately, a few travel credit cards don't have annual fees, but they also typically don't come with extra perks beyond the rewards program.

~What's the difference between points and miles on a travel credit card?|

Points and miles are both types of rewards that you can earn on your credit card. The terms are generally interchangeable, as some airline rewards programs use the term "points," while others use "miles."

~How can you redeem travel rewards?|

You'll generally get the most value out of your points and miles when you redeem them for travel, particularly if you have an airline or a hotel credit card. If you have transferable points, you can research itineraries with multiple loyalty programs to see which will give you the most value per point or mile. Other redemption options often include:

  • Deposit into your bank account
  • Statement credit
  • Gift cards
  • Charitable donations
  • Merchandise

~Do credit card rewards expire?|

The rewards you earn with your credit card generally doesn't expire while your account remains open. However if you close your card, you will likely forfeit any rewards. However, you'll often have a small window of time when you can redeem your rewards after closing your card—it depends on the card issuer's rules and card's terms.

~What additional credit card perks do travel cards offer?|

In addition to points, miles or cash back, many travel credit cards also offer insurance protection and other credit card benefits that can provide a lot of value. Some of the more basic perks include:

  • Rental car insurance
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty coverage
  • Travel insurance
  • Cellphone protection

Premium benefits that often come with higher annual fee cards may include:

  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee credits
  • Credits for travel purchases
  • Complimentary airport lounge access
  • Trip cancellation or interruption insurance
  • Free checked baggage
  • Lost luggage reimbursement and delayed baggage insurance

As you compare cards, look beyond the rewards to ensure you're getting the most value based on how you plan to use your new card.

~How to make the most of travel credit cards|

Once you've got your new travel credit card, consider how you can use it to get the most benefits. The big things to look for are:

  • Meet the spending requirement for the intro offer (if there is one) before the deadline.
  • Remember which categories offer bonus rewards and try to use your travel card for those purchases.
  • Compare redemption options and see which give you the best value for your rewards. With travel cards, it's often best to redeem for travel bookings or transfer your rewards to partner travel companies.
  • Review the cardholder benefits and see if you need to activate certain perks—such as a complimentary Priority Pass membership.
  • Learn about the purchase-related benefits, which may include travel and purchase protections.

If your card has an annual fee, you may also want to set a calendar reminder for next year. As your anniversary date approaches, review how you used the card and decide whether it's worth keeping the card.