Choosing A Travel Card

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The way to spark an endless debate among travel bloggers is to ask them, “Which is the best travel credit card.”    Of course, that is an entirely different question than “Which is the best travel card for me?”    The answers differ because obviously, people’s needs differ.   Let me see if I can sum up my opinion quickly, much like Ben Schlappig did recently in his blog at TSlife.com.

The Frequent Traveler

If you travel frequently, and you are loyal to a particular airline, the clear front runner will be the card affiliated with that airline.   In this way you will maximize your mileage for purchases on that airline, and can even earn a host of perks such as status qualifying points, discount lounge memberships, and two for one ticket coupons.

The Infrequent Traveler

As Ben points out, many people earn most of their miles from credit card sign up bonuses.   I am like Ben in that regard.   I certainly don’t fly every week, and I may only take a handful of paid flights a year.   The rest of my trips are with award tickets using points earned from credit card spend and sign up bonuses.    Ben cites some of the larger bonuses out there recently as ways to cash in on the whole sign up bonus phenomenon.    This is for people who keep up with the trends and really make a hobby out of collecting miles.

For the rest of you, there is still mileage earned through credit cards spend.   Ben, like most travel bloggers, is confident that the Starwood Hotels Amex is the best deal going out there in terms of both flexibility and value.

The International Traveler

It is stupid to earn reward points when you have to pay 2.7 cents per dollar for them, yet that is what happens when people use their American Express cards outside of the United States.    They are hit with a “foreign transaction fee” of 2.7%, one of the biggest scams still legal in the credit card business.    Almost all Visa and Mastercards have similar fees.     If you travel out of the country, even occasionally, it makes sense to keep a Capitol One card in your wallet.  They are one of the last cards on the market that do not charge foreign transaction fees.   It is a great backup to the Starwood Amex, as not every merchant accepts Amex.   It is also not a half bad cash back rewards card.   I get 1.25% cash back on all purchases which is competitive.   To get more, I would have to spend a lot more on a card like the Amex Blue or play games where certain categories of spending get higher rewards depending on the time of year.    Since my Capitol One is mostly just a backup for my Amex and for use overseas, the difference is negligable.

The Domestic Traveler

Some people dream of visiting Paris in First Class, while others really just want to go to Disney World or take the family somewhere on vacation without having to spend $1,000 on airline tickets.   It is for them, there is the Southwest Airlines card.   The beauty of this card is both it’s simplicity and it’s ability to earn domestic awards quickly.    Once you earn the award, redemption is much easier than on most other large airlines.    Furthermore, you can actually bring your ski’s with you on your ski trip without paying an extra $100 for your “free” award ticket.

This is just a brief summary of all of the options out there.  This blog is devoted to helping you find the best card out there for your purposes.

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