As a leisure traveler, I don’t earn elite status at any hotels or airlines. I have to rely on other ways to earn bonus miles, get upgrades, or receive perks. Most of that comes from holding a few key credit cards that make life a lot better when traveling.
International Travel. If you’re traveling internationally, the best card you can get is one that offers no foreign transaction fees. Luckily, more and more cards are providing that feature. Just a couple of weeks ago Chase announced that its United MileagePlus Explorer card would stop charging foreign transaction fees starting June 1. Even some no-annual fee cards, such as the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards card, offer no foreign transaction fees (plus the PenFed card gets you 5% cash back on gas!). By simply getting a card that doesn’t charge these fees, you’ll save yourself an easy 3% on every transaction!
Lots of Luggage. I almost always carry my bag on. It saves me time when arriving at the airport and when leaving it – plus I hate paying baggage fees. Nevertheless, there are times when I simply have too much stuff that I either don’t want to lug through security or I simply can’t. While Southwest and jetBlue still let you check a bag or two for free, all the big airlines charge $25 or more unless you’re an elite member or have a co-branded credit card. Having an airline’s credit card will almost always get you a free bag for yourself and a number of other travelers in your group. The Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage card for instance gets you and four other people a free checked bag. It doesn’t help with the time, but it will certainly help your wallet!
Save some time. One of the best benefits of having an airline credit card is that it almost always gets you priority check-in, security, boarding, or a combination of any of those. If you’ve got a large bag to carry on, you can be sure that you’ll have a place to put it, since you’ll be one of the first people on the plane.
Additionally, if you’re late to the airport and still need to get your boarding pass, you can skip right past the long lines and head for the priority check-in line and get to your gate in time.
Now, I don’t always fly the same airline, which makes picking one card hard to do. Luckily, you don’t have to choose.
Assuming your credit is good, there’s really no reason why you can’t have more than one airline’s personal card. Right now, I have the US Airways Barclays card, the Chase United Explorer card, the Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold card, and the Citi AAdvantage card – all of which get me benefits on all the major airlines with no fees! Credit cards can be a great way for leisure travelers like myself to make traveling a lot easier, while also saving a lot of money.
IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card
- Annual Fee: $49 fee waived for the first year
- Foreign Fees: No
- Card Type: Hotel
The IHG Rewards Club Visa is often cited as one of the most underrated hotel credit cards, with good reason. The official offer is for 70,000 points after $1,000 spent within three months, with the first year’s fee waived. The card comes with an annual free night certificate that can be used at any IHG property, including Intercontinental hotels - making this certificate worth upwards of 50,000 points. This is far more generous than some other hotel cards, which limit the categories in which free night certificates can be redeemed.
Cardholders earn 5 points per dollar at IHG hotels; 2 points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Moreover, you’ll get a 10% rebate on award redemptions, up to 100,000 points per year. The card also comes with Platinum status, though that doesn’t get you much with IHG. Still, this is a fantastic card to have in your wallet, with benefits that far outweigh the already low $49 annual fee.
- Earn 70,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening
- Enjoy a free night of card membership at over 4,700 hotels worldwide
- Earn 5 points for each $1 spent at our hotels
- Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants
- Bonus points redeemable at hotels such as Intercontinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn®
- Automatic platinum elite status, as long as you remain a cardmember
- $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $49