Features of the best travel rewards credit cards

There are generally two main types of travel rewards credit cards: those that offer points redeemable only with particular hotels or are tied to a particular airline and those that offer generic points or miles that can be redeemed for most travel expenses.

Many people look for three things from their travel rewards cards: value, flexibility and ease of miles redemption. But what if your travel card gave you more than just miles? Find out what to look for in your travel rewards credit cards and ways to maximize your benefits.

Decide What You Need

Are you already a loyal patron of a particular hotel chain or airline? It would probably best suit you to get a corresponding card that will give rewards specific to these places. These are affiliated travel reward cards, meaning they are associated with a carrier or hotel and let you rack up points or miles in that specific program. If you are more often a leisure traveler who doesn’t habitually use the same travel carriers, you should look into unaffiliated travel rewards cards, which allow you to pool miles or points that have cash value so you can spend for a hotel stay or flight on nearly any airline.

Are you a frequent flier or a frequent buyer? Frequent fliers benefit from airline programs that link to credit cards. They can earn miles for flights and hotels. Frequent buyers—people who use their card for a lot of purchasing—should look for spending-based rewards programs.

When scouting rewards cards, look at three main things:

  • Value: The return in cents per dollar spent, as well as bonus miles or miles matching opportunities.

  • Flexibility: Cards that offer the most opportunities for redemptions – no blackout dates, a variety of partners, or ease of using the points or miles.

  • Cost and fees: If the card’s fees are justified by its rewards and benefits.

Do Your Research

Not all travel rewards are created equal. Each card has its own perks and downfalls. Shape your decision to your personal travel and spending habits. Cards offer a range from 1-2 cents per dollar spent. Some cards have travel blackout dates while others carry an annual fee. Also be certain you understand everything a card has to offer to avoid missing out on benefits such as travel insurance or partner discounts.

Maximize Your Perks

Sign-Up Bonuses. Many travel cards have huge sign-up bonuses and oftentimes the points are worth at least a free domestic flight. It can take a while to rack up enough points for a free flight, so sign-up bonuses are appealing to people wanting a head start on their rewards. The Discover it® Miles card is unique in its sign-up bonus, in which it offers a mile-to-mile match at the end of the first year for new cardmembers.

Miles Per Dollar. Most travel credit cards will offer one mile for every dollar spent. The best travel cards will give you extra miles when you shop at specific retailers. Some cards even give you two miles per dollar spent.

No foreign transaction fees. This is extremely important to those who use their card for foreign travel or purchases.  Check to see if the travel card charges a fee when you make transactions abroad.

Whether you want to earn miles on everyday spending or maximize the rewards on travel habits, there’s a card for you. Make sure you do your research in order to take full advantage of all the rewards and special offers you may not know exist.

Discover Match®: We’ll match all the Miles rewards you’ve earned on your credit card from the day your new account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days, whichever is longer, and add it to your rewards account within two billing periods. You’ve earned Miles rewards only when they’re processed, which may be after the transaction date. We will not match: rewards that are processed after your match period ends; statement credits; rewards transfers from Discover checking or other deposit accounts; or rewards for accounts that are closed. This promotional offer may not be available in the future and is exclusively for new cardmembers. No purchase minimums.

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