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Friday, October 04, 2013

How to choose the right travel credit card?

A lot of us work hard to save enough money to plan their next holiday, while some of us are smart enough to get various perks from their credit cards to help plan their vacation. In today’s world, we all know how certain credit card companies give freebies and perks to its various loyal customers and how significant some of these perks can get to be. Keeping that train of thought, I have written a post to help you choose the right travel credit card. Not only will this credit card help you in your travels, but it will also help you realize discounts and freebies while planning your future holidays.

In order to select that credit card, ask these following questions while you search for that credit card that fits your travel needs.

How good is the sign up bonus?
Most of the travel credit cards offer a healthy sign up bonus in terms of a significant number of miles, free flight tickets, hotel or flight coupons or a combination of the above. A good sign up bonus should be looked into as this will help you jump start the mile collection process.

Does it allow you to earn more miles? 
Most of the co-branded credit cards are tied up with the membership account (frequent flyer program) of that airline. Hence, you only get a certain number of miles depending on the transaction. However, there are credit cards out there that allow you to accrue miles on the credit card account while allowing you to accrue on your frequent flyer program too. Basically, a double bonanza! Check on such credit cards.

Do the miles expire? 
It is always a bummer to find out that your hard earned miles have expired. It would be ideal to have credit cards where the miles don’t expire so that you can redeem it whenever you feel like taking a holiday. Most of the frequent flyer programs (at entry level) have expiration limits. Credit cards have similar limits too. Find ones that have no limits.

Is it attached to one particular airline or is it airline agnostic?
A lot of travelers are loyal to an airline. For such users, a co-branded airline credit card makes sense. But, a lot of us these days choose an airline depending on how much the ticket costs. For such travelers, an airline agnostic card is the way to go as it will allow them to earn miles irrespective of the airline they choose to fly in. Choose depending on your need!

How many miles do I earn per dollar?  This is a very important criterion too. The more miles you earn per dollar, the better it is. For airline related transactions you might earn multiple miles when compared to a non-airline transaction for the same price. Basically, you should be able to earn miles and big miles at that whenever you swipe your card.

Is it associated with major airlines? It is always good to have a credit card that partners with major airlines and travel companies. That way, you can redeem your miles at one of these big and more well known partners who have a wider international spread.

How much are the annual fees?
A lot of us hate paying annual fees, but sometimes for getting the benefits out of a good credit card, you might have to pay the annual fee. Most of the premium credit cards out there charge an annual fee, but in the long run, these annual fees are covered through their rewards.

Are there any fees for international transactions? 
For international travelers, this is a very important attribute to consider. Every time you swipe your credit card outside your country, you get slapped a 3.5% foreign currency conversion charge. Some credit cards do not charge such a fee. Find out more about them.

How easy is it to redeem the miles? The redemption process is also very important to look into. You can earn big miles, but if the redemption is not good, then the whole point of saving these miles is gone. Look at a bank that offers good standards of customer service, has tie ups with large travel companies for redemptions and allows you to transfer your credit card miles to your frequent flyer account. Ideally, you should be able to redeem your miles online, talk to a customer service representative or walk into the bank to do the needful.

Is there a renewal bonus?
Just like a sign up bonus, it would be great to get a renewal bonus on payment of the renewal fee.

Is there a minimum spending limit? Some banks like you to spend a minimum every month. Can you afford such a condition? If not, look for a credit card that has no such condition and thereby allowing you to spend as much and as you please.

Is there a maximum limit for earning miles?
A lot of credit cards have an upper earning limit for the big miles, which means that you stop earning multiple miles once you cross a certain amount in a calendar year. Find out the ones that have the highest limits. That way, you will earn the most miles if you are a big spender and frequent traveler. For normal travelers and normal spenders, you can pick and choose from a wider range.

Does the credit card have a large international network and reach? The last thing you want to hear while you swipe your card is that your credit card is not supported in that country. Pick a bank that has a wide international network and reach. In most of the developing world, American Express is still not accepted at all merchant establishments. But, Visa and Master card are. Find out which options does the credit card come in?

Does it offer international fraud protection? You will be using your credit card across the world and at many online portals. You can face fraud at any of these places and a solution might be beyond your scope. In such a case, it is important to know if your credit card comes with a good international fraud protection.

Does it offer insurance cover? This is not a must have, but a goo to have. Most of the travel credit cards offer free insurance to cover accidental death during travel or while on a journey. Find out if your credit card offers such a cover.

What kind of privilege access does it provide? A lot of travel credit cards give privilege access to airport lounges, clubs, hotels and more. Such perks are important to people looking to maintain a high lifestyle standard. If you are one of them, you need to look at these privileges closely.

Personally, I use the Citibank Premiermiles Credit Card from India as my preferred travel credit card and my detailed review about that card can be found here.



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