Why do I Need a Travel Credit Card?

You might be asking yourself, why do I need a credit card when I go abroad? Or what is a travel credit card? Even if you don’t use credit cards at home or if you have specific ones for shopping, you need to look into getting a travel credit card!

Firstly before I get into the benefits of using a travel credit card is it imperative to have some form of credit card with you traveling. One card is good but it is better to have two or more credit cards with you. Keep them split up in case you loose one or one gets stolen.

I have needed a credit card to be admitted into, more than one, hospital for a health emergency, they will not take a debit card. Hospitals rarely will admit you without some form of pre-authorized payment and most travel insurances will not pay up front costs, they only reimburse you.

Flying from Toronto
Flying home

Free flights

Maybe you are thinking, I already found a cheap flight or I am not going to be gone that long, so why should I get a specific credit card for flying?

Over my various years of traveling a significant portion of my flights have been free because of award miles that I gained through my travel credit cards. The best travel credit cards will offer some form of bonus introductory miles, if you spend a certain amount in the first few months. This is the main downside for the best travel credit cards, you will need to spend a lot quickly to get that bonus.

The best way is to get your travel credit card a few months before your trip and put your bills and monthly expenses on it, your flights, travel insurance and travel items that you are going to purchase, like a backpack or new bikini. These things will add up quickly and you should be able to make the minimum spending limit.

If you don’t think you can reach the spending limit in time, ask family members or friends if they could put items on your card to help you get there. Just make sure they pay you back.

Even when I am at home I keep using my travel credit card to gain more miles. If you are like me, and after the first time you go traveling then return home you will want to go traveling immediately again. Better to stack extra miles for the next flight!

Maupiti Lagoon Tour
Island beach party!

Benefits of a Travel Credit Card

If you are living in one region and fly a specific route or airline frequently, you should look into getting an airline specific credit card. These credit cards usually have a way lower introductory spending amount to receive the bonus miles. A regional airline credit card might not get you around the world but you can still get a few free flights around home.

No foreign transaction fees – This is a big one, especially if you are going to be out of the country for an extended period of time. Credit is king and it is accepted everywhere. Accommodation is a continual and big expense that I try to put on my credit card. The rest of my daily expenses vary depending where I travel to, I mostly try to use my credit card for restaurants, shopping, tours, and transportation. Of course all of my flights and my travel insurance is purchased on my travel credit card.

Extra travel protection – The best travel credit cards will provide you with trip protection, cancellation, car insurance and lost luggage protection.

Extended warranty – This is a nice feature to have. A few travel credit cards will give you double or one extra year of manufacturer warranty on purchased items. Such a great perk for just purchasing something with your credit card!

Travel Debit Card

Okay, this isn’t credit card related but if you are going to be abroad for a long time you should also look into opening a bank account with a company that will wave ATM withdraw fees and have no foreign transaction fee. Even though credit is used everywhere, most of my day to day spending is still with cash from an ATM. When you are living on a daily budget and traveling long term those ATM and transaction fees add up quickly!

Credit Cards I have Used

Capital One

capital oneThis has been my go-to travel credit card for the last couple of years. Their app is fantastic and the customer service was top notch, dealing with fraud I had on my card.

Capital One has 2 main types of travel credit cards and I have used both. The Capital One Venture One and the Capital One Venture. I opened an account with the Venture card to gain the bigger bonus introductory bonus miles before switching my account to the Venture One which has no yearly fee. Capital one let me switch with no questions asked and I got to keep all of my points.

The Capital One Venture card provides you with:

  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, after it is $95 per year. (Before my year was up I switched to avoid the annual fee.)
  • 50,000 mile bonus if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening an account. That equals to a $500 reimbursement to your credit card.
  • 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases.
  • Car rental coverage.
  • Extended warranty on purchases.

The Capital One Venture One card provide you with:

  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $0 annual fee, every year.
  • 20,000 mile bonus if you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of opening an account. That equals to a $200 reimbursement to your credit card.
  • 1.25 miles per dollar spent on all purchases.
  • Car rental coverage.
  • Extended warranty on purchases.

Chase

chaseThe Chase Sapphire Preferred was my first travel credit card and I really liked using them. They have a great app, everything is hassle free. Their Ultimate Rewards program has specials on hotels and flights if you book through it. Unfortunately I ended up closing my account because of the yearly fee. I did pay the fee for two years, because I still had miles left to use and liked the company.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card provides you with:

  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, than after it is $95 per year.
  • 50,000 mile bonus if you spend $4,000 within the first 3 months of opening an account. That equals to a $625 reimbursement if you use it for flights and hotels with the rewards program, otherwise it equals $500 reimbursement to your credit card.
  • 2x miles per dollar spent on travel and dining otherwise 1x mile on other purchases.
  • Car rental coverage.

CITI

citiThe Citi AAdvantage Platinum credit card is a great one if you fly a lot with American Airlines. I am relatively new to flying with American Airlines, but with the introductory miles I received from the my Citi AAdvantage credit card I have managed to snag some great flight deals. American Airlines is a One World partner which allows you to use your miles on partner airlines anywhere around the world.

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum card provides you with:

  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, after it is $95 per year.
  • 60,000 American Airline bonus miles if you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening an account!
  • 2x miles per dollar spent on some travel things and 1x mile on all other purchases.
  • First bag is checked free with American Airlines.
  • Priority boarding with American Airlines.
  • Travel accident insurance.
  • Emergency assistance.
  • Car rental coverage.
  • Extended warranty on purchases.

Delta

deltaI did not get a Gold Delta Sky Miles credit card for destination travel, I got it to use at home on a specific flight route that I took frequently. I was working at home and my girlfriend was working in Toronto, so we would fly to see each other every 3 or 4 months. The main point of me being home was to save money, which was hard to do, when we would spend $$ every couple of months flying to see each other.

This card was decent, Delta is the major airline for my small airport, so it worked perfect for me to become a SkyMiles member. I kept this travel credit card for a couple of years when I was living at home, but I eventually canceled it, because I left the country to travel and did not want to pay the yearly annual fee when abroad.

The Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card provides you with:

  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $0 annual fee for the first year, than after it is $95 per year.
  • 30,000 mile bonus if you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of opening an account.
  • Priority boarding with Delta.
  • First checked bag is free with Delta.
  • Car rental coverage.
  • 2x miles per dollar spent through Delta, otherwise it is 1x mile on all purchases.

Frontier

frontierThe Frontier Airlines World Mastercard is through Barclaycard and it has some great offers, but it was not a great card for me. I had this card for too many years and I was too stubborn to loose the miles I acquired, which happened anyway. If you do not use your card every couple of months your miles disappear. The disappearing miles is a new feature, it started after I got my card and when I was overseas. I stopped using my card overseas because of the foreign transaction fee and did not know about the new rule, so I lost my Frontier miles. I then had the option to buy them back, which I stupidly did because I had hopes to still use them at home. Unfortunately Frontier Airlines stopped traveling to my local airport during the fall and winter months, which seemed to be the only time I was stateside and heading home.

Only look into this card if you are staying in the USA and have a dedicated Frontier route that you will fly frequently. Otherwise for overseas traveling avoid getting this credit card. The Frontier Airlines World Mastercard card provides you with:

  • There is a 3% foreign transaction fee, in US dollars. Not good for overseas travel and use.
  • It costs $69 per year. When I got my card this was waved for the first year, now it looks like it is not.
  • 40,000 mile bonus if you spend $500 within the first 3 months of opening an account.
  • Baggage delay insurance.
  • Trip cancellation insurance.
  • 2x miles per dollar spent through Frontier, otherwise it is 1x mile on all purchases.

Final Thoughts

Having a great travel credit card is key when doing a long term overseas trip and the first 3 cards on my list are some of the best travel credit cards out there. Just make sure you can get the bonus! For more great tips visit my Travel Resources page.

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Best Travel Credit Cards - Outsidevibes
Best Travel Credit Cards

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