4 Outrageous Travel Fees — & How to Avoid Them

travel-fees

You’ve gone through your ever-growing list of places you want to visit and have finally chosen where your next travel destination will be. As you’re building out your budget for this vacation, you’re seeing the expenses pile up and the supposed stress-free time is losing its luster.

But there are plenty of ways to save, one of which is avoiding paying some of those pesky add-on fees that often come with travel. Here are some of those fees and how you can avoid them.

For Cruises: Corkage Fees

Most cruises allow you to bring your own bottle (or two) of wine or champagne with you when you board the ship. However, if you bring that bottle with you to dinner or to one of the bars, you’ll likely get hit with a corkage fee, which typically ranges from $15 – $20.

“To avoid a corkage fee, you can always just have a drink in your cabin,” Tanner Callais, a cruise expert with Cruzely.com, said. 

Also, be sure to check your cruise line’s alcohol policy ahead of time so you know what you are (or aren’t) permitted to bring on board and where you’ll be able to drink it (for a fee or for free).

For Air Travel: Baggage Fees

According to the United States Department of Transportation baggage fees report, as of September 2016, the 13 main airlines in America had made a combined $2,047,379 in revenue on baggage fees over the course of that year.

You may be able to save a few bucks by paying to check your bag online instead of at the ticket counter, as some airlines offer discounts for doing this, according to Joe Black, who runs Nature Rated, a site focused on exploring the great outdoors. Black said he avoids baggage fees by trying to fly with carry-on bags only.

If neither of these options are right for you, you may want to consider looking at a travel rewards credit card, as many of these will waive your baggage fees. Just keep in mind that these cards often come with annual fees, so you need to make sure you travel enough to make this added expense worthwhile. (You can find more tips for applying for a new card here.)

For Road Trips: Toll Fees

Nothing beats packing a cooler and a bag of snacks and heading out on the open road. But, depending on where your road trip takes you, you may be faced with paying obnoxious toll booth fees. Of course, you can always avoid tolls by opting for longer, scenic byways — and  you can potentially offset this expense by using gas credit cards that reward you for filling up. You can set these rewards aside and use them to help you cover any tolls you encounter on your next road trip.

For Hotel Stays: Resort Fees

Elizabeth Avery, founder of SoloTrekker4U.com, emphasized how important it is to “read the fine print” before you book your stay to see if these fees are built into your lodging charge or if they break them out individually. “Check it out before booking so you won’t find you are paying [for things you won’t use, like] for the fitness center when you’d rather relax than work out,” Avery said. In many cases, you may be able to get these waived by asking a representative when booking your reservation.  

Image: SolStock

The post 4 Outrageous Travel Fees — & How to Avoid Them appeared first on Credit.com.

BankAmericard Travel Rewards vs. Capital One Venture Rewards: Which Card Has the Most Value?

We compare the costs and rewards two of the top travel credit cards available.

If you are looking to add a new general travel card to your wallet, then two of the best options are the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card and the Capital One Venture Rewards card. Both of these cards offer their cardholders a simple approach to earning travel rewards. Each has a flat reward rate on purchases, and neither requires you to remember a bunch of different bonus categories.

Let’s take a look at everything these cards have to offer and how they differ from each other. That way you will be able to make a decision on which card would be the best fit for you.

Comparing the Rewards

When you compare credit cards, one of the first things people consider is whether or not the cards have a signup bonus. While both the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card and the Capital One Venture card offer an attractive signup bonus, Capital One has the advantage.

With the Capital One Venture card, you will receive 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months of being a cardmember. This is good for a $400 statement credit on a travel expense. In addition to the signup bonus, cardholders will also receive two miles per $1 spent on all purchases.

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card offers new cardholders 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. This has a value of $200 toward travel expenses. While this is half of what you can earn from the Capital One Venture card, it also requires only half the initial spend. For some, this might be easier to accomplish. To go along with the signup bonus, you will earn 1.5 points per $1 spent.

Take note, Bank of America banking customers: You have the potential to earn much richer rewards with the BankAmericard. Just for having a checking or savings account you will receive a 10% bonus on the points earned. If you are a Preferred Rewards client, with $20,000 or more in a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch investment account, then you can earn up to a 75% bonus, or 2.6 points per dollar spent.

Redemptions Made Easy

One of the reasons why both of these cards are so popular with travelers is because redemptions are so easy. The rewards you earn don’t need to be transferred to different loyalty programs, and there are no blackout dates on travel. You can simply use the rewards you have as a statement credit toward travel expenses, or you can book travel directly through the issuers’ online travel portals. No matter which way you go, the process is painless. Plus, as long as your account stays open and active, your rewards will never expire.

If for some reason you decide not to use your rewards for travel, there are other options available as well. Just keep in mind that each of these will give you a value less than the normal one-cent-per-point. You will be able to redeem rewards from the Capital One Venture Rewards card for either gift cards or cash back. The rewards you earn from the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card can be used to fund a mortgage, IRA or 529 plan with Bank of America or Merril Lynch. You can also redeem them for gift cards, cash back, or to make a charitable contribution.

How The Fees Stack Up

The Capital One Venture Rewards card might have the higher signup bonus, but it also includes a $59 annual fee (waived the first year). You would never pay an annual fee on the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card, and neither card carries foreign transaction fees.

It’s a good idea to pay off your purchases at the end of the month to avoid paying interest, but if you do need to carry a balance, then the Capital One Venture card may be a little less expensive. It’s standard purchase APR is a variable 13.49% to 23.49%, whereas the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card is 15.49% to 23.49%. The APR you receive depends on your creditworthiness. (Pro tip: Check your credit before you apply for a credit card, to get an idea how likely you are to get approved and qualify for a lower APR. You can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com, and they’re updated every 14 days. If your credit could use some help, check out these tips on how to quickly improve your credit score.)

Why You Might Pick the Capital One Venture Rewards Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards card is a great option for anyone wanting a general travel credit card with a simple reward system. The card has a high signup bonus, double what you would receive from the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card. Plus, you earn double points on every purchase you make.

However, even though it waives the annual fee the first year, you would need to be able to justify the $59 fee each subsequent year. At a redemption rate of 100 miles per $1 and an earnings rate of 2 miles per $1 spent, you would need to spend $2,950 on the card per year to break even. If you spend more than that each year, then this is a solid credit card to put in your wallet.

Why You Might Pick the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card

If you are a Bank of America banking customer, then you’ll want to give serious consideration to the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card. Standard banking customer will earn a 10% bonus on the base reward rate of 1.5 miles per dollar spent. However, if you have $20,000 or more in your qualifying account, you can become a Preferred Rewards client, which allows you to earn 25% to 75% bonus, depending on your qualifying account balance. This would also be a great card to have if you’re not a big spender and can’t justify the annual fee on the Capital One Venture card.

At publishing time, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards and Capital One Venture cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Image: swissmediavision 

The post BankAmericard Travel Rewards vs. Capital One Venture Rewards: Which Card Has the Most Value? appeared first on Credit.com.

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Should You Upgrade?

Here's how to decide whether to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.

For many years, the Chase Sapphire Preferred was the card to carry if you wanted a premium travel credit card in your wallet. You could earn a generous signup bonus and extra points on travel and restaurant purchases — all for a very reasonable annual fee (currently $95, waived the first year). Then Chase decided it was time to make a big move and released the Chase Sapphire Reserve, undoubtedly the most talked about credit card of 2016. (The Sapphire Reserve was so popular, Chase temporarily ran out the metal versions of the card shortly after its August debut.).

While the elder Chase Sapphire Preferred (see full review here) and new Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards offer a lot of the same benefits, including certain trip cancellation/interruption and baggage delay insurance, there are some major differences between the two. In this article, we’ll walk you through each card to help you decide which might be the better choice for your wallet.

A few quick asides before we begin: First, we’re going over the cards’ major terms and conditions. It’s still important to read the fine print of their agreements before applying. Also, before you fill out any credit card application, it’s a good idea to know where your credit stands. Remember, you’ll need a good credit score to qualify for the premium cards out there. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

Now let’s break down the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Comparing the Rewards

One of the biggest differences between the two cards is the rewards they provide their cardholders. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you will earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months. That bonus is equivalent to $625 when you redeem your points through Chase’s travel portal. Cardholders earn two points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants. Any other purchase will earn one point per dollar spent.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can receive 100,000 Ultimate Reward points after you spend $4,000 within three months. That signup bonus is worth a whopping $1,500 when redeemed through Chase’s travel portal — and it’s a huge reason why the card got so much attention last year. The base amount of points you can earn on purchases with the Sapphire Reserve is also higher. You will earn three points per dollar on both travel and at restaurants; all other purchases will earn one point for every dollar you spend.

Before you start thinking the choice between the two cards sounds like a no-brainer, we must discuss …

The Annual Fee

What really sets these two cards apart in terms of picking one for your wallet is their annual fees. If you carry the Sapphire Preferred, the annual fee is $95 — and that charge gets waived the first year. Conversely, because it’s thought of as an elite credit card, the Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $450 — and that charge is not waived the first year. (You can get an idea of how the Chase Sapphire Reserve stacks up to other premium credit cards on the market here and, if you’re looking for a more affordable rewards credit card, remember, there are plenty of no-annual-fee credit cards out there.)

Redeeming Your Points

Whether you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you will be able to transfer the points you earn to one of the bank’s many airline and hotel transfer partners. These partners include Hyatt, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and more. As previously mentioned, you can also use your points directly for travel through the Ultimate Rewards platform.

Why Might You Pick the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

Anyone that chooses the Sapphire Reserve over the Sapphire Preferred does so mostly because there is more value per point, both when you are earning points and spending them. They are able to overlook the high annual fee because the math works out to their advantage, especially if they can use the following ancillary benefits the card provides:

  • A $300 annual travel credit: One of the big added benefits of the Sapphire Reserve card is that it comes with a $300 annual travel credit. Each time you make a valid purchase on travel, you will receive a statement credit, up to $300 per calendar year. Chase has a pretty wide definition of travel, so a lot of expenses, including airfare and hotels, would be eligible.
  • A $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check: With the Sapphire Reserve, you will also receive a statement credit of $100 to cover the cost of Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, which can help you bypass long lines at the airport.
  • Access to airport lounges: If you are a frequent traveler, you will enjoy the complimentary Priority Pass that comes with the Sapphire Reserve card. With this membership, you will gain entry to over 900 airport lounges worldwide.
  • Special benefits when you patronize the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Another benefit for frequent travelers, when you choose to stay at properties within the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, you’ll be eligible for a few special benefits as a Sapphire Reserve cardholder. You can receive early check-in and late check-out, complimentary room upgrades, daily breakfast for two, and a unique gift at each property, when available.

Why Might You Pick the Chase Sapphire Preferred?

It’s all about that annual fee — especially since both cards carry the same variable 16.24% to 23.24% annual percentage rate (APR). (Your APR will be determined largely by your credit standing.)

The biggest reason someone might choose the Sapphire Preferred over the Sapphire Reserve is because they can’t get over spending $450 just to carry a credit card. Plus, if they don’t plan on using a lot of the benefits on the Sapphire Reserve and/or don’t do much traveling, it makes more sense to pay the Preferred’s more practical $95 annual fee, which, again, gets waived the first year.

Authorized Users

If you would like to add a significant other or your children as authorized users to your account, the Sapphire Preferred might be the better choice as well. For starters, you can earn a 5,000-point bonus when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months. Plus, with the Sapphire Reserve, there is a $75 annual fee tacked on for each authorized user. That means they would need to spend $5,000 on the card each year just to break even on the cost.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: wundervisuals

The post Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Should You Upgrade? appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Credit Cards for Business Travelers

businesstravelcard

Business travel can be an exhausting way of life, as you can spend hours each week waiting in line at airports, hotels and rental car counters. The more time you spend waiting around, the more important it becomes to find some way to streamline the experience and save valuable time.

Thankfully, the right credit card can offer business travelers priority service at every step of their journey, along with valuable rewards for their spending. And while these premium reward cards come with significant annual fees, this expense can be easily justified by all the value offered.

Frequent fliers should be careful, though, to read the terms and conditions carefully to be sure a card is a good fit. It’s also a good idea to check your credit since you generally need a good score to qualify for premium plastic. (You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) Finally, it’s best to avoid carrying a balance on these cards; otherwise, lots of those perks will be lost to your annual percentage rate. And you’ll want to be sure you travel enough to recoup any annual fee associated with the card — they tend to be on the higher side.

With those caveats in minds, here are some credit cards business travelers may want to consider. 

1. American Express Platinum

This card is offered in a version for small business owners and for consumers. Each offers impressive travel benefits including membership in the Delta SkyClub, Priority Pass Select, and American Express Centurion airport lounge programs. You also receive a $200 annual air travel credit that can be used for incidental fees such as baggage fees, seat selection fees, and in-flight food and beverages.

To speed things along at the airport, you will be reimbursed for the $100 application fee for the Global Entry program, which includes expedited entry to the United States when arriving on a flight from another country, or the TSA PreCheck program for faster security screening. After you arrive, you can quickly rent a car with elite status with Avis, Hertz and National car rentals. Finally, you will receive priority service and other perks that come with Gold status with the Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest programs.

This card offers Membership Rewards points that can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards or travel reservations, or transferred to airline miles with 17 different frequent flyer programs. You earn one point per dollar spent, and double points on all reservations booked through American Express travel. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

2. United MileagePlus Club Business Card from Chase

This card offers business travelers numerous ways to speed up their experiences, as well as solid rewards. To begin with, cardholders receive a United Club airport lounge membership. And when flying on United, cardholders receive priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges, along with a waiver of United’s $75 close-in award booking fee for flights reserved within 21 days of departure. You also receive two free checked bags for yourself and a companion. You also receive Platinum status in the Hyatt Gold Passport program.

Instead of earning just one point per dollar spent, like most airline cards, this card offers 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases, and double points for United purchases. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

3. Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

This card offers numerous perks including an Admiral’s Club airport lounge membership as well as a free checked bag, priority check-in, expedited airport screening (where available) and early boarding when flying American Airlines. In fact, even authorized users receive lounge access, and there is no cost to order additional cards. You also receive a 25% savings on in-flight purchases and up to a $100 credit towards the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees. (Full Disclosure: Citibank and Chase advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

4. Chase Sapphire Reserve

This new card offers three points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases, which add up very quickly for road warriors. Points are earned in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program and are worth 1.5 cents each towards travel reservations, or can be transferred to airline miles or hotel points. Other benefits include a $300 annual travel credit and a $100 credit toward the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.

It also includes complimentary airport lounge access with the Priority Pass select program as well as special car rental privileges from National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar when you book with your card. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

At publishing time, the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World EliteTM MasterCard and the American Express Platinum are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: andresr

The post 4 Credit Cards for Business Travelers appeared first on Credit.com.

The Best Dates to Take a Last-Minute Summer Vacation

summer_travel_destinations

If your Instagram feed is full of your friends’ fun summer adventures and the only change of scenery you’ve had lately is when you updated your computer background at the office, it may be time for a vacation.

There’s still time to get a good deal on a summer getaway, according to the latest issue of the Hotwire Travel Inspiration Indicator, a quarterly travel-trend guide. In fact, based on the display rate for Hot Rate Hotels, Hotwire discovered that summer travel will be the most affordable during the last two weeks of August, with the lowest hotel rates in mid-September.

Most Popular Destinations

If you don’t quite know where you’d like to go, Hotwire has some suggestions. Based on last year’s numbers, Hotwire discovered these 10 cities offer hotel rooms with three- to five-star rooms starting at $67 a night.

  • Las Vegas
  • Houston
  • Atlanta
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Dallas
  • San Diego
  • Minneapolis
  • New Orleans
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • St. Louis

And if you’re thinking of utilizing that last weekend of summer for a getaway, these are the seven cities they say are the best places to travel during Labor Day weekend (based on these cities having three- to five-star hotel rooms starting at $70 a night over Labor Day weekend 2015).

  • Phoenix
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Dallas
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • New Orleans
  • Tampa, Florida

Try Not to Overspend

No matter where you decide to visit, in addition to considering travel deals, you may be able to cut back on some of the extra fees with airline credit cards and even get rewards points that help you pay for your next flight. (You can read about the best airline credit cards in America here.)

But keep in mind that, while these credit cards offer some perks you may enjoy, getting into credit card debt to save on checking a suitcase simply isn’t worth it. (You can see how your credit card balances are affecting your credit score by reviewing your free credit report summary for free each month on Credit.com.)

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: Andrew Rich

The post The Best Dates to Take a Last-Minute Summer Vacation appeared first on Credit.com.

The Trick That Can Help You Skip Long TSA Lines

Airport security lines have been, well, out of control lately.

Last week, a video of an extremely long Transportation Security Administration line at Chicago’s Midway Airport went viral. A few days later, about 450 American Airlines passengers missed their flights out of O’Hare International Airport, also in Chicago, thanks to “longer than ever” lines. And it’s not just folks flying out of the Windy City experiencing problems. Reports of long wait times also surfaced out of Atlanta, New York and New Jersey.

How Can I Avoid the Wait? 

The backups are being attributed to an influx of summer travelers, more carry-on luggage and TSA staffing issues. Fortunately, there are a few ways to bypass long lines at the airport. The TSA does offer a Pre-Check program that provides eligible, low-risk travelers with expedited security screening. To take part in the program, you fill out an application, visit an enrollment center to provide proper documentation and pay a non-refundable $85 fee (valid for 5 years).

You could also apply for Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the U.S. The application process is similar and you have to pay a $100 non-refundable fee for the clearance (also valid for 5 years) whether you get it or not.

There is a chance, however, that the plastic in your wallet could cover your pre-approval. Some credit cards offer frequent flyers credits that can be put toward TSA Pre-Check and/or Global Entry (so long as you charge the fee to the card). Here are a few of them.

  • The Platinum Card From American ExpressAmex’s Platinum (see full review here) provides cardholders with one Global Entry ($100) statement credit or one TSA Pre-Check ($85) statement credit every 5 years for an application fee. This card has a $450 annual fee. American Express provides a similar credit for its corporate, consumer and business Centurion cardholders, corporate Gold cardholders, and corporate and business Platinum cardholders.
  • The Ritz Carlton Rewards Credit Card: This card from Chase offer cardholders a $300 annual travel credit that can put toward, among other things, Global Entry fees. The card has a $395 annual fee.
  • The Expedia + Voyager Card from CitiCardholders can use the $100 annual travel credit associated with this card to pay for either the Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application fee. The card carries a $95 annual fee. (Full Disclosure: Citibank and American Express advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
  • Citi Prestige CardCiti Prestige (see full review here) cardholders receive a $100 Global Entry application fee credit. The card has $450 annual fee.
  • Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard: This Citi card touts a $450 fee and a $100 statement credit every 5 years that can be used for your Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check application fee.

The Perks of Travel Credit Cards 

Many travel credit cards offer other amenities, like a free checked bag, priority boarding and/or airport lounge access that can make flying more enjoyable. (You can learn more about the best airline miles credit cards here.) Of course, you’ll want to read the terms and conditions of any credit card you are considering so you know exactly what you are getting before signing up. As you can see from the list above, many of these cards carry a high annual fee that might not be worth paying if you don’t travel often enough.

You should also check your credit, as a good credit score will help you qualify for the better plastic on the market. You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

At publishing time, the Platinum Card From American Expressthe Expedia + Voyager Card from CitiCiti Prestige Card and Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: Jodi Jacobson

The post The Trick That Can Help You Skip Long TSA Lines appeared first on Credit.com.

This Is One Time You Want a Screaming Baby On Your Plane

crying_baby

When is a crying baby on a plane a welcome addition? When the airline offers free flights to everyone onboard if the baby does just enough crying.

JetBlue sent a shoutout to parents everywhere, but especially moms, with a Mother’s Day message meant to soothe the frustrations of flying with a cranky baby.

The New York-based airline released a video on Monday of a flight from JFK to Long Beach, California, where several babies were being given the opportunity to cry their hearts out. If they cried enough, everyone onboard would receive a free roundtrip ticket. The babies came through, with everyone onboard cheering.

“In honor of Mother’s Day, we are giving everyone a reason to smile every time a baby cries,” the airline wrote on its YouTube channel, where it posted the video, which you can also see below.

Crying babies on a plane are a minor annoyance compared to some of the other headaches travel can produce, like a lost or stolen credit card, lost luggage, unexpected airline fees and missed connections. You can help smooth your way through some of these hassles, though, by using one of the best travel rewards credit cards when booking your flight and hotel and paying for incidentals.

Which credit card you use to pay for your travels will make a big difference in the rewards you earn. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee that is waived the first year; you can see a full review here.) offers double points on all travel purchases, while the American Express Premier Rewards Gold ($175 annual fee, waived the first year; you can see a full review here.) offers triple points for all flights booked directly with the airlines. (The latter is actually a charge card, which must be paid in full each month.)

Before you apply for any credit card, it’s important to do your research and make sure the card will meet your needs, and that you meet the issuer’s general credit requirements. You can get two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand, and to get personalized tips to help you improve your credit.

At publishing time, Chase and American Express credit cards, including the Premier Rewards Gold, are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: Bojan Sokolovic

The post This Is One Time You Want a Screaming Baby On Your Plane appeared first on Credit.com.

How Much Do I Have to Spend to Get VIP Credit Card Perks?

vip-credit-card-perks

Don’t you love it when you get VIP treatment? It’s especially appreciated when you’re traveling and you can enjoy perks like priority service and upgrades to a better airplane seat or hotel room.

And as some frequent travelers know, the key to earning VIP treatment can be holding the right credit cards. Some credit cards offer elite status in hotel and rental car programs to all cardholders, regardless of how much they spend, and there are several cards that allow you to earn elite status with airlines and hotel programs when you reach specified annual spending thresholds. In addition, there are some cards that offer credits towards elite status when you spend a certain amount.

The Cards That Offer Elite Status to All Cardholders from Day One

Many credits only require you to open an account in order to earn elite status with a travel provider. For example, the American Express Platinum card (reviewed here) offers all cardholders both Gold status in the Starwood Preferred Guest program and the Hilton HHonors program, as well as elite status with Avis, Hertz and National car rental companies. However, cardholders will need to request these status upgrades individually. Mid-level elite status in hotel programs is also a feature of credit cards such as the IHG, Hyatt and Marriott Rewards card from Chase, as well as the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card (reviewed here) and the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express. (Full Disclosure: Citibank, as well as American Express, Barclaycard & Chase advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) 

The Cards That Offer Elite Status to High Spenders

Other credit cards only offer elite status to their highest spenders. For example, the new JetBlue Plus personal and business cards from Barclaycard offer Mosaic elite status in the TrueBlue frequent flier program to those who spend $50,000 on their cards with a calendar year.

According to Kristen Bowdoin, director of the JetBlue partnership, Barclaycard US: “The ability for cardmembers to earn Mosaic status solely from the spend on their credit card is a great example of how we’re trying to help loyal JetBlue customers get even more out of their JetBlue experience. Not every cardmember who loves JetBlue is an avid flier and this benefit offers them a new opportunity to earn Mosaic status beyond the required segments and flight points.”

Once earned, Mosaic status offers priority check-in, security screening and boarding as well as two free checked bags and free alcoholic beverages. In addition, Mosaic members have the ability to upgrade to Even More Space seats with extra legroom for as little as 200 points.

Holders of the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express (reviewed here) can receive Gold status by spending $30,000 within a calendar year. Gold status offers perks such as priority check-in, 4 p.m. late checkouts and room upgrades.

The Hilton HHonors Surpass card from American Express offers instant Gold status, but cardholders can be upgraded to Diamond status when they use their card to spend $40,000 in a calendar year. Diamond status offers late checkouts, room upgrades and even free breakfast.

The Hilton HHonors card from American Express has no annual fee, but offers Gold status after cardholders spend $20,000 in a calendar year. Gold status also offers late checkouts, room upgrades, and even free breakfast.

The Ritz-Carlton rewards credit card from Chase offers cardholders automatic Gold status in their first year, which they can maintain by using their card to spend $10,000 each account member year. Gold status offers guests complimentary room upgrades, late checkouts and exclusive point bonuses. Furthermore, you can reach their Platinum Elite status when you use your card to spend $75,000 per account year, which offers cardholders bonus points, an arrival gift, room guarantees and two complimentary nights at The Ritz-Carlton.

The Cards That Speed Up Your Path Elite Status

Finally, there are several cards that don’t necessarily offer elite status for spending alone, but offer points, miles or night-stay credits towards elite status that can be combined with other qualifications to help you reach elite status sooner. For example, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card from American Express offers 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) after cardholders spend $30,000 in a calendar year, and another 15,000 MQMs after reaching $60,000 of spending in a year. Likewise, the American Airlines AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard from Citi offers 10,000 elite qualifying miles after spending $40,000 within a calendar year. Finally, the Hyatt credit card from Chase offers two stay credits and five night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $20,000 in a calendar year, and an additional three stay credits and five night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $40,000 total in each calendar year.

By choosing the right credit card for your purchases, you can receive VIP treatment when you travel even sooner that you might have thought you could. But before you set your heart on a credit card and its potential travel benefits, remember that rewards cards are often only available to consumers with good credit. Take a few minutes to check your credit (you can get two free credit scores every 30 days on Credit.com) and research credit cards that may suit you best before applying for anything.

At publishing time, the Hilton HHonors card from American ExpressAmerican Airlines AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard from CitiCiti Hilton HHonors Reserve CardAmerican Express PlatinumJetBlue Plus and Starwood Preferred Guest card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: Digital Vision

The post How Much Do I Have to Spend to Get VIP Credit Card Perks? appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Travel Costs Frugal People Don’t Pay

frugal_traveler

Most people shy away from the idea of traveling because they think it’ll be expensive.

In reality, traveling doesn’t have to be. If you make it a priority, if you are smart with where and how you spend your money, even the most extravagant-looking trip is within the realm of possibility. It can be even cheaper if you know what upsells and traps to avoid.

Here are five travel expenses frugal people don’t pay so you can make your next vacation more affordable.

1. Luggage Fees

Frugal people are typically practical people and as such, they tend to pack accordingly. Bring only what you need and no more.

This helps you avoid any extra luggage fees, whether it’s spending extra to bring two cases instead of one, or over-packing one to the point of paying extra for each pound over the limit.

Be sure to check the restrictions beforehand so you’re not hit with any surprises. Some airlines are very strict about carry-on dimensions!

Also, when you price flights, remember the luggage rules because one bag fee can turn the cheapest flight into the most expensive one.

2. Convenience Food

We all need to eat! One of the biggest expenses on any trip is food. You can save a lot by living like a local and going to the grocery store instead of restaurants every meal.

Get lodging that has a full kitchen, or at least a microwave or toaster oven, and a fridge. This can save you a ton if you’re staying at a place for a week or more. Bonus points if you’re staying with a group of people and can split the grocery bill and cooking duties.

If a kitchen isn’t possible, look for lodging that offers complimentary breakfast, or at least a cocktail hour.

Additionally, whether you’re traveling by air or by car, packing snacks is always a good idea. Airlines charge a pretty penny for food outside of what’s complimentary on the plane and buying food at the airport comes at a high premium.

3. Full-Price Airline Tickets & Hotel Stays

The ultimate way to be frugal with travel is by not paying for airline tickets or hotel stays. Seasoned “travel hackers” take advantage of travel credit cards and their big sign-up bonuses to travel the world for free. These points and miles translate into free flights and hotel stays. (You can check out our recent ranking of the best travel credit cards in America here.)

This technique isn’t for those currently in debt, or those who can’t trust themselves to stay within their budget when using a credit card. Purchasing things on credit and then letting interest accrue will negate any rewards. (You should also check your credit before applying since good credit scores will net you better terms and conditions. You can do so by viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.)

If you’re responsible with credit, look into the various rewards programs out there, especially with your favorite airline or hotel chain. You can potentially save hundreds of dollars on the two biggest expenses associated with travel by signing up. Many loyalty cards and programs come with additional perks like free luggage and priority boarding, too.

Taking advantage of these types of rewards can offer big savings on any vacation. It could even get you to Disney World for free if you coordinate it properly.

4. Small Incidentals

How many times have you gone on vacation, only to realize you forgot a phone charger, toothpaste, razor or even worse, clothing or shoes?

What if the hotel is out of toiletries? Then you’re running to the nearest store to find what you forgot. That’s an extra expense you didn’t account for, plus possibly having to pay for transportation.

The best solution to this is to create a checklist of everything you need to take with you on trips. Review the list as you’re packing and you won’t forget anything.

If you do, ask if the hotel provides any complimentary items for forgetful travelers. I’ve often forgotten a razor and most hotels will provide one free of charge. It’ll be a single blade disposable razor, but it’s better than nothing.

5. Upsells & Upgrades

Unless rewards points can cover an upgrade, most frugal travelers opt for the cheapest seats. They avoid all the upsells as they’re booking their flight and select only what they need.

Beware of airlines that sell cheaper tickets but make up for it with fees on everything from bags to peanuts. You could end up tacking another $50 to $75 worth of charges on top of your ticket price.

The Rule of Thumb for Traveling Frugally

Being frugal involves practicality and focusing on the big picture. What’s the purpose of your travel? Is what you’re considering buying adding to the overall value of your trip? Is it a make it or break it situation?

If the answer is no, consider skipping it. The best thing you can do to ensure your travels are frugal is to prepare beforehand. You’re already halfway there!

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: lzf

The post 5 Travel Costs Frugal People Don’t Pay appeared first on Credit.com.

I Travel a Lot. Should I Get a Hotel or Airline Credit Card?

travel_credit_card

Co-branded credit cards can be a great way for frequent fliers to pool loyalty and rewards points, maximize earnings, enjoy perks like a free checked bag or hotel Wi-Fi, and score upgrades like a first-class seat or a night in a suite.

In fact, for travelers who don’t carry a balance (and, subsequently, lose points to interest), the biggest dilemma is often the choice between using an airline miles credit card or a hotel rewards credit card. Here are some ways to determine which option may be right for you.

Airline Credit Cards vs. Hotel Credit Cards: The Pros & Cons

Credit cards that earn airline miles are tremendously popular, but not necessarily for their miles. For the past several years, many airlines have devalued their frequent-flier programs by requiring more miles for award flights, making fewer seats available for awards at the lowest mileage levels and changing up earnings so you get miles for dollars spent and not distance traveled. Nevertheless, these cards still offer valuable benefits, such as checked baggage fee waivers, priority boarding and discounts on in-flight food, beverages and entertainment. In addition, skilled travelers may still be able to realize exceptional value from their miles when redeeming them for last-minute award flights or for international awards in business or first class.

While hotel credit cards may not be as popular as airline credit cards, they can offer terrific value. Several of the top hotel loyalty programs offer award nights for any unsold standard room, so you don’t have to hunt for award availability like you do with many airline credit cards. (Hotel programs with this policy include Hyatt Gold Passport, Starwood Preferred Guest, Hilton HHonors and Wyndham Rewards.) At the same time, some hotel programs have also devalued their points in the past few years by increasing the number required for a free night’s stay. So, cardholders have to carefully review a card’s terms and conditions to make sure they understand its true earnings potential.

Hotel credit cards can also offer elite status, which entitles guests to perks such as late checkouts, room upgrades, free Internet service and even complimentary breakfast. Another benefit is that award stays may actually be free, since hotels tend to be taxed based on the rate paid, with award nights frequently escaping all taxes. In contrast, an airline award almost always involves paying some money, as these programs generally require the payment of any required government taxes, and will sometimes add their own surcharges.

You can find a roundup of the best airline miles credit cards and the best hotel rewards credit cards on Credit.com.

How to Decide What’s Right for You

If you could only use either an airline or a hotel credit card, you should choose the one that will offer you the most value towards your travel needs. For example, if you usually fly somewhere and stay with family or friends or stay at destinations without major hotel chains, then a hotel credit card will not offer you much value. Conversely, if you like to take road trips (or use trains or buses), then an airline credit card would be a poor fit for your travel habits. Likewise, if you need to use your airline miles for award flights during peak travel periods, then you are likely to be disappointed by the availability of airline mileage awards, and you might be better off with a hotel credit card. (Remember, if you choose a card affiliated with a program that offers any unsold room as an award, then you can use your hotel points for award stays at popular destinations during peak travel periods, so long as the property isn’t already sold out of standard rooms.)

For some consumers, it may be beneficial to have both an airline credit card and a hotel credit card. Holding multiple credit cards can increase your credit score by reducing your ratio of debt to available credit. But if holding additional credit cards gives you incentive to incur more debt, or becomes difficult to manage responsibly, then you are better off with fewer credit cards.

You also need to consider any costs associated with cards to determine which — or how many — you should carry. Many travel credit cards have annual fees that could be financially burdensome, particularly if you have more than one in your wallet. And you want to refrain from applying for too many credit cards in a short window of time, since each application generates a hard inquiry on your credit report, which could, in turn, ding your credit score. To see if you credit can handle an inquiry and another card, you can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: haveseen

The post I Travel a Lot. Should I Get a Hotel or Airline Credit Card? appeared first on Credit.com.