12 Places You Could Visit for Free This Summer (With the Right Credit Card)

Because who wouldn't want to travel for free?

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Vacations can be expensive, but that doesn’t stop us from taking them. A 2017 AAA survey found that 42% of Americans plan to take a vacation this year, and about 30% said they are more likely to go on vacation this year than they were in 2016. Most participants said those trips would be to warm locales throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Paying for These Vacations

Getaways usually require advance planning and saving, but you may be able to fund these trips with something other than a cut of each paycheck, thanks to rewards you gather from credit cards.

Some travel rewards credit cards offer sizable signup bonuses that can help pay for a large portion of your trip. Take the ever-popular Chase Sapphire Reserve. This card rewards you with 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. That’s equal to $750 toward travel, when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Plus, you’ll get a $300 annual statement credit for travel purchases every year.

Add in rewards for purchases you make with the card (three points on travel and restaurants, one point everywhere else), and you’ll be on your way to funding your next vacation.

Before You Sign Up …

You should read the fine print for any card you’re considering to make sure you know what you’ll be getting. To earn high bonuses or other perks, you have to reach a certain spending threshold in a set amount of time (like $4,000 in three months, as we mentioned). You’ll want to make sure your budget allows for this kind of spending.

There’s often a price tag tied to these cards in the form of an annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is $450 each year, so you’ll want to account for that in your budget. There are rewards cards that don’t come with such a hefty annual fee that you may consider. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee for the first year and is $95 thereafter.

You also want to think about your spending habits. Do you tend to carry a balance? A rewards card may not be right for you. Not paying in full each month with these cards means you’ll just lose all those rewards to interest charges. Are you easily motivated by rewards? If collecting points or miles causes you to spend more than you can afford, you may want to steer clear of these kinds of cards.

Rewards credit cards tend to require high credit scores, so it’s a good idea to take a look at yours before applying to see if you’ll qualify. (You can see a free credit report summary, which includes two of your credit scores, for free on Credit.com.)

With that in mind, where can these plastic perks get you? Here are a dozen possible destinations.

1. Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Strip may be your perfect getaway if you’re looking for never-ending energy, sunshine and good eats. (Pro tip: Mon Ami Gabi is a must try.) Try to visit during the week when hotel rooms tend to go for a lower rate.

2. Nassau, Bahamas

Pull up a beach chair on one of the pristine beaches in the capital city of the Bahamas and enjoy the sunshine. If you’d rather be out in the water, get your snorkel gear and enjoy some of the most beautiful coral reefs around.

3. Rome

From the art and architecture to the wine and pasta, Rome has it all. Enjoy seeing iconic sites like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, then kick back with a cappuccino at one of the cafes.

4. Puerto Rico

The bright and colorful buildings in Old San Juan, as well as the fortresses, are must-sees if you’re coming to Puerto Rico. Your taste buds are sure to thank you for enjoying the local cuisines, like plantain burritos and arroz con dulce.

5. Key West

The southernmost point of the U.S. has great fishing and diving opportunities. Plus, you can see the famous six- and seven-toed cats at the Ernest Hemingway Home.

6. New York City

Once you’ve seen the tourist spots, you can check out the architecture and boutiques in NoHo or wrap up the day enjoying the nightlife in Greenwich Village.

7. Seattle

Enjoy the breathtaking views of Puget Sound from the Space Needle or take a ferry to Bainbridge Island and visit the local wineries.

8. Bermuda

Enjoy pink sandy beaches on the main island, like those at Astwood Park. There are also several shipwrecks and reefs that are perfect for scuba divers to explore.

9. Sedona, Arizona

If your idea of warm weather destinations doesn’t include beaches, this desert town in Arizona may be perfect for you. The beautiful red rock cliffs, accompanied by trails leading to some of the most alluring picnicking spots, will have you admiring the West.

10. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Kick back or enjoy the waves at the Playa del Amor and then grab dinner and drinks at one of the many outdoor bars and restaurants along the water. If you want to bring your clubs, there are many gorgeous golf courses in town you won’t want to miss.

11. Hawaii

While here, you can explore volcanoes like Mauna Loa or historic sites like the USS Arizona Memorial or Pearl Harbor. And there are the beautiful beaches and the ocean that are great for surfing or sailing.

12. San Diego

With seemingly perfect weather year-round, there’s never a bad time to visit this California city. Carlsbad, in northern San Diego, boasts some of the most stunning beaches. And the Victorian-style Hotel del Coronado is worth visiting, both for the view and for brunch at the Crown Room.

Want more ideas on where to travel using your credit card rewards? Check out these 50 places to visit before you turn 50.

At publishing time, the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is 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).

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.

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Chase Is Slashing the Sapphire Reserve Signup Bonus. Is the Card Still Worth it?

Chase just announced they're slashing the big sign-on bonus for their Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. So, is it still worth signing up?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card made a big splash when it was introduced in August 2016. The card launched with a number of enticing travel rewards, and Chase was initially so swamped with applications, it literally ran out of the physical cards.

One chief catalyst for the initial demand was the card’s mega-signup bonus. Chase offered new Sapphire Reserve cardholders 100,000 bonus points when they spent $4,000 in the first three months — a $1,500 value when those points are redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

But that signup bonus is about to get less lucrative by half: Chase is slashing it to 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 in your first three months as a cardholder. Per the bank’s website, applicants have until January 11 to apply online for the card with the existing bonus. They have until March 12 if you apply at a branch, according to a report in The New York Times.

So with this drastic reduction in bonus points, is it still worth applying for the card post-January 11? Well, that depends …

Should I Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve?

First up, you should find out if you’d even qualify for the credit card. Most of the lucrative travel credit cards on the market require good or excellent credit to qualify. (You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Beyond that, you need to think about the cost of having this card. The annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is $450, with another $75 added for every additional user, which is pretty substantial. So, you’ll have to consider if this is something your wallet can handle paying on a yearly basis.

And, just like any other card, you need to consider your habits. Are you someone who routinely carries a balance or do you typically pay your card off when the statement arrives? Either way, you’ll want to take note of the interest you’ll be paying if you don’t pay your balance in full. The annual percentage rate (APR) for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is a variable 16.24% to 23.24%.

With these things in mind, there has to be some big rewards if Chase continues to expect new customers …

The Perks of the Sapphire Reserve 

… and, in many respects, there still are. As we mentioned, Chase is cutting the signup bonus in half (to 50,000 points instead of 100,000). While that sounds pretty drastic, those 50,000 points still have a $750 value when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards (using Chase Ultimate Rewards nets you an additional 50% value with the Sapphire Reserve).

The card earns three points for every dollar spent on travel and restaurants worldwide and one point per dollar spent on all other qualifying purchases.

Cardholders will still receive up to $300 in annual travel credits and a $100 reimbursement for a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application. The card also gets you access to more than 900 airport lounges as well as special privileges at participating luxury hotels and car rental agencies. The card comes with a number of travel protection policies and programs as well.

Is Chase Sapphire Reserve Still a Good Value?

The great travel features are probably most valuable to frequent jetsetters who will actually use the annual credits, airport lounges and other travel benefits. Those customers will see more long-term value in the card, and, for them, the signup bonus may just be icing on the cake.

If you’re an occasional traveller who won’t frequently use these features, this card might not get you much return on that $450 investment. In other words, if you’re still starry-eyed over the signup bonus after it’s cut in half, you may want to slow down and consider other cards.

Comparing the Sapphire Reserve to Other Travel Cards With Signup Bonuses

The Sapphire Reserve isn’t the only travel credit card that touts a signup bonus. And, if that $450 annual fee is now looking way too steep, given your travel habits, there are some more affordable alternatives. (Note: See card agreements for full details.)

Chase Sapphire Preferred 

The Chase Sapphire Preferred (read a full review here) is the bank’s more affordable travel rewards option. The 50,000-point signup bonus, which you can get after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, holds a value of $625 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards (going through Chase Ultimate Rewards nets you an additional 25% value with the Sapphire Preferred).

This card offers two points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Cardholders won’t get access to airport lounges or special benefits at luxury hotels, but they’ll pay much less for the privilege of ownership and still receive certain travel protections.

Annual Fee: $95 (waived the first year)

APR: Variable 16.24% to 23.24%

Venture From Capital One

The Venture Rewards credit card from Capital One (see full review here) earns an unlimited two miles for every dollar spent on all qualifying purchases, with 100 miles equaling $1 in travel rewards. As a signup bonus, Capital One offers 40,000 miles, equal to $400 in travel, after new cardholders spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of having the card.

Annual Fee: $59 (waived the first year)

APR: Variable 13.49% to 23.49%

At publishing time, the Venture credit card from Capital One is 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).

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.

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The Golden Rules of a Travel Rewards Credit Card

travel-rewards-credit-card

If you feel like you have a job just so you can fund your travel addiction — whether you get your fix from loading a backpack with sturdy climbing shoes and gear or having your toes in the sand, sunglasses on, and a book in your hand — you may be happy to know that having a travel credit card could help you book your next getaway sooner.

But before you add a travel credit card to your wallet, there are some basics you must know. We’ll call them the six golden rules of travel plastic.

1. Make Sure You Have Good Credit

As is the case with most reward credit cards, travel credit cards typically require new cardholders to have good credit scores. So, before you apply, you’ll want to see where your credit currently stands so you know if now is the right time for you to get this product or not. (You can see two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.) Having good credit certainly isn’t a guarantee you’ll get the card of your dreams, but it does increase your chances.

2. Consider How You Travel

There are a lot of different reward credit cards on the market, so you’ll need to do some comparison shopping. One of the biggest questions you should ask yourself is how you travel. Are you loyal to a particular airline? If so, you may want to get their branded airline credit card. If not, a generic card that offers rewards you can use for a variety of travel purchases may be the better route to take.

3. Understand How the Card Structures Rewards

The reward offerings on each card can be just a bit different, so make sure you review them carefully. Some cards offer a sign-up bonus after you spend a certain amount in the first few months of having the card. And there are often different reward tier percentages that denote how much you’ll earn depending on where you spend. For example, a card may give you double points at restaurants while nights at a particular hotel may earn triple points. Knowing where you’ll get the most for your money can really help you choose the right card for you as well as maximize the rewards you’ll earn. (You can read our roundup of the best credit cards for travel here.)

4. Take Note of the Annual Fee

While you’re comparison shopping, you may notice that a lot of these cards waive the annual fee for the first year. But just because you won’t have to pay that for the first 12 months doesn’t mean you should ignore it. You’ll want to think about if you’ll earn more in rewards than you’ll pay to use the card. Otherwise, the card becomes counterproductive and credit cards with no annual fee may be a better option for you.

5. Avoid Carrying a Balance

Getting rewarded with travel perks can be an incentive to spend more, especially when you are filled with wanderlust. But you have to be careful — travel credit cards often have high interest rates, and carrying a balance that causes you to have to pay them can almost null any rewards you’ll earn. You probably don’t want credit card debt to take away from your vacation savings.

6. Know What Your Card Can Do

Just like each card has its own reward system, each one has specific features you’ll want to make sure you understand. Does your card offer a free checked bag or access to the sky club lounge at the airport? What about if you take it overseas — are there foreign transaction fees? And what about travel insurance and chip-and-PIN compatibility? These are all things you want to ask about so you know what your card can do.

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How to Score the Best Last-Minute Hotel Deals for the Republican Convention

republican-and-democratic-conventions

If you’re still planning to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week but haven’t booked your trip yet, hotel experts say you’d better act fast.

Just 24% of the city’s accommodations are listed as still available on Booking.com from July 18-21. The highest-rated available property is Stone Gables Bed and Breakfast, according to the site, which is conveniently located 7 minutes from the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention will take place.

“Demand for accommodation within the city limits remains extremely high,” Booking.com spokesperson Joseph Moscone said via email, so it may be worth it to check venues outside the city proper for availability.

More Ways to Score a Room

If you’ve exhausted your options online or don’t have time to search around the web for the most affordable accommodations, don’t panic. You may be able to lower the price of a room by applying for your deserved discounts, like AAA or AARP.

You may also be able to put your travel rewards credit card to use by redeeming miles you’ve accumulated for a hotel room. Similarly, hotel rewards credit cards can help fund your stay. The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express (see a full review here), for instance, allows cardholders to earn double points at Starwood properties, such as the Westin, which can be redeemed for award nights starting at just 3,000 points per night. And Hilton’s HHonors Surpass Card, also from American Express, gives cardmembers access to room upgrades, which may nab you the type of room that you need if you’re traveling with a large group. (You can learn more about the best hotel rewards credit cards in America here.)

If you’re considering applying for a travel rewards credit card or something similar, it’s a good idea to check your credit score first, as this will help determine what kind of rates you may qualify for. You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.

At publishing time, The Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for 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.

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