Travelling is expensive.
But choosing the right credit card can help you lower your travel costs.
In fact, there are several ways to travel in luxury without breaking the bank using these 8 travel credit card perks:
- juicy sign-up bonus,
- 0% foreign exchange transaction fee,
- airport lounge passes,
- companion vouchers,
- car rental insurance,
- travel insurance coverage,
- rewards point flexibility, and
- entertainment options.
One of the first things I look for when signing up for a new credit card is a great sign-up bonus.
Whether the bonus is cash back, travel points or miles, or points for one of the big 5 banks, these sign-up bonuses give you an immediate incentive to get a credit card ‒ which can range from $25 in statement credit to $1,250 in travel rewards.
However, if you’re not sure it’s worth the $699 price tag, there are many cards that will give you a decent sign-up bonus.
For an annual fee of $120 (that’s waived for the first year), not only will you get many great perks, but you will also enjoy a sign-up bonus worth up to $750.
Or if you’re looking for a no fee credit card, the BMO Rewards Mastercard has the best sign-up bonus on the market right now for a no fee card.
Foreign currency fees
Travel rewards cards are great for earning rewards that can be used on vacations.
Ironically though, most credit cards charge a foreign currency fee when you’re shopping outside of Canada.
Within the fine print of most credit cards, you will see that an additional 2.5% is added on top of your purchase when you pay in a foreign currency.
This can add up fast if you are shopping while out of the country or planning to make large purchases.
Right now there are very few cards that don’t charge a foreign currency fee.
One option though is the Home Trust Preferred Visa, which offers no foreign currency conversion fee and no annual fee. So, if you travel often and make purchases in other countries, these two items alone make the card worthwhile.
Airport lounge passes
One perk of select premium travel rewards cards is airport lounge access and passes.
Each travel card is different and some will give you:
- unlimited lounge access,
- a limited number of annual lounge passes, or…
- a basic airport lounge membership.
Airport lounges are handy for anyone who has long layovers or wants somewhere comfortable to relax away from the fast pace (and crowds) of most major airports.
A typical airport lounge offers:
- free wifi,
- complimentary beverages (some are even alcoholic),
- newspapers from major international cities,
- magazines, and sometimes even…
- a view of the city.
Depending on the airport, there may be different lounges at different gates of the airport so it’s important to check which gate you’ll be flying from.
Airport lounges can sometimes be available to regular travelers, but the admission fees can be high, anywhere from $25-$50 per person. If you’re travelling with a family, you’ll want to make sure you have lounge passes so you can avoid paying to get in.
Car rental coverage
Even though it’s pretty easy to score a cheap car rental when travelling, costs can really add up if you need to add on additional coverage.
However, some credit cards cover this for you.
Chances are if you have a premium credit card, your car rental will be covered if you put the full amount of the rental on your credit card.
Damage waiver insurance is usually offered by car rental companies and can cost anywhere from $15-$30 per day. Collision coverage is also offered by most travel credit cards.
As with anything though, be sure to read the fine print.
Car rental coverage provided by your credit card likely will NOT have:
- unlimited coverage – many will set a limit on the rental period (such as maximum 30 days),
- personal property coverage – so if your rental is broken into, you’re out of luck,
- personal injury coverage – standard coverage will cover you against damage to the rental vehicle, but not any injuries incurred while driving your rental, or…
- third party liability coverage.
Companion voucher and travel credits
If you’re traveling with a partner, one of the easiest ways to save on flights is to use a companion voucher.
The best way to maximize value with a companion voucher is to use it:
- when you need to fly at a peak time ‒ it’s during these peak travel times that flight prices are generally higher, or…
- if you are flying a more expensive route.
That companion voucher could drastically cut the cost of the second flight in both of these situations.
Obviously, if you can score a great seat sale, using your companion voucher might not make a whole lot of sense, so be sure to do your research and plan ahead if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck.
However, if you’re used to traveling alone, there are other cards on the market that could save you money while traveling.
Take the National Bank World Elite Mastercard for instance…
…which will reimburse you annually for up to $250 of travel expenses:
- $100 for airport parking expenses,
- $50 for cost associated with choosing your seat on the plane, and…
- $100 for any checked baggages fees.
Plus you’ll get unlimited access to the National Bank lounge at the Montreal-Trudeau airport – which could save you big money if you travel through there often.
When traveling, you should always make sure you have the necessary insurance coverage to feel safe and secure.
Unfortunately, travel insurance can be pretty costly.
However, many premium credit cards come with a pretty decent travel insurance package.
With 14 out of 16 possible types, the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard has the most included insurance of any other card on the market right now.
|Insurance Type||Coverage Amount|
|Extended warranty||1 year|
|Purchase protection||90 days|
|Emergency medical||15 days|
|Lost or stolen baggage||$750|
|Rental car theft & damage||Yes|
|Rental car accident||$200,000|
|Rental car personal effects||$1,000|
If you were ever in a position where you needed to use any of these types of insurance, just imagine the money you could save because of this card.
Just remember, it’s important to keep all receipts and read all the fine print before travelling to make sure you understand the coverage (and exclusions) offered by the card.
Travel points transferability
Whatever card you use to earn travel rewards, it’s important to consider any restrictions the rewards program might come with.
Some travel programs are restricted to one airline or they only have access to a few seats on a plane, making scoring tickets nearly impossible. Other cards have blackout dates, really restricting when you are able to travel.
The previously mentioned American Express Gold Rewards card is one that allows you to transfer your rewards to Aeroplan and Avios – 1-to-1.
So if you’re already earning Avios points or Aeroplan miles, you can transfer your Amex Gold points and really maximize your earning potential.
Whatever points program you use, having the flexibility to transfer points is important and gives travelers lots of options when redeeming points for flights or hotels.
Entertainment options and concierge
Let’s say you are travelling to a large city and want to check out a concert while you’re there.
Chances are you might become frustrated with the huge demand for general on-sale dates or end up buying possibly suspect tickets from a scalper at marked up prices.
However, if you have an American Express credit card in your wallet, you have access to Front of the Line allowing you to purchase concert tickets to select shows before the general on-sale date.
Or if your credit card includes concierge, like the above mentioned
No-fee travel credit card
If you don’t spend enough to justify a high annual fee but still want to get a card that offers travel rewards and insurance, the
This card will give you travel points on every dollar you spend:
- 2 points per dollar spent on gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases (up to $5,000 annually per category – after that, earnings are 1 point per dollar spent), and
- 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
Each point is worth 1 cent in travel, giving you up to a 2% return on your spend.
Plus, as a welcome bonus, you can earn 2,500 points after your first purchase, and another 2,500 simply for enrolling in statements.
What’s more, you’ll get seven types of insurance, including travel accident (up to $1,000,000), trip interruption (up to $2,000) and rental car insurance, which is great for a no annual fee card.
Related: Best Travel Cards With No Annual Fee
We would love to hear from you
Do you have any tips for scoring a 5-star vacation with the help of your credit card?
What are some of your favorite credit card tricks for maximizing your travel rewards?
Please let us know in the comments.