Spring Break on the beach
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Come springtime, many students prepare to escape their daily routines for a week of fun and relaxation. Some of the more popular spring break destinations include the likes of Florida beach towns (Daytona, Panama City, Fort Lauderdale, Miami etc.), Cancun, Las Vegas, and Hawaii, to name a few. But, while the thought of planning the perfect spring break excursion is fun, itr isn’t always cheap.

A 2018 joint study from Offers.com and TripAdvisor reported that millennials ages 18 to 34 who planned to travel over spring break expected to spend $369.63 last year. In addition to plane tickets and hotel rooms, their largest anticipated expenses included the obvious — food, alcohol and recreational equipment.

If you’re gearing up for a spring break trip, you could benefit from bringing a credit card along — but only if you use it the right way. Here are some tips to help you save money on travel and gain access to important consumer benefits.

Use a travel rewards card to earn points and miles on spending

If you have a credit history and a credit score in the “very good” or “excellent” range (a FICO score of 740 or higher), you may be able to qualify for a premier travel credit card that lets you earn points and miles on spring break spending. You can use hotel points or airline miles to book more travel down the line, but you may also be able to cash in points for statement credits when you return home from your trip.

Some travel credit cards do come with annual fees, so make sure to study the fine print of every offer before you sign up. While paying an annual fee may be worth it if you earn a big signup bonus or spend enough on your card for the rewards to be worth it, there are also plenty of travel credit cards with no annual fee to consider.

The following cards top the list of best travel credit cards for students:

No annual fee

  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
  • Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

$95 annual fee (waived first year)

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

A closer look at Bankrate’s top travel cards for spring breakers

 

 

 Card Intro bonus Rewards structure

Foreign

transaction fee

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months 3X rewards points on dining, travel and gas station purchases, plus 1X points for all other purchases

 

None
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 within 3 months of account opening 1.25x miles on every purchase. Earn 10x miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture None
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide; 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases None
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

 

50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening 2X miles on every purchase. Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture None

A word about foreign transaction fees

You may have noticed that none of the candidates for best travel credit cards for students profiled above charges a foreign transaction fee. Spring break enthusiasts heading abroad to popular party destinations like Cancun, Punta Cana or Montego Bay should get a travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees before they go. These cards can save spring break travelers from the 3% to 5% foreign transaction fee many credit cards charge on purchases made outside the United States.

Which card should you get? Check out more options among the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees.

Take advantage of free travel insurance

Spring break travelers who already have a travel credit card (or plan to sign up for one) should explore the consumer perks, including free travel insurance products. Trip cancellation/interruption insurance, for example, reimburses you for travel expenses if your trip is canceled or interrupted for qualified reasons beyond your control.

Primary auto rental coverage, which is offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, can be used in place of the pricey rental car coverage agencies offer.

Other insurance perks, such as baggage delay coverage and trip delay coverage can help you save additional money, hassle and stress. Make sure to check which types of coverage your card offers or consider signing up for a new card with these important perks.

New credit user? Consider student credit cards

Those who are eager to build credit for the first time can consider student credit cards. These cards are typically easier to qualify for than travel credit cards, due to some more lenient credit history requirements.

Student cards also tend to be free of annual fees while allowing you to earn rewards for each eligible purchase you make. Student credit cards to check out for this year’s spring break include:

 

Card

Intro bonus

Earning structure

Annual fee

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

 

2,500-point bonus when you spend $500 in the first 3 months of account opening

 

2x ThankYou® Points at supermarkets and gas stations on your first $6,000 spent per year (1x point after) and 1x points on everything else; “round-up” feature that rounds up the points you earn to nearest 10 for every purchase

 

$0

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

n/a

1% cash back for every dollar you spend; get rewards boost to 1.25% cash back for making on-time payments

 

$0

Discover it® Student Cash Back

 

n/a

5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate each quarter (then 1%) upon activation and 1% back on all other purchases; Discover will also match all the cash back you earn the first 12 months

$0

Use points and miles to help cover travel costs

Do you have earned rewards at your disposal already? Get them off the bench and in the game! You can redeem them to reduce the costs of flights, hotel stays and more.

Flexible travel points, hotel points or airline miles can really help you save. Here are some of the most popular travel currencies of 2019 and their estimated values:

  • American AAdvantage miles: 1.4 cents
  • American Express Membership Rewards: 2 cents
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards: 2 cents
  • Citi ThankYou points: 1.7 cents
  • Delta SkyMiles: 1.2 cents
  • Hilton Honors: 0.6 cents
  • IHG Rewards Club: 0.5 cents
  • Marriott Rewards: 0.9 cents
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards: 1.5 cents
  • United MileagePlus: 1.4 cents

Draft a spring break travel budget before you go

The best way to use a credit card is with a plan. Before you leave for spring break, set up a comprehensive travel budget that includes a fixed amount of money you can spend on lodging, transportation, food and fun. Charge only what you have outlined in your budget to your credit card, making sure you have the cash to pay your bill in full when you get home.

Credit cards do offer lucrative rewards and consumer protections, but with the average APR now over 17%, it’s not advisable to make purchases without a plan.. Use credit cards for the convenience and outsized perks, but not as a temporary loan. Keeping this in mind going into spring break will help you to avoid the pitfalls and enjoy what’s ahead.

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