With worldwide turmoil and continued economic instability, 2022 is off to a shaky start. Yet, people continue to travel and see as much of the world as possible. Travel credit cards continue to be a vital asset to travel hackers for minimizing expenses and improving their travel experiences.
Whether you’re evaluating your current credit card portfolio or looking to add a new one to your wallet, here are five benefits you need to look for in 2022:
Between high inflation and global supply chain shortage, things are getting more expensive by the day. It’s not just gas prices either. Everything from groceries to clothing costs more now than last year. While you can’t control inflation or rising costs, you can maximize your return in these spending categories.
The right credit card line-up can help you earn lots of rewards in high spending categories like groceries, dining and gas. Some credit cards even earn more than the standard one point per dollar spent. Add one of these cards to your wallet and you can make lemonade from the lemon of a stressed economy.
If you don’t want to keep track of bonus categories across multiple credit cards, consider a card that offers a flat high return on all spending. For example, the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express has no annual fee and offers 2X Membership Rewards on all spending, up to $50,000 per year.
In an increasingly unpredictable world, travel insurance is more important than ever. While there are coverage limits, many credit cards offer travel insurance that can save you money and stress in a difficult situation.
Primary rental coverage
Last year I was involved in a minor fender bender while driving a rental car. It was dark out and I grazed a metal partition while making a left-hand turn. Five months later, I received a bill for $3600 from the rental car company. Ouch. Luckily, it only cost me around $400 and I didn’t have to get my insurance company involved. That’s because I had rental collision coverage from my American Express® Gold Card. Granted, I paid $14.99 for primary coverage through Amex’s Premium Car Rental Protection program. Still, that coverage saved me over $3,200 and a rising insurance premium.
Primary rental coverage can be an invaluable benefit if you’re involved in an accident. Many credit cards do offer it free of charge, including:
Trip interruption insurance can give you peace of mind if you’ve booked an expensive trip and can’t complete it. Many credit cards offer trip interruption coverage, which will reimburse you for any unused portions of your journey.
For example, let’s say you fly down to Miami for a Caribbean cruise but wind up sick before you board the ship. Trip interruption insurance will cover any unused, prepaid and non-refundable travel expenses, like the cost of your cruise and the flight home.
Many travel rewards cards include trip interruption coverage when you charge your travel expenses to your credit card. This great benefit can save you thousands of dollars in an emergency, not to mention the cost of buying an insurance policy.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the coverage limits on your credit card’s policy to determine whether it makes sense to buy additional coverage. In most cases, what the credit card offers is perfectly sufficient.
Lost or delayed baggage insurance
Thousands of bags are lost or mishandled every year. While the odds of losing your luggage are low, it can put a damper on your trip if it does happen. Luckily, many credit cards offer baggage delay and lost luggage reimbursement. Simply charge your flight to one of these cards and if your luggage is lost or delayed, you can file a claim for reimbursement:
This is the year to take inventory of your credit cards and make sure they’re serving you well. If you’re paying an annual fee, look for a card with recurring benefits. Whether it’s annual free nights, waived luggage fees or elite status benefits, these perks can offset your annual fee and make your travels more pleasant.
Annual free nights
Annual free nights are one of the best benefits you can get from a travel card. You can save hundreds of dollars on the free nights issued by cards like:
Last year, I used my Hyatt free night at the Park Hyatt Istanbul, where rooms were going for over $250 per night. Needless to say, I was happy to pay the card’s $95 annual fee in exchange for this helpful perk.
Airports are getting busies and food is getting more expensive. Lounge access can be a great way to keep your costs down and it doesn’t have to be massively expensive. Sure, credit cards that offer lounge access tend to carry high annual fees, but this can be worthwhile if you use this benefit enough.
Despite putting minimal spending on my Hilton Honors Amex Aspire card, I keep renewing it every year. That’s because the card’s Hilton Diamond benefits easily offset the $450 annual fee. Recurring card benefits like elite status can save you a lot on travel and are worth considering when shopping for a new credit card.
Despite what your favorite travel bloggers like to say, travel is never free—even if you’re using points and miles. There are resort fees, luggage fees, award taxes to contend with. When using your card abroad, you’ll sometimes incur foreign transaction fees. If you’re shopping for a new credit card, look for one that waives travel fees.
Many travel cards waive foreign transaction fees, though there are still outliers like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® that do not. With the right card, you can save 3% in fees every time you swipe your credit card abroad.
Waived baggage fees are another recurring benefit that can offset a card’s annual fee. Most airlines charge around $25 per checked bag, with higher fees for second and third bags. Meanwhile, airline credit cards like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®* waive the first checked bag fee for both the primary cardholder and up to four companions traveling on the same itinerary. That presents savings of up to $150 per flight, more than the card’s $99 annual fee.
Trusted traveler programs
Trusted traveler programs like Global Entry and TSA PreCheck can make transiting airport security and customs speedy and convenient. Membership in these programs is affordable to begin with. But with the right credit card, you can get your application fees waived. Global Entry and TSA fee credits used to be limited to premium cards with high annual fees. That’s no longer the case. Nowadays, lower-fee cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards and Bank of America Premium Rewards offer these credits every four years.
*All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Credit Card, IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, The World of Hyatt Credit Card, Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, United℠ Explorer Card and United Club℠ Infinite Card here has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.