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The summer travel season is stressful and expensive, but necessary for most people. The school calendar dictates that most families travel in the summer months, which sends prices soaring. It also leads to long lines, delays and a stressful travel experience. I try to avoid traveling in the summer, though it’s not entirely avoidable. With several trips planned this summer, I’m preparing to save money and hassle with the right travel credit card line-up.
Here are four types of credit cards I’m packing this summer to save money and enhance my travel experience.
1. A card that earns bonus points on travel and dining
Have I mentioned travel is expensive this summer? When I can’t redeem points for travel, I try to use a credit card that earns high rewards on these types of purchases. The Citi Prestige® Credit Card* (no longer available) and American Express® Gold Card are great for maximizing my travel and dining purchases.
The Citi Prestige earns 5X points on air travel and restaurant purchases, 3X points on hotels and cruise line purchases and 1X points on all other purchases. The Amex Gold earns 4X points at U.S. restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in U.S. supermarket purchases per year, then 1X points back), plus 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or via American Express Travel. Travel and dining are two of my biggest spending categories, and the more I can maximize every dollar I have to spend, the more I’ll save on future travel.
The Amex Gold has the added advantage of providing up to $120 in annual Uber credits (up to $10 in monthly statement credits) for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S. and up to $120 in annual dining credits (up to $10 in monthly statement credits) for purchases with GrubHub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. The card also provides access to Amex Offers, which often include discounts of 20 percent or more at major hotel and restaurant chains.
2. A hotel credit card that offers extra perks
Pent-up travel demand has caused hotel rates to skyrocket, and even stays using points are pricing out higher than usual this summer. While I can’t do anything about high hotel rates, I can use hotel credit cards to save money during my hotel stays and earn more points for every dollar spent.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card* is a staple in my wallet, thanks to its up to $250 in statement credits annually for eligible, directly-made purchases with participating Hilton Resorts. I can use this credit to cover meals, spa treatments and anything charged to my room. The card also provides up to a $100 Hilton on-property credit for qualifying charges at participating properties (when you book a two-night-minimum stay with your card at HiltonHonorsAspireCard.com).
Hilton Aspire cardholders also receive automatic top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status, which provides additional perks like complimentary breakfast, 100 percent bonus points on paid stays, and access to hotel executive lounges. All of these perks help me save hundreds of dollars on every hotel stay, which is more crucial this summer than ever before.
The Hilton Aspire card also earns 14X points on eligible purchases made at Hilton hotels and resorts, 7X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel, 7X points on car rentals booked directly with select car rental companies, 7X points at U.S. restaurants and 3X points on all other eligible purchases.
3. A card with travel insurance
Travel insurance is crucial at any time of the year, but especially during the busy summer months. A lot more can go wrong when airports are packed and airlines are stretched thin. If you’re dealing with a travel delay, you may have difficulty reaching a customer service representative who can fix it. That’s where travel insurance can step in and help you resolve issues faster.
If your flight is delayed and you incur expenses as a result, your credit card’s trip delay insurance could reimburse you for a certain amount per ticket. And if the airline cancels your flight and the line for a hotel voucher is too long, you might be able to pay for it with your credit card and get reimbursed. This is why I always bring a credit card with trip cancellation and interruption coverage, like The Platinum Card® from American Express.
4. A card with primary auto rental insurance
I always use a credit card with primary rental car insurance when renting a car. That way, if I’m involved in an accident, I won’t have to file a claim with my own insurance company. My Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card provides primary auto rental coverage up to the cash value of the rental vehicle (for eligible theft and collision damage), which is tremendously generous.
A few years ago, I was involved in a rental car accident and my credit card insurance helped me avoid over $3,000 in damages. I never even filed a claim with my auto insurance company and the entire balance (minus $424 for diminishment of value and loss of use) was covered by American Express. Granted, I had used my American Express Gold Card for the rental, which only provides secondary auto rental coverage. However, I had paid $14.99 for primary coverage through Amex’s Premium Car Rental Protection program.
Amex’s premium car rental protection was well worth the cost, but my Chase Sapphire Preferred provides primary auto rental coverage as a built-in card benefit. Regardless of where I’m traveling and whether I plan to rent a car, I make sure to bring a card with primary auto rental insurance just in case.
The bottom line
While the summer months have been gearing up to be the busiest and most expensive travel season in recent years, summer travel can still be enjoyable and affordable. Credit cards can save you money, help you maximize every dollar spent and even provide essential travel insurance you’d otherwise have to pay for.
To gear up for the summer travel season, I’ll be packing essential cards like the Amex Gold, Hilton Aspire, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Prestige and Amex Platinum. I hope the above tips help you out, too, when you’re choosing your own credit card line-up for the summer.
*The information about the Citi Prestige® Credit Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.