Look For a Huge Sign-Up Bonus.
Every card offers something different, but the sign-up bonus is a great way to jumpstart your account. Look for rewards from a company, brand or service that you already use and trust. For instance, if you have a favorite airline or hotel, your sign-up bonus points and future bonus points will most likely roll into the existing loyalty rewards program. Double win!
Sign up bonuses work like this: Once you meet a minimum spend within a given time frame on your credit card, you’ll receive mileage, points or free hotel stays. Typically sign-up bonuses range from 25,000 – 50,000 miles, but can go as high as 100,000.
This tool helps compare sign-up bonus values and gives an approximate dollar amount of their values.
Don’t Pay Foreign Transaction Fees
Credit cards more likely than not offer the best exchange rate when traveling, so it’s a good idea to use a credit card instead of cash or a debit card. But, some cards charge up to a 3% fee for transactions made overseas. That can be a big surprise when you get back home - hello sticker shock. Look for a card that has no foreign transaction fees so you can eat, drink and shop your way around the globe without worry and added expense.
You can find cards with no foreign transaction fees here.
Score Travel Perks and Protection
Be honest, special perks are the way to your travel heart. And luckily, most travel rewards credit cards offer perks like free checked baggage, elite loyalty status, free nights and upgrades. Can you say “priority boarding?” If protection is more your thing, look for a card that provides insurance for rental cars, luggage and even travel health insurance. You never know when something might go wrong, so 24/7 customer service and a toll-free number is also helpful. Depending on your card, you might also have travel concierge services available to help with those last minute dinner reservations or must have theater tickets.
To see NerdWallet’s recommendations for the best travel credit cards, perks and all, see their list here.
Added Spending Bonus
Do you eat out frequently? Are you a weekend road warrior? Some credit cards offer 2X or even 5X bonus points for every dollar you spend on things like restaurants, gas and shopping. Be sure to look for a card that offers more than 1 point or mile per dollar spent. By using your credit card for everyday purchases, you can rack up those points and flights much faster.
If you're not sure where to start, NerdWallet can help match you to the best rewards card for your lifestyle and spending habits with their personalized recommendation tool here.
The secret is out. Grab your passport and credit card and hit the road. Ready, set, travel!