12 Ways Credit Cards Can Save You Money While Traveling

If you have a credit card (or three), it's possible that you're missing credit card travel rewards and perks that could save you money. Although many cards are marketed as travel credit cards and cater to the needs of the business or frequent travelers, even regular credit cards carry rewards that users often overlook. Though every card differs, here are a few of the credit card travel rewards you might be able to take advantage of with your current card or you should look for when getting a new card.

Let's start with the best-known bonuses:

Sign-up bonuses.

These are the most obvious credit card travel rewards, which credit card companies use to attract customers. Upon signing up for and using the card, companies reward customers with a large chunk of frequent-flier miles for a specific airline. Most first-time rewards are equal to the amount of miles needed for a domestic, non-peak, round-trip ticket (25,000), though a few companies offer more.

Miles per dollar.

nother well-known bonus is the miles-per-dollar reward: For every dollar you spend, you'll earn a mile. Certain specials can also earn you double or triple miles, so read the fine print to see just where you should be using your card. The Alaska Airlines Signature Visa Card even gives you 2000 miles simply for using the card to book a flight online.

Companion fares.

Some credit cards allow you to buy one ticket and get another for a friend or family member for a small fee. the Alaska Airlines card listed above charges $99 plus tax for a companion ticket. This offer can be a great deal for families or friends who split the total bill.

For these lesser-known perks, call your credit card company before your next trip to find out which they offer:

Car rental insurance.

Many cards offer insurance policies for rental cars, which means you don't need to pay for a separate policy when renting a vehicle, and that'll save you about $30 a day. Creditcards.com has a nifty chart that shows which credit cards offer what types of insurance coverage.

Roadside assistance.

If you're on a road trip and your car breaks down, you may be able to call on your credit card company for help. MasterCard, for instance, will arrange a jumpstart or a tow at a pre-negotiated price, which will be charged to your card. Although it's not free, it's certainly convenient and may be cheaper than having to track down some help yourself.

Emergency travel assistance.

If your luggage is stolen or you need to be evacuated, your credit card company can often help. Discover offers an entire spectrum of services, from lost bag tracking to legal referrals to political evacuation. Again, although many of these perks aren't free, being able to call a 24-hour hotline is priceless when you're in a desperate situation.

Emergency medical assistance.

The same Discover card mentioned above offers medical referrals, advances on medical payments, and help arranging return travel, travel escorts, and even bedside visitors, and you can take advantage of these credit card travel rewards more often than you can with a travel insurance policy.


Trip cancellation coverage.

If you get sick or there's an emergency that prevents you from taking that vacation you've been dreaming about, trip cancellation insurance will reimburse you the cost of a nonrefundable flight or pay you a certain amount per day if you're delayed. Only a few cards offer this service, and the rules can be strict; expect to provide doctors notes and other corroborating information.

Waived baggage fees.

Paying to check luggage now adds a considerable amount of money to a seemingly cheap ticket, so if you can bypass those fees, you'll save a lot of coin (or a lot of headaches trying to carry on your bags). Some companies waive the first bag fee only, others the second as well.

Your credit card company may also offer other perks, including free foreign transaction fees, airline lounge access, and price protection. Prepare for your next trip by finding out exactly what credit card travel rewards your company offers.