How to Choose a Travel Rewards Card

If you’re searching for a new credit card, consider one that offers a travel rewards program?

Credit: Flickr/Jim Nix

Pick the right rewards card and you could be jetting around on points in no time

Travel reward credit cards are a great way to earn free points to redeem for airfare, hotel stays or other types of travel services

If you’re going to use credit cards for everyday purchases anyway, you might as well get some free travel if you can! But with so many different programs to choose from, it can be tough to know which way to go.

So, how to find the best travel rewards cards available? It really depends on your specific needs. The truth is, there really is no perfect card out there; each offers different benefits. Here are a few general requirements, though, when starting your search.

Choosing a Travel Rewards Card

  1. Find a card that offers a big sign-up bonus. Most will offer bonuses of 20,000 points or miles just to get you started. Don’t join a program that doesn’t — otherwise it could take you quite some time to rack up a free flight or other service, depending on your spending habits, of course.

  2. Look for a card that offers the chance to gain extra points. A number of credit cards offer one mile for every dollar spent, but many cards partner with retailers that allow you to gain extra points by shopping at their preferred stores. If you can find a card that gives added points for gas or food purchases — things that you need frequently — even better.

  3. Be aware of annual fees. No one likes to pay them, but annual-fee cards tend to offer better rewards options.
 If you travel and fly a lot, it can be worth it to pay that $50 to $100 fee a year. Just make sure you do the math based on how much you’re spending and travelling versus how much you’re paying in fees.

  4. Watch out for overseas fees. Most card companies will charge you a three per cent currency-conversion fee. Just check into it before you go. And while you’re at it, choose a card that offers travel insurance.

How to Pick the Best Card

So, which card to get? Think about how you travel. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you loyal to one airline? If so, opt for a premium rewards card for that airline. You’ll gather miles faster and qualify for elite status. Not only that, but your specialty status will transfer over to other airlines.

  • Are you on the road frequently for business? If so, getting a hotel card, such as the Starwood Card, is probably the best choice. You’ll be able to enjoy loads of hotel points, free-night stays, discounts at other partnering retailers and more.
  • Are you a traveller who only cares about price and not brand loyalty? In that case, a general points card is best. You’ll still get points for free flights and discounts, and you’ll also get cash back.

There are plenty of options out there to suit many travellers — it’s just a matter of picking the best fit 
for you.

Every rewards card has a website, so simply compare what each offers versus any cost to you. Keep in mind your own spending habits to ensure the one you select suits your needs.

Watch Claire Newell on Global BC News: Final (Mon.), Early (Wed.), Morning & Noon (Thur.), Noon (Sat.). Or catch her Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m. on Shore 104 FM.

Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.