4 secrets of travel credit cards

By Justin Boyle

4 secrets of travel credit cards

When I first heard about credit cards with miles promotions, I figured they were a passing fad. Airlines had long offered programs for frequent fliers, allowing them to amass hundreds or thousands of miles per trip taken, and the card companies didn't seem to need the extra incentive to get people to spend on credit.

As it turns out, plans that offer travel points and air miles have grown into some of the best credit card reward programs available today. With some prudent credit management and a little attention to detail, credit cards with miles promotions can help you travel almost anywhere for pennies on the dollar.

Travel points hacks

1. Be on the lookout for signup offers

Air miles credit cards sometimes offer whopping packages of bonus miles to new customers. Keep checking lists of the best airline reward programs and pull the trigger on an application when the miles bonuses are high.

Some of these credit cards with miles promotions come along with an annual fee, so you might be wise to close your new accounts after you've amassed the bonuses offered during the card's introductory period. Closing multiple credit accounts can cause a temporary dip in your credit score, but the damage is typically neither severe nor permanent.

2. Transfer regular expenses to meet spending targets

Credit cards with miles promotions tend to give you a certain amount of time in which to charge a certain amount of money. If you meet both of these conditions, you can win mileage bonuses that add tens of thousands of points to your rewards total.

One smart way to take advantage of these massive bonuses is to use the new card for regular expenses such as groceries and gas, so that you reach the required amount in the allotted time without taking on new debt. Then make sure to pay down the whole card balance within the grace period. Don't borrow from your emergency fund, though, unless you've padded it for that purpose.

3. Airline-branded credit cards with flexible miles

Whatever airline is your favorite, chances are they've put their name on one of the best air miles credit cards. At least in terms of signup bonuses and spending target bonuses (remember tips 1 and 2!), airline-specific cards tend to far outreach the standard, non-branded credit cards with miles promotions.

What's more, even a free airline credit card sometimes offers flexible miles rewards, which don't require you to make use of your earned miles at the airline whose name appears on the card. The combination of flexible miles rewards and appreciably large signup and spending bonuses make free airline credit cards one of the best travel hacking tips around.

4. Shop smart and supercharge your mileage account

Several credit cards with miles promotions will list a series of businesses or particular purchases that add multipliers to their miles earned per dollar. Using your free airline credit card in the right places can earn you up to 500 percent more miles per purchase than the normal rate.

Cards that come with these provisions are typically branded cards of airlines, hotels or other elements of the travel and hospitality industry. Standard bank credit cards do also occasionally offer targeted shopping bonuses, so be sure to read all the details of a deal before deciding which applications to sign. "Like" your card on Facebook to get more opportunities for special deals.

Travel hacking is no secret, but with tips like these you can get a few steps ahead of the crowd. Be sure to check for other rewards that might be available from credit cards with miles promotions, such as discounted hotel rooms, car rentals, dining and more. On top of that, if you'll be doing any driving on your trip, gas cards with rewards can help you continue earning rewards while you're on vacation. Happy hacking!

Justin Boyle is a writer and journalist in Austin, Texas.

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