4 credit card tricks for vacation planning
By Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Instead of complaining about the overcast skies and bitter temperatures, I have spent the last week redeeming frequent flier miles and hotel points to plan our family's summer vacation to Hawaii.
While it's satisfying to harvest the perks for our past credit card spending, the best part may be knowing that this year's reward points may help finance our next trip. With a little research and legwork, credit cards can help you get more for your vacation dollar -- especially if you know a few tricks.
Here are four ways to use your credit cards to save money on your getaways.
1. Look for partnership perks
When we were looking for a rental car, my husband checked online and found that one of our credit cards was offering a discount on car rentals from a certain company. A few phone calls later, we had a car reserved in Kauai at a great rate. Many cards also offer deals on airfare and lodging through their partners in exchange for using their plastic, so check what options exist before you book reservations elsewhere.
2. Re-examine your little-used cards
While planning our trip, we decided to stay over in Oahu one night on our way home. On a whim, my husband looked up how many points we had earned through our back-up credit card. We were surprised to learn that we had earned enough rewards over the years to pay for a three-night stay on Waikiki Beach, breakfast included. According to a 2011 survey by Colloquy, more than $16 billion worth of the rewards points earned each year go unused. Make sure your points don't become a statistic.
3. Keep your next trip in mind
When my husband has to pay for a vacation expense, I remind him to use the credit card that has the highest reward potential. By being selective with your card choices, you can maximize the rewards earned on your trip, which may make it possible to afford an even better trip next year. Vacations are pricey, and making the most of that spending can pay off big when the next travel season arrives.
4. Research your insurance options
No one wants their dream vacation postponed because of an emergency hospital visit or to spend valuable vacation time filling out paperwork from an auto accident. But life happens, often before or during a vacation. Many credit cards offer trip insurance as a free or low-cost benefit, which can help you recoup some of the losses from a thwarted trip. In addition, many credit cards offer rental car insurance. Before purchasing supplemental insurance, research the coverage you can get by using your card to make the booking.
When evaluating the travel perks your cards offer, evaluate any inconvenience that using rewards will cause. Sometimes the benefits will be worth it -- and sometimes they won't. But it's best to know all of the possibilities your card offers when it's time to plan your vacation.