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5 ways your credit card can help you save on holiday travel costs

December 21, 2022, 3:58 PM UTC
Photo illustration of an airplane preparing to take off from a credit card runway.
Credit cards can help you save on your holiday travel bookings, insurance coverage, baggage fees, and more.
Photo illustration by Victoria Ellis/Fortune; Original photos by Getty Images (2)

A third post-pandemic holiday season is underway, and spending on travel is picking up again after airlines loosened pandemic restrictions earlier this year and Americans are starting to feel more comfortable traveling. Almost half of all consumers (47%) are planning to travel this holiday, according to a recent report by PWC, with frequent travelers planning to spend an extra $1,000 more than the average consumer. 

5 ways to trim your travel costs 

With inflation on the rise, it’s more important than ever to look for ways to trim those costs. One easy way to save is to use your credit card. 

Book your flights and hotels using points, miles, and cash back

Depending on the type of credit card you have, you can earn points and miles that can be redeemed for hotel stays, airline tickets, cabin upgrades, and more. Many credit card companies like American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Bank of America all have their own travel portals where you can redeem your rewards for travel-related purchases. 

For example, some credit cards offer points on flights booked directly with a particular airline or through the companies travel portal.

“Credit card perks such as rewards, miles, or cash back can come in handy for travel. If you regularly travel for work or have branded credit cards, make sure to maximize those benefits,” says Brian Walsh, certified financial planner and senior manager of financial planning at SoFi. “However, be wary of swiping your credit card too much. With interest rates rising, you don’t want to carry credit card balances so pay for what you plan to immediately pay off.”

Get TSA PreCheck and/or Global Entry membership fees refunded

Waiting in line at the security gate can make any traveler lose patience, especially during a busy travel season. The good news: Many travel cards offer credit for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry membership fees—saving you time and money. Some credit cards offer cardholders up to a certain dollar amount in the form of a statement credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. There are also credit cards that let cardholders take advantage of an application fee credit of $100 for Global Entry or $85 for TSA PreCheck every few years. 

Don’t skip the airport lounge 

Grabbing a seat at the gate while you wait to board your flight isn’t always a guarantee; however, certain credit cards give cardholders access to exclusive airport lounges in airports across the globe. Even grab-and-go snacks at the airport tend to have a premium price tag, but airport lounges offer a number of money-saving amenities like free drinks, snacks, Wi-Fi, and even showers and nap pods if you have a long layover between flights and don’t want to book a hotel for the day. 

Take advantage of free checked bags 

Checking a bag at the airport can be costly, especially if you’re traveling with a large family. Some credit cards cover the cost of a free checked bag or multiple if you’re traveling with a group. Delta typically charges $30 each way for your first checked bag and $40 for your second bag on domestic flights. However, most of Delta’s credit cards give cardholders one free checked bag for the cardholder and nine others traveling on the same reservation. 

Trim your insurance costs 

Car insurance costs for rental cars can cost upwards of $20 per day, which, depending on the length of your trip, can add up quickly. And the insurance charges don’t stop there. If you spring for travel insurance, the average policy can run you 4% to 8% of your total trip cost, according to the U.S. Travel Insurance Association.

Certain credit cards offer rental car insurance and some form of trip coverage. “While insuring your trip costs a bit upfront, it can save you big-time if something happens to your trip,” says Walsh. “More plans have changed since COVID started, so having additional peace of mind can be extremely valuable.”

The takeaway 

Travel costs can add up quickly and put a strain on your holiday budget during one of the busiest spending seasons. Consider taking a closer look at your credit card perks to help you cut costs without changing your plans or skipping out on important coverage.

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