Earning enough credit card points to take a trip used to be a lesson in patience. Fortunately, the days of painstakingly earning miles, blackout periods and frustrating redeeming processes are history. Lenders are upping the ante when it comes to their travel rewards cards, with offerings that earn points faster than ever, and the ability to turn those points into airfare, hotel stays – even car rentals.
If you’re on the hunt for a travel rewards card, here are the top features to consider:
Quick Earning Rate: Cards that earn points on every dollar spent will get you into the air faster. Look for an option that offers points on life’s essentials such as gas, groceries and drugstore purchases, and those that double up your points when the card is used for travel expenses.
Easy redemption: No one wants to hit a roadblock when cashing in their hard earned points. Not being able to book your trip when you need to due to limited space or seasonal blackouts is the very opposite of rewarding. The best travel rewards cards make it easy to redeem your points online, over the phone, or in person at a travel agency, and are compatible with a large variety of airlines
Rewards With Legs: There’s nothing worse than realizing your rewards stash is worth less than you thought. If your goal as a cardholder is to fund your flights or minimize travel costs, ensure your card’s reward return will be effective once cashed – and will score you more than a toaster.
Your Best Options
Turns out, one of the best reward offerings on the market isn’t a credit card at all – but a charge card! The American Express Gold Rewards Card is a favourite on our site, and for good reasons – you can earn 15,000 bonus points when you spend $500 during the first three months – enough to redeem for a short haul flight. Points can add up quickly – earn double points for every $1 in eligible travel and everyday purchases including hotels, airline reservations, gas, grocery, and more.
These points can be transferred 1:1 to Aeroplan and Avios, or can be transferred to a number of other frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs such as Hilton HHonors , Alitalia, and Starwood Preferred Guest. This card also comes stacked with travel insurance features such as Emergency Medical Insurance, Lost or Stolen Baggage Insurance, and many more.
AMEX further sweetens the deal for new cardholders by waiving the $150 annual fee for the first year!
Charge Card Basics
At first glance, charge cards don’t seem all that different from credit cards. They’re used to pay for items that you may not have cash on hand for, to be paid back at a later date. So what’s the big difference? While purchases made with credit have no deadline to be paid off – they can stick around for years, charging additional interest – charge cards MUST be paid off in full each month.
Because lingering revolving debt isn’t an option, charge cards come free of credit limits. And, while keeping your money on a shorter lease may seem limiting, responsible use can keep you within your budget and boost your purchasing power.
The Security of a Credit Card
Charge cards can also offer the same great rewards and security features as their credit counterparts. Unlike paying with debit or cash, paying by charge can protect you from fraud – the same anti-theft features can be used to head off any suspicious activity, and services such as emergency card cancellation and replacement can ensure your funds are safe if the card falls into the wrong hands. As well, services such as the Buyers Assurance Plan offered by American Express can double the manufacturer’s warranty up to an additional year on purchases made with the card.