Smart Money Podcast: ‘What’s the Best Way to Rack Up Travel Rewards Quickly?’

Sean Pyles
By Sean Pyles 
Edited by Kathy Hinson

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Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions — in 15 minutes or less.

This week’s question is from Kevin M. He asks: “How can I squeeze the most value out of my travel credit card for a summer vacation I have coming up?”

Our tips:

Need points fast? It’s all about the sign-up bonus. Shop around to see which cards offer the best upfront rewards. You can compare travel credit cards here. You’ll typically have to spend a certain amount on the card within a specified time to earn the bonus. (It’s a good idea not to charge more to the card than you can pay in full when each statement comes; otherwise, you could end up paying more in interest than you can gain in rewards value.)

Before your vacation, do the most to earn points with your card. You have a number of ways to do this. First, try covering all available purchases with your credit card. You can also pick up the tab when going out to dinner with friends and ask to get paid back in cash. Also, keep an eye out for limited-time offers to earn more points.

Shop smart while on vacation to earn more points. If you don’t have time to earn points before your upcoming vacation, optimize your shopping while on vacation. Aim to get the most points from your credit card to apply toward your next trip.

Know that your points can take a billing cycle or two to be credited to your account. Be smart about your timing to make sure you actually have the points you want to use on your vacation.

Find new ways to save
Know what you've already spent across your linked accounts to see where you can cut back or save.

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