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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for May 2017

Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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NerdWallet's Best Credit Card Tips for May 2017

After a long winter, May is a welcome month. Spring is in the air, and summer travel is on the horizon. These tips will set you up for the coming months.

Get your first credit card

As graduation from high school or college rolls around this month, you may be considering applying for your first credit card. With a thin credit history, the options are limited, but that’s not to say there aren’t good cards for students or new grads. Discover offers two student credit cards that have no annual fee and pay 1% cash back on all spending. The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® has no annual fee and pays 1% cash back on spending and an additional 0.25% on charges during that billing cycle when you pay on time, for a total of 1.25%. Also, you don’t have to be a student to apply for it.

Another good option for those new to credit is a secured credit card. You deposit an amount of money to create your credit line, and the card company reports your usage to the credit bureaus to help you establish a credit history. You may be upgraded to a regular card after you show good credit management. Similarly, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® may raise your credit limit after five on-time payments without an additional deposit.

Know your travel protections

The car trip, whether it’s for a holiday weekend or a cross-country trek, is part of American summer. If you’re planning one, check out the travel protections your credit card offers. Most cards offer secondary car rental insurance, which kicks in after you’ve filed a claim with your own car insurance carrier. If you’re taking your own car on the road, find out whether your credit card offers roadside assistance in case of an emergency. Or consider whether renting a car for your trip makes more sense than using your own. If you rent a car and it breaks down, the car-rental company will bring you a new one, and you’ll be on your way. If your own car breaks down, you may wind up in Hell, Michigan, instead of the Grand Canyon for a few days.

Apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

Air travel is no longer the stylish experience we saw in “Catch Me If You Can.” Today, it’s more like the torture we endure to get to our relaxing vacation destination. But having TSA PreCheck or Global Entry may help you get through security faster if your airport has a PreCheck line or a Global Entry kiosk. You’ll have to apply in advance and go through a background check by Homeland Security, but it’s worth filling out the forms if you travel frequently. Some premium travel credit cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Citi Prestige® Card, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® and the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠, reimburse cardholders for the application fees for either security program. That can save you $85 for TSA PreCheck or $100 for Global Entry every time you need to renew.

Celebrate Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 14, is Mother’s Day. You’ve been reminded. In 2016, Americans expected to spend a total of $21.4 billion on Mother’s Day celebrations, and 55% of those surveyed said they would be taking Mom out for a meal, according to the National Retail Federation. If you’re having brunch or dinner, consider using a credit card that offers bonus points or cash back for restaurant spending. The Capital One® Premier Dining Rewards Credit Card offers 3% cash back on dining. And the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card offers 2 ThankYou points per dollar spent on dining and entertaining.

Enjoy the May flowers!

» MORE TIPS: Browse our archive of credit card tips

Information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon.