If your new year’s resolution is to travel more, be prepared to pay for the privilege, especially if you’ll be flying. Fares remain high, and airlines continue to charge for services that once came standard, like checked bags or snacks. A 2013 survey found that airlines made $27.1 billion in fees last year, with some companies generating 20% or more of their revenue from fees alone. And the number and amount of airline fees are only expected to increase. Luckily, though, there are plenty of ways to cut costs when you’re preparing for or on an adventure, many of which involve something you already have: your credit card.
1. Get a discount when you book
Points you’ve already accumulated on your card can help you when you’re planning your trip, and beyond. Many credit card rewards malls offer incentives on booking sites like Hotels.com or Expedia. For example, Discover Deals gives an extra 5% cash back on Orbitz purchases.
Other cards will let you redeem for travel directly – and many give you bonus rewards for doing so. Chase Ultimate Rewards cardholders can redeem points for airfare, car rentals or hotels through a Kayak-style tool. If you use your Chase Sapphire Preferred points, you’ll get a 20% discount on the number of points you need. If you’re booking a $200 hotel room, say, you’ll have to spend only 16,000 points instead of 20,000. That’s a pretty good discount.
2. Snag destination-specific perks
Your credit card network can also provide some great discounts once you’ve arrived at your destination. MasterCard’s Priceless Cities program offers experiences like a beer tour in Bogota, while Visa Signature cardholders can get $225 in credits at the Meadowood Hotel in Napa Valley, California. Check out MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover’s websites to see what offers are available.
3. Avoid checked bag fees
Buy too many souvenirs at your destination? Your credit card may exempt you from any hefty baggage fees. It may also earn you priority boarding, discounts on in-flight purchases – like food or beverages – or other travel perks. Though many airline-specific cards have annual fees, if they save you from paying $50 per checked bag, they can be a great value. Check out our list of credit cards that waive bag fees for more information.
Credit cards can be an unexpected source of savings, or a liability. Be sure not to splurge for extravagances you can’t afford just because they’re earning you rewards. Cash back is helpful, but it won’t pay for you to drop a hundred dollars on dinner every night, so plan accordingly. And, as always, keep a close eye on your credit cards during your trip. Treat them as you would your money – in case of theft, don’t keep them all in the same place. With some research, your credit card can help you get more from your hard-earned vacation.
Traveling image via Shutterstock