May 16, 2022

Model Desac

It’s Time to Fly

Best credit cards to book summer travel

9 min read

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It may not feel like it, but summer is right around the corner. That also means summer vacations are coming up quickly — think of sandy beaches, warm weather and some much-deserved relaxation time.

Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time to put an amazing trip together. But before you hit “book,” remember that having the right travel credit cards in your wallet can go a long way to significantly reduce the cost of a trip, especially if you’re traveling in a group. At the very least, the right travel credit card can make your trip more enjoyable with perks and benefits you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Let’s take a look at some of the best credit card options available that will help you book an amazing summer vacation this year.

Chase

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has been a longtime favorite of all kinds of travelers — from beginners to road warriors. It offers a compelling suite of perks like bonus points, hotel credits, travel insurances and more with a very affordable annual fee of $95.

The card earns 5 points per dollar spent on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. It also earns 3 points per dollar spent on dining, select streaming services and online grocery purchases; 2 points per dollar spent on travel not booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases, allowing you to rack up valuable Ultimate Rewards points with ease.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of having the card, and Ultimate Rewards points are great to have because they’re so versatile. They transfer at a one-to-one ratio to many airline partners, including United, British Airways, Air Canada and more. One of their best uses is transferring at a one-to-one ratio to World of Hyatt to take advantage of the program’s favorable redemption rates — especially at some of its all-inclusive properties where you can redeem for a free stay.

If you don’t want to transfer your points, you can redeem them at a value of 1.25 cents apiece for travel booked through the Chase travel portal, adding another layer of flexibility to your trip planning.

Another perk that makes this card a great option for summer travel is the long list of insurance benefits that come with it. The Sapphire Preferred offers trip cancellation insurance — if your trip is canceled or cut short by illness, severe weather or other situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. Additionally, it comes with trip delay reimbursement, so if your trip is delayed by more than 12 hours, you’re covered for unreimbursed expenses such as meals and lodging up to $500 per ticket.

In other words, you can rest assured on your trip that if something goes wrong, you may be covered just for booking your trip with the Sapphire Preferred.

If you already have your heart set on a specific destination and need a place to stay, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card is worth a look, especially if you’re already a frequent guest at Hilton hotels.

Right now the Hilton Surpass Card from Amex is offering a welcome bonus of 130,000 Honors points, which you’ll get after spending $2,000 in the first three months of holding the card. Its annual fee is $95.

The card comes with other valuable perks, including Hilton Honors Gold status and airport lounge access through a Priority Pass membership. While Hilton Gold status entitles you to perks like bonus points and room upgrades when available, one of the most valuable perks — especially for summer travel — is a daily food and beverage credit, which can add up in value quickly. Plus, as a benefit of the Hilton Surpass, you can earn a free weekend night certificate each year after spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year.

Hilton no longer has an award chart, meaning award rates aren’t fixed and fluctuate based on the property and time of year, so the welcome bonus likely won’t be enough to get you an entire week of accommodation (especially if you’re traveling somewhere popular over summer). That being said, it should go a long way toward shaving a significant amount off the out-of-pocket cost.

If you also plan on renting a car as part of your summer trip, this card could be especially useful because of its built-in protections. There’s car rental loss and damage insurance, which takes effect when you use the card to book your rental car. Plus, the card charges no foreign transaction fees, making it a solid option if you plan to head abroad.

Insurance eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.

American Express

This premium travel card has a long list of benefits that could prove useful when planning your summer vacation. There are loads of credits that come with the card, making it easy for you to save money on purchases and earn points at the same time.

Perhaps one of the most noteworthy elements of this card is its welcome bonus. The Amex Platinum currently comes with a welcome bonus of 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of holding the card.

The card also comes with an annual $200 hotel credit on select prepaid hotel bookings with American Express Travel, allowing you to save on your family’s — or friend group’s — hotel stay. Additionally, it comes with an annual $200 airline fee credit, which will save you on incidental fees like checked baggage with one airline. (You’ll need the extra luggage space for all that summer gear!)

But its benefits extend beyond travel as well. The Amex Platinum also comes with $240 in digital entertainment credits, where you’ll get up to $20 back each month when you pay for eligible purchases like Peacock, The New York Times, Audible and more. Take your favorite reading material — and listening material — with you on your trip. And finally, the Amex Platinum’s $200 in Uber Cash credits could prove to be extremely useful for ordering Uber Eats delivery straight to your hotel room. The Uber Cash credit comes in $15 increments each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. Just remember that enrollment is required for each of these card benefits before utilizing them.

Another hotel-branded card to make the list, the World of Hyatt Credit Card is especially great because World of Hyatt points are so valuable.

The Hyatt Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of up to 60,000 Hyatt points. You’ll get the first 30,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of opening the card. Then, you’ll be awarded two points for every dollar on purchases that typically earn just one point per dollar, up to $15,000 spent — resulting in an additional 30,000 points if you reach the full $15,000 maximum.

If you’re able to earn the full 60,000 points, you’ll be in great shape. Hyatt recently transitioned to a peak and off-peak pricing model, meaning you’ll pay a variable amount of points depending on whether you’re booking an off-peak, standard or peak night. But the total number of points for a night at a particular hotel falls within a preset band, so you’ll always know the maximum that can be charged for a given night.

That said, Hyatt’s most exclusive and luxurious properties — dubbed Category 8 properties — go for a maximum of 45,000 points per night, while the lowest Category 1 properties can be booked for as few as 3,500 points per night. Hyatt also has a range of all-inclusive resorts that can represent a tremendous value, as many of them cost between 20,000 and 25,000 points per night for double occupancy. This means you could get as many as three nights paid for at an all-inclusive resort where all your food and drink — and just about everything else you do while on the property — is included in the price of entry.

Aside from the redemption side of things, the card also charges no foreign transaction fees, making it a good option for traveling internationally. There’s a $95 annual fee that comes with the card, but you’ll also get one free night every year to use at any Hyatt property that falls in Category 1 through Category 4, meaning you can easily offset the cost of the fee with a free night.

If you’ve got your summer destination locked down but don’t yet have your flights booked, you may want to consider picking up the United Quest℠ Card, thanks to its sign-up bonus.

Right now you can earn 70,000 MileagePlus miles after spending $4,000 within the first three months of holding the card. The card comes with a $250 annual fee, but card holders receive an annual $125 statement credit for United purchases each year as well as a 5,000-mile rebate after booking a United award flight, up to two times (and 10,000 miles) per year.

Further, you and a companion will receive two free checked bags if you’re both on the same reservation, saving you even more money on your summer trip.

Keep in mind that United recently did away with its award charts, meaning it can charge just about whatever it wants for flights. But considering how popular a time summer is for travel, if you can offset the cost of your trip by getting one or two tickets with miles, it’ll put a whole lot of money back in your pocket to spend elsewhere.

capital one venture x credit card with sunglasses

Capital One

One of the newest travel rewards cards on the market, the Capital One Venture X is great for those who are looking for a card that comes loaded with perks, credits and a fantastic sign-up bonus.

First, let’s talk about that sign-up bonus. The Venture X is currently offering 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases with the card within the first three months of opening your account.

This card has an annual fee of $395, but right off the bat you get almost all of that value back in the form of a $300 credit annually for travel purchases made through the Capital One Travel portal. Plus, you’ll get other perks, including a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus each year you renew your card membership, up to $100 in statement credits if you enroll in Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, primary car rental insurance, trip delay and cancellation insurance, access to Capital One’s new airport lounges and Priority Pass lounges and more.

This card’s versatility — and that of the Capital One miles it earns — is what makes it great for a wide range of travelers looking to plan a getaway this summer.

First, there’s the annual travel credit, which automatically takes $300 off your statement for travel purchases made through Capital One Travel. Whether that’s a flight — or two — a car rental at your destination or a hotel stay, it’ll come right off your statement.

Then, there are so many options for redeeming Capital One miles, and having 75,000 of them just for signing up for this card is a great position to be in. Capital One has steadily improved the utility of its currency over the past several years, and you can now transfer your miles to a number of airline and hotel partners, mostly at a 1-to-1 ratio, allowing you to get outsize value for your miles if you’re able to score a great redemption.

Alternatively, you can redeem your miles at a flat rate of 1 cent apiece against the cost of travel purchases made on the card. For example, if you purchased a flight for $250, you could use 25,000 miles to essentially wipe the charge off your statement. This allows for flexibility and ease of use, and it can come in handy for any person trying to put together a summer trip for this year.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.

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