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6 Tips to Choose the Travel Credit Card That’s Best for You


Published March 26, 2024 • 5 Min Read

Love to travel? A travel credit card can be a valuable addition to your wallet. It offers the chance to earn points towards flights, vacations, hotel stays and more. See how a travel credit card can make traveling easier and help you reach your dream destination sooner.

There are many travel credit cards on the market today. Each one has unique benefits, features, and fees. While they all have their merits, it can be hard to figure out how to choose the best credit card for travelers.

Here are some considerations to help you choose a travel card that works for you and your lifestyle.

1. The type of traveling you do

Do you have a preference for a certain type of airline, or are you open to traveling on different carriers? Do you prefer to book first class or business class and like the luxury of an airport lounge? Do you tend to book your trips far in advance, or are you more of a last-minute traveler? Each of these factors can influence the travel credit card you choose. Here’s why: 

  • Some cards are dedicated to one airline. If you always fly with that carrier, it may be worth choosing a card that has benefits specific to that airline.

  • Some points programs have a booking window – for example, you must book more than two weeks in advance to fly on points. With others, the number of points you need increases the closer you get to the departure date.

  • Some cards offer luxury travel benefits, such as flight vouchers for a companion, access to seat upgrades, airport lounge passes and concierge services. 

2. Not all points hold the same value

With most travel cards, you earn points based on how much you spend on your card. But there are often extra factors to keep in mind: 

  • The value of points when redeemed: Most card providers offer a lot of points upfront when you sign up. But sometimes, when you redeem those points, they may not be worth exactly what you think. Make sure to do your research to understand the value of ALL points earned on the card. 

  • A fixed travel redemption grid: It is really helpful if your travel credit card offers a fixed redemption travel grid. This means your flight costs will not fluctuate and the points needed to fly stay the same, even during peak travel periods.

  • The earn rate: Some cards offer “accelerators” on specific categories such as gas, groceries or travel. This means, you earn more than the standard earn rate when you spend in these areas. When selecting a card, consider whether those accelerators align with your spending habits. 

What’s more, welcome points can be awarded differently. For instance, with some cards you receive welcome points upon approval, but with others you receive most of these points at the six-month mark of your anniversary.

3. Your travel insurance needs

It’s really important to understand the coverage that comes with the credit card you choose. Some cards will cover you while you travel if the trip was booked on your card, offering protection if you have to cancel your trip at the last minute, have a medical issue while away or a flight delay causes you to miss a connection. If insurance such as trip cancellation, trip delay and travel medical are important to you – and included with your travel card – you can save money by not having to purchase this insurance separately.

As different credit cards come with different insurance benefits, be sure to take the time to understand the fine print when choosing a travel credit card.

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Browse and compare a variety of different travel credit cards.

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4. A robust loyalty program outside of travel

While travel credit cards are set up to help you save money on travel, many also offer a choice in rewards that extends beyond flights and hotels. After all, there may be times when you don’t want to use your points for travel, so having a flexible loyalty program that offers other options such as merchandise, cash back, gift cards and more means your points will always be worth something to you.

5. The annual fee

Some people don’t fully explore the additional benefits they get by paying an annual fee and therefore don’t realize they could still come out ahead, even when factoring in the cost of the fee.The reality is, an annual fee could more than pay for itself with the value you get from the card. That’s because the fee is typically related to the points you earn, the redemption options available to you and the insurance coverage included.

Whether the benefits of the card outweigh the fee will depend on how you use your card. In most cases, however, if you travel once a year you will make up the annual fee with the money you save on travel insurances alone.

6. Income requirements

Some travel credit cards come with minimum income requirements (this can be personal or household income) in order to qualify. The more exclusive the card, generally the higher the income level. Others come with no income specifications. So, if you’re just starting out, are self-employed or earn a lower income, there are options for you!

Overall, travel credit cards can be very rewarding. With every purchase, you can be one step closer to a dream vacation or that weekend getaway. Because there are so many travel credit cards out there, odds are there’s a credit card that’s best for you.

Still not sure and want help choosing? Try the RBC Card Selector Tool to compare the full suite of travel credit cards RBC offers.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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