“Travel rewards are often more lucrative than cash back.” Take this 5-question quiz to see if a travel rewards card is right for you

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Is a travel rewards credit card right for you?

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With more than 6 in 10 American adults likely to take at least a vacation this summer, according to new research from Bankrate, you might be wondering if now is the right time to apply for a credit card with travel benefits. But just because you have a trip coming up doesn’t mean you need a travel credit card. So here are five questions to help you figure out if any of them might be right for you.

1. Are you paying your credit card balance in full and on time?

What is essential. Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, says you need to be able to consistently pay all of your credit card bills in full to make a travel card worthwhile. “That’s true of any rewards credit card, it doesn’t make sense to pay 16.40% on average just to earn a small fraction of that amount in airline miles, resort points or cash back,” says Rossman.

2. Do you have at least one trip on the horizon next year?

If you have one or more trips on the horizon for next year, a travel rewards credit card can help you cut a few hundred dollars off the cost of your bookings, says credit card expert Sara Rathner and on trips to Nerdwallet. “The more you travel, the more you can benefit from a travel credit card, but even if you only travel once or twice a year, some travel cards are worth it,” says Rossman. But, adds Rathner, “If you stay close to home, you can squeeze more value out of a cashback card.”

To determine the number of trips needed to redeem your travel rewards card, you’ll need to do some math. “It depends on the type of card you are using. It’s easier with a general travel rewards card, where points are worth an average of one cent each, making 50,000 points worth $500 worth of travel. Some cards offer higher point values ​​like 1.5 cents per point, so check what your card offers,” says Rathner. Airplane and hotel cards can be more complicated as the value of points depends on where and when you are traveling. “You may find that you get more for your money when traveling overseas or when traveling during off-peak hours,” says Rathner.

Another way to do this calculation, without even considering points and miles, is this: Many travel rewards cards have annual fees, but also offer other benefits. “I like perks like free checked bags. Many airline-specific cards allow you and your traveling companions to check your bags for free. At $30 each, a family of four can spend $240 in baggage fees on a round trip flight, so even if you’re paying something like $95 a year for the card, it can more than pay for itself with just one round trip,” Rossman says.

3. Do you know the types of travel rewards cards and which might be right for you?

There are two main types of travel rewards cards: airline and hotel specific cards and general travel rewards cards. Airline- and hotel-specific cards generally work best if you’re loyal to a particular airline or hotel chain, and they “offer cool perks like priority boarding and room upgrades,” says Rathner.

Otherwise, Rossman says a general-purpose travel card is a better bet because you keep your options open, and Rathner likes them for their flexible options. « Transferable Points Programs [that allow customers to transfer reward points between participating programs instead of having all the loyalty points with just one airline or hotel]like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points can be particularly lucrative and provide built-in diversification benefits, as there are many ways to use your points by transferring them to airline and hotel partners,” says Rossman .

With more than 6 in 10 American adults likely to take at least a vacation this summer, according to new research from Bankrate, you might be wondering if now is the right time to apply for a credit card with travel benefits. But just because you have a trip coming up doesn’t mean you need a travel credit card. So here are five questions to help you figure out if any of them might be right for you.

Among the generic travel cards to consider, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers 5x rewards on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the Citi Premier card offers 3 points per dollar spent at gas stations, air travel and hotels and Bank of America Travel Rewards credit offers 1.5 times the points with no annual fee.

Premium travel cards such as Sapphire Reserve, Amex Platinum and Capital One Venture X also have other travel benefits like airport lounge access, Global Entry and TSA Precheck waivers and travel insurance protections , but they have higher annual fees than other cards.

4. Do you know how to redeem your rewards and are you willing to work for them?

Rossman says you have to be prepared to work to manage your points and miles. “Travel rewards are often more lucrative than cash back, but they also tend to be more complicated. If you know what you’re doing and are ready to work and flexible enough to travel on days when the best deals are available, travel cards can really work for you,” says Rossman.

The pros say one way to get the most out of your travel rewards can be to transfer miles to a credit card partner airline and book a first-class international flight. “But it can be confusing and time-consuming, even for someone who knows what they’re doing. It can also involve booking with a partner’s partner, where a card issuer like Chase or Amex partners with a dozen or more airlines. Many of them also have partners through things like Star Alliance or Oneworld Alliance, so the best deal might be to transfer to a partner and then book a flight on one of their partners, which often involves a bit online research and at least one phone call,” says Rossman.

Finding the availability of award tickets, especially at a good price, can be tricky. “Savvy travelers use tools like ExpertFlyer to get help, and often the best availability is revealed months or even a year before a flight,” says Rossman. Long story short, that’s why most people are probably better off keeping it simple. “Use a cashback card or book travel at a standard rating, like getting 1.5 cents per point on the Chase Sapphire Reserve or 1 cent per mile on the Capital One Venture,” Rossman says.

5. Have you explored other alternatives besides travel rewards cards?

In reality, most people are probably better off with a cashback card, say the pros. “Maybe even a really simple 2% cash back card with no annual fee,” says Rossman. Exchange rate research shows that most people prefer cash back anyway, largely because it’s so simple and universal.

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