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Credit cards are an excellent tool for travelers, many of them come with huge sign-up bonuses, great perks and premium customer service. Sadly most people do not know how to use them. Keep in mind they are not free money. No credit card puts anyone in debt, the person is the one who gets into debt if one is not disciplined.
Use always credit cards as an ally, learn about the perks and conditions and do not use them as a loan (the interest in credit cards is crazy), the best thing a traveler can do is to pay off the whole balance every month.
To know what credit card is best, one needs to understand what kind of traveler one is, since not all the cards are the same, and the perks and conditions that are great for some one can be totally useless for another person.
Credit cads can be divided in three groups or tiers. The first group is the luxury premium segment. We have here cards such as the United Club card by Chase, the Ritz Carlton Card, the American Express platinum and the City prestige among others (this is in the USA, and it may change from country to country) One needs to have excellent credit to apply. The annual fee is high, something like 400 tp 500 USD, but the sign up bonuses and the perks are excellent. Once again this is not a card for everybody. If one is a frequent traveler who always flys in Business there may not make any sense to get the card, since many of the perks are already included in the ticket. Some of the things to look forward to with this kind of card are unlimited access to airport lounges, upgrades in flights or hotels, credit to be applied to incidentals (from 200 to 300 USD), travel, luggage and car rental insurance, identity protection, of course the benefits change from company to company (one has to always read the fine print). This kind of product is not for the person who travels once or twice a year since he or she will not be able to take advantage of the perks.
The second tier of cards requires very good to excellent credit history. They normally come with an annual fee, something like 80 to 100 USD, with great signup bonuses and many perks such as bags for free, couple daily passes to lounges, access to club level in some hotels, and elite status in loyalty programs, sometimes there is as well some kind of travel and car rental insurance, they may or may not have foreign transaction fees. Among these cards we can mention the Citi Hilton Honors, the American Express Hilton, the Citi American Airlines, the Marriott by chase, the United Card by Chase, the Lifemiles by US Bank and many others. This is a great way to get many benefits without paying a huge annual fee, it makes sense for the traveler building credit history, and for those who do not travel always, but who want to accumulate miles and points and receive a preferential service in airlines and hotels.
The third tier is for people with normal to good credit history, these cards may not have an annual fee and there are little or no sign up bonuses. This kind of product offers the opportunity to accumulate miles or points in a specific program to exchange it later for free travel. It is a great tool for the common person who wants to be savvy about their once a year vacation trip, many of these cards have foreign transaction fees.
Our travel team uses several different credit cards, they are excellent tools for travel but there is not a perfect one. In the coming days we will be presenting objective reviews of our experience with the cards we have and the pros and cons of each one, and when we say objective it is because we do not receive any commission to review the cards.