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Best Travel Credit Cards 2012

Credit Cards for Travel

In preparation for our trip we had to get our finances in order, specifically, what cards and accounts did we want for traveling? For us, we considered the following criteria:

1. A reliable credit card(s) for use abroad that

  • Would be accepted most everywhere credit cards are accepted (visa/mastercard)
  • Earned rewards that we could put towards travel
  • No foreign transaction fees

2. Some additional credit card offers to use directly before travel that

  • Offered quick cash bonuses and/or miles bonuses

3. A reliable debit card/checking account that

  • Had no foreign transaction fees
  • Earned either rewards or interest

We always pay our bills on time and in full and therefore have no interest in APY, balance transfers, etc.

Lastly, just to distinguish a bit between 1 and 2. Essentially 1 is intended to be a credit card(s) that we can reliably use abroad. 2 is a few credit cards that we can use purely 3-4 months prior to our travel when our expenses would be high. After some research, here is what we came up with:

Credit Cards To Use Abroad:

Points Credit Cards

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Summary: This card ranks pretty much at the top of any review site about travel cards. It offers great rewards with a huge signing bonus that more than compensates for the annual fee (which is waived for the first year anyways). It has everything we were looking for and Vicky and I BOTH signed up for it to take advantage of the bonus. Inevitably, one of us will give up the card because it doesn’t make sense for us both to be paying the annual fee when we share our miles.

Rewards:

  • 2 points per dollar spent on travel and at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months

Details and Disclosures:

$95 annual fee waived for the first year

Capital One Venture Card

Summary: We got this credit card way back in 2010 and have accumulated the most miles on it. At the time it advertised itself as THE credit card, made known by it’s multi-passport image. While it doesn’t earn as many rewards in bonuses like the chase preferred it does earn 2 miles on EVERY purchase, not just travel and restaurants. It also has a lower annual fee, again, waived for the first year.

Rewards:

  • 2 miles per dollar on every purchase
  • 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • New accounts get a $0 intro annual fee for the first year; plus earn 10,000 bonus miles
  • No foreign transaction fees

Details and Disclosures:

$59 Annual fee – waived for the first year

Citi Thank You Premiere Card

Summary: Vicky opened this card after receiving an exclusive offer in the mail with 50,000 bonus points rewarded after spending $3,000 in 3 months. While this card has a higher annual fee than the others if you receive the exclusive offer it is definitely worth considering. Also the free annual domestic companion ticket sounds pretty enticing. 

Rewards:

  • 2 miles per dollar on every purchase
  • 25,000 bonus points once you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months
  • 1 point per dollar spent on purchases with 1.2 points per dollar on supermarket, gas station, drugstore, commuter transportation and parking purchases
  • Free annual domestic companion ticket and 15% discount when booking travel through the credit card search engine
  • No foreign transaction fees

Details and Disclosures:

$125 Annual fee – waived for the first year

Cards For Quick Cash:

Cash Credit Cards
These four cards are pretty similar with the main difference being the provider. Our spending spiked in the last few months before our trip with all of the gear we had to buy (lap top, back packs, etc) and therefore it was a perfect time to invest in some quick hit cards.

Capital One® Cash Rewards

Reward: $100

Requirement: Spend $500 in the first 3 months

Annual Fee: $0

Blue Cash PreferredSM Card from American Express

Reward: $150

Requirement: Spending $1,000 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee: $75

TIP:If you cancel a card before the year is up annual fees are generally prorated, so canceling this card after the 3-4 month offer period makes the annual fee more like $25.

Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card

Reward: $100

Requirement: $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee: $0

Chase Freedom® Visa 

Reward: $100

Requirement: $500 in purchases in your first 3 months

Annual Fee: $0

Does Opening All These Cards Hurt My Credit?

There are LOTS of articles about this, but the general gist is:

Pay your bills on time
and
Don’t use all your available credit

If you do these two things, you’ll be fine. In the short term, you may take a few dings from some quick opening and closing to get cash back, but this is a short term effect only. From having checked my credit score (online websites like creditscore.com), I saw I was at a healthy 750 AFTER opening these cards.

Summary Of Our Rewards (as of September 2012):

Credit Card Owner Duration Rewards Earned How rewards were used?
Capital One Venture Card Dave/Vicky Sept 2010 – Current 100,000 TBD
Chase Sapphire Rewards Dave April 2012 – Current 50,000 Flight To Osaka, Japan
Chase Sapphire Rewards Vicky March 2012 – Current 50,000 Flight To Osaka, Japan
Citi Thank You Premier Vicky May 2012 – Current 50,000 2 Flights from Seoul to Beijing
Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card Dave May – Aug 2012 $100 TBD
Capital One Cash Rewards Dave May – Aug 2012 $100 Put towards computer
Chase Freedom Visa Dave May – Aug 2012 $100 Put towards netbook

 

Sources:

  1. nerdwallets best travel credit cards
  2. toptenreviews credit card review
  3. ptmoney best travel rewards credit cards
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