(StatePoint) Vacations are good for you. But they can also be tough on the wallet. For more than one-third of Americans, the cost of a vacation will be one of their largest expenses in the coming year, according to Wells Fargo’s recent “How America Buys and Borrows” survey. How can you avoid vacation sticker shock? One option is sitting in your wallet, as certain credit cards offer rewards with virtually every purchase. Here are five tips for how you can use your credit card to turn your vacation dreams into reality.
• Read the terms and conditions thoroughly and understand how you can earn and redeem rewards. Some cards offer cash back while others offer points. Some credit cards allow customers to redeem for a variety of options, while other cards — such as those offered by some airlines and hotels—connect you to reward redemptions for their specific product. Know what, if any, fees or charges occur when redeeming and whether your rewards ever expire.
• Some consumers track rewards and redeem them regularly. Others rarely think about them. If you fall in the second category, check your rewards balance. You may have earned enough rewards to offset vacation costs like airfare, hotel stays or gift cards to merchants you plan on visiting while vacationing. Alternatively, you may prefer to redeem your rewards as an account credit and use the cash while traveling.
• The average vacationer spends just over $1,300 for travel, including food, lodging and transportation, estimates the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By responsibly using your rewards credit card for vacation costs, rewards can add up. You can redeem them later — perhaps, for next year’s vacation!
• Traveling with your credit card offers a safer way to pay because if a card is lost or stolen, a quick call to your bank can stop charges to your account. In addition to rewards programs, many cards offer little known perks that may help make your travel smoother. For example, some credit cards offer 24/7 concierge services that can help you plan your trip or even make dinner reservations. Your card may also offer rental car insurance, no-fee currency conversions, competitive currency conversion rates, and travel protections like insurance for lost or damage luggage. To learn more about these benefits, read your credit card agreement.
• Look for special travel offers from your rewards program. Also, check to see if your credit card offers special travel deals that come with additional rewards from specific retailers. To learn more about available offers, cardholders can typically check their rewards program website.
As you plan vacation, keep budgeting and money management basics in mind. Be sure to let your bank know you’re going out of town, and consider using free tools— like online banking or your bank’s mobile app—to stay on top of your finances. That way you’ll come home refreshed, with no worries about having derailed your financial goals.