The best travel cards for summer

The 5 best credit cards for summer travel

A new poll of winter-weary Americans shows 40 percent plan to take more summer vacations this year than they did last year. But how will they pay for all that extra travel?

If they’re like me, they won’t.

That’s because there are specific credit cards that can help offset the cost of summer travel. Here are my favorite five travel cards…

1. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

This card from Chase offers new cardholders 50,000 bonus points after making just $2,000 in purchases within three months of opening an account. There’s also a business card with the same offer.

My wife and I have each signed up — not just for the points, but in order to earn a companion pass. Once you earn 110,000 points in a calendar year, you can add a “designated companion” to all of your flights for only the cost of taxes.

Since my wife and I both have the card, we each add one of our two children. We then use the points to book two award tickets, and we received four seats!


2. Citi AAdvantage Executive

New cardholders get an amazing 100,000 bonus miles when they spend $10,000 within three months of opening an account. If you’re able to do this, you’ll have 110,000 miles that can be used for award trips on American, US Airways, or other members of the OneWorld alliance.

You also get priority check-in, security access, and boarding as well as a membership to their Admiral’s Club airport lounges. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, but the current offer includes a $200 statement credit to help offset it the first year.

3. Barclaycard Arrival Plus

Since summer is a peak travel time, you don’t want to restrict yourself to the scarce award seats that most airlines offer. This card offers two miles per dollar spent on all purchases, and each mile is worth one cent each as a statement credit towards any travel related expense.

In addition, you receive a 10-percent rebate on redeemed miles, so each purchase essentially returns 2.22 percent in value as rewards. This card is great for summer travel, since rewards can be applied to any airfare, hotel, car rental, or cruise. Finally, new cardholders can earn 40,000 bonus miles to get their travel plans started fast.

4. Chase Sapphire Preferred

Get double points on all dining and travel expenses and a 7-percent points bonus each year. This means that you earn 2.14 points per dollar on all your travel, and points can be transferred to airline miles, hotel points, or Amtrak Guest Rewards.

Also, this card has an EMV smart chip and no foreign transaction fees. Finally, new cardholders receive 40,000 points after using their card to make $3,000 in purchases within three months of opening  an account. There’s a $495 annual fee that’s waived the first year.

5. Frontier Airlines Early Returns

Frontier is an ultra-low cost carrier based in my hometown of Denver, and this is a great card for taking a summer vacation. New cardholders receive 40,000 bonus miles after making just $500 in purchases — 40,000 miles is enough for two round-trip award tickets within the United States, including Alaska.

And if you don’t have time to visit Alaska, just plan a vacation in the Colorado Rockies, where it’s sunny and cool all summer long. There’s a $69 annual fee.

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