Travelling is undoubtedly one market that has embraced the concept of credit cards. From booking flights online, to avoiding the hassle of foreign exchange and traveler’s checks, credit cards are a major convenience in today’s global village.
Another business model that has been with us for over 30 years is the frequent-flyer program. In essence, people who travel extensively with a particular airline, accumulate ‘miles’ or points that, in time, can be exchanged for free flights and other expenses.
Over the years, as both markets have grown, many partnerships have emerged that have the potential to give customers some great deals. The frequent flyer credit card is one such partnership, and is worth considering if you to a lot of travelling.
Not just for flights
Despite the name (and even that isn’t universally used any more), frequent flyer credit cards are usually more flexible than you might think. Although some cards may have only awarded you air miles when used to purchase flights from their airline partner, nowadays it’s more common to receive miles for any purchase.
And the reverse is true too. You no longer have to redeem your miles against air fares with a specific airline. Usually, can also use them against other (usually travel related) purchases, such as hotel rooms and car hire, and your provider will often waive foreign transaction fees too.
Travel insurance has also become a standard feature of these credit cards, but the specifics can vary greatly. Make sure you check the details before you fly, to ensure you’re happy with the level of cover provided. Choosing a major global brand is often a great idea too, because their local branch can often provide replacement cards if your wallet is stolen, and sometimes even give you emergency cash.
Things to watch out for:
As with any credit card, make sure the rewards you’re getting aren’t outweighed by interest rates and fees. What might look like a generous travel offer could be charging an above-average APR, or excessive annual fees. These details are readily available, however, so as long as you check their literature carefully, you shouldn’t get caught out.
Another thing to look out for would be restrictions on how and when you can redeem your miles. Ask your provider if you can use them at peak times, and if there are any blackout dates. Some cards restrict you to choosing from a small number of partners, while some of the better cards allow you to redeem miles against all leading airlines. Depending on your usual travel arrangements, this may or may not be a problem for you.
And finally, ensure that your points earned don’t have an expiry date. There’s an easy way to find out: if they don’t expire, you can be sure that the credit card provider will be boasting about it!
So if you’re a frequent traveler, a credit card that rewards the distance you travel may be just the ticket to save you some real money. But don’t stop with the benefits listed here: shop around and make sure you’re getting the best deal you can. Happy travelling!
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