This Will Save You So Much Money On Travel

Truth: We're big advocates of credit cards at Refinery29. For starters, you can boost your credit score just by using them for everyday purposes. And if used responsibly (Which means paying off your balance in full every month!), they can also be a great way to get free stuff — including trips.

Want a gratis winter getaway? We spoke with Bethy Hardeman, chief consumer advocate at Credit Karma, about her favorite travel-reward credit cards. Best of all: There are options for those just building credit to those who put everything on plastic.

But before you sign up for them all (50% off in-flight snacks, what?), pause for some point-savvy intel. Travel cards tend to have high interest rates and annual fees, so definitely read the fine print before you commit. And "commitment" can be short-term when it comes to rewards cards. Some cards offer generous signing bonuses with smaller rewards down the line — if the signing bonus is amazing, consider applying for that card, getting the perks, and closing the card a year or so down the line. (Just don't make a habit of this — opening and closing too many credit cards within a short window of time can ding your credit rating.)

If you travel frequently on a specific airline or stay at a specific hotel, it makes sense to spring for that specific reward card. Just make sure it pays off in the form of perks. And don't become a points hoarder! "Airline, hotel, and credit-card loyalty programs can change. After you earn enough miles or points to take the trip that you’ve been after, book it! You never want to be left with a large pile of points that you just can’t use," says Hardeman.

With that in mind, here are Hardeman's top recommendations for travel-rewards credit cards. Get one — and get ready for your next vacation.
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Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card
"This is one of the best kept secrets among airline cards. Alaska Airlines has many airline partners around the world, which help make the miles you earn from the card and your flights go further."

The Details:

30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days.

Annual companion ticket starting at $121 with no blackout dates.

Free checked bag for you and up to six others.

Three miles for every $1 spent on Alaska Airlines tickets.
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Chase Sapphire Preferred
"One of the most popular travel-rewards cards. The point-transfer program to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs and 25% bonus on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards offers a lot of flexibility. "

The Details:
$95/year after the first year

Earn $625 towards travel after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Double points on all travel and dining, with one point per dollar on all other purchases.

No blackout days or travel restrictions.
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BankAmericard Travel Rewards
"This can be one of the most generous travel rewards credit cards, as it offers an unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent, with added bonuses if you bank with Bank of America."

The Details:
No annual fee

Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases.

Get a $200 statement credit after spending at least $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening the account.

Points don't expire.
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AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard
"This airline card is unique, because it gives you back 10% of the AAdvantage miles you redeem, so it’s like you’re always earning miles."

The Details:
$95/year after the first year

Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months.

First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines flights for you and four others.

Group one boarding on all American Airlines flights.
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Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card
"This hotel card also offers travel bonuses, including a complimentary Boingo Wi-Fi membership."

The Details:

Five points per dollar spent at participating SPG hotels and one point on all other purchases, with 25,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Get free in-room internet at SPG hotels.

Earn points and get free nights at over 1,200 SPG properties worldwide with no blackout dates.
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Capital One Venture Rewards Card
"This is one of the most straightforward travel-rewards cards, earning unlimited miles that can be used on any airline or hotel, without blackout dates."

The Details:
$59/year after the first year

Earn miles that can be redeemed for any airline or hotel with every purchase.

Get $400 to spend on travel after spending $3,000 in purchases in your first three months.

Miles never expire.
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Barclaycard Arrival Plus MasterCard
"This rewards card pays you back when you redeem miles for travel or cash-back statement credits, so you’re able to start saving for your next trip already."

The Details:
$59/year after the first year

Earn a $500 travel credit after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Double miles on every purchase.

Miles never expire and all point redemptions get you 5% back.
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Hilton HHonors Card
"This hotel card offer bonus points for purchase at participating hotels affiliated with Hilton, of course, but also restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations in the U.S., which is fairly unique."

The Details:
No annual fee

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $750 within three months.

Get seven points for every dollar spent at all Hilton hotels and resorts, as well as five points per dollar for all restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores.

All other purchases earn you three points for every dollar and points can be redeemed for hotel stays, as well as travel and shopping.
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Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card
"Frequent Delta flyers love the priority boarding and free checked in bag."

The Details:
$95/year after the first year

Earn 30,000 bonus miles after $1,000 in purchases within the first three months, as well as a $50 statement credit after you making a purchase with Delta in the first three months.

Earn two miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, plus one mile on all other purchases
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The JetBlue Card
"Most airline cards offer more than one mile or point only on purchases with that airline, but the JetBlue Card also offers bonus miles for restaurants and grocery store purchases, too."

The Details:
No annual fee

5,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days.

Earn three points per $1 on JetBlue purchases, two points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores, and one point per $1 on all other purchases.

No blackout dates for point redemption on JetBlue flights, and points don't expire.

Save 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails, food, and movies.
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Southwest Rapid Rewards
"On your cardmember anniversary date, you’ll earn extra points, which is a generous bonus for Southwest flyers."

The Details:

Earn 40,000 bonus miles after $1,000 in purchases within the first three months.

Two points for every $1 spent on Southwest and one point for every dollar elsewhere.

No blackout dates and points never expire.
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Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
"It’s easy to earn free hotel stays with this card, as you can earn bonus points for plane tickets booked directly with the airline and purchases at car rental agencies and restaurants, in addition to purchases at Marriott hotels. You can also get a free night at eligible Marriott hotels every year."

The Details:

Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $3,00 in the first three months.

Earn five points per $1 spent at Marriott locations; two points per $1 spent on airline tickets, restaurants, and car rentals; and one point per $1 spent everywhere else.
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Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
"This charge card is great if you’re a frequent flyer. American Express offers three times the points for flights booked directly with the airline and up to a $100 a year in credits for airline fees."

The Details:
$195/year after the first year

25,000 membership rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first two months.

Three times points on flights; two times points ant restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores in the U.S.; and one point per dollar everywhere else
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Chase Sapphire Reserve
"Chase made a lot of news recently, because of this card’s high annual fee and large sign-up bonus. If you’re a frequent traveler, the many travel perks may be worthwhile. "

The Details:

Earn $1,500 to use toward travel if you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

Up to $100 application fee credit for TSA pre-check.

1:1 point transfer to airline-miles programs.

Access to over 900 airport lounges worldwide.
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United MileagePlus Explorer Card
"While many airline cards offer a free checked in bag and priority boarding, United Airlines goes a step further and adds in one-time-use airport lounge passes."

The Details:
$95/year after the first year

30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months.

First checked bag is free.

Double points on tickets purchased from United.

Priority boarding.
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