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.