Tag: Travel

Advertiser Disclosure

Credit Cards

Best Travel Credit Cards December 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

iStock

Looking over the sheer number of travel credit cards available is enough to overwhelm anyone. With so many cards offering points, miles or cash back, what should you look for in a new travel rewards credit card?

While having options is a good thing, trying to decide on the best travel rewards credit cards available can give you a difficult decision. When considering a new card, there are four factors you should consider before you hit the “apply now” button:

  • No foreign transaction fees. While up to 3% in foreign transaction fees may not sound like much, it can add over a quarter to every $10 you spend abroad. The best travel credit cards may not have foreign transaction fees.
  • Good rewards for spending. For every dollar you spend, you should earn rewards you can apply directly to your next trip: either flights, hotel rooms or other experiences.
  • Sign-up bonuses. Most cards offer a sign-up bonus after a required minimum spend to encourage people to apply for their card. The sign-up bonus should offer a substantial award that justifies the spending.
  • Annual fee. Although most cards come with an annual fee, the points or cash back you could earn should outweigh the cost.

Instead of getting lost looking for the perfect travel rewards card, start with this guide. We found the best travel cards for every lifestyle, each of which offer you some of the best rewards now and over time. If you want good travel rewards for the money you spend, consider adding these credit cards to your wallet.

Best premium travel cards

Premium travel cards come with the highest annual fees but also offer the highest level of rewards. From flexible points that can be transferred to travel partners, to elite hotel and lounge offers, your annual fee can be recovered through the luxury benefits on these cards. If you travel frequently and want to get the best experiences, these are the cards you’ll want.

Chase Sapphire ReserveSM

 Chase Sapphire Reserve<sup>SM</sup>

Annual fee

$450 For First Year

$450 Ongoing

Rewards

3X points on travel and dining, 1 point on everything else

APR

16.99%-23.99%

Variable

Why we like it: Because you automatically receive up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year, the Chase Sapphire ReserveSM offers solid rewards for what effectively turns into a $150 annual fee ($450 annual fee minus up to $300 in statement credits for travel purchases). Cardholders also receive up to a $100 application fee credit towards Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. In addition, you will earn three Ultimate Rewards® points per dollar spent on travel and dining worldwide, and one point per dollar spent everywhere else. If you make this your primary card, you could earn rewards which value more than the annual fee every year.

Fees and terms: The Chase Sapphire ReserveSM card comes with a $450 annual fee, with an additional $75 for each authorized user per year. Your APR would range from 16.99% to 23.99% variable, based on your creditworthiness.

Rewards program: Purchases earn points in Chase Ultimate Rewards®, a flexible point program that can be used for travel rewards. One point has a value of 1 cent, but when redeeming for travel through the Chase travel portal, points have a fixed value of 1.5 cents. You can get an even greater value by transferring points to one of Ultimate Rewards® nine airline partners or four hotel partners.

Pros:

  • Flexible points that offer good value. Chase Ultimate Rewards® are among the most flexible in the travel space, with nine airline and four hotel rewards transfer partners – giving you many different ways to use your points. You can also use points through the Chase travel portal at a fixed rate of 1.5 cents each towards airfare and hotels of your choice.
  • Exceptional rewards for travel and dining. Of all the premium credit cards, the Chase Sapphire ReserveSM offers the most points per dollar spent for both travel and dining. If you primarily use this card when you travel, you would earn unlimited triple points on most of your big expenses.
  • Great travel insurance options. In addition to points earning opportunities and flexible points, this card also offers one of the best travel insurance plans available. When you use your card or Ultimate Rewards® points to pay for your trip, you are automatically covered with baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, emergency evacuation insurance and roadside assistance.

Cons:

  • $450 annual fee. One of the biggest cons of this card is the $450 annual fee, due immediately in the first year. Even though $300 can be recovered from the annual travel credit, you still pay the $450 out of pocket. If you do not travel often, this card may not be right for you.
  • Limited travel lounge access. For the high price tag, this card only offers lounge benefits through Priority Pass, a network of lounges around the world. It does not allow entry into any carrier’s lounges and comes with some surprising rules, including limited accommodation during busy times.
  • No elite status with travel partners. Unlike its nearest competitor, the Chase Sapphire ReserveSM does not come with any elite status with partner brands. If you get accepted for this card, don’t expect to get to the front of the line at any hotels or car rental locations.

Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire ReserveSM

 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Annual fee

$550

Rewards

5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com

APR

-

APPLY NOW Secured

on American Express Bank’s secure website

Terms Apply

Rates & Fees

Why we like it: Considered one of the oldest and most prestigious awards cards, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers the most elite status, luxury experiences and credits for your spending. When you book trips directly with airlines or American Express Travel, you can also earn five Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent, allowing your rewards to rack up quickly. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. If you value luxury experiences and airline lounge access, this card could be a better choice.

Terms and fees
Because The Platinum Card® from American Express is a charge card, there is no APR on balances — you will be required to pay off the entire balance every month. The annual membership fee is $550, while the annual fee for additional cards is $175 for up to three additional cards. The annual fee for the fourth or more additional cards is $175 for each card.

Rewards program: Your purchases will earn Membership Rewards® points, which can be used with American Express or transferred to their travel partners. When using Membership Rewards® points at American Express Travel, your points are valued at 1 cent each, so your best use of points is through transferring to their airline or hotel partners. Points transfer to 16 airlines and three hotels, offering the most choices for award travel.

Pros:

  • Best lounge access programs. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers you the most ways to get into lounges when you travel around the world. In addition to Priority Pass, you can also enter Centurion Lounges and the International American Express lounges on arrival or departure at select airports, as well as Delta Sky Clubs when you are flying on Delta.
  • Elite status for holding the card. The Platinum Card® from American Express also comes with elite status at three car rental and two hotel loyalty programs: Avis Preferred, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, National Car Emerald Club, Hilton Honors Gold Elite and Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.
  • Credits for Boingo Wi-Fi, Global Entry, Shoprunner and Uber. Even with the high annual fee, this premium card also comes with several credits and free services for frequent travelers. Cardholders get free Boingo Preferred Plan membership, free Shoprunner two-day delivery, along with monthly credits for Uber rides and one Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee waiver every five years.

Cons:

  • Highest annual fees. While the card may offer the most status and immediate benefits, it also comes with the highest fee. At $550 for the annual fee, you will be pay for all your benefits in the first month, before you can get any value from them.
  • Only one bonus category. Another major downside of this card is that there is only one bonus category: five points per dollar spent directly with airlines or travel booked through Amex Travel. If you do not spend much on prepaid hotel reservations or airfare, you can’t maximize this bonus category effectively.
  • Limited airline fee credit. For years, The Platinum Card® from American Express was the only card to offer an airline fee credit. Today, it is one of the most limited: $200 only usable towards airline fees, available for only one airline you choose at the beginning of the year.

 

Best travel cards for simple rewards

While earning points and miles can be rewarding, some of the best programs are simple and straightforward. When we looked for the best simple rewards credit cards, we looked for those that not only offered cash back, but also bonuses for spending and redeeming, along with a low annual fee. After considering all our options, these are the best travel rewards cards for simple rewards.

Best cashback travel rewards card

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard<sup>®</sup>

Annual fee

$89 - waived first year

Rewards

2X miles on all purchases

APR

16.99%-23.99%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Barclaycard’s secure website

Why we like it: If you don’t want to chase rotating categories or juggle which card is best for whatever spending you do, The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers simple travel rewards. You will earn two miles per dollar spent on all purchases, with full chip and PIN capability outside the United States. Choose the flights, hotels and rental cars that work for you and pay for the charges to your card by redeeming miles. And when you redeem, you automatically get 5% back to use toward your next redemption.

Fees and terms
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® comes with an $89 annual fee, waived in the first year. Your variable APR for purchases will be 16.99%, 20.99% or 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.

Rewards program
Instead of earning traditional airline miles, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® earns miles that can be applied as cash back to your travel expenses. Qualifying travel purchases include those made at airlines, hotels, campgrounds, car rental companies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites and more. Miles are worth one cent each.

Pros:

  • Easy to use rewards. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has one of the most easy-to-understand rewards programs available, with every point counting for one cent each. Instead of trying to figure out how many points you need for a flight, your available cash balance is always available and easy to understand.
  • 5% miles back every time you redeem. The best part about using miles on this card is that you’ll always get 5% back. For example: if you were to redeem 50,000 points for a $500 airline ticket, you would get 2,500 points back (worth $25).
  • Partial payment with miles allowed. While some programs force you to either pay for your entire award with miles (or purchase more miles to cover your award), this card allows you to use your miles to pay off a portion of your travel expenses. How many miles you want to use is up to you.

Cons:

  • Annual fee for a cashback card. The card is rather expensive for earning two miles per dollar toward travel. If you don’t travel abroad often, there are other cards that offer the same cash back with no annual fee.
  • High redemption thresholds and miles won’t transfer to other programs. If you would rather travel in first class using airline loyalty program miles, you will be out of luck with this card. While most rewards programs offer transfers after 1,000 points and cash-equivalent rewards at 2,500 points, you have to have at least 10,000 miles to use them for a $100 reward. Furthermore, miles can only be used to pay for travel expenses on the card, and can’t be transferred to other airline partners.
  • Poor value for everything not travel relatedWhile the earning two miles per dollar on all purchases is good when redeeming for travel, you shouldn’t use them to get gift cards or cash back. When using your miles for those options, you will lose 50% of your value in translation.

 

Best travel card for millennials

Uber Visa Card

Uber Visa Card

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$0 Ongoing

Cashback Rate

4% back on dining, 3% back on hotel and airfare, 2% back for online purchases, and 1% on everything else

APR

15.99%-24.74%

variable

Why we like it: The Uber Visa Card offers high cash back rewards at the places millennials spend the most — all restaurants (including UberEATS), travel, online shopping and streaming services — along with no foreign transaction fees and up to $600 in mobile phone protection with no annual fee. Plus, some of the bonus categories are the biggest in their category: no other credit card offers 4% cash back on all dining purchases. Conditions apply.

Fees and terms
This card has no annual fee, and your APR for purchases would be 15.99%, 21.74% or 24.74%, variable based on your creditworthiness.

Rewards program
The card offers cash back rewards for spending in four different categories:

  • 4% cash back on restaurants, takeout, and bars, including UberEATS
  • 3% cash back on airfare, hotels and vacation home rentals
  • 2% cash back on online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and music streaming services
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Cash back can be used as statement credits, credits towards Uber rides, redeemed for gift cards or transferred to a bank account with a limit of $500 in transfers per day. Conditions apply.

Pros:

  • Big cash back categories. Of all the cash back cards we have reviewed, the Uber Visa Card has the biggest rewards for both dining and online purchases. Using this card as your primary option for restaurants and digital shopping could help your rewards add up quickly.
  • Up to $600 in mobile phone protection. While many cards offer travel insurance, not many offer cellphone insurance. If you pay your cellphone bill with your Uber Visa Card, you could qualify for $600 in protection for accidental damage or theft. Conditions apply.
  • $50 online subscription service credit. Who doesn’t have at least one online subscription service anymore? If you spend at least $5,000 in your cardmembership year, you automatically get a $50 credit for an online subscription you pay with your card.

Cons:

  • Limited transfer options. While the cash back is good, The Uber Visa only has one transfer partner for their points right now: Uber. You can’t turn over your points into any other loyalty program, limiting their overall usage.
  • Limited definition of “online purchases.” The Uber Visa Card also comes with a very narrow definition of “online purchase” that qualifies for 2% cash back. You’ll have to check your credit card statements to see what counts as an online purchase, though Barclaycard announced in December that payments through third-party platforms like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay would count toward the 2% category.
  • No travel insurance. Although you may get up to $600 in mobile phone protection, you won’t get any travel insurance benefits when paying for your next trip with this card. If your flight gets delayed or your luggage gets lost, your card won’t reimburse any of your expenses.

Read our review of the Uber Visa Card

 

Best travel card with no annual fee

Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles

Annual fee

$0

Rewards

Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee. We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year.*

APR

11.99%-23.99%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

Why we like it: While the Discover it® Miles compares closely to other cards with no annual fee, the details make this card a real winner. At the end of your first year, Discover automatically matches all of your earned miles, giving you double the travel purchasing power. The card also comes with strong back-end features, including free Social Security number alerts and FICO® score checks.

Fees and terms
If you qualify for the promotion, your introductory purchase APR would be 0% for 14 months. Afterwards, your APR would range between 11.99% to 23.99% variable, based on your creditworthiness. There is no annual fee with this card.

Rewards program
The Discover it® Miles offers miles that can be used as cash back to pay for travel experiences. When you book trips using the Discover it® Miles card, you can redeem your miles towards statement credits on the trips, with no blackout dates. Your miles never expire as long as your card is active.

Pros:

  • Good credit security tools and customer service. In addition to having call centers based in the United States, this card also comes with solid credit security tools. These include free FICO® credit scores, Social Security number alerts, Experian® credit report monitoring and the ability to freeze your credit card from the Discover mobile app or website.
  • Wide acceptance in China and Japan. If you travel to Asia often, the Discover it® Miles may be your best bet for secure spending. Discover is accepted by China’s largest credit card network, UnionPay, and one of Japan’s largest payment processors, JCB.
  • Matched miles in the first year. Currently, no other company offers matched points or miles for your first cardholding year, effectively doubling your rewards. If you use this as your primary spending card, you could earn a lot of cash back towards travel.

Cons:

  • No transfer partners. Although doubled miles in the first cardholding year and unlimited rewards are great, you may not get to fly first class with them. Miles do not transfer to any airline partners – they can only be applied as cash back for travel expenses.
  • No bonus categories for earning miles. While other Discover cards offer rotating 5% cashback bonus categories quarterly, the Discover it® Miles offers no bonus categories. This means no matter where you use your card, you will always earn 1.5 points per dollar.
  • Low miles earning after first year. With no bonus categories, this means you may not earn very many miles after the first year.

Best credit union travel card

First Tech FCU Odyssey™ Rewards World Elite MasterCard®

Odyssey™ Rewards World Elite MasterCard® from First Tech FCU

Annual fee

$0 For First Year

$75 Ongoing

Rewards

3 points for every $1 spent on travel; 2 points for every $1 spent on dining; 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases

APR

11.99%-18.00%

Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on First Technology Federal Credit Union’s secure website

Why we like it: We searched over 50 credit unions with few membership restrictions for the best travel rewards credit cards, and found it at First Tech Federal Credit Union. The Odyssey™ Rewards World Elite MasterCard® offers competitive bonus categories (three Rewards Points for every dollar spent on travel; two Rewards Points for every dollar spent on dining; one Reward Point for every dollar spent on all other purchases), but comes with a lower annual fee and interest rate than its competitors.

Fees and terms
The card comes with a $75 annual fee, which is waived in the first year. Your APR will be between 11.99% and 18.00% variable when you open your account, based on your creditworthiness. There are no international transaction fees, cash advance fees or balance transfer fees.

To apply for the card, you must be a member of First Tech Federal Credit Union, which requires you to work for a sponsor company, live in Lane County, Ore., or become a member of the Financial Fitness Association or the Computer History Museum. A membership share in the credit union is $5 (held in a membership savings account), a membership in the Financial Fitness Association is $8, and a membership to the Computer History Museum is $15.

Rewards program
Points earned with the card go towards the Scorecard Rewards program, which fulfills rewards. Your points can be used towards travel experiences including cruises, hotels, or car rental certificates, merchandise available in their catalog, or can be redeemed for cash back. While your points value may vary for awards, cash back rewards are valued at one cent per point.

Pros:

  • Strong bonus categories. The bonus categories offered by the Odyssey™ Rewards World Elite MasterCard® are comparable to other major rewards cards, because it offers three points per dollar spent on travel and two points pers dollar spent on dining. This gives it strong value with better terms for the cardholder.
  • Flexible rewards options. Like other programs, points earned on the Odyssey™ Rewards card can be used toward several different awards. Airfare, cruises, hotel certificates and car rental certificates are all available when you use your points and miles.
  • Lower annual fee and APR than other cards. Credit unions often offer better terms to cardholders than banks, and this card is no exception. The APR may be lower on balances held on the card, and the annual fee is at least $20 less than other comparable cards.

Cons:

  • Points vary in value. The two downsides about Odyssey™ Rewards points are that points vary in value, and they can’t be transferred to other airline partners. Because of this, using them for non-travel rewards may value them under one cent per point.
  • Credit union membership required. While the card is a good deal, you must be a member of the credit union to get the card. If you decide to take your money out of the credit union, your card could be canceled as well.
  • Upfront membership fees. This card is subject to membership in the credit union and an associated organization. Before you can apply for this card, you have to pay $13 in fees.

 

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Joe Cortez
Joe Cortez |

Joe Cortez is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Joe here

TAGS: , , , , , , , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of, Earning Cashback

Best Cash Back Sign-On Bonus Credit Cards of December 2017

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

Temptation_large

Do you normally use your credit card for making every day purchases? Can you manage your money responsibly and pay off your balance in full every month? If so, you should be using a rewards credit card to take advantage of the free cash back and bonuses that are offered.

Many credit card companies are offering cash back rewards and sign-up bonuses these days. You can earn an equivalent of $400 or more just keeping to your regular spending. It’s essentially free money, as long as you use your credit card correctly.

Let’s take a look at how you can be a responsible consumer first, and then we’ll review the credit cards with the best cash back sign-on bonuses.

How to Be Responsible With Your Credit Card

Before we recommend credit cards with the best sign-on bonus, we want to make sure you understand exactly how rewards credit cards should and shouldn’t be used.

You shouldn’t try and take advantage of a rewards credit card by charging anything and everything to it. Yes, you acquire cash back or points based on your purchases, but you’re also acquiring debt if you charge more than you can afford.

You should use a rewards credit card exactly as you would use any other credit card (or your debit card). Only swipe for what you can afford to pay at the end of your billing cycle.

While many of these cards have 0% introductory APRs, after the introductory period is over, you’ll have high APRs (in the 14% – 24% range). If you carry a balance, any cash back you receive will be negated by the interest you’ll have to pay.

Only charge your necessary expenditures and stick to your budget. Don’t look for extra opportunities to pay more just for the sake of getting points.

You want to take advantage of credit card companies – not have it the other way around.

Best Cash Back Sign-On Bonuses

Now that you know how to use rewards cards, let’s review the best options out there.

Uber Visa Card

  • You have to spend $500 on purchases in the first 90 days to receive the $100 bonus.
  • There is no annual fee.
  • Earn 4% back on restaurants, takeout and bars, including UberEATS; 3% back on hotel and airfare, including vacation home rentals; 2% back for online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and streaming music services; and 1% back for everything else.
  • Earn up to a $50 credit for online subscription services after you spend $5,000 or more on your card per year.
  • The variable APR is 15.99%, 21.74% or 24.74%.
  • There is no foreign transaction fee.

This card is not only great for its sign-up bonus requiring a low spend, but also for the great 4-3-2-1 rewards program.

Read our full review here >

Uber Visa Card

Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card

  • You have to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months to receive the 20,000 bonus points
  • There’s an annual $45 fee, which is waived for the first year
  • You earn 3x the points at U.S. gas stations, 2x the points at U.S. restaurants, and 1x the points on all other net purchases
  • You can redeem points for travel, merchandise, cash back, gift cards, and more
  • Points can be redeemed for cash by applying them to your qualifying Wells Fargo account or requesting a paper check. Cash redemption options are available by phone and online in increments of $25 only.
  • You can get an additional annual bonus of 10%, 25%, or 50% on non-bonus rewards points if you have a qualifying consumer Wells Fargo Checking or Savings Account
  • There’s an introductory APR of 0% for the first 12 months on balance transfers and purchases, and after that, the variable APR ranges from 14.99% – 22.99%
  • There are no foreign currency conversion fees
  • There’s a late and returned payment fee up to $37
  • Up to $100 off qualifying air + hotel packages at destinations worldwide

This card is a great option if you’re already a customer with Wells Fargo because of the relationship bonus offered.

Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Wells Fargo Bank’s secure website

Visa® Signature Elite Card from NEFCU

  • You have to spend $2,000 in the first 3 months for 20,000 points
  • Those 20,000 points are redeemable for travel, merchandise, gift cards, and more. These points are not redeemable for a cash equivalent
  • You earn 1.25 points per $1 spent, which can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, gift cards and more
  • The points to cash option allows members to use points to make a NEFCU Visa Signaure Elite Credit Card payment or a cash deposit to their NEFCU accounts. There is a $25 minimum per conversion.
  • Rates range from 11.99% – 17.99% APR on the Visa® Signature Elite Card
  • No annual fee

This card requires a membership to NEFCU, a credit union located on Long Island, NY. If you live, work, worship, attend school, or regularly conduct business in Nassau or Suffolk County, you’re eligible for membership. If a relative is already a member, he or she can sponsor you.

Visa Signature Elite Card from NEFCU

APPLY NOW Secured

on NEFCU’s secure website

Wells Fargo Rewards® Card

  • You have to spend $1,000 in the first 3 months to receive 20,000 bonus points (note this is an online only offer)
  • You can earn 5% cash back for every $1 you spend on groceries, gas, and drugstore net purchases for 6 months on up to $12,500 spent, plus 1% for every $1 spend on all other purchases
  • You can redeem points for travel, merchandise, cash back, gift cards, and more
  • Points can be redeemed for cash by applying them to your qualifying Wells Fargo account or requesting a paper check. Cash redemption options are available by phone and online in increments of $25 only.
  • There’s no annual fee
  • There’s a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months on balance transfers and purchases. The variable APR then ranges from 18.15% – 26.99% based on your creditworthiness
  • There’s a late fee and returned check fee up to $37
  • The foreign exchange currency conversion fee is 3%

This is a good “every day” rewards card to carry with you. You’re automatically enrolled in the Wells Fargo Rewards Program when you get this card.

You need a Wells Fargo account to apply online, though you can also apply at a branch.

Wells Fargo Rewards Visa® card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Wells Fargo Bank’s secure website

Use Cash Back Credit Cards With Caution

As you can see, some of these cards come with annual fees and introductory APRs that are great for the first year. However, some of the benefits might not be good enough to warrant keeping the card once that year is over.

Keep in mind that “credit card churning” – canceling your cards after the first year and applying for a new one – will have an effect on your credit score. It might not be huge, but it’s a good idea to avoid this practice if you’ll be making an important purchase in the near future (like buying a home).

Otherwise, take advantage of credit card companies and save money on travel, gift cards, and more. You should absolutely earn points on your regular purchases by spending with a rewards credit card.

promo-cashback-wide

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Earning Cashback, Reviews

Capital One Venture Card Review: Earn 2X Miles on Every Purchase

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

Travel_lg

If you frequently travel for business or leisure, a travel rewards credit card is one you want to keep close. Using a travel card to earn and redeem rewards can lower your out-of-pocket travel costs.

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a credit card that rewards cardholders in miles for everyday spending. The miles you accumulate can be used to cover the cost of flights, hotel accommodations, and more through the Capital One rewards center. In this post, we’ll dive into:

  • The credit card basics
  • How to redeem cashback
  • The fine print details
  • The pros and cons

The Basics of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card 

  1. Earn unlimited 2X miles for every dollar you spend.

There’s no cap on how many miles you can earn. 100 miles earns you $1 in travel rewards, so 1 mile equals 1 cent when you redeem miles for travel purchases.

  1. Earn 50,000 bonus miles if you spend $3,000 within the first three months.

50,000 bonus miles is equal to $500 for you to use on travel.

  1. No annual fee the first year.

After the first year, the annual fee bumps up to $95.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

APPLY NOW Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

How to Redeem Miles Earned

You can redeem the miles you earn in two ways. You can book travel first with your Venture card and then use miles to credit the travel purchases on your statement. Or you can use miles like cash to pay for new travel bookings upfront. The redemption value on travel is 1 cent per mile either way you choose to redeem your miles.

Here’s how to do both:

Using miles to credit past travel purchases

After making a travel purchase on the card, log in to your online account or call the Capital One rewards center to use the Purchase Eraser tool. The Purchase Eraser feature will credit your account for qualifying travel purchases. You must use the Purchase Eraser tool within 90 days of making a travel purchase for it to be eligible for statement credit. It usually takes two to three days for the amount to be credited to your account. You may also be able to do partial redemptions to cover a portion of the cost of travel, but this is subject to minimum redemption amounts.

Previous travel you can get a credit for includes:

  •       Airfare
  •       Bus fares
  •       Car rentals
  •       Cruises
  •       Hotel accommodations
  •       Limo services
  •       Taxicab fares
  •       Timeshares
  •       Train fares
  •       Travel agency costs

Using miles to pay for new travel bookings

For new travel bookings, you also log in to your online account or call the Capital One rewards center. You can book flights, car rentals, and hotel accommodations with your miles.

Besides travel, you can also cash in miles earned to receive a gift card, check, or account credit (for non-travel purchases). Gift cards have the same value as travel redemption. However, the value you get for a check or account credit on non-travel spending is only 50 cents per mile.

Venture cardholders will get the most bang for their buck on gift cards and travel. For example, if you use the 40,000 bonus miles to request a check, you’ll only get $200. Using the bonus miles for travel or a gift card instead will get you 50% more value. 

The Fine Print and Fees

The Venture card doesn’t hit cardholders heavy with fine print or fees. There’s no limit to how many miles you can earn, and miles never expire. Participating in the rewards program will be smooth sailing as long as you pay the monthly bill on time. You forfeit miles you earn during any billing cycle when you’re charged a late fee.

We briefly mentioned the card’s $95 annual fee that applies after the first year. You’ll need to spend at least $2,950 each year on the card to earn enough miles to cover the cost of the fee in travel rewards value.

The credit card interest rate is 13.99% to 23.99% APR variable. To get the most value from the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (or any rewards card, for the matter), you need to pay off your entire balance in full each month to eliminate interest charges. Otherwise, interest charges from a revolving balance will decrease how much you’re really gaining from miles earned.

Benefits and Protections

Let’s cover the protections the Venture card can offer you while globetrotting since it’s a rewards card for travelers. There’s $0 fraud liability, which means you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized purchases if your card is lost or stolen.

The Venture card also comes with travel accident insurance and 24-hour travel assistance. The card comes with rental car insurance that can cover you for rental car collision and theft.

Pros and Cons

Pro: Waived annual fee the first year and miles bonus. New Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card cardholders have a major opportunity to benefit from bonus miles and no fee the first year. Say you already plan to take a trip or make a major purchase over $3,000 in the next few months. You can apply for the card and charge the purchase to your new account. This will automatically earn you 50,000 miles to put toward another trip.

Con: The annual fee. The annual fee waiver the first year is a pro, but the $95 fee for following years may be a deal-breaker if you don’t plan to spend enough on the card. 

Pro: No cap. Earning unlimited miles is a positive for big spenders.

Con: The redemption value for cash and statement credit. If you want to use your miles for something other than travel, such as cash or a statement credit (for non-travel purchases), you will only get 0.50 cents per point. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a travel rewards card, so it’ll likely attract cardholders who want to use miles for travel bookings, and the lower redemption value on other options may not be a huge deal. Just be mindful that you will get less for your miles if you use them for something else. 

Pro: No foreign transaction fee. Many travel rewards cards besides the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card card don’t have foreign transaction fees. We’ll cover a few of them below. Not having this fee is a pro, but it’s also something that’s fairly common among travel rewards cards.

Other Travel Rewards Credit Cards to Consider

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers you 2X points on travel and dining. When you use Chase Ultimate Rewards® to redeem points, 1 point equals 1 cent.

There are two standout aspects of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card that can benefit travelers. Points are 25% more valuable when you use them to book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can also transfer the points you earn to other rewards programs, 1:1.

The new cardholder bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is currently 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 within the first three months. This is equal to $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has an introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $95.

 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The information related to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card card has been collected by MagnifyMoney.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card offers 1.5X points per dollar on all purchases and has no annual or foreign transaction fees. The card gives 20,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 within the first three months of having the card. This equals $200 in a statement credit or travel purchases.

Cardholders also get a 10% point bonus for having an active checking or savings account. Preferred Bank of America cardholders who have a balance of over $20,000 in a Bank of America banking or Merrill Lynch investment account can earn an extra 25% to 75% bonus on their rewards points. Ultimately, current Bank of America customers will likely get the most value from this card. 

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

If you prefer to stick with Capital One, there is also the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card. This card offers unlimited 1.25X miles per dollar on all purchases and has no annual or foreign transaction fees. The card gives 20,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 within the first three months. This is the equivalent of $200 in statement credit or travel purchases.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Comparing Venture and VentureOne side by side, Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card may be the better choice if you’re unlikely to spend $3,000 within the first three months. However, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card may be worth it if you are able to receive their 50,000 bonus miles, especially with the $95 annual fee waived in the first year.

Who Will Benefit the Most from the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card?

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has no spending cap, so if you use plastic often, this could be a card that will reward you well.

You still need to make sure you’re prepared to spend enough on the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card for it to be worthwhile. Estimate what your spending activity on the card will be each year to see if you’ll spend enough to cover the fee.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

College Students and Recent Grads, Featured

With $655 Malaysia Trip, This Student Proves Gap Years Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

With $655 Malaysia Trip, This Student Proves Gap Years Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune

Brandon Stubbs isn’t your typical 18-year-old high school graduate. In addition to graduating valedictorian from his Grass Valley, Calif. high school, he’s joined the ranks of a growing number of students embracing the concept of taking a gap year before starting college.

While other college freshmen began their first classes this Fall, Stubbs, who plans on attending Brown University, kicked off his gap year with a trip to Malaysia.

A gap year is usually more than just a nice break from calculus exams and book reports. Many students choose to focus on personal growth and incorporate travel abroad or participation in volunteer projects. That growth can come at a high cost. Some programs, like the $35,000 Global Gap Year offered by Thinking Beyond Borders, can cost more than what some students pay for a four-year college degree.

But, there are plenty of ways to trim costs and still have a great gap year. We reported on some here, which is how we met Stubbs.

We asked Stubbs to share his budget so far. Take a look at how he’s financing the first leg of his gap year in Malaysia:

Brandon's Malaysia Budget

We caught up with Stubbs to see how his budget is holding up in Malaysia and how he intends to spend the rest of his gap year. Here’s what he said.

MagnifyMoney: Where are you now?

Brandon Stubbs: I’m taking two months of my gap year in Malaysia, one of the most diverse countries in the world. Right now I’m in Johor Bahru, the southernmost city of Malaysia, just across the bridge from Singapore.

MM: What drove your decision to take a gap year?

BS: After my high school graduation, I was definitely, to an extent, burnt out and, while I was excited to attend Brown University, I wasn’t as ready or enthusiastic to start college this fall as I will be next fall.  This gap year has provided me the opportunity to gain experience in the real world while simultaneously recharging my mental battery.  I’m learning a lot in an entirely different way than in the classroom.  And my enthusiasm and excitement for next fall has only increased as I’ve grown as an individual throughout this gap year.

MM: Why Malaysia?

BS: As a student going into archaeology, it’s really important for me to be getting this exposure to this blend of Eastern cultures as well as to the geography and climate. Tropical rainforests thrive here, so I’ve been able to go on some real Indiana Jones-esque expeditions into the jungle. I’ve also visited some incredible Buddhist and Hindu temples throughout the country that have proven to be very enlightening experiences.

MM: How did you you save up for this trip?

BS: I had $2800 saved up for this trip, which I earned working as a tutor throughout high school and as a music camp counselor during the summer. I paid for my flight through StudentUniverse [ a site that offers affordable fares to students ]. I booked a flight on AirChina for $535.

MM: How do you stay on budget?

BS: My room and board is covered in exchange for my volunteer service [at the hostel where I am staying] so I only have to spend money on food and transportation.  Often, I’ll only spend money on brunch and dinner during a day, but I’ll spend a little more for excursions into Malaysia or Singapore.

MM: What are you doing for money out there?

BS: I’ve done some street performing in the past on my trumpet at the local “Cornish Christmas” celebrations and other outdoor festivities. On top of that, I am focusing on the style of New Orleans Dixieland jazz, which lends itself quite well to solo street performance. I intended to bring my trumpet, anyway, if just to practice, so the idea of playing it in public was natural.  So far I’m earning about 160 [Malaysian Ringgit] a week, which translates to $40 USD, for playing five nights a week. But the money is enough to cover most of my daily expenses in Malaysia.

MM: What’s your typical day like?

BS: I have two days a week off from my work at the hostel.  On those days, I’ll either go into Singapore and visit some of the attractions and districts of that amazing city or explore the nature and culture of Malaysia, hiking or visiting new towns.  On my work days, I’ll spend a few hours cleaning and checking guests in and out and on my downtime work on my second book or street perform on my trumpet.

img_3791

MM: Did your parents help you with any expenses?

BS: My parents did help pay for some of the preparatory expenses, like my typhoid shot or general supplies – flashlight, mosquito repellent, etc.  Aside from that, I am covering all of my own expenses.

MM: When do you get back?

BS: I’ll return to the States toward the end of November.

MM: Will you have any funds left when you return?

BS: I expect to return with $1800 or $1900 remaining. I shouldn’t spend more than $1000 on the entire two-month trip, all expenses included.

MM: What will you do for the remainder of the gap year?

BS: Once I return to the U.S. I intend to spend several months publishing and advertising my first book, The King of Kamaahr.  My plans for the spring are still not set in stone, but right now I think I’ll go to Sydney, where I have some family and Australian citizenship, and spend a few months living there.  I’ll try to find work there as a musician and/or an actor as well as advertise my book outside the U.S.

Do you want to share your gap year story? E-mail us at info@magnifymoney.com. 

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Reviews

BankAmericard Travel Review: No Cap on Miles Earned

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

 

BankAmericard Travel Review: No Cap on Miles Earned

With so many travel rewards credit cards to choose from, it can be difficult to make a good decision about which credit card is best for you. One card you might consider is the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card.

But before you sign up for this card, or any credit card, you should know all the fine print.

In this BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card review, we’ll cover:

  • Card details
  • Interest rates and fees
  • Rewards details
  • Getting the most from rewards programs
  • Safety and security

Card Details for the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

According to the Bank of America website, you are not limited to the number of points you can earn with this credit card. You’ll earn 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on anything, anywhere, and points never expire. You can also earn 20,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening. This reward can be redeemed for a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases.

Bank of America customers are also eligible for a 10% customer points bonus on every purchase with an active Bank of America checking or savings account. Bank of America also has a Preferred Rewards program, which helps customers increase that bonus up to 25% or more. The Preferred Rewards program benefits are based on the three tiers of the program. Your tier is based on your qualifying combined balances in your Bank of America bank accounts and your Merrill Edge and Merrill Lynch investment accounts.

      • Gold Tier: $20,000 – $49,999
      • Platinum Tier: $50,000 – $99,999
      • Platinum Honors Tier: $100,000+ 
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

Interest Rates and Fees

Another major benefit of the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card is that there is no annual fee or foreign transaction fees. Plus, BankAmericard also offers an introductory 0% interest rate on purchases for new cardholders for their first 12 billing cycles, after which the interest rate will be determined based on creditworthiness. Balance transfers are subject to a 3% fee on each transaction with a minimum fee of $10. Balance transfers are not eligible for the introductory 0% interest rate.

Rewards Details

In addition to earning 1.5 points for every $1 spent, you can also earn 3 point per $1 spent through the Bank of America Travel Center, with no spending limit or limit on points earned. BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card points do not expire and are not subject to blackout dates or restrictions.

Points can be redeemed for a travel credit or cash reward (statement credit) starting at 2,500 points. A travel credit is applied as a statement credit to your account to offset travel purchases from qualifying merchants for:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels or motels
  • Car rentals
  • Cruise lines
  • Travel agencies
  • Other transportation costs (taxis, buses, etc.)
  • Tourist attractions and exhibits

The fine print states that some costs are not eligible for a travel credit, like tolls, parking garage fees, in-flight purchases, and rentals of vehicles for the purpose of hauling. Travel purchases are eligible for a travel credit for 12 months from the posting date. For travel credit, 2,500 points = $25.

Points can also be redeemed for cash rewards or gift cards starting at 3,125 points. If you’re interested in cash redemption, this can come in the form of a check or an electronic deposit into either your Bank of America checking or savings account or as a contribution toward your Merrill Lynch investment account. Should you chose to redeem your points for cash rewards or gift cards, 2,500 points = $15.

Safety and Security

The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card offers several safety and security benefits that are pretty standard among major credit card companies, including:

$0 Liability Guarantee: Potential fraud and abnormal patterns are blocked until you confirm the purchase. There is a $0 Liability Guarantee for fraudulent transactions. 

Chip Cards: New chip technology is offered for enhanced security at chip-enabled terminals.

Overdraft Protection: Bank of America customers are eligible for Overdraft Protection to prevent declined purchases when you link your Bank of America checking account to your credit card.

Digital Wallet Technology: Your BankAmericard can be added to your mobile device using Apple Pay, Android Pay, or Samsung Pay.

Online and Mobile Banking: Access your credit card statement and information from almost anywhere with online and mobile banking. 

Account Alerts: You can enroll in several different types of account alerts to help you monitor activity, including when payments are due and when payment is received. 

Text Banking: After enrolling in text banking, you can send a text and get a reply in seconds with all the information you need regarding your BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card.

How to Get the Most Value from Travel Rewards Programs

Although the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card offers a fairly generous program for earning rewards, there are some ways to get even more value from travel rewards programs.

The Venture® Rewards Credit Card from Capital One is another travel rewards credit card that doesn’t cap miles earned. Like the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card, you’ll be reimbursed for travel expenses on your statement. Every 10,000 miles is worth $100, and you earn 2 miles per $1 spent instead of 1.5 points per $1 with BankAmericard. But there is a $95 annual fee for this credit card that is waived for the first year.

Serious travel enthusiasts love the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card because points are transferred into real airline miles and hotel points with several travel partners. Every 10,000 points is worth $125 in flights, hotels, or rental cars when booked through the Chase website. Plus, you get double points on all dining and travel purchases you make on this card. There is an annual fee of $95, which is waived for the first year.

Who Will Benefit Most from the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card?

Serious savers who are already customers with Bank of America and Merrill Lynch or Merrill Edge will benefit the most from having this credit card. The 1.5 points per $1 spent is pretty basic, but if you are a Bank of America customer, you can increase your rewards significantly, earning 2.25-2.6 points per $1 with no limits. Plus, with a bonus of 20,000 points for new customers and no annual fee, this is an attractive option for earning travel rewards.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kayla Sloan
Kayla Sloan |

Kayla Sloan is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kayla at Kayla@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Featured, Health

U.S. Travelers Struggle to Find Health Care Options on the Road

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

U.S. Travelers Struggle to Find Health Care Options on the Road
Livingston, Tex., couple Kate Gilbert, 47, and her husband, Lain, 51, travel in their Airstream travel trailer across the U.S. Finding a health care policy that will cover them has been a challenge.

In 2015, 27-year-old blogger Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and her husband, Wesley, sold their Kansas City, Mo., home and packed what they could fit into an RV. For the next few years, the couple plans on traveling across the U.S. while Michelle runs her business, the personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents, from the road.

“We love traveling,” Michelle says. “I couldn’t imagine living in a ‘normal’ home again.”

Some aspects of transitioning to a mobile lifestyle have been easier to adjust to than others. When it came time to figure out how they would take care of their health on the road, the couple began researching statewide insurance plans. They soon realized finding a plan that would cover them in any state at any time was easier said than done. Without a permanent address, they were denied again and again.

“We came across many problems and even used an RV health insurance broker,” Michelle says. “There was not a single health insurance plan that we qualified for.”

If you’re planning on spending extensive time on the road, either within the U.S. or overseas, managing health care can be a tricky — and oftentimes frustrating — undertaking. As it stands, just 36 states offer multistate health plans (although that will change in 2017, when all 50 states will be required to offer at least two multistate plans).

Finding plans that cover travelers across the nation, no matter where they are traveling, is an even tougher task. While some multistate plans include nationwide coverage, many only offer coverage in a handful of states. If you are traveling outside the bounds of your health plan’s coverage, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to look at other options.

To help you navigate your health care options while traveling in the U.S. or abroad, we’ve come up with a few tips:

Take a good look at your existing coverage.

If you already have a health care plan, look closely to see what is covered. Many major insurance plans offer regional coverage, which means you could be covered in a handful of states. If your current plan does not offer out-of-state coverage, you run the risk of having to pay for medical bills completely out of pocket, except in an emergency. In fact, in 2016 45% of silver-level PPO plans that were new to the health marketplace had no cap on out-of-network costs.

Research multistate plans.

As we mentioned, many multistate plans don’t offer nationwide coverage. The costs, limitations, and options may vary, so be sure to review the details of a plan carefully. Most important, read plan benefits closely to find out which providers are considered in-network versus out-of-network. Other out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles, co-pays, and the cost of services such as lab work and prescriptions can vary by state as well.

Consider traveler’s insurance.

If you’re traveling abroad, one thing you can consider is traveler’s insurance. Traveler’s insurance can cover trips to a clinic or hospital in the case of an illness or injury, plus trips to the emergency room. If your travels take you outside of the U.S., many U.S-based health plans won’t cover the cost of sending you back to the States in the case of a medical emergency.

Depending on your location and mode of transport, medical evacuations can start at $25,000 and exceed $250,000.

An added perk is that most traveler’s insurance will cover theft or accidental loss of your belongings, whether that be your luggage, computer, or other valuable personal belongings. A few companies that offer traveler’s insurance include World Nomads and Travel Guard. Some credit cards even come with travel insurance benefits, so you can look into coverage your credit cards may offer. The cost of a policy depends on where you’re traveling to, the duration of the trip, and how many people will be covered, but typically starts at around $100 per month for international travel.

Think outside the box.

Because they were denied health insurance through traditional health care providers, Michelle and her husband decided to go an unconventional route: they signed up for a health plan through a health sharing ministry. Health sharing ministries are faith-based health organizations that offer health coverage. Members contribute a monthly share and agree to help others in the pool with their medical expenses. Health sharing ministries such as Liberty HealthShare and Samaritan Ministries offer different programs with varying levels of coverage, and the cost is based on your household size. Michelle and her husband pay $449 per month for their plan.

Only a handful of health care sharing ministries are exempt from rules under the Affordable Care Act. Without that exemption, people who rely on these organizations for health care will face a tax penalty.

kategilbert1_healthcareroad

Go for a hybrid approach.

If you plan to spend time traveling within the U.S. and overseas, you may have to piecemeal together some options. Livingston, Tex., couple Kate Gilbert, 47, and her husband, Iain, 51, travel in their Airstream travel trailer across the U.S. and take trips abroad for several months at a time.

“Our main issue when choosing a plan is the out-of-network costs we might be exposed to,” says Kate. “The risk of running up a large bill in an emergency is scary with the lack of nationwide plans.”

In 2015, Iain, who is retired, and Kate, who works part-time as a self-employed consultant, purchased a PPO through Blue Cross Blue Shield that cost $662.55 per month and offered sufficient out-of-state coverage.

However, in 2016 that plan no longer became available. As a result, the couple purchases short-term care insurance when they’re in the U.S., and traveler’s insurance when they’re traveling internationally. Short-term care is an option that can provide coverage up to one year. It usually comes with lower premiums and less strict requirements for eligibility. The downside is that it provides less comprehensive coverage.

But short-term insurance plans do not meet the minimum requirements under the Affordable Care Act, meaning they can’t be used as primary insurance. The Gilberts will be required to pay an Obamacare tax penalty when tax season rolls around. In 2016, the penalty is $695 per adult per household.

Refill prescriptions well ahead of time.

Having your prescriptions refilled in advance is a smart way to avoid headaches on the road. If you’ll be staying in another state for a set amount of time, transfer your prescriptions to a local pharmacy. Let your doctor know you’ll be traveling, and keep his or her number on speed dial. In case you run into any trouble, your doctor may be able to offer advice on the go.

If you have an HMO, you are most likely more limited as to where you can have your prescriptions refilled. On the other hand, a PPO will offer you more choices. You can use your insurance carrier’s pharmacy locator to map out where you can refill your prescriptions.

Have a game plan for dealing with medical emergencies.

Check where the in-network urgent care and ER centers are where you’ll be traveling. If you’re traveling overseas, find out what the 911 equivalent is for emergency phone numbers. You’ll also want to make sure you read up on the health care system of the places you’ll be visiting and the potential costs involved.  Great Britain may have free health care for UK residents and some visa holders, but international travelers will have to pay 150% of whatever their treatment costs abroad. Ouch.

Prep beforehand.

For smooth sailing before you hit the road, make sure your records are up to date and have been transferred to a new primary care physician. Make sure you have any documents you’ll need during your travels, and create copies as backup.

Save extra for unexpected costs.

As it goes for traveling in general, make sure you have a buffer fund in case an illness or injury happens.

If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), see what the limitations and rules are with your account. Across the board, the maximum amount you can contribute annually for 2016 is $3,350 for individuals, and $6,750 for families. To open an account, you need to have a high-deductible health plan, with a deductible of at least $1,300 for self-coverage, and $2,600 for families. If you pay for a medical expense that isn’t qualified under your account, you’ll have to pay a 20% tax penalty.

While handling health care on the road is a challenging endeavor, don’t despair. Doing your homework ahead of time will ensure you have sufficient coverage that works with your needs and budget.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Jackie Lam
Jackie Lam |

Jackie Lam is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jackie here

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Featured

How 4 Students Took a Gap Year Without Breaking the Bank

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

 

Planning the Perfect Gap Year Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

The gap year — taking a year off from formal education to travel, participate in social projects, or gain work experience — is growing in popularity among American students. Just ask Malia Obama. The first daughter announced back in May that she would be taking a gap year before attending Harvard University.

She’s among those contributing to a 22% increase in American students taking part in the practice already common among students in Europe and Australia, according to the American Gap Association. Some families spend hundreds of dollars on gap-year consultants.

Like Harvard, many higher education institutions encourage students to take gap years. The reason: a push toward experiential learning. Schools increasingly see value in the life experience, maturity, and other skills that gappers return with.

“We have more information in the palm of our hands than ever. So why are we teaching [students] information? They don’t need information,” said American Gap Association Executive Director Ethan Knight. “They need experience to know what to do with that information.”

Jamie Hand, 23, a senior at Middlebury College in Vermont, echoes the sentiment. She said her gap-year trip to São Luís, Brazil with Rotary Youth Exchange allowed her to “take a break from this rat race that I felt like I was in.” At the time, she was 18 years old and wanted to take time off before beginning her freshman year. Though she already had a high school diploma under her belt, the program involved taking classes at a local high school in São Luís.

“It felt like I was taking this big breath and I was free to excel but I didn’t have to excel,” said Hand. “It was one of the times when I learned the most in my life [because] I didn’t have to.”

bike_ride_in_brasilia

The Cost of a Gap Year

Gap years may seem like a privilege only available to families wealthy enough to finance them. It’s true that some gap-year programs can easily cost more than a year’s worth of college tuition. Families pay over $35,000 — close to the average cost of a four-year degree these days — to participate in the “Global Gap Year,” a program offered by Thinking Beyond Borders, which offers gap-year and study-abroad programs. During their global year abroad, students split their time between homestays on three different continents. But the gap-year experience isn’t just for the super-rich. MagnifyMoney caught up with some current and previous gappers to find out how they made it work.

Go the DIY Route

Brandon Stubbs, 18, motivated by his interest in Southeast Asian archaeology, decided to defer his acceptance to Brown University for a year to travel to Malaysia for two months this fall.

Rather than paying for a trip through a travel agency, which could easily have cost several thousand dollars, he did some research on his own. Stubbs found a hostel in Johor Bahru, where he will be able to work in exchange for room and board.

To save on airfare, he booked a round-trip ticket to Malaysia for just $500 with StudentUniverse, a site that offers cheaper fares to students. When he’s not working, Stubbs plans to spend his free time sightseeing and exploring the city.

imgp9570

“I’m most excited to explore an entire different area of the world,” said Stubbs, who said he grew up enthralled by the exotic locales in movies like Indiana Jones.

When he returns to the U.S. from Malaysia in November, Stubbs’ gap year will continue with a stop in New Orleans. He plans to take time off for the holidays and then move to the Big Easy, where he’ll work at a hostel in exchange for room and board.

“I feel like taking a gap year will sort of increase my momentum. High school wasn’t an easy experience mentally,” said Stubbs. “I feel like in a year I’ll be rejuvenated and ready to jump back into my studies.”

Get College Credit for the Program

A great way to save money and kill two birds with one stone during a gap year is to earn college course credits along the way. Some schools offer course credit to students who take gap years. Students may even be able to use financial aid dollars toward their gap-year experience.

Some schools have specialized programs or fellowships for gappers like UNC Chapel Hill’s fellowship, or Princeton University with its Bridge Year. Others, like Elon University, offer their own version of an experiential learning program for first-year students.

There are even some gap-year programs that will not only give you a stipend, but contribute to the cost of your college education like those offered through AmeriCorps or City Year.

Work Now, Play Later

Breaking up a gap year into smaller trips or working for part of the year can help to reduce overall costs. If you budget well, the money you earn could fund your travels.

Jericho, Vt., student Asher Small, 19, who will begin his first semester at Brown University this fall, also worked at a ski resort in Utah for part of his gap year.

“It was kind of like a dream job because I love to ski,” said Small. In addition to his $8/hour wages, the resort subsidized his room and board, leaving him with just $300 to cover each month.

Small worked at the ski resort for four months. Before making his way back home, he took a road trip through Southern Utah and California and participated in a 10-day meditation course retreat. To save on lodging, he used couchsurfing.com, a service that connects benevolent hosts with houseguests. He estimates he ended up saving about $2,000 from his work at the resort after the trip.

Working or interning during a gap year can also be a great way to build skills or experience for the subject you’re interested in majoring in once you get to school. Some programs will pay you for work abroad or offer perks like free room and board as an incentive. For example, if you have a green thumb, you could volunteer to work at an organic farm or winery through a program like World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms during your gap year in exchange for food and accommodation.

Before he went to Utah, Small spent the first half of his gap year in Desab, Haiti, with Volunteers For Peace, a nonprofit volunteer organization. There, Small taught an English class to local residents. The trip cost him about $1,500 in total, which he paid with funds he saved from past summer jobs.

Work Now, Play Later

Stay Close to Home

Keeping your gap-year experience stateside can be an easy way to minimize travel expenses, reducing the overall costs of a gap year. Staying in the U.S. doesn’t mean you’ll have any less of a cross-cultural experience.

Start Saving Early

Knight recommends planning your gap year at least six months from the date you want to travel, so you’ll have ample time to save up.

Stubbs worked all four years of high school as a junior college tutor and as a camp counselor at a music camp. Doing so helped him to save about $3,000 to spend on his trip to Malaysia and Louisiana.

Small worked over the summers prior to his gap year as well. Those funds helped him with his trip to Haiti.

Tap into Your Savings

If your parents have been saving up for college, you may be able to use some of that money to finance a gap-year program, although it may mean sacrificing going to a more expensive college.

Gabe Katzman, 24, was considering the University of Maryland, where he would pay in-state tuition, and other, more expensive out-of-state institutions at the time he was planning his gap year in Israel.

His parents presented him with the option to use some of his college savings to fund the trip, which cost about $16,000 to $17,000. Because the cost was close to a year’s worth of tuition at the pricey out-of-state school, his parents told him they could only help him finance his gap year if he decided to stay in state.

Ask for Free Money: Grants, Scholarships, Trusts, and Charities

Find an organization, trust, or charity that’s aligned with the focus of your trip and ask if they have any grants or scholarships that you can apply for and that would be applicable toward your gap year.

Local associations, businesses, schools, and charities such as the Rotary Club or Lions Clubs International award grants, or scholarships may even be able to sponsor students who meet certain criteria and goals.

When Katzman decided he wanted to spend 9 months in Israel with Habonim Dror’s Workshop, a gap-year program run through his childhood camp, Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, the first thing he did was look for scholarships and grants to help him cover the $16,000 the trip would cost.

Ask for Free Money: Grants, Scholarships, Trusts, and Charities

“I talked to my synagogue,” said Katzman. “I knew that if I connected with the synagogue they [would support me].” In the end, they gave him about $3,000.

Katzman then asked other organizations including one called Masa, an Israeli organization that advocates interning and volunteering in Israel, adding another $1,000 to his fundraising goal. Next, he went to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington.

After he got some funding through community organizations, Katzman turned to his family and friends to help out.

“I talked to all of my family. Instead of a Hanukkah or birthday present, I asked them to give me money for the trip,” said Katzman.

The rest of the funds came from his own savings from working as a lifeguard and camp counselor while in high school.

Get Creative

Katzman and the group he went to Israel with saved money by pooling their resources.

“We were living a socialist lifestyle with a group of 23. We had a shared bank account that we all put money into. Some of us put $2,000 and some put just what they could,” said Katzman.

The shared account allowed them to prioritize the group’s experience as opposed to the individual and kept them out of “a situation where someone felt excluded because they couldn’t afford it,” said Katzman.

Two of the members in Katzman’s group were co-treasurers of the shared account and managed the group’s budget. If some or all of the group’s members went out to eat or someone in the group needed to replace a pair of shoes, the money to pay for it came from the shared account. At the end of the trip, they had a little left over to donate back to the camp.

Stubbs, who already has his room and board covered with the hostel, also plays the trumpet. He plans to finance some of his living expenses while in Malaysia this fall and New Orleans in the spring with money earned from street performing or “busking.”

Some Final Advice: You have to want it.

“Sometimes coming up with the money for something like this can be really discouraging because it’s really expensive,” said Katzman.

But setting aside time for a gap year was well worth the added cost and effort. After he graduated from college, Katzman decided to move to Haifa, Israel, full-time, where he is working part-time to lead this year’s Habonim Dror gappers and taking Hebrew classes.

“I grew more in one year than I think the average college student would have grown,” he added. “It affected what I did in college, it affected my choices during college and afterward [when I decided to] live here.”

Katzman

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , , , , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Credit Cards, Reviews

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: Good Travel Rewards for a Fee

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

pay credit card_lg

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express is an upgraded American Express charge card without a pre-set spending limit. It’s also a card that rewards cardholders with American Express Membership Rewards® Points for airfare, dining, gas, and grocery spending.

A charge card is one that you need to pay off completely each billing cycle, so there’s no interest. However, since there’s no pre-set spending limit either, you need to keep an eagle eye on spending activity to make sure you can pay off the statement in full at month’s end. Making a late payment can cause you to forfeit Membership Reward points earned during that billing cycle.

In this post, we’ll discuss the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express terms and how to redeem points. Keep reading for an overview on:

  • Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express basics
  • How to redeem Membership Rewards points earned
  • The fine print details
  • The benefits and protections
  • The pros and cons

The basics of the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

3X points per dollar on airfare.

Earn 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. Terms and limitations apply.

2X points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. supermarkets

Earn 2X points per dollar at U.S. restaurants excluding restaurants in other establishments. For instance, a restaurant in a department store or casino will not earn you 2X points unless it has a qualifying restaurant merchant code.

To earn 2X points per dollar on gas, you need to use the pump at U.S. gas stations and not warehouses or superstores. Same goes for grocery shopping; warehouse and superstore spending will not qualify for 2X points per dollar.

1X point per dollar on all other purchases.When you shop for eligible products and services outside of the 3X and 2X categories, you’ll earn 1X points per dollar. Transactions that are not eligible for points include credit card fees, cash advances, traveler’s checks, and reloading of prepaid cards.

$100 airline fee credit.

You can get up to $100 credited to your statement each calendar year to cover incidentals charged by an airline of your choosing. Qualifying incidentals are charges separate from your airline ticket like baggage fees and not ticket upgrades.

How to redeem Membership Rewards® Points earned

Through Membership Rewards®, cardholders can transfer points to participating travel and lodging loyalty programs or redeem points for travel bookings, gift cards, statement credits, and other rewards. The value of your points varies depending on how you choose to use them.

Flights, hotels, and vacations

You can pay with points for flights, hotels, and vacations on the American Express Travel site. Using points for flights offers excellent value.

Here’s the point value breakdown on travel and accommodations:

  • Flights: $10 per 1,000 points
  • Hotels, cruises, and vacation packages: $7 per 1,000 points

(Another benefit of American Express Travel is you earn 2X Membership Rewards® Points per dollar when you make a booking with your Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express.)

Transferring your Membership Rewards® Points

If you choose to transfer your points to another program, generally, 1,000 Membership Rewards® Points will transfer as 1,000 miles, points, or credits.

However, transfers that have a different value include (as of the publication date of this article):

  • British Airways and Iberia: 250 Membership Rewards points = 200 Avios
  • El AL Israel Airlines: 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 20 Matmid points
  • Hilton: 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 1,500 HHonors points
  • JetBlue Airways: 250 Membership Rewards points = 200 JetBlue TrueBlue points
  • Starwood Preferred Guest: 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 333 Starpoints
  • Virgin America: 200 Membership Rewards points = 100 Elevate points

Occasionally, there are transfer specials for participating loyalty programs.

Statement credit and gift cards

Using points to put a dent in your credit card bill won’t be the best use of your points. 1,000 points equals just $6 in a statement credit.

Several of the gift cards through Membership Rewards® will give you more in cash value. For example, 1,000 points can get you a $10 gift card at restaurants, retail stores, and hotels including:

  • Hyatt Hotels and Resorts
  • Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
  • Maggiano’s Little Italy
  • Seasons 52
  • Banana Republic
  • Crate and Barrel

There’s an entire list of the redemption values for gift cards on the Membership Rewards® site.

Other rewards

Using points for shopping, charitable donations, and entertainment are other redemption options. But, again, these options won’t give you as much value for your points as redeeming for flights and gift cards.

The value of 1,000 points ranges from $5 to $7 when shopping at retailers through Membership Rewards® or at Ticketmaster, Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, or Newegg.com.

The fine print

This card does have an annual fee. The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express has an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195. If you spend a lot of money on the card, the fee can be worthwhile. However, if you don’t spend a lot, you might want to consider a no fee option.

In addition – when you transfer points to a U.S. frequent flyer program, there’s a $0.0006 fee charged per point to compensate for the federal excise tax. Although this fee has a lot of zeros in it, the cost may still be impactful if you’re transferring a lot of points. For instance, 100,000 points transferred will cost you $60.

On the plus side, this card has no foreign transaction fee.

Benefits and protections

Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance

If you pay for a qualifying car rental with your Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, the rental car is covered against damage and theft after declining the collision damage waiver. Rentals that won’t qualify for coverage are trucks, off-road vehicles, full-size sport vehicles, and exotic cars.

Baggage Insurance

If your baggage is lost or stolen during travel, it may be covered by the American Express Baggage Insurance Plan. However, there are some limits to this as well. You’re covered up to $1,250 for a carry-on and up to $500 for checked bags.

Purchase Protection and Return Protection

If an item you purchase is lost, stolen, or damaged within 90 days of purchase, you may be reimbursed for it. And if you try to return an item that a merchant won’t take back within 90 days, the Return Protection benefit may reimburse you up to $300 per eligible item, for a maximum of up to $1000 annually per Card account.

Pros and cons

Pro: 3X points on travel. If you fly often for work or play, this card rewards you well each time you use it.

Con: The fee. The biggest con here is the annual fee. But, since there are several ways you can earn points in the 3X and 2X categories, you may be able to easily cover this fee throughout the year.

Pro: Membership Rewards. This card is enrolled in the Membership Rewards® Points program and gives you many options for point redemption. The Membership Rewards® site is also incredibly easy to navigate, and there’s no ambiguity in point value. The rewards portal shows examples of exactly what your points are worth for each redemption option.

Con: The fee to transfer points. The ability to transfer points to another program is a pro, but being charged for U.S. frequent flyer program transfers is a tiny gotcha in the fine print.

Pro: No foreign transaction fees. One area in the fees where you do catch a break is with foreign transaction fees. This aspect of the card is fitting since it’s one that rewards you for planning travel.

Who will benefit most from the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express?

Your ability to earn enough points to surpass the fee will determine whether this is a good card for you.

And if you’re shopping around for a rewards program that will give you the most value for travel, Chase Ultimate Rewards® is an option you should compare to American Express Membership Rewards®.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, in particular, is part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program and allows you to transfer points to other travel partners as well. Plus, it has an offer that gives 1.25 cents per point for travel. This is slightly more value than what you get for flights with American Express Membership Rewards® since 1,000 points per $10 works out to 1 cent per point.

Before signing up for any rewards card, you should do this type of comparison shopping to figure out which offer will give you the most value for your spending habits.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Best of

The Best Ways to Get Cash When You’re Traveling Abroad

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

Travel_lg

Even if you’ve got a wallet packed with credit cards, you’ll likely need cash at some point when you’re traveling abroad.

But managing cash abroad can get tricky — and downright expensive. Carry too much cash around and you might make yourself a juicy target for a pickpocket. Carry too little cash and you’ll wind up making frequent trips to the ATM, racking up a bruising trifecta of bank fees in the process.

Most banks charge foreign transaction fees (up to 3%) and fees for using your debit card at foreign ATMs (from $1 to $5 per transaction). On top of that, whichever vendor owns the ATM you’re using will probably tack on a surcharge of their own.  One of the nastiest foreign ATM fees out there is levied by Bank of America. To take out cash abroad using your BofA card, you’ll get hit with a $5 flat fee, plus 3% of the total amount you withdraw.

Fees aside, there’s another reason to worry about using your debit card abroad: fraud. If your card is stolen or you use your card at an ATM that’s been fitted with a skimmer (a device that can copy your debit card number and PIN), you’re in a very vulnerable position. By the time you realize your card info has been stolen and you’re able to get in touch with your bank, your account could already be drained, leaving you cash poor in a foreign country.

Debit cards are treated differently than credit cards by banks. You may find yourself on the hook for some of the money stolen from you, depending on how long you wait to report it.

If you need cash abroad, here are a few savvy strategies you can use to avoid fraud and fees.

The best option: Use a bank account that has low or no foreign transaction fees

If your primary bank account has foreign transaction fees, it can make sense to open a separate account that has lower or no fees. You can use this account when you travel abroad. This way if you do experience fraud or are a victim of card skimming, you’ll still have your main checking and savings accounts to fall back on.

Here are two good options for low-fee checking accounts:
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking

The Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking account is our top pick to handle your money while abroad. It’s an online checking account with no monthly fee or account minimum. There are also no foreign exchange transaction fees. You get unlimited fee rebates from any ATM in the entire world, which means Charles Schwab will reimburse you whenever you’re charged an ATM fee overseas. The account is also FDIC insured up to $250,000.

Aspiration Summit Account

The Aspiration Summit Account has no minimum monthly balance or maintenance fees and has FDIC insurance as well. Fees from foreign ATMs are reimbursed but there is a 1.1% foreign transaction fee.

The Aspiration Summit Account is fairly new and marketed as an exclusive product. You have to “secure a spot” on a waiting list before getting approved for an account. In a recent MagnifyMoney Aspiration Summit Account review, we found the approval timeframe can take about a month. However, a recent test found an invitation was immediately sent. If you’re traveling soon, you can see if you’re immediately invited, otherwise you might need a backup.

The Drawbacks

Although signing up with one of these checking accounts separately is safer, there are a few downsides to keep in mind:

  • Opening up a new checking account that you don’t use often may not be convenient.
  • Aspiration has some fine print fees. One that stands out besides the 1.1% foreign transaction fee is the $5 per month fee charged if your account goes dormant past 12 months.
  • Checking accounts don’t have the same liability protections as credit cards. If your card gets skimmed, you need to report unauthorized purchases right away or you could be found liable for some of the loss.

For Zero Liability: Use a Credit Card Cash Advance

Credit card cash advances are typically a last resort when you’re in need of cash. If you are unable to pay your balance off before your bill comes due, you could get hit with interest rates of up to 25%. You will also likely get hit with a transaction fee, which can be up to 4% of the total cash advance amount.

But if you can use them responsibly — and pay them off right after you get your cash — they can be a decent alternative to paying a load of bank fees. The other benefit of using a credit card cash advance while traveling is that you will have all the fraud protections that come with credit card purchases. Furthermore, your bank account isn’t linked to the card so you can keep the majority of your cash safe from theft.

Again, only use a credit card cash advance if you are able to pay off the balance in full right away. And read the fine print carefully. Some credit cards will begin charging those double-digit interest fees from the first day you withdraw funds.

Check out our list of 20 credit cards that have NO cash advance fees. Here’s a deeper dive on one of our favorites, offered by PenFed Credit Union:

PenFed Credit Union Credit Cards

There are some smaller banks and credit unions that do not charge crazy high cash advance fees, such as PenFed Credit Union. Fortunately, anyone can join PenFed Credit Union. This credit union is unique because cards offered have no cash advance or foreign transaction fees. There is, however, interest to consider. PenFed credit card interest rates start as low as 10.24% for cash advances.

PenFed charges interest on the cash advance from the day it hits your account, no grace period. And if you are already carrying a balance on your credit card before you take out a cash advance, any payments you make will go toward your existing balance, not the balance from your cash advance.

There are some ways you may be able to get around the interest, however. You can make a payment on your card that would result in having a negative balance. For example, if you have a $0 balance on your card, making a payment of $500 would result in a negative balance of $500. This way, you’d be using the credit card more like a debit card and not racking up a large balance.

You can also make a payment online from your bank account as soon as you request the cash advance. Again, this will only work if you don’t have a pre-existing balance on the card. Otherwise, that payment will go to your previous charges first and cash advance last.

The Drawbacks

PenFed cash advances aren’t completely free, so we have to point out the negatives:

  • Interest applies to your cash advance if you don’t pay it off right away.
  • Applying for a PenFed card requires a hard pull on your credit report.
  • PenFed does not reimburse ATM fees.

For Convenience: Load a Prepaid Travel Card

Your next option is using a prepaid travel card. The benefit of using a prepaid travel card is you don’t need to open a new bank account or sign up for a credit card. You can also go online to add more money on the prepaid card throughout your trip.

Travelex Multi-Currency Cash Passport Prepaid MasterCard

You can load the Travelex Cash Passport with currency of the destination you’re visiting. The website says there may be a purchase fee depending on where you get the card. Expect to pay a fee if you get the card at an airport. For instance, a call into a prepaid card counter at Baltimore-Washington International Airport uncovered a $9.95 purchase fee.

You should be aware of some other fine print fees as well. If you hop to a different country and need to exchange currency, the transaction fee is 5.5%. Travelex doesn’t charge you an ATM fee internationally, but the ATM operator may have a surcharge which will not be reimbursed.

Lastly, there’s a $3 per month inactivity fee if the card goes unused over 12 months. And if you want to refund money back into the US dollar there’s a $20 fee on top of the 5.5% foreign exchange fee.

AAA Visa TravelMoney

Another option is the AAA Visa TravelMoney card. The purchase fee for the card may be up to $14.95 but varies by AAA club. The international ATM fee is $3, and that doesn’t cover the surcharge of the host ATM you use. There’s also a foreign transaction fee of 3%. If your card goes inactive for over 12 months, the fee is $1.25 per month.

The Drawbacks

These cards are heavy on the fine print. Beware of the downsides:

  • You’ll incur monthly inactivity fees if a prepaid travel card collects dust in your wallet.
  • Zero liability doesn’t cover all transactions. For the AAA Visa TravelMoney card specifically, there’s Visa zero liability, except the coverage doesn’t include foreign ATM withdrawals.
  • You can get hit hard by ATM and exchange fees.

The Old Fashioned Way: Take a Trip to Your Bank

Finally, there’s something to be said about walking into your brick-and-mortar bank and exchanging your cash for foreign currency. You can call your home bank or credit union first to compare exchange rates and then order currency. Traveling with cash will help you avoid fees and skimming scams overseas.

Traveler’s checks are decreasing in popularity, but are still an option. A traveler’s check is written out from the issuer (typically a bank or credit card company), and it’s like cash you can use to make a purchase. If you want money instead, you can take the check to a bank abroad to cash out.

If your traveler’s checks are lost or stolen the issuer can refund you. The downside is international exchange fees can apply. Some issuers charge a fee for checks as well. Lastly, finding banks and merchants that will accept your checks overseas or even know what a traveler’s check is can be a hassle.

Final Word

In the excitement to get out and travel the world, don’t forget financial aspects of the trip. Not having a money plan and getting trapped with gotcha fees or having your money stolen can put a damper on your experience, so think ahead.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

News

7 Ways We Saved Big on Our Recent Trip to Japan

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Advertiser Disclosure

7 Ways We Saved Big on Our Recent Trip to Japan

Asia has pretty much always been on my travel bucket list, but there had never really been a good enough excuse to spend the money to get there.

Until recently.

My husband had made it his goal to complete what were then the five world marathons within five years. In his fifth and final year, as he was ran what he thought would be his last race of the series in London, then the announcement was made that Tokyo would join the list.

And suddenly we had reason to go.

Of course the timing wasn’t perfect — we had just up and moved halfway across the country, spent tons on a trip to South America and were now expecting a child. But on the other hand, we didn’t want to wait much longer. It felt like a now or never situation. Traveling frugally is always a goal of mine, but now more than ever we needed to save as much money as possible on this trip.

When all was said and done, we spent 10 days in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, and only spent about $4,000 for the both of us, including flights and accommodation. Here’s some of ways we made it work.

Step 1: Book flights and accommodation as far in advance as possible

How it helped: Since we were stuck on our travel dates (they obviously had to revolve around the marathon date), we couldn’t be flexible, but we did know well in advance when the race was taking place, so we were able to start tracking flights about a year out and when a great deal came up, we pounced. We purchased our tickets in March of 2015 for a trip in February of 2016, which some might say is crazy, but it worked well for us. If you’re worried about things coming up to derail a trip planned that far in advance, book travel insurance as well. (We went with World Nomads, which has great prices.) The other thing that worked in our favor was that the end of February/beginning of March isn’t exactly peak travel time for Japan. We were a bit early for the famous cherry blossoms, and the weather can be unpredictable (although we luckily had no issues there), so if you can decide to book during a less popular time, that will help you save big, too.

Step 2: If you love hotels, at least combine your hotel stays with some apartment rentals, as well

 

How it helped: Again, for us our stay at an Airbnb apartment in Tokyo happened by necessity (even at almost a year in advance, all the decent hotels near the starting line of the race were sold out). However, it turned out to be a blessing, since a stay at an apartment afforded us other cost-cutting options (more on those later), and it turned out to be way cheaper than what the hotels were offering. In fact, our cute little Airbnb abode — which was in a great location for sight-seeing and was super close to the start line of the marathon — cost us about $100 per night, compared to the hotel we booked in Kyoto, which cost about $189 per night. That’s a pretty good savings.

Step 3: Make as many meals as you can

How it helped: Having the apartment helped as well because we were able to make breakfast for ourselves every single morning in Tokyo, and we even ended up making dinner one night. Of course eating out is one of the great pleasures of travel, but I honestly felt like we did plenty of that, while still saving a ton of cash on similar foods we probably would have eaten out for breakfast anyway.

Step 4: Pack snacks

How it helped: Japan is awash with tasty snacking options, and we did indulge ourselves from time-to-time when we saw something that looked interesting, but as a pregnant lady spending the entire day walking around, I knew I could end up spending a fortune on snacks if I weren’t careful. So we stuffed our carry-ons with tons of goodies from home, then made a pit stop at the local grocery store as soon as we arrived in Tokyo to stock up on stuff for breakfast and snacks we could easily bring along during the day. This saved us a lot of cash and it kept me from getting cranky when the hunger would hit and we weren’t anywhere near an available food source.

Step 5: Plan out your transportation in advance

How it helped: If there’s one thing other than accommodation I would recommend planning in advance, it’s how you think you’ll get around during a trip. In Japan, the cabs are lovely and fancy, but they are expensive. For a 10-day trip, we would have spent a small (to large) fortune if we planned to mostly get around that way. Instead, we purchased our PASMO (subway) cards ahead of time, and used public transportation to get pretty much everywhere we needed to go. As an added bonus, you can use PASMO cards elsewhere in Japan (like at vending machines and even certain stores or restaurants), so it’s worth doing a little research ahead of time for any item you plan to buy to see if they come with added perks.

Step 6: Buy souvenirs in bulk

How it helped: Luckily we were traveling with Chris’s parents, which meant we didn’t have to buy for them, and they would take care of buying for Chris’s siblings, but we still had my family (four parents, two sisters, two brothers-in-law and a nephew) to deal with. If you’ve decided to forgo getting souvenirs for everyone in your life on trips, more power to you, but for me, I just haven’t been able to give that up yet. What I can do, though, and what I have found very helpful, is buying certain things in bulk, which tend to be cheaper, and divvying them up. That way everyone gets the same thing (there’s no “hey, I like hers better!”), everyone feels remembered and you get to save a little cash. For example, on this particular trip, packs of chopsticks and sake cups — beautiful packs of chopsticks and sake cups! — were available pretty much everywhere. Problem solved.

Step 7: Never buy tickets to anything without searching online for a discount first

How it helps: You just never know where you might be able to find crazy discounts for even the most out-there of activities you want to partake in on your journeys. For example, one night we decided to take in the crazy spectacle that is Robot Restaurant in Tokyo (I could explain to you what this actually is, but it’s kind of a ‘you had to be there’ type of thing). The point is, regular tickets were about $80, which was steep, but we really wanted to go. On a whim, we hopped online and quickly found a site that was offering 25% discounts on tickets. Now we no longer had to feel guilty about going, which made it even more fun.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Cheryl Lock
Cheryl Lock |

Cheryl Lock is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Cheryl at cheryl@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: