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Reward card programs can help you save money during your summer vacation

By Ben Woolsey

With the summer vacation season rapidly approaching, using a credit card that helps you earn cash back, points or frequent flier airline miles can mean the difference between traveling for free and having to pay big bucks.

Summertime is a great time to take advantage of one of myriad credit card rewards offers, because there is typically more travel-related expense to leverage. These big ticket expenditures can be a tremendous source of earnings to apply to future vacation travel.

Travel rewards are not limited to frequent flier miles on any particular airline anymore. If free airline travel is your goal, there are several generic mileage program credit card offers that allow you to earn free flights on any major airline. Some, such has the Travel Plus Platinum Visa Card from Chase or the Discover Miles Card, allow you to redeem your miles for cash or gift cards with major retailers as well.

For free hotel stays, there are a number of choices in that area. The Priority Club Rewards Visa from Chase allows travel rewards to be applied to free stays at any of its properties, which include Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels and Candlewood Suites. New cardholders receive a 15,000 Priority Club point bonus upon sign-up with an additional 10,000 points for every $15,000 in card spending.

Another option for a hotels reward program is the Marriott Rewards Signature Card, that provides a 15,000 bonus point enrollment incentive and 3 points for every dollar spent at any of the 2,500 Marriott Hotel locations worldwide. With such a head start, a free hotel stay can be earned quickly.

Another area of reward savings not normally associated with travel reward credit cards involves gasoline rebate credit cards. The price of gasoline has been skyrocketing in recent months. The pain at the pump can be mitigated somewhat by using one of the numerous gas rebate credit cards available in the market that pay a flat percentage cash back on all purchases.

In fact, several credit cards that aren't associated with the gasoline rebate category still handsomely reward gas purchases. Rewards credit cards and cash back credit cards like Blue Cash from American Express, the Citi Dividend Platinum Select and the Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards Card all pay a full 5 percent on gasoline purchases, as well as 1 percent on all other purchases. Other cards, like the Discover Gas Card, also specifically reward gasoline purchases at the 5 percent cash back level, while paying cardholders 1 percent on all other purchases.

So, whether you plan to fly, drive, camp or stay in a hotel for your upcoming summer vacation, a travel rewards credit card that pays you cash back or miles for your credit card charge activity can substantially cut the cost. 

Published: February 2, 2006


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