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How to save on fall foliage trips using credit cards and rewards

A card that rewards fuel purchases or offers bonus points on travel can help you see the leaves turn while keeping green in your wallet

Summary

We’ve reached that time of year when the autumn leaves begin their seasonal show of color. There are so many great road trips in America that let you enjoy this spectacle in all its glory, but how can you save on your autumn adventure using credit card rewards? Here are a few ideas.

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Fall is the time of year when pumpkin spice makes its way back into stores and restaurants, we pull sweatshirts out of our closets and the sounds of football fill our homes.

But perhaps best of all, the autumn leaves begin their seasonal show of color, which makes it my favorite time of the year.

There are so many great road trips in America that let you enjoy this spectacle in all its glory, but how can you save on your autumn adventure using credit card rewards? I’ve got a few ideas …

See related:  Best travel credit cards

Saving on gas

Perhaps you’ve planned a trek down the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile stretch through Virginia and North Carolina dotted by fall foliage all along the way. That might take quite a few tanks of gas, so what’s the best way to save?

If you want to earn rewards on the gas you’ll be spending, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi earns 4 percent cash back on gas stations up to $7,000 a year (then 1 percent), though you will have to shell out the annual Costco membership as the card is only available to Costco members. However, the card doesn’t charge an annual fee.

Another option is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which earns 3 percent at U.S. gas stations. It also earns 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in spending per year, then it’s 1 percent) for all road trip meals and snacking.

For those who place a high value on travel and want to earn hotel loyalty points for their gas expenditures, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card offers one of the best deals on gas, granting holders 6 points per dollar at U.S. gas stations for a $95 annual fee.

You can also sign up for Fuel Rewards programs, which allow you to earn points when shopping that can later be redeemed for discounts on fuel, at grocery stores such as Kroger and Safeway. Purchasing gift cards from these stores allows you to earn even more points and thus greater discounts.

Deals on flights

While there are always great road trips close to home, you may opt to fly and then rent a car to enjoy the autumn scenery a bit further away.

My family loves to visit Colorado, where aspen trees light up the mountains with a beautiful shade of gold for three or so weeks each year. Some great road trips in this region include traveling over Independence Pass from Vail to Aspen or driving the Million Dollar Highway from Silverton to Ouray (nicknamed “the Switzerland of America”) by way of phenomenal Telluride.

Southwest Airlines has some of the best deals going if you want to use points to pay for flights. Snag a Southwest Companion Pass, which means one person in your traveling party never has to pay points or cash for their flight throughout the life of the pass and simply add them to your ticket free (aside from the mandatory government security fees of $5.60 per way). In Colorado, Southwest flies into Denver, and you can make the drive from there.

American Airlines usually has some great fall destinations on its Reduced Mileage Awards list, which includes destinations where you can save up to 7,500 miles round trip by holding select American Airlines cards. You’ll often find Montrose (the closest airport to Telluride), Eagle/Vail and Aspen on the list.

See related:  How to get to the Rocky Mountains on points

Car rental savings

If you fly to your autumn destination and plan to drive, you’ll need to rent a car. Some credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve and any World Elite Mastercard grant you elite status with select car rental companies, which can help you get upgrades to a nicer car, skip lines and more.

Alternately, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card grants holders 7 points per dollar for rentals booked with specific car rental companies if you want to earn maximum rewards for your rental.

You can also start your car rental booking with your favorite airline and earn loyalty points in the process. Or, you can opt for a more flexible card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, which lets you redeem accumulated rewards for any travel expense, including car rentals.

Making the most of accommodations

When it comes to accommodations, you can use your favorite hotel credit card to book the room and earn the most possible points (for example, you can earn 10 points per dollar on InterContinental Hotels Group properties by using the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card) or redeem hotel points using accumulated rewards.

I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Reserve because the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn with these cards are flexible, allowing you to redeem them with several airlines and hotel loyalty programs.

If you plan on booking an Airbnb or vacation rental through a company like Vrbo or HomeAway, consider a card like Capital One Venture Rewards, which allows you to redeem your rewards as a credit to cover travel expenses like the cost of the rental.

Wherever you’ll be driving this fall, make sure to have a strategy in place both for savings and making the most of travel rewards, so you can keep funding future trips.

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