Many Americans are not planning to take vacations this year, or even use all of their paid time off. If you’re undecided, read on to find out how credit cards can get you over the hump, whether you’re considering going out of town or having a staycation.
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A recent survey commissioned by our sister site Bankrate found just 52 percent of U.S. adults are planning summer vacations. By far, the most common reason people are not planning vacations is because they can’t afford it.
Even worse, 35 percent of those with paid vacation time expect to use no more than half of it this year. That’s a big problem. If nothing else, take a staycation, or schedule a few long weekends. Everyone needs to recharge, and if you get paid vacation, you’ve earned it.
I certainly don’t want anyone to overspend and go into debt for their summer vacation. But if you’re among the 22 percent of Americans who haven’t yet made up their minds about summer travel, consider using a credit card sign-up bonus to get you over the hump.
For example, the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card gives new cardholders $300 in cash after they spend $3,000 in the first three months. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has an even more generous introductory offer of 60,000 points (worth $750 toward travel if you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards) after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Both cards charge $95 annual fees (but the Savor card waives the fee in your first year).
Or have fun closer to home
I love the staycation concept. It’s fun and affordable to act like a tourist in your home city. In fact, Bank of America has a great program that gives their credit and debit card holders free admission to a wide variety of museums, zoos and other cultural attractions. The perk is valid the first full weekend of every month.
Participating venues include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, the Miami Children’s Museum and the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. There are many, many others; full details are available here.
To make the most of your staycation, change your routine. Get out and visit one of these museums, bring a picnic to the park or meet a friend for a drink. Don’t just do laundry and run errands all day. You need to get into the vacation mindset in order to truly get away mentally.
Think you’re too swamped at the office? I’d argue that you’ll be a better employee (and a better family member) if you take a break at least once in a while.
See related: The best credit card perks for summer travel
Other ways credit cards help you save
- Keep an eye on card-linked offers. I currently have Amex Offers for $15 off Broadway tickets worth $75 or more at Telecharge.com and $40 off a $200 Marriott purchase, plus a Chase Offer for 5 percent cash back at Airbnb.com.
- Use the right cards in the right categories. Capital One Savor gives 4 percent cash back on dining and entertainment and 8 percent cash back at Vivid Seats, which has a selection of great summer concerts and sporting events. And the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers 10 miles per dollar when you book and pay for a trip at Hotels.com/venture.
- If you have the Citi Prestige, you receive a complimentary fourth hotel night when you book a minimum four-night stay through ThankYou.com. This benefit will be capped at two uses per year starting in September, so get in now because bookings made before Sept. 1 won’t count toward the limit (even if the stay takes place after Sept. 1).
It’s not too late to have fun this summer. Whether you’ll be traveling near or far, think about how your credit cards can help you save money.