If you are looking to get a new travel credit card for long term travel, be sure to look for all the best travel credit card benefits on your card!
When we first started traveling, it was hard to know what benefits would actually come in handy. We didn’t really know what to look for in our travel credit cards benefits. Over the last two years, we have gotten very familiar with the best travel credit card benefits and have highlighted which ones you need to look for.
We’ll cover the best travel credit card benefits, best travel credit card, best credit cards for international travel, some of the American Express Platinum travel credit card benefits, and more!
This post is all about the best travel credit card benefits for long-term travel.
Travel Credit Card Benefits
No Foreign Transaction Fee
This is key if you want to be using your travel card while, well, traveling. Although the international fees on credit cards sound small, they can really add up. There are plenty of cards out there that don’t have any fees when using them internationally. With how global our world is now, you should be able to use your credit card just the same in Thailand as you would in Nashville. Most cards don’t even require you to inform them of your travels, to make it that much easier on you.
> PRO TIP: always be sure to track all your expenses (we use the free software Mint) to ensure there are no fraudulent charges on your cards.
To successfully travel with a good travel credit card, you need to have a credit card that is widely accepted. We have found the Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards. American Express is a close second in Europe and the Americas. However, it is a bit harder to use in places like Southeast Asia and the Middle East. As for Discover (the card I decided to bring with me to Europe at age 22 * facepalm *), it’s not really accepted anywhere.
When you start to deep dive into the world of travel credit cards, you will find quite a few cards with a hefty annual fee. It can feel odd to pay so much just to purchase more stuff, but in many cases, it can be well worth it. Of course, this is only if you actually use the benefits the card gives you. It may sound nice to get access to private jets and a $200 credit at Fine Hotels & Resorts, but are you really going to be booking those reservations? If the answer is no, you need to ensure that the benefits you will use will at a bare minimum cover the cost of the card.
We have found that the American Express Platinum card is rather expensive at $695 a year. However, it has been well worth it to us, giving us over $2,000 in “free” flights in just two years among many other benefits.
Type of Points
If you are looking to use the points earned on your credit card towards travel, this is a very important travel credit card benefit. Depending on your credit card, you will get points (or miles) towards different accounts. You’ll want to be sure to choose one that benefits you and you’ll actually be able to use it.
For example, the Marriott Bonvoy Bold card can be used for any purchases and earns Bonvoy points that can be used toward hotel stays and upgrades. If you never stay at Marriott brand hotels, this likely isn’t the best card for you.
One of the most highly regarded points systems is the Chase Ultimate Rewards points. These can be used for a myriad of things through their own travel portal or can be transferred to partner accounts for equal value (in most cases).
Once you are ready to start travel hacking, the sign-on bonus will become your bread and butter. This is really where you can a large sum of points for a relatively low spending requirement. If you have plans for a big trip, you can apply for the right credit cards to reach your goal.
When we first started traveling, we signed up for the American Express Platinum card and received 60,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. Those 60,000 got us 2 one-way tickets from LA to Bangkok, Thailand with some to spare (and baggage was included!).
If this is going to be a card that you use often (and not just for a quick sign-on bonus), then the specific points categories can help earn you even more points. Finding credit cards that give 2x (or more) on travel-related purchases will be key.
The Amex Platinum card gives 5x points on all flights booked directly through the airline. The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives 5X Points on all travel-related purchases, like hotels, flights, rental cars, and excursions.
Just note that most of the categories have stipulations. A common stipulation is for groceries or gas to be US chains to qualify for bonus points. Even if they don’t have a US-based qualification, it can be harder to properly categorize certain purchases due to language barriers or cultural differences while abroad.
Auto Rental Liability Insurance
If you plan on renting cars while traveling, this can be a key benefit in keeping you protected. Although this won’t provide you full coverage, you will be covered for basic fees and damages that can quickly add up if anything were to happen. The best part is, you don’t have to do anything extra to receive this benefit.
Just be sure to use the credit card to pay for the rental car and you will be automatically covered. And you won’t need to pay for the liability insurance through the rental car company (usually way overpriced). Read over the terms and conditions of your card to fully understand what is covered (and what is not covered).
PRO TIP: Some credit cards will offer additional insurance coverage through a 3rd party at an additional cost. Our Amex Platinum offers Premium Car Rental Protection worldwide. We were able to get full rental car coverage for 1 week for less than $20.
Baggage Delay Insurance
Baggage delay insurance is now a common benefit to many travel credit cards. As long as you use a credit card that covers baggage delay for your fare, you will be covered. Usually, they will provide $100 per day of delayed luggage for you to buy the necessities (toiletries, clothing, charging cables, etc.). However, terms, of course, vary widely based on your card.
Lost Luggage Reimbursement
In the unfortunate circumstance that your luggage is lost, stolen, or damaged while in transit (* knock on wood *), having a card with this benefit will help cover your butt. This will help you replace whatever was in your bags. It can be used for checked bags or carry-ons. Although it does have limits and some items aren’t covered, it can still help a ton in such a tough circumstance.
Travel Accident Insurance
Travel accident insurance usually offers coverage for a broad range of losses (including loss of life, limb, sight, speech, etc.) that occur while traveling. A horrible thing to have to think about, but accidents can and do happen while traveling. I wouldn’t recommend this as your primary insurance coverage, but it does offer additional coverage in those rare instances. Be sure to read what exactly is covered for you and your card.
> Read our Ultimate Guide to Travel Insurance for full coverage while traveling!
Travel & Emergency Assistance Services
This is basically a hotline for you to call when you are in need of travel assistance. With language barriers, cultural differences, and various laws, it can be hard to navigate an emergency while abroad. They won’t cover any necessary fees or charges incurred, but they can help book your tickets, translate, and direct you for just about anything you need.
Trip Cancellation / Interruption Insurance
If your trip is canceled or interrupted due to something out of your control, this insurance will help cover your losses. There is a myriad of rules regarding what is and what is not covered. However, this can be extremely helpful for those non-refundable tickets and packages. This way you can be less worried about booking something in full ahead of time if something were to come up last minute.
Trip Delay Reimbursement
This benefit will help cover any expenses like meals, lodging, toiletries, and more during a delayed trip. This acts as a secondary reimbursement after the airline’s reimbursement. It can really come in handy when those unexpected expenses pop up, especially for long-term travelers.
Fee Credit for Global Entry, TSA Pre-Check, or CLEAR
This is a newer feature that many travel credit cards are adding to their benefits. A credit towards either Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check and/or a credit towards a CLEAR credit. This is a great saving and will even renew each time your account is up for renewal. It covers one account for Global Entry, which is a great savings of $100.
When we signed up for CLEAR, we used our United Mileage Plus account and received a $60 discount! Since we signed up as a shared account, the first user was $119 (with the discount) and the additional user was $60. Essentially we got two users for the price of one. On top of that, our American Express Platinum card offers a $179 credit towards CLEAR. So we got two users for free!
> PRO TIP: Applying for Global Entry will grant you access to TSA Pre-Check as well and it’s the same price!
Airport Lounge Access
Many travel credit cards offer airport lounge access. The most common access is through Priority Pass Select. This service will get you access to 1,300+ lounges around the world, the largest portfolio, by far. With some American Express Cards (like the American Express Platinum) you can receive exclusive access to the amazing Centurion Lounges and Amex Lounge Collection. With some airline cards, you can also receive lounge access to their business class lounges.
Annual Travel Credit
Lastly, some of the larger travel credit cards will offer travel credits as an incentive. These can be towards airline incidental fees as with the American Express Platinum. Or for In-Flight Wi-Fi credit like on the AAdvantage Aviator Red card. Depending on what you normally spend and the benefits offered this can be a big saving!