Maximizing Your Travel Rewards before a Vacation

Maximizing Your Travel Rewards before a Vacation

Planning a big trip in the near future? Then you need some big rewards to help you pay for it. Every travel rewards credit card works a little differently, but there are some simple steps you can take to maximize your rewards balance no matter what card you have. Follow the guide below, and you will be able to save a ton of money on your next vacation.

Understand Your Card’s Rewards Program

This may sound like common sense, but it is important to understand your credit card’s rewards program specifically. As we mentioned above, each travel card has its own set of rules and regulations when it comes to acquiring rewards. Some allow you to earn a flat amount of rewards for certain transactions throughout the year (2% on gas, 3% on hotel rooms, etc.), while others have revolving rewards categories that change each quarter. In the case of revolving categories, you might be able to earn as much as 5% cash back just by buying the right things at the right time on your card.

Another feature to keep in mind is the bonus program on your rewards credit card. For instance, if you have a Bank of America bank account, you can earn 25% extra rewards on your BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card. If you recently got your credit card, you may get extra cash back or extra miles for spending a certain amount of money within the first three months of owning the card. Explore all of these options in detail so you can build up as many rewards as possible.

Start Using Your Card Right Away

The more money you spend on your travel credit card, the more money you can earn in rewards. Pay for bills, shopping trips, and anything else you can with your card, and then pay off the balance right away. Anything you would use cash or your bank account for, use your credit card for instead. Then you can just take the money you would have used anyway and apply it towards your balance.

Use Your Credit Card to Pay for Travel Expenses

As you make reservations, pay for flights, and book hotel rooms for your vacation, use your credit card to pay for the transactions. Most travel credit cards offer higher reward rates for travel-related expenses, so you can get more money to put toward your trip while you spend money on the trip itself. Keep in mind that your rewards may not be available until after you pay off your card balance. Plan to pay your bill quickly so you can use up the rewards you’re earning.

Make Reservations through Your Card Provider

When you go to book a flight or hotel with your travel rewards, see what deals you can get through your card’s rewards program online. Your travel card provider most likely has partnerships with airlines, hotel chains, and other companies that will allow you – the cardholder – to get a discounted rate on the travel accommodations you need. Not only will you be saving money on your trip, but you may also be earning bonus rewards for booking through the online portal. Read your credit card terms to find out what sort of offers you can get through your travel rewards program online.

Best Business Travel Credit Cards

Best Business Travel Credit Cards

Need a credit card for business trips? There are plenty of options to choose from on the market. Some have strong rewards programs, some have low fees, and some have great perks for you to take advantage of. All you can do is compare credit cards and figure out which option is best for your individual needs. Listed below are some of the best business travel credit cards out to date, along with information about why these cards may be suited for you.

Best Business Travel Card for International Trips

If your business trips send you to other countries, the PFCU Premium Travel Rewards Card may be a great fit for you. This airline credit card offers 5 rewards points per $1 spent on airfare and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. The card also has a bonus offer of 20,000 points if you spend more than $2,500 in the first three months you have the card. There is no annual fee on the card, and there is no rewards cap. The only drawback is that you have to be a member of Pentagon Federal Credit Union in order to get the card. For veterans, members, of the military, and other select individuals, this is free to do. For everyone else, a one-time donation of $15 is required to create an account.

Best Business Travel Card for Road Trips

If you spend a lot of time on the road instead of in the air, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card is a good choice to look into. This card offers 3% cash back on gas and 6% cash back on groceries. The groceries must come from local supermarkets, not big retailers like Target or Walmart. AmEx Blue Cash Preferred does come with a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, which does not make it ideal for people who take business trips out of the country. If you just need a card that will reward you for driving, this is the one for you.

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Best Business Travel Card for Airport Lounges

If you spend a lot of time in airports for your work, you may consider the American Express Platinum Business Card. This travel credit card is designed for business travelers who want to relax during their layovers. With the card, you can get an exclusive entrance to some of the nicest airport lounges around the world, including Amex Centurion, Airspace Lounge, and Delta Sky Club. The annual fee for this card is quite high ($450), but cardholders receive a $200 airfare credit every year. If you don’t mind paying a little extra to wait around in luxury, this card will be a perfect addition to your wallet.

Best Business Travel Card for North American Trips

If you spend most of your business trips in the U.S., Mexico, Jamaica, or the Dominican Republic, the Frontier MasterCard provides a great opportunity to earn big rewards – fast. This is especially a good choice for people who use Frontier Airlines, because you can earn double the rewards points every time you book a flight through the airline’s website. The sign-up bonus for this card is tremendous. All you have to do is spend $500 within the first three months of having the card, and you’ll get 40,000 points to use towards your airline tickets.

Consider all of the options above, and you will soon discover the best business travel credit card for you!

Hotel Credit Cards vs Airline Credit Cards for Traveling

Hotel Credit Cards vs Airline Credit Cards for Traveling

When it comes to choosing a travel credit card, there are two main categories to pick from: hotel credit cards and airline credit cards. Either option could help you save money on your trip, but one may be better suited for you than the other. In this guide, we will compare hotel credit cards and airline credit cards to help you select the perfect one for your needs.

What Do You Spend the Most Money on?

Do you spend more money flying or staying in a hotel room when you travel? The answer to this question will depend on how often you travel, where you travel to, how long you stay away from home, etc. For instance, if you travel across the country for weekend business trips, your airfare is likely more than your one or two night hotel fees. If, however, you like to take week-long vacations every quarter, you may spend more on your hotel rooms than you do on your plane tickets.

Since the goal with any card is to maximize the rewards, it would be wise to select the card that best accommodates your expenses. If you typically spend more on hotel fees, you will want a hotel card that will generate high rewards at the hotel you stay in (if that is a constant). The same could be said about airline credit cards. You must consider how you personally spend money and find the card that best fits those expenses.

Consider the Maintenance Fees

Nearly every hotel card and airline card on the market comes with an annual fee, along with a slew of other fees you may have to cover throughout the year. Before you select a travel credit card, you need to make sure the rewards are worth the cost of upkeep. For instance, if you are only going to generate $100 in rewards per year and your annual fee is $125, you won’t be getting anything out of your rewards program. Compare the costs across the board to find the best card for you.

Pay close attention to the foreign transaction fees if you plan to use your card in another country. Most credit card companies will charge a 3% fee for transactions made outside of the U.S., but there are several travel credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. If your travels take you to other countries often, you’ll want to look for a card that does not have a foreign transaction fee.

Check Rewards Caps and Other Terms

In addition to the tips above, you should always look into the rewards caps and expiration dates for a hotel credit card or airline credit card. These terms will vary from one card to the next, but they could put a big dent in your plans. For example, you may apply for a card that will only allow you to apply your airline miles with certain airlines. If those airlines do not fly to the areas you travel to, the card will do you no good.

As long as you do your research well in advance, you’re sure to choose the perfect travel credit card for you.

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Shopping in Europe With an American Credit Card

Shopping in Europe With an American Credit Card

Planning a trip to Europe in the near future? If so, you will probably spend some time browsing through local shops for souvenirs to bring back with you to the states. Shopping in Europe with an American credit card is far from impossible, but there are steps you should take to prepare for your shopping in advance. The tips below will help you plan for European shopping early on so you can make the most of your time overseas.

Watch out for Foreign Transaction Fees

Many travel credit cards come with a foreign transaction fee, which is a fee the card provider charges for converting U.S. currency into the currency of the country you’re in. The fee varies from one card to the next, but it’s usually around 3% of every transaction you put on the card. Ideally, you should get a travel credit card with no foreign transaction fee so you don’t have to pay extra money for shopping in another country. This will lead to huge savings in the long run.

Get a Card with a Smartchip (EMV Technology)

American credit card providers are starting to make the switch to EMV technology, which provides much better security than traditional magnetic strip cards. EMV cards have smartchips on them, so you “dip” them into the machine instead of swiping them. While there are some European restaurants and stores that will accept magnetic strip credit cards, many of them will not. Make sure your card is equipped with chip-and-PIN or chip-and-signature technology so you can use it anywhere you go in Europe.

Check for Country Restrictions on Your Card

It’s important to look over the terms of your credit card before you head overseas so you can learn where it will and will not be accepted. Some travel credit cards are set up to be used just about anywhere, but others have restrictions on the countries or continents you can use them in. If you cannot find this information in your card agreement, contact your credit card company to see if you can use your card in the country you will be traveling to. If not, you may need to find another credit card before your trip.

Alert Your Credit Card Company about Your Trip

Contact your credit card company before you go to Europe and let them know that you will be over there for a certain period of time. Most credit cards have fraud prevention tactics in place that could put a hold on your card when you go over there. The credit card company will see that there are a number of transactions in another country that you don’t normally have on your card, and they will assume that someone has stolen your credit card. Rather than going through the hassle of contacting them to have a hold removed, you can simply alert them of your plans so they aren’t surprised by the transactions.

Keep Some Cash as a Backup

It’s always a good idea to have cash on-hand while you’re shopping, just in case something prevents you from using your credit card. You may go into a store that only accepts cash, or you may get a hold on your card like the one mentioned above. Try not to carry to much cash on you. Only bring enough to pay for a small or mid-sized transaction, as needed. If you never have to use your cash, you can convert it back to U.S. dollars and put it in the bank when you get back home.

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Best Airline Credit Card for European Travel

Best Airline Credit Card for European Travel

What is the best airline credit card for European travel? The answer to that question largely depends on where you want to go in Europe and what you want to do once you are over there. Are you looking for a card with great travel savings, a VIP airport lounge, a high sign on bonus…? The possibilities are endless. In this review, we will go over a couple different airline credit cards that work well for European travel. You can determine which one is right for you.

Best Airline Credit Card for Travel Reward Redemption

If you want an airline credit card with a great travel rewards program and easy points redemption, the Capital One Venture card is an excellent choice. With this, you get 2 miles per dollar in rewards, which equates to a 1% rewards rate if you redeem your points for travel purchases. There is no foreign transaction fee with this card, and the annual fee is $0 for the first year. After that, it bumps up to a modest $59 per year. There is a 40,000 mile one-time sign-on bonus for users who spend more than $3,000 within the first three months of having the card.

Perhaps the best feature about this airline credit card is the travel rewards portal operated by Capital One and Orbitz. There you can use your points to book flights, upgrade seating, and make other travel accommodations quickly and easily. The downside here is that you cannot transfer your miles to other loyalty programs, which may pose as a problem if you are building up your rewards elsewhere.

Best Airline Credit Card with Low Maintenance Fees

If you plan on using your airline credit card for one or two trips per year, it may not make sense to get a card with a high annual fee and high transaction fees. The BankAmericard Travel Rewards card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, as well as 0% APR for the first year. The sign-on bonus is not as high as its competitors, but you can still earn 20,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 on your card in the first three months.

The rewards program for this travel credit card is still pretty high. Every $1 spend on the card yields 1.5 rewards points, and each point is worth 1 cent upon redemption. Bank of America accountholders get an extra 10% in rewards just for being loyal members of the bank. Bank accounts with high balances allow users to earn even more in bonus points, which could be a great opportunity for you if you are already a BofA customer.

Best Airline Credit Card for Credit Monitoring

If you want a card that will help you monitor your credit while you use it, Discover It Miles is a great option for you. This card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, and each bill comes with a free FICO credit score. Discover also allows you to put a freeze on your card if it is ever lost or stolen, so you don’t have to worry about someone else putting unauthorized transactions on your card.

While there isn’t much of a “sign-on” bonus, so to speak, with the Discover It Miles card, first-time cardholders will have their points doubled after their first year using the card. Whatever points you rack up in the first 12 months, Discover will double them at the end of the year. There is a 0% APR offer for the first 12 months on the card, so you can spend as much as you want without having to worry about interest. Just pay the balance off before your year is up, and you could build a healthy airline rewards account in a short period of time.

Check out the different airline credit cards available to you, and you will soon find the perfect one for your European vacation.

Spending a Year in Europe as an American

Spending a Year in Europe as an American

For Americans, the idea of backpacking through Europe is adventurous, fun, and appealing – up until they start checking into the legalities of it all. I work online, which gives me the luxury of traveling whenever I want to and taking my work with me. I decided that I would spend a year in Europe, experiencing as many countries and cultures as I could in a fairly short frame of time. Take a quick look at how I managed myself, my money, and my expenses while living in Europe for a year.

Passports, Visas, and the Schengen Area

As you may already know, you need a passport as an American citizen to travel to Europe. This is your form of identification every time you cross a border or complete a transaction in a country where you don’t have a driver’s license. Apply for a passport long before you plan to travel because it can take up to 6 weeks to get yours in the mail. You can pay for expedited services, but even those can take up to 8 business days to process.

This next part of the guide is very important. It has to do with how long you can stay in any given country. While each European country sets its own guidelines for how long your American visa is valid over there, most will limit your stay to about 90 days. There is a group of 26 countries in Europe known as the Schengen Area. You are only allowed to stay for 3 months in a 6 month timeframe in any one of these countries.

For instance, if you want to spend three months in Austria and then spend three months in Belgium, you will have to travel to a non-Schengen country for three months in between to reset your visa options. You will not be able to go to another Schengen country if you have already been in the area for 90 days. I plotted out a map in advance that put me in a new country every month, keeping in mind which ones were in the Schengen Area. If you plan in advance, you can avoid a ton of legal trouble.

Paying for Things in Europe

It’s much easier to carry around a travel credit card than it is to get cash in each country you go to. I used my Capital One Venture card for the entire trip because of the killer travel rewards program it has to offer. Though the free version can be just as fruitful (compare them here). If you’re going to get a credit card for Europe, make sure it is equipped to work with EMV technology (it has a chip on it), and also make sure it has no foreign transaction fee. This is a fee that card companies charge when you make a purchase outside of the U.S. I was able to avoid that for the entire year that I was in Europe thanks to the terms of my card.

Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals in Europe

You will obviously need a place to stay while you travel through Europe. While you can book a hotel in every city you visit, that can get super expensive, super fast. I actually looked for rooms to rent on AirBNB and other travel accommodation sites. You can rent an entire apartment for the same price as a hotel room in many cases, and you get a much better feel for how residents in that country actually live.

No matter where you choose to stay though, it’s not going to be cheap. Prepare to shell out a hefty amount of money for lodging if you’re going to spend an extended time in Europe. If you can stay with friends and family members, you’ll be much better off. I had some pen pals to stay with for a couple of the countries I traveled to, and that was a huge relief on my bank account.

The Most Important Thing to Remember Is…

Plan everything well in advance. I think I had my year in Europe mapped out about a year before I actually took the plunge. If you take the right steps at the right times, you’re sure to have an amazing time traveling through Europe as an American.

How to Get to Europe by Boat

How to Get to Europe by Boat

If you’re not a fan of flying or you just want an alternative route for your next European vacation, consider taking a cruise to get overseas. I don’t mind flying, but I have a problem taking a plane over large bodies of water. A cruise was the perfect solution for my last vacation. In this guide, I’ll share how I got to Europe by boat so you can repeat the process and enjoy your water-bound European adventure!

Finding the Right Cruise for You

The most important thing to remember when searching for a cruise to Europe is that you want a transatlantic cruise, not a European cruise. Most cruise lines will have different categories of cruise packages for you to choose from. The European ones will board and drop off in Europe. With the transatlantic cruises, you will be picked up somewhere along the east coast of America (usually in Florida or New York) and dropped off in Europe.

There are several cruise lines that offer transatlantic cruises. Some of the more popular ones include:

The prices and destinations for these cruise lines vary considerably, and there are other cruise lines out there that offer similar services. In terms of scheduling, Cunard Line tends to have the widest range of availability for transatlantic cruises, but most of theirs land in Southampton, England. If you want to go somewhere like Belgium or Portugal for your cruise, this may not be the best fit for you. Most cruises depart in April or May, but there are some available throughout the summer and early fall as well.

Getting Dropped Off Early

What happens if you want to get dropped off in Belgium, but the cruise has other stops after that? You can request an early departure when you book your cruise that will allow you to get off where you want to be in Europe. The representative will put a note in the system telling the boarding director about your arrangements, which you will need to confirm once you get on the ship. Then you simply check out on the day you dock the appropriate country and enjoy your European vacation.
Note that you will be required to pay for the entire cruise, even though you are getting off early. The room will not be booked after you leave, so the cruise line will still ask that you pay the bill entirely. Keep that in mind when you start budgeting for your trip.

Paying for Your Cruise to Europe

You will need a credit card to book your cruise and any other travel accommodations you may make for your stay in Europe (hotel room, rental car, etc.). Ideally, this should be a card with an EMV chip in it so it can work with European credit card terminals. I used my Capital One Quicksilver card to pay for my cruise because it allowed me to earn cash back for my travel. That card also has no foreign transaction fee, which is a big deal when it comes to purchases made in Europe. Many credit cards will charge about 3% for every purchase you make in Europe because of the currency conversion (but you can avoid those here!). Also, here are some great travel cards in case you wanted to gather some points on your next trip. I didn’t have to worry about that with my card though.

Take a Cruise Ship to Europe!

The earlier you book your cruise, the more money you will save. This also gives you a wider range of rooms to choose from, so you can tell them where you want to be o the ship, what kind of room you want, and more. If you are purely using this as a way to travel and nothing more, a basic inside room will be your most affordable option. For a little extra money, you can get a balcony room and enjoy the great view all the way to Europe.

Vegas: Oh Lawd Save me From This Insane Land!

Vegas: Oh Lawd Save me From This Insane Land!

Sin City. There are zero intentions I have of freaking you out or deterring anyone from going there.

I just got back from there it was a blast! I went with two of my friends and did watched a bunch of shows, checked out the strip and had some delicious buffets with minimal gambling involved. Though there are certain aspects of this city that just aren’t quite up to par with certain ethical standards. For example the people on the streets handing me cards of naked woman just don’t cut it.

It makes it even worse when I see families walking by them, how uncomfortable of a situation is that?

But nevertheless that is the culture of this city. It’s a place where someone making minimum wage can look like they have all the money in the world. It satisfies the younger generations of 20-35 year old men and women.

I personally think it’s more tailored towards men due to the unsightly nature of the surrounding casinos and billion dollar hotels, xxx signs everywhere and bloodshot eye, hunched over people awaiting their next inevitable defeat.

Outside of all that, and all of the “woo girls” I found myself having so much fun in such a crass area. It really brings out the young adult in you. If you are younger you loath the elders with their endless rolls of money; if you are older you envy the youthful energy of people walking up and down the strip free of the clutches of public intoxication tickets. But both find satisfaction in whatever body they are in.

You adapt to the situation and thrive on doing things you wouldn’t dare do in front of your parents. It is a haven for singles or groups of friends looking for a good time. The boredness of couples was almost astonishing – I felt awful walking by the Venetian to see a married couple in their 40’s both staring at their iPhone’s and not speaking a word to each other.

One suggestion I would is to not venture there with a significant other. I’m not advertising going out and doing something regrettable at all, I’m simply saying this is not somewhere you want to take your significant other. This is a place to take your friends, unleash whatever fantasy you have and return to the life you originally signed up for.

And that’s not to be taken as a “I have a boring life”. I spent 2 days in Las Vegas and I was so drained and spent so much money it is a hardly sustainable lifestyle for any middle class worker.

In the end, the shows, the blackjack tables, and the 17 Elvis’ I saw were the perfect getaway from a life in front of a computer. I recommend going to at least one show (Cirque Du Soleil), having a bunch of drinks at random clubs (XS) and destroying some buffets (Bellagio). That makes for the perfect weekend getaway.

Go to Vegas at least once; without your significant other. I promise you’ll Woo at least once.



First post!

Hey everyone!

Thanks for finding my website, I’m just relaunching this to re-visit the world of the internet after a long time away. I’ve learned many things along the way and am started from scratch. I hope to have more adventures with everyone and looking forward to the next story!

But for now… Vegas will do