3 Ways Your Credit Card Can Help You Save on Summer Travel

The 2024 summer travel season is almost here, and that means it’s time to break out the credit cards to find cheap flights, affordable vacation packages, and other travel deals. But what if your credit card could help pay the bills for your summer vacation?

With the best travel credit cards, you can earn points from everyday spending that can be converted to free (or low-cost) travel — flights, hotels, and more.

Let’s look at a few ways that the best travel credit cards can help you have affordable summer vacations in 2024 — and beyond!

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1. Pay for travel with points

The first and most obvious way that travel credit cards can help you save money on travel is by using your credit card reward points to pay for flights, hotels, and more. As you use your credit card throughout the year, you can build up an extra “savings account” of reward points. If you get enough points, you might have enough to book a flight or pay for a summer vacation.

The best travel credit cards give you extra value for booking travel and paying with points, beyond the usual $0.01 per point of cash back rewards. For example, here’s the extra value you get from Chase Sapphire credit cards when you use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book travel in the Chase Travel portal:

Chase is not the only bank with an in-house travel booking site for credit card customers. The best travel credit cards from American Express, Capital One, and Citi also give you the option to redeem your reward points for travel.

2. Get cheap flights by transferring points to airline programs

Along with paying for flights with points, one of the best ways to use your travel credit card is to transfer points to a partner airline’s frequent flyer program. Many of the best travel credit cards have partnerships that — just like magic — allow you to turn your credit card points into airline frequent flyer miles.

This doesn’t work for every airline. But here are a few examples of Chase Sapphire’s U.S. airline transfer partners:

  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®

There are also several international airlines that partner with Chase to transfer points to frequent flyer programs, such as Air France, British Airways, and Singapore Airlines. If you have the right credit card, you can also do a multi-step process:

  1. Turn your credit card points into frequent flyer miles with your credit card’s airline partner.
  2. Use those miles to book a flight with a different international airline from a larger global network, like the Star Alliance or oneworld Alliance.

Shop around for the best price on airfares — in money, points, or miles. You might often get the best value from your credit card points by converting them to frequent flyer miles, and booking an award flight directly with the airline.

3. Get special offers and upgrades

Some of the best travel credit cards give you special elite status with hotel loyalty programs, or give you privileges and perks, like free airport lounge access. How would you like to get a free upgrade to a higher fare class on the plane, or use a few thousand credit card points to get a more spacious hotel room at no extra cost in cash?

Some perks of travel credit cards are not always as direct as “getting a free hotel room” or “saving hundreds of dollars on airfare by paying with points.” You won’t always get a free vacation with credit card points. But credit card rewards can still add up to hundreds of dollars (or more) of extra value. And you can have a more fun, comfortable, relaxing travel experience along the way.

Bottom line

For cheap summer travel, start by getting strategic about travel rewards credit cards. The best travel credit cards can help you book cheap flights, free hotel stays, and unlock hundreds (or thousands) of dollars of extra value from everyday expenses. Credit cards aren’t just a way to pay for flights; they can elevate your travel experiences.

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