Getting a Travel Rewards Credit Card Is the Best Money Move I Ever Made

This travel pro says rewards are her key to travel.

Despite traveling frequently, it took me a long time to understand how travel points work and how to truly use them to my advantage. Many of my fellow frequent travelers kept recommending travel rewards cards with high annual fees, claiming that the return on investment is much higher than the cost of the card. But how could that be?

After frequently traveling for nearly a decade, I finally sat down and researched everything there is to know about travel points, annual fees and card benefits. I discovered that the best travel rewards credit card for my lifestyle was one with a high annual fee, rather than the fee-free card I’d been using from my bank. One year later, I’ve concluded that getting that travel rewards card was the best money move I made as a frequent traveler — here’s why.

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Points for My Main Expenses

I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, which offers three points for every dollar spent on travel and dining, both of which happen to be my main expenses. By charging all my purchases on my credit card (and paying the bill off every month), it doesn’t take long for me to earn enough points for free flights. My normal expenses help save me money long-term.

Related: How I ‘Travel Hacked’ My Honeymoon

Free Flights

As a digital nomad, my expenses aren’t particularly high, especially since I spend the majority of the year living in cities that are far less expensive than my hometown of Los Angeles. Even with limited expenses, however, I still managed to earn nearly $2,000 worth of free travel after using the card for one year. Despite taking 18 flights in 2018, I only paid for four out of pocket. My biggest disappointment was not getting the credit card earlier.

Lounge Access at Airports

One of the perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a membership to Priority Pass, a network of airport lounges. Although this might seem like a frivolous perk, it has saved me hundreds of dollars over the course of the year. I had a couple of instances where I had incredibly long layovers (12+ hours). Rather than renting an expensive room in a hotel, I simply spent the entire time in the lounge, where I had access to comfortable chairs, food and drinks, Wi-Fi and sometimes even showers. I always pop into lounges, even when I have shorter layovers for a quick snack or refreshment. It’s much better than paying for expensive meals or water bottles at the airport.

More on Secret Perks: 40 Airport Secrets Only Insiders Know

No Foreign Transaction Fees

I can’t think of a single travel credit card that doesn’t offer this perk, but I’m still astonished by the number of people who don’t have a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. I use my credit card as much as possible when I travel. Not only do I get the best conversion rate, but I also don’t have to carry large sums of cash with me either. Plus, it’s another way to earn points, which saves me money in the long run.

After using a travel rewards credit card for just one year, I’ve saved thousands of dollars on travel. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or travel just one time per year, find a travel rewards card that best suits your lifestyle. You might be surprised by how much you can save.

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