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May 3, 2013

How credit cards can help pay for summer travel

When you're planning a summer vacation, it's important to make out a budget. Too many consumers fail to plan their spending and, when they return, are faced with more debt.

But having the right credit card can help. It can help you not only save money, but actually get some money back.

Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of CardHub, breaks down summer travel cards into three categories; those that have good initial reward bonuses, those that have good ongoing rewards programs and those that have the best 0% financing offers. The right card can add up to actual money.

“Consumers, by signing up for the right offer, can get $400 statement credit or $500 toward travel expenses by spending what they would normally spend on their credit card during the first three months,” Papadimitriou said.

Real money

Take the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, for example. By spending at least $3,000 during the first three months your account is open will give you a 40,000-point rewards bonus, which can be redeemed for $500 in travel accommodations booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program or a $400 statement credit.

That's right. Instead of stockpiling those airline miles that you never seem to be able to use, you can trade them in for cash.

“It doesn't get much better than that,” Papadimitriou said.

The Chase Sapphire card does not charge an annual fee the first year but there's a $95 fee each year after that.

Another solid choice is the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. Spend just $1,000 during the first 90 days to claim the card’s 40,000-mile rewards bonus, which is redeemable for a $400 statement credit you can use to pay any travel-related charge. It also waives its $89 annual fee the first year.

Hilton HHonors Surpass Credit Card and the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Card also provide general upfront bonuses. With the latter you get 50,000 bonus points with your first purchase and 35,000 additional points for spending at least $2,500 within 90 days. Those 85,000 points can get you up to 18 free hotel nights, depending on the category of hotel you select and the number of consecutive nights you book.

Long-term value

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