The Best Credit Cards to Save Money on Family Travel
How a credit card could improve your family trips:
- Get travel perks that save money. Travel benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding privileges often extend to people who travel with you.
- Travel with more peace of mind. Travel protections such as travel accident insurance, trip interruption insurance (refunds prepaid trip costs if a trip is cut short or canceled by a covered event) and lost baggage reimbursements may also cover your immediate family members.
- Take advantage of rewards. Since you’re the generous person to pay for everything, you’ll be earning plenty of rewards that can help cushion the blow of the travel spending. Or, put it towards a future family trip.
I examined the credit cards on the market and identified ones that best serve those three purposes mentioned above.
Here are the best credit cards for family travel, worthy of your consideration:
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®
As my most-recommended travel credit card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® makes such a great credit card that it’s worth your consideration whether you are traveling with family or traveling solo.
Travel rewards that are not limited to airline or hotel
The key feature of the card is the rewards program.
In addition to earning unlimited two miles back per $1 spent on everything (including travel), you can redeem the miles for a 1-point-to-1-cent ratio (e.g., 10,000 points to redeem $100) on travel statement credits, which is credit that goes toward reducing your balance.
Plus, whenever you redeem miles for travel statement credits, you get 5% of the redeemed miles back.
Barclaycard classifies “travel” as airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, campgrounds, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, tourist attractions, discount travel sites, trains, buses, taxis, limousines and ferries.
As you can see, these types of purchases are very common for your family travels. Charge every travel-related expense to your Arrival Plus card and cover some of those expenses with the miles that you’ve earned.
On the average trip for four people that costs a total of $6,000, you'll earn 12,000 miles (equivalent to $120 in travel statement credits). When you redeem these 12,000 miles for travel statement credits, you get 600 miles back (equivalent to $6 towards future travel statement credits).
Travel benefits lead to more savings
If you’re traveling abroad, you save a little bit of money when you use the card internationally because it doesn't charge the typical 3% foreign transaction fee.
Additionally, the card offers the different insurances that cover travel accidents, trip cancellations, and baggage delays.
You probably hope to never have to use these travel protections, but it’s good to know that they’re available.
- Pros: Excellent rewards program and you are not limited to any airline or travel company
- Cons: $89 annual fee (waived for the first year)
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®
For many trips, the flight is an integral part of the travel experience. With an airline card like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®, the rewards program will help you and your family save plenty of money on your flights, and you'll get special travel privileges.
Save on checked bags and in-flight goodies
The biggest cost-saving feature of the card is the free checked bags on American Airlines flights (booked with the card).
There is no fee for the first checked bag for you and up to four travel companions under the same reservation. Since the first checked bag is normally $25 per person, you can save up to $250 per round-trip flight just with this single perk.
Furthermore, you get Group 1 boarding (also known as priority boarding) for up to four people listed on the same reservation.
This can be very advantageous, especially during the holidays -- your family will get to board the plane first, and most importantly, get dibs on the overhead bin space.
Finally, you get 25% off in-flight purchases, such as headsets, food and beverages to help you save some more when everyone wants a snack on the plane.
- Pros: Free checked bags, priority boarding privileges and discounts on in-flight purchases
- Cons: $95 annual fee (waived for the first year), must fly with American Airlines to maximize the card's value
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier credit card
Here’s another airline credit card that is great for anyone who flies with the same companion often: Southwest Airlines Visa.
Southwest offers something called a Companion Pass, or free travel for someone you fly with frequently -- you don't have to have the credit card to sign up for it.
However, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card can help you earn points faster, in order to obtain this Companion Pass. However, I must warn you that you must be a frequent Southwest flyer to get the most from this card.
How to get a free Southwest Companion Pass
You can earn a Companion Pass by flying 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points during any particular year. Every time that you fly with Southwest, this companion gets to fly with you for free.
The Companion Pass works until Dec. 31 of the year that you qualify, in addition to the entire following year. So, if you can qualify for the Companion Pass early in the year, your companion flies free with you for nearly two years. That’s a lot of money saved on travel!
Sure, the 110,000 points to qualify for the Companion Pass can be a major hoop to jump through (not even going to consider the 100 one-way flights because I think it is much harder to achieve).
Earn Rapid Rewards points faster
You can rack up these points through the purchases on your card and through the Rapid Rewards shopping program (which lets you earn bonus points when shopping at certain online retailers).
For example, you can earn 5 points per dollar spent at Nordstrom.com. If you are shopping online anyway, you can use the shopping program to earn the points toward the free Companion Pass.
Under the card's rewards program, you earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest and AirTran purchases and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
Also, don't forget that the first and second checked bags are free for all Southwest customers, regardless of whether you have a Southwest credit card or not.
- Pros: Earn free travel for a companion who flies with you
- Cons: $99 annual fee, must fly with Southwest to maximize the card's value