Figuring out which travel card is right for you may require more work than you think. Choosing a card based on the APR (annual percentage rate) or perks is great, but before you dive into that part, take some time to analyze your spending habits and travel patterns.
While it isn’t necessary to set up a detailed budget just to figure out which card is right for you, it is important to know how where you are spending your hard-earned dollars on a regular basis. Credit card rewards, in general, are mainly based on categories. For instance, if each month you spend upwards of $600 in groceries for your household, a card that has supermarket benefits such as 3% cash back would be a great fit. Another example is if you love to eat out at restaurants several times a week, a card that gives points or cash back for spending at certain eateries is beneficial to use — one perfect example is Chase Sapphire; they offer 2 points per $1 spent at certain restaurants.
If you don’t know where your money is going, take thirty minutes to sit down and check your recent credit card, bank statements or receipts and write it down or create a simple spreadsheet. You can use popular personal finance management tools like Mint.com or Pageonce.com, since those sites automatically do the categorization part for you.
The next thing to tackle is your travel habits. The obvious question is: how often do you travel? It’s also helpful to figure out why you travel. Do you live to travel and save up just to jet set around the country or globe as often as you can? Do you book flights for family and friend obligations, like that time you flew to Miami for the bachelorette party or went to Grandma’s for Christmas last year?
Look through your calendar and mark the times you’ve gone out of town in the last 12 months. Also think about future plans that are looming — your best friend is planning his wedding in Hawaii, your cousin’s baby shower is coming up quickly — and be sure to factor those in when you decide which card is right for you.