Money·2 min read

Free Checked Bags? Here’s How to Choose the Best Travel Card

accessibility, woman backpacker admiring a city view
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
May 10, 2022

Travel credit cards can come with major perks. Like airport lounge access, complimentary hotel stays, and free checked bags.But how do you know which one is right for you? Here’s what to consider before you sign up.

First, why are you considering a travel credit card?

Before you start browsing travel cards, identify your #1 reason for wanting one. Do you want to earn points for your miles? Or are you more interested in breezing through TSA? How important is airport lounge access to you? The travel card you choose should be based on the exact rewards you’re looking for.

I’m in it for the perks.

Warning: Big perks can come with big fees. As in, hundreds of dollars a year big.

Are the rewards worth the fees?

If you travel frequently, yes. Because swiping your card usually earns you rewards like points or miles that can cut costs on your trips. You should also consider if you can afford to make frequent purchases with your card. Otherwise, you may not rack up any rewards.

What about a travel card with no annual fee?

If finding a card with no annual fee is your top priority, you have lots of options.Discover It Miles is a popular choice that allows you to earn miles you can redeem as cash or use to cover travel purchases. And offers a nice welcome bonus: a mile-for-mile match for your first year. Airport lounge access isn’t one of its perks, though.

Another popular option that doesn’t have an annual fee is the Bank of America Travel Rewards credit card. This one lets you redeem points at restaurants, on a vacay, or for booking your next trip. FYI: The 0% introductory APR doesn’t apply to balance transfers.

If you’re working on building your credit, consider the US Bank Altitude Go Visa Secured Card. It’s one of very few secured cards that come with travel perks. But you’ll have to deposit $300-$5,000 at sign-up, which will become your credit line. (Psst…that’s how all secured cards work though the dollar amount varies.)

What else should I know about travel credit cards?

Don’t skip the extras. Regardless of your reason for getting a travel card, you should always consider the extras when you’re shopping around. Does it come with free checked bags? What about access to free Wi-Fi? (Hi, digital nomads.) And ask about partnership perks. Hint: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card lets you transfer points to preferred airlines and hotels. Ocean views, please.


When it comes to choosing the right travel card, put your needs first. Think: Are you a digital nomad racking up flight mileage? Or is avoiding an annual fee while building credit top of mind?

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