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Rewards credit card holders will drive to summer vacations, if they can't fly for free

By , CardRatings contributor
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About half of American rewards credit card holders will cash in rewards points to cover summer vacation costs this year, according to research commissioned by Capital One. That figure rose from the 42 percent reported by researchers during the same period a year ago. One in five cardholders even said they'd be willing to trade $200 in rewards points if it could buy them an extra day of vacation.

More than two-thirds of survey respondents told researchers they planned to travel this summer. 58 percent of those cardholders expect to exchange rewards points for airfare, while 42 percent will use their perks to score free hotel stays. Meanwhile, about one in five survey participants said they would use their rewards cards to save money on gasoline.

Travel rewards card users love a bargain, and they tend to avoid high-traffic holidays, according to Capital One's research. Nearly two-thirds of travelers in the study said they didn't plan to travel during Memorial Day, July 4th, or Labor Day. 54 percent of respondents budgeted between $500 and $2,000 for their summer travels.

Orbitz survey tracks most popular affordable vacation spots

That amount mirrors the results of a similar study conducted by travel booking website Orbitz, which found that Americans plan to spend an average of $1,500 on holiday travel this year. Though consumers intend to spend much more this year than in 2011, many survey respondents said they planned to save money by driving instead of flying to their vacation destinations. The Orbitz survey ranked this year's top United States summer vacation cities:

  • Las Vegas
  • New York
  • Orlando
  • Los Angeles
  • Seattle

New York City jumped from sixth place in the 2011 Orbitz survey to this year's number two slot, despite having the highest average nightly hotel cost among all of the top ten cities. Number one vacation pick Las Vegas experienced a 10 percent hotel cost increase from last year, according to Orbitz data. However, at $95 per night, Las Vegas still offers the most affordable hotels among all top ten cities.

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