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Best credit cards for summer vacation from our partners

Last Updated, July 18, 2019
best credit cards for summer vacation

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best credit cards for summer vacation

You probably don't plan your summer vacation around your credit cards, but it's likely that you do pay for it with them. After all, vacations aren't cheap, and if you don't have a card that offers much in the rewards department, you're paying more for your trip than you need to.

If you're a consistent credit card user you have might have already earned yourself enough points to help you book your next trip. Airline miles and free hotel stays really come in handy when planning a vacation. If this isn't the case though, when it comes to planning your next vacation, a rewards credit card could be your new best friend. Three points per dollar spent at the gas pump can really add up when you're taking a cross-country road trip. So could four points per dollar spent on flights. Especially if you're buying tickets for the whole family.

Knowing you're earning some money back while enjoying a much-deserved trip only makes vacation that much sweeter. And who knows, you might even earn enough rewards off that one vacation alone that you can start thinking about where you'll go next...

Or maybe you aren't going anywhere this summer... If that's the case, you're still presumably going to go out and have some fun (hopefully). Maybe you'll dine out a lot, or drive out to the beach or to the swimming pool every chance you get. If your credit card is weak with its rewards, once again, you could be missing out.

FEATURED CARD

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: Because the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer offers the opportunity to choose the category where you'll earn the most cash back, it's a great all around summer vacation companion. With this card you can earn 3% cash back on purchases made in one of the following categories: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. Beyond that, you'll earn 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and 1% on all other purchases. Because you can easily update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month using the Bank of America mobile banking app or online, this card can easily be tailored to meet your seasonal needs.

Say you have a big road trip coming up in July, for example. Well, for that month, it would probably make good sense to choose gas as the category where you earn 3% cash back. Maybe you shop online a lot in November and December in preparation for the holidays. In that instance, you might want to choose online shopping. If you've got a big renovation project in the works, for those months, the home improvement/furnishings category may be the way to go. You get the point. You shouldn't tailor your spending habits just to earn rewards. Instead, the right credit card for you will reward you for making purchases you would make regardless. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer could be that card for you.

Bonus: Earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days from opening an account. Plus, enjoy an introductory 0% APR offer for 12 billing cycles on purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After that the intro APR ends and a 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers will apply.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%

Rewards Rate: Earn 3% cash back in a choice category (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings) and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR SUMMER VACATION

AIRLINE REWARDS | HOTEL REWARDS | GAS REWARDS | DINING OUT AND ENTERTAINMENT

Using a credit card on vacation is much safer than carrying around loads of cash, or even using a debit card. The security benefits credit card companies offer these days are top-notch, and purchases made with a credit card are much more secure. At the very least, even if it won't be the main way you make purchases, it's smart to have a credit card with you while on vacation (and arguably, at all times) just in case. If you lose your cash, it's gone. If someone gets a hold of your debit card information and makes purchases, well, chances are, most of that money will be gone as well. Debit and credit cards are treated differently by consumer protection laws, and under federal law, your personal liability for fraudulent charges on a credit card can't exceed $50 (or $0 depending on your credit card issuer). However, if a fraudster uses your debit card, you could be liable for $500 or more, depending on how quickly you report suspicious activity. And since many credit cards offer security and account alerts, automatically notifying you of any suspicious behavior, chances are, fraudsters won't get far if they do happen to come across your credit card account information.

If you're looking for the best credit cards for summer vacation, here are some ideas — and afterwards, we'll regroup with a few credit card money saving strategies you'll want to utilize, no matter which credit card you choose. 

BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR AIRLINE REWARDS

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: A signup bonus can go a long way when it comes to planning a vacation, and with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, new cardholders can look forward to a whopping $750 bonus when opening an account.

Thanks to Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card's new and improved bonus offer of 60,000 bonus points (worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®), vacation planning just got a bit less expensive, and more fun. Alternatively, you could redeem for cash (worth $600), or transfer your points to popular hotel and airline partners at a 1:1 ratio, but we think having $750 to put towards your trip sounds like a whole lot more fun.

Bonus: Earn 60,000 points once spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening an account. Points are worth $600 when redeemed for cash, or $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

Rewards Rate: Earn an unlimited two points on travel and dining purchases, and one point on everything else.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

Citi Premier Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: The Citi Premier Card (Citi is a CardRatings.com advertiser) rewards you for it all - airfare, gas purchases, toll fees, boat rentals, movie tickets, amusement park visits, you name it. It's an all around good companion to have during your summer vacation, as well as any other time of the year.

The signup bonus is great too. New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® points, worth $750 in airfare when redeemed through the ThankYou® Travel Center, after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. If you open an account soon enough, that $750 bonus could really come in handy when it comes time to book airfare for your vacation.

Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Points are worth $750 in airfare when redeemed through the ThankYou® Travel Center.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

Rewards Rate: Earn an unlimited three points on travel and gas purchases, two points at restaurants and on entertainment, and one point on everything else.

Credit Needed: Excellent

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: Frequent flyers willing to buck the trends of flexible redemption options can lock in some substantial rewards from Chase and British Airways. The current promotional bonus offer features the opportunity to earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios— 50,000 after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account, plus an additional 50,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 within your first year. That amount of points could go a long way towards paying for a flight or two. (If are puzzled by the word "Avios," that's just another word for points or miles, using the British Airways lexicon.)

Additionally, cardholders can score an annual Travel Together ticket, good for two years, after spending $30,000 or more on purchases on the card every calendar year. Cardholders must still pay taxes and fees out of pocket, but that perk can be worth a substantial amount of money when redeemed for a first-class ticket on a long-haul flight.

Bonus: Earn up to 100,000 bonus Avios— 50,000 after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account, plus an additional 50,000 Avios after you spend $20,000 within your first year.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

Rewards Rate: Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your card you'll earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: You know that moment you find an underground band and completely fall in love and wonder why you haven't heard of them before? That's the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. It flies under the travel rewards radar sometimes, but you should take note.

With this card you earn two miles per dollar spent on all your purchases, so it's a great everyday card that will help you bank rewards for your next big trip. (See Rates and Fees) The miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing and there are no blackout dates or hotel or airline restrictions to worry about.

Here's the deal: the miles are completely flexible. You simply purchase your travel on your card and then redeem your accumulated miles for statement credit to cover those travel purchases. It couldn't be simpler, but it does get sweeter: each time you redeem you'll receive 5% of your miles back to use on a future redemption. And new cardholders can earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days - that's enough for $700 in travel statement credit.

Bonus: Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Annual Fee: $89 (waived first year)

Foreign Transaction Fee: 0% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited two miles on every purchase made.

Credit Needed: Good/Excellent

Discover it® Miles

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: The great thing about this card is that you'll earn miles on every purchase made, with no caps. Earn 1.5 miles on flights, hotel stays, restaurant purchases, etc. This is a solid offer for a card with no annual fee. Plus, Discover will match all of the miles you earn at the end of your first year, so if you accumulate 35,000 miles, you'll actually walk away with 70,000 at the end of the year. That's $700 towards travel!

What's more, there's a 14 month introductory period of 0% APR on purchases, giving you some extra time to pay off flights or other vacation expenses. Redeeming miles is a breeze as well. Just redeem them as a statement credit towards your travel purchases. It'll almost be as if those expenses never happened - except you know that they did, because you have awesome vacation memories because of them. 

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 1.5 miles on every dollar spent with the card.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good


BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR HOTEL REWARDS

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: The great thing about the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is that it earns users unlimited two miles back on every purchase made, no matter the category. So whether you're using the card to pay for new luggage, plane tickets, dinner, gas, or road trip snacks, you can rest easy knowing you're being rewarded for every single vacation purchase you make. Greater still though, you can earn a whopping 10 miles per dollar with this card when you book a hotel through hotels.com/venture.

Another big reason to consider including this card in your summer vacation plans is because of its numerous travel benefits. Not only do Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card holders receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®, but they also have access to travel accident insurance, 24-hour travel assistance services, and auto rental collision damage coverage. Plus, this card has no foreign transaction fees, making it a great vacation companion whether you're traveling near or far.

Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

Rewards Rate: Earn an unlimited two miles on all purchases, and 10 miles on bookings made at hotels.com/venture, through January 2020.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: Users can earn an impressive 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening an account. Considering the fact that the standard base redemption rate is 7,500 points for hotel stays, that bonus alone could get you a lot of free nights. If you're loyal to the Marriott brand (or really, even if you're not and you just like to travel), you might want to give this card some serious thought. Plus, as an added bonus, cardholders earn an additional Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after their account anniversary.

As great as that signup bonus is, we don't like to recommend cards based on the signup bonus alone... even with that said though, we'd still recommend this card for your summer vacation plans. Here's why: with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card, you can earn six points per dollar spent at over 6,900 participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels, so if you plan to do some spending with Marriott this summer, you've got a serious opportunity to rack up some points. And even when you're not spending money with Marriott you'll still earn points with this card - two points for every dollar spent on all other purchases. Read our Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card review to learn more.

Bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

Annual Fee: $95

Foreign Transaction Fee: $0

Rewards Rate: Earn six Bonvoy points per dollar spent at over 6,900 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and two Bonvoy points on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: Another popular hotel chain card with an impressive welcome bonus, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card should be a strong card contender for anyone loyal to the Hilton brand. New cardholders can earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points and a free weekend night reward once using the card to make just $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first four months of account membership.  That bonus could potentially be good for over two dozen hotel stays, depending on your location and dates. Minimum points per night start at just 5,000 points, with peak dates and locations requiring a bit more. If you plan things right though, this bonus could save you a lot of money. American Express is a CardRating advertiser. Terms apply.

When using the card at hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio, you can earn a whopping 12 points per $1, and impressive still, six points per dollar at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations. Also, three points on all other purchases, which is a big selling point, especially considering the fact that most credit cards usually only offer one or maybe two points for purchases in the "other" category. Terms apply.

Bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points and a free weekend night rewards once spending $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first four months of card membership. Plus, earn a Weekend Night Reward after you spend $15,000 in purchases on your card in a calendar year. Terms apply.

Annual Fee: $95 (Terms apply)

Foreign Transaction Fee: None (Terms apply)

Rewards Rate: Earn 12 points for each dollar spent directly at a hotel or resort within the Hilton Portfolio; six points on eligible U.S. restaurant, supermarket and gas purchases; and three points on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent


BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR GAS REWARDS

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: If you're a Costco member and you travel a lot, especially by car, then this might be a good fit for you and your summer vacation plans.

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser) earns users 4% cash back on gas purchases made at Costco up to $7,000, then 1%. Otherwise, earn 3% back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2% back on all other purchases from Costco, and 1% on everything else. So not only is it a great card to use to fill up at the pump, but also for travel expenses and dining out, and for road trip snacks and maybe a handful of new DVDs to keep the kids entertained on the road as well.

Plus, with many families choosing to rent an apartment or house while on vacation instead of going the traditional hotel route, grocery purchases are going to have to be made, even though it's vacation. You might as well earn money on the groceries you'll buy that week - and all year long as the rewards don't stop once vacation is over.

Bonus: NA

Annual Fee: $0*

Foreign Transaction Fee: 0%

Rewards Rate: Earn 4% cash back on gas purchases made at Costco on the first $7,000 in purchases a year, 3% back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases, 2% back on all other purchases from Costco, and 1% on everything else.

Credit Needed: Excellent

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: Since you get to choose a category in which you earn 3% cash back, and gas happens to be one of the options, this card could be the perfect companion for your summer (or anytime!) road trip.

Bonus: Earn $200 in online cash rewards after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days from opening an account. And take advantage of an introductory 0% APR offer for 12 billing cycles on purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After that the intro APR ends and a 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers will apply.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%

Rewards Rate: Earn 3% back in a category of your choosing from this list: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings. Also earn 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

Chase Freedom®

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: Every quarter Chase Freedom® has a new category in which you'll earn bonus rewards (5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter you activate). Categories have included everything from gas station or restaurant purchases to your PayPal purchases. Often, Chase features "summer fun" categories from July-September. Details on exactly what summer fun is remain to be announced, but it sounds like you're probably covered if you're doing a lot of traveling and spending time in hotels. (And it isn't as if the card will stop being useful after the summer is over; the theme of the card from October to December is often "holiday.") There's also no annual fee, and no matter what you're buying, no matter what the season, you'll always get an automatic unlimited 1% cash back on all of your other purchases.

Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. Plus, enjoy 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a 17.24% - 25.99% Variable APR will apply.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, and unlimited 1% back on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

EDITOR'S NOTE: Combine Chase Freedom® with Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to earn top miles in the 5% category with Freedom® and then two times the points on travel and dining out with the Preferred® card. Plus, when you redeem all those Chase Ultimate Rewards® points through your Preferred® card, you'll receive 25% more value.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: Pair 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit with 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and you're set for a stellar summer road trip. Terms apply

If you're road tripping, well, naturally you'll be frequenting the gas pump, which makes the 3% cash back feature great, but what really stands out about this card is the fact that you can pair that with 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6k spent each year, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions. Eating out three times a day while on vacation can quickly add up, especially if you're traveling with your whole family. Food shopping while on vacation might not always be quite as fun, but it's practical, and oftentimes, a necessity. You might as well earn yourself some cash back in the process to help offset the cost of your trip. And, if you find yourself parking the car for a bit to explore  a city, you'll appreciate the 6% back on transit like taxis, bus fares, parking and more. Terms apply. 

Bonus: Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first three months. Terms apply

Annual Fee: $95. (Terms apply)

Foreign Transaction Fee: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars. (Terms apply)

Rewards Rate: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit like parking, tolls, bus fares and more; and 1% on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

Discover it® Student chrome

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: If you're a college student, you know just how valuable gas rewards can be, especially when it comes to summer vacation plans. Be it a cross country road trip with friends, weekend drives to the beach or lake, visits home to see family, or just drives around town for things like movies, or dining out, the Discover it® Student chrome can help.

The Discover it® Student chrome earns users 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases, automatically. There's also a "good grades reward" which offers students a $20 statement credit each school year their GPA is a 3.0 or higher, for up to the next five years. Plus, Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of the first year as a cardholder, so you're looking at double the rewards.

Bonus: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

Rewards Rate: Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and unlimited 1% back on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Fair


BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR DINING OUT AND ENTERTAINMENT PURCHASES

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: If your vacations tend to focus on food (we wouldn't blame you) and entertainment, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card might be the perfect option for your travels. With this card dining and entertainment purchases earn a solid 4% cash back which will quickly add up if you're going out a lot. And when we say entertainment, we don't just mean movie or theater tickets. "Entertainment" means concert tickets, amusement parks, festivals, etc., so your fun isn't limited, and neither are the rewards you'll earn while you're having it. And as an added bonus, if you purchase tickets from Vivid Seats, which offers tickets for sporting events, Broadway shows, concerts and more, you'll earn a whopping 8% back. To learn more, check out our full Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

Bonus: Earn a $300 cash bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.

Annual Fee: $0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets purchased from Vivid Seats through May 2020.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you don't want to pay an annual fee you might consider the Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card. With this no-annual-fee card you can still earn a respectable 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% back at grocery stores and 1% back on everything else. The new cardholder bonus is lower at $150, but so is the amount you must spent to receive it - $500.

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: Thanks to a bonus offer of 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in eligible net purchases each quarter on the combined TWO categories of your choice, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card makes a strong contender on our list of best credit cards for summer vacation. The fact that you can choose two categories is huge here as it allows you to truly maximize the amount of rewards you'll earn - in categories you actually spend a lot in.

Some sample categories include: TV, internet, and streaming services; fast food; movie theaters; sporting good stores; ground transportation; gym/fitness centers; and many more.

That fast food category could really come in handy on a summer road trip, and since ground transportation includes everything from taxi rides to train tickets, you could be pocketing a lot of extra cash if you're heading to a big city such as Chicago or New York. If your summer plans are keeping you close to home, having a bonus on TV, internet, and streaming services might really be appreciated, as might cash back at movie theaters and fitness centers. No matter what your summer plans might include, the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card will reward you, since you have the power to choose where you'll earn the most rewards.

Better still, you also get to choose one everyday category where you'll earn 2% cash back with no limit on the amount you can earn. "Everyday categories" include grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants. All other purchases will earn an unlimited 1% cash back.

And then on top of all of that, new cardholders can earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of opening an account, AND, there's no annual fee. There's a lot to like here.

Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 in eligible net purchases in the first 90 days of opening an account. Plus, enjoy an introductory 0% APR offer on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles. After that, a 16.24% - 25.74%* Variable APR will apply.

Annual Fee: $0*

Foreign Transaction Fee: 2% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in U.S. Dollars 3% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in a Foreign Currency

Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on the first $2,000 you spend on qualifying combined purchases in two bonus choice categories, unlimited 2% cash back on all qualifying purchases in an "everyday" category of your choice, and unlimited 1% back on everything else.

Credit Needed: Good,Excellent

Discover it® Cash Back

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: The Discover it® Cash Back card allows users to earn 5% cash back on popular rotating categories such as restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, and Amazon.com, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Currently, the 2019 summer (July-September) category is 5% back at restaurants and on PayPal purchases (on up to $1,500, then earn 1%), making it a great option for all of your summer vacation dining plans.

What's really great about this card though is that it offers a 14 month introductory period of 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers, giving you some extra time to pay off vacation expenses interest free. Plus, Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year ($300 cash back automatically becomes $600 cash back, $400 becomes $800, etc.), which is a really nice perk for a card that has no annual fee.

The downside of this is that you have to wait a year to enjoy this reward, meaning, it might not help much with current vacation plans. However, if you're able to wait, this reward could pay off big in the long run, and you could use that money towards next year's vacation instead - or to help pay off any lingering debt before the introductory 0% APR period ends.

Bonus: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. Plus, enjoy an introductory 0% APR offer on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months. After that, a 14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR will apply.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back each quarter on rotating categories such as gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and Amazon.com, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, and unlimited 1% on everything else.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: Whether you're dining out or ordering in, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card will reward you for it with three points earned on all dining purchases. Plus, you'll also earn three points for gas station purchases, rides hares, and transit, as well as for travel purchases including flights, hotels, home stays, and car rentals. Sounds like a really good summer vacation companion to us! Beyond these categories, you'll earn one point on all other purchases.

The signup bonus is solid as well, especially considering the fact that this is a no annual fee card. New cardholders can earn 30,000 bonus points once spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership - that's a $300 cash redemption value. There's also an introductory 0% APR period for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then 16.24%-28.24% Variable.

Bonus: Earn 30,000 bonus points once spending $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of card membership. Plus, enjoy an introductory 0% APR period for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then 16.24%-28.24% Variable.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

Rewards Rate: Earn three points on dining and gas purchases, ride shares, transit, flights, hotels, home stays, and car rentals, and one point on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

American Express® Gold Card

Why It's Perfect for Your Summer Vacation: The annual fee associated with this card might be a bit steep, but before you rule it out, hear us out: the American Express® Gold Card runs deep with extras.

To start, let's talk about the dining perks this card offers. The American Express® Gold Card offers four points per $1 spent at restaurants worldwide as well as four points earned at U.S. supermarkets, up to $25,000 per year in purchases (then one point). Additionally, earn up to $10 total in statement credits monthly when you use this card to make purchases at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Boxed, Ruth's Chris Steak House and participating Shake Shack locations. That is an annual savings of up to $120 (enrollment required). Terms apply.

Outside of dining, users will earn three points on flights book directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, and cardholders are eligible for up to $100 in statement credit to cover incidental fees with a pre-selected qualifying airline each calendar year. Terms apply

Bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first three months. Terms apply

Annual Fee: $250 (Terms apply)

Foreign Transaction Fee: None

Rewards Rate: Earn four points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide as well as four points earned at U.S. supermarkets, up to $25,000 per year in purchases (then one point). Plus, earn three points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, and one point on all other purchases. Terms apply

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent


HOW A CREDIT CARD CAN BENEFIT YOUR VACATION

SECURITY BENEFITS

For starters, as we already mentioned above, the peace and mind that credit card use while on vacation can bring is huge. Of course there is always the risk of losing your credit card while on vacation, but at least if this happens, it can be replaced, oftentimes within 24-48 hours, even if you're traveling internationally. And if someone steals your card and makes fraudulent charges, you've covered. On the other hand though, if you lose cash, that money is gone. You could always withdraw more from an ATM or at the bank, but still, you're spending more money on your vacation than you planned to, and that's never any fun.

Credit card issuers these days make credit card security a huge priority. Oftentimes you can set up account alerts so you'll get automatic security updates - via text, email, or phone - and you can choose to sign up for personalized emails or texts to stay on top of account information. You'll oftentimes see issuers offering $0 fraud liability as well if your card is ever lost or stolen. No one wants to pay for a purchase they didn't make, and thanks to top-notch credit card security, with most credit cards, you won't have to.

REWARDS AND BONUSES

Sign up bonuses are an easy way to make your credit card work to your advantage. If you want to cash in on travel rewards credit card perks, it'll help to follow these tips:

  • If you apply for a credit card with a large signup bonus, be sure to meet the qualifying spend threshold before the promotional deadline. A large signup bonus can go a long way when it comes to planning a vacation. Depending on the size of the bonus, your travel location, and your travel dates, you may even be able to cash in on free hotel stays or airfare. Just be sure to plan your application date accordingly and don't expect to book plane tickets for your trip in July with your bonus if you don't apply for the card until June.
  • Funnel all the personal expenses you can on your rewards credit card leading up to your trip (and all year long if feasible). As long as you're paying your credit card bill off each month, this can be a great way to seriously rack up some rewards points which you can use towards your next vacation. If you can't pay off your bill every month though, ease up. Rewards points will only technically benefit you if you didn't go into debt to earn them.
  • Build loyalty with travel industry brands that offer generous redemption options, elite status upgrades, and comprehensive destination lists. The more you travel within these brands, the more rewards you'll earn to use towards future trips.
  • Research all the benefits your credit card offers. Did you know that some credit cards offer car rental insurance? How about insurance for lost baggage, or reimbursement for delayed or canceled trips? Some credit cards even offer travel accident insurance and roadside assistance services, as well as statement credits for things like Global Entry or TSAPre✓® Approved. Knowing these details could save you a lot of money when it comes to your summer vacation.

If you've got excellent credit, you can usually find significant signup bonus offers for new credit card customers. The biggest deals usually come from airline credit cards issued by major national banks. Many of these partnerships offer enough frequent flier miles or rewards points to cover one or two round trip domestic tickets.

On the other hand, if you've got enough time to play a longer game, you can turn your everyday purchases or reimbursed business expenses into discounted airfares and hotel nights. Hotel chain credit cards multiply rewards points for purchases at participating properties, speeding you toward exclusive status along the way. With many hotels adopting flexible, market-based redemption programs, picking an off-season date or a less central property for your vacation can stretch your rewards balance even further.

When searching for the best credit card that fits your needs for your summer vacation, remember that credit card companies don't set up rewards points programs just to be generous. Annual fees and finance charges on travel rewards cards tend to come in significantly higher than similar "no frills" credit cards. Squeezing maximum value from your rewards card means redeeming far more in value than the cost of your annual fee. Likewise, paying your bill in full at the close of each statement cycle can prevent high APRs from diminishing your card's rebate credits. Map out a sample reward itinerary to see just how much you'll need to spend if you want to fly, dine or lodge using your rewards.

In other words, getting the most of out of the best credit cards for summer vacation takes about as much work as you're doing to plan your summer vacation. That's the bad news. The good news is that by planning both, and really looking over the details, it should pay off. Your memories may be priceless, but that doesn't mean you have to pay a fortune for them.


To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: See Rates and Fees; Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: See Rates and Fees; American Express® Gold Card: See Rates and Fees.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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