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This article is part of CNN Underscored’s Guide to Summer Travel. The week-long event focuses on ways to travel smarter, more efficiently, and with less stress on your trip this summer.
We've all heard about the record-breaking travel season. Delta Air Lines already reported that it is seeing a strong demand for travel this summer. This even beats pre-pandemic year like 2019. Delta Air Lines has already said that it is seeing strong demand this summer, even beating out pre-pandemic years like 2019.
You can expect to see longer lines at the airport and more crowded terminals during the summer. You should be prepared by bringing a credit card with travel benefits to make your trip more affordable and seamless.
Summer travel is easier with these credit cards
Where do you begin?
It's impossible to find a credit card that is perfect for everyone. Compare your travel plans with our list of credit card options that will make summer travel easier.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Southwest Airlines benefits.
: United Airlines perks.
Choose one or two cards that offer benefits that are most relevant to your travel plans. If you are planning to travel more than once this summer, and you want access to the Delta Sky Club lounge and free checked baggage on Delta Air Lines you may consider applying for both Amex Platinum card and Delta Gold.
You might also consider the Southwest Priority Card if you fly Southwest exclusively for priority boarding and other airline specific perks. If you don't have a loyalty to one airline, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred card's flexible rewards program and travel protections can make your travel more affordable.
Look through the list of credit cards to find the one that is best suited for your summer vacation. The right card or pair of cards can make your summer trip more enjoyable while saving you money.
Protections for travel and car rentals.
It has been a popular travel credit card for many years, thanks to its excellent welcome offer as well as the bonus points it offers on dining and travel. The card also earns Chase Ultimate Reward points, which are redeemable for the best in first- and business class products through its airline and hotel partners, including Air Canada Aeroplan and United MileagePlus.
The Sapphire Preferred card can make your trip less expensive if there are flight delays, cancellations or damage to a rental vehicle. Sapphire Preferred is one of the few travel credit cards with an annual fee under $100 that offers the best protection.
You can get up to $500 back for travel expenses when your flight has been delayed by 12 hours or more. You can claim expenses like food and lodging in the meantime. You can also get $100 per day as reimbursement for expenses if you are unable to collect your luggage for more than six hours. This is valid for up five days. Clothing and toiletries are eligible expenses.
Trip cancellation and interruption coverage is another great travel insurance. The Sapphire Preferred covers prepaid, nonrefundable travel that is canceled or disrupted by illness, severe weather, and other covered circumstances. This coverage can reach up to $20,000 per trip and $10,000 per person.
The Sapphire Preferred also covers rental cars against damage and theft. You can choose to decline the Loss and Damage Waiver of the rental company and let the Sapphire Preferred pay for any damages. You'll need to have your own liability insurance, since the Sapphire Preferred does not include it.
Sapphire Preferred offers 3 points for every dollar spent on dining, 2 points for travel, and 1 point on all other purchases. Earn 5 points for every dollar spent on Lyft (through March 2025), and on hotels, rental cars and airfare booked via the Chase Ultimate Reward travel portal.
Spend $4,000 within the first 3 months after opening your account to earn 80,000 bonus points. Act quickly as this offer expires at the end the day of May 24, 2023.
Annual fee: $95
The Platinum Card (r) by American Express offers airport lounge access as well as other premium benefits.
If you are flying Delta the same day, your Amex Platinum card will allow you to access their Sky Club network.
Amex Platinum, a premium travel card with a long history, offers countless benefits to cardholders at both hotels and airports. You can access several airport lounges prior to your flight. You can relax in a quiet area away from the terminal, with alcohol, food and free drinks.
Amex Platinum card holders have access to lounges at the following locations:
The benefits don't end there. Amex Platinum includes an application credit for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry every four years. This lets you skip the security lines, or in the case Global Entry, the customs queues, upon returning to the US. The Amex Platinum also comes with an annual CLEAR credit, which allows you to use dedicated security lanes in select airports and stadiums across the US.
When you link your American Express account to your loyalty account, you'll receive Hilton Gold and Marriott Gold Elite Status. These status levels include benefits from their respective hotel chains such as room upgrades and priority service. If you are lucky enough to get a free room upgrade, it can really make your stay more enjoyable.
The card comes with a $695 annual charge (see fees and rates). The good news is that the annual fee of $695 will be offset by several statement credits. You'll receive a $200 credit towards airline incidental fees for the airline of your choosing. You can use this to pay for items like in-flight meals and checked baggage fees.
Uber Cash is also available up to $200 a year, and it's distributed in $15 monthly increments. In addition, you get a $20 bonus each December. You can also get up to 200 dollars in credit towards prepaid bookings made at Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts and The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel. Saks Fifth Avenue will give you up to $100 in statement credits per year.
For the complete list of benefits and credits, read our review of Amex Platinum. If you are a frequent traveler, keeping the card in your wallet will make it easier to travel, especially if your home airport has a lounge that is part of the program.
Spend $6,000 in the first six months to earn 80,000 bonus points.
Annual fee: $695
American Airlines offers a variety of benefits.
You might want to consider the AAdvantage Platinum Select Card before you travel if you plan on flying American Airlines in the summer. Like many airline credit cards, this card includes a complimentary checked bag for all American Airlines flights. If you are planning to fly American Airlines a few times during the summer, these savings can add-up.
AAdvantage Platinum Select also includes priority boarding for American Airlines flights. The airline has nine different boarding groups. Those with AAdvantage Platinum Select are allowed to board in Group 5. It is after the elite status members but early enough to get your luggage in an overhead bin.
Spending more than $20,000 on AAdvantage Platinum Select during a membership year will earn you a $125 credit towards a flight. This is a lot of money, but since the card earns one loyalty point per dollar towards elite status, this bonus can be a great addition if you are already working toward American elite status.
Spend $2,500 within three months to earn 50,000 bonus miles.
: Delta Air Lines perks.
Delta Gold Card offers free checked baggage and discounts on award tickets.
Delta Gold has two benefits that make it an attractive option for semi-frequent Deltas travellers who are looking for a card at a low annual fee. There are two main benefits: a free bag on every Delta flight and a discount of 15% on all Delta operated award tickets. The latter does not necessarily make summer travel easier but it allows you to stretch your Delta SkyMiles for more summer vacations.
This discount is known as TakeOff 15, and it is automatically applied to all awards tickets. If you have a Delta Gold card or select other Delta SkyMiles credit cards linked to your Delta SkyMiles Account, the discount will automatically be applied when searching for award tickets.
This discount could be enough to make Delta Gold worth it, depending on how frequently you fly Delta or redeem SkyMiles. If you want to learn more about the premium perks offered by Delta, read our article on the top Delta credit cards.
The Delta Gold card also comes with a $100 credit for flights when you spend more than $10,000 on it in one calendar year. The $100 flight credit offsets the $99 annual card fee.
Spend $2,000 on your new card within the first six-month period of opening to earn 40,000 bonus miles.
The first year's fee is waived.
: Southwest Airlines perks.
Southwest Priority Card is the high-end credit card for consumers. It has a $149 fee per year. This card allows you to board your plane earlier with four upgraded boardings each year. Southwest's open seating policy allows passengers to choose their seats when they board. This benefit is particularly important. You will have a greater chance of getting your desired seat if you board earlier.
Southwest Priority cards earn 1,500 points towards A-List or A-List preferred elite status with every $10,000 spent on the card. All points you earn with this card will count towards earning Southwest's Companion Pass. The card also includes 10,000 Companion Pass points that are added every year. These two benefits can be worth it for those who spend a lot and want to get Southwest rewards more quickly.
Southwest Priority Card's annual fee of $149 is offset by two benefits: 7,500 bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points at your cardmember anniversary, and a $75 Southwest Travel Credit each year. The Points Guy, a travel website, values Southwest Rapid Rewards at 1.5 cents per point. This makes the annual bonus $112.50. The annual fee is more than offset by the credit and travel benefits, as long as the card is used.
Spend $1,000 in the first 3 months to earn 50,000 bonus points.
Annual fee: $149
United Quest is a mid-tier United credit card with a few interesting benefits. The card offers two free checked baggage on all United flights, for both you and your travel companion. It can be very helpful on long trips, and you could save up to $300 on round-trip tickets for both yourself and your travel companion if they need to check in two bags.
United Quest also offers a $100 credit towards TSA Precheck or Global Entry. These programs will expedite the security screening at major US airports. Global Entry also allows eligible applicants to access expedited US Customs screening. Card holders also get priority boarding for United flights.
The United Quest card offers two additional benefits to offset the annual fee of $250. The first is a $125 United Airlines credit on your annual statement. The credit is given each anniversary of the cardmember and reduces the annual fee by half if the entire credit can be used.
Second, United Quest members are entitled to two 5,000 mile award flight credits each year starting on their first anniversary. These rebates can be used on any United or United Express operated award flight, and they effectively reduce the number of miles you spend on a reward by 5,000.
United Quest is the best card for anyone chasing elite status with United. The current offer on the card includes 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) if you meet the minimum spending requirements. You can also earn 500 more PQPs for every $12,000 spent on the card. This allows you to earn up to 6,000 points per year. This could help you achieve United status much faster depending on the amount of money that you spend.
Spend $4,000 in the first 3 months to earn 60,000 bonus miles plus 500 Premier qualifying points.
An annual fee of $250
Are you looking for a credit card to use on your travels? Check out the current cards available.