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Many of us are obsessed with squeezing the most value from our hard earned miles and points by redeeming them for free travel. Rewards earned from the best travel credit cards, particularly flexible points like Chase Ultimate Rewards and AMEX Membership Rewards, can get you to destinations you never dreamed you could afford.
Some cards, like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®, earn miles you can redeem for just about any travel purchase – even things like Airbnb, train tickets, or Uber. But what about other trip expenses not directly related to travel?
Here’s where cash back credit cards are invaluable. No matter where you’re going, you’ll need to eat, drink, and probably engage in activities that cost money. And that’s when you can dip into your cash back rewards stash for a truly fee vacation.
Here’s why everyone should have at least one cash back credit card in their wallet.
Cash Back Credit Cards Can Take the Sting Out of Random Travel Expenses
Read our post on the best cash back credit cards
Being able to redeem airline miles, hotel points, or flexible rewards for major trip purchases (like airfare, accommodations, and rental cars) can take a huge chunk out of your travel expenses. But what happens when you get to your dream destination? You’ll still need to spend money on stuff like:
- Meals, snacks, and drinks
- Entertainment like tourist attractions, museums, theme parks, and concert tickets
- Shopping and souvenirs
- Tips and gratuities
- Incidentals like toiletries or medication
While you can’t use miles and points to offset these costs in most instances (some exceptions would be meals taken inside a hotel or activities booked through a bank portal), you can use rewards from the best cash back credit cards for anything.
For example, you can redeem cash back from the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card by requesting a check or statement credit, any time, with no minimum redemption amount.
Some might find it easiest to redeem cash back for a statement credit rather than request a check, but a statement credit can only erase purchases you’ve put on that particular card. It’s really up to you, but keep in mind you might be paying for certain expenses with other cards to earn bonuses, like:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on dining worldwide
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on dining worldwide
- Citi Premier℠ Card – Earn 2X Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on entertainment
And to offset expenses where you have to pay cash (like tips or public markets), redeeming your cash back via check or transfer to your bank account is the simplest way to go, too.
I’ll be picking up the Capital One Savor later this spring (you can read about my 2019 card strategy, and why the Capital One Savor is the best cash back credit card for my family here).
My plan is to accumulate the cash back earned from the account until it’s time to go on our next trip – then use the card for dining while we’re away and redeem my cash back for statement credits afterward to knock out our food expenses. It’s kind of like a savings account for trip incidentals, I suppose!
If you’re new to cash back credit cards or aren’t sure what the right pick is for you, check out our list of the best cash back credit cards. Some even have bonus categories for everyday expenses like groceries and gas, so you can earn rewards quickly.
Booking flights and hotels with rewards earned from top travel credit cards can get you trips worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. That’s why we’re in this hobby after all, right?
While airfare and accommodations are normally the biggest part of anyone’s travel budget, there are still expenses to consider once you get to your destination. Meals, drinks, snacks, shopping, and entertainment costs can add up quickly – but you won’t have to worry if you’re earning cold, hard cash from the best cash back credit cards.
You can redeem cash back for anything, not just travel, to offset these incidental expenses. I’ll be applying for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card this spring, and plan to save the rewards to use towards restaurant meals on my family’s next trip.
Have you redeemed cash back to knock out random trip-related costs like dining and shopping? I’d love to hear your success stories in the comments.