Your 2024 Credit Card Checklist for Summer Travel

Checklists are a key step in travel preparation for many people. Passport — check. Phone charger — check. But have you checked to make sure you’re fully utilizing the travel perks offered by your credit card?

Whether you’re a seasoned jetsetter or a novice traveler seeing the world for the first time, benefits from the right credit card can make a trip more convenient and more comfortable. That’s good news for the 50% of Americans who plan to travel more in 2024 than 2023, according to a survey by IPX1031, a Fidelity National Financial Company.

Here’s a credit card checklist to review before you hit the road this summer.

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1. Bring a card

First things first — be sure to bring a credit card! Many airlines, and even entire airports, are now cash-free. That means you’ll need a card to pay for that pre-departure drink or in-flight snack. You might even earn bonus rewards.

For example, if restaurants are a bonus category for your card, sit-down establishments within the airport will usually still earn that higher rewards rate. If your card earns a bonus on travel purchases, you’ll usually earn that bonus for in-flight purchases.

2. Register for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Clear

Airports are more crowded than ever, with air passenger growth up 6% and foreign travel up 24% year over year, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics.

To ease the burden of long lines, check if your card offers a credit that covers the cost of TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Clear. These programs allow you to speed through the line at security or customs, but since they all require a background check and an in-person interview, you’ll need to register well before your trip. Even if you haven’t been verified for this trip, register today to prepare for your next trip.

3. Register for lounge access

Airport lounges offer a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the airport terminal, with most offering free food and drinks. If your card offers access to Priority Pass lounges, you’ll need to register for that benefit before you hit the road.

Don’t forget your physical membership card, or even easier, download the Priority Pass app and use your phone to access the lounge.

4. Notify your issuer of your travel plans

Few things can create issues like having your card unexpectedly stop working when you’re away from home, especially internationally. With rates of credit card fraud increasing, it’s possible your card could stop working if you’re spending outside of your normal patterns or locations. To preempt this, notify your issuer before you travel. Often you can do this online or through the app, but just in case, be sure to travel with at least two cards.

5. Avoid paying foreign transaction fees

If you’re traveling abroad, make sure you have a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. If your card does levy those fees, try to get a different card before you leave the country.

6. Pay with your most rewarding card

Be sure to identify opportunities to leverage your trip and earn outsized rewards. For example, if you know you’ll be staying at a Hilton brand hotel, you might consider applying for one of the Hilton credit cards offered by American Express and earn up to 14 Hilton points per dollar you spend at the hotel. Those points can stack up fast and easily defray costs for your future travel.

But you’ll need to bring the physical card with you. Many hotels aren’t able to accept digital wallet payments, so if you can’t swipe your card, you’ll miss out on those heightened rewards.

7. Check your card’s money-saving offers

Many issuers have programs, such as AmEx Offers, Chase Offers and BankAmeriDeals from Bank of America, that let you add rotating promotional offers to your card and earn additional points or cash back for making purchases at specific merchants. Be sure to review these offers for any merchants where you might spend during your travels. Just be aware of the fine print — often these offers exclude, or only include, international merchants.

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