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6 ways to get the most from a travel rewards card

Check the fine print to see what perks you might not have known you had, and be sure you travel with a backup card, for starters.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 14, 2013 11:52AM

This post comes from David Parreco at the Dough Roller.

DR logoSimply having a travel rewards credit card doesn’t mean that you are maximizing the benefit. While most of you probably know that these credit cards accumulate frequent flier miles, there are many lesser-known perks that could help you get the most from your credit card.

Beach © Corbis1. Check for 'secret' travel perks

On the surface, travel rewards cards allow you to generate frequent flier miles, but if you dig deeper, there are numerous other features that could help you on your travels. For example, you might be able to receive priority boarding, a free checked bag, discounts on in-flight food, drinks and Wi-Fi, as well as access to airport lounges during long layovers.

So before you plan your next vacation, you may want to contact your credit card providers to find out what perks they offer because you could save a good chunk of change on your trip.

2. Ask about foreign transaction fees

If you plan to travel outside the U.S., you should contact your credit card company to see what their policy is on foreign transaction fees.

Some card issuers charge a fee for every transaction made overseas, but many have been eliminating this cost. If your card does charge foreign transaction fees, don’t worry -- there are ways around them. One method is to have your purchases charged in U.S. dollars by the merchant.

Failing to contact your credit card provider about foreign transaction fees before you leave could mean a much more expensive trip than you had anticipated because these charges add up with every swipe of your card.

3. Bring more than one credit card with you on vacation

The last thing you want is for your credit card to be declined while you’re on your family vacation without a backup in your wallet. To avoid this, you should bring more than one card with you, whether you are traveling to your neighboring state or overseas. In some instances, it isn’t even a case of your card being declined; certain credit cards just aren’t accepted at some places.

4. Let your credit card provider know you will be away

A couple of weeks before your trip, it’s a good idea to contact your credit card provider and get your plastic travel-ready. If you don’t, your cards could be shut down for suspected fraud because your provider might think it odd that you are charging something in Italy when you live in the U.S.

To ensure you are able to better communicate with your credit card company while away, you might want to be able to access your account online. Many providers offer smartphone applications that allow you to contact them directly from your phone. This option can be invaluable if you need to contact your provider while on vacation if you have lost your credit card or it has been stolen and you need to cancel it.

Another way to make your credit cards travel-ready is to find out what they can offer you in case of an emergency. For example, are they able to send you a cash advance or new card quickly if your credit card is lost or stolen? This information could play a large role in what cards you bring with you when traveling.

5. Consider applying for a card that offers better rewards

Having more than one travel rewards card is not a bad thing, so if there is one that can offer you better rewards, don’t be afraid to apply. Some providers will offer reduced-mileage awards programs that allow you to fly to certain destinations for fewer miles, which can be beneficial if you like to vacation in the same place every year.

Frequent overseas travelers might want to look into cards that offer no foreign transaction fees, as this feature can make their trips more affordable (or at least free up some room for spending on entertainment and dining).

6. Make everyday purchases with your travel rewards card

Frequent travelers know it takes a lot of miles to receive a free flight. With that said, you might consider making all of your regular purchases on your travel rewards card when you know you are planning to take a vacation. By doing this, you accumulate more frequent-flier miles more quickly, which could make your vacation much cheaper.

Purchases that could be made with your travel rewards cards include groceries and gas, but make sure you don’t splurge, because making unnecessary purchases on your card could make it difficult to pay off the balance. If you are unable to pay off your debt each month, you will be charged interest, which would cancel out the benefit of the money you save by getting free airfare.

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