5 credit card tips to save on vacation flights

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It’s shaping up to be an expensive holiday season for travelers. According to the Hopper travel reservation group, Thanksgiving airfare costs 25% more than last year, on average. Average airfare prices during the Christmas holidays are expected to be 55% more expensive than a year ago.

No one wants to spend their entire vacation budget on airfare, but there are a few ways to use credit card benefits to spend less. Here are some credit card tips to keep in mind so you can save on your vacation flights.

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1. Redeem miles for your airfare

When cash prices are high, that’s usually the best time to book your ticket using miles. There are a couple of ways you can do this with credit card miles, depending on the exact card you have.

Airline credit cards earn miles with the airline that issued them. For example, if you have one of Delta Air Lines’ credit cards, you can use the miles you’ve earned to book a Delta flight.

There are also travel credit cards with transferable rewards. These allow you to send your rewards to any airline in that credit card’s rewards program. For example, if United Airlines and Southwest Airlines are part of your card’s rewards program, you can transfer your rewards to any of those airlines and use them to book a flight with miles.

2. Put your rewards in a cash ticket

You may not have miles you can use with an airline. If you have other rewards credit cards, chances are you can still use the rewards you’ve earned to save some money on your flight costs.

Let’s say you have a card that earns rewards points. Many card issuers will allow you to redeem points for cash travel purchases. However, before you do this, check how much value you will get. Should be at least $0.01 per point, which means that 10,000 points would save you $100. If you’re going to get less, it’s probably not a good way to redeem your points.

You can do almost the same if you have a cash back card. After you book your ticket, use your cash back as a statement credit to cover as much of the flight as possible.

3. Use a 0% APR credit card if you need to pay for tickets over time

It is best to pay your vacation flights in full before your credit card payment is due. But if you want to travel and the tickets aren’t in your price range, another option is a 0% APR card. This type of credit card has a 0% APR on purchases for an introductory time period, such as 12 or 15 months.

If you ever need to pay off a balance over time, whether it’s for a vacation flight or any other reason, then 0% APR credit cards are the way to go. You will be able to pay off your balance and avoid interest charges during the introductory period. However, the standard APR applies after the introductory period ends, so be sure to pay the balance before that date.

4. Book with Capital One Travel for price drop protection

Capital One made some big improvements to its online travel portal this year. One of the features offered by this portal is protection against price drops. If you’re looking for travel and Capital One recommends booking a specific flight right away, then price drop protection will apply to that purchase. To find out if a flight qualifies, look for the phrase “Must Book Now” in the flight list.

When you book a flight with price drop protection, Capital One monitors the price for a set period of time. If it falls, you will be reimbursed up to a maximum of coverage.

5. Use an airline credit card for free checked bags

“Travel light” is wonderful advice, but it’s not always doable, especially around the holidays. If you are bringing gifts for family or friends, a carry-on and one personal item may not be enough.

With most airlines, checked baggage is an additional cost. Fortunately, many popular airline credit cards include a free checked baggage benefit. If you’re going to check a bag and it would otherwise cost you $35 per flight segment, that will save you $70 on a round trip.

Since holiday flights are very expensive, check out all the benefits your credit cards offer to see how they can save you money. It might also be worth opening a new credit card if you have travel benefits you can use. Any money you save on flights is more that you can spend on gifts and enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.

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We strongly believe in the golden rule that editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved or endorsed by the advertisers included. The Ascent doesn’t cover every offering on the market. Editorial content for The Ascent is separate from editorial content for The Motley Fool and is created by a separate team of analysts. Lyle Daly has positions with Delta Air Lines. The Motley Fool recommends Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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