Exercise Caution with Travel Reward Cards

Credit cards that offer travel rewards can be an amazing deal. By making purchases you would otherwise make, you can earn free flights and other travel perks. But exercise caution if you know you will carry a balance as the interest rates on these cards are higher. There has to be a cost to someone to pay for the perks. And it often feels easier to hand a card over to swipe, than pay in cash! So look for value in your travels and do not over spend, despite the credit limits. If you play the game right, you can save thousands on travel each year!

Houses along a cannel with house boatsu

Delta American Express cards can be a great deal, as long as you carry no balance, or a small balance. Delta offers varying deals on their cards. I received 80,000 bonus SkyMiles when I signed up for the Delta AMEX Platinum card earlier this year. They are currently offering a 90,000 mile bonus. When Delta is offering a big welcome bonus, it’s worth signing up for. And it could be worth keeping past the first year if you pay off at least most of your monthly charges and don’t carry much of a balance. Last year I redeemed 70,000 Delta SkyMiles to fly from Washington, DC to Japan roundtrip for just $60 in taxes. If I had paid out of pocket for that ticket, it would have cost me over $1,300.

Alex selfie at Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle was built in 1583 and played a major role in the unification of Japan.


When I was younger and carried a balance on cards, the premium Delta cards were not worth keeping past the first year. The minimum interest rates are significantly higher on premium cards. If you carry a balance it is worth calling to negotiate your interest rate, but you will have less room to negotiate with the premium travel reward cards. But I was told I could transfer my balance to an American Express Blue card. My interest rate then dropped significantly to 8.5%! So keep this in mind when you sign up!

Alex drinking an aperol spritz on the terrace of Gritti Palace
Enjoying an aperol spritz on the terrace of Gritti Palace in Venice, Italy, as gondoliers pass by.

Italian man enjoying a spritz on the cana

For many years I had a US Bank Flexperks Visa. They don’t offer a lower interest rate than 14% but the annual fee is just $49. You can also redeem 5,000 points to pay the annual fee after the first year. The first year the annual fee is waved. I’ve previously redeemed 20,000 points for a free $400 plane ticket on Delta from Orlando to San Diego. It was close to Thanksgiving so the tickets were pricier – a great time to redeem points. And a huge perk was that I earned Delta SkyMiles on top of my ticket being free!

The Eiffel tower in the distance with people walking around

Just be care. If you rack up a lot of debt it can be difficult to pay off and you are then very much so paying for that free plane ticket. But travel reward bonuses can be a great deal – and these days we save thousands each year using them. Leave a comment below or email me at alex(at)wanderlustmarriage.com if you need help with travel hacks. And remember, sometimes it is best to just find and pay for cheap flights!


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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