Scared by that $450 annual fee or not impressed by hype? Don’t blame you. Chase also offers the less-daunting Sapphire Preferred card, which also offers an impressive range of cardholder benefits (including decent travel insurance!), for $0 the first year and $95 every year after that.
One of the easiest credit cards for redeeming travel rewards is Capital One’s Venture Rewards card ($0 for the first year, $59 annually after that), which allows you to redeem points on any airline, at any hotel chain, on meals, car services, you name it. This is the no-brainer pick for anyone who has better things to do at night than study rewards policies -- and there’s even a pared-down, totally annual fee-free option VentureOne Rewards version.
Of course, the key to all these sweet credit cards is having a killer credit rating -- so if you can’t make minimum payments or you’re always late, pull yourself together before anything else. But if your credit is on solid ground, the opportunities are pretty endless for cashing in on card travel rewards -- especially if you’re uncompromisingly loyal to a particular airline or hotel chain. If you want to get truly obsessive over gaming the system, you can always open up a handful of various rewards credit cards to cash in on their sign-up bonuses, then cancel before ever having to pay an annual fee. (Personally, I’d say leave this to the pros -- too much trouble!)
Once you do settle on these largely one-time decisions for the right debit and credit cards for you, you’ll thank yourself. Because really, what you’re left with is more money for actual traveling -- and who can argue with that?