This blog post was updated on April 9, 2020.

If you’ve been swiping away with your plastics, you’ll be glad to hear of the many ways travel rewards credit cards can help you save even more on trips. For starters, don’t be hesitant to use your travel credit card to buy things you already need, like gas and groceries. If you love to travel and don’t have a travel rewards credit card by now, you’re probably missing out on even more opportunities for adventure. All too often, these cards aren’t used properly, which can cost the user more money. So with that said, put your mistakes to rest!

Here are some of the most common mistakes associated with travel rewards credit cards and how to avoid them to get the most out of your card.

Not Using the Card for Everyday Purchases and Monthly Bills

Travel Credit Card Mistakes

To reap the rewards of a travel rewards credit card, you have to actually use it. You’re often missing out on free flights, hotel stays, and car rentals if you aren’t charging your everyday expenses and monthly bills. Since you have to pay your bills each month anyway, you might as well get something out of your grocery runs and cable bill. In addition to missing out on miles and points, consumers sometimes forget to use their card enough in the first few months to obtain the sign-up bonuses generally attached to them. Usually, you have to spend a certain amount within three months of opening up a new account. These bonuses are often the main advantage of travel rewards credit cards. Missing out on the thousands of miles and points can be a costly mistake.

Related: How You Can Use Credit Cards to See the World

Signing Up for a Card with a Steep Annual Fee and You Seldom Travel

One of the costliest mistakes you can make with a travel rewards credit card can occur the minute you apply. Many consumers just pick a travel credit card without really going over the fine print. Many cards have annual fees that vary in price, depending on how many benefits they yield. If you don’t travel often enough throughout the year, the annual fee isn’t always worth the cost. There are some cards without annual fees that might be a better fit for you. However, these tend to take longer until you acquire the benefits and miles you want. If you’re on the fence about annual fees, you can usually sign up for a card that waives the fee for the first year. That way you can test out the card, see how much you actually use it for travel, and then decide if the annual fee pays for itself with the rewards you get in return.

Keeping High Balances

Travel Credit Card Mistakes

As with any credit card, keeping a high balance month to month can be quite costly. However, with travel rewards credit cards, keeping a balance can be so costly that the miles and awards you acquire don’t cancel out all the interest you have to pay. Travel rewards credit cards often come with a high interest rate. Before you start charging up these cards, make sure you have the funds to pay them off each month. In essence, you should treat your rewards card like a debit card. Whatever you charge on it, you should pay immediately. You can also avoid costly interest payments by merely knowing your APR before you make purchases. Price out your bills and income and be sure you can appropriately pay off your balance each month.

Failing to Utilize All of Your Card’s Perks

Travel Credit Card Mistakes

Travel rewards credit cards aren’t just about accruing miles and points. Many also have other benefits that you might not even know they have. For example, your card might reimburse you for expenses if your luggage is lost or your flight is canceled. Other cards might cover your car rental insurance. If you’re paying for car rental insurance at the counter, you are often just tossing your money out the window. Before you charge a flight or car rental on your card, check to see what benefits throughout your trip are available to you. You could save a nice chunk of change merely by knowing what your credit card will cover.

Stack up your travel reward points by opening a CheapOair credit card today!

Paying Foreign Transaction Fees

It used to be the standard among credit card companies: they would charge a fee for each transaction made abroad. Today, most travel credit cards don’t charge a foreign transaction fee. If your card has one, you’re better off opening up ones without fees and closing the one with fees afterward. If you make a lot of purchases abroad in a year, these charges can quickly add up. Paying foreign transaction fees is generally avoidable if you select a card that doesn’t charge them.

Using Your Miles/Awards Last Minute

Travel Credit Card Mistakes

Mileage flights and awards come and go in the blink of an eye. Using the rewards or miles that you acquired from your travel rewards card to book cheap airfare could end up costing you if you wait around till the last minute. These tickets will cost more miles, taxes, and fees the longer you wait. Instead of being cautious or thinking that you’ll get a better deal if you wait, seize the day and book those mileage and award tickets as soon as you see a good deal.

Do you have a travel rewards credit card? What other mistakes have you made with these credit cards that ended up costing you in the end? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

About The Author

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at