By Stephanie Miller


5 Min. To Read

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If you’re taking any trips this summer – whether back home to see the grandparents or halfway across the world – there are a lot of things to consider. You need to plan how you’ll travel, where you’ll stay, and whether you need trip insurance. One thing you don’t really need to worry about, though, is whether to use cash or credit. The answer is pretty easy when you’re traveling: you should be using a credit card as much as possible.

There are a number of reasons why plastic is smarter than cash on your next trip, though. Let’s look at when, and why, it makes sense to leave the dollar bills behind.

-The Benefits

Before you ever hit the road, your credit card is a wise choice. Whether you’re booking a flight, reserving a hotel room, or planning for a rental car, your rewards-based credit card should be your go-to.

First and foremost, you’ll earn rewards on the things you book. Travel credit cards will net you extra points for airfare, hotel expenses, bus fares, and even rental cars. You can even earn a higher rate back on thing like meals on-the-go, depending on your card.

If you have select cards in the Chase family, you can use your existing points to book hotels, cars, flights, and even experiences through the Ultimate Rewards portal. You’ll save money and get to utilize the points you already have, helping you keep your vacation within your budget.

Many credit cards today also offer travel protections that will keep you and your belongings safe. Delayed or cancelled flight? Baggage held up overnight or lost? Need to cancel a trip altogether due to a hurricane? Your credit card might have you covered. In fact, my little brother just flew to DC to visit me on an award flight. On the way, his bag was lost and not found for 16 hours.

Since I paid the flight’s taxes and fees on my Sapphire Preferred card, Chase paid out $100 for him to grab toiletries and a change of clothes in the interim. Imagine if you were traveling overseas and had the same thing happen – it would be great to have a card step in and cover the expenses involved!

-The Convenience

If you’re in a foreign country, you’ll need to worry about the local currency. While some shops will still accept American dollars, you can often wind up paying more for the same items in the process. If you are in a restaurant or shop that doesn’t take USD, you’ll need to either pay in converted currency or use your credit card.

This is where the right travel card comes into play.

Using a credit card while traveling allows you to pay as you usually would, without having to convert (and track) foreign money. Your credit card company will convert the charge to USD for you. If you have any number of travel credit cards, though, they’ll even do this for free, as opposed to charging the average 3% foreign transaction fee.

If you use a card with no foreign transaction fees, you can spend the same as you normally would, without any added inconvenience or expense.

-The Protection

Traveling can be worrisome. You’re away from home, and you’re only one lost wallet or stolen bag away from a ruined trip. If you are carrying money around, you’ll be out of luck if it is lost or stolen. Pay in cash for an item or experience that turns out to be a bust, and you won’t have any recourse. Not to mention, it can be hard to track how much you spent and where, if you’re paying in cash.

With a credit card, you will have more protections for your spending.

If your bag or wallet is stolen, you can call your issuer to have the card shut down. If any unauthorized purchases are made, you won’t be held liable. Plus, you can have a replacement card expedited to you.

If your cash had been stolen? It would be long gone and there would be nothing you could do about it.

If you pay for an item and are overcharged, it turns out to be a scam, or you don’t get what you ordered, your credit card company can step in to help. Between purchase protection and the option of a charge-back, you won’t have to worry about being duped on vacation when using the right card.

-When to Use Cash

There are a few times that using cash on vacation makes sense. If you don’t feel that you can stay on budget whilst using a credit card, then by all means: use cash. You won’t be as protected and won’t have the conveniences offered by paying with plastic, but that’s still better than going into debt on a trip.

It’s also smart to keep some cash on hand, no matter what. That way, you always have an option in case you need to give someone a tip, pay a street vendor, or simply have quick access to funds in case of an emergency.

No matter where your travels take you, the right credit card can make the process easier, cheaper, and can even give you an added peace of mind. The protections and benefits offered by some issuers can make your vacation that much better.

There are a number of reasons why plastic is smarter to use than cash on your next trip. Let’s look at when, and why, it makes sense to leave the dollar bills behind.

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