July Is Park and Recreation Month — Here’s How to Maximize Your Credit Card for Road Trips
Summer means one thing for some: road trip! And there’s something to be said for heading somewhere new, enjoying the warm air whipping through your hair and singing your favorite songs. But the road-trip experience doesn’t come cheap, so you’ll want to minimize the costs.
You can start by maximizing your credit cards. Make sure you’re taking full advantage of discounts, rewards points and any other perks your cards offer.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of credit cards on the road as we head into July’s Park and Recreation Month.
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No. 1: Look into rewards credit cards
If you have a gas credit card that gives you discounts on what you pay per gallon, that can be excellent for a road trip. Even though gas prices are generally lower in 2023 than in 2022, they’re still significantly higher than in 2018 or 2019. Bonus: Pairing this approach with an app like GasBuddy (which shows you the cheapest stations along your route) can stretch that dollar even further.
Other rewards credit cards can help you make back some of what you spend — not just travel- or car-oriented rewards cards.
These cards can help with everything from hotels or other accommodation costs to car or RV rentals — and even road snacks. You just have to look at your credit cards and see which ones will provide the best perks or cash back rewards for your expected expenses, and then prioritize those cards during your trip.
No. 2: Take advantage of sign-up bonuses if possible
“Many credit cards will give you $100 or more as a sign-up bonus after you meet minimum spending requirements on a new card,” Schulz says. “That can be a great way to extend your road trip budget, especially if you’ve already saved some cash to pay for your trip.”
Since you’re expecting to spend a certain amount of money on your upcoming road trip anyway, getting a new card beforehand can be a simple way to meet the spending requirements needed to score these bonuses.
The key is to have an established road trip budget that comes out of cash you already have. That way, you won’t have to worry about racking up thousands of dollars of credit card debt and wiping out that bonus.
No. 3: Use caution when signing up for new cards
Schulz says it’s important to shop around for the right card for you. While we highlighted specific rewards credit cards earlier, one type that’s better for someone else may not be better for you. For example, Schulz says it can be a mistake to sign up for a specific brand’s gas credit card before traveling.
Another consideration here is that applying for a new card will impact your credit, even if you plan on paying off the balance as you go. That’s because new credit makes up 10% of a FICO Score. If you have a few credit inquiries on your credit report, it can be good to hold off on any new applications until one of those stops impacting your credit. (For reference, that generally takes a year.)
In addition, always make sure you can handle your existing bills before you take on new debt.