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Which Credit Cards Are Most Useful for a Summer Road Trip

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TPG readers Melissa & Augustine asked me at a recent TPG reader meetup:

“We’re taking a road trip and are wondering what the best credit cards are to use for last-minute hotels and similar expenses. We already have the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Amex Platinum; what other cards should we get?”

With gas prices really low, I bet there will be a lot of people taking road trips this summer. Melissa and Augustine, since you already have the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and the Amex Platinum, you’re starting off in great shape.

The Arrival Plus can help wipe all manner of road trip expenses from your statement. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The Arrival Plus is a great card to have for this kind of vacation. It’s useful for rental cars, last-minute hotels, tolls, and more, and you can simply pay for these expenses and then wipe them off your statement. You’re basically getting 2.2% back, because Barclaycard gives you a 10% rebate whenever you redeem points for travel.

I would definitely make sure that not just one of you, but both of you have that card, because right now there’s a 40,000 point sign-up bonus (after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days), which is worth about $440. If both of you earn the bonus, you can cover roughly $880 worth of travel expenses.

I’d also recommend the Capital One Venture Rewards credit card, as those points work similarly. It currently also has a 40,000 mile sign-up bonus (after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months), which is worth $400 when redeemed for travel. If both of you also get this card, you’ll have another $800 to work with, for a total of $1680. That will pay for a lot of tolls, hotels and other expenses along the way.

The Amex Platinum car offers premium car rental insurance, which is useful to have, but you could get the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (which also has primary auto insurance) and get the 40,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. You can also redeem for hotels through Chase travel at 1.25 cents per point (not the best redemption, but an option). Since all these cards come from different banks, you should be able to get all of them without a problem, and you can stockpile these bonuses for your summer vacation.

Have a wonderful trip!

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit