Best credit cards to use on ski trips
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Skiing usually makes for an expensive family vacation, and some of the biggest purchases are lift tickets and lessons.
Although $35-plus daily lift tickets still exist out there at some smaller mountains, you can expect to spend at least $100 — to upward of $200 per day — on lift tickets at some of the most prominent mountain resorts in the U.S. One alternative to the hefty per-day costs is a multimountain season pass, such as the Epic or Ikon passes that cost $500 to $900-plus per adult per season.
Need ski school? That runs over $250 per day at major resorts and private lessons are several times that number.
Those are (very) painful numbers for most of us to swallow. The silver lining is that you can earn a whole lot of points on these big-ticket winter vacations with your rewards credit cards.
So, which card is the best one for your ski trip?
Bonus categories for lift tickets and lessons
Depending on how and where you buy your lift tickets and lessons, the purchases may code differently. Unfortunately, you won’t know how these purchases will code until the charges post. But to help you make an educated guess, here are some ski purchase examples from TPG staffers and readers:
Coded as entertainment
- Epic Pass.
- Mountain Collective season pass.
- Liftopia lift tickets.
- Breckenridge lift tickets and ski school.
- Keystone lift tickets, ski school and tubing.
- Heavenly ski school.
- Deer Valley lessons and tickets.
- Crotched Mountain lift ticket.
- Telluride lift ticket.
- Vail lift ticket.
Coded as travel
- Whitefish Mountain advance-purchase lift tickets.
- Tremblant lift tickets and rentals.
- Copper Mountain season pass and day lift ticket.
See what we mean by the absence of consistent purchase codes? This is harder than deciding between the Simba and Poppyfields runs at Vail.
Overall best credit card for ski charges
Since ski lift tickets and lessons tend to code either as travel or entertainment, your safest bet is to use a card that offers a flat rewards rate. For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card awards 2 miles per dollar on all purchases.
It’s also a pretty good card to use for all other purchases on the ground since you know you’ll always earn 2x. Capital One Venture miles are transferable to several hotel and airline partners and are currently valued by TPG at 1.85 cents each, giving you a solid return of 3.7%.
If you decide to opt for your Chase Sapphire Reserve and your ski charges post as travel or dining at 3 points per dollar, you could be looking at a return of 6% since Ultimate Rewards points are worth 2 cents each. But if your ski expenses don’t charge in those categories, and instead code as entertainment, you’ll earn just 1 point per dollar. And yes, that happened with me and a pricey Vail ticket when I charged it to my Sapphire Reserve.
Cards that offer bonus points on entertainment
If you know your ski charges will code as entertainment, the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card both offer bonus points on entertainment. Here are the two cards compared:
|Card||Sign-up bonus||Rewards rate||Annual fee|
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card||Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.||
|Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card||Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus once you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.||
The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Cards that offer bonus points on on-mountain meals and dining
When you are spending the day skiing or boarding, you will get hungry — very hungry. Sadly, on-mountain meals often come at a pretty steep markup (allow us to recommend the $5 pizza lunch special in Vail). But again, the small upside of higher prices is more points.
Although our results are not 100% consistent, most on-mountain dining usually codes as dining/food and drink. We have occasionally seen on-mountain meals code as general merchandise instead of dining, but for the most part, I’d use the card in your wallet that is best for dining. This may be the American Express® Gold Card with 4 points per dollar at restaurants or the Chase Sapphire Reserve with 3 points per dollar on dining.
Cards that offer bonus points on travel
If you know for sure a ski charge will post as travel (and that’s likely with bundled lodging and lift ticket packages), below are the best cards to use for that expense. Another idea to encourage your ski expenses to code as travel is to purchase your lift tickets or passes via Undercover Tourist. They don’t have all ski resorts available, but purchases on that site typically code as a travel charge — we often use them for Disney too.
|Card||Category bonus: Travel||Value of the rewards||Return (based on TPG’s valuations)||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||3x||2 cents||6 cents||$550|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred||2x||2 cents||4 cents||$95|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||2x||1 cent||2 cents (up to 3.5 cents with the Bank of America Premium Rewards program)||$95|
Other cards that offer bonus points for everyday spending
If you aren’t sure how a ski expense will code, using a card that is strong on everyday spending isn’t the worst plan.
|Card||Category bonus: All other purchases||Value of the rewards||Return (based on TPG’s valuations)||Annual fee|
|The Blue Business®️ Plus Credit Card from American Express||2x on the first $50,000 in purchases each calendar year, then 1x||2 cents||4 cents||$0 (see rates & fees)|
|Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card||1.5x||1 cent||1.5 cents (up to 2.25 cents with the Bank of America Premium Rewards program)||$95|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back!||2 cents (if you also have a premium Ultimate Rewards card)||3 cents (with a premium Ultimate Rewards card)||$0|
We found that the Capital One Venture Rewards is the overall best credit card for ski trips, thanks to its bonus points on all charges. Although most of our ski-related charges are coded as entertainment, your results may vary based on where you ski and where you purchase your lift tickets, ski school, etc. Of course, any necessary flights and lodging will likely code as travel, or better yet, use your miles and points to get you to the powder and then let your credit card do the rest.
Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Official application link: Capital One SavorOne
Official application link: Amex Gold
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Official application link: Bank of America Premium Rewards
Official application link: Amex Blue Business Plus
Official application link: Chase Freedom Unlimited
For rates and fees for the Blue Business Plus card, click here.
Featured photo by gladassfanny for Getty Images.
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