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If You Absolutely Have to Finance a Family Trip, This Card May Be Right for You

Oct. 15, 2018
5 min read
If You Absolutely Have to Finance a Family Trip, This Card May Be Right for You
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The average household spent $2,076 on vacations in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey. No doubt you can squeeze in a quality trip for a family of four at that price, but it won't be easy or realistic to come in at or below that number in some cases.

Airfare for four to a place like Hawaii, for example, can cost $1,300 or more round-trip — and that's only when a pretty extraordinary offer comes along. Even if you have more modest destinations in mind, or you're willing to make it a road trip, the cost of traveling adds up fast, especially if you don't have many points and miles saved up to help defer the cost. The typical household spends more than $500, for example, on hotels for out-of-town travel each year. And, if you're traveling to a place like Walt Disney World, entry to just one park costs $100 or more a day per person. Talk about a budget-buster.

All of this to say family vacations can be expensive, and while we at TPG preach against never carrying a balance on a credit card, when you're planning your ideal family trip, you may be forced to decide between breaking a rule points-and-miles collectors hold dear, and not taking the vacation you want. What absolutely doesn't make sense is to rack up thousands of miles to pay for your vacay, only to have those rewards get swallowed by finance charges of 16% or more per year.

There is a way you can build your dream vacation and actually take it, too — if you can stick to a repayment plan that will cost you no interest and allow you to enjoy the full benefits of the rewards you earn. Ideally you have the money in hand before you book a trip, but sometime life gives you small windows to act, and you make the finances work or miss your window. You can't easily employ this strategy of charge now and pay-back later with the best travel rewards credit cards, because most don't offer a 0% introductory offer, and the ones that do offer a relatively short intro window.

If your window to travel doesn't align with your budget, look to a card with a 0% intro APR. (photo by Flytographer)

Enter Discover it Miles which earns 1.5 miles per dollar and matches all of your earnings at the end of your first year of card ownership, making this a card that essentially earns a 3% return (once miles earned the first year are matched). A free payoff plan, rewards and no annual fee? Sign us up.

As for redemption on the Miles card, each mile is worth 1 cent as a statement credit toward qualifying travel expenses or good for cash as an electronic deposit to your bank account. Eligible travel purchases must have been recorded on your statement within the last 180 days and include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites, commuter transportation and much more.

Sometimes, the time to make memories is now. (Image courtesy of Getty Images)

You'll have to make sure you have a plan in place to pay off that vacation bill (and not add any additional debt) during the intro period in order to avoid finance charges. But it can be done with a little budgeting and some back-of-the-envelope math. Say you put $5,000 on your card to pay for your family's trip. You'll need to pay $357 a month to ensure you have that bill paid in full by the end of the 14-month 0% introductory period.

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Now compare that with the interest you'd accrue without an intro offer. At 16% APR, you'd pay more than $500 in interest over the course of 14 months on that same charge, if that's how long it took you to repay your debt. That's a down payment on your next vacation — and $350 more than the rewards you earned for booking your vacation on a card that will ultimately give you 3% in rewards once all of your miles at matched at the end of the first year.

In most situations we aren't supporters of creating debt to take a vacation, but sometimes life doesn't always operate in a sequential order.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees