How to use credit cards wisely for a vacation budget

April 23, 2020

Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway with friends or an affordable vacation for a large family, your credit card can help you plan sustainably. 

Taking a break for a vacation can do wonders for your stress level, but the costs associated might not. With the right planning and smart use of your credit card, however, you can create a realistic travel budget so you can enjoy the fun of your vacation worry-free.


Take advantage of welcome offers

If you’re in the market for a new credit card, don’t apply until you’re ready to book your trip. Why? Because new cardholders typically get sign-up incentives and bonuses for spending a certain amount in the first couple of months. These perks could include cash back or a surplus of miles.

Let’s say your card’s welcome offer is $450 in travel redemption when you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases within four months of account opening. You could spend $2,000 on flights, then use the $450 reward for a hotel room, lowering the overall cost of your trip. 


Track spending and get rewards

Using a credit card specifically reserved for travel purchases, you can accurately track spending and stick to your vacation budget. Beyond the welcome offer, many credit cards offer rewards and discounts on every purchase made. It saves money during your trip and for future family vacations on a budget. For example, a U.S. Bank credit card may offer:

  • Cash rewards to help offset vacation expenses
  • Travel rewards that can be used for flights or hotels; and/or
  • Retail rewards to put toward new camping gear or sports equipment


Prepare for the unexpected

No matter how much you plan, surprise expenses can still pop up. So it’s a good idea to have a credit card that you can use for unexpected costs. (Think: last-minute ticket changes, replacement luggage, special souvenirs or spontaneous adventures.) You’ll also need a credit card to book any airlines, hotel rooms or travel company services.

Additionally, many travel rewards credit cards offer benefits, such as fraud protection, rental car insurance and travel insurance. While an emergency is unlikely, the coverage means you won’t pay out-of-pocket or blow your travel budget in worst-case scenarios.


Start saving for vacation early to improve your credit score

Using your credit card can improve your credit score if you pay your bills on time. Create a travel budget and start saving for vacation early. That way, as you take advantage of your credit card while on vacation, you're prepared to pay your bill when you get back. 

While it’s ideal to pay your bill in full every month, consider applying for a credit card with a 0 percent introductory APR. Doing this before booking your trip may allow you to spread travel costs over several months without paying any interest. It’s another way to help plan an affordable vacation for a large family.


Keep your credit card secure

Before you leave, be sure to call your bank and let them know when and where you plan to travel. Or, if you have a U.S. Bank account, set up travel notifications within the app. This helps guard against unnecessary fraud warnings or even a possible freeze on your account if the bank suspects misuse.

While traveling, it’s important to be on higher alert than usual for credit card thieves. Minimize the time your credit card is out of your wallet with contactless payments – functionality available via U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite cards. Retailers that accept contactless payments allow consumers to make purchases in seconds with the tap of a card. Or link any U.S Bank card with Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay for mobile payments on the go.  

Not only are credit cards great for planning family vacations on a budget – they can also provide invaluable benefits and perks while traveling. If you’re unsure which credit card is right for you, continue reading to find out how U.S. Bank credit cards can simplify your life and improve your financial planning skills.


Learn about our Mobile and Online Banking options with Digital Explorer, a quick and easy way to help you understand all you can do digitally at U.S. Bank.

Related content

Maximizing your infrastructure finance project with a full suite trustee and agent

Travel for less: Smart (not cheap) ways to spend less on your next trip

Consolidating debts: Pros and cons to keep in mind

LGBTQ+ retirement planning: What you need to know

Things to know about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Which debt management technique is right for you?

3 awkward situations Zelle can help avoid

How to build and maintain a solid credit history and score

How to build credit as a student

Evaluating interest rate risk creating risk management strategy

How to choose the right rewards credit card for you

Restaurant survey shows changing customer payment preferences

Helpful tips for safe and smart charitable giving

Should rising interest rates change your financial priorities?

Working after retirement: Factors to consider

6 pandemic money habits to keep for the long term

LGBTQ+ financial planning: 7 reasons why it matters

Authenticating cardholder data reduce e-commerce fraud

How to use credit cards wisely for a vacation budget

How having savings gives you peace of mind

Webinar: Mortgage basics: How much house can you afford?

These small home improvement projects offer big returns on investment

Credit: Do you understand it?

5 financial goals for the new year

Allowance basics for parents and kids

How to track your spending patterns

How to manage your money: 6 steps to take

Good debt vs. bad debt: Know the difference

Avoid these 6 common mistakes investors make

Using merchant technology manage limited staffing

What kind of credit card does my small business need?

5 unique ways to take your credit card benefits further

Dear Money Mentor: How do I begin paying off credit card debt?

30-day adulting challenge: Financial wellness tasks to complete in a month

The connection between your health and financial well-being

How to talk to your lender about debt

How to use your unexpected windfall to reach financial goals

5 myths about emergency funds

5 tips to help you land a small business loan

What military service taught me about money management

Improving your credit score: Truth and myths revealed

Money Moments: How to finance a home addition

Common unexpected expenses and three ways to pay for them

Estate planning for the LGBTQ+ community

Programme debt Q&A: U.S. issuers entering the European market

Leverage credit wisely to plug business cash flow gaps

Managing the rising costs of payment acceptance with service fees

How to use debt to build wealth

Streamline operations with all-in-one small business financial support

How I kicked my online shopping habit and got my spending under control

What’s a subordination agreement, and why does it matter?

What’s your financial IQ? Game-night edition

Understanding the true cost of borrowing: What is amortization, and why does it matter?

Which is better: Combining bank accounts before marriage — or after?

Does your savings plan match your lifestyle?

Do you and your fiancé have compatible financial goals?

What types of credit scores qualify for a mortgage?

Should you get a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit?

Webinar: Approaching international payment strategies in today’s unpredictable markets.

How to establish your business credit score

Increase working capital with Commercial Card Optimization

5 reasons why couples may have separate bank accounts

How to save money while helping the environment

Tips to overcome three common savings hurdles

Webinar: Uncover the cost: International trip

5 tips to use your credit card wisely and steer clear of debt

4 questions to ask before you buy an investment property

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Home renovation

Is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) right for you?

10 uses for a home equity loan

How to use your home equity to finance home improvements

Webinar: Mortgage basics: How does your credit score impact the homebuying experience?

11 essential things to do before baby comes

Webinar: Uncover the cost: Starting a family

Preparing for adoption and IVF

Everything you need to know about consolidating debts

5 steps to selecting your first credit card

7 steps to keep your personal and business finances separate

Know your debt-to-income ratio

Your quick guide to loans and obtaining credit

How to spot a credit repair scam

Myth vs. truth: What affects your credit score?

Test your loan savvy

Should you give your child a college credit card?

U.S. Bank asks: What do you know about credit?

6 essential credit report terms to know

What applying for store credit card on impulse could mean

What is a good credit score?

How to improve your credit score

Decoding credit: Understanding the 5 C’s

5 tips to use your credit card wisely and steer clear of debt

Luxembourg's thriving private debt market

Private equity and the full-service administrator

How liquid asset secured financing helps with cash flow

Top 3 considerations when selecting an IPA partner

Webinar: Cash management strategies for higher education

Hybridization driving demand

How to maximise your infrastructure finance project

Can you take advantage of the dead equity in your home?

Business credit card 101

Do I need a credit card for my small business?

How to establish your business credit score

How to accept credit cards online

The surprising truth about corporate cards

What type of loan is right for your business?

Webinar: A closer look at U.S. Bank AP Optimizer

Start of disclosure content

Loan approval is subject to credit approval and program guidelines. Not all loan programs are available in all states for all loan amounts. Interest rate and program terms are subject to change without notice. Mortgage, home equity and credit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Deposit products are offered by U.S. Bank National Association. Member FDIC.