Spend and save - credit cards for discounted travel

With a seemingly never-ending economic downturn on our hands, getting away to sunshine, sea and sand probably isn't a top priority for many Brits. But there are ways and means in which you can earn yourself a little break, simply while paying for those everyday bits and pieces.

Credit cards with travel discounts

Pic: Getty

So if you fancy a discounted holiday this year, check out these credit card offers that enable you to spend and save for a well-earned break.

For big spenders
While you might question the need for a discounted holiday if you're a big spender, anyone considering a major purchase in the next few months would be well advised to think about signing up for an American Express Preferred Rewards Gold charge card.

For each pound you spend, you'll receive one Membership Reward point, which can be put towards flights, hotels, package deals, car hire, or even transferred to other travel bonus schemes such as Avios (previously Airmiles). Get your application in sharpish and you'll benefit from 20,000 points if you spend £2,000 in the first three months (provided your annual household income exceeds £20,000), hence the big purchase question. On the plus side, at present you won't have to pay the £125 annual Amex membership fee - just remember to pay off the full balance each month and don't forget to cancel after the first year.

Happy shoppers
If you're a regular at either Tesco or Sainsbury's, you're probably well aware of their respective loyalty rewards schemes. But both also offer a credit card.

The Tesco Clubcard for Purchases credit card, for example, allows you to collect Clubcard points on whatever your purchase, while also acting as a standard Clubcard, giving you a Tesco shopping boost. These can then be exchanged for vouchers (often at three to four times their original value) and used to sizeable discounts on travel, or converted to Avios points, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles or Eurotunnel tokens.

Similarly, Sainsbury's Nectar credit card awards 10 Nectar points for every pound spend in Sainsbury's up to a maximum of 10,000 points each month, at least for a limited period. Thereafter you'll bag four points for each pound spent at the supermarket - save up your points and you can redeem them for discounts on easyJet flights, Eurostar fares and more.

Bank on a bargain
The major banks have also latched onto the rewards idea, with each awarding points on various schemes.

The Lloyds TSB Duo Avios credit card, for instance, supplies you with two cards - an Amex and a MasterCard for places and purchases that don't accept the former. With one Avios point for each pound spend on your Amex card, and one for every £5 on the MasterCard, you'll quickly rack up a fair total. Furthermore, spend £500 a month for the first three months, and you'll benefit from a 15,000-point Avios bonus - equivalent to a return flight to Western Europe.

Natwest and RBS offer a similarly rewarding card, the YourPoints World MasterCard, which awards one point for every pound spent on the card, with a bonus of 2,500 when you apply, double points for the first nine months, and a further 2,500 if you stick with them for another year. These points can be redeemed for discounts on easyJet flights, as well as hotels, holidays and flights purchase from ebookers.

Airline bonuses
Once the domain of BA and other airline giants, even the budget flight operators are getting in on the credit card action these days. Flybe's card might seem a poor alternative to the aforementioned rewards schemes, awarding just one Rewards4All point for each £250 you spend on the card. But a total of just 16 points affords you a return economy flight to a UK or Irish destination, while 24 will bag you a flight to Europe.

And unsurprisingly, Ryanair boasts its own credit card and reward scheme, offering free flights for your spending loyalty. But it could be worth taking advantage because a total of just £100 spent in the first 90 days will see a return flight voucher landing on your doormat, and if you spend a further £3,000 in a six-month period you'll get two vouchers.
Of course, any credit card can end up being a nightmare if you spend more than you can pay back so don't be too hasty to max out your debts. The APRs on all of the above are reasonably high, so you'll need to pay off the balance each month to really reap the rewards benefits. And it's also worth bearing in mind that while your flights might be free, the majority do not include taxes or charges, so do read the small print before signing up.

Have you taken advantage of any travel-related rewards credit cards? Leave your comments below...
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