Best Credit Cards for Travel

South Africa, a nation teeming with scenic beauty, wildlife, and diverse cultures, has experienced a noteworthy upsurge in its residents seeking the thrill of both domestic and international travel. Alongside this trend, travel-centric credit cards have become a traveller’s best companion. But what makes a credit card tailored for travellers so alluring? And with so many options, how do you discern which card suits your globetrotting aspirations?

Key Takeaways

  • Maximising Rewards: Incorporating travel credit cards into daily expenses can accelerate reward accumulation. Redeeming during offers and leveraging card partnerships can further amplify benefits.
  • Avoiding Pitfalls: While travel cards offer lucrative rewards, avoiding high-interest rates and hidden fees is crucial. Diversification, i.e., not over-relying on one card, can optimise benefits across various categories.
  • Other Reward Systems: Beyond travel rewards, there are cash-back cards, points-based cards, and hybrids that offer diverse benefits tailored to different spending habits.
  • Credit Score Importance: Maintaining a healthy credit score can unlock better card offers, higher credit limits, and more attractive interest rates.

The rise of travel-centric credit cards in South Africa

With South Africans being more adventurous than ever, financial institutions have identified this insatiable wanderlust as an opportunity. The last decade saw a significant increase in credit cards that cater to travel expenses and reward the user for each Rand spent.

Why choosing the right travel credit card matters

A credit card might just seem like another tool to facilitate your transactions, but pick the right one, and it could be your gateway to remarkable savings and premium travel experiences. From complimentary flights to exclusive lounge access, the perks can elevate your travel experience.

What is a Travel Credit Card?

The Basics of Travel Credit Cards

What is a Travel Credit Card?

Distinguished from its standard counterparts, a travel credit card is designed primarily for those bitten by the travel bug. It offers rewards, commonly in the form of points or air miles, for purchases made on the card. These rewards can subsequently be redeemed for travel-related benefits, making your next holiday lighter on the pocket.

How do Travel Rewards Work?

For every purchase you make on your card, you earn points. The beauty lies in the conversion of these points. Depending on the card and the partner institutions, these points can be exchanged for airline tickets, hotel stays, or car rentals. Some cards even offer multiplier points on specific travel-related expenses, amplifying your rewards even quicker.

Benefits of Using Travel Credit Cards

Air Miles and Their Value

Air miles are often the star attraction of travel credit cards. Imagine being rewarded for spending. Each purchase inches you closer to a discounted or even free flight. Over time, these miles can accumulate, leading to significant savings, especially for frequent flyers.

Travel Insurance Coverage

Journeying abroad often comes with its set of uncertainties. Travel credit cards frequently offer complimentary insurance coverage, ensuring that mishaps like lost luggage or flight cancellations don’t dampen your spirit or drain your finances.

Access to Airport Lounges

Picture this: a long layover and you reclining in a plush lounge with complimentary snacks and Wi-Fi. Several travel credit cards grant you exclusive access to airport lounges worldwide, adding a touch of luxury to your travels.

No Foreign Transaction Fees

One often overlooked benefit is the absence of foreign transaction fees. This means the exchange rate won’t incur additional charges when you shop abroad, allowing for a more seamless shopping experience overseas.

Picking the Right Travel Credit Card

Assessing Your Travel Patterns

Before diving into the ocean of options, reflect on your travel habits. Are you an occasional holidaymaker or a business traveller? Your travels’ frequency, destinations, and nature can guide your choice.

Understanding the Card’s Reward System

Dive deep into how the card rewards you. Does it offer more points for hotel stays than flights? Is there an expiry on these points? Grasping these nuances can significantly impact your rewards in the long run.

Reading the Fine Print: Hidden Costs and Limitations

While the allure of rewards is enticing, it’s crucial to be wary of hidden costs. Annual fees, high-interest rates, or redemption limitations can sometimes offset the benefits. Always be thorough in your research.

Card's Reward System

How to Maximise Your Travel Rewards

Earning rewards is delightful, but maximising them is an art. Here’s how you can be the Picasso of travel rewards.

Regular Spending and Bonuses

Incorporate your travel card into daily expenses. Monthly groceries or a coffee run can inch you closer to bonuses and, eventually, free flights or stays. Some cards also offer sign-up bonuses — many points just for joining their family.

Redeeming Air Miles Efficiently

Don’t just spend miles; spend them wisely. Redeem during sales or special offers. Sometimes, booking round trips or using partner airlines can stretch the value of your miles.

Taking Advantage of Card Partnerships

Frequent collaborations between card companies and travel brands result in special deals. Whether it’s a hotel stay, car rental, or spa day, partner deals can amplify your rewards.

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Potential Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Rewards come with responsibilities. Here’s what to watch out for and how to sidestep these hurdles.

Avoiding High-Interest Rates

Paying your bill in full monthly can keep the looming shadow of interest rates at bay. Never overspend to earn rewards; the interest might outweigh the benefits.

Steering Clear of Hidden Fees

Regularly review the card’s terms and conditions. Some cards have sneaky fees, like those for inactivity or exceeding the limit. Knowledge is your best shield.

Not Over-relying on One Credit Card

Diversify your wallet. Using multiple cards can help you optimise rewards across different spending categories.

Comparing Travel Credit Cards with Other Reward Systems

Travel credit cards are mesmerising, but more stars are in the credit card universe.

Cash Back Credit Cards: A straightforward approach: spend and get a percentage back as cash. These cards offer tangible, immediate rewards.

Points-based Credit Cards: Similar to travel cards but more generic. Points can be redeemed for a range of goods, not just travel-related.

Hybrid Reward Systems: These cards are the chameleons, offering both cash back and points. Perfect for those who like to keep their options open.

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Keeping Your Credit Score Healthy

Your credit score is like your financial report card. Here’s how to ace it.

Benefits of a Good Credit Score: A sterling score can open doors to higher credit limits, lower interest rates, and even better rewards.

Tips for Maintaining a Positive Score: Consistency is key. Timely payments, low credit utilisation, and a long credit history can bolster your score.

How Applying for Multiple Cards Can Impact Your Score: Every application can cause a slight dip in your score. So, be selective and space out your applications.


Navigating the world of travel credit cards in South Africa is akin to embarking on an exciting journey. As we’ve explored, the landscape is rich with options, each card offering unique features and rewards. From maximising benefits to understanding the nuances of maintaining a robust credit score, it’s clear that the right choices can transform every Rand spent into a step closer to your dream destination. Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or just dipping your toes into the vast ocean of travel opportunities, there’s a card out there waiting to be your perfect travel companion.


What is a travel credit card? 

A travel credit card is designed specifically to offer rewards and benefits related to travel. This can include air miles, hotel stays, or other travel-related perks.

How do travel credit card rewards work? 

Typically, you earn a certain number of points or miles for every Rand you spend using the card. Once accumulated, these can be redeemed for flights, hotel bookings, or other travel-related expenses.

Are there any hidden fees associated with travel credit cards? 

Some cards might have fees like those for inactivity or exceeding the limit. It’s essential to read the card’s terms and conditions to understand any associated costs.

How can I maximise the benefits of my travel credit card? 

By incorporating your card into daily expenses, redeeming air miles during offers, and taking advantage of card partnerships, you can get the most out of your card’s benefits.

Is it harmful to my credit score if I apply for multiple travel credit cards? 

Each application can cause a minor dip in your credit score. It’s advisable to be selective and space out applications.

How much do you need?
*Representative example: Estimated repayments of a loan of R30,000 over 36 months at a maximum interest rate including fees of 27,5% APR would be R1,232.82 per month.

Loan amount R100 - R250,000. Repayment terms can range from 3 - 72 months. Minimum APR is 5% and maximum APR is 60%.