Book Award-Winning Excursions and Tours with These Travel Rewards Cards

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Earlier this year, TripAdvisor came out with a highlighting the most popular excursions and tours booked throughout 2017, other travel trends.

Some of the most popular travel experiences booked last year include a skip-the-line pass for the Vatican Museums, St. Peters, and the Sistine Chapel; a Chicago River Architecture Cruise; and a skip-the-line walking tour of Ancient Rome that included the Colosseum. Other tours at the top of travelers’ lists included the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Eiffel Tower, and the Empire State Building.

Still, cultural categories like “food tours, cooking classes, and historical and heritage experiences” experienced huge growth in 2017, according to TripAdvisor. This just goes to show that, when it comes to travel, it’s not just about getting to your destination; it’s about experiencing everything it has to offer, including new foods and culinary techniques and iconic cultural landmarks.

How to Book Award-Winning Excursions and Tours with Rewards

Now, here’s something you may not know — you can book many excursions and day trips (including all categories mentioned above) with credit card rewards. Depending on the program your rewards card belongs to, you may be able to book excursions through a credit card travel portal or book them yourself and redeem statement credits to cover the expense.

If you want to save money on travel (who doesn’t?), getting your excursions covered with rewards is a smart move. Here are some top strategies to try:

Book Excursions through Chase Ultimate Rewards

One of my favorite ways to pay for excursions and day trips with rewards involves utilizing the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. This portal lets you book hotels and flights you can find on similar search engines like Expedia, but it also offers tours and excursions.

While you can’t find every excursion or day trip offered online, the “activities” offerings from Chase Ultimate Rewards closely track what you’ll find on Viator.com. The best part is, you can book these excursions directly with points. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you even get 25% more travel when you book with points. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, that benefit surges to 50% more travel.

Here’s a good example of how this works. You know that skip-the-line Vatican tour with entry into St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel — the one that was the most popular excursion booked in all of 2017?

You can book this walking tour for $45.56 per adult through Viator.com:

If you have a premier Chase travel credit card, however, you can book this tour with rewards instead. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the ability to get 50% more travel when you book with points, you can book this excursion for 3,053 points per person, which is an absolute steal.

Another example is a day trip I booked this summer out of Praiano, Italy. Myself, my husband, our two kids, and my brother wanted to go to the Isle of Capri for the day. We considered taking the ferry, but weren’t sure we wanted to take public transportation to nearby Positano and back to catch it. We also wanted to take a boat trip around the island, which isn’t possible if you take the regular ferry. A private boat captain for the day was also considered, although the $1,000+ price tag quickly squashed that idea.

Ultimately, we chose to book this day trip that’s offered through Viator:

While the price offered through the Chase portal was slightly higher, the price in points (free) made it extremely reasonable. Since a slight discount was offered for children, I wound up paying 29,170 points for the five of us. That obviously beats out paying almost $500 in cash through Viator!

Obviously, these aren’t the only excursions offered through Chase. My family has booked everything from vegan food tours to snorkeling excursions and even multi-day trips. If you have points with Chase and want to save on travel other than airfare and hotels, these excursions generally offer a good redemption value.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card


Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®


Highlights
  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a 'Best Travel Credit Card for 2017' by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Plus, no foreign transaction fees
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

Pick Up a Travel Credit Card that Offers Flexible Travel Credit

If you don’t have a Chase travel card or prefer to squirrel away your points for superior airfare redemptions, don’t despair. There are other cards you can use to pay for excursions, and some would even say these cards are a better choice for this type of travel.

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is ideal for excursions. This card doles out 2x miles for each dollar you spend along with a huge signup bonus. The kicker is, you can redeem your miles for any travel experience you want, whether you book a tour through or through a travel discount website like . The only requirement is that the tour codes as travel on your credit card statement.

Your miles can be redeemed for one cent each, making 50,000 miles worth $500 in travel. You use your card to book any excursion you want, then use your miles to remove the expense from your credit card bill. It’s as simple as that.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card


Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • New! Earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels when you pay with your Venture card at hotels.com/venture; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Another card to consider in this realm is the Discover it® Miles. This card lets you earn 1.5 miles for each dollar you spend. However, Discover promises to double all the rewards you earn during your first year. You can redeem your miles for statement credits to cover travel purchases, which makes this card ideal for excursions.

Discover it® Miles


Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles.
  • Unlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases, every day, with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No Annual Fee.

Use Cash-Back to Book Day Trips and Excursions

Finally, don’t forget that you can redeem cash-back rewards for any type of travel you want — including excursions. There are many instances where earning cash-back is advantageous, and this includes the fact that not everyone wants to jump through the hoops created by many of the biggest rewards programs.

Cash-back is simple, and you can often earn 2% back or more with the best cash-back credit cards. Personally, I think that the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a solid cash-back option for travel since you can pair it with a premier Chase travel card for better redemption options. This card also gives you 1.5% cash back for each dollar you spend with no rotating categories to keep track of. Best of all, it has no annual fee.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®


Highlights
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of . Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at . 

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