Going on vacation can be the perfect way to relax, explore, and spend some much-needed time with loved ones. I love traveling and taking trips, but I won’t put vacation on a credit card if I can’t afford it.
According to Value Penguin, the average family spends $4,700 per year on vacations. Still, the fact that nearly half of Americans can’t afford a $1,000 emergency may cause you to wonder how people are affording such vacations.
Putting your vacation on a credit card or taking out a small loan may seem like a tempting idea, but it usually isn’t worth it. Here are 4 reasons why you shouldn’t put your vacation on a credit card along with what to do instead.
High Interest Rates
The biggest reason why you shouldn’t put your vacation on a credit card is because of the expensive interest charges. These could easily make a $3,000 trip worth $5,000 (depending on how long it takes to pay off the balance) when you put it on a credit card. Paying credit card interest can also delay any future trips you want to take.
Your Credit Score Can Decrease
If you can’t make regularly payments on your credit card, you may incur late fees and your credit score will decrease.
Your credit score can also decrease if you have a high utilization rate. Say you only have a $6,000 limit on one of your credit cards but you spend $5,000 on a trip overseas.
That brings your utilization rate to a whopping 83% of your credit card limit. Normally, your overall utilization should not exceed 30%.
Risk of Overspending
A few years ago, I put a cruise on a credit card, and it was definitely a stressful trip. We brought a little cash with us, but quickly blew through it and we were tempted to spend on a credit card.
When you travel, it’s already common to feel the urge to spend a little more recklessly than you normally would. By putting an entire trip on a credit card, it becomes that much easier to overspend and forego your budget.
Less Long-Term Enjoyment
As with any type of debt, the joy and excitement of what you financed eventually wears off once your stuck with monthly bills. Your vacation should be a time to put your worries aside and enjoy yourself.
How can you do what when you’re borrowing the money for the trip and will need to start paying it back as soon as you return?
If anything, this is why you shouldn’t put your vacation on a credit card. It will end up give you more stress and discomfort than relief. Plus, it’s more costly.
Instead of financing your trip, do these things instead.
How to Afford a Vacation Without Credit Cards or Other Debt
Start a Vacation Savings Fund
Once you know where you want to vacation, estimate the costs you’ll incur then start saving in a vacation fund. Choose a high-yield savings account, and make automatic transfers regularly.
Aim to start your fund at least 8 to 12 months in advance so you’ll have enough time to prepare your finances for the vacation. If you’re planning a smaller trip, saving for at least 6 months is fine as well.
Get on a Budget
Travel doesn’t have to be expensive for everyone. It’s all about choices and aligning your spending. If you rearrange your priorities and get on a budget, you can adjust your spending to free up more money to save and spend on vacations.
Track your expenses so you know where your money is going, and see if you can reduce or cut out any unwanted expenses.
Plan Out Expenses For Your Trip
I love planning trips as they allow me a way to estimate expenses and determine how much money we’ll actually need.
Do some research and find out how much flights and transportation will cost along with lodging, food, and other activities. Don’t forget about hidden expenses as well. For example, when my family and I go on cruises, we like to purchase some of the pictures that the photographer takes of us onboard the ship.
At first, this ended up being an unexpected expense, but now we can plan for it.
Once you know what your expenses are, you can better target your savings goals.
Consider Using Credit Card Rewards
Now that we know why you shouldn’t put your vacation on a credit card, know that it’s still okay to utilize credit card reward points so long as you don’t carry a balance.
I have a few credit cards that offer cash back and reward points for regular spending. I pay the balances on my credit cards off in full each month so I pay no interest and still reap the rewards.
I’ve been able to use cash back rewards to help me cover the cost of food and ride share trips during my vacation. I’ve also use some of the reward points to score free and discounted flights along with cheap hotel stays.
Don’t Borrow the Money to Travel
Vacationing can be a blast, but if you can’t afford to pay for a particular trip without borrowing money, see if you can postpone it to allow yourself enough time to save.
Or, commit to taking smaller, domestic trips that you can afford to pay for in cash. Either way, you’ll save money and you’ll still get your well-deserved time off for vacation.