Travel Credit Cards

The 3 Best Travel Credit Cards & Travel Debit Cards

When I was younger, I was taught that credit cards were bad.

When actually, it turns out that spending like an idiot is bad.
AND buying flights with cash/debit cards is the REAL way to spend like an idiot. 
 
Don’t spend $500-$1600 on a plane ticket and get nothing in return! 
Repeat after Me: Never pay cash for airplane tickets or hotels.
If travel is a part of your life now OR you want to go on the best trips for solo travelers next year – you need to apply for the best travel credit cards ASAP.
This isn’t clickbait. This is my true, honest, urgent advice for any person that wants to travel more and spend less. 
 
For example; if you buy a $500 plane ticket with American Express, you’ve now got 25,000 travel miles – which equals a free one-way ticket to Thailand or free hotels while on your trip. 
Get it?
 
Your spending directly converts to travel points. 
Besides travel points, these travel cards come with powerful travel benefits like this…
 
  • Airport Lounge Access around the World
  • TSA Pre-Check
  • Miles and Points Used for Free Flights
  • Free Hotel Upgrades
  • Business Class Upgrades on Flights
  • Insurance (Purchase Protection) on Gadgets
  • Coverage on Lost Baggage & Delayed Flights
  • $200 of Free Uber Credits

Ya’ll, I could keep going.

Let’s just get into it and I’ll show you how to travel like solo female traveler queen (or king, hey!).

This is how I travel every month for pennies. 

 

Best Travel Credit Cards

If you’re not cashing in on travel points when buying flights, staying at hotels, and eating at restaurants…you crazy.

Here are the credit cards I use every day AND for all of my solo female travel trips…

 

#1 – Chase Sapphire Preferred 

Best for Overall Travel, both Domestic and International, and for Everyday Spending

 

  • 2x points when used on flights, hotels, Uber, AirBnb, and restaurants
  • Trip Cancelation Coverage (weather, sickness and other causes)
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Purchase Protection Insurance on items purchased with your Chase card
  • Primary Rental Car built-in insurance
  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus (that’s enough for a 1-way ticket to Asia) after spending $3k in the first 3 months

How Much: No sign-up fee and free for the first year. 

I use this card for everything in America, online, and abroad.

AND when I was in Indonesia, my phone was stolen at a bar. But because I bought my phone with my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the full amount was totally covered and back in my bank account within a week.

Travel girls, take note from my situation: Solo trips for women require a safety net when things go wrong – and Chase Sapphire travel credit card acts as your safety net.

This is my referral link. When you use it, I get 15k points. Let me know if you do, so I can thank you!

 

#2 – American Express Platinum 

The Most Powerful Travel (and Every day) Credit Card Ever

 

American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card

  • 5x points on flights and hotels
  • $200 in Uber Credits per year
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit per year (aka money back)
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • TSA Pre-Check / Global Entry
  • Airport Lounge Global Access with Priority Pass
  • Elite Status with Hilton and Marriott
  • Purchase Protection Insurance on gadgets purchased with this card
  • Trip Cancelation Coverage (weather, sickness and other causes)
  • 60,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $5k in the first 3 months

How Much: $495 per year…BUT BEFORE YOU PASS realize that your $200 Uber Credit + $200 travel reimbursement takes that down to $95 per year…which is more than made up for with free alcohol & food in airport lounges and those 60,000 travel points.

This is my referral link for American Express. When you use it, I get 15k points. Let me know if you do, so I can thank you, again!

Note: AMEX is best used for flights, hotels, and all online tour bookings/shopping – but isn’t accepted in stores in Asia.


Best Travel Debit Card

#3 – Charles Schwab Brokerage Account

Did you know that foreign ATM fees can charge as much as $8 per transaction? You’re literally paying to withdraw your own money from your own account. And when dinner is $3…that shit don’t make no sense.

On top of that foreign ATM fee, your bank will likely charge you a fee for using an ATM other than your own.

That’s two fees and if you ask me….that is some bullshit.

But ya know what bank doesn’t charge you ATM fees? Charles Schwab.

They don’t charge ATM fees AND they reimburse you – every month – for the ATM fees that foreign ATMs charge.

 

I opened a Charles Schwab Checking Account in 2014 and I’ll never change.

Ps. When you open an account with this link, you get $100 deposited (free money) into your new account.

So, a Charles Schwab card gives you:

  • No ATM penalty fees abroad or at home
  • Reimbursement on foreign ATM fees
  • Official Visa-exchange rates when you withdraw cash abroad
  • Amazing coverage in case of fraud
  • Also, a built-in brokerage account for trading stocks and investing in EFTs (I’ll save this topic for another time)

Update: My credit card information was hacked while I was in Bali.

Charles Schwab came to my rescue with just one phone call. 

  • They put the money back into my account within days (even before the investigation was complete)
  • They sent me a new card TO BALI via FedEx Priority. 

Wells Fargo won’t do that. 


How to Use Travel Credit Cards

 

1. Spend with your Travel Credit Cards Every Day

These cards are a full replacement for your everyday credit cards.

  • Book your flight with these cards
  • Book your hotels with these cards
  • Pay at restaurants with these cards
  • Go shopping with these cards

Why?

  • Travel Credit Cards collect travel points when you spend on flights, hotels, Uber, restaurants, and more. These points add up for major travel benefits.
  • Travel Credit Cards come with purchase protection (example: I bought a phone with my travel card, it was stolen in Indonesia, and my travel credit card reimbursed me)
  • You don’t have to exchange/carry huge amounts of cash when you travel
  • And much, much more

2. Optimize your Travel Benefits

Once you get your card, it’s time to start setting up your rewards

AMEX and Chase Sapphire partner with different programs to give you discounts on spending like,

  • $200 Uber Credit
  • 5% back at Starbucks
  • Get $30 off at LuLus

You’ve got to remember to go online and sign-up for whichever deals you want!

Don’t forget to apply for TSA-Precheck, and order your Airport Lounge Pass!

 

Conclusion to the Best Travel Credit Cards and Debit Cards

Save money. Protect your electronics. Travel more comfortably. Travel Credit Card

If you plan to get on an airplane sometime in the next 5 years…start collecting those travel points on day-to-day purchases for some amazing travel opportunities.

Ps. Traveling with a lounge-access Priority Pass literally changes the entire trip from headache to play-time!

Thank you American Express Platinum for free Business Lounge Access.

 That’s it!

If you use my referral links, don’t forget to tell me so I can say thank you!


Safe Travels! And don’t forget to tag me in your travel photos on Instagram @SoloGirlsTravelGuide

 

***Disclaimer*** Every time you book through a link in this post, The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide gets a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support keeps this site alive! Xoxo


 

Hua Lamphong Train Station in Bangkok

How to Take the Sleeper Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

This is the Ultimate Guide on How to Take the Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

 

Also known as

The best adult sleepover you will ever attend.

There are snacks. Friends. Warm blankets. Adventure bathrooms. Soothing rocking train beds.

The train to Chaing Mai is a full ½ day journey which is cheaper than flying and it saves you spending money on 1-night’s accommodation.

BARGAIN.

Pack a water. Put on your comfy pants. The cozy train is waiting!

Step 1: Book your Ticket

Stupid Inside Scoop: Travel agencies take advantage of a really nonsensical system and buy up all the tickets weeks in advance.

Translation: You can’t just go to the train station and buy a ticket when you’re ready to travel.

Instead, you must buy a ticket on 12Go.Asia at least 1 WEEK IN ADVANCE during a normal week in Thailand or 2-3 WEEKS IN ADVANCE during big travel weeks like Songkran or Christmas.

The best train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai IS…

  • Train #9 leaving Bangkok Train Station (Hua Lamphong Station) at 6.10pm
  • Arrives in Chiang Mai at 7.15am
  • Purchase a Second-Class Car Ticket
  • BOTTOM bunk for ultimate comfort
  • There’s also a “ladies only car” if you prefer

Don’t worry if you can only book a top bunk in the first-class car, you’re going to survive. You’ll just be a bit cold so bring a sweater.

Here’s what a train ticket looks like!

The train’s last stop is Chiang Mai (written in the top box on the right).

The passenger (Hey @jessicatamara86) is going to Ayutthaya (written in the center top box).

Step 2: Pick up your Ticket

The 12Go.Asia office is located right across from the train station.

To get, take the underground MRT and get off at Hua Lamphong Station.

Take Exit 3 

Walk straight for 30 meters, and you’ll see a sign for the 12Go.Asia office on the left.

Go inside, hand em’ your passport and they’ll give you a physical ticket.

The office is open every day 10am – 8pm.

If you have a train outside these hours, pick up your ticket the day before.

Got all that?

Step 3: Dinner & Snacks

Across from Hua Lamphong, there is a row of restaurants next to a 7-Eleven.

You want to have a full belly when you get on the train. Go to 511 Café for some classic Thai food served by the most wonderful staff!

Eat dinner and have a beer with a wonderful view of Hua Lamphong train station right across the street. Head over to the train 35 minutes before departure. BUT FIRST! You need snacks, water, and breakfast (at least, I need breakfast).

Order a fried rice or Pad Thai or chocolate pancake that you can easily take on the train and eat on a shaky car.

Then go to 7-Eleven and grab a BIG water, and maybe some M&Ms, bag of chips, and peanuts.

Step 4: Head to the Train / Sleepover Adventure

Go into the train station lobby and walk through the main hall. You’ll see the entrance for the trains.

Welcome to Train Paradise.

It actually smells really nice in here…

There will be a sign that CLEARLY says “Chaing Mai” so no need to get overwhelmed.

However, just to simmer my paranoias – I always ask a train official (hanging out somewhere) to look at my ticket and confirm that I’m getting on the right train.

Step 5: Find your spot

When you get on the train, all of the beds will actually still be chairs. 

1st class car

Train #9

2nd class train

Train #13

Find your chair with your number on it and have a seat.

Settle in and put your bag down in one of the bag racks. Don’t worry. Your bag is safe.

In a couple of hours, a train worker will come by and assemble your bed!!!! The blankets are usually still warm! 

Important Things to Know

  • There are bathrooms in between cars. They are usually squatty toilets too – so now peeing is like a carnival game! Can you get your pee in the hole?!?!?
  • Some trains have snack cars! They have omelets, peanuts, and soda.
  • Ladies will come through the cars with a breakfast menu, in case you’ve forgotten to bring food. You can sign up for food the night before and it will be served to you later. There’s only one option and its meh.
  • Alcohol is not allowed on the train

Step 5:  Wake Up Sleepy Head

About 45 minutes before you arrive in Chaing Mai, the train workers will come through and wake ya’ll up. The beds will be made back into chairs.

Chiang Mai is the last stop on the train, so don’t worry – it’s impossible to miss your stop!

Step 6:  Arrive in Chiang Mai

The Chaing Mai train station is small. Walk your lil butt on outta there. You’ll be greeted by lots of taxi drivers and Songtheaw (collective truck taxis) drivers.

The train station is located about 3km outside the city center, making for a smooth journey to your hotel.

To get to your hotel

Option 1: Public Transport

Songthaew: 50 baht (although, they might push you to 80 baht). You’ll pile in the back of a truck, tell the driver your location and they’ll drive around town dropping people off one-by-one. Sometimes the drivers get lazy and drop you off in the general area. I say, nooooo to that. Don’t get out until you see your hotel. Get your money’s worth, boo.

Tuk Tuk: 150 baht directly to your hotel (plus a fun drive)

Taxi: 200 baht with air conditioning! Best for big luggage.

Option 2: Grab Taxi

Important: Grab Taxi drivers are not welcome in the Train Station territory, so you’re going to have to be stealth. To get in a Grab Taxi without drawing attention to what you’re going, cross the street and go to a local café before you call your Grab to avoid conflict. Try to be out of sight of the train station.

How Much: 80-200 baht depending on your hotel’s location

Easy, right?


Here are a collection of Thailand Train Photos, in case Chiang Mai isn’t where you’re going!

 

This fancy-ass train (Train #9) has this super helpful sign.

 

Here are what some first-class train cars look like on Train #9 & Train #7

@Lauren0vigus

@hjhswinnerton

Things to keep in mind if you choose the first class cars…

✗  You’ll be in closed quarters with a stranger if you’re traveling solo.

✗  You won’t get to watch the views from your bed (like you do in the 2nd class bottom bunk).

For these reasons, I always choose 2nd class for the open layout and sense of comfort.

 

That’s it!

Don’t forget to tag me in your train journey photos

@SoloGirlsTravelGuide