TRAVEL
01/15/2016 07:00 am ET Updated Mar 10, 2016

Be Careful Which Credit Card You Use To Book A Trip

Play it right, and you'll score BIG $$$.

Did you know that pretty much EVERY major credit card has some kind of travel-related perk?

Whether it's free rental car insurance with Visa or travel accident coverage with American Express, most large credit card companies offer some kind of travel benefit, even on standard cards. The only catch? They'll often require you to pay for travel using that card in order to take advantage of its benefits (but c'mon, you were already doing that anyway). Check online for the benefits pertaining to your specific card, and if you want to take things a step further, sign up for a travel credit card to watch the perks really pile up.

In any case, it's hugely important to pay attention to the card you use to book your travel. Because if you're smart, you could score:

1. Free rental car insurance.

Many major credit cards -- Visa Standard and MasterCard, for example -- offer rental car insurance for damage and theft (with a few limitations on length of rental and type of car, in certain cases). Just use the card to book your car, and decline the rental company's insurance plan. 

2. Cheap -- or free! -- roadside assistance.

Likewise, many cards provide roadside assistance for free or discounted rates, whether you're traveling or not. Visa Signature is known to have especially great service, with a flat fee of $59.95 for whatever your car needs, from towing to tire changes to jump starts.

JORDAN SIEMENS VIA GETTY IMAGES

3. Reimbursements for delayed luggage, flight changes and stolen goods at hotels.

Some MasterCards will reimburse you for lost or damaged baggage, as well as property stolen from a hotel room. And Chase Sapphire Preferred -- one of travel experts' all-time favorite credit cards -- reimburses for all sorts of changes in flight plans, like swaps due to personal sickness and even severe weather. Just be sure you book your trip with a particular card in order to reap its benefits.

4. Discounts and perks on hotels and cruises. 

Many companies offer discounted hotel rooms, automatic room upgrades, free Wi-Fi, resort dining credit and cruise credits, depending on which card you have. Check with your company to see what they offer in terms of travel deals.

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5. Even BIGGER discounts and perks with points.

Sign up for a fancier travel rewards card (see here for some expert favorites), and you'll get points for making everyday purchases which you can use toward hotels, flights and vacations. Of course, certain types of cards are best for those who travel lots, those who spend only a little and travelers who are interested in airline miles vs. hotel points vs. free cruises. Do some research, and sign up for one that maximizes what YOU want. 

6. Free flights from sign-up bonuses.

When you sign up for one of those aforementioned travel cards, you'll often score a sign-up bonus in the form of BIG points. If you play it right, those BIG points can be enough for a free domestic flight.

7. Free checked bags!

Enough said. (Note that you'll usually need an airline credit card to reap this benefit, not just your standard card.)

Photo by Andrew Xu via Getty Images

Happy travels, dollar savers! 

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