5 Reasons to Keep Your Travel Cards Open in 2021

by Lyle Daly | Updated Aug. 12, 2021 - First published on Feb. 25, 2021

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Travel may not be back yet, but there are several benefits to keeping your travel credit cards.

Is your travel credit card annual fee coming up? If so, you might be wondering whether you should keep that card open another year. The widespread pandemic means travel is still restricted. That's reason enough to stay put. And if you're not traveling, why have a travel card?

Don't say goodbye to your travel cards too quickly. Here are the most important reasons you should consider renewing yours for 2021.

1. Travel cards aren't just for travel anymore

Credit card companies have introduced lots of new card features during the pandemic. Many of these give you new ways to redeem travel rewards or save money with your travel card, even while you're staying home.

For example, Chase expanded its Ultimate Rewards redemptions through its Pay Yourself Back feature. Through April 30, 2021, you can get more value if you redeem points from your Chase travel card towards everyday expenses.

We've also seen Delta, Hilton, and Marriott American Express cards offer monthly dining credits for the rest of 2021. Those cards could save you money on restaurant spending, including orders for takeout or delivery.

Before you assume a travel card is a waste of money, check to see if your card has any special deals like these.

2. You could earn more points from limited-time offers

Another popular type of limited-time offer is bonus rewards in select spending categories. In particular, card issuers have focused on everyday categories where consumers are spending more. These include groceries, gas, and dining (including takeout and delivery orders).

These offers allow you to earn more credit card rewards than usual. You might not be able to use those rewards right now. But you will later, so it's smart to earn as many as you can.

3. You may be able to get a break on the annual fee

Many consumers aren't aware there's an easy way to get more value from your credit card. It's called a retention offer. Although it's not guaranteed, credit card companies frequently have retention offers for cardholders who want to cancel. Popular types of retention offers include annual fee discounts or waivers and bonus rewards on purchases.

All you need to do is call in and explain you're thinking of canceling your card. Since travel is still limited, there's a good chance your card issuer will offer you something to convince you to stick around.

4. It keeps your travel points from expiring

Any time you want to cancel a credit card, you first need to figure out what to do with your points. With most rewards credit cards, you'll lose any unused points as soon as you close the account.

It works differently if you have a credit card tied to an airline or hotel loyalty program. In that case, you can likely close your credit card without losing your points straight away. However, your points will be subject to that loyalty program's expiration policy once you close your card.

If you don't have any trips to book, it could be harder to use your points. You may even need to turn to subpar redemptions that get you far less value for your travel points. You don't need to worry about any of this if you keep your travel card.

5. You'll be able to travel again -- it's just a matter of when

Since the start of the pandemic, I've kept my travel cards open for one simple reason. I'm fairly confident travel isn't going away entirely and that I'll be able to use my points eventually. The only question is when it seems like the safe, responsible thing to do.

And on that front, there have been positive developments. Hotels are reopening more properties. Airlines are adding flights to their schedules. Some travel rewards enthusiasts have found reasonable alternatives to their typical vacations, such as using credit card points for staycations or shorter, domestic trips. COVID-19 vaccines should also help reduce the risk that comes with traveling.

As long as you know you'll travel again in the future, it makes sense to continue to use your travel cards and take advantage of this time to collect more points. Depending on the limited-time bonuses and retention offers, you could still get plenty of value from those credit cards.

If you really don't want to pay an annual fee, see if you can downgrade your credit card to a no-annual-fee version. This way, you don't need to close out the account entirely or lose any unused rewards. You can also upgrade back to your original card if you want to get it again later. But the best option is to keep the travel cards you like. That way you'll have them once you're ready dust off your suitcase and book a trip.

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