Published in: Credit Cards | Oct. 1, 2020
By: Lyle Daly
Even if it's not the best time to travel, it's a great time to earn travel rewards.
COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the travel industry, and of course, that has extended to travel credit cards. As the pandemic has gone on, cardholders have wondered whether it's time to unload points and ditch their travel cards.
Personally, I’m taking the opposite approach. For a few key reasons, I'm using the pandemic to double down and earn as many travel points as possible.
I've been very fortunate so far -- I've had steady income and a solid emergency fund I haven't had to use. Without more pressing financial concerns, I've had the freedom to focus on travel rewards.
There's nothing wrong with making travel points your priority, assuming you're not having money troubles. You should also pay your credit card bill in full every month. It's never a good idea to carry a balance and pay credit card interest just to earn more points.
Travel probably won't return to pre-COVID levels any time soon, but the industry is recovering. There are also more and more areas gradually relaxing restrictions and opening up for visitors.
The biggest reason I haven't stopped using travel rewards cards during the pandemic is that I'm confident I'll be able to redeem my points. I'm not sure exactly when, but I know I'll be booking flights and hotel stays in the future. When I do, the points I'm putting away will save me a lot of money.
Credit card companies have added all kinds of limited-time offers to their travel cards lately. Several of the best travel credit cards have offered bonus rewards in the categories where consumers are spending more, such as groceries, streaming services, and delivery orders from restaurants.
We've also seen quite a few cards offer bigger sign-up bonuses. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card recently raised their bonus offers, and many airline credit cards have done the same.
These offers are great opportunities to maximize your credit card rewards. Since most are only available for a limited time, you have to act quickly to take advantage.
Another reason I'm confident I'll use my travel points is because of the types of points I’m earning. I like to use travel cards with transferable points that can be sent to multiple airline and/or hotel partners, or redeemed at a fixed rate toward cash travel purchases. I rarely use travel cards tied to just one airline or hotel.
This gives me more flexibility in how I redeem my points. Since I don't need to use them with any specific travel provider, I have more options to book the travel I want. And I don't need to worry about earning all my points with a single travel provider that could go bankrupt.
I've booked budget travel and more luxurious trips. Any type of travel is an enjoyable and worthwhile experience to me. But after months of lockdown and being unable to go anywhere, I'm more motivated than ever to make future vacations as fun and stress-free as possible.
It's a lot easier to do that when you're not worried about how much a trip is costing. I know that if I save up points now, they will cover my biggest travel costs. I'll be able to book flights in business class, which helps with social distancing, and is much more comfortable. And I'll be able to stay in nice hotels or vacation rentals. Those expenses often cost thousands, but instead, I'll pay for them in points.
This isn't to say that I'll only book luxury travel. My goal is to take enjoyable trips during which I'm not stressing about money, and travel points are a means to that end.
Not being able to go anywhere is frustrating, but it does give you an opportunity to set up future travels. If you jump on some of the credit card offers available during the pandemic, you'll score plenty of points to use on your next trip, whenever that may be.
As long as you pay them off each month, credit cards are a no-brainer for savvy Americans. They protect against fraud far better than debit cards, help raise your credit score, and can put hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in rewards back in your pocket each year.
But with so many cards out there, you need to choose wisely. This top-rated card offers the ability to pay 0% interest on purchases until late 2021, has some of the most generous cash back rewards we’ve ever seen (up to 5%!), and somehow still sports a $0 annual fee.
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