As Covid-19 cases decrease, and vaccinations continue to roll out, travelers are planning to hit the road again this spring and summer. It’s a great time to use and redeem credit card rewards points and loyalty programs for upgrades, free travel and other awards, but you’ll still want to maximize your benefits, especially post Covid-19.
To help you plan your next vacation using credit card rewards points, Travelbinger spoke to Bryce Conway, a travel rewards expert and founder at 10xTravel, a site designed to help travelers make the most of credit card rewards points and loyalty programs. With more than 70,000 travelers in his Insider’s Facebook Group, Bryce helps people understand the fine print of rewards travel.
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Here are Bryce’s top 10 tips (5 ‘Do’s and 5 ‘Don’t’s) for maximizing benefits using credit card rewards points for travel this year.
5 DOs To Maximize Credit Card Points Benefits
- Prioritize flexible rewards points over all others.
These are points such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. They can be transferred to a variety of different airlines and hotels, which gives you more ways to redeem them and protects you against the risk of a program devaluation.
- Keep an eye out for lucrative signup bonuses.
I expect to see a lot of really great offers as banks try to lure people back to using travel cards. Many times a single bonus can be worth upwards of $500 of free travel.
- Familiarize yourself with any changes to your favorite loyalty programs.
Many banks, airlines, and hotels made significant changes to their programs during COVID so you cannot expect to go back to your “same old loyalty program” when this is all over.
4. Check in on the expiration of your points & miles.
While most airlines and hotels modified their rules to help users avoid points expiration issues, not all of them did. You will want to make sure you aren’t about to lose a stash of points & miles.
- Start booking travel now!
Many people are sitting on a large amount of points & miles right now due to the limited travel opportunities of 2020 and 2021. Your points aren’t going to get any more valuable as time passes so don’t hesitate to use them!
5 DONTs To Maximize Credit Card Points Benefits
- Don’t redeem your points & miles for low-value items such as cashback or gift cards (without running the numbers at least).
Many people have a large number of points & miles available due to limited travel in 2020 and start to wonder if they should start cashing them in for non-travel uses. This is generally a bad idea.
- Don’t forget to check your passport expiration date!
I am seeing a lot of people have to rush to renew their passports because they forgot to keep an eye on the expiration date during the pandemic. Always make sure you have at least 6 months left in your passport. For one, that’s how long some countries will accept a passport – minimum 6 months – and also, it gives you plenty of time to get a new one.
You can also rush your passport.
- Don’t be afraid to rethink your current credit card portfolio.
Most major credit cards made significant changes in 2020 so now is a good time to review which cards you use for which expenses to see if there might be a better choice. This makes it one of my best tips when using rewards points.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for retention offers on your credit cards.
Many banks are offering statement credits or point bonuses to encourage you to keep your credit cards open, it never hurts to ask for one! While things have certaintly changed now, we’ve seen a lot of companies still make offers.
- Don’t forget to use any credits you have from canceled travel in 2020.
Many of these credits expire 12-18 months after being issued so it’s now or never. While many have already expired at this point, check to see that you may still qualify or that you don’t miss any expiration dates. This is one of the best tips for rewards points since nobody wants to lose any credit they have already stored away and collected during canceled flights.
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