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- I’m an avid award traveler — prior to the coronavirus crisis, I was averaging about two trips per month, often using points and miles to book.
- While I can’t travel right now, I’m still using my favorite travel rewards credit cards.
- Not only do I know that travel will return in the future, but banks are also adding non-travel benefits to many of their best rewards cards, like statement credits for select streaming services on the The Platinum Card® from American Express.
- When travel starts up again, there could also be some great points and miles deals, even for first- and business-class flights.
- See Business Insider’s list of the best travel rewards credit cards.
Over the last decade, I’ve averaged about two trips a month for both leisure and business purposes, but I haven’t boarded a commercial flight in the last six weeks, due to the COVID-19 crisis. And even though I currently have no plans to fly in the future, I’m still earning travel rewards from my credit cards. In fact, I’m not changing my rewards credit card strategy going forward. Here are four reasons why.
We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.
1. Travel will return, we just don’t know when
I have friends who are booking travel for later this year, and some of them intend to take to the skies as soon as this summer. While I’m not ready to book new travel reservations until I’m confident that it will be safe, I’m sure that I will travel again eventually. When that time comes, I’ll be glad that I’ve been earning travel rewards points and miles to cover flights and hotels.
2. I expect great points and miles deals
When airplanes and hotels are full of paying customers, there’s little incentive for them to offer award reservations at reasonable prices. But with hundreds of airplanes parked, and hotels occupancy rates in the single digits, I believe we will see a golden age of award travel once the recovery starts. When that time comes, I’ll be ready to take advantage of those opportunities with the points and miles that I’m earning.
In fact, we’re already seeing that happen today, as award seats are available on flights to most destinations. These are awards that are available at the lowest mileage levels, nearly every day of the week, during what would have been considered to be the peak season. This even applies to business and first-class awards, which are normally extremely scarce.
And as more airlines resume operations and reactivate their parked aircraft, I’m confident that we’ll continue to see unprecedented opportunities to redeem the points and miles that we’ve accumulated during our time at home.
3. Some travel points offer fantastic value when travel is cheap
The best argument against earning travel rewards from your credit card is that travel will be so cheap during the recovery that points and miles won’t be as valuable.
Airlines will likely offer extremely low fares in the face of weak demand and record-low oil prices, but if that does happen, I’ll still be able to utilize my travel rewards points and miles while taking advantage of low prices.
That’s because I like to earn rewards that can be redeemed for a fixed amount. For example, my Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers me 1.5 cents per point redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel center, which is powered by Expedia. This means that the vast majority of all the flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, and activities that you could book through Expedia can be paid for with Chase points, and you get 1.5 cents per point.
Since I earn 1.5 points per dollar spent on my Chase Freedom Unlimited®, and those points can be combined with my Sapphire Reserve account, I’m always earning at least 2.25% back on my purchases. And when I use my Sapphire Reserve for takeout and delivery from restaurants, I’m getting at least 4.5% back towards future travel reservations. I just can’t beat that with cash back.
I also receive 1.5 cents in value from my American Express Membership Rewards points that I redeem for premium class airfare or for flights from a selected carrier. That’s because The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers a 35% rebate on points redeemed towards these purchases up to 500,000 additional points per calendar year when booked through amextravel.com.
4. Credit card issuers are scrambling to offer non-travel rewards and benefits
Even before the current crisis, the Chase Sapphire Reserve began offering a complimentary year of DoorDash DashPass membership, which offers lower fees on deliveries from DoorDash, plus up to $120 in statement credits for DoorDash purchases through December 31, 2021.
More recently, American Express announced new non-travel perks for several cards, including up to $320 in statement credits for select streaming services and wireless telephone purchases on the Platinum Card® from American Express. This will cover our family’s Netflix and Disney+ subscriptions.
Furthermore, Capital One is now letting customers with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card redeem their miles for food delivery and streaming services. This new option for using your Capital One miles is in addition to the standard redemption options of using miles for travel reservations or for transfers to travel partners. Look for more non-travel rewards and benefits to be added to your favorite travel rewards cards as this crisis continues.
It would be easy to cancel all my travel cards and focus on cash back or other reward strategies, but I’m not going to hit the panic button. By keeping the cards I have, and utilizing the new non-travel benefits they’re offering, I’ll earn value today while I look forward to a brighter future when travel becomes safe again.