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The Art of Earning and Redeeming Travel Rewards with Your Credit Card

Everyone has a unique idea of their perfect vacation, but the cost can often prevent the dream from becoming reality. Having a travel credit card can help make a luxury trip more achievable, by using travel rewards for flights, hotels, vehicle rentals, insurance, and even upgrades.

Choosing the Right Card

There are many types of travel credit cards that offer different types of rewards. Some work with points, others with miles, and some cards are tied to specific hotels and airlines—so there is an option for virtually everybody. It's key for potential cardholders to know their spending habits, as these patterns play a major role in determining the perfect card for each person.

There are a few things to consider before choosing a travel credit card, including:

  • What are the travel goals?
  • Does the card come with an annual fee, and is that fee worth it for the rewards that can be earned?
  • Does the card offer bonus categories for earning rewards?
  • Can the rewards, such as points or miles, be transferred between the chosen card and other cards or loyalty programs?
  • Does a category-specific travel credit card make sense based on current spending?
  • Are there any welcome bonuses?
  • Do the rewards expire?

The answers to these questions will help cardholders understand how they are likely to earn the most points or rewards that can lead them to their dream vacation.

Strategic Spending

Using a travel rewards credit card on travel-specific purchases such as flights, vehicle rentals, hotels, and upgrades helps to earn more rewards towards future travel plans. But it’s not limited to spending on travel to earn travel: choosing a category-specific card can earn points on everyday expenses. For example, someone who regularly uses their credit card to purchase groceries can apply for a travel credit card with a grocery-specific rewards category.

Some travel credit cards require a minimum spend for the cardholder to receive welcome bonus rewards. The cardholder might need to charge a certain amount within the first month or two of acquiring the card, depending on the specific terms. Some cards offer a scale, with lower introductory rewards for less money spent, up to a maximum amount. Knowing what is affordable, or planning around an upcoming purchase, can help determine which card is best for each individual.

Some other ways to earn additional rewards include using online shopping portals through the card’s website, purchasing travel insurance with points multipliers, or referring a friend or colleague. Checking the card’s app on a regular basis can offer a slew of bonus rewards waiting to be used.

Redeeming Travel Rewards

Rewards can be used for everything from booking flights to renting cars, booking hotel rooms, and even paying for some excursions. There are various ways to redeem travel rewards, including using travel portals to book flights and hotels online, searching for dynamic pricing on flights, and transferring points between specific loyalty programs.

For airlines that may not offer dynamic pricing, transferring points between programs or using awards charts can ensure the optimal use of points. Awards charts clearly display information like fixed redemption rates for certain routes, the prices of which are based on factors such as the time of year the travelling is planned for, the number of miles being flown, and the region being visited. These awards charts can guide people through the guesswork of how much a specific flight will cost, rewards-wise, and if spending via points or rewards offers more value.

Maximizing Redemption Value

Being flexible can help travel rewards go a long way. Travelling during the off-season; being aware of and avoiding blackout dates; and looking out for fuel surcharges and positioning flights are great ways to maximize travel rewards.

Redeeming travel rewards for luxury experiences can be more cost-effective than paying for upgrades with cash. Using points to upgrade to first class, obtain free in-flight wi-fi, stay in a higher quality hotel, or rent a higher-value vehicle can make travelling more relaxing and enjoyable without breaking the bank. 

Making the Most of Travel Credit Cards

Travel rewards cards can help immensely with the cost of travel, but cardholders should always be responsible when spending. Don’t charge more than is affordable just to reap the rewards. Pay off the balance in full whenever possible and strategize use of the card. Using earned rewards wisely is paramount to redeeming and enjoying that dream vacation.

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