Being a savvy travel rewards credit card user means more than just racking up tons of rewards to use towards travel. It means knowing how to get the most from these rewards and how to get the most rewards that you actually want. Read on for our six tips to get the most out of your travel rewards credit card.
1. Weigh credit card costs against your rewards and benefits.
To truly get the most out of your travel rewards, you need to benefit more from the rewards than annual fees and interest rates are costing you. You can nullify the effect of interest rates by always paying your credit card bill in full every month, thus paying no interest rate. Next, decide if the value of the rewards and benefits (elite status and other perks) you’re getting annually from your travel reward credit card is greater than the annual fee of the credit card. If not, it’s time to look for a new credit card.
2. Don’t let travel rewards expire.
Read the fine print of your travel rewards credit card to determine if and when travel rewards expire and use them before the deadline. Some credit cards will keep your rewards active if you make a purchase from one of their partners.
3. Apply rewards to the biggest expense.
If you could walk into a jewelry store and take anything for free, you’d pick out the biggest most expensive diamond, right? The same should go when cashing in travel rewards. Use those miles for longer, more expensive flights and that free hotel night at the nicest hotel possible. For example, if you have to travel to both Seattle and San Francisco next month and both flights require the same amount of points, but the Seattle flight is less expensive if paid out of pocket, use your points toward the San Francisco flight.
4. Choose a card that works for you.
If you always fly American Airlines, then you need a Citi AAdvantage World MasterCards, but if you fly on a variety of airlines, choose a card that allows you to apply points toward multiple airlines. Similarly with hotels, choose a card that allows you to earn free nights towards your favorite hotel or the hotel group that is present where you travel most. Reward Summit can help you choose the right card by analyzing your spending habits.
5. Consider flying a partner airline when cashing in rewards.
Being flexible is key when cashing in travel rewards, but sometimes you can find the flight you want with a partner airline. For example Delta has 20 worldwide airline partners, toward which rewards can be applied. Know your options to get to the places you want to go.
Also, some airlines will charge you taxes and fees for redeeming your miles. You can avoid this by transferring to a partner airline that has a lesser redemption cost.
6. Redeem miles during off-peak times.
Generally, your miles will get your further during off-peak times. Flights are both more expensive and require more points during high travel times like spring break and holidays. Plan your trips in advance so you can avoid flying during these more expensive times, when possible.
7. Pay attention to benefits as well as rewards.
Often hotel credit cards will offer benefits such as one free night after you pass a certain threshold of dollars spent with the card which is for many people, just as important as the rewards themselves. The Chase Marriott Rewards Premier will grant you a free night as soon as you’re approved for the card, as well as a free night every year on your anniversary date. If you spend $1,000 in the first three months, you earn 50,000 reward points which can be used for as many as six free additional nights at a hotel. If elite status is important to you, check with your credit card company to find out if free nights count toward elite status.
8. Know what it takes to get elite status.
It is also important to know the threshold of spending required to reach elite status at your hotel of choice. For example, the American Express HHilton Honors grants card users silver status upon credit card approval and requires a minimum of $20,000 spent annually to achieve gold status. However, the American Express HHilton Honors Surpass grants card members gold status in their first year of using the card with no minimum spending requirement.