Have Travel Card Rewards to Use? Here's Why You Need to Plan Ahead

The big selling point of travel credit cards is being able to save on your trips. You earn points or miles on your purchases and can then use them to cover your travel expenses. For example, instead of paying $500 to reserve a hotel, you may be able to redeem 50,000 points and save the cash for the rest of your trip — or your bank account.

Now, many cardholders just use their travel rewards whenever they can. While this works, it’s not always the best idea. Because with travel cards, it pays to be a little strategic, for a few reasons.

You could get more value from your travel rewards

With many of the most popular travel cards, the value of your points or miles depends on how you use them. Travel rewards are generally worth more if you use them for more expensive bookings. This is the case with:

Featured offer: save money while you pay off debt with one of these top-rated balance transfer credit cards

For example, let’s say you have a United credit card — or a card with transferable points you can send to United. You’re booking a three-hour domestic flight next month, and you want to take a trip to Europe later in the year.

The domestic flight may cost about $150 or 15,000 miles each way. So if you book an award ticket, you’ll get $0.01 per mile. The international flight could cost $1,200 or 40,000 miles. If you book an award ticket for that, you’ll get $0.03 per mile. As you can see, you save a lot more money with your miles if you use them for the international flight.

If you have any big trips coming up, consider saving your travel rewards for it. That’s what I’ve been doing for years with my travel cards. I pay for cheaper travel expenses in cash, even if I have enough points to cover them. I reserve my points for things like business-class airfare and luxury hotel stays.

You’re more likely to find deals if you book in advance

Airlines and hotels have limited amounts of award availability — seats and rooms you can book using rewards through their loyalty programs. With airlines, in particular, seats you can book with miles often go fast. Many of them also use dynamic pricing, where prices get higher as demand increases.

There are a few ways this can affect you. If you wait too long to book with travel rewards, there might not be any award availability left. In that case, you’ll need to pay in cash or change your travel plans.

Another possibility is that you find last-minute availability, but prices are extremely high. For example, I’ve seen ticket prices go from 30,000 to 90,000 miles in a matter of days. And when it’s already the last minute, you don’t have the luxury of waiting much longer to see if a deal pops up.

It’s a good idea to start shopping for flights around three to six months in advance. For domestic flights, you can cut it a little closer. The “Prime Booking Window” with the best cash prices ranges from 21 to 74 days in advance, according to a CheapAir.com survey. Cash and points prices don’t always follow the same patterns, but this still gives us an idea of when the best deals are available.

Maximizing your travel card rewards

Travel cards have a learning curve to them, but it’s not that complicated to get the most out of your rewards. Use them for bigger travel expenses when you can, because they’re worth more this way. Try not to wait until the last minute to book, either, because it could cost you significantly more. By following those two tips, you could easily get two- or three-times as much value from your points.

Alert: our top-rated cash back card now has 0% intro APR until 2025

This credit card is not just good – it’s so exceptional that our experts use it personally. It features a lengthy 0% intro APR period, a cash back rate of up to 5%, and all somehow for no annual fee! Click here to read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top