Even as travel remains low, many miles and points aficionados are figuring out ways to rack up miles and points for travel in the future. One of the questions that I’m frequently asked is: “So which credit card should I get?”. As travel continues to remain low, what’s the optimal credit card strategy?
Credit Card Strategy
When the markets are buzzing along, devaluation is often the most dreaded word. Over the last few years, Loyalty programs have been giving us one gut punch after another in reducing the value of their miles and points. After the pandemic hit, airlines have relaxed restrictions pertaining to cancellations and changes. However, once the economy bounces back, will they make negative changes again?
Even in a post pandemic world, we’re still not quite sure what the value of the miles and points we’ve currently accumulated will be. In that case, does it make more sense to simply rack up flexible points currencies instead of miles and points with a co-branded credit card?
If you are looking to build a sizable chunk of miles and points, then it would be prudent to not store them all in one bucket. Co-branded cards can provide value if you travel frequently on a particular airline or stay at a particular hotel chain. Beyond that, I really do not see any merit in signing up for co-branded cards just for earning the miles.
A simple case in point being the repeated ‘limited time offers‘ appearing this year on the Delta co-branded credit cards, which even touched the 100,000 mark. Unless you fly Delta frequently, you’d rather be holding the American Express Platinum (5x on flights) or American Express Gold Card (3x on flight) for booking flights.
You would earn Membership Rewards points instead of Delta SkyMiles. This way you’d be free to transfer these miles to Delta or any of the other Airline or Hotel partners based on your travel needs. Conversely, once you have a co-branded card you’re stuck in that currency.
On the hotel side, I continue to hold the Hilton Aspire (Welcome bonus of 150,000 points + 1 free night) and the World of Hyatt (Welcome bonus of 50,000 points) credit cards. I get a free night each year on renewal, which easily pays for the annual fee. Also, since I bank most of my stays primarily with Hilton, followed by Hyatt, I always have a backup option if one of the hotel chains doesn’t have availability at a particular location or time.
Flexible Points Currencies
As loyalty programs undergo rapid changes, we’ll gradually see savvy travelers shift their strategy to building a stash of flexible points currencies. This is a wise strategy to hedge against a devaluation. I have a significant chunk of points in my Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards points accounts. I see these points as a great way to have a lot of flexibility when I travel. Also, I’m not stuck to one particular alliance or partner due to the diversity of transfer partners.
For example, I’ve transferred Chase points to Hyatt to stay at their wonderful all-inclusive properties. While planning a trip to Cancun, I found no availability at any of the Hyatt properties for my dates. I transferred a handful of Amex points to Hilton in order to top off my account and booked the all inclusive Hilton Playa del Carmen.
Credits and Bonus Categories
After the pandemic hit, many issuers added new temporary benefits like bonus points on groceries or credits on streaming services and telephone bills. I’ve spent a major chunk of my time this year maximizing some of these credits and earning bonus points on groceries. However, I haven’t yet redeemed points via Chase’s ‘pay yourself back‘ feature as I plan to use my points for future trips.
The Pundit’s Mantra
Many of us may already be making plans for travel in 2021. Once things start coming back to normal, many people will be in a better position to plan and book their next trip. If you’re already thinking on those lines, then you can start with this checklist:
- Start with the destination you want to travel to next. Before doing so, ensure that you’re closely monitoring travel restrictions before you actually book
- Once you lock that in, you can use services like AwardWallet to track your points balances in loyalty programs and book directly or transfer miles/points accordingly
- Before you book, carefully review the airline and hotel cancellation policies as they’ve become more generous post pandemic
If you plan the right way, there are some very sweet airline and hotel redemptions up for grabs. Airlines and hotels have a lot more inventory compared to ‘normal’ times, so if you dig deep enough, you’ll find enough sweet spots across multiple loyalty programs.
How has your credit card strategy changed after the pandemic and the economic recession hit? Let us know in the comments section.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently offering a limited time welcome bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points!!!
You’ll earn a welcome bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. You’ll also earn 2x points all on all travel and dining spend and 5 x on Lyft rides.
Note: Chase may not approve you for this card if you’ve been approved for more than four credit cards from any issuer in the last 24 months. You may also be ineligible for the bonus if you’ve received a welcome bonus for a Chase Sapphire card in the last 48 months.
Disclosure: The Points Pundit receives NO compensation from credit card affiliate partnerships. Support the blog by applying for a card through my personal referral links. This article is meant for information purposes only and doesn’t constitute personal finance, health or investment advice. Please consult a licensed professional for advice pertaining to your situation.