While the recent public health data doesn’t look promising, many frequent travelers are still hoping for a quick return to travel. As bad as the situation may be, many are still trying to figure out when we’d see a glimmer of hope going forward. A few weeks back, I wrote why a return to normal travel will be delayed and won’t happen any time soon. However, many are asking the million dollar question, when will normal travel resume? While that day may seem far away for now, we can use a few metrics and market trends to make an educated guess.

Predicting the return of Normal Travel

I’ve written previously about limited time credit card offers. Similarly, marketing offers and other promotions are often for a temporary period. After Covid-19 tanked the economy, we saw many issuers make swift changes to the way they offered credits and discounts. Most recently, we also saw banks extend a few of these offers.

Why does this matter? When banks extend offer periods to offer you grocery credit instead of a travel credit, it’s a clear indication as to where they see you spending your money in the near future. Here are a few recent examples:

Amex revamps their cards: Up to $400 in credits, bonus points & new benefits

CNBC: Chase Sapphire cards now earn bonus rewards on Instacart, gas and streaming services for a limited time

Frequent Miler: Citi’s turn: Use Prestige credit at supermarkets / restaurants, more time to meet spend

Frequent Miler: $50 credit on Bank of America Premium Rewards

Doctor of Credit: [Update] US Bank Altitude Reserve Temporarily Allows $325 Travel Credit For Dining Purchases; Also 3x Points On Dining (6/1-12/31)

A Method to the Madness

These are just a few examples out of many and here’s why they matter. Firstly, you can see a pattern in terms of spend categories. Dining/takeout, groceries and steaming services top the list. Secondly, take a close look at the end dates of many of these offers and you’ll get a good idea as to what major card issuers are thinking about the direction of consumer spend this year.

I’ll also be watching out Amex’s next move. If the situation doesn’t improve as soon as expected, I won’t be surprised if Amex makes a few tweaks to their airline fee credit by the start of Q4. If you look at some of these limited time credits and bonus points offers, it does seem like most issuers don’t see people spending on travel at the same rate at least until the end of the year.

The Pundit’s Mantra

Marketing campaigns and promotional offers are forward looking in nature and provide insight into how a company gauges customer behavior. Let’s say we’re approaching Q4 and we see many banks continue offering more credits and discounts for grocery spend instead of travel. That’s a clear sign that they predict that customers will still not start spending on travel any time soon.

On the contrary, if you see card issuers switch back to travel credits, then that’s definitely a first ray of hope. It signals that card issuers predict that consumers will start spending again on travel or related categories in a substantial way, albeit not at pre-Covid levels right away.

Also, I’ll be closely watching how airlines and hotels run their advertising campaigns. At the moment, on expected lines, their entire focus is on safety and security. When the positioning strategy of many travel destinations changes, it a clear sign that they foresee better days and travel numbers ahead. Here’s hoping that we’re not too far away from seeing that day!


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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.