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The past year and a half has been anything but normal because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel was basically non-existent, people were spending less and economic uncertainty was at a high. Now, as the world begins to return to normal, travel is having a strong rebound. Mix that with several other economic factors, and we’re having a perfect moment for earning points and miles.
Ahead, Select looks at the travel industry and credit card marketplace to explain why now is an amazing time to get started with earning travel rewards.
Credit card welcome offers are ample
Generally speaking, most Americans do not travel enough to earn a significant amount of travel rewards via hotel or airline travel programs, which can leave some frustrated with their low points balance. The easiest way to jumpstart your travel rewards is through credit card welcome offers.
A welcome offer, or sometimes referred to as a sign-up bonus, is an introductory bonus you receive when signing up for a credit card and meeting a spending requirement within the first few months. This is the easiest way to earn rewards with spending you’re likely already doing.
And as consumers are itching to get back to traveling, along with consumer spending returning to pre-pandemic levels, credit card companies are coming out swinging with excellent welcome offers. In fact, we’re now seeing some of the highest-ever offers on some of the best travel credit cards, making it easier than ever to earn a heap of points to fund your future travels.
In 2021 alone, several cards have increased their welcome offers, including:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: With the American Express Platinum Card, you can earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 within the first six months of account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is offering 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- British Airways Visa Signature® Card / Iberia Visa Signature® card: With both of these cards, you can earn 100,000 bonus Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Citi Premier® Card: New cardholders with the Citi Premier Card can earn 80,000 ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening.
These cards each earn travel rewards that can be redeemed for reward flights, hotels or even transferred to your a number of airline and hotel loyalty programs. And the value of these offers is noteworthy.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offer of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed for up to $1,250 in travel using the Chase travel portal or to cover eligible grocery, dining or home improvement store purchases through Chase Pay Yourself Back. Or you can transfer you points to a travel partner, like Hyatt, and redeem for a luxury hotel stay easily worth more than $1,250. For instance, the 100,000 points would be enough to cover 3 nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome, where rates can easily be higher than $1,000 a night.
Each of these cards differ in their benefits, features and annual fees, so be sure to take the time to compare the various offers. With strategic planning and spending, you can possibly net hundreds of thousands of travel rewards with just a few card sign-ups, all based on purchases you were making anyways.
5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases
Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers
Balance transfer fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction fee
Airlines are recovering financially
It’s not a secret that the airlines were financially strapped during the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel levels fell to record lows, and it took many months to finally see a glimmer of hope. In fact, several airlines collateralized their customer loyalty programs to finance loans to stay afloat, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines and Spirit Airlines.
Now, as travel is once again in high demand, airlines are finally making some positive progress toward full recovery. Several carriers have ordered new planes for their fleet, and reports state business travel is starting to return.
This is leading airlines to reinvest into their loyalty programs, along with growing their partnerships with credit card companies. On June 23, LATAM Pass, one of the most prevalent frequent flyer programs in Latin America, and Mastercard, agreed to a seven year partnership to continue expanding their co-branded airline credit card.
With expanded partnerships comes more opportunities for airlines to offer more rewards to consumers. The 100,000-point welcome bonus on the British Airways Visa Signature® Card and Iberia Visa Signature® card is a prime example of this: You’ll earn a huge haul of valuable Avios points after completing a very reasonable minimum spending requirement.
Travel is coming back, but so are higher prices
Headlines recently have been inundated with news of inflation and higher prices of consumer goods. It’s not only affecting the prices of used vehicles, gas and groceries — but also flights.
According to data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, the consumer price index for airline fares rose 22% from May 2020, when travel was nearly at a halt, to now. Still, flight prices remain lower than they were pre-pandemic.
Combine this with the spike in demand for travel, and airlines struggling to keep up with the demand, airline ticket prices are rising quickly.
The pressure cooker of factors causing higher fares is one more reason now is a good time to earn points and miles. Of course, airline miles are not immune to inflation. When airline prices rise, award tickets may also see increases. However, it’s still smarter to spend your earned credit card rewards, rather than shelling out more of your hard-earned money on travel costs.
Using frequent flyer programs that still employ award charts can be wise when booking award travel. For example, if you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to British Airways Avios to use on American Airlines, you can grab a short haul flight in the U.S. for 9,000 points.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, it will hopefully be filled with warmer memories than 2020 as Covid-19 vaccination rates are rising,. This will likely lead to more gatherings, traveling and spending.
According to eMarketer, it’s forecasted that U.S. holiday spending will rise 2.7% in 2021, to a whopping $1.093 trillion. And with more than half (52%) of respondents reporting that they feel they can travel safely, according to the U.S. Travel Association June 2021 Monthly Travel Report, there is ample evidence to suggest holiday travel and spending is going to surge.
By earning points and miles now, you can save on your holiday travel costs and also earn rewards on your holiday expenses. And with valuable consumer coverage provided by credit card, including return and fraud protection, you can feel confident making purchases while avoiding buyers remorse.
In addition, if you plan on leaving home during the holiday season, a travel credit card can be a good insurance policy as well. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a long list of travel protections, including: trip cancellation/interruption insurance, rental car insurance, lost luggage reimbursement and trip delay reimbursement.
Why you should act now
The value in travel rewards is having them in your back pocket, waiting for the perfect opportunity to be used. Even if you are not planning a trip, more rewards are always better than less.
And this wave of increased credit card welcome offers won’t be around for long. Once the pandemic is behind us and economic conditions normalize, banks and airlines won’t need to throw wild incentives at consumers, and the plethora of bonuses will likely subside.
If you’re a business owner, you can also take advantage of increased welcome offers on business credit cards:
- With the United℠ Business Card you can earn up to 150,000 bonus miles in your first six months of card membership. You can earn 75,000 bonus miles after making $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening an account, and earn an additional 75,000 miles after you spend $20,000 in total on your card in the first six months.
- American Express® Business Gold Card is offering 70,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $10,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- New cardholders who open the Business Platinum Card® from American Express can earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first three months of card membership.
Right now is an amazing time to earn points and miles. Credit card issuers are pulling out all the stops with enticing welcome offers, along with the return of travel, it is a fruitful time to begin earning travel rewards, or juice up your balance.
However, as with any financial decision, be sure to consider your entire financial picture. It is never advised to spend more, or overextend yourself, with the intention of earning points and miles. But if you can strategically plan your purchases out with the right credit card, you can earn heaps of valuable rewards.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.