Travel Rewards Cards: How to Maximize Points, Perks and Miles

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An illustration of a idiosyncratic   reaching for money, airplanes, edifice  beds and a sheet  with silverware, each  floating around. The idiosyncratic   is holding respective  recognition  cards successful  the different   hand.
Credit...Dani Pendergast


Sept. 7, 2023, 5:02 a.m. ET

Sept. 7, 2023, 5:02 a.m. ET

Sign-up bonuses, lounge access, currency rebates, escaped edifice rooms and plentifulness of good print: The dizzying promotions and Byzantine rules connected earning and redeeming points with rewards recognition cards tin marque your caput spin. Here are immoderate ways to chopped done the disorder and get the astir retired of them.

Rewards cards connection 3 types of value. There is typically a sign-up bonus, up to 120,000 points oregon miles aft spending a minimum magnitude wrong a definite period. Then determination are the points, miles oregon currency backmost you person for spending with the card, sometimes multiplied for purchases successful circumstantial categories similar travel, eating oregon fuel. Last, determination are the benefits you person arsenic a cardholder, similar credits for the Global Entry oregon TSA PreCheck exertion fees, entree to airdrome lounges, and elite presumption astatine hotels.

Travelers should measurement the rewards against the yearly outgo of a card, which tin scope from zero to $695, and which airlines, hotels and different question partners it works with. To get the champion value, wage disconnected the full equilibrium each period to debar involvement charges. Autopay is your friend.

A co-branded card, similar the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature (fee $95), helps you execute presumption faster with that airline. Cards co-branded with airlines whitethorn besides connection perks similar precedence boarding, escaped checked bags and lounge entree — a positive if you thin to alert connected 1 carrier. The Alaska paper offers a $99 companion summons (plus taxes and fees) each twelvemonth erstwhile spending requirements are met. Hotel chains connection akin co-branded cards. The World of Hyatt Visa and Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa (both $95) springiness cardholders 1 escaped night, astatine their low- to midtier brands, connected the day of the customer’s sign-up.

If you take a paper that’s not co-branded, you tin sometimes transportation your points to your preferred airline’s loyalty program. For cards that don’t person partnerships with definite airlines, you tin often usage code-sharing arsenic a workaround. For example, Capital One does not let you to transportation your points straight to Delta SkyMiles. To publication a spot connected a Delta flight, transportation your points to Aeromexico — which Capital One does person a concern with — past usage those points to publication a code-share spot connected Delta done the SkyTeam alliance.

Redemption values tin alteration depending connected however you usage your points, said Gary Leff, of the question tract View From the Wing. His advice: Explore the assortment of ways you tin redeem them and purpose to get astatine slightest 1 penny per point. Citi ThankYou points are usually worthy a penny erstwhile buying acquisition cards from a assortment of retailers. American Express cardholders volition get 1 cent per constituent erstwhile they’re utilizing their Membership Rewards equilibrium to acquisition an hose summons oregon a edifice country connected the Amex website — and immoderate besides gain 5 points per dollar spent. For example, a $500 country booking volition outgo 50,000 points, but gain 2,500 points, worthy $25, for buying it done the website.

Those aforesaid Amex points are worthy lone astir 0.7 cents if utilized to marque a acquisition connected Amazon and 0.6 cents if utilized to wage for eligible purchases connected your monthly statement. Credit paper websites typically person a conception detailing redemption values.

Sometimes, points tin transcend 1 cent successful worth if you transportation them to an hose loyalty programme to bargain a ticket, Mr. Leff said. And support an oculus connected question websites, societal media and your email inbox for impermanent transportation bonus offers, which tin springiness you an further bump of up to 30 percent connected points you are moving to a circumstantial hose oregon edifice partner.

Tempted by a hefty sign-up bonus? Wait until you’re readying a large vacation, doing a location renovation, oregon paying assemblage tuition oregon different ample expense, advises Kylie Queisser, who offers travel proposal connected TikTok. Then usage that large disbursal to conscionable the minimum spending request for the bonus. The Capital One Venture X Visa paper ($395) offers 75,000 miles aft spending $4,000 successful 3 months. The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard ($595) offers 100,000 points for spending $10,000 successful 3 months.

Bonus amounts similar those tin beryllium significant: 75,000 Capital One points tin beryllium redeemed for $750 successful question spending; 100,000 American Airlines miles could bargain respective cross-country level tickets.

If you don’t caput a small juggling, tailoring idiosyncratic cards to circumstantial purchases tin maximize benefits. For example, brace a Chase Sapphire Reserve paper ($550), which earns 3 points per dollar connected question and eating expenses, with a no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited card, which earns 1 and a fractional points per dollar, for everything else, Mr. Leff suggested. “There are akin ways to brace American Express cards and Citibank cards,” helium said.

So however bash you support way of which 1 does what? Easy, Mr. Leff said: He puts small stickers indicating restaurants, gas, groceries oregon different categories connected each of his household members’ recognition cards.

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