The rewards for travel are complex.
According to a survey conducted by iSeatz in 2022 of 2 041 U.S. consumers, nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents have trouble understanding the rules for earning points and redeeming them. This complexity is what makes travel rewards so attractive to spreadsheet obsessives looking to squeeze every last penny out of their miles and points.
They love sharing their lavish holidays on online forums and social media, while nitpicking the Maldives’ best overwater bungalow. The experts rarely discuss the mundane knowledge they have acquired, yet these tactics are crucial for newbies.
You can make better travel decisions by avoiding four common mistakes, regardless of whether you are visiting Milwaukee or the Maldives.
1. Accruing credit card debt
It is most likely that this mistake should also be Nos. 2, 3 and 4. This list includes 2, 3, and 4. Credit cards for travel are great ways to accumulate points, miles, and other rewards. However credit card debt – even if it is relatively low – will soon erase these benefits.
Travel rewards experts avoid credit card debt by not carrying it from one month to the next.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans have nearly one trillion dollars of credit card debt. Delinquencies, which fell early on in the pandemic are now increasing. According to Bank of America’s May report, despite this trend, Americans continue to spend more money on travel. In 2022, credit card and debit card expenditures on travel will surpass 2019 levels.
Short version: Americans spend money on travel that they may not be able to afford and accumulate more debt. This is a no-no when it comes to travel rewards.
2. Buy points and Miles
You may have received emails from airlines with subject lines like “Buy miles at 50% discount for a limited period” Who wouldn’t be interested in such a promotion? But they are rarely. Experts rarely purchase points or miles from the experts.
Why? The companies that offer these rewards manage them as a form of currency. The range of products and services that you can buy is severely limited when exchanging one currency for another. The future value is also in the hands the airline, hotel or credit card that manages them.
According to NerdWallet, Marriott Bonvoy point values have fallen from 1.2 cents each in 2019 down to 0.7 cents in 2022. This is a decrease of 42%. Dollars may be losing their value, but they are less susceptible to large fluctuations.
In certain situations, such as when purchasing some miles in order to redeem a particular redemption code, buying points and miles can make sense. You can generally ignore flashy promotional offers.
3. Travel portals are the best place to redeem credit card rewards
The most general credit cards for travel offer points which can be used in two different ways:
You can redeem points by booking directly through your credit card travel portal.
Transferring points between partner programs.
Most beginners choose option one. You can book a trip through the portal as you normally would. It offers a consistent value per point.
But rewards enthusiasts know the value comes often from the second choice — transfer points to specific travel programs, and book award flights through them.
You can get more out of your credit card rewards if you transfer them to high-value programs like Hyatt. You should only do this if you plan to book award travel with one of these programs.
4. Avoid paying unnecessary annual fees
You know how annoying it is to pay for subscriptions you don’t use, like Paramount+ and that Pilates membership. Credit card charges are usually billed annually. This makes it easier to ignore them.
Avoiding annual fees on cards you don’t use can quickly add up, particularly for premium cards with fees that exceed $400. Travel rewards experts recommend ruthlessly trimming cards that don’t perform.
You can easily get confused by travel reward programs, and the extravagant rewards that are shared on blogs and TikTok. Most travelers stick to the basics most of the times.
Avoid accumulating debt by not buying miles, or paying for credit cards that you don’t use. Consider transferring your credit card rewards to a partner rather than using the points directly.
That’s it. Your obsession with points and miles is now complete.
Maximize your Rewards
It’s essential to choose a credit card for travel that puts your priorities first. Our picks of the top travel credit cards for 2023 include those that are best for: