Traveling over the holidays doesn’t have to be an ordeal. In this series, we’re sharing expert advice to help you use your credit cards to travel smarter and focus on having fun.
For many, the holiday season is about giving and not receiving. But is it possible to earn rewards from your end-of-year adventures?
If you look for the right promotions and take advantage of travel loyalty programs, you can get a gift for yourself on your next trip. And after you fly, juggle luggage and manage hotel shuttle schedules, you’ll get to rest and revel in your travel rewards.
Here’s what to seek out when planning your winter getaways this year.
Look for hotel reward programs
With more travelers taking to the roads and skies at the end of the year to spend time with friends and family, hotels want to capitalize on customer loyalty. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find hotel promotions directed at hotel loyalty program members.
Even if you aren’t a frequent guest, hotel rewards points can add up quickly. The promotions can include discounted rooms or additional points-earning opportunities. The promotions going on right now include:
Choice Privileges members can earn a bonus 10,000 points when booking a vacation rental for at least three nights and using the code EARN10K.
Triple points on luxury and resort stays and double points on all other Hilton stays with the Moments Made Bigger promotion.
IHG Rewards Club
Earn double points on hotel stays (up to an additional 15,000 points) through Dec. 16 with the Double Points Plus More promotion.
With MegaBonus in More Places, stay two or more nights at Marriott properties through Jan. 31, 2019, and earn a bonus 2,000 Marriott Rewards points per stay, along with an additional 1,000 points per unique brand starting with your second hotel stay.
Earn a 15,000-point bonus when you book by Oct. 21 and complete your stay by Feb. 25, 2019.
» Learn more: What hotel credit card upgrades mean for your bottom line.
Airlines help you reach elite status
Hotels aren’t the only ones trying to help you get rewarded during the most wonderful time of the year. Airlines often want to help their most loyal flyers make the most of their travels, which means promotions often come up at the end of the year.
If you have flown multiple flights aboard one airline, now might be the right time to see how close you are to earning elite status. Airline elite status is earned after flying enough miles with one airline or its partners, along with spending a minimum amount of money on qualifying expenses, such as airfare and upgrades. In exchange, elite flyers get access to seats with more legroom, upgrades and free checked bags.
If you haven’t received a promotion, consider contacting the airline to see if it has promotions to help you get closer to your elite status goal. In some situations, airlines may extend an opportunity to either earn more miles or waive the elite qualifying dollar requirement.
In addition, some credit cards can also help you get closer to your loyalty goal. Some credit cards, like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, allow you to earn elite qualifying miles and waive elite qualifying dollar requirements from spending. Before you give up on elite status for the year, be sure to check if your spending habits could get you closer to more miles and potential upgrades next year.
Multiply your bonuses with the right credit card
Finally, waiting for hotel and airline promotions isn't the only way to cash in during the holidays. When using the right credit card to pay for your airfare or hotel stay, travelers can multiply their earnings in points or miles.
Both airline- and hotel-branded credit cards offer extra points when they're used for purchases on their airlines. Some cards can also offer discounts as well. For instance, all airline credit cards include free checked bags, but the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card offers a discount on in-flight purchases as well.
If you would rather earn flexible points you can use at other places, some rewards credit cards offer extra points for travel purchases as well. The American Express® Gold Card offers 3X points on airfare purchased directly from airlines, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2X points on all travel purchases, from airfare and hotels to taxis and trains.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: 8 pro tips for smart and cheap family travel What every airline reservationist knows that you should, too Plan my trip: Top websites for travel deals