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Jan. 20 - American Airlines Extends Travel Waivers Through March 31
More flexibility is now available for American Airlines customers as a new extension has now gone into effect. This new extension allows fee-free changes to bookings, and it applies to tickets purchased prior to March 31, 2021 (including Basic Economy). These changes can include a new origin and destination, but customers will be responsible for paying any increase in fare difference.
Jan. 15 - Southwest Gives Members A Boost Toward Earning A-List Status and Companion Pass
Southwest Rapid Rewards members will automatically receive qualifying points in the coming week that will help them earn the airline's version of elite status and the valuable Companion Pass. Every member with a Rapid Rewards account opened by Dec. 31, 2020, will start the year with:
15,000 tier qualifying points and 10 qualifying flight credits toward A-List status. To qualify for A-List status, you need 35,000 tier qualifying points or 25 qualifying flight credits. If you want to earn A-List Preferred status, the point and flight credit requirements are double.
25,000 qualifying points and 25 qualifying flights toward Companion Pass. That's equal to 20% of the points or 25% of the flights necessary to earn the Companion Pass.
Southwest is also extending Companion Pass benefits through Dec. 31, 2021, for people who already received an extension. Previously, the extension was only good until June 30, 2021.
Southwest co-branded credit cardholders also have the opportunity to earn A-List status through spending alone. Now, cardholders can earn 1,500 tier qualifying points toward A-List or A-List Preferred for every $10,000 spent in the 2021 calendar year and there's no limit to the number of qualifying points they can earn.
Stay tuned for our full analysis of these changes later today.
Jan. 13 - IHG Lowers Elite Status Requirements
Like other hotel loyalty programs, IHG is incentivizing members to stick with their brand by making it easier to earn elite status this year. Here are some of the ways:
Extending the policy from 2020, IHG has reduced the number of points and nights needed to qualify for elite status by 25%.
If a member already had elite status last year, all qualifying nights stayed in 2020 will automatically be rolled into 2021 to give them a head start on earning status again.
IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card cardholders receive automatic Platinum status.
All members can earn elite qualifying bonus points through IHG's spring promotion. For every qualifying two nights stayed at an IHG hotel between Jan. 20 and March 31, 2021, members can earn 2,000 bonus points. You have to register before your stays to participate in the promotion.
Additionally, cardholders with free night certificates now have until Dec. 31, 2021 to use any awards that would have expired earlier in the year. IHG also extended the pause on points expiration until June 30, 2021.
You can read our full analysis of these policies here.
Jan. 11 - Marriott Rolls Out Several Bonvoy Changes for 2021
Marriott is making life a little bit better for Bonvoy members in 2021 with several updates to the program that make earning and redeeming points easier. These program updates include:
Members will get a 50% Elite Night Credit (ENC) deposit based on their 2020 elite level to get a head start on re-qualifying in 2021. The ENC deposits will be: 50 for Ambassador, 38 for Titanium, 25 for Platinum, 13 for Gold and five for Silver.
The spending threshold for Ambassador status has been reduced to $14,000.
Off peak redemption rates have been reduced by 10% for reservations through Sept. 30 (book by Feb. 21).
Read our full breakdown of these changes.
Jan. 8 - Air Canada Extends Flexible Policies
With travel in 2021 still in question, Air Canada announced two additional extensions to their Aeroplan award program. First, all rewards booked through Feb. 28 will be allowed to be changed or cancelled for free prior to departure. Second, the pause on points expiration has been moved to June 29. After that (unless they extend it again) points will expire like normal if your account becomes inactive for 18 months.
Jan. 5 - AmEx Unveils $30 Monthly PayPal Credit
From Jan. 1 through June 30, 2021, The Platinum Card® from American Express will offer $30 per month in statement credits on eligible PayPal purchases. That's a total of up to $180 in credits over six months. Terms apply.
Read more about the recent AmEx changes here.
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