The Latest in Travel Rewards News

News on points, miles, credit cards, loyalty programs, airlines, hotels and more from NerdWallet writers.

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Oct. 18 - Citi Adds Choice Hotels as Transfer Partner

The Citi ThankYou points program just added its first hotel transfer partner — Choice Hotels. Starting today, people with the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier® Card can transfer points at a 2:1 ratio, meaning they'll get two Choice Privileges points for every Citi ThankYou point. Travelers with the $0-annual-fee Citi Rewards+® Card can also transfer points to Choice, but at a slightly less favorable 1.5:1 ratio.

The Choice Privileges program includes hotel brands like Quality Inn and the Ascend Hotel Collection, and it has a few sweet spots, particularly for the budget traveler. Still, you might get the most value out of your Citi ThankYou points by transferring to some of the program's airline partners.

Oct. 13 - American Airlines and JetBlue Reciprocal Elite Benefits Start Today

Benefits of the Northeast Alliance are rolling out to elite members in American Airlines AAdvantage and JetBlue TruBlue loyalty programs. Starting Oct. 13, elite members will receive the same benefits they're entitled to, such as priority boarding, when they fly on either airline.

They will also receive up to two free checked bags on JetBlue or American flights. At first, TrueBlue Mosaic members, flying on American, will have to check-in at the American Airlines counter to get the fees for checked bags waived. Meanwhile, American elite members on JetBlue can check-in at JetBlue kiosks, ticket counters or even the JetBlue app and will be able to take advantage of the free checked bags.

Just in time for holiday travel, AAdvantage members will be able to redeem their miles for JetBlue flights starting in November. American flyers are already able to earn miles when they fly on JetBlue, and vice versa.

The Northeast Alliance is a partnership between American and JetBlue that includes more route offerings and reciprocal benefits for loyalty members.

Oct. 13 - Enterprise and National Car Rental Extends Elite Status for Members Through 2023

While many airlines and hotels have not announced any further extensions to elite status, Enterprise's car rental brands are going further to continue elite benefits for all of 2022 and into 2023. Elite members of National's Emerald Club or Enterprise Plus will have another year to enjoy their status, which will now expire on Feb. 28, 2023. Emerald Club Program Free Days, which were previously set to expire at the end of 2021, are now valid through Dec. 31, 2022.

If you want to learn more, check out how you may be eligible to get car rental elite status through a credit card or by status matching with your airline or hotel loyalty.

Oct. 12 - New AmEx Centurion Lounge Opening in London Today

American Express' latest Centurion Lounge in Europe is set to open its doors today in London. Centurion Lounges are some of the swankiest airport lounges, known to have premium amenities and signature meals and beverages. The new location in Heathrow Airport is the third Centurion Lounge to open this year. You must hold one of the following cards to visit:

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express.

  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

  • The Centurion® Card from American Express.

  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (only when flying Delta-marketed flights).

  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (only when flying Delta-marketed flights).

Terms apply.

Like other Centurion lounges, the London location takes inspiration from local landmarks and food. Guests will be able to enjoy bath and body care products from the London-based company Soapsmith. As far as refreshments, travelers will be able to pick from a hot or cold beverage from the tea cart. The bar serves British cocktails, like the Wayne's Collins, and the chefs are serving up food like Kubalah bread, pita chips with tahini, beef and lamb dishes, and an olive oil cake. The 7,000-square-foot lounge will also feature artwork from local artists and a moss wall as a tribute to the famous Hyde Park. The Centurion Lounge at Heathrow is located in Terminal 3.

Oct. 7 - Capital One Adds More Airlines As 1:1 Transfer Partners

Now that six airlines are moving to a more favorable transfer ratio, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardCapital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card or Capital One Spark Miles for Business cardholders can transfer their miles 1:1 with almost all Capital One partners. The airline loyalty programs that are now participating in a 1:1 transfer are:

That brings the total number of 1:1 transfer partners to 15, putting it on par with American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Oct. 7 - United Introduces PayPal QR Code Payments In-Flight

United is expanding its in-flight contactless payment options. The airline will begin accepting PayPal QR codes as a way to pay for food, beverages and other in-flight purchases. United customers will have to download the PayPal app, click the "Pay with QR codes" button and show the QR code to a flight attendant to scan. This payment method works even without Wi-Fi and it'll be available starting in November on select flights out of Chicago, before rolling out to more flights by the end of the year.

Oct. 4 - Capital One to Lose JetBlue as a Transfer Partner

If you’re hoping to transfer your Capital One miles to the JetBlue TrueBlue loyalty program, you’ll have to move fast. If you hold one of Capital One’s miles-earning credit cards, the ability to transfer them to JetBlue goes away as of 11:59 p.m. ET on Oct. 24, 2021.

Capital One miles can still be transferred to more than a dozen other travel loyalty programs, which include those from Air Canada, British Airways, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

While Capital One miles are almost always more valuable when redeemed for travel versus cash, the JetBlue news isn’t a huge loss considering it was one of the transfer partners we recommend avoiding.

Oct. 1 - Free Breakfast is Back at Some Marriotts

Photo courtesy of Marriott

Hot breakfast buffets are returning at some properties within the following four Marriott brands:

  • Residence Inn by Marriott.

  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott.

  • Fairfield by Marriott.

  • TownePlace Suites by Marriott.

Menu items are set to include spinach and cheese quiche; sausage, egg and cheese on a whole-wheat bagel; and jalapeno cheddar baked soufflés. Then, there are build-your-own bowls filled with ingredients including yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, granola, pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes. Expect fresh fruit and coffee, too.

Breakfast buffets will be served at select properties starting in October before rolling out in all hotels across the four brands this winter.

Sept. 30 - Chase Announces New Travel Categories for Pay Yourself Back

Chase's Pay Yourself Back feature will now let cardholders redeem Ultimate Rewards® points at a better-than-normal redemption rate for spending with Airbnb and Away through March 31, 2022. That means customers with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can redeem their points as statement credit at a value of 1.25 cents each. Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders will get an even better redemption value of 1.5 cents per point.

This can be a useful way to offset the cost of an Airbnb with points, but it's not as useful for people who aren't traveling yet.

Previously, the Pay Yourself Back feature was a temporary redemption option created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous bonus categories were grocery stores, restaurants, home improvement stores and select charities. Donations to certain charitable organizations are still eligible for Pay Yourself Back through Dec. 31, 2022.

Sept. 23 - Marriott Cards Increase Welcome Offers

Chase and AmEx have introduced limited-time welcome offers on their co-branded Marriott cards, including valuable free night certificates that usually come after your cardmember anniversary. Here are some of the new offers:

  • The Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card ($0 annual fee): For a Limited Time Only! Earn 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. This is double the previous welcome offer, and not too shabby for a card with no annual fee.

  • The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card ($95 annual fee): For a Limited Time Only! Earn 125,000 Bonus Points and 1 Free Night Award (value up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. NerdWallet values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.7 cent each, so the 125,000 points is worth about $875 alone. Add in the 50,000-point Free Night Award (worth $350), and you could get more than $1,200 in Marriott stays with this boosted bonus. Terms apply.

  • The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card ($450 annual fee): Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021. This Free Night Award is worth up to 85,000 points, which is higher than any Free Night Award offered on any Marriott card. It can be used to book a standard night at Marriott's highest tier, a Category 8 hotel.

  • The Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card ($125 annual fee): Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points & 2 bonus Free Night Awards after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months. Each bonus Free Night Award has a redemption level up to 50K points. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/3/2021. Terms Apply. This welcome bonus has the best of both, with increased bonus points and Free Night Awards that weren't part of the offer previously.

Learn more about which Marriott Bonvoy card is right for you and check out our list of the best increased offers on all sorts of travel cards.

Sept. 20 - U.S. Plans to Relax Travel Restrictions for Vaccinated Foreign Nationals in November

The White House announced it will soon replace the blanket travel restrictions that prevent citizens of certain countries from visiting the U.S. Starting in November, vaccinated foreign nationals will be able to enter the U.S. by showing proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their departing flight. No quarantine is required. This policy already applies to vaccinated U.S. citizens returning home from a trip abroad. The White House has not yet announced whether people who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not been approved for emergency use in the U.S., will qualify as fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated U.S. citizens will have stricter requirements to re-enter the U.S. They will need both a negative COVID-19 test within one day prior to departure and a test after arrival. Airlines will also be required to collect contact tracing information for passengers in the case of an outbreak.

Sept. 16 - Southwest Releases Flight Schedule Through April 24, 2022

Travelers can now start planning their spring travel on Southwest. The airline has opened bookings for flights through April 24, 2022. Unlike other airlines, Southwest does not extend their schedule on a rolling basis; instead, they release more flights about every three months.

Some of the new and expanded routes coming next year include more flights from Austin, Texas, including a new route between Austin and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Southwest is also planning to increase service from the mainland to Hawaii and resume seasonal service between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Learn more about flying Southwest in our guide to the Southwest Rapid Rewards loyalty program.

Sept. 15 - Hilton Extends Benefits and Elite Status (Again)

As the travel industry still works to recover, another hotel chain is extending its loyalty program benefits for yet another year after already-generous extensions for 2020 loyalty members into 2021.

Hilton announced today that it would relax its 2022 policies for Hilton Honors members, letting members keep their status, maintain their points and reach higher levels of status more easily.

The benefit changes announced today include:

Extending status through March 31, 2023: Whatever level of Hilton elite status you hold as of now, you’ll retain through at least March 31, 2023.

Pausing points expiration until Dec. 31, 2022: Typically, Hilton Honors points expire after 12 months of account inactivity. Now, points currently in your account won't expire until at least Dec. 31, 2022, whether or not you have account activity.

Reducing qualifications around earning (or gifting) status and bonuses in 2022: While the path to earn elite status for 2022 isn’t quite as easy as it was to get for 2021, Hilton has still reduced what you need to do to qualify for elite status. Here are the original status requirements pre-pandemic, versus what you need to do to earn status for 2022:




2020 Elite Status Qualifications

10 nights or 4 stays or 25,000 points.

40 nights or 20 stays or 75,000 points.

60 nights or 30 stays or 120,000 points.

2022 Elite Status Qualifications

7 nights or 3 stays or 17,500 points.

28 nights or 14 stays or 52,500 points.

42 nights or 21 stays or 84,000 points.

If you don’t yet hold elite status (or you want to level up the status you have), this is one of the easiest opportunities to level up (aside from holding certain Hilton credit cards that entail automatic elite status).

Hilton is also granting milestone bonuses the more frequently you stay. Now, you’ll earn:

  • 10,000 bonus points at 30 nights.

  • 10,000 bonus points for every 10 additional nights (after 30 nights).

  • One-time 30,000 bonus points at 60 nights.

And if you’ve stayed at least 40 nights with Hilton, you can grant Gold status to one friend or family member. With 70 nights, you can grant them Diamond status.

Extending rollover nights: And you might not even have to spend that many nights, assuming you stayed at a Hilton already in 2021. All completed 2021 nights automatically roll over and count toward 2022 tier qualifications.

Allowing more flexibility for free weekend night certificates: Hilton’s Free Weekend Night Certificates typically can only be used on, well, weekends. But now, they can be used any night of the week (not just on weekends).

Sept. 14 - American Airlines Now Sells Day Passes to its Exclusive Flagship Lounges

For the first time, American Airlines is allowing passengers to buy their way into its Flagship Lounges, a collection of high-end lounges that offers an even more upscale experience than the airline's Admirals Club. The day passes will cost $150 per person and are only available for purchase by visiting the lounge in person. The only other requirement is that you must have a same-day ticket for a flight marketed or operated by American Airlines or another Oneworld partner (regardless of cabin).

Flagship Lounges are known for their elevated menu, specialty wine and cocktail bar, shower suites, and spacious seating area. There are currently four locations in the U.S., but due to the pandemic, only the one at New York-JFK is currently operating.

Previously, access to Flagship Lounges was limited. Even people with Admirals Club membership were excluded. Flyers with the highest levels of elite status, like ConciergeKey on American Airlines or Emerald or Sapphire status on Oneworld, could use the lounge before or between flights on American or Oneworld partner flights. Without status, only passengers with a "Flagship First" ticket in business or first class on qualifying international or transcontinental flights were eligible to visit the Flagship Lounges.

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:

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