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First there was Black Friday, followed by Small Business Saturday and then Cyber Monday. It seems that around the holidays, someone has decided for us what days we should all spend our money, and on what. The latest designated spending "holiday" is now Travel Tuesday — but I’m not sure it’s something you should get too excited about.
Travel deals are different from sales on merchandise
If I want to buy a new TV on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it’s easy to start researching what I need now and then choose the best deal available when the big day arrives. But it’s impossible to research every possible destination in preparation to jump on whatever great flight or hotel deals are offered on Travel Tuesday.
And while the price of merchandise remains somewhat the same throughout the year, the cost of an airline ticket or a hotel reservation can vary dramatically between peak and off-peak travel times. So when you see a purported Travel Tuesday deal, it’s very hard to know what kind of a “deal” it really is — unless it’s for a precise date and location you’ve already researched.
Travel isn’t a great impulse buy
On Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you’re almost guaranteed to see a new gadget you crave. And if the price is right, you might as well buy it, knowing that it’s exactly what you want (or at least that most stores will offer you a time period to return it if you don’t like it).
But when you make an airline reservation, you’ll have just 24 hours to cancel it if you decide it doesn’t work out for you. After that, you’ll be on the hook for huge change fees. And if the ticket is in the lowest basic economy fare class, then it might not be changeable or refundable at all.
Beyond that, you should keep in mind that savvy travelers need time to plan a great trip. Before you shell out hundreds of dollars for an intercontinental flight, you want to take time to research the destination, find out the best time of year to visit, and price out the cost of hotels, transfers and activities. But when you have just minutes to decide whether to book a flash sale on Travel Tuesday, you may find yourself making a poorly informed purchase that you might regret.
» Learn more: Top websites to book travel deals
It’s always Travel Tuesday for points and miles enthusiasts
While some are looking to score a quick deal on Travel Tuesday, most award travel enthusiasts like me will probably be sitting it out. That’s because we don’t just look for low-priced airfare and hotels. We book our travel for free (or as close to it as we can). So it’s pretty hard to get excited about a $599 economy class ticket to Europe when I can use my miles for a business class ticket and pay less than $100 in taxes and fees.
When you understand how to earn and use points and miles, you start to see these kind of deals all year long. For example, maybe you apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express, which currently comes with the following welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. Those points could easily get you a one-way ticket to Europe in business class.
» Learn more: Full review of the AmEx Platinum card
Another option is the World of Hyatt Credit Card, with this offer: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent.
Since Hyatt free nights start at 5,000 points each, that offer alone can be worth up to 10 free nights. You’ll earn another free night on your cardmember anniversary and can get another by meeting a higher spending threshold — and don’t forget the points you’d rack up from completing the spending itself.
Travel rewards enthusiasts also find low-priced promotional awards and transfer bonuses throughout the year that allow us to go further when we move our credit card rewards or hotel points to airline miles.
How to stack Travel Tuesday with credit card rewards
Despite my skepticism about the value of Travel Tuesday deals, especially for award travelers, I do think it’s possible to combine some of these offers with credit card rewards. For example, if you’re able to purchase a great travel deal with your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, then you can still use your Capital One miles to pay for it.
And if airlines offer extra-low fares that you can purchase through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards® travel platform (which is powered by Expedia), then you can redeem your credit card rewards to pay for that as well. In fact, Chase Sapphire Reserve® cardholders receive 1.5 cents in value per point redeemed.
And of course, if you’re purchasing travel that day, then you’ll want to use a travel rewards card that offers you the most points or miles per dollar spent. Candidates include:
The Citi Prestige® Card, which features 5x points on air travel and 3x at hotels.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which earns 3x on all travel reservations made outside the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. (Earn 5x points on air travel and 10x points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through the portal).
The bottom line
By the time the Tuesday after Thanksgiving rolls around, you might already have shopping fatigue — and that’s OK. There might be some good travel deals on that day, but it’s far from a sure thing. By opening your eyes to award travel opportunities throughout the year, you can let Tuesday pass you by … and still pay a fraction of the regular price for your travel.
The information related to Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
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:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: 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: Find the best travel credit card for you Snag these hotel loyalty perks, even if you’re disloyal Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies