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Nail Down Your 2020 Travel Credit Card Strategy Now

Dec. 13, 2019
Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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This article is being updated.

With the holidays fast approaching and a new decade soon to follow, your rewards credit card strategy for 2020 may not be at the top of your mind. However, now is precisely the time to start thinking about your reward travel goals.

With several rewards programs and credit cards introducing changes in 2020, you’ll want to plan ahead to avoid surprises and get the most out of your points and miles. Here is why now is the right time to strategize about which credit cards to get.

Figure out your travel plans

Whether you have a summer trip to Europe on your bucket list or are hoping for a spring break getaway, now is the time to start making those plans. You’ll want to figure out the best rewards program to cover travel to your choice destination and then apply for a credit card or cards that can help you earn those points.

Most rewards credit cards have spending requirements that must be completed within a few months. Strategizing which credit cards to get well in advance can ensure you meet those requirements in time to book your trip. This is especially the case if you plan on traveling during peak dates. You’ll want to book in advance or at least have some points saved up in case last-minute award space opens up to in-demand destinations.

Upcoming rewards program changes

Another reason to plan out your 2020 credit card strategy now is because several changes will go into effect next year that you need to account for. For example, in March 2020 Hyatt will incorporate peak and off-peak pricing into its award chart. Under this new system, a free night at a top-tier Category 8 hotel will cost between 35,000 and 45,000 points.

If you’re planning on staying at a Hyatt hotel next year, you could end up paying more for a free night … or you could save a few thousand points. Our recommendation? Book before the changes go into effect. If the redemption rate drops due to off-peak pricing, you’ll automatically receive a refund. If your booking gets qualified as a peak award, you won’t be charged additional points.

If you’ve been planning a credit card application to give your Hyatt balance a boost, you’ll want to work that into your credit card application strategy now. Think about how many points you need, how much of a spending requirement you can complete and how quickly.

» Learn more: 6 travel industry predictions for 2020

Credit card issuer rules

You’ll want to factor credit card issuer rules into your 2020 rewards credit card strategy. While many of us are used to factoring the Chase 5/24 and Amex once-per-lifetime rules into our credit card application strategy, there is another rule that you may not be aware of: Citi’s 48-month rule.

Citi has language on its AAdvantage credit card pages restricting welcome bonuses to one every 48 months. Similarly, there is language on Citi’s ThankYou credit cards that restricts welcome bonuses to one every 24 months. The catch? It’s not just one card’s welcome bonus you’re restricted to every 24 months.

For example, the page for the Citi Premier Card card excludes other bonuses as well: “Bonus ThankYou® Points are not available if you received a new cardmember bonus for Citi Rewards+ Card, Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card, Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige® Card, or if you have closed any of these accounts, in the past 24 months.”

On a different note, if one of your goals in 2020 is to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll want to keep in mind that the requirement is increasing. Starting Jan. 1, 2020, you’ll need 125,000 points rather than 110,000. This might impact which Southwest credit card you decide to apply for or how much spending you can manage — either way, it’s good to think ahead.

» Learn more: Citi Premier review: Potentially lucrative for travelers

The bottom line

Planning ahead is always wise, and when it comes to rewards programs there are several factors that could impact your ability to get the most value out of your credit card welcome bonuses. Whether it’s upcoming changes in hotel redemption requirements, companion passes or card issuer rules, keeping these things in mind can create better outcomes when you’re deciding which credit cards to apply for in 2020.

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 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
What’s the best credit card for accomplishing your New Year’s resolution?
AmEx announces additions and cuts to side perks in 2020
Last-minute mileage run strategies for 2019

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