The complete reference guide to traveling more for less.
|Earning Points and Frequent Flyer Miles. Even if you don't travel frequently for work, you can easily earn enough reward points for free hotel nights and frequent flyer tickets. With a little bit of effort, you can earn enough reward points for multiple free hotel nights and frequent flyer tickets every year.|
|Using Your Points for Free Travel. Once you earned a bunch of points, you get to spend them. While using hotel points isn't very challenging, it can be hard to get good value from your frequent flyer miles. But with a little help and a little luck, you can master the art of getting free tickets.|
|Save Money on All Your Reservations.. Most people aren't going to get all their travel for free, but you can still travel for less money. With the right strategies, you can almost always get a cheaper price on your hotels, airplane tickets, and car rentals than what you'd find on a quick search on a travel website like Expedia.|
|Easy Access to Valuable Travel Benefits. You don't need high-level status to get access to many valuable travel benefits. Anyone can easily get access to airport lounges, free hotel night certificates, airline companion tickets, free checked bags, free hotel breakfasts, and other desirable travel benefits.|
Our Credit Cards Reference Guide provides tips and techniques for optimizing the process of signing up for and getting rid of cards, avoiding any mistakes, managing your credit rating, and making sure you don't miss out on earning the best possible signup offer on every new card.
- Easy Air Canada Status Match. If you have elite status with a US airline, you can easily get it matched to status with Air Canada. 50K level status is good enough to give you lounge access when you are flying United (or other Star Alliance partners). Status is good until the end of 2021, but if you take one Air Canada round-trip flight before January 15th, they will extend your status until the end of 2022. See this post at View From the Wing for more detail or go directly to the status match webpage.
- Revamped Bilt Mastercard is Potentially Useful. Bilt introduced their reward program a few months ago, but recently revamped it, making it interesting to far more people. Like Ultimate Rewards points, Bilt points can be turned into valuable Hyatt points as well as frequent flyer tickets with a number of frequent flyer programs. They have a small but very sold set of frequent flyer partners, including American Airlines and Turkish Airlines (which has a number of useful sweet-spots).
- New Award Ticket Partnerships. Ultimate Rewards has added the ability to transfer points to Air Canada's Aeroplan, which sometimes requires fewer miles than booking through United and allows for some well-priced multi-destination trips. Chase will issue an Aeroplan credit card later this year. If you register now with this link, you'll get an extra 10,000 points on top of the at-launch signup bonus.
- Bank of America introduced a new Unlimited Cash Card. If you are using the Travel Rewards Card for your regular spending, you probably want to switch it to the Unlimited Cash Card. The two cards are nearly identical, but the Unlimited Cash Card allows you to cash out your points more easily. The downside is that it charges a foreign transaction fee.
- Citi ThankYou points are now transferable to American Airlines (for a limited time?). This is tremendous news for fans of the American Airlines frequent flyer program, the Citi Premier signup bonus can now be turned into 80,000 AA miles, the Citi Double Cash Card can now earn 2x AA miles on every purchase, the Citi Premier card now earn 3x AA miles on all the major bonus categories, and you can redeem your existing ThankYou Rewards balance. AA still has lots of international sweet spots, but has announced that dynamic award pricing is coming, so AA miles may become less valuable moving forward. The ability to transfer to American is being billed as a limited-time option, expiring on November 13th. Hopefully, it will be extended or made permanent.
- Citi Prestige Card is no longer available for new signups. When it was introduced this was probably the best travel and rewards credit cards, but its benefits had been shaved back over time.
- Easy Hertz Five Star Elite Status. New Hertz accounts will be automatically given Five Star elite status until the end of the year. You'll keep your status for 2022 if you make three qualifying rentals during the second half of 2021. Hertz webpage.
- Higher fee, more lucrative bonuses, and new credits for the Amex Platinum Card. Normally, we don't include changes to individual credit cards in this section, but the Platinum Card is one of the key travel cards on the market and the changes were relatively significant. The annual fee was raised to a whopping $695. At the same time, a set of new credits were added: a $200 annual credit for Amex's Fine Hotels & Resorts or Hotel Collection, a $20 per month credit for a few less-popular digital entertainment services, an annual $179 Clear credit, and a $25 per month credit for Equinox fitness centers or app. In addition, there is a chance that Amex will start limiting you to only a single bonus across all versions of their Platinum Card, rather than allowing you to earn a separate bonus for each version.
- Schwab Platinum Cashout Rate Dropping to 1.1 Cents. Starting in September, cardholders will only receive 1.1 cents, rather than 1.25 cents, when cashing out their Membership Rewards points to Schwab. This reduces the value of Membership Rewards for people who have difficulty finding good opportunities to redeem their points for frequent flyer tickets. As long as you are willing to use your points to purchase regular premium cabin tickets or tickets on your favorite airline, Business Platinum cardholders can still "cash out" points at 1.56 cents each. Amex Platinum Card.
- New Custom Cash Card from Citibank. Citibank has introduced a new no-annual-fee credit card that earns 5x ThankYou points on your top spending category every statement (on up to $500 of category spending). If you have a Citi Premier or Prestige Card, you can transfer these points into 5x airline miles with over a dozen different frequent flyer programs, which makes the reward rate more valuable than the other "pick your own category" cards. You can use this to boost your reward rate on your first $500 of grocery, restaurant, or travel purchases each statement period, or to earn bonus points on a less common category like gym memberships or home improvement stores. Citi Custom Cash Card.
- Insane Signup Offers. Amex and Chase are being super aggressive with their signup offers in an attempt to bring in new cardholders as travel and spending accelerates post-pandemic. Many cards have all-time offers and we've never seen so many offers with net signup values of over $1,000 each (16). Everyone who is eligible should take advantage of at least the current Amex Platinum 100,000 + 10x point, Amex Business Platinum 150,000 point, Ink Preferred 100,000 point, Sapphire Preferred 100,000 point, and Capital One Venture 100,000 point offers (and probably many of the others). The Business Platinum Offer is often available even to people who have had the card before. Best credit card signup bonuses.
- Take advantage of reduced requirements for earning hotel status. Due to reduced travel opportunities, hotel programs have reduced the requirements for earning status in 2021 (to be used through the end of 2022 or early 2023). For most people, Hyatt Globalist is the most valuable elite status and it can be earned with as little as 10 nights (plus some credit card spend) rather than the usual 60. If you have Marriott Gold status, you may only need to stay 7 nights to earn the much more valuable Platinum status. And if you already have Marriott Platinum status, you should be able to easily requalify for next year. Boost Your Hotel Status.
There are two main use cases. The card has no annual fee and earns 3x transferable points on dining purchases. Particularly if you aren't using the Chase Unlimited Combo, this can be a great choice for your dining spending. In addition, you can earn 1x points (on up to $50,000 of spending per year) when paying your rent to landlords that don't allow fee-free credit card payments. Without the Bilt card, renters would need to settle for not earning reward points on their (likely) biggest spending category, paying fees to use other credit cards (and potentially meet minimum spending requirements) through payment services like Plastiq, or potentially finding some way to earn rewards with a debit card transaction.
Alaska has dropped the ability to transfer points to Emirates, but has added the ability to transfer points to Qatar. You can now redeem AA points with South American ultra low cost Jetsmart, and Air Canada Aeroplan points with European low-cost Eurowings Discover.
Regardless of how you feel about the changes, they were accompanied by simply mind-blowingly valuable promotional signup offers, including very rare larger-than-normal bonuses for the co-branded cards. For more details see our Amex Platinum Card guide.