Read to find out how three members of the CreditCards.com editorial team are using different cards to put their earned points to use this summer.
With many parts of the world opening for international travel, the CreditCards.com team is eager to put their rewards points to good use this summer.
After more than a year of quarantine, many of us have been saving our credit card rewards for a time when travel is feasible. Here’s how our staff plan to make the most of their credit card rewards, plus a few tips on how to maximize the value of your points and miles.
Barri Segal – Writer
Barri Segal is a self-professed “dyed-in-the-wool planner” who takes trip preparation very seriously. After living in lockdown for the last year and pushing off all travel, she was ready to plan a summer trip to Europe.
Why the Chase Freedom Unlimited?
One initial consideration for Barri centered around what issuers would be widely accepted by vendors in Europe. Before getting the Chase Freedom Unlimited, Barri only had one credit card – the Discover it® Cash Back. While she’s fond of that card, Barri wanted another one that would be more widely accepted during her travels. In Europe, credit cards issued by Visa and Mastercard are accepted more often than cards issued by Discover.
How Barri earned rewards with the Chase Freedom Unlimited
Once she got her new card, Barri immediately spent the $500 needed to earn her $200 sign-up bonus. By purchasing her plane tickets with the card, Barri earned $200 back on a purchase she already intended to make. From there, she took advantage of the 5% cash back card owners earn on Lyft rides (offer valid through March 2022) and 3% back on drugstore purchases.
Barri’s tip: Avoid or “cancel” foreign transaction fees when possible
A potential downside of using the Chase Freedom Unlimited abroad is the 3% foreign transaction fee. Barri’s advice for getting around this fee? Cancel it out!
“I will use the card at restaurants to get 3% cash back – takeout and eligible delivery services are included – which will essentially cancel the foreign transaction fee,” explained Barri.
Ana Staples – Writer
For staff writer Ana Staples, credit card rewards points will be paying for her flight back home to Russia in August. Ana – who now lives in Texas – decided to get the American Express® Gold Card as her first real travel credit card.
Why the American Express Gold Card?
“I got the American Express Gold Card with the special 75,000-point bonus offer in February. It’s my first ‘serious’ travel credit card, and I’m now officially hooked on travel rewards,” Ana explained.
She went on to say, “I earned the bonus and, with some points I’d made along the way, I booked a round-trip ticket to Moscow in August for 77,000 points ($770). I’m excited – I’m going to go to my cousin’s wedding and then travel to St. Petersburg with my mom.”
Ana took advantage of a limited-time welcome bonus, but new cardholders who sign up for the Amex Gold Card will still earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first six months. You can also get up to $120 in Uber Cash ($10 per month) and up to 12 free months of an Uber Eats Pass subscription when you enroll with your Gold Card by Dec. 31, 2021.
Ana’s tip: Earn additional bonus points by referring friends
Ana also earned rewards by referring friends to American Express.
“When I spent my sign-up bonus, I also referred my friend to the card. She was approved, and I got another 30,000 points,” explained Ana.
With the additional points she earned from her referral (plus some American Airlines credit from a canceled trip), Ana booked another trip for the summer.
“I’m going to Seattle in July,” she said. “I booked the hotel with my referral bonus. It was $500 for five nights, but after using 36,000 points, I only paid $240. Can’t wait to explore Seattle and take a trip to Forks, Washington.”
Something to keep in mind
To ensure that you’re getting top value for your points, you’ll need to know the point transfer value of the specific airline or hotel that you want to use. When it comes to Amex, one point typically equates to roughly one cent for most major airlines, while the cost of hotel stays may fluctuate depending on the property. Ana made a reservation with Larkspur Landing hotels and they accepted her Amex points at a rate of 0.7 cents per point.
Kelley King – Publisher
Kelley King primarily uses two American Express credit cards to earn travel rewards.
Kelley has owned The Platinum Card® from American Express for almost four years and the rose gold variation of the Amex Gold for a little over a year. During that time, she has managed to accrue 242,055 points – largely from purchasing flights to travel to friends’ weddings.
Why the Amex Platinum and Rose Gold cards?
While some people might be intimidated by the $550 annual fee that comes with the Platinum card, Kelley believes her Amex cards are worth it because of the issuer’s partnerships with brands like Hilton, Marriott and Delta Airlines.
“Amex makes it so easy to transfer points,” Kelley explained. “I will say that Marriott and Hilton are both great if you have an American Express card. With the American Express Platinum Card, you automatically get status with those hotels and the status gets you a fifth night free.”
Kelley also touted the benefits of Amex’s partnerships with Marriott and Hilton, which include bonus transfer points. Currently, American Express Card Members can transfer 1,000 Amex Points to Hilton for 2,800 Hilton Points. While Amex and Marriott points typically transfer at a 1:1 rate, they are currently offering a promotion where customers can transfer five Membership Rewards points for six Marriott Bonvoy points.
Kelley’s tip: Maximize the value of points by booking with Amex partners
Kelley said she has “hoarded” her points over the past year to save for a big trip. While she hasn’t decided what resort she wants to go to, Kelley is looking for either an all-inclusive Hilton or Marriott property. She also plans to fly Delta to take advantage of its partnership with American Express. Amex allows card owners to transfer their points to Delta Airlines with a 1:1 ratio.
From the Pacific Northwest to tropical beaches and European adventures, our team’s travel plans for 2021 stretch around the world. Despite the diversity of destinations, our team maximized the value of their rewards to pay for most (or all) of their airfare and hotel accommodations. By carefully saving points, earning additional bonuses and “canceling” out foreign transaction fees, our team is using their travel rewards to their peak advantage and earning more rewards along the way.