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Have Cards, Will Travel

5 reasons to use your rewards points for travel now

Hoarding rewards points isn't practical when the market is constantly fluctuating

Summary

There are far too many variables affecting travel and the rewards game to let your points sit there, unused. Remember, you can always earn more points. Find out why it’s best to go on that vacation now rather than later.

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One thing I’ve learned in all my years of traveling and points collecting is that there is never a better time to buy a plane ticket or plan a trip than yesterday. The second-best time to plan that big trip is today.

I’m guilty when it comes to putting off trip planning. I’m also guilty of hoarding my rewards points.

I’m traveling to Asia next month for a wedding — only problem is I haven’t gotten a ticket yet.

I’ve been putting off buying a ticket because I know using rewards for a business-class ticket is going to make a nice dent in my points stash. I’ve even gone as far as thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll just pay for the ticket and save my points for another trip.’

This, my friends, is a case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Rewards points are for spending! There are so many factors that we can’t control that can make our points less valuable in the future.

Don’t stash away your points for a rainy day. Here are five reasons you should use your reward points for travel now:

See related: How to book an all-inclusive vacation using rewards points

1. Hotel and airline programs devalue

Hotels and airlines change their programs all the time – it’s a fact of the points life.

Flights that used to cost 12,500 points cost 20,000 points now. The aspirational lie-flat first-class tickets with caviar that used to be a steal at 70,000 points now cost 150,000 points or more each way.

None of us like these changes, but like inflation, they are an inevitable part of the points-earning game.

Earlier this year I took a quick international weekend getaway to the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica. I had a few free night certificates for a Category 4 Hyatt property I earned as benefits from The World of Hyatt Credit Card (one anniversary night, one night for meeting an annual spending threshold) and one for staying at five different Hyatt properties.

Just a month later, when I suggested this property to a friend as an amazing place to use the Category 4 certificate benefit, she quickly let me know that Hyatt had raised the value of this property to a Category 5. It’s still an amazing destination to visit, but with the devaluation, you can no longer stay there with your free night certificate.

2. Circumstances we can’t control change places

Circumstances in the countries where we want to travel can change unexpectedly. If you really want to go somewhere, don’t put it off.

You can’t control the natural disasters, conflicts and political turmoil that have the power to erase a destination from your bucket list in a single state-department travel warning – or at least put your visit on pause for a few years (or longer).

One of my biggest person travel regrets dates back to 2004 when I was traveling in Turkey, very close to the Syrian border. I met dozens of travelers who’d just come from Damascus telling me it was amazing and worth making my next destination. I convinced myself I’d visit there later when I had more time and it was more convenient. You know how that story ends.

If there’s somewhere you want to go, why not go now?  Hopefully someday I’ll still visit Syria, but I know I’ll never see what Damascus used to be.

3. Credit card offers and benefits end

Just like hotels and airlines change their programs, banks often change the benefits and offers on any specific credit card.

For several years, one of my favorite hotel credit card benefits was the IHG reward anniversary night that could be used at any IHG hotel around the world. A few years ago, I redeemed this night for a priceless vacation in an overwater bungalow at the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso Resort & Spa for my birthday – a hotel that retails at well over $1000 a night or 70,000 IHG points.

While the anniversary night benefit still exists for cardholders of the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, Chase has now capped this benefit at a value of 40,000 points. Of course, there are still great places to max out the anniversary night benefit.

If there is a benefit that your card offers, it’s always best to take advantage of it now. The terms and conditions always say that nothing is forever.

4. There is never a perfect time (besides now)

The best time to travel and use your rewards points to do it is always now. One of the biggest excuses I hear from people who are not using their points is that they are saving them for a special occasion. Special occasions are important, but sometimes they can also be an excuse for inaction and points hoarding.

Once I went on a date with a guy who, upon learning of my obsession with rewards travel, was very proud to tell me that he was saving up points to stay at an over-the-water bungalow in the Maldives for his honeymoon.

Saving points to take your honeymoon is smart — particularly if you’re engaged and planning a wedding. Saving points for your honeymoon when you aren’t even dating anyone is hopeful, but not incredibly practical.

I’d have been much more impressed if he’d told me he’d just used his points to fly to the Maldives on his own dream trip and was now saving points for his next adventure that he was hoping to take with someone special. (I had also just been to the Maldives using the points I earned grocery shopping with my Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, so this guy and I were obviously not a perfect match.)

5. You can always earn more points

My very favorite thing about rewards points is that you can always earn more of them.

Perhaps like you, I get a little panicked after I spend a big chunk of my points on a plane ticket or a hotel stay. But do you know what the biggest motivator is to earn more points? A zero balance and the afterglow of a fresh passport stamp.

When we have the drive to travel, we have the drive to earn more points. This might mean getting a new credit card, maximizing a shopping bonus or dining rewards program, or taking the time to figure out how to earn points from your side hustle with a small business credit card.

You can, and you will, earn more points. The rewards that you have now are for spending, not for saving forever.

You can’t control hurricanes or hotel devaluations, but you can control when you take your next vacation. Go ahead, book that reward travel. Today is the very best day to plan your next trip — and for me to buy that ticket to Thailand.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: September 23rd, 2020
Business
13.91%
Airline
15.48%
Cash Back
15.94%
Reward
15.78%
Student
16.12%

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