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- The pandemic has brought many activities to a screeching halt, and travel is largely out of the question for many. However, you can still dream about and plan for the trips you might take in late 2021 and beyond.
- Travel and rewards credit cards are worth considering right now if you want to rack up a stash of points you can use once the pandemic is over.
- Make sure to compare travel credit cards in terms of their welcome bonus offers and ongoing rewards rates. Some travel credit cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express are offering huge welcome bonuses for a limited time.
- Read Business Insider’s guide to the best travel rewards credit cards.
The ongoing pandemic has put travel mostly off-limits, which is frustrating for avid adventure-seekers and those who just want to get away from home. Fortunately, the pandemic will eventually end, and we will once again be able to book a flight to almost anywhere at the drop of a hat. It may just be a while before we get there.
Maybe you can’t travel right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start earning points and miles for later on. If you start planning early and begin earning points you can use for travel in 2021 or 2022, the trip of your dreams could become a reality.
If you want to get out of dodge once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, here are the five top travel credit card offers to consider right now.
We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.
See Pay Over Time APR
75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of account opening
Best for travel perks: American Express Platinum
The Platinum Card® from American Express currently has a limited-time welcome bonus of 75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of account opening. New cardholders can also earn 10x Amex Membership Rewards points on the first $15,000 spent at US supermarkets and US gas stations in the first six months of account opening (then 1x). That means you can earn up to an extra 150,000 points within six months of opening your new card, and that’s on top of the welcome bonus offer.
A $550 annual fee (See Rates) applies, but you also get lots of valuable benefits, including up to $200 in airline fee credit per year, up to $200 in Uber credits per year, up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits per year, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, global airport lounge access, and hotel elite status with Marriott and Hilton.
The Platinum Card earns 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (after January 1, 2021, on up to $500,000 in purchases each year), 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, and 1x points on all other purchases.
Amex Membership Rewards points don’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. So when you’re ready to hit the road again, you can transfer them to Amex airline and hotel partners like Delta and Hilton, or use them to book hotels, airfare, and other travel through Amex Travel.
There are plenty of non-travel options for using your Amex points, too, including redeeming them for merchandise, gift cards, statement credits, and charitable donations.
14.99% – 23.74%
Good to Excellent
$200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
0% for the first 15 billing cycles
Best with no annual fee: Chase Freedom Flex
If you don’t want to pay an annual fee to earn rewards, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is an excellent choice. You’ll earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, plus, for a limited time, you can also earn 5% cash back (5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) at grocery stores on up to $12,000 in purchases for the first year.
If you’ve been considering the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you should apply soon, because the 5x grocery store bonus ends on January 13, 2021.
With the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you’ll earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories (then 1%) when you activate, 5% back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back on drugstore and dining purchases, and 1% back on everything else.
As long as you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards card open and in good standing, your points won’t expire. When it’s time to redeem your rewards for travel, you can use points to book travel through the Chase portal, or for statement credits to cover any travel purchase you make to your card.
If you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to one of these cards from your Chase Freedom Flex℠, then transfer points to Chase airline and hotel partners, like United Airlines and Hyatt.
15.99% – 22.99% Variable
Good to Excellent
80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months)
Best for airline miles that won’t expire: Southwest personal cards
If you’re not sure when you’ll travel again, it’s important to earn rewards that won’t expire. With some loyalty programs, you’ll forfeit your points if you don’t have qualifying activity in your account in a specified time frame, but you don’t have to worry about expiration with Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
It’s a good time to consider any of the Chase Southwest personal cards, because all three are offering record-high welcome bonuses for a limited time. With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, you’ll earn 80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months).
What’s even better is that these welcome bonuses alone can get you more than halfway to earning the Southwest Companion Pass. When you have the Companion Pass, you can bring a designated companion along with you for just the cost of taxes as fees (about $6 one-way on domestic flights) — whether you’re flying on a paid or award ticket.
The timing of these offers is perfect for earning the Companion Pass early in 2021 — that way, you can enjoy nearly 2-for-1 travel for close to two years. Even if you don’t get around to using your Companion Pass until later in 2021 or 2022, it’s still an excellent deal.
Best for flexible travel redemptions: Chase Sapphire Preferred
If you’re interested in flexible travel rewards but you’re not sure where you want to go, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is always a good choice. You’ll earn 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening, plus 2x points on travel and dining purchases and 1x points on everything else you buy.
Rewards enthusiasts love the Chase Ultimate Rewards program because there are so many ways to redeem points. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and get 25% more in value (1.25 cents per point). You can also transfer your points to Chase airline and hotel partners, which include Southwest, United, Hyatt, Marriott, and more.
The same 25% bonus value applies to redemptions through the Chase Pay Yourself Back program when you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. For a limited time, you can cash in your points for statement credits toward grocery store, dining, and home-improvement store purchases, as well as eligible charity donations.
15.99%–20.99% variable APR
Good to Excellent
100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Best for small businesses: Ink Business Preferred
If you’re a small-business owner or you have a side hustle that brings in an income, you can also consider getting a small-business credit card. The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is a lucrative option for travel rewards right now, because you can earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
As with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, points from the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card are worth 1.25 cents each toward travel booked through the Chase portal, and you can transfer them to airline and hotel partners. Through Pay Yourself Back, you can also get a value of 1.25 cents per point toward select online advertising and shipping expenses and eligible charities.
The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card earns 3x points on the first $150,000 you spend each year on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising with select social media sites and search engines (then 1x points), as well as 1x points on other purchases.