Are you getting the itch to travel somewhere this winter? You’re not the only one. According to Google Trends, there has been a major uptick in searches for “cheap flights.” Travel over the last few months hasn’t felt cheap by any means as many consumers across the globe have felt the impact of inflation.
However, inflation is headed down, and credit card rewards points are heading up.
Flights, hotels, and rental cars can be booked using your credit card rewards points, and here are a few ways you can maximize your everyday spending to jet off somewhere fun this winter.
Where Do You Want to Go? Let’s Start Tracking
One of the first things you need to do is create a small list of places you would like to go. Flexibility is key for finding cheap flights and affordable hotels. We like to start with a list of five possible destinations.
Once you have your list, Google Flights provides a free way to create travel alerts. If you want to maximize your rewards points, in most cases you will just want to use Google Flights for flight tracking. We’ll get to the booking part later.
Google Flights alerts will let you set your departing airport, destination, stops you’re willing to make, and set dates (including how flexible you want to be).
Find the Right Travel Rewards Card
Many US consumers already have a credit card, but it might not be tailored to your personal spending habits or how you want to maximize your rewards. Finding the right travel rewards card is key to making the most of your points. There are a variety of options, including rewards cards that offer:
- Cash back
- Rewards Points
Cash back is a fairly straight forward reward – you earn cash back. In many cases, you can choose cash back or decide to turn those rewards into travel rewards by booking through your card’s travel booking site.
Rewards points are most common with travel cards. Points can generally be used for airfare, hotels, car rental, gift cards, merchandise, and more.
Travel rewards cards often offer bonus points for travel related purchases, especially when done through their booking system. Make sure you understand what each card offers, how points are generated, and how they can be redeemed. Most cards will also offer traveler protections such as cancellation insurance or benefits such as lounge access. Shop around, and find the right card for you.
You can find our top picks for 2023 here:
Use the Card’s Preferred Booking Method
You’ve found your ideal travel rewards credit card. Now what?
One of the easiest ways to redeem your travel rewards is to book directly through your card’s travel booking system. The process is easy, and nearly identical with most major cards.
- Login to your credit card account
- Go to Rewards/Points/Miles section
- Redeem rewards (usually called Book a Trip)
Some cards, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, will let you apply your rewards to travel related purchases within 90 days of the purchase. That means that if you booked direct with a hotel and not through their booking system, you can go to your rewards account and apply miles to that purchase on your statement within 90 days of making that purchase.
Pack Your Bags
Now that you’ve found your new card, earned your introductory bonus points (and then some), you’ve booked a trip using your points, you’re ready to travel.