Travel may not be top of mind at the moment, but my good friend Barry Choi, Personal Finance and Travel Expert, offers a convincing argument why this is the best time to plan a trip. Read on for some valuable advice on how to maximize your travel dollars.
Although the pandemic has reduced the number of flights available, and most people have no interest in travelling if there’s no vaccine for COVID-19, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be planning your next trip now.
It’s true that no one has any real idea of when travel will get back to normal, but by planning now, you can take advantage of some great deals. You can even turbocharge your savings by planning out your spending and taking advantage of some great welcome bonuses that come with the best travel credit cards in Canada.
Look for the easy discounts
Many people (and experts) assumed that travel would be more expensive in the future since more cleaning would be required and physical distance would need to be practiced. While that’s certainly true, I’d argue that travelling has never been cheaper.
As airline and hotels continue to see their profits drop, they’ve recently had some great promotions that could help you save big such as:
– Marriott Bonvoy had 20% off gift cards
– Aeroplan had multiple promotions including 50% back in miles
– WestJet Rewards had 25% off flights
These types of promos come and go so you need to jump on them when they become available. Gift card promotions are incredibly valuable since they can be used at any future time. However, many people are hesitant to book flights right now since who knows when they’ll be able to fly again.
The key thing when taking advantage of any deal is to read the terms and conditions. If you’re allowed to cancel or change the date of your flight/accommodations without having to pay a fee, then booking it now might be an acceptable risk since you’re getting a discount.
To find these limited-time deals, sign up for every mailing list. Travel brands always alert their subscribers first whenever there’s any kind of promotion going on.
Map out your spending and use credit cards
Regardless of what your travel timetable is looking like, you need to have a destination or goal in mind so you can work towards it. Having a vacation budget is an easy way to do that, but wouldn’t you even want to save more with travel points? Accumulating enough points for free or discounted travel is easy if you know what you’re doing.
Take a look at your upcoming spending (better yet, map it out for the year) and see when you have some major purchases coming up. Things such as new appliances, insurance, tuition, auto repairs quickly come to mind. These purchases are important because the best travel credit cards typically come with a generous welcome bonus as long as you can meet the minimum spending requirement.
For example, the American Express Gold Rewards Card has a welcome bonus worth up to 30,000 points when you use a referral link. You need to charge $1,500 to your card in the first three months of cardmembership, but it’s worth it. In the past, the American Express Platinum Card had a welcome bonus worth up to 60,000 points (currently it’s 25,000 points), but you had to spend $5,000 in the first three months.
Many of the best Aeroplan credit cards have a welcome bonus between 15,000-40,000 Aeroplan points which also have similar minimum spend requirements. Since you can convert your American Express Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan, it would not be difficult to accumulate 100,000 points with just 2-3 sign-ups.
While signing up for 3 new credit cards may seem insane to some people, the new Aeroplan has family sharing groups so a couple could each open 1-2 cards to quickly earn points. Those points could save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars in flights.
That said, it’s important to note that every time you apply for a new credit card, your credit score drops 10 points. This strategy is also only worth doing if you had purchases coming up and you’re going to pay off the full balance right away. No rewards are worth it if you need to pay interest.
Have a goal in mind
Just because you have a lot of purchases coming up, it doesn’t mean you should just start applying for a ton of credit cards. You need to have some kind of travel goal in mind so you can work towards it.
Let’s say you plan on going to Disney World with your family for a week. There are multiple Marriott properties where you can get a free night for 25,000 points. Marriott also has an ongoing promotion where you get the 5th night free when you book 4 nights on points. That means you need 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to get 5 free nights.
If you signed up for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, you could earn as much as 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as a welcome bonus. You could then refer your spouse who would also get the same 51,000 points. However, since American Express has a referral program, the person making the referral gets an extra 10,000 points.
When you factor in the minimum spend requirement for both cards, you could have a minimum combined total of 124,000 Marriott Bonvoy points which gets you pretty close to six free nights. Not bad for a little bit of work right? Note that Marriott allows you to transfer up to 100,000 points per year to another account.
Travel may not be top of mind for many people, but by thinking of your long term plans, you can take advantage of any current promotions and create your own discounts by using credit cards. Have a goal in mind when thinking about your travels and collect points/miles that will get you there. But again, always make sure you pay off your bills in full and on time.