With hardly anyone traveling right now due to the pandemic, several major credit card issuers are rethinking their travel rewards credit card offerings in an attempt to evolve alongside cardholder’s spending habits. Further, many of the top rewards credit cards we know and love have added new redemption opportunities that can help consumers get more bang for their buck.
From added rewards categories to bonus point-earning opportunities and short-term perks, this guide goes over the biggest changes from each of the major travel credit card issuers, as well as what they mean for you and your rewards game.
Earlier in 2020, American Express revealed changes to some of its top-tier travel rewards cards and co-branded hotel and airline card offerings. Here is a basic rundown of the new statement credit-earning opportunities broken down by card:
Now through Dec. 31, 2020, owners of The Platinum Card® from American Express can earn up to $40 in monthly statement credits ($20 per service type, per month) toward on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. wireless telephone service providers with the card.
Other cardholder features and benefits have largely remained the same.
Owners of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express can get up to $40 in monthly statement credits ($20 per service type, per month) toward U.S. shipping purchases and wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers with the card (through Dec. 31, 2020).
Cardmembers can receive up to $200 in statement credits toward U.S. purchases with Dell through Dec. 31, 2020.
Additional American Express changes
Other American Express credit cards have instituted their own changes, including new updates to earning categories on select Marriott credit cards. Through Oct. 31, 2020, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card receive:
- 10X Marriott Bonvoy points at U.S. gas stations (up to $7,500 on eligible purchases)
- 10X points at U.S. restaurants (up to $7,500 on eligible purchases)
- 10X points on eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels (up to $7,500 on eligible purchases)
Delta co-branded card changes
In August of this year, co-branded Delta credit cards began offering better rewards rates for their existing customers. Specifically, eligible Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card owners can earn 4X miles on dining including takeout and delivery and 5X miles on Delta purchases through Dec. 31, 2020.
Meanwhile, some existing Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card owners can enroll and earn 5X miles on Delta purchases made with their credit card. Additionally, cardholders can also enroll and earn 500 bonus miles and 500 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) — up to 25,000 miles and 25,000 MQMs — after spending $1,000 on their cards through Dec. 31, 2020.
Hilton co-branded card changes
There are more than a few changes to note concerning American Express’s co-branded Hilton Honors cards. Here are a few of the most notable additions:
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
With both of these Hilton credit cards, cardmembers’ bonus points (posted to their Hilton Honors accounts between May 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020) now count as base points toward elite status qualification, including lifetime Diamond status.
Unexpired free weekend night certificates and those who are issued these certificates through Dec. 31, 2020, can now use them any day of the week. Further, certificates issued from May 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, are now usable for 24 months.
Bank of America
Bank of America has rolled out some additional redemption options for some of its top travel credit cards.
The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card is now offering a $50 statement credit toward grocery and dining purchases through Dec. 31, 2020.
Customers with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card can now redeem points toward grocery store and dining purchases (including takeout) through Dec. 31, 2020. This redemption option is good for purchases in these categories made within the past 12 months.
Through Dec. 31, 2020, owners of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card can redeem their miles for statement credit toward eligible food delivery, takeout and streaming services.
Both cards are also offering 5X miles on UberEATS purchases through Jan. 31, 2021.
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card and Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Owners of the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card and Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card can earn 5 percent cash back on UberEATS purchases through Jan. 31, 2021.
Chase shocked everyone with the introduction of a new cash back credit card in September, as well as vast improvements to the existing Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Chase cardholders will also find better reward redemption options when they go to cash in their rewards.
First off, Chase introduced the new Chase Freedom Flex on Sept. 14, 2020. This new cash back credit card comes with $200 in bonus cash when you spend $500 within three months of account opening. You’ll also earn the traditional 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly activated bonus categories (then 1 percent) and 1 percent on all regular purchases made with your card. However, the Chase Freedom Flex also comes with 5 percent back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases.
This card will be offered in place of the old Chase Freedom card, which is no longer available to new applicants.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited will still offer at least 1.5 percent back on all purchases you make with your card, but you’ll also earn 5 percent back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases.
Both cards will still have no annual fee, and you can also enjoy 0 percent APR on purchases for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99 percent to 23.74 percent.
- Now through Sept. 30, 2020, receive 50 percent more value for your points on statement credit redemptions against eligible grocery, dining and home improvement store purchases made within the last 90 days
- Grocery store and gas stations purchases qualify toward the $300 annual travel credit through Dec. 31, 2020
- Cardholders can earn 5X points on gas purchases made through Sept. 30, 2020, with a cap of $1,500 in spending
- Also earn 10X points on up to $1,500 spent through Sept. 30, 2020 on select streaming purchases
- Cardholders renewing the Sapphire Reserve through Dec. 31, 2020, get $100 off their renewal fee (from $550 to $450)
- Through Sept. 30, 2020, Chase Sapphire customers will receive 5X total points on qualifying Instacart deliveries and pick-ups — groceries, household items, pharmacy and more — with a cap of $3,000 in purchases through the deadline
- Through Sept. 30, 2020, you can also earn up to $50 in statement credits toward a yearly or monthly Instacart Express membership that includes unlimited deliveries with $0 delivery fees and reduced service fees for orders over $35
- Through Sept. 30, 2020, get 25 percent more value for your points on statement credit redemptions against eligible grocery, dining and home improvement store purchases made within the last 90 days
- Through Sept. 30, 2020, earn 3X points on up to $3,000 spent on qualifying Instacart deliveries and pickups
- Also earn a $50 Instacart statement credit toward Instacart Express Membership through Sept. 30, 2020
- Earn 3X points on up to $1,500 in gas purchases through Sept. 30, 2020
- Earn 5X points on up to $1,500 spent on select streaming services through Sept. 30, 2020
Other Chase changes
Note that most co-branded Marriott credit cards from Chase are offering 10X points on up to $3,500 in combined spending on gas or on dining through Oct. 31, 2020. Cards with this exceptional short-term bonus category include the Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card, the Marriott Bonvoy Premier Credit Card and more.
Additionally, as of Oct. 1, 2020, new IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card owners can earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months from account opening, plus a waived first-year annual fee.
In April of this year, Citi first announced several changes to the Citi Premier® Card, as well as updates to the Citi Prestige® Card. Here’s a look at these changes:
Citi has updated the earning structure on the Citi Premier Card. This means all cardholders (new and existing) currently receive:
- 3X points for spending at supermarkets and restaurants
- A limited travel category that earns 3X points on air travel, hotels and gas stations
- 1X points on all other purchases
You may remember that the old Premier offerings included 2X points on restaurants and entertainment and 1X points on all other spending.
Additionally, Premier cardholders will now receive a $100 annual, renewable statement credit toward a single hotel stay of $500 or more (not including taxes and fees) booked through ThankYou.com.
Fortunately, this card continues to offer the same sign-up bonus as before, 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening. These points can be redeemed for travel through Citi, gift cards, payments to student loans or your mortgage, merchandise and more.
As previously reported, supermarket and restaurant purchases made through Dec. 31, 2020, count toward earning the card’s $250 travel credit.
Otherwise, the Citi Prestige® Card remains largely the same. New cardholders can earn 50,000 points when they spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. In terms of online earnings, you get the chance to rack up 5X points on restaurants and air travel, 3X points on hotels and cruises and 1X points on other purchases.
In addition to the $250 annual travel credit that is also good for supermarket and restaurant purchases through the end of 2020, you’ll also get a 4th night free complimentary hotel benefit, a credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership and other valuable perks in exchange for the $495 annual fee.
Additional Citi changes
The 25 percent boost benefit to ThankYou points earned with Premier Card and booked toward airfare via ThankYou Travel Center will cease to exist on April 10, 2021.
The Citi ThankYou program has also made it possible for its customers to redeem their points for their minimum payment amount through Nov. 7, 2020. Customers can pursue this option by logging into their online account page or using the Citi mobile app, then looking for COVID-19 relief options on the “Rewards Details” section. Cardholders can also call into customer service to make this redemption.
Discover only has one travel credit card, yet this card is making it easier than ever to cash in your rewards during the pandemic.
Discover it® Miles
The Discover it® Miles has expanded its redemption options from just travel this year. While you’ll still rack up the same 1.5 miles for each dollar you spend — and Discover will match all the miles you earn after the first year — you can now cash in your miles for rideshares, gas stations and dining in addition to regular options like airfare and hotels.
You can also use miles to shop on Amazon.com when you pay with PayPal.
What these card changes mean for you
While generous travel-centric rewards structures and benefits like airline elite status, a first checked bag free and airport lounge access can help justify the cost of owning a premium card, the current environment may reduce the usefulness of these perks for many cardholders.
If you’re worried about any changes being made to your premium credit cards, including whether or not they’re still worth the annual fee, note that these adjustments are most likely short-term.
Also, keep in mind that it’s possible you’ll be traveling in the near future and that you may miss out on important travel benefits if you cancel too soon.
Overlapping category offerings: Is my card still worth it?
It’s also important to gauge whether you’re able to maximize all the new bonus categories available to you.
“While some of the recent changes are likely temporary (like so many travel cards piling into the grocery category), there was already a fair amount of overlap in certain categories,” says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate.
Rossman points out that, even before the coronavirus pandemic, issuers have had competing rewards offerings in spaces like travel, dining and gas.
“It’s not just spending, either,” Rossman says. “You might have multiple cards that offer access to the same airport lounges, or a similar Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee waiver.”
High annual fee? Reach out to your issuer
Rossman stresses that if you’re in a pinch with a high annual fee card that you’re not receiving as much value out of as originally expected, consider reaching out to your issuer.
“Card issuers are worried about losing valuable customers,” says Rossman. “Besides the things that have already been announced… if you ask for an annual fee waiver or reduction, you might get lucky. Or maybe they can give you some bonus rewards points to offset it.”
Cardholders may see more annual fee-focused credit card relief going forward, particularly if travel remains stalled in the coming months, Rossman says.
You can also consider downgrading your travel credit card from one with an annual fee to a no-annual-fee option. It’s possible that, if travel gets back to normal later on, you could upgrade back to the card you had in the future.
The information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card, Chase Freedom card, Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card, Marriott Bonvoy Premier Credit Card, and Citi Prestige® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com.