If you’re saving up for a winter vacation, the best travel credit cards can be used to offset many vacation-related costs. However, you have to start accumulating travel points well ahead of your departure date – like an entire season or two ahead. Like starting right now. Ever heard the fitness mantra “summer bodies are made in the winter”? Credit card rewards points work in a similar way: It takes time and effort before the payoff.
Why it’s important to start now
If you’re completely new to the credit card rewards game, it’ll take up to a year to accumulate enough points for a flight depending on your income, spending habits, planned destination, and how many tickets you’re saving for. If you want a winter getaway to the Caribbean in December, you would need to start amassing points in the spring – or earlier.
Planning in advance has several advantages. By funneling everyday spending onto your credit card over the course of the year, there’s the potential to pay for a vacation by the time the holiday season rolls around. It also gives you time to get to know the ins and outs of your credit card rewards program, including concierge services, airport lounge access, hotel discounts, and travel insurance coverage.
Take advantage of welcome offers
Credit card providers offer sign-up bonuses to attract new customers are generally contingent on spending a certain amount of money on the card within a particular period. However, it can take up to three months for the bonus points to be applied to your account. If you want to apply for a particular credit card to snag a sweet welcome bonus, do it sooner rather than later for two reasons. First, bonus offers (especially the really lucrative ones) run for a limited time. Second, it will take some time for you to be approved and receive your card, and for the welcome bonus to be applied to your account once you fulfill the requirements.
If you’re on the hunt for a new credit card with a strong welcome bonus to help fast-track your vacation plans, consider the Scotiabank Gold American Express. Along with being ranked one of the best travel cards in Canada and offering up to 4 rewards points per dollar on eligible purchases, the card offers a 15,000 point bonus (valued at $150) when you sign up by October 31 and spend $1,000 in the first three months. When signing up for a new card, it’s always important to factor in the cost associated with the card, such an annual fees and interest payments, and your personal spending habits.
If your schedule allows, have some flexibility with your dates and destination – maybe you want to visit the Bahamas, but would you consider Aruba if you found a way better deal? If you find a crazy good price on a flight to your ideal destination, remember that you don’t have to spend points on a plane ticket. Flights generally offer the best overall redemption value for rewards points, but you can also pay cash for an ultra-cheap flight and instead redeem your points for cruises, car rentals, and excursions. If you don’t have enough points to cover the full cost, many rewards programs let you pay with a mix of points and cash.
The bottom line
Cashing in on travel rewards points isn’t a travel-free-quick scheme, but it’s possible to rack up a decent amount of points by taking advantage of welcome bonuses, maximizing the earn rate by understanding your card’s points multipliers, and redeeming points at their highest value. Come winter, you’ll be thanking future you for planning ahead and being strategic.