Currently, the Government of Canada is still advising to avoid all non-essential travel. A fair policy considering we all need to do our part to help get COVID-19 under control. That said, with many Canadians getting their first and second doses of the vaccine, things may return to normal soon.
Travel is the perfect way to celebrate the end of the pandemic. By being proactive with your trip planning, travel points, and credit cards now, you can set yourself up for a fantastic trip later. Here’s why I’m still collecting travel points with my credit cards.
Racking up points has never been easier
While some people decided to switch to a cash back credit card during the pandemic, I stuck with my travel credit cards. I had no idea when travel would be possible again, but I just prefer points over cash back. That decision ended up paying for a variety of reasons.
A few travel credit card providers offered increased earn rates for a limited time. For instance, American Express unveiled the best welcome offers for Canadians ever. Five of their travel credit cards have insane welcome offers now, but you need to apply by August 3rd, 2021.
The American Express® Aeroplan® Card can earn you up to 50,000 Aeroplan®* points and you can get five times your points on eligible eats & drinks, up to 25,000 points. The welcome offer used to be 15,000 points.
I’m going for the American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card. Despite the $599 annual fee, I can earn up to 150,000 points, up from 65,000.
It allowed me to turbocharge the number of points I earned without changing my spending. There were also a few cards that offered credits, so I could get value out of my travel cards without actually travelling.
I imagine once travel resumes, these promotions will become less frequent. I’m more than happy to take advantage of them now.
Saving points for the future is worth it
Earning travel rewards points when you can’t travel doesn’t sound like a good idea, but it presents an obvious opportunity for me. Since I haven’t spent my points in the last year, I’m saving up, putting my account balance at an all-time high. When travel resumes, I’ll be able to use my points on a business class flight, which is more valuable than anything I’ve redeemed for in the past.
Since I’m still earning points and my account remains active, I don’t need to worry about any expiry dates. It’s worth noting that many travel loyalty programs changed the expiration policy and made them longer, so saving your points is not a bad thing.
I’m setting myself up for future travel
I miss travelling a lot, and I can’t wait to take to the skies again. Admittedly, going through security checks and long lines at the airport can be a bit painful, but there’s an easy way around it. Get the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card since it gives you a NEXUS rebate, and a Priority Pass Membership with four annual free lounge passes.
Some people assume NEXUS is only helpful if you’re travelling to the U.S., but since it gives you access to the priority security line, it’s worth signing up. You can also save time when you return home as there’s a separate line for NEXUS holders when you go through customs at many Canadian airports.
Lounge access may not appeal to everyone, but once you’ve been to an airport lounge, it’s hard to go back. I’ve arrived at airports early so that I can work out of lounges before my flight. I’ll gladly take advantage of the comfortable seating, free food, and entertainment. My travels begin at the airport, and lounge access always puts me in a good mood.
Don’t forget; many travel credit cards also come with some excellent travel insurance. I never need to worry about any trips to the doctor or lost luggage since I know I’ll be reimbursed.
There are some incredible welcome bonuses
Admittedly, there weren’t many great welcome bonuses offered by travel credit cards last year. However, that seems to have changed recently as it appears credit card providers are anticipating an uptick in travel.
For example, the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite has a welcome bonus of 10,000 Aeroplan points after your first purchase. You get another 10,000 points and a Buddy Pass when you charge $1,000 to your card within 90 days of opening an account. That Buddy Pass can be used for a flight anywhere within North America, including Hawaii and Mexico.
There’s also the American Express Cobalt Card that gives you up to 30,000 points in the first year. You’ll get 2,500 points each month for 12 months, as long as you spend at least $500. You can transfer the points you earn with the American Express Cobalt Card to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 ratio. That means you can convert your welcome bonus into 36,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. That’s a decent amount that could get you a few free nights at some hotels.
The Bottom Line
Sign-up bonuses differ in value, but it’s not hard to find ones that are worth $350+. As travel increases in demand, it wouldn’t be a surprise if different offers become available. That said, taking advantage of what’s available now can benefit you since you’ll be racking up those points.