Many cardholders get travel cards with big plans in mind, yet many consumers don’t take full advantage of their rewards and perks.
A recent U.S. News survey found that about 47 percent of respondents failed to take advantage of their cardholder travel benefits. This included airport lounge access, auto rental insurance, free checked bags, priority boarding as well as trip cancellation and delay insurance. And almost half of these respondents carried balances on their travel cards in the last 12 months – a big travel rewards mistake that can potentially invalidate their earned rewards.
Additional survey findings included the following:
- When consumers signed up for their travel cards, 70 percent didn’t intend to carry monthly balances but 50 percent ended up doing so, while almost 16 percent had a balance one or two times.
- In the last year, 53 percent earned more than $300 of rewards.
- The most popular rewards options include free domestic flights (30.8 percent), cash back (26.3 percent), and free hotel nights (18.7 percent).
- The least redeemed rewards are free hotel upgrades (10.4 percent) and free international flights (9.4 percent).
In response to the survey findings, Kimberly Castro, executive editor at U.S. News, noted in the press release that you might not recoup the annual fees and bonus spending requirements if you don’t travel much.
Tips to Avoid Wasting Rewards
With consumers leaving hundreds of dollars in travel awards on the table annually, a lot of this comes from not knowing how many rewards miles or points they currently own as well as being unaware of the hotel loyalty points or airline frequent flyer miles needed to achieve their goals. To prevent these travel card rewards from going unused, experts offer the following tips.
Set a travel goal: Not all travel cards are created equal so before selecting one, think about what the card will offer and how it will meet personal travel goals such as free airline tickets, miles for a specific airline, or hotel discounts. If there’s a strong preference toward one, focus on the card offering the greatest perks.
Check the card’s online portal: View the card’s “rewards” section for current rewards points and learn what needs to be done to redeem them. Card rewards change so it’s important to be aware of expiration dates, limitations and blackout dates.
Pick up the phone: By calling the card’s customer service, questions about award redemptions can be answered on the spot. If there’s frustration about current rewards, talk to the customer service agent and see if there’s a better card offered by the company to meet personal travel needs.
Cash in points: As a last resort, if card points can’t be used for airline miles or a hotel, then get the cash equivalent so it’s not a complete loss.
Author: Debbie Baratz
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