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Is It a Good Time to Apply for a Travel Credit Card?

Last updated on April 28th, 2021

All signs are pointing towards a return to travel in 2021. As the coronavirus vaccine rollout continues, more and more Americans are seeking to ditch lockdown restrictions and resume life as normal. Given the optimism for the future of global travel, is now the right time to consider applying for a travel credit card? Here is why the answer may be “yes:”

Should You Apply for a Travel Credit Card Right Now?

The coronavirus has had a major impact on global travel. The dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shut down the travel industry in 2020, but that industry shows signs of life in 2021. Despite the potential re-opening of worldwide and domestic travel, many consumers remain hesitant about getting a new travel credit card.

Choosing a travel card might seem to make little sense with cruises, airlines, and other travel industries still facing closures, disruption, and other effects of the coronavirus pandemic. After all, many of the perks of premium travel cards might not be immediately usable.

Cardholders might not be able to enjoy the advantages of free checked baggage, travel credits, or airport lounge access. And since most of these cards earn the highest number of rewards on travel purchases, it won’t be practical to try and amass points or miles via these types of transactions.

Reasons Why You Should Apply for a New Travel Credit Card

Despite these limitations, however, now might be the best time to consider applying for a new travel card – and here are some of the primary reasons why:

Take Advantage of the Sign-up Bonus

Most travel cards offer a sign-up bonus, though it requires plenty of spending on the cardholder’s part. However, if you can make it your daily, go-to payment form, you should meet the card’s introductory offer within the allotted timeframe.

Several of these bonuses are equal in value to a free roundtrip flight. Plus, you will amass additional miles/points from the purchases you’ve made to meet the threshold. Combine that with other purchases made during the current circumstances, and you’ll eventually have a significant stockpile of rewards ready for redemption.

American Express is currently providing some of the most lucrative sign-up bonuses in the credit card industry. Take the flagship of the Amex line, the Platinum Card® from American Express. The Platinum Card is currently offering a 75,000 Membership Rewards points bonus for new accounts.

Membership Rewards are the currency of the Amex rewards program – and a valuable currency, at that. Membership Rewards points offer their best value when used towards hotel bookings or flights reserved through amextravel.com or upgrades to travel itineraries. Because of this impressive bonus, new accounts with the Platinum Card can enjoy up to $750 in travel compensation – just for meeting the minimum spending requirements.

Other cards offering juicy sign-up bonuses include other Amex cards, like the Delta SkyMiles credit cards:

Or consider the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, which features a bonus of up to 100,000 miles and a modest $95 annual fee:

Earn More Rewards on Timely Purchase Categories

Travel cards will often grant you extra rewards on purchases outside the travel category. Cards like those in the Chase Sapphire range provide exceptional earning potential on everyday purchases – with additional value when redeeming for flights or other travel bookings via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

The Sapphire Reserve, Chase’s flagship rewards credit card, earns an impressive 3X points per dollar spent on dining and travel purchases worldwide. The card also comes with a lucrative sign-up bonus, a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership and a $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to the card.

The Sapphire Preferred, while featuring a lower, $95 annual fee, also boasts 2X points on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees, and 25% more value when redeeming points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

What if you are unsure about travel rewards but want to maximize savings on the things you enjoy? There are credit card options that skirt the fine line of travel rewards cards and everyday luxury.

The Grand Reserve™ World Mastercard® is an exciting credit card designed for wine lovers everywhere. The card offers rewards on purchases at wineries, wine clubs, and wine shops, plus a complimentary Priority Wine Pass. Not only does the card offer up to 7X points per dollar spent on wine purchases, but it also features no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee for the first year, and a 50,000-point signup bonus.

Use a Balance Transfer to Save on Interest Charges

Many Americans will undoubtedly struggle with existing debt in the age of coronavirus. However, it is possible to lessen the blow of interest charges with a balance transfer. What’s more, some travel cards, like the Discover It Miles, offer 0% APR on balance transfers as a welcome promotion.

The Discover It range of cards comes with 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months – making them very attractive options for those looking to pay down an existing balance. The Miles Card, Discover’s travel credit card, also earns an unlimited 1.5X miles on all purchases – which Discover matches, mile-for-mile automatically, through its Cashback Match program after the first year.

Low Interest Rates on Travel Credit Cards

The Federal Reserve has made unprecedented interest rate cuts in response to COVID-19’s economic impact. Though the cause is unfortunate, there is undoubtedly a benefit in having lower interest rates all-around on credit cards. Travel cards generally have higher rates due to the number of benefits they tend to include, so now is an excellent time to consider a new travel credit card.

Build a Higher Credit Line

Although you should not accumulate debt during these uncertain economic times, it helps to have added purchasing power. Adding a new credit card to your rotation ultimately increases your total available credit and lowers your credit utilization ratio.

Bottom Line

Though it’s not advisable to travel while the novel coronavirus continues to impact the globe, there are nevertheless multiple benefits from applying for a travel credit card at this time. However, you should still weigh your decision carefully and ensure that a new credit card makes sense given your current and long-term lifestyle and financial needs.

Related Article: The Best Wine Credit Cards of 2021

Featured photo by piviso / PixaBay

About: Cory
Cory Santos

Cory is BestCards.com's "Jack of all trades" and resident credit expert, covering all facets of the credit card space. In addition to credit cards, Cory finds that jogging, cats, and memes are essential parts of a balanced day.