Some day we’ll vacation again, and big points and miles incentives can help prepare

Regular readers might be surprised to learn that for nearly two years I hadn’t signed up for a new credit card, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and I canceled four of mine.

Hotels and airlines took a beating during the pandemic, and the travel and leisure industry is still struggling to recover. I was part of that trend, giving up plans for a substantial vacation and canceling my travel-related credit cards as well.

Now, partly because of that trend, select credit cards affiliated with airlines and hotels are offering some the best sign-up incentives I have seen. So if you’re a credit card user who always pays on time and in full, avoiding all interest charges, signing up for a good one could help set you up for free flights or hotel stays when you are ready to vacation again.

I sign up for credit cards to get the large incentives they offer new customers, in cash or travel credits. The four cards I canceled during the pandemic had each put at least $1,000 in my pocket for initially signing up, either in cash or hotel and airline points.

After the initial bonuses, you typically just get a few percent back on purchases and some travel perks, offset by annual fees that come with most travel-related credit cards.

I wasn’t travelling, so my travel-related perks such as airport lounge access and rental car insurance were not particularly useful. From a personal finance standpoint, the sensible thing to do was to cancel the cards and save the money I would have paid in fees. Yes, canceling credit cards can ding one’s credit score just a little, but more importantly it starts the clock ticking on being able to sign up for new ones with more sign-up bonuses.

For example, Southwest and Chase are currently offering through Dec. 7 the largest sign-up incentive ever for the Southwest Visa card. You can only get the bonus, up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards points, if you don’t already have a Southwest Visa and haven’t received a bonus in the past 24 months.

If you’re not a regular Southwest flier, 100,000 points are worth roughly $1,500 in airfare and can be used like cash to buy a ticket on any flight. That’s a pretty incredible incentive to sign up for a credit card that carries a $69 annual fee. Note that certain spending levels must be hit to get all the points.

For hotels, one solid deal on offer now is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa card, also from Chase. Charge $3,000 within three months of opening the account, and you get certificates for three free hotel nights. The card has a $95 annual fee.

I have one of those, and when I signed up in early 2020, before the pandemic shut things down, the sign-up bonus was 100,000 Bonvoy points. The current offer is worth 150,000 points, roughly $1,200 to $1,400, if you use the hotel certificates strategically.

Sign-up offers can vary tremendously and not every deal right now is the best. Delta Air Lines, for example, is offering just 50,000 Skymiles as an incentive to sign up for the Skymiles Platinum Card through American Express. They gave me 75,000 miles when I signed up for the same card in 2019.

With carriers including Delta that charge baggage fees, one of the more valuable perks to consider is that having one of their credit cards lets you avoid those fees. For a family on vacation, just avoiding the baggage fees can be worth hundreds of dollars.

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Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

Source: Einnews

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