If you want to take advantage of travel rewards this year, now is the time to start planning.
- Demand for travel is high to start the year, and bookings with travel rewards can be difficult.
- In addition, some airlines are tightening eligibility requirements for their higher tiers, which can be an issue for frequent flyers.
- If you have travel rewards you want to redeem, start redeeming them immediately and be as flexible as possible about your travel dates.
Credit card travel rewards are a popular way to book trips, and for good reason. For people who love to travel, there is nothing better than going for free. Instead of spending your hard-earned money, you can use the points or miles you earn by paying with your credit cards.
However, 2023 could be a challenging year to redeem travel rewards. It’s not certain that this will happen, but there are some signs that it may become more difficult to book travel this way. If you’re planning to travel this year, it’s important to know what to expect and how to use your rewards.
The demand for travel has increased, and consumers have points to spare
It’s shaping up to be a big year for travel. According to S&P Global Commodity Insights, global air travel demand surpassed 2019 demand for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic.
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There is already growth in flights from the United States and Europe, and China has recently eased restrictions on air travel. It is issuing passports and has removed strict measures such as internal locks and mandatory tests for international travelers.
Accordingly, the demand for travel may increase throughout the year. And there’s a good chance that most people who book flights and hotels will want to do so with travel rewards. Consumers with travel credit cards have accumulated more points during the pandemic.
Airlines and hotels typically offer a certain amount of rewards. That means only a limited number of airline seats or hotel rooms can be booked for rewards in exchange for cash. In addition, the best offers are often particularly limited. For example, most airlines have “economist” award airfares, where seats are worth much less miles than standard award airfares.
Airlines are making it harder to achieve excellence.
In the year Less award availability isn’t the only problem for travelers in 2023. The three largest U.S. airlines have revamped their loyalty programs and made it harder to top.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines have raised the cost requirements for some premium levels. These standards offer important benefits to frequent flyers, which may include:
- Expanded access to award availability
- Priority boarding
- Higher mileage revenue rates on air fares
- More improvements
- Discounts or additional memberships for airport lounge programs
Airlines are thinking of making advanced class special again. While this is understandable, it makes things more difficult if you’re trying to maintain excellence and now have to spend more money to do it.
How to use travel rewards in 2023
Rewards can still be redeemed for free travel. Considering the demand, it probably won’t be easy this year. To maximize your chances of success, here are the most important things to remember:
- Start shopping as soon as possible. Award availability tends to go quickly, so it helps to book travel dates in advance. Even if you don’t get anything right away, you’ll have more time to buy more than you expected until the last minute.
- Try to be flexible about your travel dates. Sometimes changing your travel dates by a few days can help you find award space. The more flexible you are, the more likely you will find a ransom that works for you.
- Learn about all the ways you can use your rewards. Frequent flyer miles and hotel points are fairly straightforward, but some credit cards offer rewards with different redemption options, such as transfers from airline and hotel partners. Make sure you know all about your options so you don’t miss out on great booking opportunities.
These tips are always helpful when booking award travel, but they’re especially important when availability is tight. One last thing to remember is that once you find the trip you want to book, do it quickly. Many deals don’t last long, so if something catches your eye, snag it while it’s still available.
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